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Designing Within Limits While Busting Your Stash
When I started teaching my Intro to Macrame class, my students always ended up with little bits of excess rope and trimmings when they completed their pieces. Working in the textile industry, I’m very aware of the waste that comes from textile production. In my efforts to not contribute to that waste, I would bag up the rope bits and take them home with me. I couldn’t throw them away or give up on them! I kept them in a bag on my shelf that just kept growing and growing. In fact, I now have a whole shelf in my studio dedicated to excess bits from past projects and classes.
Now, before I hear some of you start whispering words like “hoarder”, I know that I’m not alone! I know you’re out there and have your own little-bits-of-rope shelf. You know that shelf. The place where material bits that are too big to trash and too small to really make a full project out of live. Those materials may not be sitting in the landfill (hooray!), but they’re still just taking up space in your home and that’s no good either.
This year, I’ve been working on busting through my stash and reducing the amount of new materials I purchase for projects. This de-stashing includes those little bits from my shelf. I’m happy to share that I’ve finally started going through significant portions of my stash and, oh buddy, does that half empty shelf look goooood!
Through this process, I learned a few design tips and methods to think through as I stash bust and I thought I would share those tips with you. Designing and creating with things in your stash can get a bit challenging, but not to worry. With a little open-mindedness and out of the box thinking, you can do this!
So, my wanna-be stash busters, it’s time to pull out those materials that you’ve been saving and make them into something beautiful! Here are my tips for designing within limits so that you can bust that stash.
Design Tip #1: Konmari Your Materials
I’m sure you know who Marie Kondo is. Her method of organizing and “sparking joy” is so popular now that we use her name as a verb! If you’ve read her book or seen her show, you know that her first step in organizing is pulling out all of the items that you’re looking to de-stash and pile them up in the same room together.
And that’s our first step in stash busting. Pull out all of the yarns, fabrics, bedazzle gems, beads, what have you, and pile them all up in the same place. You can’t bust through your stash if you don’t know the breadth of what you have. Marvel at your pile and then get ready to start planning your next masterpiece!
Design Tip #2: The Materials Are Not What They Seem
Much of this process is thinking creatively and pushing the limits of the materials that you have. When looking at your pile, start to think about all of the ways it could be used or transformed.
Got a crap ton of yarn in your pile. Psh, that’s not just yarn! That can be shredded into stuffing for small toys. Or made into little pom pom decorations for your next shindig. Or used as swatching yarn for knit or crochet patterns you’ve always wanted to try (like my Cable Collection project I’m working on).
This macrame wall hanging I created was made only from excess rope. Some of it did stay in its original rope form, but some of it I shredded up to make those awesome fringe tassels.
Design Tip #3: Designate Materials As Star Roles or Supporting Roles
Not all materials need to be at the forefront of your design. Over time our tastes might change or our color palettes have shifted. Materials that take up space in my stash are those that are colors that I can’t seem to work into my current color palette.
For those materials, I’ve started to use them as fillers-- or supporting roles, if you will-- behind my star role elements. See those tassels. You know what’s behind them? Weird yarn from my stash! To give differing heights in my tassels, I used fillers in between the rows so as not to use up my limited supply of rope. Does the yarn color coordinate with my neutral vibe in this wall hanging? Who cares! You can’t see them! And you’d never know they were there if I hadn’t told you… This opens up a whole new world for stash busting.
Design Tip #4: Embrace the Unusual
Remember Tip #2 about thinking creatively and pushing the limits with your materials? This applies to your design elements too. Don’t be afraid to embrace the unusual and get weird. For me, that’s embracing patchworking. In order to make some serious strides in busting my stash, I’ve had to learn to patchwork and graft materials together. It feels strange in the moment, but exploring new patchwork methods has broadened my creative scope and tastes.
Design Tip #5: Think on Your Feet
There may come a time where you overestimate the amount of materials you have dedicated for your chosen project and you run out.
Firstly-- well done! You’re busting through your stash like a boss!
Now it’s time to think on your feet! Incorporate them into something else or graft more materials in. I overestimated how much soft rope I had for shredding into tassels. When I ran out, I changed directions and grafted those tassels into a larger work with a different rope I had left in my stash. The end result was still within my design aesthetic, but just came about in a way I didn’t expect.
Well friends, those are my tips for designing within limits.
Are you ready to bust into your stash, keep things out of the landfill and broaden your creative scope?
I think so. Let’s do it!
Have your own tips on stash busting? Share yours below!
Fun fact about me: I love puzzles. Love ‘em. Sit a 1,000 piece puzzle down in front of me and I’ll be glued to the table until it’s complete! It turns out that jigsaw puzzles aren’t the only puzzles that I enjoy. I also love a good knitting puzzle, as I like to call them. Knitting patterns that I adjust to my liking are just a big ole puzzle with a fabulous prize of a finished garment at the end!
With this year’s goal being to bust through my yarn stash, I’ve had to do a lot of knitting puzzles to use up what I have before buying new yarns. For those that are looking to make a pattern in a different yarn gauge, this post is for you!
Here are some of my tips and tricks on what numbers I look to and maths that I do in order to adjust my knitting patterns to suite my fit or yarn needs!
** DISCLAIMER: Some of the tips in this post may seem a little vague. In order to protect the intellectual property of Jessie Mae’s pattern, I have not taken pictures of or given verbatim quotes from her pattern. If you would like to make this brallette-turned-tank, purchase her pattern and if you have any specific questions about adjusting the pattern you can contact me. I’d be happy to walk you through some steps!
Things You Need to Know Before Starting Your Knitting Puzzle:
Your Body Measurements - Make sure you have measured and noted all of the body measurements that your pattern lists as reference points for determining your pattern size. This is usually your bust, waist and hip measurements. I also measure the length from my neckline to what I want my intended hemline to be (squatty torso problems….).
The Yarn You Want to Use and Its Gauge - Yep, this means you need to swatch the yarn you want to use! Yeah, it’s my least favorite part too, but this is the most crucial step to get your math right!
Your Desired Fit - What fit are you going for? Are you trying to make your finished garment a little bit boxier, slimmer, longer, shorter? Decide your dream garment and take note of what you want to adjust.
To bring a visual to working through the knitting puzzle process, I’ll use my latest make as an example-- Jessie Mae’s Ripple Bralette that I hacked into a tank. This is a great pattern for my knitting puzzle beginners!
Things that I knew going into this puzzle was that I wanted a more loose fitting, longer top than what the bralette was originally designed for. I also had yarn at a larger gauge than what the pattern called for.
I first referred to the finished garment’s measurements to see if there was a size that most lined up with my fit needs. The fit that I wanted was more closely in line with a size 2XL. I found it helpful to go through my pattern instructions and highlight all numbers that referred to my chosen 2XL size. I’d be returning to these numbers later on.
Next, I compared the original knitting gauge of the pattern to the new knitting gauge that I had swatched. I was mainly looking for how many stitches were in an inch. This is the foundation of adjusting a pattern for yarn gauge and is why your swatch is so, so important.
For the yarn that I was using, I determined that my gauge was 4 st/inch and 5 st/row.
For the Ripple Bralette (and for all patterns you adjust for yarn gauge), the number that required the most significant change was the initial number of stitches to cast on. I had a larger gauge of yarn which meant that I needed to cast on less stitches than what the pattern said.
This is where I referred back to the finished measurements for a 2XL in the pattern and all of my need-to-know notes. This pattern is knit from the hem up. I wanted the hem to hit at my hip, not under my bust, so I knew that my initial number of cast on stitches needed to fit my hip measurement. For the 2XL, the hem circumference measurement was 39 inches which happened to be my hip measurement. Hooray! Time to break out those math skills!
39 (inches) x 4 (st/inch) = 156 cast on stitches
Before moving forward, I had to double check that my number of cast on stitches would fit with the knitted pattern.
This pattern is knit in a 3x3 rib, so my cast on stitch number needed to be a number that was divisible by 3 in order to keep the pattern seamless.
When knitting up a garment that has a specific knitted pattern, you must make sure that your adjustments still flow seamlessly with that pattern.
156 is divisible by 3 (phew!), so I was good to go! Everything flowed from there on out. Jessie’s pattern is so lovely to follow, with the instructions based on length measurements than specific number of rows (i.e. work in pattern established for 9” or desired length…). This made it easy to adjust measurements as I went along like the length of my torso or the length of my straps.
Another major part of the pattern that needed some significant adjusting was where to place the straps. I found it helpful to draw things out in order to understand where things should land.
Welp, those are my notes for how I hack my knitting patterns to fit my needs.
I hope this helps you along in your knitting puzzles! If you hit a bump in a pattern
you’re trying to adjust, don’t hesitate to reach out! I’d love to try and help!
I think it’s safe to say that May is one of my favorite months. It’s usually beautiful weather here in NC and I get all crazy excited about planting flowers and gearing up for the warm summer months. It’s also the month dedicated to #memademay!
Me-Made-May is a movement started by Zoe Edwards which challenges makers to “wear hand-created clothing every day for a month. The aim is to encourage people to bring the DIY and handmade ethos into their everyday lives, and to develop a better relationship with your handmade wardrobe.”
This is strictly a gentle, personal challenge and not a photo challenge which I have to say I really appreciate. This year, I wanted to see how many days I could wear a me-made item without repeating an outfit. That in itself was a challenge as I repeat outfits all. the. time (sometimes in the same week, oops!). I was able to make it… 10 days.
Not too shabby, but I thought I had more me-mades! Where did they go?! I quickly realized that a lot of my me-mades are sweaters which are waaaay too warm for this time of year in NC. I also realized a few others things about my habits and wardrobe, so let’s head to the lessons-I’ve-learned-about-myself-and-life-and-stuff portion of this post (queue hyper speed whizzing noises):
Things I learned about myself:
I have a type.
The reason I repeat so many outfits is that I know what I like and what I feel good in. I’ve honed in on what cuts, styles and colors I like best and I’ve filled my wardrobe with those things. I tend to gravitate toward boxier tops and dresses and slim fit bottoms usually in a neutral and/or subtle stripe or polka dot.
I don’t have that many articles of clothing… and I don’t feel the need for more.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have my eye on a few new patterns that I definitely plan on making this year (I’m lookin’ at you, Wiksten Shift Dress). But as I examined my closet over the course of this month, I didn’t feel that I was truly lacking in any particular area. If I’m okay with repeating outfits, then I don’t need more things. I’ll just use what I have. As someone always looking for an excuse to make more things, I found this really refreshing.
I don’t do laundry all that much.
This is just another point to why I repeat outfits so often as items are always in my closet and not hiding in my laundry basket. That and I don’t always have the best memory. If I didn’t keep notes of my outfits this month for Me-Made-May tracking purposes, I would have repeated an outfit almost immediately. Did I already wear you this week? Ah, who cares! (convo with myself almost daily…)
So what do I wear? A list of my favorite go-tos:
Here’s a collection of my fave patterns:
Self-drafted boxy crop tops
I can’t link to a pattern on this one. I literally traced a favorite boxy top I had in my drawer several years ago and made a pattern for myself. No sleeves inset. No funny business. Just the way I like it.
Top is made with an organic cotton knit I snagged years ago from Spoonflower. Print designer unknown. Ps. I work part-time there, so snagging discounted, flawed Marketplace fabric is way too easy. So thankful that one of my job benefits is a monthly stipend to purchase fabric. #blessed
Anything from In the Folds + Peppermint Magazine
I’m thankful every day for the collab between In the Folds + Peppermint that provides the best free (yeah, you heard me— FREE) sewing patterns to the maker community. My favorites are the Peplum Top and the Jumpsuit. I have multiples of each. I’ve got their Wide Leg Pants on my #makenine list this year too.
Peplum top is made from Spoonflower’s Retired Kona® Cotton featuring Micklyn’s Evening Proteas in Indigo Denim Blue.
Jumpsuit is made with a cotton sateen I scored from a closing sale at a local store (RIP Lumina….). I made some adjustments to the pattern by adding pockets and elastic ankle cuffs.
Easy, breezy, beatiful… Arenite Pants. Plus, they’re created by a Durham resident, so I feel a sense of local pride when I wear them.
Pants are made with a cotton I picked up from one of my LYS, Downtown Knits. I can’t remember who makes it… It’s got some great texture though, with a subtle white stripe woven into the fabric. They are the most comfortable pants I own.
Did you take part in #memademay? What did you learn this year?