Stash-ay Away?

FOs (Finished Objects)

What’s been finished since my last post

  • Nothing Knit or Crochet
    Had a busy month and lots of my projects are large projects, however
  • Project Bags
    I had a whole raft of linen/canvas shopping bags that for one reason or another I didn’t want to use as shopping bags (sentimental, unique, wrong size, handles not long enough or too short,..) so I spent a happy afternoon with a needle and thread and seam ripper making very easy project bags.
converted linen shopper to project bag
Convert Linen Shopping bag to project bag – remove handles, thread ribbon through top seam (I opened one side seam and hand stitched the loose ends) then add simple box folding to bottom to give a bag that will stand up.

WIPs (Works in Progress)

Works actively being worked on – (not hibernating or we’d be here forever) including my PP (Purse Project or the project that is living in my handbag)

  • Spiderweb Skirt, Hook 5mm, Knit Picks Dishie in “EggPlant”
    This is my ‘desk’ project so only gets worked on in my lunch hour at work.  I’m about 30% through and about to start the base of the skirt
  • Tirrold Sweater – came out of long term hibernation to become my ‘purse project’
  • Spectra – gets a few rows (1 ‘panel’) a week but frankly I’m bored with this again
  • I worked a little more on my swatches but am now playing with different fibre content to get the best blocking for the modular shawl and doing a lot of ‘thinking’ about the project rather than actual working on it.

Every Day’s a School Day

What I’m learning from my crafting this month..

  • Perseverance
    I seem to be very good at starting a project and then getting distracted by something else -resulting in lots of half complete items in my WiPs (also known as working on my PhD  – Projects Half Done!). Making more of a concerted effort to finish things before moving on
  • Techniques.
    As the Spectra is only 40 stitches long and involves short row shaping I decided to uninvent (to quote the great Elizabeth Zimmerman) how to knit and purl backwards.  To my great surprise, this is not the same as knitting left handed! It’s actually very easy and fun to do, and made easier by an ability to ‘read’ your knitting so you can see how you can ‘force’ each stitch to be what you want it to be.  Really enjoying the process – but there’s a lot of very same-y stitches that just don’t hold my attention for long.

Bits of Sheep

Stash reduction or enhancement

Having a very reserved month – my only slip was a skein of a beautiful soft reddish brick color of a wool linen blend that might be perfect for my modular shawl design..

MonthBalls/Skeins InBalls/Skeins OutNet Balance

Oh Shiny…

The source of my startitis – for example planned projects , inspirations or ideas that have caught my eye or subjects or topics that have snagged my attention..

There are two things I’d like to talk about this month so I’m going to actually post twice this month!  My next post will be all about the ‘dyeing for knitters’ course I am completing this weekend and deserves a post all of it’s own.  That post will appear in a couple of weeks.

So this week I’d like to do a book review – 

A Stash of One’s Own – an anthology edited by Clara Parkes

The blurb on the dust jacket says: 

In tales from twenty-one knitters, Clara Parkes examines a subject that is irresistible to us all: the yarn stash.

Anyone with a passion has a stash, whether it is a collection of books or enough yarn to exceed several life expectancies. With her trademark wry, witty approach, Parkes brings together fascinating stories from all facets of stash-keeping and knitting life–from KonMari minimalist to joyous collector, designer to dyer, spinner to social worker, scholar to sheep farmer.

Whether the yarn stash is muse, memento, creative companion, career guide, or lifeline in tough times, these deeply engaging stories take a surprising and fascinating look at why we collect, what we cherish, and how we let go.

Contributors include New York Times bestselling authors Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Debbie Stoller, Meg Swansen and Franklin Habit, Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, Adrienne Martini, and a host of others.

I will be honest, I bought this on impulse in the KnitPicks sale – and I am very glad I did.  

Each unique take from 21 different points of view, written over a few pages each, on what is a stash and it’s psychological meaning helped me clarify and identify my own ideas – from the relief my own stash doesn’t match the nearly 12,000 skeins of one Ravelry member to the moments of stressed caused by the acknowledgement that somebody (who doesn’t appreciate this stuff in the way I do) will have to deal with all my stash when I shuffle into the big yarn store in the sky.

New voices I hadn’t read before came across eloquently about their own experiences and journeys with their stash (or lack of!) and old friends reassured me that I wasn’t thatdifferent to other crafters.

I highly recommend this light read as a reassurance that no matter what style or type of stasher you are (no yarn at all to thousands in a special room) there’s more than just you in the world.  Stash, and yarn stash in particular, are far from essential to a crafter’s life – but if you like to have a few ‘comfort balls’ around then grand. If you prefer to only have yarn in the house that is being used for your current project and you’ll buy what appeals for your next project then that’s just dandy too.

I read this over a couple of days (I am a fast reader and have a long commute when I don’t cycle to work), but because of the essay style and short ‘chapters’ it would be easy to read this one essay at a time and then take a couple of days to process the ideas presented – I fully intend to re-read most of the essays again at a more considered pace.  However the book had an immediate impact on me both physically and in my mental approach to my ‘craft collection’.

Most of you will have worked out I have a stash.  I hadn’t considered that all the accoutrements also counted as stash – my needles, hooks, threads, little pin looms, books, patterns, project bags… and I was inspired to finally get my yarn stash (most of, I think I’m missing 3 balls)  onto Ravelry. It took just under 9 hours but I got there! I once worked out that if I gave up my day job and took up knitting 8 hours a day I had 3 solid years of work without buying another ball. I’ve got faster since then – but I think I still have a safe 18 months to go at without worrying overly.

Do have I stash I will never use?  Absolutely. Those ‘souvenir’ balls and those ‘it’s just too pretty…’  Have I bought stash for a specific project and then gone off the idea?  Indeed, and those balls and skeins sit and wait patiently, without judgement, while I decide what it was the universe actually wanted them to be.  Could I give away the stash I have fallen out of love with? Probably. But I’m not quite there yet – my stash diving showed there is very little I am not in love with, and that which is ‘unloved’ is my oddments that I use for swatching ideas.

Having examined my buying habits, it appears I am a combination stasher.  Most of my purchases seem to be bought for the ‘potential’ of what that skien all could be.  Often I have a project type in mind, and several purchases are for specific projects that I had carried in my head for several years before committing (even if I haven’t started the project yet!).  But I also ‘adopt’ yarn. Those skeins that just need to be looked after and come home with me. Now, sure, in the long run this is cheaper than adopting, say, kittens who need shots and feeding and stuff – but it has resulted in a goodly percentage of my stash that has no purpose other than for me to occasionally get them out and ‘squee’ over them.  Finally there is the Exotic Fibres Collection – those skeins bought for no other purpose than for me to be able to say “I have yarn made of…” (banana, 100% milk, possum, seaweed…)

I tend towards the hyper detailed in my mind, so the fact I am in love with possibility of my yarn, with the potential captured in the fibres rather than the actual concrete results has surprised me. My stash is not there to soothe the panic of “I must cast on x at 3am..” or “in the event of the zombies, I can at least hole up and not need yarn for a couple of years” (though there is definitely an element of that). My stash is a comfort blanket of latency.  A smorgasbord of dormant possibility. That jewel like ruby 4ply silk could be a vest, or a beaded evening bag or an elegant lace insouciant scarf. That dove grey mist of cobweb weight mohair with the pale lilac core could be a snood, or lace cuffs or a frothy collar. That petrol sheen bulky acrylic would shine as a simple long sleeved shrug, or maybe a hat and gloves – or slippers…

I enjoy my finished projects, I love picking a shawl to match an outfit or presenting new parents with a blanket they can use, or showing I care with a well thought gift.  But I really get a kick out of selecting the perfect yarn for the perfect project, paired with the perfect tools. I don’t need my needles to match my yarn colour (like one of my yarnie friends) but I will select my stitch markers to match my mood and project – often with a little private in-joke that makes me smile when I see it.

Could I live without my stash?  Sure (she’s says while she doesn’t have to test it).  I’m in the enviable position of having enough disposable income that I could create a new stash over time.  Would I miss some of the irreplaceable items in my stash? – yes, absolutely! But more the books and vintage tools than the yarns themselves – and the universe is always providing new ‘irreplaceable’ things for us collectors of beautiful moments and trinkets.  My relationship has sifted subtly as a result of reading ‘A stash of one’s own’ It’s gone from being a reserve yarn shop to being acknowledged as a representation of the potential I am capable of. That each skien has a place and means something (even if that something is ‘don’t buy this yarn ever again’).  It was a nice surprise to discover that part of me still believes that I can be anything I want to be, and my stash is my metaphysical representation of that.

What does you stash mean to you?