A Year Without Yarn

There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you. 

As I write this it’s January 1st, 2021. I love New Year’s more than any other day of the year. But this one feels like a life raft, kept out of reach for so long that we almost drowned. But we’re finally here. And now that we are, I have something to get off my chest. 

Have you ever known – deep in your bones – that something in your life needs to change? It’s the thing that twiddles at the back of your mind, nagging at you. You know what you need to do. It’s obvious. But for whatever reason, you just don’t want to do it. 

I get that. I do. And that’s why it’s taken me so long to finally admit to myself (and to you) that I need to do this thing, even if it’s a very very VERY unpopular thing to do. I haven’t even told most of my closest friends about this plan of mine, because so many of them run small businesses devoted to the one thing I’m not going to buy for a whole year: yarn. 

Okay, there. I said it. I’m not going to buy any yarn for a year. None. Zero. Zippo. Zilch.

What the actual … WHAT?!?

I know. 

This, coming from a woman whose husband just referred to her as a yarn wife. He really did. Just now. He’s untangling yarn from the vacuum cleaner and said, This is what happens when you have a yarn wife. He’s right. Yarn is my life, and our house is so full of yarn that if one more skein, hank or ball of yarn finds its way into this house, someone is going to have to move out to make room for it. (Not really, but it feels true.)

“But we all have a thousand bins full of yarn, Marie. BIG DEAL. That’s just called being a knitter!” 

True. Lining our walls with stockpiles of yarn is kind of what we do. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t put my yarn hoarding on a short hiatus so I can use up a little bit of what I have.

Okay, lady. Give it your best shot. You won’t last a month. 

I’ll be real with you: I’ve had my share of great ideas on January 1st that made it exactly 3 days. But this idea has been haunting me for nearly two years, sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear, “Do you think you have enough YET?” And I’ve ignored it. I kept buying yarn (not just some yarn, but full-on sweater quantities of yarn), even when I knew there was a very real possibility that I would never get around to using it. So yeah, I hear you. But the idea of A Year Without (new) Yarn has taken root and I can’t un-know it. In fact, it feels like a relief to finally say it out loud. It’s the marathon I’ve been training for, and I’m ready. And hey – if my goal falls apart in a month, you can tell everyone you told me so. 

Before I say anything else, I need you to know that this challenge isn’t about you. There’s no hidden message here, and it’s not a passive aggressive attempt to shame anyone about their yarn buying habits. This is 100% about my own goals for mindfulness, and an effort to regain order in my home and in my life. I don’t want you to feel guilty about the yarn you buy. I’m not crusading or proselytizing this message to anyone but myself. If you buy a new skein of yarn every day for the next ten years, I will cheer for you. If we all stopped buying yarn there would eventually be no yarn for us to buy, and that’s not what I want. So, just this once, do as I say and not as I do. Go buy yarn, and I will live vicariously through you. And you can live vicariously through me as I share what I learn about myself and my relationship with yarn over the next 12 months. I’ll go without (new yarn) so you don’t have to, and we’ll all come out a little wiser on the other side. 

Deal? 

Rest assured, I will be knitting. I have what’s known as a very healthy yarn stash, so there will be no lapse in my work, creativity or yarn play. I’m convinced that creativity abounds when our resources are limited. And anyway, I have no doubt that I can go twelve months without a single new skein of yarn, and if I didn’t tell you what I was up to, you’d never know.  

This is a little embarrassing to admit out loud, given that I am fortunate to have everything I need in life. But I worry about scarcity – it’s something I don’t NEED to worry about, but I do anyway. I suspect that it has something to do with my childhood – we never had very much and the instability at home made me cling to the things that brought me comfort: books, craft supplies and ingredients in the kitchen cupboard.

I didn’t want to USE them, mind you. I just wanted to HAVE them. If you use them, they run out (dontyaknow).  So here I am at 45 years old with all the things I need and most of the things I want, and there’s a part of me that’s still collecting things with the intention of having them and not using them; I want my cupboards full of food, my shelves full of books, and my baskets full of yarn. I just want them to be there so I can look at them. Ridiculous.

I feel sorry for my yarn, honestly. It used to live on the back of a rowdy little sheep somewhere. It got to be out in the sunlight. Maybe it got a little snow or rain on it. Bumped into things. Rubbed up against tree bark. Ran through a field of weeds and dandelions. It was living the good life. And one day the sheep got a haircut, and bounced right out of the barn without their coat. I’ve seen freshly-shorn sheep and they look as giddy as toddlers with new shoes. The wool made its way through many hands that washed, milled, spun, dyed, packaged and sold that yarn so it could grow up to be a sweater quantity of fiber that lives in a plastic bin under my bed. The poor thing. It was meant for better things. 

My goal isn’t to knit until my stash runs out; I would have an anxiety attack if I got even close to running out of yarn. (Yes, I know perfectly well that I can buy more, but that doesn’t lessen the fear of running out.) I just want to confront my feelings about scarcity, and lean into my desire to be more mindful about what comes into my home. 

Side note: A few months ago I listened to the audiobook Decluttering at the Speed of Life* by Dana K. White and it solidified my desire to be honest with myself about my yarn habits. Also, it’s an awesome book. If you feel like you need to make peace with your stuff and work on getting organized, I highly recommend it (the author is a hoot to listen to on audio).  What Dana’s book made me realize is that I have a yarn problem – I have more yarn than containers in which to store it. But I don’t want to get rid of it. I already gave away three giant totes of oddballs and leftovers (liberating!), but the rest… I’m attached to it. So if I’m not willing to get rid of my yarn, and I don’t have room for any more of it, there’s only one thing left I can do: I need to start using what I have. And when I do, I’ll make room for new yarn. *Affiliate link

That, my friend, is the goal. 

Over the next few days I’ll be counting and documenting what I have on hand to make it easier to shop my stash. And I’ll document my experience and share evidence of progress (mostly for myself, but also because what good is a personal journey without someone to witness it with you?). I’ll be writing here on the blog about the good, the bad, and the ugly moments along the way. 

I’ll be counting on you to keep all of our favorite yarnies in business while I take one for the team. 

Phew. There it is. Wish me luck. 

Buy the book!

Seamless Knit Sweaters

Balise Cardigan

Timeless striped cardigan
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