Saturday, February 23, 2013

Yarn for Free or on the Cheap

I feel that human beings have an intrinsic need to create.  The need to make and do is as embedded in our DNA as color of our eyes and hair.  There is something about creativity that feeds the soul and drives the spirit.  Our passions create the beauty in life, be it through poetry, yarncrafting, painting, cooking, singing and dancing, or any of the plethora of other outlets available to us.  There are many things we can make and do without spending any money, such as singing or writing.  But crocheting and knitting are not things that we can do without certain supplies.  Like yarn.
When we find ourselves inspired to make, but lack the cold hard cash to buy squishy new yarn, it can be a little disheartening and discouraging.  There are, however, several ways that we can get the materials we need for free or on the cheap.


Shop your stash!  This one is the most obvious but also one of the most difficult to do, mentally.  Many of us have purchased yarn that we intended to use for a specific project, or yarn that we brought home just because it was beautiful or soft and we wanted to have it.  When we have had a specific project in mind for a specific yarn, it can be hard to picture it used for anything else, but it can be!  You can use the awesome search function on Ravelry to look for patterns that use yarn in the weight and fiber that you have on hand.  If you look in the Ravelry database for the yarn that you want to use, you will see a ‘project ideas’ tab that will show you projects that other Ravelry users have made with that yarn.  And if you don’t have a Ravelry account, sign up now!  It’s free and an amazing resource!

Get the word out!  Tell all of the crafty people you know that you are a willing recipient of any extra yarn they may have!  Tell your friends, coworkers, grandma, sister, etc.  Use resources such as Freecycle and Craigslist…not only can you look through the free listings, but you can make one of your own asking for yarn.  The only catch is this:  don’t be picky!  You may be a yarn snob, but free yarn is better than no yarn.  In addition, when you accept something from someone once, they are more likely to send their generosity your way in the future. 

Remember those UFOs?  We all have them.  Some of us may be mildly ashamed of the number of them hidden in project bags and in the backs of closets.  Ahem.  Take a good look at your UFOs and decide if you’re really going to finish them.  If not?  Frog it!  Reclaim that yarn with joy and feel guilty about your unfinished objects no more!  Similarly, if you have ever created something that you just didn’t like as much as you had hoped, or at all even, don’t be afraid to rip it all out and reuse the yarn.  What is the point of having something around that you don’t enjoy, or that reminds you of all of the hard work you put in for a less than pleasing outcome?

Speaking of frogging…  Do you have an old store bought sweater that you just don’t like anymore, but you’ve been hanging onto it because maybe you’ll need it?  Well now you do!  You can frog sweaters, even if they aren’t handmade.  The only catch here is that you can’t frog a sweater with serged seams, because that means that the yarn has been cut and will therefore be useless to you.  There is a great tute here  that shows how to frog a sweater, and also what to look for in the seams to be sure the sweater you have will work.


Thrift store/salvage store/yard sale/rummage sale   One can often find yarn at any of these places, but go beyond looking just for yarn!  Look for sweaters that can be frogged using the method in the above link.  Also, I see a whole lot of afghans at thrift stores, to the tune of $3-$4 each.  That’s a whole lot of yarn for a little bit of money!  When you look at afghans and blankets in thrift stores, there are a couple of different things to look for to make sure it can be frogged.  First of all, check to see if the yarn has matted at all.  I have found that older plastic (acrylic) yarn can become matted in almost the same way that wool felts.  Likewise, the older the acrylic, the more prone to breakage it is while you’re dismantling it so check it for any signs of brittleness.  Take a good look and make sure the yarn isn’t unraveling anywhere and there aren’t any spots with insect damage.  Keep in mind that if you choose a granny-square blanket, you will have many scraps of yarn, whereas if you are buying a ripple blanket in just a couple of colors, the yarn will be much easier to work with.

Is there something you do to get your yarn for free or cheap that I don’t have listed here?  Please post a comment!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lenten Fast

Usually it doesn’t take much thought for me to decide what to give up for Lent.  One year it was chocolate, another it was buying yarn, another it was all shopping online (even browsing).  One year in addition to giving up something, I chose to also use it as a time to be more aware of my personal behavior and change some ingrained habits that made me…and others…unhappy.

This year, I was really racking my brain trying to think of what I could do during this forty day period that would have a positive impact on my family and help us to think of the many people in our world for whom going without isn’t limited to 40 out of 365 days.  What we have decided to do is something a little more intense and drastic than anything we’ve done before.  For the period of Lent, we are embarking on a bit of an adventure that stops just short of being voluntary poverty.

There are many different aspects of what we are planning, some easy (no going out to eat) and some harder (no buying anything non-food unless it affects our health or welfare), and some in between.  We will be dedicated to trying to put on ourselves the same restrictions that many of our fellow humans around the world have, such as only purchasing food if we can get it locally and it will fit in our diminished food budget.  We will have to be much more vigilant than ever about ensuring that not a single thing goes to waste.  The television and video games will be unplugged, much to the chagrin of our children. 

So this affects my crafting life pretty significantly.  I won’t be buying yarn or even browsing online to look at beautiful spun fiber; nor will I be indulging the senses by going to yarns stores to pet the pretties.  I won’t be buying any new craft supplies.  I’m not even going to think about what new creative tools I can acquire when Lent is over.  I’m going to live with what I have and nothing else.  I’m hoping that a nice side effect of this freeze on bringing new items into the house will inspire me to look more closely at what I do have and think of new ways to use it.  Hopefully, I'll be able to share some of these ideas, along with thoughts on creating for free or on the cheap.