I almost always have a leftover project on the needles or kicking around. As both a yarn dyer and an avid knitter I have quite the collection of leftover yarn and I love getting to play with all the little bits and bobbles. Today I am going to talk to talk about where my leftover yarn comes from, how I store it, and most importantly- what I do with it!
Where do all these leftover come from??
I really like to swatch my yarn to show off on social media. I know my customers like to see how different colorways and bases work up, but also making color swatches helps me know how my dye techniques will translate into actual fabric. There are a lot of colorways that look amazing in a hank of yarn, but when you start knitting, not so much. I particularly love making garments with my hand dyed yarn so I want to make yarn in colors that are very wearable and easy to mix and match with my other colorways. Making swatches ALWAYS leaves me with leftover yarn!
The other way I end up with leftover yarns is much the same way you do- I am always knitting! I mentioned above that I like garment knitting, especially sweaters. It's always a good practice to buy more yarn than you will need for your sweater projects so that you don't run out, and also so that you have enough to make modifications. A lot of times you don't know you'll have to make a modification until you are into the project, perhaps it's a cropped design but you would like to add a little more length. Or maybe it turns out that the sleeve design is a little tight on you so you need to add a few more stitches. Having extra yardage available is always a good idea when making sweaters and extra yarn means leftovers.
I also love knitting colorwork sweaters- particularly colorwork yokes. A colorwork yoke sweater rarely uses a full skein of yarn, more likely less than half no matter what size you are knitting. Over the years I've been asked lots of times to make up partial skeins for colorwork projects, but that's never appealed to me because there are too many sizes to consider when making sweater kits and I never want to exclude someone for the size sweater they need to make. So for me, sweater knitting always means leftover yarn!
How do I store my leftover yarn?
I leave my leftover yarn in yarn cakes- I'm pretty sure people have opinions about whether or not yarn should be left in a cake or a skein for long term storage, but for me it's the simple fact that I have caked it once and I don't want to do it again. Efficiency is everything to me and that just seems like a waste. I also like my leftover yarns in cakes because I like being able to grab and go with my leftovers- when I've decided I want to make something I have zero chill and want to get into it as fast as possible!
I think leftover bits of yarn are really beautiful in a big pile, so I like to store my leftover yarn out in the open. I have old jars from my restaurant days that are perfect for the smaller bits and bobs. I also have a hefty collection of woven baskets and rope baskets that are perfect for yarn storage. I'll often put larger cakes of heavier yarn weights in rubber bins that I get from tractor supply.
I love these pails because they are affordable, have sturdy handles, and come in a variety of sizes. It's really easy to haul a lot of yarn back and forth from my house and studio in these bins, especially when I'm starting a new leftover project and really need to have all the yarn with me, like when crocheting a blanket.
I prefer to keep my leftover yarn in plain sight so that I don't forget it exists and can easily access it. I also have a whole studio to house all of my supplies so you might not feel the same way about keeping your yarn leftovers out, if that is the case for you I would recommend maybe a drawer that you could store all your leftovers in once place, or perhaps a tote under the bed. If you are closing off your leftover yarns and leaving them for long periods of time, just remember to put in some kind of lavender or cedar sachet in with your bits to help deter moths!
What do you do with your leftover yarn?
I use my leftover yarn constantly! If I have a new technique I want to try out, or perhaps I'm struggling to figure out a a stitch pattern or maybe need to practice-I go straight to the leftover bin.
I use left over yarn to play with yarn pairings and often cast on color swatches when I am in between projects or feeling uninspired. I also do gauge swatches with my leftover bits. I like to knit all of my bases with a range of different needle sizes so that I can pull the swatches out from reference when I am ready to start a new project. I'll use a different color for each size swatch to kill two birds with one stone and get a color swatch and a gauge swatch- just remember to label your swatches with what needle you used otherwise this is pointless (and no, you won't remember- ask me how I know). If you have a favorite yarn base from a dyer that you really like working with than this is a great tip for you- make your swatches and keep them on a ring so that you can cast on with confidence and fast for future projects!
I mentioned that I liked knitting colorwork yoke- I love to dig through my leftover yarn stash to find contrasting colorways for colorwork sweaters. You can even hold fingering yarns double for DK or Worsted weight colorwork yokes, even if they are different bases, sometimes the different texture adds another element to the design- play around with it when you're making swatches and see what I mean!
I love crochet granny square blankets and it's probably the number one way that I use my leftover yarn. I like doing a granny square that goes around and around in one piece until I run out of yarn. These blankets are ideal for thicker yarn weight like DK, worsted, or Bulky, but you can also hold fingering weight yarn double. Crochet eats up more yarn than knitting so crochet blankets are a great way to really knock back your leftover yarn stash when it gets too big for its britches. Granny square blankets make great gifts and are great for donating so they are perfect to just crank out. I always have a crochet granny square blanket going and love to work on it when I'm in-between projects or need a break from something I am knitting. Granny square blankets are just automatic for me now, no pattern to keep track of and I can start and stop at any point and know just where I am at. Sometimes that's just the kind of making you need! Of course a traditional granny square blanket it a great way to use up yarn as well- I'm just allergic to seaming and finishing so I prefer to go around and around.
Marling yarn projects are a great way to stash bust- especially for fingering weight yarn held double! I've made many projects this way from cowls all the way to sweaters!
You can take small bits and hold them with a single colorway to create a more cohesive project- which is my preferred method for marling sweater projects.
You can hold two different colorways together for a really great fade especially for shawls and cowls.
Marled projects are ideal for simple designs that are worked in stockinette or garter. Cables and lace get a little lost with all the color that marled projects produce so make sure to keep that in mind when you are choosing patterns to marl. You really can use this technique for any simple design whether it was designed for marling or not but there are also lots of designs made specifically for marling yarn. Westknits and Park&Knit are two designers to check out who often make designs specifically for marling and they offer up lots of information on how to play with color and figure out yarn weight and yardage.
Hopefully this gets you thinking about leftover yarn in a new way and makes you feel inspired by your mountain of leftovers!