The title of this post pretty much sums up my goals for the making of things in the coming year. At its most basic, “out with the new and in with the old” means as much as possible, I’m going to try to use what I’ve got on hand or what I can get second hand to knit, sew, costume, or otherwise craft, instead of buying new materials. Not exclusively, but as much as is feasible. I already do this a lot, but I wanted to be more intentional about it. (I promise this won’t become one of those smug greener-than-thou sort of projects. If I need to buy new buttons, I’ll buy some new freaking buttons!)
Here’s what this kind of making has looked like this month:
Creative Stash Knitting
challenge: How to knit with what you’ve got when your yarn doesn’t fit the pattern.
When you have been knitting for many years, you develop a yarn stash. Extra yarn left over from previous projects, yarn that friends or family gifted you, yarn that you bought for a purpose never fulfilled—they all live in the stash. My stash lives in a small underbed storage box.
I’m trying to get even more inventive with the ways I can knit from my stash. This hat is one of those projects. I knit with small amounts of a wool-and-mohair-blend yarn I had in a few colors in my stash. I used the quick and very lovely pattern easy ombre slouch hat by Paul S Neary. Well, sort of. I weighed the yarn on a scale realized I did have enough of the green yarn to do the full pattern. So I just did the colorwork pattern until I ran out of green. And it still looks good.
The only disadvantage to this strategy is that I’m going to have to be flexible with the outcomes. My hat came out far less slouchy because I omitted extra rows of the pattern. I’m going to soak and block it, but it doesn’t seem to quite fit over the sheer volume of my hair now.
I think it may need to be a gift to someone else, and I’m ok with that.
Thrifted and Salvaged Crafts
challenge: How to make useful and beautiful things without buying new stuff.
I think the hardest thing about trying not to buy new things is that I have to be patient. I have to forgo the instant gratification for the long game of keeping an eye out. It’s probably not a bad trait to work on. At any rate, being patient was what led me to find and refashion these chairs.
I had been using folding wood chairs in my kitchen for years when I spotted this guy and its twin at my dumpster. I hauled them inside just before a rainstorm. They were not in good shape. But my neighbor friend had assured me that wooden chairs with fabric covers are easy to re-cover.
If you want to do this project, make sure you have a screwdriver that fits the screws on the underside of the chair, scissors, a staple gun, and enough staples. (I borrowed the staple gun and ran to the hardware store to get staples). A seam ripper and an iron are also handy if your fabric is being repurposed. And a flashlight or headlamp is a plus if your screws are hard to see.
Repurposing Unfinished Projects
challenge: How to revisit the incomplete objects from the past and find a place for them in the present.
The dirty little secret of any maker of things is the UFO—the unfinished object. We all have at least one— a project that can’t be completed but also can’t be tossed. They are hidden away for weeks, months—or in my case, ten years.
If I am really going to go “out with the new and in with the old,” I have to revisit my UFOs. And I did. To do so, I first I had give up what I had planned for this piece to be back them and think about what it could be here and now.
What you see here is the front piece of a completely imaginary argyle sweater. I knit it in 2005—specifically, in February and March during the weeks I was in the hospital after a really bad car accident. I must have asked someone to bring me some knitting needles and yarn from home, but I don’t remember. I do remember how I spent ages planning and designing and knitting this blue and green argyle pattern in my hospital bed while I was unable to walk. I was completely determined to knit myself a sweater.
But this sweater was never going to exist, because I had no idea what I was doing. I was a beginning knitter and ravelry did not exist (neither did YouTube). You can see how my stitches were uneven, and how the blue and green yarns are thicker than the white yarn and did not stay flat. I also had no concept of how a sweater was constructed. And even I can’t make sense of my knitting notes now, although the argyle chart is pretty solid:
So I knit this whole pseudo pattern, and then it sat, in a bag, doing nothing. As I got better at knitting, I became convinced it was unredeemable. It was a symbol of knitting failure. That is, until I rediscovered it while cleaning last weekend. This time it didn’t remind me of failure—I looked at it and remembered how much I had loved it and how it had been a bright spot in my life during a really dark time. I also still had the borrowed staple gun in my possession, and I had an idea.
In keeping with “out with the new,” I went to the thrift store. I found a large framed image there for $2.50. The important thing about the frame was that had a removable back (those little black tabs around the back are always a good sign). I brought it home.
I then lightly steam blocked the argyle piece, stretched it across what had been the print inside the frame, and stapled it into place. With some careful wiggling, I got it back into the frame and secured with the black tabs.
Now my long abandoned argyle sweater project is a framed and mounted work of fiber art on my wall. And I can’t even describe how much joy I feel when I look up at it. Yes, I was crazy stubborn to try to design and knit my own sweater with no experience from a hospital bed. And yeah, it’s wonky and full of flaws. But I love it— I poured myself into it and I can see the beauty in it now. What was old suddenly looks new.