Thursday, September 10, 2009

Roots of Frugality

I'm not sure why I feel the need to use every last inch of yarn I get my hands on. I could understand it with luxury fibers, but I'm like this with wool unraveled from $3 thrift store sweaters and even acrylics. It's embarrassing to admit, but last night I caught myself staring at sample yarn cards--trying to imagine uses for two-inch pieces of mohair.

Maybe it started with Granny Norman. Before my chin cleared the kitchen counter, I watched her as she scraped butter off its wrapper, saying, "
A woman can throw more out the kitchen window with a spoon than a man can shovel in the front door." It took me decades to process that. I don't think I've ever scraped a butter wrapper, but I do the equivalent with yarn. I save the smallest scraps, hoping to find a use for them one day.

Maybe it's my seventh-grade teacher's fault. One Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Garrett invited a bunch of us girls to her big white house on Randolph Street (the one beside the old library) to make Christmas decorations. I can still see her thudding down the old home's narrow staircase into the living room and plopping a huge box in the middle of our work table. It didn't contain a single new craft
supply. Everything was a scrap she had saved from a previous project. It was full of yarn remnants, felt scraps, sequins, buttons, beads, and endless possibilities.

She taught us to choose the right combination to create things that turned out, well, beautiful if I do say so myself. I still display mine every Christmas. It's a narrow banner of white felt with the word NOEL in red letters. It has felt holly leaves and berries, each berry accented with a single red sequin. And the
pièce de résistance? . . . a red yarn tassel.

Maybe this waste-not, want-not mentality started with one of my favorite books as an adolescent,
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. There was something magical and empowering about Francie's frugality. When Francie's father lost his job (uh-gin) and was throwing money away at the local pub, she and her mother were wearing their coats indoors. Each hour they kept the furnace off, they'd put a nickle in a tin can hidden in the top of a closet. When Francie wanted a corsage for her high school graduation like the other girls, she got it--despite her alcoholic father. When she wanted to go to college, she made that happen, too.

Or maybe it was either Jesus or my Grandpa Campbell. When Jesus fed 5,000 people with a two-piece fish dinner, He made sure the disciples took care of the leftovers. "
Let nothing be wasted," He said. So, I figure nothing means nothing. Fish, loaves, yarn, talent, whatever. My grandpa must have believed this too, because one time, as the family story goes, he ate a whole bowl of cornflakes after accidentally pouring buttermilk on them.

I guess I got it honest.

Do you have an odd frugal streak? Admitting it can be the first step.

Anyway, here's what I scraped together from one $3 wool sweater that I unraveled. I still have about 10 yards left over. And yes, I'm saving it because you just never know.

An Irish Hiking hat for Beth.

A pair of Kool-Aid dyed socks for Pos.

A Honeycomb looped scarf for Allie.


  1. What a delightful post and such a joy to read! Thanks for sharing.

    .....yes, I do scrape the butter wrapper... you just wouldn't believe how much better is on that wrapper! (learned that from my Aunt Bea)

    Much like many knitters, I have a bin of scrap yarns that I just know can be used for something. Also have old craft "junk" that surely can be made in to something beautiful or at least in to a timeless keepsake.... for someone!

    Thanks for sharing the joy of using recycled yarn! I am so excited to use recycled yarn on some projects coming up and to visit some consignment shops soon on the quest to find really nice sweaters to unravel! Want to join me?

  2. Nice post Carol....I like frugal people. I like those socks too!

  3. Heck yeah, K, let's go!

    Rodney, haha...yeah those socks are groovy.

  4. Carol, I teach my students to use the butter wrappers!

  5. Hi Carol, I'm a friend of Karen's daughter Lindsey, and stumbled upon your site via Lindsey's and Karen's blogs. I'm not much of a knitter, but I do love to crochet, and hate throwing out yarn scraps. Who wants to get rid of little delightful pieces of color and texture? So I throw them in a mason jar and leave it on the desk as a little decoration -- it's also a keepsake of sorts, since to me, each little scrap represents progress on a certain project. That's probably a little insane to most, but it makes me happy. :)

  6. The authors: What a lovely idea! Thanks for visiting my blog and for passing along this great idea!