Friday, March 30, 2012

Controlling your yarn stash (while buying more yarn)

If you love working with yarn, chances are you have a little more of it than you need at this exact moment in time.

Maybe you're just finishing up a project and you've already set up what you need for your next one.  Maybe you haven't set up exactly... but have enough set by to do projects for the next ten years.

Whatever your situation, I am here to help you go on buying more yarn than your circumstances call for.

Adjusting Your Accumulation Strategy

Step One: Assessment

What's in your stash, anyway?  Where did it come from?  Why is it in your stash at all?

In my experience, how yarn arrives in the stash can fall into one of three categories.


This is a big one for me.  My pulse doesn't quicken for many factory-produced yarns even though I do love the idea of consistent dye lots; I am all about independent artists who dye their own yarn, and when I get attached to an artist I know I can trust for soft, warm fibers and colours that don't run, I want to support his or her efforts.

recent purchase from Twisted Fiber Art submitted as evidence

I feel the same way about local yarn stores - there are some I don't get excited about, and others I'll shop in specifically because I love what they do and want to support their effort to go on doing it.  Which means that if I go to that sort of LYS, or to a knitters' market where my favourite dyers are showing their yarns, I am going to buy something whether I need it or not.


We all have go-to yarns we use all the time, and we want to have them handy because you can't always run out to the store when you've just got to cast on those socks or that sweater.  If you know you're going to use it, why not stock up when you're near it, or ordering something else from the same online shop? 


I bet this is the worst thing for building up crazy amounts of stash.  Think about it: if you love making baby blankets in fingering weight yarn, you can choose two $30 skeins of hand-dyed superwash wool or two $5 skeins of acrylic on sale.  For a lot of people, and for a baby whose parents are going to have to wash that blanket a LOT over the next ten years (because if you do it right, that baby will love sleeping under it well past the day when his/her feet pop out the other end) it's acrylic all the way.  But... well, you know if you do this you'll have to knit another baby blanket for a mutual friend's baby, and isn't it better to stock up now?  I mean, $5 a ball?  please.

Except that following that line of thought, even if you only spend half what you would on the superwash wool you are going to come home with three times as much yarn as you needed.  You will have forgotten that the square footage of your home has value too, and you're using up some of with those extra four balls.  After a few more shopping episodes like this, you're going to have a tub of low-priced yarn you're sure you'll use sometime - all taking up real estate you could be using for something else.

(like fabric stash, but that's another story for a different blog.  stay tuned.)

Step Two: Categorization

Knowing what brought stash into your house gives you some power over the yarn that's had such power over you.  Maybe not enough power to get rid of any, but some nonetheless.  And you start by categorizing where that yarn sits today.

Love but won't use

I can look at certain yarns in my stash and say fine, I've loved this yarn, and I've made some things with it, and I feel loyalty to its maker, but I know I don't want to knit - at least, not with it - any more of the kinds of things it's intended for.

Don't love but sometimes use

Other yarns, I'll look at and say I can't believe I bought this whole giant ball of yarn for one tiny toy and now I'm stuck with it sitting here in case I ever need more of it, so I can justify having spent money on it in the first place.

Do love, will use

Self-explanatory.  If you are remotely like me, most of your stash will end up in this bucket.

Might use... for something else

Welcome to the abyss of spinning and weaving, a subject for another day.  Just be aware that both of the first two categories may linger in your stash because of this last one.

Step Three: Yarn Domination

Now it's time to exert power over your stash.  You're going to -

are you sitting down?

- look at how much knitting time is sitting in there.

Oh yes.

(you thought I was going to say 'Fill a bag to give away', didn't you.  ha! this is me you're reading, so relax.)

Do you know, it takes me at least a month to knit a pair of fingering weight socks, usually two? That's because I'm knitting other stuff at the same time.  If I did nothing but the socks, and they weren't too patterned, and nothing too dramatic happened around me (which, given the last few years, would probably mean that hell inexplicably froze over), I could pull off a sock in a little less than a week.

So let's say I could knit through two skeins of sock yarn in a month.  How much sock yarn is in my stash?  According to my records in Ravelry at the time I first started writing this, aka before I bought a lot more yarn while knitting a very little further, about 12 skeins  - not counting the ones I could use for shawls or the ones I forgot to load into Ravelry in the first place.

I am guessing that if I've got enough to knit nothing but socks for between three and six months (GAH), then I clearly don't need to buy any more sock yarn till that situation changes a lot.

(disclaimer: this fact didn't stop me from buying more sock yarn from a beloved hand-dye artist because it was limited edition and on sale.)

(seriously: you'd do the same, right?)

Your turn.  Break down your stash by weight and see how many knit-hours are invested in each category.  Try not to panic.

Step Four: Resuming Yarn Accumulation

This is where you get to justify buying more yarn.  Here is how:

Consider what's on your knitting horizon for the foreseeable future, then break it down by yarn weight.  And look for gaps.

You can take one of two paths from here, depending on your immediate needs.  You can say WHOA do I have a lot of laceweight yarn, and way too many hat and mitt patterns in my queue, I'd better put those aside and knit some shawls or filmy vesty things.

That path will probably lead you to No More Yarn Shopping, at least for a while.

Or you can follow my lead.  When I did this exercise in an extremely informal way, it was clear that everything I want to knit is in sport weight and most of my unused yarn is fingering.  So guess what?

I did go yarn shopping.  I hope you can too!

1 comment:

Kathleen Taylor said...

I knit pretty quickly, but after a clear-eyed look at my stash, I realized that I could knit daily for the next 3 (5? 8?) years and still not use up all of the yarn I have on hand. I had to stop buying yarn (except in carefully controlled circumstances), but man, when I see all of your beautiful beautiful Twisted yarns, it's hard...