Sweater Quantity Paralysis

When I buy yarn, I almost exclusively shop for sweater quantities. I do this because I’m mostly a sweater knitter, but I also figure that having a little extra yarn so that I have enough for anything I might want to make is never a bad thing.

The problem, though, is that sometimes I don’t need a whole sweater quantity. Sometimes I just need one or two skeins for a project, and I automatically disqualify any yarn I’m “saving” for a sweater. Scanning my stash, I see a LOT of yarn, but it’s all spoken for. It’s sweater yarn.

As I searched my stash for the right yarn for a recent project, I kept coming back to one particular yarn that was one of those beloved sweater quantities. It was the yarn I really wanted to use for the project, but if I “borrowed” a couple of skeins from that sweater quantity, then – gasp! – I might not have enough for a sweater. Not that I had any immediate (nor distant) plans for it. I didn’t even have an idea of WHICH sweater I might knit with it. But it’s sweater yarn, so I skip right over it.

As I stood there, paralyzed, staring at this “off-limits” yarn, I realized that my commitment to sweater quantities might be a problem.

Why is it so hard to break up a sweater’s worth of yarn so we can use it for other things? And is EVERY sweater quantity really worth saving?

I mean, sweater yarn is an investment, so there’s that. Buying one or two skeins of yarn is one thing, but 4-10 skeins for a sweater is something else entirely. For most of my life I was an accessory knitter because that’s what I could afford; it was rare that I’d have enough of any one yarn for a sweater. The higher investment required for a sweater quantity of yarn makes it feel more important than the rest of the yarn on the shelf. And the more we have of that one yarn, the more value we place on each individual skein. Quantity seems to magnify the value of the individual.

Second, if we finally decide to “break up the band” and pilfer a skein or two from the sweater quantity, what do we do with not-quite-a-sweater-quantity-of-yarn?

Welp, I did it. I broke up the band, and I used a couple of skeins for another project. Here’s what I learned in the process:

  1. Just because it’s a sweater’s worth of yarn doesn’t mean it HAS to be a sweater. In fact, some yarn doesn’t want to be a sweater anyway.
  2. Think about the actual dollar value of an individual skein, not what you spent on the entire lot. The yarn I was hesitant to break into was yarn I’d bought on clearance for 50% off, so I was haggling with myself over yarn that cost me less than $20 for the skeins I wanted to use. Silly me! Just because it’s a “sweater quantity” doesn’t increase its value.
  3. The project you want to knit NOW is more important than a project you might knit someday. I didn’t have an exact sweater in mind for the yarn in question; I just figured I would eventually use it for a sweater. But it makes more sense to use what I need now than to let it gather dust on my shelf while I think about it becoming a sweater.
  4. When we treat yarn like we treat our “good dishes,” we inflate how special it is. The more special we think it is, the harder it is to use it. Some yarn might sit on your shelf for decades because you’re still waiting for the right project.
  5. Once you break up the sweater quantity, you’ve liberated the rest of the skeins in that bundle for other projects, as well. You might be MORE likely to use it now!
  6. If you play your cards right, this won’t be your last sweater quantity of yarn. 😉 There’s more yarn out there (!), and chances are your next sweater (or three) might want something else anyway.
  7. Some sweaters call for multiple colors, and if they do – you can easily mix similar skeins from different brands for your project.

Parting Thoughts:

I’m not saying that EVERY sweater quantity should be on the chopping block, especially if you’re planning a specific project for it. But if it’s just a hefty amount of the same yarn that you bought thinking you might use it for a sweater someday, AND it’s been sitting in your stash for a while, AND it’s the right yarn for something else you’d like to make, just do it.

A sweater quantity of yarn is just… quite a few skeins of yarn. They’re not worth more or less than any other yarn you might be holding onto, and if “saving them for something special” is causing them to gather dust on your shelves, then don’t be afraid to give them another look next time you’re starting a smaller project.  

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