Years ago at a craft fair, I learned a great technique from Eugene of The Philosopher's Wool Company. I'd bought a kit from him which called for “random stripes”, and I was worried my stripes would either be not random enough, or so random as to be sloppy and erratic.
He told me to keep a six-sided die in my knitting bag, and to roll it to determine how many rows to do for a single stripe. Ta da! No-stress randomness with an aesthetically-pleasing frequency.
The conversion of aesthetic work to simple mechanical action is great for all sorts of stash-busting projects. You get the satisfaction of a good-looking finished object without having to check every stitch for how it's affecting the overall look.
Recently I heaped all my Briggs & Little yarn on my living room floor, took out the skeins that didn't go with the majority, and figured out which colours I needed to buy to complete a usable combination for a blanket (4 skeins).
Then I categorised my 18 colours into 13 groups, and let the math kick in.
The first step was to complete a single motif so I could figure out how many motifs I needed to make a blanket. Is it just me, or are most blanket patterns too small to actually use as blankets for anyone who's not baby-sized? Maybe it's because I'm stash-busting, but I like blankets to be at least as long as I am (175cm) and at least as wide as my sofa is deep, since that's where I usually use them. This particular blanket I planned to be about the same dimensions as my bed (202x152cm).
The motif I was using (the ogee granny from Mystical Lanterns) is both oblong and tessellated. I had to work out the number of half-motifs I'd need at the edges to have a straight border.
Conveniently, the overall area was 12x12 motifs, 144 total. I had 13 colour groups, and 11x13 would get me to 143 motifs. One block extra and I was there.
I love it when little coincidences like that happen. They usually mean you're on the right track.
The first two rounds of the motifs and half-motifs were pretty mechanical — just make versions of all possible colour combinations. Not having to think through each set made the work go quickly. After a week I had 13 stacks of half-done motifs sitting on my coffee table, grouped by the colour of the second round.
And then next... as of this writing I've finished the third round for all of the motifs, and have started adding in the fourth round and darning in the ends. More progress photos next week.