Knitting is one of the least expensive hobbies to start – all you need are needles and yarn, and someone to show you how. If you don’t already have the materials, you can get started for around 10 bucks. And even if you splurge on the nicest yarn and the nicest needles, your first foray into knitting shouldn’t cost you more than a hundred bucks.
And then, somewhere along the line, you get hooked.
The Yarn Harlot blames it on yarn fumes. She insists we aren’t ourselves around that much wool.
I’m talking about stash – loads and loads of yarn tucked away for future use. Talk to any knitter and you’ll find it’s pretty common to have one. There’s even a whole section on Ravelry devoted to cataloging your stash, and there is endless talk in some forums about de-stashing. I’m no exception. I have at least five “future sweaters” in my stash, a potential pair of slippers, a few sidelined shawls…you get the picture.
Everything in my stash is something I could knit, but haven’t knit yet.
And when I think about it, I want to cast on all the things at once. If I give in to that impulse, there are suddenly dozens of half-started projects around the house. Eventually, I realize none of them are going right (because I didn’t plan it out in the first place) and chuck it all back into the stash again.
At some point, I realized the stash was weighing me down. Something had to give.
My goal wasn’t to have “no” stash. It’s just to have a stash that doesn’t overwhelm me or fill me with guilt.
The truth is, it will take me several years to knit through all the yarn I have stocked up. And every time I buy more yarn, I stuff it into the plastic bin where my yarn lives and there it sits. And then I feel guilty about it.
Just like the yarn that’s already in my stash, every time I buy more yarn, I have a plan for what I’m going to use it for – and I plan to use it NOW. But when I get home from the yarn store, life calls – dishes to wash, dinner to cook, laundry to fold, you know the drill.
So into the stash the yarn goes, and each time I feel a pang of guilt that I’m not the super-knitter I want to be.
The thing about stash is this: none of the usual rules about decluttering apply. You can give it away, or sell it, but it is terribly difficult to throw away even a single skein of stash yarn. Which means that unless you have people lining up to relieve you of your yarn (and some people might), your stash just builds and builds.
Now, I’ve been knitting for more than twelve years, and my yarn tastes have certainly changed over the years. Every now and then, I’ll either donate or give away the bits of stash that no longer fit with who I am. But still, my stash has grown over the years to a bin stuffed with yarn and several baskets of yarn placed strategically around the house.
Most yarn shop owners are no help. It’s their business to sell us more, and we love them for it.
A yarn diet can be a disaster too. It turns the most beautiful thing (yarn) into a four-letter word, and just like a restrictive food diet, it often leads to overindulgence when we can’t resist something really tempting.
So what’s a space- and cash-strapped knitter to do?
For me, it was realizing that I wasn’t buying yarn. Not really. I was buying the experience of buying yarn. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I would buy yarn because I wanted to knit something, but I felt like I didn’t really have the time. Of course, a trip to the yarn store can take an hour out of my day – an hour that I could have been knitting.
This, my friends, is time poverty. You tell yourself, “I don’t have the time now so I’ll just buy something that I’ll work with later.” And it’s a mess.
A sense of time poverty led me to overspend and overshop, not just with yarn but in every area of my life. And shopping doesn’t bring me any additional time in my day. In fact, it does the opposite. And then, to top it all off, I have more stuff to wrangle in my house.
After thinking long and hard about the causes of my yarn buying habit, I started to make some changes.
I spent one Sunday afternoon going through my stash. It all went onto a pile, KonMarie style. I organized it, weighed it, and really did throw away the “junk.”
I made wool dryer balls with the scrap wool I knew I’d never knit with. I made a spreadsheet of stash – complete with whether or not there was a planned project attached to that yarn. And I made a decision that my yarn purchases will now be guided by these questions:
And the last one, which isn’t really a question so much as a guided choice. When I get in the car to go home from work and feel the urge to go to the yarn store (which is dangerously close by), I tell myself this:
“I can go to the yarn store or I can go home and actually knit.”
Usually this gets me headed in the direction of home.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
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Have you ever been so bored, so frustrated with something, that you’re ready to quit? So lost that you wondered how you even got there? You feel stuck, tired, and downright crabby. You know you can’t quit because this is meant to be, dammit! But somehow, one tiny thing changes, and a whole world of possibility opens up, one that enchants and excites you.
This is her story.
There was a four year old girl whose grandmother taught her how to sew. For hours, they would sit and feed paper through a sewing machine with no thread, learning how to “sew” straight lines, turn corners, and make curves. The holes the needle left made trails where stitches would be, and were held up for Nana and Mommy to see like any prized art project.
Not long after that, the little girl learned how to sew real fabric with real thread, and made clothes and costumes for herself and her dolls. She would sit in the garden and embroider little squares of fabric, not really understanding what she was doing or how to make what she wanted, but doing it anyway.
She knew she loved fabric and thread. Their colors and textures promised to take her to a secret world full of magic. She could see beautiful clothes coming to life from a plain piece of fabric, only she couldn’t make it happen.
Soon, she was frustrated. Sewing and embroidery were too slow. They required too much precision for a little girl who wanted to run and play with wild abandon. She still played with fiber almost endlessly, but stopped as many projects as she started.
Annoyed by her inability to follow through on a single project, the little girl’s mother stopped letting her cut up those precious silks that so enchanted her. The little girl thought maybe she just wasn’t good enough, that she couldn’t do it. Those beautiful visions kept calling to her, but now they just made her sad. There was no way she could make them real.
And then she discovered knitting.
She had written it off years ago, confused by grandmother’s half-remembered instructions and an awful cast-on row. But now, she found, something clicked (and it wasn't just the sound of the knitting needles).
Knitting was portable. It was easy. It was more forgiving of small mistakes and deviations from the pattern. It allowed creativity and ingenuity, even without lots of technical skill.
The door to the magic world had opened, the one she had been longing for all along.
As she entered the magical land of knitting, the girl knit scarf after scarf after scarf. Sometimes she would go wild and knit a hat. But scarves were where it was at.
She grew braver, and ventured into the world of lace shawls, then socks, then sweaters. Nothing, it seemed, was off limits to her.
The little girl grew up, as little girls do, and soon she was on her own. But she wasn’t alone, because she had her knitting to keep her company.
One day, she was wandering around an art fair and saw a woman sitting at a spinning wheel, spinning yarn for socks. The girl had tried spinning on a spindle before, but just like sewing and embroidery, it just failed to really catch her interest.
But this was different. This was fast.
That woman at the wheel looked like she was having fun, tapping her feet, drafting her wool, chatting away with curious shoppers.
Too shy to ask for a lesson on the spinning wheel, she bought a bag of fiber and retreated back to her home to try the drop spindle once more. It was still too slow, too frustrating. She went back to the world of knitting, but a seed had been planted in that world, one that promised even more magic than what she already had.
Until one day, many years later, the girl went to an honest-to-goodness fiber fair. What joy! What magic! Here were all these wonderful, happy people, and they were all spinning yarn!
As she made her way around the fair, she saw a lonely little spinning wheel, with a price tag and the words, “Adopt Me.” That was all she needed. She sat with its former owner, and learned to spin.
The first skeins of yarn she made were nothing short of awful, but it was so much fun! Here was what she had been looking for all along.
Her magical world of knitting transformed into a world full of possibility.
No longer was it a world of knitting. It was a world made up of all kinds of fiber. Woolen mountains of roving, ready to be spun into rivers of yarn, and made into clothing for the world’s inhabitants. Silken grass, beckoning her to lie down and take a nap in it. Not just knitting, but weaving, too, and even crochet.
But this world was too magical for any human girl to bear, so she transformed into the Fiber Sprite, a fairy whose magic fingers created all kinds of fabric. There she stayed, among the fibers, working her magic in that mystical world.
This is her story.
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