Leftover scraps and remnants of various materials have been used throughout the centuries by diverse cultures in all corners of the globe; manufactured goods such as clothing, for example, have been re-purposed in countless imaginative ways. So varied are the techniques, and so decorative and/or practical the results that many a book is devoted to the subject.
Knotting and tying short lengths of yarns into a longer, more useful yarn is by no means a new idea, and is a thrifty way to knit a garment. I have seen wonderfully vibrant kiddie clothes made like this in Africa, but unfortunately have no photographs. Where economic considerations aren’t an issue, beautiful multi-coloured yarns can be created by cutting lengths from yarns in one’s stash and joining them into what is now called a ‘magic ball’. I don’t know who first came up with this very apt name for such an exciting ball of yarn; Kaffe Fasset uses the technique to spectacular effect in some of his stunning garments, but as far as I’m aware, he didn’t coin the term. If anyone knows who did, I’d love to hear from you.
For those knitters not familiar with Magic Ball knitting, there’s a great deal of info on the Internet. Clara Parkes of Knitter’s Review has written a very clear description.
The Magic Balls, knitted hats and handwarmer I’m showing here were all made from leftover bits and pieces as I was knitting, and in particular from my always too generous length of yarn pulled out for a longtail cast on. I live in terror of running out before all the stitches are on the needle! I toss the scraps into a ziplock bag and wind them into balls every now and then, having several balls on the go so that I can vary the colours in them. So far I’ve knotted all the bits together, but there are many ways of joining the yarns so that no knots show at all. If that’s your look, turn to our old friend, Google.
Beauty and utility
Simplicity in scraps
It’s interesting that the rug, handwoven from cotton fabric scraps in India, produces the same effect.
The beret has the knots featured on the right side.
Fun! The hat’s knots are on the wrong side.
I began by knitting a 3inch brim which was turned to the inside.
The handwarmer is lined in mohair which both hides the knots and makes it reversible, as well as doubly warm.
Raki, who can sleep through anything, including earth tremors and all that Hera, Zeus, Poseidon and the crew can hurl at us, was totally unaware that he was standing in for Jason.
My adorable little models, Nellie and Michael, pictured here with their mother in their home in Volos, were very patient and obliging. Thank you, Lena and Sotiris.
I think it’s pure magic that you can take knitting needles and yarn, a little knowledge and two basic stitches, and create almost anything at all. And if you’re not pleased with the result then you can simply unravel your work and hey presto – you have your yarn back! Very few handcrafted goods can be returned to their original materials; unfired clay can be reworked, but cut cloth can’t be restored to the original yardage, though the pieces can of course be used in a different way.
Whatever my yarn, whatever the project, for me the knitting magic will never end.