There comes a time in every knitter's life when she or he realizes there are just too many little bits of leftover yarn floating around the house. That space could be much better filled with some great new skeins, but what to do with all the little bits?
The perfect solution is to knit a stash afghan. These stripey wonders are a lot of fun to knit, especially if you make knitting one a game, and they can handle any little bit of yarn you've got to spare, no matter how small.
It's really easy to develop your own pattern or "recipe" for knitting a stash afghan based on what you have in the house and what size you'd like your finished blanket to be.
Step One: Pick your Yarn
If you've been knitting for a very long time you might have little balls of yarn of all kinds of weights. If you've spent less time building up your stash, you may only have worsted weight yarn.
I like worsted weight yarn for stash afghans because there's usually a ton of it lying around and it makes a blanket that is warm but not too warm and doesn't take too much time. While it is technically possible to knit a whole stash aghan out of sock yarn or bulky yarn, you'll find that the smaller yarn takes much longer to knit and the heavier yarn may be too warm for a blanket.
Pile up the yarn you're planning to use. Put it in a garbage bag or shopping bag if you want to turn knitting your blanket into a game (more on that below).
Step Two: Pick Your Size
To make a baby or child-sized blanket (about 36 inches square) you'll need about 1,000 yards of yarn. For a 60 by 60 afghan, you'll need around 2,600 yards. I'm not suggesting you try to measure the yardage of all your odds and ends, but know that you'll need a fair bit of yarn if you're making a big afghan.
Of course you can also make an afghan or throw any size or shape that you want. Know that if you're planning a bigger blanket, of course you'll need more yarn. Enlist the stashes of your knitting buddies if you fear you don't have enough for the project you're planning.
Step Three: Pick a Needle
Whether you're knitting a large or small stash afghan, you'll want to knit flat on a circular needle. This will allow the needle to support more of the weight of the project, which is vital for preventing injury.
The size needle you want to use will depend on the weight of yarn you're using. I like using a needle that's a little bigger than traditionally called for with the type of yarn I'm using. For instance, with worsted weight yarn I like to use a size 10 US.
To me this helps even out the gauge when you're using some yarns that are a little thicker or thinner than the others.
Step Four: Gauge
Pick a yarn, any yarn. Cast on about 20 stitches and knit about 20 rows. That's right, you're making a gauge swatch.
Since gauge doesn't have to be exact on a stash afghan, you can just pull the swatch off the needles when you've knit a few inches and measure how many stitches you're getting per four inches.
Step Five: The Math
There's only a tiny bit of math involved in knitting a stash afghan. Got your number of stitches per four inches? Divide by four to get the number of stitches per inch.
Decide how wide you want your blanket to be and multiply your measurement in inches by the number of stitches per inch. This is how many stitches you need to cast on.
Step Six: Knitting
Pick a yarn that you have enough of to cast on and knit a few rows. You might also want enough of that yarn to use at the end of the work to knit a few rows and bind off, but it's not vital.
Cast on the number of stitches you need, knit a few rows or until you run out of that color yarn, pick up another yarn, knit a few rows, and so on until your afghan is as big as you want.
This is where the bag comes in. Some people like to put their odd balls in a bag they can't see through and randomly pick the color that will come next. If you can't give up that much control, don't do a lot of planning, but just ensure that the color you're knitting with looks good with the color it is next to.
This recipe assumes you want a Garter Stitch blanket, but the same rules apply for using other knitting stitches. Just make sure you knit your gauge swatch in the pattern you want to use, that you cast on the proper number of stitches to make the pattern work and that you understand that many stitch patterns take more yarn to work than plain old garter stitch.
Once you've knit and bound off your stash afghan, you'll just have a hundred little ends to weave in. No problem, right? If you can't stand ends, cast on twice as many stitches, join your work in the round and work as established (knitting every row will now get you Stockinette Stitch). Then all your ends will be inside and you won't have to worry about weaving them in.