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Knitting Creatively On A Budget

Mar 2, 2009

Times are tough. No denying that. But we knit for joy, and anything done for joy is worth finding a way to do, no matter what the challenges. The more joy, the more solace, the more calm we can bring to this crazy world, the better.

So what are some ways to find that creative joy on a budget?

I've been using the Just One Skein strategy lately. When I feel a yarn jones coming on, I go on a treasure hunt at my LYS and purchase Just One Special Skein--after all, a single skein at the local yarn shop often costs less than ordering out for pizza. (It's about priorities: Pizza? or yarn? No contest there.)

This strategy works better than trying to deny myself "yarn fixes" completely (as any dieter knows all too well), and it also helps support my local yarn shop so they can stay afloat. I stay within my budget; I get some pretty new yarn; and my local knitting shop that gives me so much joy throughout the year benefits too! It's all good, both for me and for my community.

But how do you make the most of these small yarnly pleasures?


What do you make with a single skein of yarn? Here are some ideas:

Knitted cuffs: Plain ribbed ones keep your wrists warm and flexible; add a bit of lace to the edges that will peek out from under your coat, and you have just given your wardrobe an inexpensive upgrade!

Colorful hat: Right now I'm knitting a bright pink/purple hat out of a single skein of bulky yarn. 60 sts around on size 11 needles, 30-40 rounds, and presto! A quick bit of warm and color to brighten up my snow apparel.

iPod case: Knit several out of a single skein, and you have gifts for your friends. Personalize with buttons from your button box, or special beads in your stash.

Neckwarmer: Sometimes scarves aren't exactly what you want--neckwarmers, a simple knitted tube that acts like the neck of a turtleneck sweater, are fast, simple, and make great gifts.

And, of course: Baby clothes! The little bolero you see in the photos here is one I made for a friend's baby last year out of one skein of really nice organic cotton.



One Skein
A great book of quick patterns using a single skein of pretty yarn

There are books on my shelf that I keep going back to over and over--and this book, One Skein by Leigh Radford, is one of them. I've knit baby gifts, housewarming gifts, and birthday gifts from the patterns in its pages. Need a neckwarmer pattern that a guy would wear? It's in here. Want that cute Baby Bolero pictured above? Take a look at page 60. And if nothing else will do but a couple of knitted cupcakes, they're in here too!  And when I need inspiration for those special single skeins of yarn, this book has ideas aplenty.

Look for One Skein by Leigh Radford at your local yarn shop, or purchase it online from us.




Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? I started and finished the a one-skein hat mentioned above this weekend. Nothing better than a quick project out of a great yarn to make me feel ready to go back and tackle a few of my other, longer-term projects with fresh energy.


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RobinB@2 wrote
on Mar 17, 2009 10:06 PM
re: Knitting Creatively on a Budget The book, One Skein, has the most precious baby bibs in it, and that's why I wanted to learn to knit--to make those for baby gifts. Another thought about donations. My dad was in the military and my mom used to knit layette sets for the Navy Relief Society. There also may be churches who could use them for either other churches they have adopted, or poorer people in the church itself, or in the community. Robin
JaynaM wrote
on Mar 4, 2009 9:31 AM
My husband needs a new cardigan sweater and I have a considerable stash of 1-2 balls of yarn in a variety of colors, weights and textures. I'm trying to come up with a pattern suitable for a man, that uses lots of different things but still looks masculine. Suggestions?
Elizabeth wrote
on Mar 3, 2009 9:54 AM
Sandi, What is this sock pattern you are knitting?
BethanyL wrote
on Mar 3, 2009 7:56 AM
i definitely understand the penny pinch.. i just recently lost my job, and thanks to my wonderful aunt who sent me a ton of yarn about 6 months ago , i now have time in between looking for jobs and running errands to knit. it has definitely been a blessing for me. with my time i am working on dishcloths for christmas presents.. and you can get quite a few of them from one skein of yarn. and some of the yarn i have enough to make some shirts or a skirt or two.. keep up the good ideas.. and keep passing them our way
CiraW wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 9:32 PM
A yarn "jones"...please explain the meaning of "jones" in this context. Thank You!!
Rosewood11 wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 7:57 PM
I agree with ElizabethK. and April. Thrift stores are amazing places to find yarn for a song!!! I have several sweaters that I'll be re-knitting in the near future and didn't exceed $4.00 for any of them. Another advantage is that you know there's enough yarn for a sweater because it already is one. I've gotten anything from beautiful mohair blends to Irish tweeds, and just about anything else you can imagine. You'll also find many sweaters that someone has inadvertently "felted." Sad for them--one step closer to that purse/tote bag for you. Oh, and don't neglect looking among the non-sweater inventory. It's always nice to find a matching designer skirt for $2.50--and I'm not kidding. Since a girlfriend turned me on to thrift stores and consignment shops, I have more clothes and BETTER clothes than I've ever had in my life. PS: Don't neglect the men's racks either!!!
JessicaW wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 7:23 PM
I love this idea! I just bought 1 skein of a very pretty chunky yarn I couldn't pass up, not for 80% off anyway! Now I just have to figure out what to do with it....hmmm. Thanks for the Great Ideas!
Virginia SA wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 4:03 PM
I usually knit up infant socks and toddler socks from 1 skein of sock yarn. I can get 3 pairs out of 1 skein. Sometimes depending on how I feel I'll knit up a scarf or a hat. I also spin up a lot of my yarn so always have some yarn in stock.
AnnC wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 3:57 PM
I laughed aloud as I read the post with my ipod in it's handknitted case. It's not just my idea anymore.
MelisaZ wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 2:09 PM
Great ideas, also, there are a lot of organizations and projects any knitter can knit for, especially during these hard times. As a knitting community, I think we are best posed to help our neighbors. I love the color of the yarn pictured in this post, what yarn is this? ....would love to know, thanks.
StephanieM wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 1:03 PM
Great ideas Sandi for using one skein. I live in a very rural area in Hawaii and times are really tough and also cold in the higher slopes of Mauna Loa - I have quite a stash of sock yarn so I'm knitting socks with split toes for older residents to keep their feet warm (to wear with their slippers). There's so many people that can benefit from our wonderful knitting skills in these rough economic times!
CarolynN wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 12:29 PM
Sandi, I love how you are always so upbeat and positive! I look forward to you newsletters--something I have never said about any other email "push." Anyway, as an editor myself, I appreciate how you always make your columns relevant to your readers' needs, even when you are promoting products along with your ideas. The "sell" never seems forced. I can't thank you enough for the simple--yet I couldn't come up with myself--idea of the neckwarmer! It's just the think my last two balls of winter white Berocco Pronto we waiting for! happy knitting to all!
CarolynN wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 12:29 PM
Sandi, I love how you are always so upbeat and positive! I look forward to you newsletters--something I have never said about any other email "push." Anyway, as an editor myself, I appreciate how you always make your columns relevant to your readers' needs, even when you are promoting products along with your ideas. The "sell" never seems forced. I can't thank you enough for the simple--yet I couldn't come up with myself--idea of the neckwarmer! It's just the tink my last two balls of winter white Berocco Pronto we waiting for! happy knitting to all!
AidaH wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 11:55 AM
As a plus size person, one skein will be limited to making scarves and hats. No FYS in my parts of the northeast. Nearest store (many, many miles away) is just too expensive to satisfy a craving so I build my stash, during the twice a year sale days, when the yarn-stock is changed for the season. In the meanwhile, when I get a hankering for yarn, I just go into the stash-closet and play with the yarn, take inventory and make a ‘wish list’ for the next shopping extravaganza/sale event. Today, March 2, spring came in with a roar...1½ ft of snow and counting. Hmmm, let's see what's in the stash...good time to curl up by the fire and get the needles working! Oh my, another scarf! OH, BTW: how about a free pattern of the baby shrug for the new grandniece in Florida? In my stash I have a couple of 50oz balls of 100% cotton Baby Debbie Bliss that would work up great!
Laughingrat wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 11:47 AM
What's that first yarn? I ask because it looks a lot like "Lola-Lola" from Laughing Rat Studio.
AprilL wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 11:38 AM
I have had to shop on a budget for years! For $3.25 I can go to the local Salvation Army or Frenchies and buy a nice sweater and tear it apart. For $3.25 I have walked out with GAP Lambswool sweaters in bulky, Patrick sweaters in Irish linen, more wool and wool mixes than I will ever knit socks and mitts for, and beautiful yarn that I could never ever afford in skeins. If your going to try it check the seams first!! If the seams are serged sewn, then don't bother no matter how beautiful the yarn. The item has been knit, then cut into pattern pieces and sewn together. Its almost impossible to get it apart. Not only are you getting great yarn but the charity store your shopping in can really use the money, they are going thru even harder times. Go ahead try it I dare you!!
BarbaraB@3 wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 11:12 AM
Don't forget many charitable organizations would love your one skein items. Plus your cheaper yarn items. Great thing about charitable knitting - you can make zillions of items that you wouldn't use or don't need and have an endless supply of takers.
Linda B wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 10:59 AM
I loved this suggestion! I think it is a "win/win" for everyone! Heaven knows that we can all use some solace in these hard times and knitting gives me just the piece of mind I need these days.
ElizabethK wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 10:45 AM
How about yarn recycling? I'm currently knitting hats for my hubby's senior center using the perfectly good yarn from an unsuccessful afghan. For really nice (read: expensive) yarn I cruise thrift stores for sweaters made of exotic hair or blends such as alpaca, angora, cashmere, silk, etc. Passing the yarn through a teakettle spout steams the kinks out and makes it easier to work. Some people even sell the resulting yarns on eBay.
LindaJ@2 wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 10:36 AM
I'm very lucky. I have two sisters who are "The Estate Sale" queens. They are always on the look-out for yarn bargains for me. They've added to my stash...not really added...they've more or less created it. When I'm feeling less than flush, I hit the stash and get creative.
AmyA wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 10:30 AM
My husband recently lost his job, so that's big bite into my yarn budget. I can still buy a little yarn since I am working; we just have way less fun money. So I have stash knitting plans of course, but my new plan is mainly to knit more socks. I can afford 20 dollars for nice sock yarn if I want; I can't afford 60-100 dollars for a whole sweater. Plus, while I have knit socks before I haven't done much that is terribly fancy so I can still learn a lot from socks, there are a gabillion free sock patterns available to me, and when I'm done I will have new socks which is a very practical thing.
DonnaA wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 10:28 AM
Since I don't have any babies or kids to knit for and live in Houston Texas where scarves and hats are not that useful, I don't have as many choices in the "one skein" strategy, but the tanks and shells that we wear down here a lot can also be made quite reasonably. A really nice lace tee type free pattern on RaveIry called the "Train Sweater" can be made with one lace or fingering weight skein. I have also taken a second look at some brands that I wouldn't have considered if money were no object. There are actually some surprising choices available now from companies like Lion and Caron and even Red Heart. It's fun to challenge yourself once in awhile to find an economical substitute that works in an expensive designer pattern like a Rowan. Donna
JennyS wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 10:10 AM
This would indeed be a great suggestion, if I had a LYS that sold yarn worth buying. Sadly, here in Budapest, Hungary, there is very little apart from acrylic and cheap mixes - cheap in price but in quality too. If I want decent yarn I usually have to get it mail order, and then it absolutely isn't worth going down the one skein route!
GlossS wrote
on Mar 2, 2009 10:07 AM
It's kind of funny that, in a post about frugal choices, one of the recommendations is a case for an iPod, an overpriced & unnecessary luxury if ever there were one. :)