Sunday, June 11, 2006


Well, the four worries that have kept me away from my post here have all now been resolved. The two projects with insane deadlines have been completed (early, in both cases!), my brother is out of hospital, and I'm on new lung medication which is allowing me to breathe. Always a bonus :)

(My brother, for those of you who know him, has had a prolonged stay in hospital and in a rest home because his diabetes got out of whack and he ended up with kidney failure. He is well on the way to recovery now, having worried us all sick for weeks...)

I think I may have to take a leaf out of Mary Anne's book, and designate a day for blog entries. I'll probably pick Sunday, so I hope that, next Sunday, I'll be posting again.

In the mean time, it has been suggested to me that I reprint here an article that I wrote for SlipKnot, the journal of the Knitting and Crochet Guild. The issue in which it appeared was dedicated to bags, but the information on blending yarns applies to any project.

Stash Bags
This is not an article about storage solutions – it’s about how to make bags without spending money on yarn! As I am writing this around Christmastime, saving money on yarn seems like a very good idea….

Now, I’m not talking about pretty, lacy, delicate little bags – the kind that just about holds a handkerchief or a lipstick. What I am considering here is the good, solid, useful tote bag. There are plenty of patterns around which use expensive, chunky yarns to make thick, hardwearing bags in beautiful colours. However, many of us no longer have local yarn shops in which to browse or, even if we do, we may not necessarily have the budget for the sizeable balls which always seems so short on yardage.

The answer lies in our own hands – or, rather, our own stash. I have been experimenting for quite a while now with working with more than one yarn at the same time, blending my own yarns to create different effects. If you have never tried knitting with two or more yarns together, it may seem a little daunting. But really, all you have to do is pay a little extra attention to ensure that the point of the needle goes through the entire stitch.

First of all, root about in your stash to find those odd balls that you never know quite what to do with. Try to choose balls with a similar yardage. A mix of textures is always a good idea; I recently completed a garment for Knitting magazine which combined a variety of colors and textures with a Lurex thread, and the results looked almost like a sparkly Fair Isle. Because of the way yarns twist together when they are worked, different colours come to the forefront at different points in the fabric. I suppose, if you are a spinner, you could even ply the yarns together, although I’ve never tried this myself. I prefer just to hold the yarns together.

The next thing to consider is the colours that you will use. You could begin simply with several strands of the same colour yarn, but this is a bit dull. It’s much more fun to hold two or more different colours together and see how they twist around each other to create a random variegated effect. Even the most garish colours can be muted by being worked with other, more subtle colours.

Sometimes a theme can be useful in choosing colours. Try jewel tones - sapphire, ruby, emerald and topaz. If you prefer a more muted palette, what about ice cream colours? Perhaps Raspberry Ripple (pink and red), Caramel (shades of brown) or Neapolitan (brown, cream and pink)!

And dont simply use yarns of the same weight. I achieved very pleasing results using a pale cream double knitting yarn together with 4-ply peach, yellow and green. In terms of the ice cream colours, it was a little like Tutti Frutti!

Next you need to consider your needle size - the smaller the needle, the denser the fabric. You may want quite a stiff and hardwearing fabric for a tote bag, so a smaller needle may be what you need. (Of course, blending yarns is not just for bag making, and a larger needle creates a springier fabric suitable for cushion covers, throws etc.)

Even with a dense fabric, you may like to create an inner for your bag to stop things falling out through the stitches. I find old pillowcases are invaluable for this, as they need very little sewing. You may prefer to knit an inner on much finer needles, with finer yarn.

Finally, dont forget that the Guild offers BIYCH yarn – Blend your Own Chunky. If you dont like what youve unearthed from your stash, perhaps the Guild can supply colours for you. Whatever you do, be adventurous – the results may surprise you!


Daisy said...

I'm glad things are going better for you now. Also thanks for reprinting your article here - I haven't tried knitting with 2 (or more) strands together (apart from a KidSilk Haze wrap, but I don't think that counts!). I loved your ice cream descriptions of the resulting texture! ;-)

Mary Anne said...


I'm so happy to see you posting again and to know you are feeling better!

Thank you for the article on stash bags. I've been blending two or more strands together for my hats and scarves and it is a fun way to create new yarn and new colours. Thank for sharing your insights so clearly.

I hope your brother continues to feel better too.