Handmade: Leftover yarn stash is put to good use

Jocelynn Brown, The Detroit News

Like so many of us who knit and/or crochet, Elaine Redmond’s yarn stash continues to grow as she buys more, completes projects and stores away what’s left with plans for someday putting it to good use.

Unfortunately, for many of us, someday never comes, however, the determined Beverly Hills resident knew there had to be a way to transform the unique and colorful scraps of yarn she’d amassed over the past 20 years into something wonderful -– something she’d be excited to share with others.

“You just do so many projects, and you always have a little something leftover,” said Redmond, 76, who learned to knit “quite young” at the hands of her mother, quickly advancing to such intricate stitch patterns as cables. “I started going through my scraps, and I was organizing my yarn by color, and I realized I had bags of small pieces.” Although some were only a couple yards long, she wondered, “What can I do to use it up? I said, ‘I’m going to think of a project to utilize as many different yarns as possible. I’d seen scarves on the diagonal, and thought, ‘I could do a neck piece!’”

So, she designed an asymmetrical neckwarmer on the diagonal that closes on one shoulder with two wooden buttons, simply by knitting together various colors, textures and fibers found in her stash, which she keeps in plastic bags inside storage bends in her laundry room.

“It’s actually just a long rectangle, so it’s really just a very short scarf, and as I knot the pieces on, I leave the tail hanging. Then when I finish, I cut all the fringe so that it’s even,” she explained. “I try to make them approximately the same size. They’re about 6 1/2 inches wide by 22 inches long.”

To make one, she said, “What you have to do is pick out a bunch of colors that you think work together. Then select one color to start. There are certain combinations that work beautifully.” While most are a blend of different colors, she once knitted one in all black in a range of textures. (How clever!) But no matter the texture, she said, it’s sometimes necessary to knit with two yarns held together to maintain the gauge and weight of the fabric from start to finish.

And, as if she needs a reason to buy more yarn, Redmond admitted, “I’m always looking for another little texture to add to the scarves – something metallic, with fringe or ribbon.”

She sells her neckwarmers for $45 each at the Artists’ Market, held quarterly, at Leon & Lulu’s in Clawson and earlier this week, she sold some at the Detroit Institute of Arts during a Christmas party for docents. As a past active docent, Redmond said, every year, she and other docents (past and current) bring handmade items to sell at the holiday gathering to help raise money to purchase coats for kids who attend Detroit Public Schools.

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or

Diagonal Scrap Neckwarmer

Level: Advanced beginner

Estimated time: About 5 hours

Tools: Size 8 16-inch circular needles or straight needles, size H crochet hook, sewing needle, measuring tape, scissors

Supplies: Favorite leftover yarns in different colors, fibers and textures (the more, the better), thread, two wooden buttons

Abbreviations: CO cast on; K knit; K2tog knit two together, st(s) stitch(es), rep repeat, cont continue, BO bind off


(Note: You’ll need to tie different yarns to ends of rows to create stripes as you work, leaving about a 3-inch tail to form fringe along edge.)

CO one st

Row 1: K in front and back of st.

Row 2: K

Row 3: K in front and back of first and last sts.

Row 4: K

Cont in pattern until piece measures about 6 1/2 inches in height.

Now, K front and back in first bottom st. K2tog on last top st.

Turn and K back. Cont in pattern until piece measures about 22 inches.

To decrease, K2tog in first and last st. Turn and K back.

Cont decreasing until one st remains on needle. BO.

Evenly fill in gaps of fringe/tails along edge by adding strands of yarn with slip knots. Cut all fringe/tails to even lengths.

Now, crochet two loops on top side edge. Work in (loop) tails. Then, stitch buttons in place to bottom side edge.

Contact Elaine Redmond at (248) 647-6912.