One of the mental games I play runs, "What would I do if....", the knitting version of which is "How and what would I knit if I were broke?". Now, in reality, I have a large stash and if I were broke, I could knit from it for about a decade and (possibly) with the exception of sock yarn, still have multiple-garments-worth of yarn left at the end of it. I have more than enough yarn. I am seriously contemplating selling some of it to make some space and because it is highly unlikely I will ever knit with it (the pink and the blue Sublime Angora Merino DK if you are interested). So let's wind the clock back ten-or-so years, before the stash grew large and contemplate how and what I'd knit if I were broke and didn't have much of a stash.
(This version of the game started because ages ago, on a frugality discussion board somewhere - not TMF - someone remarked that she couldn't afford to knit with "real wool" only with acrylic. Her next comment, which was aimed squarely at me, was that since I could "afford" wool, I obviously didn't need to be on a frugality discussion board. I think I replied that it was precisely because of the tips and tricks I'd picked up that I could afford to knit with wool, that most of my yarn was purchased at a deep discount from the likes of Black Sheep Yarns and that I saved £5/month for my knitting. Anyhow, I digress. Let's play the game...)
How and what would I knit if I were broke?
For a start, I'd knit whatever yarn I had in the house, until it ran out. I'd dig it all out, pile it on the bed and work out what I could do with it. Even when I only shopped for the next garment to be knitted and not for the stash, there were always balls and ends of balls of yarn left over after whatever was knitted was finished. There would probably be enough for at least a couple of hats, some fingerless mitts and a pair or two of my use-em-up socks. Any short lengths could be crocheted into granny squares - it's about time I learned to do one. (No, even though I've been crocheting all my life, I've never made one.)
In the meantime, while I was busy knitting up the odds and ends, I'd try to save for the next garment. Surely I could squeeze £2 a week out of the budget? Three 100g balls of 4-ply sock yarn is approximately 1200 metres, which is more than enough to make a vintage sweater like the Jan Sweater, which is at least a month's knitting (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-jan-sweater). There are plenty of free patterns out there, which you can find via Ravelry. Since I'm using 4-ply, I'd start by searching the library for patterns listed on Trove (the National Library of Australia online archive of vintage knitting patterns). Www.knitty.com is another place I'd look.
Then onto the yarn. King Cole Zig Zag is reasonable to knit, consists of 75% wool:25% nylon, would give you 420m a ball and is currently on sale via Amazon for £4.79 plus £2.49 p&p, so £16.86 for yarn for an entire sweater. You may even be able to get a short sleeved sweater out of two balls. http://tinyurl.com/jgxb7n7 The hardest part will be trying to find a source that sells plain colours.
Alternatively, if I'd saved up just a little more, I could get three balls of West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4-ply, 75% wool:25% nylon, quality British grown and spun yarn, direct from the spinners for £7.20 a ball plus £2.60 p&p, a total of £24.20. That is a premium product with 30% BFL for less than £25, including p&p. http://tinyurl.com/ozzvaof. I know which one I'd prefer.
Problem solved, yes?