Updated: Aug 8, 2020
I love cotton yarn. I have a lot of it. I have a lot of it in little, tiny balls leftover from only a few years' worth of projects. (I relearned to knit about three years ago.) And I tend to throw away small bits of yarn.. but not cotton. I can't bear to!
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LOOK AT ALL THOSE BEAUTIES!
But really, I tend to toss away bits and pieces and small balls of yarn for the most part. But not cotton. And it an ideal fiber to use for household use items, especially kitchen items, notably dishcloths(Hey! Some of these scraps are from dishclothes!). The sheer quantities of times a placemat would need to be washed -- at least for a mom of small children, like me -- makes it an ideal candidate for this stuff. This is a mix of a lot of different brands of cotton, like Lion Brand Comfy Cotton, Lily Sugar N' Cream, and my personal favorite, I Love This Cotton.
I made a first run at it, and while the colors still looked awesome, it did NOT turn out well. The edges were the main problem. I have a bad habit of crocheting tails in as I go, which works just fine for most projects, but not for one like this in which the color is changing every. single. row. I wound up with a wavy edge that looked almost like a ruffle just from the extra yarn for the first two or three inches.
Plus, I didn't properly tie in the ends, so when I cut some of them off,... aaaah! It started unraveling. I tried adding a grey border over top of the mess to hide it... welp, that didn't help either. Only one of the options that changed between two versions was of almost neutral value, and it was a choice between working back and forth with the rows or starting them all on the same side with each new color. The texture was definitely different, both cool, but it also made it harder to keep the line even. Take a look at the mess.
I put the second edition behind it so you can see how much wobbly and uneven the first edition was.
Lesson learned. I found out that it is sometimes totally worth it to go through all the tedious steps in order to come out with something you can be thoroughly proud of.
And here is the texture difference between them.
On the left we have the one in which each new color started on the right. You can see the distinct columns it created, but they also slant. Could be useful in the middle of a projects, but you can imagine, no fun for clean edges.
On the right is the sample that was worked back and forth, alternating starting new colors on the left, then right, then left, etc. Made for a more even texture, but also less distinct.
So, let's get on to
HOW TO DO IT
Various yarn scraps, at least several colors, doesn't have to be rainbow
Crochet hook in size 9/5.5MM (or whatever is compatible with your yarn)
Organize your colors -- If using rainbow, start with pink, then go through red, orange, yellow, tan, brown, green, blue, purple, gray. If using just one color, but various hues, work from dark to light.
Get a basic idea of how you want to repeats to go. If you've only got a small amount of a yarn, maybe you only run one line of it per placemat, as I did with the peachy color just five or six lines from the top. If you've got a lot of a color, plan to run it four or five times, as I did with the forest green in the middle of the placemat.
Find a rhythm to repeat that makes sense to you and then mix in an odd line or two where necessary when using a scrap with less available yarn. When you've got the first mat complete, use it as a pattern for the rest of them.
My basic rhythm was as follows:
I didn't follow it rigidly, just going with the flow of how much I had in each scrap.
Chain 35 + 1 for turning chain.
Row 1: SC in second chain from hook, SC across. Cut color, pull yarn through loop, leaving at least four inches for weaving in. Turn.
(NOTE: No need for turning chains when switching colors each row. If working more than one row of a color, make sure to chain one for turning and start again in second loop from hook.)
Row 2-60: Attach new color with SC. Work in SC across.
(This is the tedious part, but it makes all the difference in the finesse of the final product.)
First, pull gently on all tail ends, making sure they are snug up against the edges of the placemat.
Second, go along each edge and tie adjacent colors together with a square knot, e.g. on top edge, square knot tail from row 1 to tail from row 2, then from row 2 to row 3, then from row 3 to row 4, etc. Repeat for bottom edge.
Third, thread each tail onto the needle one by one and work them back into the last 4-6 stitches of the same color. Make sure you are putting all the tails out the bottom of the placemat(the side that will sit downward on the table). Taking care not to cut the yarn of the fabric, cut the tails as close as you can to the work.
It literally took me an hour to do just the finishing work on one placemat, but as you can see, the result is stunning, looks very straight and has no chance of unraveling itself.
Cheers! And happy crocheting!