Long holiday weekend, so time for a marathon post and what passes for deep thinking.
Posting my stash on Ravelry in July slowed down my yarn purchases for a bit. I saw all the yarn that’s neatly stashed in plastic bins laid out on the page and, lo and behold—it was excessive. So I put some of it in the trade/sell category and swapped some (and haven’t post what I swapped it for, but I will), and then I took a rest for a bit.
Well, mostly—remember I did go to Stitches from the Heart and Wildfiber in Santa Monica and buy sock yarn and hat yarn. I’m not sure I subscribe to the “sock yarn doesn’t count” rule. And I bought some KnitPicks Ambrosia for a sweater, because I felt winter coming on. (An aside—until I got back and was looking through the Knit 2 Together book again, I didn’t realize that Wildfiber was Mel Clark’s store. It has a new owner now, though.)
When I first came back to knitting, I was like a drunk on a binge. I fell in love with everything I saw on the Web and then I had to touch it, so I had to buy it. And whenever I went to yarn stores, I touched things and had to take them home. Reading blogs led to looking at patterns led to looking at books and that led to buying more yarn.
I’m at a point in my life where I can afford some discretionary spending, so it’s hard to “just say no.” All my teenaged knitting self had to choose between was wool and acrylic (and cotton, but that’s going to be a different post)—the hot question of the day was whether “ombre” was cool or gross. (Does anyone still call it that? What’s the difference between ombre and variegated, anyway?) On my squeaky tight budget at the time (I had to buy cigarettes back then, too), I bought some shiny acrylic and made this:
Yes, Morticia—a black lace stole!
My young woman knitting self didn’t have many more choices and seldom bought more than one project ahead. And once I realized how much of a problem animal fibers were becoming on my skin, I was hard pressed often to find something I was willing to knit with. Acrylic was fine for the kids:
But I didn’t love it for me. I love tweedy things and soft, cushy, living-feeling things. I love the way alpaca feels like locks of someone’s hair. I love deep, rich, saturated colors. Right before my knitting hiatus, I bought a bunch of sport-weight acrylic (in whatever was the trendy name for it then—corelle? something like that) in a bunch of odd colors that were not-quite-pastel. I was going to make something interesting for myself because a friend had bought me a Kaffe Fassett book for my birthday, and I just needed to try color work . . . Until I got started, that is, and realized that I hated the way it felt, that it was going to take forever to do what I had in my head, and that when I was done, I was going to have a very fancy . . . acrylic sweater. I can’t show you a picture of this yarn. My daughter made her iconic garter-stitch scarf out of some of it. Then last year I made every remaining inch of it into premie things and sent them to Stitches from the Heart.
But when I started to buy yarn, it took me a while to catch on to all my options. I bought a bunch of Homespun from JoAnn.
It is tweedy. It will make an afghan or something someday. I bought the Schoeller & Stahl Micro Cable that is still becoming the green sweater (yes, an acrylic sweater—but with a cottony feel to it). I bought some other acrylic/nylon yarns for baby things, etc. I’m not 100% opposed to acrylic if it feels nice and works for the purpose—though I do have worries about the environmental impact of its production (and ditto for cotton).
But I also bought some bamboo, some silk, some cotton, some linen, some hemp, and many many blends. Then I realized that alpaca was okay on my skin and bought all kinds of that. Hmm, then it seemed like cashmere was also okay. And wool wasn’t too bad to knit with for other people, so a knit a bunch of KnitPicks Wool of the Andes up and sent it to afghans for Afghans. Lace—I definitely need to do some lace, and alpaca makes such nice lace yarn. Oh yeah, and I had to try socks, so lots of sock yarn—sheepless for me, and wooly for friends and relatives. Luckily, it turns out that knitting socks makes me happy, so I’m likely to actually use a bunch of it.
If you’re on Ravelry, you can go see the whole sorry lot there, and you’ll undoubtedly note that many many Ravelers have larger stashes than I do. I assume they’ve just been at it longer. But I’m back to “why?” This weekend I bought a bunch more sock yarn and some hand-dyed alpaca/tencel blend (Fiesta Yarns Ballet). Oh yeah, and some more patterns and books. I’ll spare you the laundry list.
Patterns and books I can justify. Even if I don’t make the exact things in them, I learn things from them and get ideas. And there’s an intrinsic integrity to books—after all, that discretionary hard-earned money comes from a life in book publishing. I can defend the printed word. But all that yarn. Where does this yearning to see it, touch it, and as some have confessed, sniff it come from? Why do I feel the need to drag it home and then feel embarrassed by the riches? Why do we use metaphors that refer to food and over-eating, like yarn diet? How is it that someone who doesn’t overspend on clothing, shoes, purses, or lingerie can just buy way more yarn than she’ll need in the next five years and still want more? Is this what my young Blahnik-loving colleagues go through when they visit Neiman Marcus? Is this a form of gluttony?
Or, maybe thinking it’s a problem is part of the problem. It’s my money. I’m not taking food out of anyone’s mouth. I have a friend who is a painter, and he owns many many colors and brands of acrylics, oils, oil pastels, water colors, etc. He sees new things and tries them out. If he doesn’t like them, he moves on. Yarn just takes up more space, right (and is considerably less messy)? And it’s way way cheaper than collecting cars or motorcycles. Way less cruel than collecting taxidermy or pelts. More useful and more beautiful than the rubber band and twine collections we discovered when we cleaned out my grandmother’s house. I have a relative who has a CD collection he couldn’t listen to within a normal human lifespan. My sewing relations and friends have boxes and boxes of fabric. There are people out there who collect playing cards, pornography, cameras, toasters, cigarette lighters, stamps, coins, shells, rocks. I myself collect antique children’s books.
Maybe I just need to follow the lead of others and decorate with it. Leave it out in beautiful baskets and jars as I have done with my needles in vases. Hang it from hooks on the wall. I love it—why do I hide it in plastic crates?
But there are space limitations. And now that the initial rush has worn off, I wonder whether I can’t be more discerning. More thoughtful about the rate at which I actually knit and the things I actually want to produce.
I think I may be in it for the long haul this time. What about you. Are you conflicted about your stash or at peace with it? My stats tell me that there are visitors. I’d love to hear from more of you!