A Few Thoughts On Stash: Being Merciless

A Few Thoughts On Stash: Being Merciless

Last post I alluded to the fact I’ve been thinking a lot about stash lately. I’ve been a knitter for a long time so I have a pretty sizeable stash. While every 2-3 years I dump out and completely go through all my yarn – getting rid of the stuff I just won’t use – I’ve begun thinking about stash in an even more merciless way.

I don’t want piles of yarn. What I want is yarn with a purpose. While I have to keep somewhat of a stash (it’s nice to have a selection to draw from when the idea of a new pattern strikes), I don’t want skeins and skeins sitting around, the product of an impulse purchase that ends up languishing away unused in a drawer.

The long and short of it is: it doesn’t make me feel good to have piles of yarn that I’m not using. Or to have piles of yarn that I just buy with no end project in mind (even a vague one).

Which is an interesting revelation to me, because I didn’t always feel that way. It’s fun to get new yarn, and to find something new that you really love. But it’s also a travesty to then not use it; it feels wasteful, and that’s where the stash starts to be detrimental. I’ve come to the point where it feels wasteful because if it’s not getting used, it’s just taking up space, and that yarn doesn’t have a purpose. Without a purpose, what’s the point?

My stash isn’t as big as some people’s, but I have three bins full, and with handspun it’s starting to get larger. My handspun is definitely not going anywhere, especially since I’m slowly working toward primarily knitting with mostly handspun, I’m becoming less and less enamoured with the idea of having a bunch of commercial yarn laying around taking up space.

So this spring, after about a year of being not quite sure what to do with this yarn, I got a loom.

Busting through some cotton with tea towel weaving.

The fact of the matter is I still like 99% of the yarn in my stash, and it has use. So I don’t necessarily want to just get rid of it; instead I want to use it to make more room for handspun.

Getting my rigid heddle loom was the first step – I very quickly plowed through a whole whack of cotton I had bought previously but hadn’t used. I now have a good number of new hand towels (as do my family members!). So that felt like the right first step.

Now I have a whole bunch of wool (since that’s mostly what I buy). Including several sweater quantities. I’ve decided to tackle these sweater quantities first and knit myself just some really basic, go-to sweaters I can grab during winter (have I mentioned before our winters are long and cold?). I started this project in earnest at the end of August, and I can now see I probably have about 4-5 sweaters worth of commercial yarn alone.

I have plans to make three sweaters (one of which is handspun), and then a vest by the end of the year. If I can do more, great, but the others will probably be worked on in the new year. Once I’m done that, I’m going to unload all my yarn and go all Marie Kondo on it. It’ll all end up on a pile on the floor and anything that I don’t like, or kinda like but can’t imagine using for something specific, I’m going to get rid of: either I’ll donate, or give it to somebody, but it’ll be out of the house. I know of at least a few skeins that will probably be going, but I think I’ll be surprised by how many other skeins will join them if I take a few hours and do it all at once.

I’m going to be merciless, and I’m going to hold myself accountable because I can easily see myself saying, “oh, I like this and I could use it, I’ll just keep it.” But I’m not going to let myself do that. The end goal is to keep space for handspun, which is what I really want to have, so I just need to keep that end goal in mind, even if that skein is pretty and maybe I can get away with keeping it.

Locally sourced, hand spun Cheviot, dyed with lilac and indigo.

I will place one caveat at the end here: sock yarn. Sock yarn I generally use as I get it, but I do have a smallish stash of sock yarn. Since I’m such a fanatical sock knitter, and I know everything in there will absolutely get used, that yarn I will be keeping. Socks, like sweaters, always have use in my climate, and after the sweater knitting marathon, it’ll be nice to switch to some small, quicker projects.

Stash, and thinking about my stash, is part of an even larger discussion still. It’s about fast fashion, and sustainability, and sourcing truly local wools. It’s about knowing the source and the journey that yarn took. And it’s about a revolution that started 200 hundred years ago, and the ramifications that are still going on today. I’m going to write a bit more about this in a future post, and the idea of fast yarn – the fibre arts version of fast fashion and what that means.

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