Thursday, March 29, 2012

When you make a project with scrap yarn, there is no way around the fact that you are going to have to deal with yarn tails. Lots of yarn tails.

It's what happens when you are working with at most a few yards of yarn at a time. Having an efficient way of dealing with these yarn tails is half the battle to accomplishing a successful scrap project.

Dealing with all those tails is why this is a crochet project in the first place, and not a knit project. Burying tails is a lot easier with crochet and both sides of the finished project can look neat and tidy. At the same time you don't want to have to deal with all those yarn tails at the end of the project, because weaving them in can be tedious. I tend to work on them in bunches. Here's how I do it.

First of all, I am not a purist about not tying knots in my yarn. Some folks act like you have violated the Eleventh Commandment if you tie your yarns together. I might do it differently if this were heirloom lace, but for a utility blanket, I'm not worried about knots. They let me attach a new piece of yarn quickly and keep on crocheting. The one thing I did decide with this blanket was that I wanted the knots to come at the edge of a space, not in the middle of a 3 dc cluster. This means I have some tails that are a bit long, but I go as far as I can, then tie on a new ball and go for it. When I tie on a new ball I try to leave myself a tail of between 4-6 inches in the new yarn. It makes life easier down the road. You're going to want more yarn than you think you do. You can make do with less, but it just makes the last step harder.

When I get back around to where I made the join on the next round I then start working those tails into the fabric so they won't come out and dangle with washing and use. I've learned over time that just trying to slide them under the 3 dc clusters isn't enough; they do work loose. So I start by working the tails through the tops of the stitches, matching colors.

Then I can go ahead and crochet over those tails, reinforcing the idea that they are supposed to stay neat and tidy.

The final step is to thread that yarn into a needle and work it under a 3 dc cluster in the opposite direction from the back side. I skip one strand of yarn when I do this, so it won't just pull through and undo what I am trying to accomplish. If you look for it, it shows, but not enough to be really noticeable. I've learned that this doubling back makes the yarn tail a lot less likely to work itself loose and cause a problem later on. I often do this last step in batches rather than sewing in each one as I go along.

 So this is what the blanket looks like at the end of Day 4. I've used up between 5 and 6 oz of the black yarn and probably about 30 balls of scraps. I have no rules about how I change colors other than to try not to put two balls that are really close in color together, but even that's flexible.

I still have to show you how to end it off. When I get there, I'll write a post.

Monday, March 26, 2012

When you knit a lot, you end up with a lot of leftover yarn. They are too good to throw away, but you have to pay attention in order to completely use them up. If you don't use them up, they begin to take over your life. First you have a plastic bin full of them.
Then the bin starts to overflow and you start looking for alternative containers:
At some point you realize that just putting stripes in the occasional hat or pair of mittens isn't going to make these little darlings go away fast enough, and you start looking for projects that will use them up. Granny squares are a logical choice, but at some point granny squares have to be sewn together to becomes something useful. If you don't like sewing them together, you end up with another plastic bin full of granny squares. Another solution needed to be found. 
The problem with most patterns that are designed for using up scraps is that a certain amount of territory needs to be covered in a given yarn. In a granny square, it might be just a small amount for the center square, but the last row requires a good bit more yarn. These patterns are good for making big balls of yarn smaller, but they don't make balls of yarn go away completely.
When I found the pattern for the spiral afghan, (, I realized I might just have hit upon a solution to the problem. I could just crochet until I came to the end of a ball of yarn, tie on a new one and keep on going. So here's my spiral scrap afghan.

You end up with three working yarns as your spiral your way around this afghan. I decided to use a single yarn for one of the strands, and since I had a good bit of black in my stash, I chose that. I then went through my bins and pulled out a bunch of small balls. So here's what I'm working with for this afghan:

You start the way you do for a normal granny square. I started with 4 ch then a sl st to form a loop, ch3, 2 dc [ch2, 3 dc] 3x, ch2, sl st in top of ch 3 to complete round 1. Yarn was cut leaving a nice tail for later weaving in. Round 2 (black) starts the way the 2nd round of a granny square starts, but when you get to the last corner, after the 3 dc, you don't complete the corner. Just drop that yarn and pick up another ball.

Round 3 (blue) begins in the top of the ch3 with which you started Round 2. Attach the yarn and work ch 4, then 3 dc in next ch 1 space, and continue on around as for a normal granny square. When you get to the last space you can work in Round 2 (black) stop and drop that yarn.

Round 4 (peach) begins in the space created at the beginning of Round 3. Attach yarn, ch 3 (counts as a dc), 2 dc in the same space and continue on around until you can work no further into the spaces of Round 3. Drop that yarn. Your piece now looks like this:
Now the fun begins. Pick up the yarn you left parked at the end of Round 2. Pretend that the cluster of dc's right in front of your hook is pointed up and down instead of sideways. Ch 1 to make a space over this cluster, then make 3 dc in the space created by the chains at the beginning of Round 3 (blue). Then in the 
top ch of Round 4 (peach) make 3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc (a normal corner). Continue on around working in the top of Round 4 until you can work no further. Drop this yarn and pick up the yarn you dropped from Round 3 (blue). Notice that now you have stitches oriented the way you are used to seeing them in a granny square. From here on you just keep spiraling around, dropping the working yarn and picking up the yarn 2 round below and continuing on. When you come to the end of a ball of yarn you just tie on a new one and keep working. Every bit of every ball gets used up. 
I use small locking stitch markers in the last loop of the yarn I'm not using at the moment to keep it from accidentally unraveling; safety pins would work, too. I've worked on mine on and off throughout the day. This is the way it looks now:
Notice that the slight wonkiness that you have when you start the spiral is hardly even noticeable. 

Go gather up a basket or tub of yarn balls and a crochet hook and start spiraling.