I am (and always have been) a minimalist at heart when it comes to everything but cookbooks and knitting supplies. For whatever reason, I just can’t seem to cut back in those two areas. I use what I have, but I still can’t help but wonder if I’m overdoing it sometimes.
If you’ve ever had a twinge of guilt about a yarn purchase, this post is for you. Because for most of us, it’s not necessarily a question of whether or not we can afford it, it’s a question of whether or not we think we NEED it. (I recently wrote about buying yarn on a budget, which is another important consideration.)
Let’s talk about:
- How to make better use of the yarn stash you currently have, and…
- How to feel good about the fiber that comes in (and goes out) your door.
We knitters tend to be pretty practical, and the very first thing a practical person says when they consider a purchase is: Do I need this?
It’s this one question that triggers a flood of internal dialogue about how much yarn is already sitting at home. Suddenly we’re asking ourselves: How will I use this new yarn? Can I use it immediately? What if I don’t use it? What if I waste money?
So let’s back up for a minute.
Do I Need This?
If we’re going to be literal about this, we probably don’t need any yarn at all, but we could list scores of comforts we don’t technically need for survival but wouldn’t want to live without (a bed mattress, spoons, haircuts, shoes…). For the sake of clarity, when we ask ourselves what we need, we’re talking about something that will be useful to us in some way and will improve the quality of our lives.
Yarn is useful, AND has the ability to improve your quality of life. It’s all in how you use it.
But Do I Really Need MORE?
That’s the clincher, isn’t it? If we already have some yarn, why do we need more? (As a side note: I can almost guarantee that at least one person at some point in your life has asked you this question, and you probably felt a little sheepish about your answer. Keep reading, because we’re going to change the conversation.)
Yarn Isn’t One Thing
Yarn is worsted weight and lace weight and super bulky. It’s single ply. It’s silk blend and superwash and tweed. It’s a sweater quantity and a single skein. It’s the right color to inspire a new knitter who’s searching your stash for their very first project. It’s the exact right weight and quantity for the sweater pattern you just saw on Instagram and have to cast on right.now. It’s the perfect skein for a chemotherapy hat you didn’t know you were going to be knitting until yesterday. It’s a soft cotton for washcloths for your best friend’s birthday, and it’s an amazing hand dyed skein for a shawl you felt compelled to cast on the minute you woke up this morning. Yarn isn’t one, static thing. It’s a wonderland of possibility that allows you to act on a creative impulse.
More yarn gives us the ability to rise to the challenge for last minute opportunities and to do more with what we already have.
After twenty five years of marriage, my husband recently decided it was time for him to learn to knit. We searched my stash for yarn and every option elicited a discouraged, “No… not that one.” I dug deeper into totes of yarn I’d stashed away and hadn’t looked at in a while, and suddenly – THIS ONE. He found the yarn he’d imagined in his mind; yarn I’d bought at a fiber festival in England (in case you’re wondering, it was Black Isle Yarns that won his heart). I bought it thinking maybe I’d make a scarf. Instead, it’ll be my husband’s second knitting project. I had no idea it would serve such a sweet purpose when I brought it home, and I couldn’t be happier to share it with him.
My little sister, another new knitter in the family, came to visit over the Christmas holiday and I found myself poking through my stash looking for yarn to send home with her. I pulled out a handful of skeins of Shibui yarn in a base and colorway I’d been holding onto for several years. Her eyes lit up, and the yarn went home with her.
Yarn we’ve tucked away for a rainy day may or may not end up being yarn we use. I think it’s the fear of not using our stash that makes us wary of adding to it, but I love the idea that my yarn stash is there for me AND for those I love. There have been times that I’ve swapped skeins with a knitting friend because one of us needed an extra; you just never know when your stash will come to the rescue.
What if we approached our stash once a year with fresh eyes? What if we took the time to evaluate what we have so we can make better buying decisions in the future? What if we think of our yarn stash not as a yarn collection stored away to be gazed upon once in a blue moon, but as a thriving entity, like a plant, that grows and gets pruned, and is attended to on a regular basis? If we think of (and use) our stash differently, we can feel more purposeful about acquiring new yarn.
Tips for Keeping Your Yarn Stash Healthy
- Give your stash a deep clean once a year. Touch every skein and let it see the light of day. When you’re finished, tuck your yarn away with fresh lavender sachets to protect against moths.
- Organize your stash by quantity: oddballs, single skeins, medium project quantities and sweater quantities. I like to store like-skeins together, and separate them in ways that makes it easy for me to come back to them when an idea strikes.
- Ask yourself the following: Does this yarn inspire me? Can I think of more than one way I might realistically use this yarn in the future? If the answer is no, refer to #5 and #6 below.
- Look for blind spots in your stash. Is there any weight of yarn you use on a regular basis that you don’t have on hand? Are you a sweater knitter who doesn’t keep sweater quantities? Or a sock knitter who’s lacking in sock yarn? Whether or not you know which pattern you’re going to use, I promise you – if you love it and stash it, the right pattern will be there when you’re ready for it.
- Think ahead to any holiday or birthday knitting you might be planning to do – is there something in your stash that might work well for one or more of these projects? If so, set it aside. Drop it into a project bag and make yourself a note.
- Yarn in like-new condition that seems to have outlived your interest might be perfect for a new knitting friend who is still discovering what yarns they love to use, or it could be a welcome boost to a fiber friend who’s recently fallen on hard times.
- A well-rounded stash will have a variety of yarns for different seasons and purposes. If you woke up tomorrow and were unable to shop for yarn for the foreseeable future, what would you wish your stash had more of? Keep this in mind next time you’re yarn shopping.
- Mix and match skeins from your stash with something new on your next fiber shopping trip. For example, maybe you have a gorgeous solid skein of fingering weight yarn in your stash that just needs a coordinating variegated yarn to match? (Or vice versa.) By pairing the old and the new, you can ensure you are rotating your yarn stash while still enjoying the thrill of something new and different.
- Do you have a variety of needles that coordinate with the yarns in your stash? Are there any needle sizes or lengths you’re missing? A healthy needle stash is just as important as your yarn stash. On the flip side, if you happen to notice that you have eleven pairs of size 7 (24 inch) circulars, maybe it’s time to share a couple of those with your favorite new knitter who’s building their repertoire from scratch.
One of the best ways to feel better about adding to your yarn stash is knowing that you actively use and curate the stash you already have. If yarn is sitting in dark forgotten cupboards collecting dust, then of course it’s hard to imagine bringing more home. But if you’re actively evaluating what you have, making use of it when you can and gifting excess when it no longer fits your fiber habits, you can feel good about the next new skein that joins the family.