Knitting with Leftovers

I knit a lot and virtually every day.

Some of my knitting uses thrifty, frugal options, but some of it includes luxury handspun alpaca. It is my hobby and whilst I do try to source eco-friendly alternatives (I never buy standard cotton for dishcloths because it’s eco-footprint is so bad) I have bought some wonderful expensive and luxury yarns for my hobby over the years. I’ve even bought a few and had them posted from the US because Socks that Rock is really the best sock yarn I’ve ever used and you can’t buy it in the UK (I’m weaning myself off this habit though and haven’t bought any yarn for over 6 months – I’m pleased you agree that is a REALLY LONG TIME!)

I wanted a nice little text overlay here with the title of the post... far too many colours to make that a reality :(

I wanted a nice little text overlay here with the title of the post… far too many colours to make that a reality 😦

But I never throw any yarn away.  I am a master at stretching out yarn and finding ways to use up the leftovers once a project is done.  Like with food and garden prunings there is no such thing as yarn waste.

This post is a list of my 3 tips for using up yarn and 3 patterns which are really good at making the most of every scrap.

1. The Beekeeper Quilt –  by Tiny Owl Knits. This is a paid for pattern, but it is worth every penny. Not only because I love this design, it is modular and therefore easy to knit whilst out and about, but of all the patterns I’ve ever knitted, this is the best pattern for using up leftovers.

A hexapuff waiting to be stuffed.

A hexapuff waiting to be stuffed.

Firstly it is made of tiny hexapuffs knitted in sock yarn.  In my knitting career I’ve knitted about 90 pairs of socks (I know!) that is a lot of leftover sock yarn.  Some of my leftover sock yarn went into darning but darning doesn’t use it all up.  This project is perfect because I can knit hexapuffs out of all my fabulous colours put them all in a basket and only start to make up the blanket afterwards at which point I can pick the colours and place there where I want to.  I’m not limited in placing colours next to each other in the order in which I complete my original projects that generated the leftovers!

Not only do I knit with the leftover yarn but the teeny tiny scraps of yarn which get snipped off after sewing in the ends… they get used to stuff the hexapuffs.

AND… I fill some of the hexapuffs with dried lavender from my garden to give the blanket a lovely smell and keep the moths out.

This is the ideal pattern for using up things and just look at how gorgeous it is!

A sea of little hexes.

A sea of little hexes.

2. The Oddball Spiral blanket – by Sarah Bradbury (free pattern). This is my current big project.  Up until recently I had a huge bag of leftover Aran weight wool and no idea what to do with it.  I tried to knit a stripey vest but I couldn’t get enough colour repeats out of the yarn I had left so I ripped it out for this blanket.  There are only 9 live stitches at any time and the pattern is easy to memorise.  You will end up with a giant blanket if you keep going (like me) and I’ll probably finish this in the Winter now as it is too hot to work on.  But if you don’t mind the blanket looking a bit mismatched then use long and short colour repeats where you have bigger and smaller partial balls of yarn.  I think because of the geometric design you can pull off irregular colour patches which only makes this pattern more brilliant.

The blanket is growing.

The blanket is growing.

3. Baby Trousers – by Mini Magpie (free tutorial).  This is not a knitting project.  This is what to do when knitting goes wrong… so horribly wrong.

Many moons ago, before I was as wise as I am today, I knitted a wonderful Hoodie in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran.  The pattern was incredible and I will knit it again one day. The yarn was super soft… but that was the only good thing about it.  It pilled (went bobbly) and looked terrible after I’d worn it precisely once.  I kept wearing it because it was warm and I’d worked so hard on the amazing patterned cables.  And one day in a fit of helpfulness Josh washed it for me.  Pure wool, 20% cashmere in the washing machine.  I think you can imagine what happened (I won’t describe it for the delicate amongst you but let’s say it involved, felting, shrinking and a lot of swearing).

It is a testament to my stubborness that I’m still wearing it about 7 years later despite the fact it is clearly a couple of inches too short, everywhere.  The yarn cost a fortune, the jumper took ages to knit I wasn’t going to give up on it that easily.  But I think the time has come to say goodbye.

As I said above no wool is wasted.

I’m going to cut the (now felted) jumper up to create the trousers in the above tutorial (possibly even dungarees if I can work it out) and then cut up the rest to use as stuffing in the beekeeper quilt!


14 thoughts on “Knitting with Leftovers

  1. Becky A Post author

    I just can’t claim credit for the “hexapuff” nomenclature. It was the designer who came up with it (she is a sort of genius like that!)

    I love that Sean’s first thought is board game related 🙂

    Thursday is the day that Josh and I both work from home and Raffi goes to nursery so we managed a quick game of Race for the Galaxy over our lunch break.

  2. Lindsay (treadingmyownpath)

    I love the “hexapuff” quilt, and the name, and yes, you should play Settlers of Catan on it! I didn’t realise you were into board games! I used to have Race for the Galaxy but it went when I moved here. I only kept half my collection. My boyfriend is slowly converting to board games, but he doesn’t like Agricola and won’t play with me! That one was my favourite!

    (Totally off the knitting topic, but I am over enthusiastic about board games. Plus I can’t knit!)

    1. Becky A Post author

      Thanks for the hexie love – it is such a gorgeous project I could work on it forever without getting bored.

      I think our major area of purchasing is board games and role-playing games. It is the big hobby we share and we are always trying to squeeze games in. We have Agricola and enjoyed it a lot but we haven’t played it much. I think Race for the Galaxy is the current favourite because it is so short. We can get games in during baby nap time.

      I don’t suppose you live near enough to arrange a board games day?

      1. Lindsay (treadingmyownpath)

        I wish! I’m back in the UK for a few weeks soon, but I won’t be near Derbyshire at all.

        I used to play Agricola for days on end (sighs, reminiscing). There is actually a one-person version, but I’ve never tried that. Once you know the rules it’s not too long – maybe just over an hour. But that’s before you add in extra decks and expansion packs : p There’s a quick two player Agricola-style game called All Creatures Big and Small. My boyfriend perfers that. He’s also a fan of card-based games (bit like Race for the Galaxy) – I would recommend Citadels if you don’t already have it! : )

  3. Becky A Post author

    We totally have a copy of Ctiadels it is awesome – may I recommend Dominion if you haven’t already tired it. We love it!

    Sad to hear you won’t make it to Derbyshire for board gaming any time soon!

  4. Leigh

    You know, I used to knit daily. Either that or spin daily. Since we bought this place and so much remains unpacked until we get house repairs and remodeling finished, I haven’t picked up a knitting needle. Shame on me! The two leftover yarn blankets are brilliant. Very inspiring. Thanks!

    1. Becky A Post author

      Hi Leigh

      My first reaction was “oh no! you must start knitting again” and whilst I still sort of think that, I also recognise that smallholding is a lot of work. There is always something to do and something to do that you can’t easily combine with knitting.

      I got so much more knitting done when I had a long commute to work than I do now. Because you can knit and make jam, or knit and change a baby’s bottom or knit and feed pigs, at least not in quite the same way 🙂

  5. Sue

    Im also one of those who always has something on the needles – even if its just a square for a blanket. I crocheted a blanket suitable for a queen bed from leftovers and there are still more where they came from.
    I have been guilty of buying the cheap and nasty wool in the past but have made a vow never again.

  6. Becky A Post author

    Hi Sue

    I’m just like you – the longest gap I had in knitting was a month or two about a year ago just after my son was born. I just didn’t have the energy to even try and knit a few rows and for a while I felt like I never have the time to knit again. Luckily that didn’t last long 🙂

    I try to save up and by the better quality wool as well because it is actually warm, like wool is supposed to be. But I do have various acrylics I’ve been given over the years when people have destashed!

  7. ginacaro

    Thanks for sharing you great tips on #ThriftyThursday 🙂 I have quite a few ‘collections’ of random things that I think may be useful one day, I don’t have any yarn though 😦

    1. Becky A Post author


      Thanks for the comment.

      I’ve written a guest post for Make Do and Mend’s new blog about how to get yarn the make do and mend way, not sure when it is going to go up but keep an eye out. I’m sure you’ll have a yarn collection in no time 🙂


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