Cold Turkey: Yarn Stash Busting

Today is Mardi Gras, the last hurrah of feasting before the Lenten period of fasting begins.  I am no theologian, so my explanation of the church calendar will stop here, but I will discuss the fast that I am officially beginning tomorrow.  My disciplinary practice does not involve eschewing chocolate or pasta (favorite foods which typically appear in my daily diet) but, rather, refraining from the purchase of yarn.

This Malabrigo yarn is waiting for a project. 

     Only a fellow knitter would understand this sacrifice.  He or she might also be aware of the fact that, like a dietary fast, my abstention should reap some positive benefits, aside from the obvious financial ones.  Firstly, while there is many a knitter who can proudly boast that he or she is (as Adrienne Martini discusses in Sweater Quest), a SABLE—an individual with a “Stash That Exceeds Life Expectancy," a huge cache of yarn can become an overwhelming physical burden—especially to those of us with limited square-footage in our homes.  Designer Anna Hrachovec, known for her Mochimochi creations, featured her mother-in-law, Bonney—a woman with the “World’s Biggest Yarn Stash”—in a blog post (here).  Bonney is an individual who definitely has the space for her collection, so much so that Hrachovec describes Bonney’s spacious stash room as a “cathedral.”  As I share rather cramped living quarters with two dogs, a rabbit, a cat, two big boys, and my husband, I, unlike this amazing fiber collector,  must deal with how a knitting stash can limited mobility and access to windows, doors, beds, etc., so reducing my stash before it expands to unwieldy proportions seems a good idea. 

I have three large balls of this yarn I spun over a year ago that need a project. 

Secondly, a knitting stash presents to me not only a physical burden, but also a psychological one.  If I buy yarn on sale and it sits for two long in a basket or trunk, I am conscious of its idly taking up space.  In the same manner that seeing my sons sitting still for too long in front of a video screen prompts me to rail against the lack of creativity and imagination on the part of modern youth, piles of yarn that luxuriate like warm cats in their respective baskets seem irritatingly lazy.   They, like my sons, should be doing something productive! If my stash grows too much, I also feel a bit of Puritanical guilt about not sharing my largess.  But, unlike the innumerable boxes and bags of books and clothes and toys that I have taken to Goodwill over the years, only three balls of scratchy acrylic yarn from my stash have ventured to that locale.  Like Gollum, I want hold onto and caress “my precious” yarn.  So to avoid acquiring Gollum’s displeasing mien and corrupted sense of priorities, and to ease my conscience a bit, I intend to use my stash this spring to knit up gifts for next Christmas.

I bought this Alpaca Love by Debbie Stoller's Stitch Nation on sale months ago. I plan to make the wrap pictured, from a Jane Austen knitting magazine, but am not ready to cast on yet. 

In addition to a desire to not be wasteful and to put items to practical use, the idea of an ever-expanding yarn stash haunts me a bit.  I am sometimes plagued by the question:  What is the difference between a “stash” and a “hoard”?  Of course, I am a person who, if I happen upon Hoarders: Buried Alive on TV, cannot sit through an entire episode without getting up and tossing magazines and old cosmetic containers in the trash.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this program, Hoarders features attempts by friends, relatives, and professionals to get invariably irascible chronic hoarders to let go of their possessions, heaps of which have overtaken their homes and lives.  The show, which features video of houses filled with piles of rat droppings and rotting food, is aired on the ironically named network “The Learning Channel,” the same organization that provides the public with other educational programs such as Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Sister Wives.   I’m straying off topic, though, back to hoarding.  I am no hoarder (although my house is by no means decorated in a minimalistic style), and the idea of owning too much so that I do not know exactly what I possess disturbs me.  Thinking about stashes and hoards reminds me of when my children were very little and I was working full time and living in a state of constant chaotic disorder.  During school breaks I would clean out the pantry and find seven bottles of ketchup or eleven jars of mayonnaise.  A neighbor once saw my canned goods collection and said that I was prepared for the apocalypse.

I have enough Spud and Chloe yarn to make something nice. 
The white yarn show here is wonderful lightweight alpaca.  The multi-colored ball in the front was purchased in Italy and is a lace weight yarn. 

Right now, though, I’m on a more minimalistic course.  Simplify.  Streamline.  Economize.  My yarn fast is a part of this overall current preoccupation.  I hope I can stay the course.  Whenever I think of fasting and Lent, however, the mayor in the movie Chocolat comes to my mind, making me take pause and question my resolve.  After spending weeks decrying the opening of a chocolate shop in his village during Lent (and censuring those individuals who frequent it), the mayor loses control one evening and can be found the following morning, Easter Sunday, asleep in the front display window of the shop, his mouth smeared with a gooey brown mess, surrounded by the decimated chocolate sculptures he’s devoured in a furious frenzy.  Of course, I don’t think I’ll engage in a stealthy nighttime yarn shop break-in, but there is always online shopping.  .  .  .


  1. I bet you have a lovely yarn collection :). Good luck with your yarn diet. I started a modified yarn diet a while back and have done pretty well so far. I decided that I need to use up the yarn I have and so could only buy yarn if I needed it for a project, a specific project that I am definitely going to make.. and only then after shopping my stash to be absolutely sure there is nothing in there I can use for that project. Or if I come across something that is seriously marked down and can be applied to a project easily (ie. the large ball of sock yarn that is normally $10 and was marked down to $3 ;)). I also donated two large boxes of Red Heart acrylic to someone that I knew would appreciate it more than I do, thus freeing up space and freeing me up to use yarns I do enjoy knitting with.

    1. I like your plan. I think that buying yarn for possible, uncertain future projects can lead to an expanding stash. I, too, think it's a good idea to choose yarn for specific projects.

  2. I am afraid i am not a good advocate for stash-busting / hoarding. I regard a growing yarn stash as a throughly good thing! Otherwise how else can one start a particular project without the delay until one can buy the wherewithal?! I seem to find an annoying tendency to run out of particular colours in my favourite yarns and like to keep "back up" supplies to avoid this! I know there are limits but I haven't reached them yet! Might be different if I lived closer to a serious yarn store so it wasn't such a mission to get to one. You did make me smile about hoarding for the apocalypse - my larder is just like that - could probably withstand a siege for months! Wartime parents inculcated a habit for this, I am afraid! My mother's kitchen cupboards are a caution - you can't find anything in them they are so crammed, as H and I discovered when staying with my parents this week! Fast (if you must!) but be prepared to break out when you have an aide and accomplice egging you on in the summer!! E x


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