Category Archives: Recycling

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!

 

A Frugal, Green and Self-Sufficiency Round Up

How have we been Green, Frugal and Self-Sufficient this week?

1. Wellies* for R – a kind lady advertised a pair of wellies size 18-24 months on freecycle (and other assorted bits – but it was the wellies that caught my eye!) She was pregnant and about 5 days off her due date.  How that feels in a hot June is very fresh in my memory so I took over some of my homemade Black Forest Brownies as a thank you present for the wellies.

Wellington Boots for little Dinosaurs

Wellington Boots for little Dinosaurs

(*Wellies is a UK slang term for waterproof rubber boots, that is because in the UK such boots are called Wellington Boots.)

2. Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly – I’ll do a proper write up of this later.  But inspired by Dawn of Doing it For Ourselves making Elderflower Jelly and the birds having eaten most of our Gooseberries, I decided to make up a Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly recipe. That saved me a job of topping and tailing as well.  Doesn’t it look fabulous!

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly

3. Birthday Bunting – I finished making bunting to decorate the house for R’s birthday in a couple of weeks.  It is re-useable (I’m going to keep adding to it each year until it is a huge family joke) and has no packaging and it looks bright and silly.  Perfect!

4. Comfrey – we don’t have any in our garden, but it is the best of all the Green Manures and a staple of permaculture nutrient design.  Luckily my Father Out-Law has a huge amount with pretty blue/pink flowers.  As always I only have to ask for a cutting or a bit of root and he is back with a spade and a pot before I know it, generously dividing some up for me.  That saved me from buying some seed/plug plants from a garden centre. We also took our tetrapaks over to put in their kerbside recycling scheme (they are on a different scheme to us and we can’t recycling tetrapaks easily) and I went home with some spare jam jars – which came in handy for 2 above.

5. Straw from the Pig Pen – The straw we get for our pigs is a waste product from a local farm.  After it has been used as pig bedding it goes in the hot composter and the cold composter as important dry, woody material. I am so pleased we get two uses out of something which would otherwise go to waste.

 

A Hop, Skip and a Jump… mostly a skip.

I’ll start with a quick picture of my mortal enemy.  Sorry about the bad lighting.  The sluggy body count is over 150 now.  I hope I’m making some headway.  This is a leopard slug which thankfully seems to prefer a rotting orange half to the tasty cucumber plant next door.  It did not survive long after this photo was taken (Sorry but I couldn’t take any chances).

Public enemy number 1

Public enemy number 1

[Apologies for the bad lighting – it was dusk.]

We have a few small building projects in the pipeline at Westwick all in the name of greening:

1. Putting up the old shed we want to put up in the Orchard to keep spare straw, chicken feed etc. in (when we get chickens).

2. Making a chicken run and putting up a hen house.

3. Building a couple of brick plinths to stand our water butts on.

4. Making another cold compost heap in the Orchard.

All of these require materials, time and possible money and we are trying to be as inventive and green as possible in making these happen.  So when I noticed that five of our neighbours down our (very long) road all had a skip outside I was very, very interested.  Although I consider myself quite green I’ve never really considered looking at skips before.  I know that it is a good idea to ask permission (and so we did) but after a quick 30 mins work we walked away with the following:

9 Concrete slabs for the base of the shed and the hen house.

37 Bricks, some for the base of the compost heap and some for the plinths.

Bricky treasures.

Bricky treasures.

It probably didn’t save us that much cash but it was more about re-using other people’s waste.  As I looked at the skips I was suddenly struck by and filled with sadness about the levels of waste.  I know we have had building work done and skips of rubbish taken away ourselves and there are probably things which can’t be recycled in this way.  But the further we go on this journey the more I notice these things.

We are probably going to go back and get more bricks and the rest of the composter at least will be made from pallets we are sourcing from a local friend who has a farm. But I’m still on the hunt for some of our other materials.

But it also feels good to know that a little bit less landfill was created today and there is a little bit more money in our pockets that there would have been.