Stash is a topic that comes up often in the fiber arts world – how much do you have in stash? Do you have a stash? Are you “stashing down”? All of this gets discussed quite often, and usually there’s at least a few people who will make a comment along the lines of “you can never have too big of a stash” or “what is this ‘too much yarn’ you’re talking about?” in a sort of tongue in cheek manner that acknowledges that knitters/crocheters/crafters have a propensity to by loads more yarn/fiber than they can currently use, or possibly use in many years. We even have an acronym for having a massive stash: SABLE, or “Stash Amassed Beyond Life Expectancy”.
So why do we do this? Why is it so common for knitters and crocheters to have massive hoards of yarn, fiber, tools, and patterns? I have a few theories, because I’ve been examining my own purchasing habits this year, and i’m not terribly happy with what I’ve discovered.
Let me start out by showing you where i’m coming from. This is my “Stash Flash” from January of this year (2017).
In the usual “Stash Flash” fashion, I took out all the yarn I have and laid it on my bed. I’m not 100% sure why a bed is the go-to location for stash flashing, but my best guess is that it has something to do with being a large (ish) flat surface that is somewhat removed from little fingers/paws. It also gives a great size comparison to help judge/compare quantity. The bed in this photo is a Queen sized bed, and the yardage on that bed is somewhere in the neighborhood of 55,000 yards.
Here’s how it was divided up:
As you can see, there’s some higher quality light weight yarns, but the majority was dominated by yarns that are very readily available from box stores – Paton’s, Caron, Premier, that sort of thing. Fairly affordable, hard wearing, basic yarns.
(I feel obliged to mention that this is NOT a yarn-snobbery post comparing high and low quality yarns. It may come off that way in a minute, but it’s not, I promise!)
My best guess for why these yarns are stashed is because box stores are GREAT marketers. They send coupons strategically in the hopes that customers will make large purchases, and obviously it works! It’s very common in online groups to see people posting a “yarn haul” photo with more yarn than is in the picture above, complete with “and I had a 40% off coupon for the whole thing!”
Well played, marketing strategists, well played.
Obviously I’ve fallen prey to this strategy. Why else would I have half a bed full of yarn that is ALWAYS available in stores that are 20 minutes or less from my house? It’s not actually that difficult to find them – you get in the car, go to a very nearby store, and all the yarns on the left side of the bed are available.
Anyway, I decided to track my yarn usage habits for this year to see what I could learn about myself, and my buying, using, and spending habits. My method wasn’t terribly accurate or scientific, but I think it got the job done. I decided to use the Ravelry “stash” feature to track yarn in and out. I entered all the yarn I have (minus the scraps that are too tiny to count) into the appropriate page.
(If you haven’t used this feature, i’d highly advise it, and you’ll see why in a minute!)
The stash page looks like this:
You can see at a glance all of the yarn you have without having to dig through buckets, or however you store your yarn. This is especially helpful for people like me who have enough yarn that they can’t actually remember what they have, and end up buying duplicates!
At any rate, if you look closely in the upper right hand corner of that photo, there’s an “export to excel” button, and Ravelry will do the math for you – it adds up all the yardage of the yarn you have, subtracts the amount you’ve used in your project pages, and you can get a total yardage number. This was the method I used to track usage.
My goal for this year was to end up with a deficit of 400 yds/month, so that at the end of the year, I would have gotten rid of just shy of 5,000 yds of yarn (leaving me with 50,000… what can I say, I guess it was a 10 year plan!). So each month I downloaded the excel file and this is what I came up with:
Total De-Stashed: -14, 446 yds
January: didn’t tally
February: -2,027 yds!
March: -537 yds (whew. Squeaked by!)
April: Starting at 50, 057
May: Forgot to check
July: Starting at 57,544
August: Forgot to Check, but gave away/donated over 10,000 yds
December: starting at 43, 089
Obviously some months went better than others, but today I decided that while it’s great that I have lowered my total yardage number, I wanted to know how much of the yarn I have right now was purchased in 2017. The number I came up with? 23,481 yards. And that’s just the amount that’s remaining – I used a BUNCH of newly purchased yarn this year. That means that over half of the yarn in my stash was purchased this year. WHAT?! What in the world possessed me to purchase so much yarn in a year when I claimed that I was “stashing down”?
Well, let’s look at what was purchased:
Right. Everything except what is scribbled out up there is a new purchase from January 2017 on (or a swap, or gift, or whatever). What I see up there is EITHER “oh my goodness, it’s one of a kind indie dyed yarn and i’ll never ever be able to get this again ever!” OR an overambition for projects in which my eyes were bigger than my stomach, so to speak (my hands clicked faster than my needles?). Also, there’s a LOT that isn’t up there because yarn got used or gifted.
So what did I use this year?
Loads of indie dyed yarn, some handspun, and just a tad of commercial yarn. (More than this was used – I apparently just didn’t move it to the “all used up” category, or just removed it from my stash when I had used it up).
So this begs the question, why did I go from having a stash of largely commercial yarn to an almost 100% conversion to indie dyed yarn? (This is where it’s going to look like yarn-snobbery. Brace yourselves.) I tried indie dyed/higher quality yarn for the first time this year. Before this year the best quality yarn I had used was the occasional bit of Knit Picks wool (which, I feel, is perfectly good yarn. I’m not knocking them), but the majority of my work was done in commercial (read “acrylic”/”acrylic blend”) yarns. This year’s discovery of beautifully dyed wool created a bit of a hog-wild rush to play with all the pretties, and to design with them as well.
Here’s my new designs from this year:
Do you see what I see? If you see fingering weight indie dyed yarn, you’d be right! It dominates my designs. Apparently I’ve been sucked into the popular culture of indie dyed yarn and didn’t even realize it! I’ve even begun dying yarn myself because I enjoy it so much. It feels like art where you don’t have to get the shapes and lines right like you do in a drawing or painting. It would seem that I love dyeing yarn and designing with indie dyed yarns because I love the freedom of it, and the unpredictability of it.
So why do people have huge stashes of yarn like this? My best guess is because it’s inspiring. Looking at beautifully dyed yarn is like looking at a museum full of inspiring artwork and wanting to learn to paint so you can create your own masterpiece. At least that’s how I feel – maybe you don’t feel the same. When I look at the yarns sitting in my drawers (because that’s how I have them stored right now – in two desks and a couple boxes), I see the potential for new designs and projects. It’s like sitting in front of a landscape with a blank canvas – I know what I want to make and how it’ll work out. That’s also why I end up buying the yarn – when I see a skein of yarn, I know what I want to design or make out of it.
My conclusion? There’s lots of reasons why people buy yarn, but my reason is because i’m inspired. The colors and the texture speak to me, asking me to transform them into something amazing.
The next post in this series will be about my reaction to my buying habit realizations, and what I’m planning for this upcoming year (likely with an updated stash flash photo if I can manage it without my little hooligans grabbing all the yarn!)
What are YOUR reasons for yarn stashing? Do you stash, or find yourself buying yarn for no reason other than that it’s pretty? I’d love to know your thoughts.