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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?