Non-Consumer Knitting and Crocheting Tips from the Elder Wolk-Stanley

by Katy on June 1, 2009 · 13 comments

The following is a guest blog from my sister Jessica Wolk-Stanley, who is not only a kick-ass illustrator, but is also an obsessive compulsive knitter and crocheter with crazy mad skillz. Enjoy.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Jessica Wolk-Stanley

Hi. I’m Jessica, one of Katy’s crafty sisters.

I love knitting and crocheting and pretty much any craft that has to do with fiber. I get very antsy if I don’t have some sort of project going and within an arm’s reach. I never EVER watch TV without something to work on. I like to have something to show for my time.

But I hate to pay full price for my yarn. For those of you who are also knitters or crocheters, you know how expensive good and merely adequate yarn can be. Over the years, I’ve figured out that since I’m not picky and am willing to work with what I have, I rarely pay full price for my materials. I always keep an eye out for high quality yarn at thrift stores and garage sales. News of my not pickiness has spread and I receive the occasional bounty from friends. When I start a new project, I look at what I already have and then plan a project, rather than shop with a project in mind.

I also recently discovered something that is becoming popular with growing numbers of thrifty knitters and crocheters . . . finding a sweater at a thrift store and unraveling it. You need one that has been knitted in pieces, not cut. With a little effort, you can get a lot of yarn (about a sweater’s worth!) very cheaply indeed.

I’m sure I don’t have to go into a lot of detail about the ecological benefits of reusing yarn, but I will anyway. I’m keeping waste out of landfills, clothing that goes unsold from thrift stores often gets shipped to third world countries and disrupts local economies. Obviously, I’m not a machine, so when I make a pair of socks, I’m not generating any pollution. No new yarn is getting manufactured because of me. There are a lot of small scale sheep/alpaca/goat farms out there that are beneficial to their local economies and I’d be happy to buy some of their yarn, but frankly, I have so much yarn right now, I’ll leave that to others.

Right now I just started a rag rug made from old t-shirts and other fabric scraps. I also just finished a beautiful pair of merino wool socks knit from a sweater I recently unraveled. I’m making another pair of socks right now that I did actually buy yarn for. I figured that for the price of the yarn ($3.50…cheap), I could have the fun of knitting something that will be longer lasting and prettier than anything I could buy in a store. Since Katy says it’s okay to purchase underwear new, I could buy the yarn for socks new.

Oh…I almost forgot! If you are looking to feel really really thrifty and green (and maybe a tiny bit smug), plastic bags can easily be cut up and used to make…another bag! Despite my very best efforts, we still seem to amass many bags. So I find that crocheting a bag now and again keeps the quantity down (it takes about 20-30 bags to make a shopping tote).

There are some great web sites and blogs for knitting and crocheting. Tutorials and free patterns are easy to find. Here are a few I have found to be fun and useful.

A social networking site that also has lots of tips and patterns.

An online knitting magazine with lots of free patterns.

A blog with a tutorial about how to use plastic bags for crocheting.

A great tutorial on how to unravel a sweater and what to look for when buying that sweater.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin @ klingtocash June 1, 2009 at 6:28 pm

How did you get sock yarn for $3.50? I love knitting socks and generally buy my sock yarn from Webs ( They have great prices and offer discounts for large yarn purchases (20% off $60 or 25% off $120). I’ll save up and go once or twice a year to get a stockpile of sock yarn to work with. I’ve also purchased from knitpicks which brands their own yarn and is very affordable.

Happy knitting!


Jessica Wolk-Stanley June 1, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Hi Kristin,

My cheap sock yarn is from Knit Picks. Their Essential sock yarn is as cheap as as $3.50. I’m going to have a look at too.


Sierra June 1, 2009 at 10:23 pm

A friend called me up out of the blue the other day and said, ‘I have too much sock yarn, would you like some?’ Would I? Would I? She had two large grocery bags full of sock yarn to give away, including about ten rolls of the self-striping stuff that I *love*.

I took half, promptly gave a chunk of my new stash to another friend, and am still set up with a year’s supply of sock materials. Which is great, because I thought I might have to break The Compact to lay hold of more yarn soon. 🙂

I totally second the KnitPicks rec, for those looking to buy yarn. I love their stuff, and it’s all very reasonable. Plus, their customer service is great.


Sandy June 1, 2009 at 11:30 pm

I like the idea of (smugly) carrying a crocheted plastic tote bag 🙂


totalchangeofheart June 2, 2009 at 6:57 am

Thanks Jessica! I’ve recently given up sewing (it was a pain in the butt and it stressed me out too much), leaving me with a TON of old clothes I had intended to reconstruct into more wearable items. Your rag rug inspired me to both use my scrap clothing and to get out my sewing frustrations, all at the same time!

I was thinking – for impatient people like me, perhaps small, hand-sized rag rugs might make good cleaning-up scrubbers. I can’t wait to get started!


Jessica Wolk-Stanley June 2, 2009 at 11:04 am

Have I mentioned dish clothes? I’ve given up sponges and now use knitted cotton dish clothes. I haven’t tried it, but I think that it would be pretty easy to knit up some from old cut up t-shirts. I say t-shirts because the fabric is stretchy and would be easier to work with. But any sort of cotton cloth would work too. There is a whole world out there of very very cool knitted, but mostly crocheted, scrubbies that originally hail from Japan, called “tawashi.” There are tons of patterns out there, ranging from the simple to very fancy (and cute) animal and plant shapes.


RecycleCindy June 3, 2009 at 6:30 am

Your post really spoke to my heart about crocheting with “free” materials such as t-shirts, rags, plastic bags etc. I love that you don’t have to buy this type of yarn. It’s a wonderful way to craft free creations. I recently discovered t-yarn. You cut a t-shirt without side seams around and around the main body of the shirt about 1/2 “-3/4” wide. Then you gently pull on the strips which causes the “yarn” to curl in on itself creating a circular type yarn. It is really cool looking and has given me all kinds of new ideas for projects.


Tracy Balazy June 3, 2009 at 8:17 am

That’s great, Jessica! From a recycling standpoint and also for the animals; modern large-scale wool production isn’t always too kind to the sheep. 🙁


Jessica Wolk-Stanley June 3, 2009 at 9:24 am

I like the t-yarn. My rag rug is partly made of it and it is great to work with!


thenonconsumeradvocate June 5, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Don’t you guys think my sister should be a regular guest blogger on The Non-Consumer Advocate?

She has much crafty insight to share.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


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