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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Stash and Leftovers and Scraps, OH MY!

So we all's just a fact of life....that if you become a crafter or artist of any kind....there's an inevitability of.....


It happens.  Big or small.  Materials you need for your creations accumulate, especially if you tend towards the thrifty side and find yourself buying ahead for projects that you don't currently have the time for, but know you will in the future.  While some people advocate a type of minimalism that discourages this sort of thing, I tend to disagree for ME.  While I like things very neat and tidy and can get very easily overwhelmed by "stuff" I have found way too big a savings in purchasing ahead to just eschew this method of obtaining supplies.

(So just real quick. I'll give you an example.  The blanket my husband currently sleeps with took 16 skeins of Bernat Waverly yarn which to buy right now is $4.49 per skein.  I purchased it for .88 per skein.  So $71.84 verses $14.08.  I'd say that's a no brainer. Considering how many blankets I have made and intend to make, it behooves me to purchase yarn when it gets marked down that low)

But I digress.  This post isn't about's about what's left after USING those pristine, perfectly wrapped skeins of beautiful yarn.

The Leftovers.  And the Scraps.  And yes, I differentiate between the two of them. My definition?

Leftovers- When you have enough, use in a different project.  I consider substantial amounts, like a full skein or a little less, depending on the size of the original ball of yarn. For example in this blanket I recently finished, the two greys were skeins that had 300+ yards to begin with and I still have a good amount left.  I will be able to use these two yarns again in a project I already have in mind, as an accent, not a main color

Scraps:  Well, these...

I usually bag my scraps by color, rather than size, which will change when I get my dang pretzel jars!!

and these:

I throw all my little balls of scrap into this basket until it's full, then I put them into ziplocs.

I've seen so many posts on Ravelry....."What do I do with my scraps?  They bother me...seems like such a waste to throw them away...." and there are LOTS of good suggestions as to what to do with them, but for me, I needed a method.

(I'd like to interrupt this blog with a VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE from our blogger.  Please, no matter what you do DO NOT THROW THOSE SCRAPS AWAY because you aren't interested in using them.  SOMEONE will want them.  If you have no clue and feel all burdened, email me or leave a comment and I will take them and find someone to use them.  I use every last inch and this blog will prove it! Also, I'm assuming if you do anything with yarn, you are on Ravelry and you can post scraps for free, free for shipping or for sale and you will find someone who wants them.  The group I started The Scrap Swap, although terribly inactive, in the perfect place or Scrap Happy, a group dedicated to busting through scraps.  Point being, someone WILL want them!)

In order to deal with my massive accumulation of scraps and leftovers, I diligently searched through post after post on Ravelry and eventually started to work out my system for dealing with the extraneous little bobs and bits of yarn that were taking up precious stash space.

This post is going to be long and picture heavy, but hopefully helpful for some of you out there, so please bear with me.

Truth #1- Even small scraps can add up to something substantial.  Let's take a look:

Pretty little hexagon.  Make a bunch of these and you have one gorgeous, colorful blanket.  Now, for the good of the blog I painfully ripped this all out to show you how itty bitty those pieces of yarn really are!

Teeny, tiny, itty bits of yarn make up that hexy!

Truth #2- You have to know, in advance, what projects you WILL for real.  I see suggestions all the time about scrap busting/stash busting projects I just cannot and will not do. I see pictures of these "scrapghans" that while inventive and very useful, for sure, I wouldn't be able to make myself.  It would drive me BATTY to make something where colors change mid-row and where the color order is so random, using both solids and variegated colors, that it looks like all the colors were thrown into a blender and pureed.  My eyes just can't handle that particular asthetic of scrappiness.  I need more control in color placement, thus my method.

For me, my obsession and the project I will always be working on is blankets.  I love ripple afghans and granny squares and anything that allows me to play with color.  I will not be making small toys with my scraps and I have no desire to make an entire sweater out of small balls of yarn, so those are out FOR ME.  However, the same principles of using scraps for substantial projects apply across the board.  This is where math comes in. You have to know the weight of the item you want to make.  It's important :)

The "thing" I make the most are ripple blankets from baby size on up to twin sized (sometimes...very rarely.)  Having a postage scale to know the weights of my finished objects helps tremendously, but once you get the hang of using your scraps, you'll find you don't really need the scale.  I can now eyeball leftover balls and see what the scrap can be used for.  I use fruit references to determine how each scrap will be used. More on that  below!

I know this amount can do one, maybe two stripes on a standard toddler sized ripple, which is the size I make the most.  I got EXACTLY two stripes out of it with like 3 inches left for a tail.  This method has really worked well for me.

Some other things I make produce scraps I really have no interest in using, namely, my natural fibers.  I still do make sweaters and clothing type things and because they require special care, I don't want to mess with creating anything with the leftovers.  I toss these into a bag to give away once the bag is full, because like with anything else in crafting, these are PERFECT for someone else's big idea!!

Now for Melissa's Method of Using All the Scraps:

First, whatever is left gets wound into balls.  I can visually determine where to put my leftovers/scraps by how big the ball gets and this works for me because I work with worsted weight 85% of the time.  For anything thicker or thinner, it gets its own bag and I save those up separately.

So now I have bags of balls.  In all different sizes....I call them:

Grapefruit- Big enough to get used in a color controlled ripped, goes into the bins with my regular stash, so no pictures of these.

Orange- Big enough for one to two stripes in a scrap ripple and I also do color controlled projects with this.  So bright colored "oranges" would be added to a bright ripple and warm colors, likewise.  That's the beauty of crochet rather than knit!  You can add to projects without losing a needle like you do when knitting a blanket.  Simply tie off your color and wait for the next.

This is a bright scrap ripple made with oranges :)  I fill up this cute little metal basket with the colors I have accumlated and work from them until I run out!

Plum- Big enough for a three to four round granny square on an H hook.

I love making big piles of granny squares.  No idea what they'll be yet, but I feel very accomplished when I work though a whole bag of plums.

Apricot- The perfect size for a block of in my on-going "Long Live the Scraps" (Also color controlled...brights/neutrals/pastels/or any combo YOU like)

Long Live the Scraps is one of the coolest scrap patterns out there.  The small tiny balls you use really add to the blanket in a significant way!

Grape- Tied into Magic Ball, also color controlled (Control issues much)  So when I just have a bit left I will use (link join) to add to the colored ball I already have going.  Purple scraps gets tied into the purple ball, yellow into get the picture ;)
This balls really are super tiny, but tied together they start to add up quickly!
Four little "grapes" before joining with the Double Knot Join

Very small magic yarn ball, which I then crocheted....

Color controlled granny square.  I am thinking a ripple with either a black or white between colors would look awesome with these magic balls!
Into a granny square.  You really can do anything you want with these....I prefer to do a monochromatic type thing, but if you love a rainbow you can just tie any color into another and have a ball with colorplay!

Here's a picture of all the different sizes of scraps I use:

Okay here we have from left to right: Oranges (stripes in a ripples), plums (granny square or sometimes can be ONE stripe in a ripple), apricots (these are for my long live the scraps) and grapes (tied into magic ball).

Now, word to the wise.  If you are gifted scraps from someone else and they are wound into balls, always rewind them.  This is because YOUR tension will be different and if you use this method of eyeballing sizes, it's important that all the balls are wound by the same person :)

True SCRAP like less than 12 inches....into a ziploc.  Yes, even those itty bitty teeny weeny scraps have a use   Some people will actually tie all these tiny scraps together, leave the tails and make some rather funky, crazy projects, using all the ends popping out as a design element.  Clever if you can pull it off!  I think it would make me insane.  There is also talk of birds loving these tiny scraps to help build their nests and I think that is awesome.  Here on my property, however, they need no help from me because we have a huge variety of nest building material and when I tried this I didn't see any evidence of them being used despite having many, many nests on our property. (No worries about my love for the birds though.  We do have a LOT of scrap wood from remodeling and have been building birdhouses with them.  We only have one successfully installed, but within days of it going up a bluebird was happily living in there. Now that we know they are habitable where we put them and how we built them, many more will be going up.)  For me, the perfect use for all those scraps (and I kick myself for not saving these before!! I always tossed them) is for stuffing.  While I won't use the scraps to make a little tiny animals with my scrap yarns, I do occassionally make some knit animals and honestly, yarn scraps make the PERFECT stuffing.  Even more so than the cotton batting you typically buy.  Acrylic yarns scraps inside an acrylic knit stuffie works well! The stuffing is loose and freely inside, making the stuffing feel better and if that animal ever needs washed, those yarns ends behave much better in the washer and dryer than batting does (Have you ever washed a pillow?  Man, that crap gets all bunchy and weird)  Another thing I actually have done is allowed my younger children to do art with the yarn scraps and they had a ball. Just get some cardstock and white glue and show them how to draw with the glue and "color" with the scraps.  Those pictures turned out pretty cool and I wish I had pictures to prove it, alas, I do not. does one organize all this craziness?  My grand plan was to use these awesome pretzel jars we get every two weeks....because they are clear, large and would make a perfect display and eventually, oh yes....eventually I WILL have enough of these containers to do this, but for now you might remember that my children have some sort of religious objection to lids and even though I've pleaded every two weeks "Hey guys PLEASE keep the lid for this one...." and even though I'll pass through the kitchen and see that there are like 7 pretzels left and the lid is still present....and get all kinds of excited that this is the time I WILL get that pretzel still hasn't happened for me yet.  When I do, I plan to put pretty labels on them that specify which "fruit" is in the jar and a reminder of what I do with them (like Apricot-Granny Squares)  For now, I put all my scrap balls into that big basket as I accumulate them and when that basket starts getting pretty full I will sort through them and put them into the appropriate ziploc bags.  I try to keep a scrap project going at all times and then I'll also pull out a bag and just do a granny making session.

Obviously the ongoing blankets are completed as soon as they reach the appropriate size, but for the granny squares, I just keep making them and once I have enough to do something with, I'll decide then.  I'll either do a main color like white around a huge bunch of colors, or maybe I'll just do a monochrome project....who knows?? :)

Now for bigger leftovers, which we also tend to accumulate, I use a certain method that employs the use of a postal scale and counting stripes and knowing what a finished project of mine weighs and well, it's complicated, BUT I can point you to a fantastic blog that explains this much better than I can!

Linda74 on Ravelry, who writes the blog Alotta Stitches makes ripple blankets for foster children with both thrifted yarn and donations she gets, so very often, she gets partial skeins and needs to work out how to use these skeins to make a bigger project.  She came up with two methods.  The Scrandom and the Scrimple and they are absolutely brilliant.  You can apply the weight method to any project really.  If you want to make a women's XL sweater in a worsted weight you can simply look up a pattern, get the estimated yardage and weight of the finished project and then weigh enough of your leftovers to be equal (actually you'll want a bit more than you need) to that weight and go for it!

So that's how I handle and use the scraps I either accumulate or am gifted with.  I love, love, love working with color and using every available inch of yarn I can to make beautiful things.  There are many methods of scrapbusting and this is mine.  I hope it was helpful to someone out there and maybe, just maybe, I've saved some beautiful scraps from the tragedy of being thrown away before they reached their full potential!!


  1. I enjoyed reading about your scrap management. I am not so organised but have started an African Flower hex project with merino scraps. Found you via Ravelry by the way :)

  2. I second Melissa's recommendation to rewind all gifted scrap balls. Sometimes I find a yarn label hidden inside, leaving me with much less yarn than I expected!

    Thanks for the great idea to compare scrap balls to fruits. I've referred to golf/tennis/softball sizes before, but not everyone is familiar.

    And thanks for the links to my blog!

  3. I really liked reading about your scrappy ways. It was really interesting. I'm still not sure exactly how you did the magic ball though. I'll have to come back and re-read when I am fully awake to get that.

  4. Hi Meg.

    I found this tutorial that explains it really well. They use a different join than I have but the end result is the same!