Stash the Guilt…



Two facts you need to know up front:

  1. I currently own enough yarn to knit three hours a day for the next ten years and not run out; and
  2. I am the queen of rationalization.

Now that you know these things about me, you can read on.

A week or so ago, I went to the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, otherwise known as “Rhinebeck,” for the first time. (Rhinebeck was amazing; more on that later.) Knowing I’d be tempted (to put it mildly) to buy yarn, I decided to prepare for the weekend by taking stock of my “stash.” And that got me thinking.

First, I wasn’t lying when I said that I have enough yarn to knit for ten years without running out. And it’s only somewhat organized. The most loosely organized are a few plastic bins (of different shapes and sizes) organized by weight. “Fingering” is the largest, perhaps because I knit a lot of shawls; next is “Worsted” (which also includes DK because my “system” isn’t that finely tuned…), and, then “Remnants.” Almost all of this yarn is wound into balls, having been intended at one time or another for a specific project. Now they are odd single skeins, orphans that are unpurposed and unattached to anything – a pattern, a place, a person, a memory, even other yarn. I rarely open these bins, and, when I do, I have a tough time getting excited about knitting with anything I see.

Next to these bins, however, sit transparent “stand and fill” zip-loc bags (my new favorite thing; you should check them out) whose contents I know intimately. These bags contain yarn for a (generally designated) project: a sweater quantity of a single special yarn, or a combination of yarn and/or colors to make a specific future project. They are a comforting reminder of my queue – the options I have to use yarn I love to knit projects I love when I’m ready- and every once in a while I’ll go on Ravelry to explore what I might do with the yarn in these bags.

Related to the bags on the shelf but perhaps even more special are the plastic bags of yarn that I have stored in the drawers of an old dresser. Usually in much smaller quantities, these are yarns that I’ve collected, either through my (modest) travels or from a special source (or both). I know these yarns well because I “visit” them frequently. They include (but are definitely not limited to!) (local) sheep-to-skein- yarn from my visit to Santa Rosa this past summer and six skeins of Jamieson & Smith/The Woolbrokers Heritage Naturals that my shop partners brought me back from their recent trip to Shetland.

What I realized when I looked over my yarn in preparation for my Rhinebeck trip was this: Some of my yarn is my “stash.” Some of my yarn is my “collection.”

I can imagine you rolling your eyes, thinking that the distinction is only semantic. I’m not so sure. (Although I did warn you that I’m the queen of rationalization.) A quick Google search reveals that a “stash” is “a store or supply of something, typically one that is kept hidden or secret.”* The yarn in the plastic bins is my “stash” – a “supply,” something to be used, like laundry detergent or milk (well, maybe a step up from laundry detergent and milk, but you know what I mean). And while I don’t technically keep it “hidden or secret,” I rarely look at it. When I do look at it and don’t use it, I feel like I’m wasting it. Its unused presence inspires guilt. It should have a better home. I should give it away.

I don’t feel this guilt about the yarn in the dresser. This yarn – yarn I treasure and look forward to knitting with – is different. It’s yarn I visit regularly and have in mind as I browse through patterns on Ravelry. It’s yarn that reminds me of particular places or people and, while I hope to make something with it, I don’t need to knit with it to justify its presence in my life. This yarn can be idle; it is my “collection.”

And I realized that’s really the point. As makers, we often feel guilty about buying and keeping something that is the raw material for a “made” object – yarn, fabric, buttons, ribbon, beads – the list goes on – and not using it to make something. But I think we should banish that guilt. People collect all kinds of things with no “use”: coins, cars, quilts, stamps…. If yarn brings you joy, collect it. Keep it. Treasure it. Maybe you’ll knit with it. Maybe you won’t. But don’t feel guilty about holding on to yarn that you love.

My pre-Rhinebeck “stash” visit made me realize that some of my yarn inspires guilt, but much of it brings me joy. Having made that distinction, it was easy to decide to get rid of the yarn in the plastic bins and go to Rhinebeck determined to buy only “special” yarn, which is what I did.

Here’s what I brought home:

-two skeins of aran weight Foxhole Farms Cormo (my first Cormo ever!)
-two skeins of Rosy Green Wool (which I bought after hearing all about it from Rosy’s husband, Patrick Gruban)
-two skeins of Spincycle Dyed in the Wool and a skein of Magpie Swanky Sock to makethe Salt Point Cowl (a collaboration between our friend Dami Hunter of Magpie Fibers and Spincycle Yarns),
-a skein of Spun Right Round sock yarn, and
-a humongous madder root Deluxe Trundle Bag

I have plans for some of the yarn, but not all. I will use the madder root bag every day. I have no regrets. I am thrilled to have this yarn in my “collection” and hope to knit with it all some day.

A final note: Rhinebeck was an extraordinary celebration of fiber (and its sources), fiber-arts and artists, and an inspiration in itself. The people I saw (many clad in “Rhinebeck sweaters” despite the 75 degree weather) reminded me of the sense of shared identity and community that we as knitters and fiber artists enjoy. As Rhinebeck illustrated, that community is thriving. Let’s keep Local Yarn Shops thriving as well. Visit your LYS on this year’s Small Business Saturday (November 25) and tell them how much you value their presence in your community.







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