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Leftover Yarn

Several years ago – when I was working in a yarn shop – a customer came in holding a small, tightly-wound ball of yarn. It was about the size of a golf ball.

Her face was pinched. It wasn’t the look of satisfaction that I normally see on the face of someone holding a ball of yarn. (Doesn’t yarn automatically conjure joy? Hmm.)

“I just finished my project,” she said, flatly. “The person working here told me to buy this skein of yarn, and I still have this much left! Why would they sell me too much yarn?!? What am I supposed to do with this?!? I want a refund.”

My face probably reflected my shock. 

First, let the record reflect that there are no refunds on half-used skeins of yarn. I think we should all be clear on this up front. 

And second, in defense of whoever sold her the skein, yarn doesn’t come pre-measured to the yard so that you have only exactly enough for any given project. Having leftovers comes with the territory (and it’s better than running out, if you ask me). It’s called “stash” and it’s kind of a cool thing.

Today, I write in defense of yarn leftovers. If you’ve been knitting for longer than 6 months, chances are you’re starting to develop a little backlog of stash, and if you aren’t already in love with them – let me be your matchmaker.

“Stash” is what that grumpy knitter carried into the shop. It’s made of of oddballs, trophy skeins, yarn swap skeins, souvenir skeins and yarn you bought on clearance and might now regret. Stash is the reminder of that mohair sweater you knit for your niece, and the socks you knit for your partner (that they keep wearing holes in, and you keep mending). 

If it’s previously used, might-be-used, hope-to-use, or probably-won’t-be-used-but-can’t-part-with, it’s stash. 

And it’s nothing to be afraid of. Or avoid. In fact, I highly encourage a well-curated stash because you never know when you’re going to need it. (Did you ever see my blog post 5 Ways to Build a Healthy & Sensible Yarn Stash? It’s a good one!)

Yarn stash is what will get you through a lean season when you’re out of work. It’s what makes it possible to act immediately on a creative idea that strikes at 10 PM on a Friday night after all the shops are closed. (And yes, some of us are knitting at 10 pm on a Friday night – don’t judge.)  Stash makes it possible to whip up a quick chemo hat for a friend at the very last minute because you want to do something – anything – to let your friend know she’s loved and supported.

You can try to avoid having a stash (although why would you want to?), but unless you start throwing out the leftovers after every project, stash is inevitable. 

Use your stash to knit scrappy blankets, hats and booties to donate, tie around packages, teach a friend to knit, add a stripe of color to an unsuspecting sock and/or cast on something new in the wee hours when you can’t sleep. Stash means possibilities, and possibilities mean more things to knit.

Whatever you do, don’t take them back to the shop for a refund.

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