Postcards from the Stash

My name is Glenna, and I have a yarn stash. It’s of a reasonable size – the sort of size one might expect from a knitter who has been actively stashing yarn probably since she made her very first novelty scarf at the beginning of the ‘aughts, and bought an extra skein of purple feathered acrylic/poly blend “just in case,” and who is never without multiple Works in Progress or ideas for what to knit “next.” In the intervening years since I started knitting, I’ve had the fortune and pleasure of stashing yarns a bit nicer than purple novelty eyelash yarn (remember when those scarves were the thing?), and every so often I do a bit of a sort and cull and pass on some of it to other knitters who I know are more likely to use those bits than I am in the next year.

But mostly, I like having a stash. I was chatting with a guy in Peterborough last year who was a new knitter at the time (hi Kevin!) who was genuinely curious about the whole stash thing, and I said that for my own purposes I considered it in the same category as having a library of books in your house. I like reading, read often, but I don’t always know what I’m going to want to read at a given time, so I collect books based on my interest so I’ll have them around to read and consult when the mood strikes. I have books on my shelves that aren’t being actively read, and one day they may get transferred to the sort-and-cull pile and passed on, but for all I know I could be reading them tomorrow. This is by and large how I think about my yarn. Some yarns I buy knowing I’m going to use them right away, in the same way that I know I’ll immediately read the latest mystery paperback in a favourite series. Others are there waiting, just like that copy of Wuthering Heights that I know I want to read at some point except that the classic lit part of my brain is currently being taken up by Anna Karenina, and so I just have to maybe wait on that. I’ll totally read Wuthering Heights/start that green Cascade 220 pullover next month. TOTALLY.

Nov16-StashWorsteds

So, yes, I have a yarn stash. It’s the collection I choose to cultivate and outside of clothes, books, and dvds, probably the only thing I regularly spend money on. I like it. I thought I’d show you a glimpse of it, and share with you some of my stashing idiosyncrasies that are part of my knitterly process. I will point out that the majority of my stash is wool or wool-blends. I live in a 4-season part of the world with cold winters, and wool makes practical sense. It’s also a very comfortable fibre to work with, I like the way it feels on my hands to use, and it behaves well under hand-washing and blocking. Occasionally I’ll go for something in the plant-fibre area, for the summer, but it’s just not my preference – it may well be yours, though, and that’s all cool.

The knits that occupy a lot of my imagination are socks, and sweaters. Unsurprisingly, then, I tend to stash quantities of yarn in amounts appropriate for these items. With socks, that’s pretty easy – most “sock yarn” or yarn intended for socks comes in a sock-sized quantity, where 1-2 skeins is all you need to get going. Sweater quantities are a bit more personal, and actually if we’re getting down to it I recommend taking a few minutes out of your day one day, and familiarizing yourself with an approximate yardage number for your own sweater size and preference – of DK, worsted, and bulky. (If you happen upon a yarn sale tomorrow, you might not have time to look up whether you need 7 skeins of Malabrigo Bulky or 8. Just sayin’.)

I like worsted weight yarn for sweaters, and Cascade 220 heathers and Berroco Ultra Alpaca (pictured above) are two of my favourites. The Cascade 220 heathers have a nice textured look that appeals to me over the solids, and come in sooooo many colours. It’s hard for me to resist a Cascade 220 display, especially when it’s on sale (there are some Romni Wools summer sales I could mention), and I like that it’s versatile enough for cables, stockinette, or even colour-work. I’ve worked with it enough that I can estimate my gauge with it pretty easily. I like Ultra Alpaca for many of the same reasons, but also because its 50% wool/50% alpaca blend makes it SO warm, and so drapey. I’ve knitted sweaters, hats, gloves, mitts, and scarves with this stuff. It’s awesome. The alpaca factor does make it behave a bit differently than 100% wool, though, which means I always need to pay a bit more attention to swatches and sag than otherwise.

Nov16-LornasLaces

Sock yarn is extremely comfortable in my stash. Its real estate has achieved a relatively firm status, and this is partly because I mentally place sock yarn in different categories of sock knitting. First, there is the Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock. I have no shame in admitting this is 99% because I like this yarn for knitting Jaywalkers. It’s just…something I started doing. Shamefully, I have only had 1 new LL jaywalkers pair in 2011, and one could possibly surmise that maybe that means I have more LL sock than I need. (None of those people are HERE, though, right?) But it’s sort of like the library. The next time I start a new pair of Jaywalkers, I don’t know what colour I’m going to want to knit with, so I like having the options. Maybe I’ll want them to be flaming pink, maybe I’ll want them to be sedately dark green. Who knows. That’s the joy of it.

Nov16-SockYarn

The rest of my sock yarn stash falls into more or less one of two categories – “things to knit 3×1 ribbed socks with,” and “things that I could knit anything I want with.” The first category tends to get the variegated or multi-coloured ones, and for that I love Socks That Rock, but also sometimes tonals like Tanis Fiber Arts sock. Usually if I’m keeping the sock plain and repetitive, I’ll make room for colour. The second cateogry, though, tends to lean towards solids and semi-solids, which are my preference. Madelinetosh tosh sock has become one of my stash pals there – I look for it in yarn shops when I’m out and about since not everyone has it, and try to always have a few skeins of different shades. If I’m trying out a new sock design with cables or a complex stitch pattern, it’s an enjoyable place for me to start. Indigodragonfly Merino Sock is in a pretty similar spot ofr me there, and I’m always open for more finds that fit here.

After that, a bunch of my stash falls into the realm of “I know I can make a project of some kind with this, I just don’t know what, yet, but I’m pretty sure I love this yarn enough not to worry about when that’ll happen.” Like, I know I’m not likely (though someone else might be) to cast on a laceweight shawl every single month, but I know that I like knitting them sometimes, so when that eventuality occurs it doesn’t hurt to be ready with a few skeins that are 1000+ yards. (I don’t want to be caught short. Them laceweight shawls is big, sometimes.) Here I’ve got a Madelinetosh skein of laceweight that was one of the few left on the shelf at Knitty City the last time I was in New York, and some Tanis Fiber Arts laceweight. Then there are things like Noro Silk Garden that are unpredictable. I like the colours. I can make a pair of Maine Morning Mitts with one skein, or a sweater with ten, or a striped scarf with 4. I can mix and match two colourways at once, or stick with one. It’s ready and waiting.

Nov16-StashMiscellaney

Lastly (for now at least), there is the “stuff that was super cool that I picked up at a festival or shop somewhere that was so pretty I had to have it and it’s going to be something awesome…just you wait.” My Miss Babs Yowza Whatta Skein purchase from this year, my Green Mountain Spinnery worsted and Fiber Optic sock from last year’s Rhinebeck, and a skein of Fleece Artist seconds that I found in Nova Scotia a couple of years ago.

Nov16-StashMiscellaney2

I’d be lying to you if I said that’s all there is, but those are the directions I tend to go when I purchase yarn. After a few years of knitting, I can predict some of the things I’m going to want for yarn of a given type, and tend to know my preferences, but that’s not necessarily true all the time. I also tend to stick to the same parts of the colour spectrum, but occasionally remind myself to branch out. It’s an ever-evolving approach, I suppose.

My stash sends greetings to yours! What’s your favourite yarn to look for when you’re in a yarn shop?

Happy Wednesday!

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32 Comments

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32 responses to “Postcards from the Stash

  1. I love your “just in case” way of stashing. Who knows what color you might be in the mood for. Maybe it’ll be every color.

    Due to my limited stash space, I have to be a bit more selective with my yarn purchases. But I always have a problem passing up Madelinetosh Sock. I’ve often said that even if I had a skein in every color, it wouldn’t be enough.

    Most of my stash has assigned projects. But I seem to have acquired a large amount of alpaca yarns in fingering weight with no projects in sight. What to do, what to do.

  2. I really love how you compared your stash to a library of books. Often when I choose/have to explain myself or my stash I refer to it in terms of paints – you wouldn’t be a painter/artist with just one pot of red. Thank you for another insightful analogy (excuse).

  3. Sally

    Same same! Cascade 220 Heathers are a weakness but always useful; solids/tonals for socks. I have yarn of all colors, but my fave is yellow!!!!! I have a beauty of a Madelinetosh Tosh Sock that I’m savoring and looking forward to casting on after the holidays.

  4. I have been knitting since the 1950’s and we haven’t moved for 20 years. Every now and then I run across things in my stash that make me say “What was I thinking!”

  5. What fun! Every once in a while I do a proper yarn inventory, but I love wool, and I love socks and I make lots of Christmas presents. It all comes in handy sometime, or if I have a What was I thinking day, I give some away.

    I love when a friend says, Look what I found at the thrift shop! and it looks strangely familiar.

  6. I love sock yarn more than anything and it’s not counted as stash anyway.

  7. Raelene

    What a wonderful analogy – I also love to read and knit so I am right there with you with both!! What I would love to see is a pic of the entire stash all in one place… I have two bins that I house my considerable (to me) stash – and one is black so no one else knows jsut how bad it really is..

  8. Your analogy of stash being like a library of books was brilliant. It’s the only way I can get some of my bookworm friends understand my obsession with collecting yarn.

    Having said that, I have inherited a lot of yarn into my stash, and some others I’ve managed to collect more recently. It may be about time to go through it and decide what’s what.

  9. I have been asking this question of the knitters I have met up with lately, but your story is the most lucid and I can relate to your need for the stash to have the workhorse yans at the ready. The last few picutres are my favs. I love when you find a skein that looks like artwork. Thanks for this post.

    Can you consider doing a bit on your workspace/organization? Maybe in photo montage… I love hearing where people do their best work and how close the necessary supplies are.

  10. Erin, you raise an intriguing question! I’ll definitely think about that – sometimes my workplace/ideas places are not at all organized or traditional ;)

    G

  11. I love my stash, always have and always will. Like you, it is a place in my home that is solely mine (ok, my daughter who knits can cull from it when necessary) and in a lot of ways, it’s part of my creative process. About 75% of it is made up of yarns with projects in mind which consists of accessories such as cowls, mitts, hats, and scarves. The remaining 25% is of yarns I couldn’t resist when traveling or on sale or I just want to try. It’s a nice coincidence but I, too, have many skeins of Cascade 220 and I just recently have been knitting quite a bit with Berocco Ultra Alpaca and am totally smitten. In fact, I’m knitting my first adult cardigan in Ultra Alpaca Light and am in love. I keep my entire stash in a full chest of drawers (four large and two small) and find that it’s a great storage for my yarns. I’d love to know where you keep your stash and if it’s all in one place?

  12. “I know I’ll immediately read the latest mystery paperback in a favourite series” Hello Castle! LOL

    My stash gives your stash a ‘Hey, how you doin’? wave & a wink.

  13. Yo, yo, beentsy’s stash! ::secret handshake::

    You are right, that Castle mystery is getting devoured immediately, like so much Malabrigo worsted.

    G

  14. Ah the stash…I love my stash and when I’m in a bad mood, it soothes me…I tend to go for color first, then feel and then maybe brand. I love buying from indies and trying new yarns…although I actually don’t make a ton of things…I just buy the yarn…I like your analogy with books…I love many yarns, but really for the squish factor it’s Lorna’s Laces Shepard Worsted…

  15. Amanda

    My stash used to fit in one plastic tub, occasionally spilling over into 2. Then I started working at a yarn store…. Needless to say, the stash has grown a lot in the last 3 years. There’s a lot of sock yarn, and a ton of Malabrigo (we carry other yarns in the store, but it’s Malabrigo). I’ve always been a fan of trying new sock yarn, so that’s what I always look for at a new shop.
    Happy knitting!

  16. Noel

    I can often find space for sock yarn (who doesn’t need socks? And they actually wear out) as well as for the truly irresistible yarns (today, Malabrigo, SWeet Georgia Cashsilk, and Kidsilk Haze). We have a little moth problem, so my stash lives in sealed containers and a cedar chest, but every now and then I take it out and roll around in it, just because.

    Another analogy that helps to explain the stash comes from the world of tools. A person needs more than one screwdriver, or wrench, or saw, right? A person needs different types of these essential tools in different sizes — “needs,” not “wants.”

  17. I love my stash, too! It’s big – sometimes I feel like it’s too much and then I cull it a bit, but mostly I’m glad I have it right here to inspire me and cast on for new projects right away when the fancy strikes.

  18. This is so validating! It is so helpful to someone like me with a massive guilt complex to hear that it is entirely reasonable to put by some yarn “for later”. I too love Lorna’s Laces for socks. And I have just started to collect cardigan-sized quantities of shetland-type wool to knit vintage patterns. I recently moved my stash to the side of my bed, in transparent tubs, and I literally lie there and dream about what to knit next! It has increased my productivity no end!

  19. Such a thought provoking post — I had so much to say I replied on my own blog http://woolfreeandlovinknit.com and that is just my answer to ONE of the questions you pose. I think 2012 will be the time to get even MORE intentional about my stash — I’m mulling it over. Your approach to purchases for stash was very helpful to me. Of course there’s one HUGE difference between your stash and mine. Mine is wool free. We will never be able to marry our stashes and in fact, we can’t even live together. But my stash sends warm greetings to yours just the same!

  20. I like thinking of yarn in the same way I think of books. Thanks! I have a lot of sock yarn. I also have to fight my natural urge to buy things that are on sale. I have at least 1 sweater’s worth of yarn that I bought because it was a great deal, but it’s not a color I love. I wonder if someone would dye it for me…

  21. Sultana

    Most of my stash is handspun. I mainly knit sweaters and socks with an occasional shawl thrown in for good measure. My family is in the process of moving so I decided to go on a yarn diet, meaning I have not bought any new yarn for almost a year and the stash is begining to dwindle a bit. I have enough handspun to knit the next four sweaters on my list and enough commercial to knit the next two. It is very exciting because in two more months I will be able to build a stash again. My small stash says hi to yours!

  22. Sock yarn is my weakness, mainly because I know I’ll be able to do something with it. 100g of sock yarn can be a pair of socks, or a shawlette, or a pair of gloves or a scarf or… So it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a pattern in mind or even necessarily know when I’ll knit it up at the time of purchase! Though I was looking at a couple skeins I should probably destash. Either that or I need to find people willing to purchase a finished object.

    It’s probably a good thing I’m a plus size, or I’m sure sweater yarn would be up there, too. As it is, thankfully sweater yarn in quantities large enough to actually make me a sweater is a) generally out of my budget, so it has to be a really good sale or a planned purchase and b) takes up enough space to dissuade me from impulse buying.

  23. I am like a kid in a candy store when I’m at my LYS. I have to touch and feel everything and am always so sad that I have such a small budget. Because I would really love to try knitting some buffalo yarn, or that pretty sparkly tonal yarn or that dreamy softly haloed kid mohair, or that gorgeous multi-colored handspun bfl….. I love all the yarns and am so sad that I couldn’t possibly live long enough to try them all. Maybe there’s a yarn store in heaven?

  24. Janine

    I sort of look at knitting as being two hobbies: the actual choosing of a pattern, yarn and knitting and the collector part which is the buying of the yarn (sort of like collecting Hummels, salt shakers, old computer parts, etc.). Since collecting is a respectable hobby, I don’t have to feel guilty about having a large stash. I am more inclined now to engage in yarn tourism. When I am visiting a town, if I go to a yarn store, I look for something that I can’t find in stores back home – when I went to Nova Scotia, I found a glorious skein of a Tanis Fibre Arts silk that I had never seen before. I got a limited edition skein of Sea Silk in Baddeck. When I knit with it, it will be knit up with memories of Cape Breton.

  25. Wow now thats a stash. I have a habbit of picking up a yarn and thinking “now what could I make out of this?” I also plan out what I am going to make before I go into the yarn store. THese methods have kept my stash to less-than-obscene proportions. It is usually in one tub but lately it has begun to spread.

  26. Such a great post! The parallel to the library book collection is spot on. It validates me further since, I am really trying to move toward using my e-reader as much as possible, saving shelf/surface space for treasured repeat reads. (This also clears up space for more yarn shh.)

    I really enjoyed how you look at your stash in certain categories. The sweater quantity thing is a tricky problem for me. I like knowing I have enough on hand for options, yet when it sits idly (along with other sweater quantities) it does sort of hog up space.

    Thanks for sharing!

  27. I used to only want to knit sweaters, but since I discovered small, independent LYS, I now usually just walk in and see what “needs to come home with me.” It’s turned me into a shawl-knitter, which I never thought I’d be. I’m a fan of “vacation yarn,” the yarn you’re afraid to leave behind in case you never find the like again, but I’ve had to go on a yarn diet recently and bulk up on my spinning tools instead. Stashes take on many guises…

  28. Thanks for the inspiration to write about my stash!
    Here’s my post about what I uncovered as I spent the better part of today going through the stash and updating my Ravelry stash tab. http://knittinginbeantown.blogspot.com/2011/11/squee-sunday-21.html

  29. I have a relatively small stash…. well, ok, a medium sized one. But, um, I just opened a yarn store and now it feels like I have a never-ending stash! (not fiscally the right approach, but oh so much fun!)

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  31. Deborah

    I’ve been lurking your blog for a few weeks now. I found it through this blog post about your stash. I sent it to my husband and your analogy of yarn and books helped him understand why I purchase more yarn than I can knit up (and keeps him from sighing so much when I ask him to bring down the Rubbermaid containers from storage). He buys more books faster than he can read them.

    He once went with me to a LYS and you should have seen his face when they gave me the total for my purchase. Shock! He has called my stash purchases his “fishing budget” ever since!

    Lurking your blog has been a lot of fun reading while procrastinating at work. Thank you! ;)