Monday, May 16, 2011

Less is More: The Power of Constraints


If you have been following this blog from the very beginning, you know that it was born from my self-issued challenge not to buy new yarn this year. This has been a fantastic choice for me, because it has forced me to face my stash and realize just how much wonderful yarn I already have to work with. Aside from one justifiable yarn emergency, I have kept to my resolve not to bring new yarn in, and I'm making steady progress as far as sending it out in the form of finished items. It feels great!

One side-effect of this decision, however, is the fact that I'm now working with a finite amount of yarn in a finite number of fibers, weights, and colors. No longer am I allowing myself the luxury of browsing for a new project among the endless fiber possibilities both local and online. Sounds like a drag, right? Like a limit on my creativity? In reality, though, I have found these self-imposed constraints to be a fantastic fuel for the creative process.

Really?, you ask. Am I just trying to put a good face on it? Well, let me show you a project where a limited amount of yarn led to unexpected, yet (IMO) great results.

One such example is shown in the photo above. It's a spring top for my toddler which I call "Daisy Belt" (her name for the old song "Daisy, Daisy", where the girl being sung to is named Daisy Bell). I started out with a pattern called the "Shades of Summer Dress" {Ravelry link} by fantastic up-and-coming designer Elena Nodel (aka Anadiomena).

I knew I wanted to use this light blue yarn from my stash, but I didn't have a whole lot of it. I knew right from the start that this would not actually be a dress, but a top. Luckily, the pattern is worked from the top down, so I knew I could just knit until it was gone. As I went along, however, I realized that I would definitely NOT have enough blue to knit the ruffle unless I made it way too short. What to do?


Well, I knew I was going to put white daisies at the waist (it had to be called "Daisy Belt", after all!), so I wondered if a white ruffle would look good on the bottom. Might as well try, right? I had a few different white yarns in my stash, though not the same yarn as the blue. I've never really experimented with "mixing" yarns in a project, but because of my Yarn Out Challenge, I was now compelled to try it. I experimented with a couple of different options until I settled on the final choice.

What a fantastic result! I am thrilled with the way it turned out, and I have received some great feedback from the Ravelry community. Honestly, if I had not been constrained by my stash, I don't think I would have come out with a project half so wonderful. My creativity and problem-solving skills were forced into action in a way they would not have been if I had purchased the right amount of yarn to knit the original dress. Who knew limits could be so liberating?

I have more to say on this topic with at least one more example to share, but I'll save that for another post. Meanwhile, if you're interested in different points of view on it, read this, this, and this.


  1. Seriously, could she be any cuter?? And the top is darling too!!

  2. YOU are sooooo talented....beautiful work!

  3. WOW I Love it!! And she has gotten so big! What a beautiful little girl in a beautiful dress and I Love the white bottom, it really makes the dress!

  4. I just love this one!!! It makes me want to have a baby girl so that I can make stuff like that. You are amazing!

  5. SO beautiful and what a great project!
    Although I cannot claim to have made anything as beautiful as this, I have been doing the same with only using my yarn and fabric stash. It can be quite interesting adjusting patterns to accommodate the 1 ball of yarn left instead of 1 1/4 balls, for example. I have certainly learnt a lot along the way!

  6. Thanks for your comment, Rachel! It's nice to hear from others who are working on a similar stash challenge.

    I would have to disagree, however, that you have not "made anything as beautiful"--I had a peek at your Ravelry project page, and your work is gorgeous! I especially love "Aaron's Cardigan" and "Hoodie with Yoke Design", both of which you designed yourself! Your sewing projects are also lovely. That is a craft I aspire to learn someday!