Monday, 9 November 2015
During this past week I took a few hours to go through my stash and reorganize it. It had been two years since I last did it and it was getting a little scrambled, and I find it's a good idea to go through it all occasionally so that I have a good frame of reference on what I have. Doing this, and also recently seeing a few articles online about stash size, got me thinking about stash size, which in turn led me to write this post.
No, the photo above is not one of me and my stash, but rather one of a woman called Bonney and her stash. Bonney is the mother-in-law of blogger Anna of Mochimochi Land, and also the owner of what may be the world's biggest yarn stash. In July 2007, Anna posted some photos of Bonney's stash, and in January 2011, Anna posted an interview with Bonney about her stash in which Bonney estimated that her stash numbered a staggering "few thousand" balls of yarn. The other article I saw that I keep thinking about is from Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner of Mason Dixon Knitting, in which they detail their respective approaches to stash organization. I will quickly summarize their methods thusly: Kay says get rid of it all and go buy the perfect yarn for each project when you're ready to begin it; Ann says keep all your yarn and revel in it because it's yarn... unless it's mauve.
I'd say my personal yarn stash management style falls between Kay and Ann's, and very far from Bonney's. I've never had and never will have a huge yarn stash. It fusses me to have some enormous amount of yarn around, waiting to be knitted up. It makes me feel pressured and accused, as though I should have done it already, and as though I should have managed matters better than to acquire it in the first place. But I also don't like the idea of having no stash whatsoever. Having a modest stash on hand saves me money. If I need a small amount of a contrast colour for a project, I can usually find it in my stash rather than buying another whole ball. If I'd like to knit dolls for a Christmas toy drive, my odds and ends of yarn will be perfect for that purpose and I can make a doll almost for free, whereas buying new skeins in all the colours needed would be expensive. The same goes for making a striped sweater for a small child. If I should need a pair of socks or slippers or want to whip up something for a baby shower, I have yarn for that. And while yes, it is lovely to be able to go out and buy the perfect lot of yarn for a given project, I really enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to make something I want to make with the bits and bobs of yarn I have sitting around. I've already planned the sweater I'm going to make my little grandnephew for his third birthday next summer: it's to be dark green with a little intarsia owl on the front in shades of rust, tan, and ivory. Because I don't quite have enough of the dark green main colour yarn, I'm going to piece it out by adding stripes of the intarsia colours to the ribbed neck, cuffs, and waistband. I've also planned to make a cabled cushion cover for one of the bedrooms in my house out of the 300 grams of cream DK weight I have on hand, and have decided if I don't have enough yarn to knit both sides of the cushion, I can always knit one side and sew a fabric back onto it. The thrill of making do with the yarn I have is certainly equal to the pleasure of buying it. Buying the perfect yarn for a project feels like a luxury, while contriving ways to use yarn from my stash makes me feel like a genius.
The above picture is of my stash. Those four plastic boxes and three plastic bags contain all the yarn I own aside from the three projects currently in my workbasket. There's a box of cotton yarn, a box of fingering, a box of bulky weight, a box and a bag of DK, a bag of worsted, and the biggest plastic bag (the Dollarama bag on the left) contains the assorted yarn I've designated for use in the projects I plan to knit within the next year. My stash, while not exactly enormous, is still bigger than I would like it to be. Ideally my yarn stash would fit into two of those plastic cases. My plan is to knock the stash down in size by one bag or box a year until it gets there. I'm already on my way, as at this time last year my stash consisted of those four boxes plus four bags of yarn rather than three.
I do have a few strict rules about yarn buying. I plan my projects ahead of time, look in my stash to see if I've got some yarn that would be suitable before I buy anything, and write out a shopping list of needed yarns complete with specified gauges, amounts, and colour, which I keep in my planner for reference. That way when I'm out somewhere and see a sale-priced perfect yarn for a planned project, I can get out my list and take advantage of the sale by buying exactly what I need. I never buy yarn to "use on something someday", but always for a specific project that I will be knitting in the near future. I also try to buy yarn from places that will accept returns or at least exchanges, so that I can take back any whole skeins I have left over when I finish a project.
I'm not going to try to tell anyone how big their yarn stash should be, or claim my yarn stash management style is ideal for anyone other than me. As She Who Possibly Owns More Yarn than Anyone, AKA Bonney, says in the interview linked above, "I'm not hurting anyone." I have to agree, especially given that immediately prior to beginning work on this post, I watched a video of six U.S. cops throwing two black men against the wall and beating them for having crossed the damn street "against the lights". (Or so the cops claimed. I wouldn't be surprised if the two men were innocent of even that.) In a world as messed up as ours, having a too large yarn stash is so far down on the list of this world's many ills that it barely even registers.
However, I would suggest that it is a good idea to be a little mindful and disciplined about one's yarn buying and stashing. After all, a little mindfulness and discipline goes a long way towards making nearly anything we do more rewarding and successful. It's one reason why I don't share what I call "crazy knitter" memes on this blog's Facebook page. All those cartoons and captioned photos about how funny it is to have a house bulging with yarn and unfinished projects and spending the kids' college funds at the yarn store got old pretty fast. (I especially detest those regressive, sexist memes about knitters hiding or lying about yarn purchases from their husbands.) Extreme behaviour and excess may have some entertainment value, but it's no way to live.
One of the factors to be mindful of is the environmental issues involved. We do have a responsibility to consider the environmental impact of what we buy, and to keep our purchasing habits within reasonable limits. Over consumption is destroying our planet and posing a serious threat to the long-term survival of the human race, and textile production in particular is very harmful to the environment. I recently read in a horrifying article about industrial dyes that one can tell what the trendy new colours are by looking at the current colour of the rivers in China. We absolutely need some textiles to survive and live functional lives, but as responsible citizens of the world we also need to avoid buying things we don't need and won't use. If you have more yarn than you can ever realistically expect to knit within your life time, it's time to rein in your yarn buying habits.
The financial cost is another aspect to consider. Yes, it's your money and your hobby, and I get that simple possession can be a pleasure in itself, but most of us are on a finite budget and have to set priorities. If you are buying more yarn than you can ever use, you might want to consider whether that money wouldn't give you more real pleasure and benefit if it went towards something else: debt repayment, your retirement or child's education fund, a trip, a charitable donation, or even a book, a good bottle of wine, a nice dinner out, or a present for someone you love, and to set some limits on how much you'll spend.
Then there's the storage issue. It's not fun to have every available space in one's home crammed with stuff, to have drawers so full one can't easily open or shut them, to have things fall on one's head when one opens a closet, to have to take ten things out of a cupboard to get to the one thing you need -- and then to have to put all those ten things away again. You might think you enjoy having that yarn around, and maybe you do love having it as much as Bonney clearly loves hers, but just how relaxing is it? How much would you enjoy visiting a spa that was as cluttered and full of stuff as your place? If you've got more yarn than you have places to put it, you should probably consider buying less yarn and even reducing your stash by selling or donating it to people who would put it to good use.
And if you're actually out of control in terms of how much yarn you buy and stash, if it's gotten to the point that it's impacting your ability to pay your bills and/or making your home unlivable and the people you live with angry and unhappy with you, and you can't seem to resolve the situation on your own, then it may be time to seek professional help. There are counsellors, medication, and online resources out there that will help you get your problem under control. The Anxiety and Depression Association's web page on hoarding might be a good place to start.
Having said all this, I hope I didn't come across as too much the joyless scold. My purpose here isn't to try to dictate the size of anyone's stash, but rather to suggest some guidelines and insights. We all have different comfort levels of stuff, different budgets, and different knitting speeds. If your ideal stash size and life goal is "enough yarn to lie naked under" as Bonney is doing above, go for it.
Friday, 25 April 2014
How do you store your knitting needles? My last post about how to make one's own knitting needles got me thinking about options for storing them. You're looking at my method, a cut glass vase that I found at Value Village for $6 and that sits on a chest of drawers in my attic workroom. Vases and other containers with an elongated shape are probably the simplest and most cost-effective solution for knitting needle storage. People use all kinds of containers for their needles, and often employ whatever's already sitting around the house: old paint cans, mason jars, cookie tins, or Pringle or coffee cans. One attractive option is to use those tubular gift boxes designed to hold wine bottles.
If the vase option isn't organized enough for you (the one drawback of the vase method is that fishing for a certain size needles can take a few very frustrating minutes), there are a number of types of needle cases to consider. This is one of the higher-end options, a Namaste Double Wide Red Circular Knitting Needle Case. Namaste makes a range of storage cases that are designed specifically for knitting needles and knitting notions, and I must admit they are all pretty snazzy looking.
Another storage option is to use a binder to hold your knitting needles. This option is probably best for your circular needles and DPNs, because your straight needles may be too long to fit within the binder. You can assemble a knitting needle binder yourself and organize it in exactly the manner you wish fairly easily and inexpensively, because Staples will have a selection of binders and hole punched envelopes and cases. A zippered binder like this one would be ideal because it prevents your needles from ever falling out, but an ordinary 2" school binder will serve the purpose as well. If you wish you can dress up an old binder by making it a special fabric or knitted cover, to which a zipper, tie or snap closure can be added. The needle-containing envelopes inside the binder can be labelled and organized by size to make it easy for you to find the needle you want, and the binder itself can be stowed away on a bookshelf.
A fourth knitting needle option is to use a folding fabric storage case. These cases are widely available for sale (the one depicted above was made by Etsy vendor Lena Brown). If you have even basic sewing skills, you can try your hand at designing your own. Sometimes people use placemats for this kind of project rather than raw fabric as so much of the cutting, shaping, reinforcing, and edge finishing is already done. A case like this can be made exactly to your specifications and can potentially hold all your tools — not only all your needles but also your scissors, stitch markers, tape measure, needle gauge, etc. The case can also be made to tie, zip, or snap shut. Another option is to stitch a casing along the top of their fabric needle cases so that a dowel rod can be slipped through it, attach a cord or ribbon to the ends of the dowel rod, and hang the needle case on a wall or to the back of a door.
Have you found another storage option besides that of a vase, box, binder or handmade or purchased needle storage case? Tell us about it in the comments!
Thursday, 4 April 2013
Lorna from Knits for Life explains her inventive concept for organizing her yarn stash here. As you can see from the picture above, she's installed pegboard in a niche in her apartment, wound all her yarn into skeins, and arranged the skeins on them by colour, to an effect that is not unlike some yarn fetishist's version of the game board from Risk, with the primary object being world yarn domination. She has her needles and other knitting supplies handily stowed away in baskets below. She can even sit on the couch beside it and knit without taking her skeins off the wall. As a storage idea, it's innovative, it's visually effective, and it's readily accessible. But it wouldn't work for me.
For one thing I am a tidy-it-up-and-put-it-all-away-out-of-sight kind of organizer. I can admire something like this in someone else's home, but in my own home it would agitate me no end to look at all those supplies waiting to be used up. And then too I can think of practical objections. One generally knits with yarn that is all the same weight and/or fibre content. It would drive me crazy to search all over a wall of yarn for the fingering weights yarns, or the pure wools. I would want to see all the yarns in a particular weight or fibre together to figure out what I could make from them, and if I had to pick through all that yarn to gather them together, I would be sure to miss some. You could organize your yarns on the wall by weight and fibre content, of course, but then visually it wouldn't be nearly as appealing. I also like to save the ball bands in order to be sure of fibre content and stitch gauge when it comes time to knit with the yarn. And then there's the matter of the dust and other flotsam and jetsam that always settles over any kind of open storage unit over time.
Would you like to see how I organize my yarn? You're looking at it. I came across this chest on a curb in my neighbourhood some years ago. I pounced on it at once, lugged it the two blocks home to my house, hauled it up the two flights of stairs to my workroom, reupholstered it, and painted the legs (not all in the same day, of course). It now sits in front of the dormer window in my attic workroom, doing double duty as a storage bin and a window seat. It contains four large plastic boxes of yarn. Three of the boxes hold mixed wools and acrylics sorted by weight: one of fingering/lace weight, one of sport/DK, and one of worsted/bulky. The fourth box contains my cotton yarn of all weights. Then on top of those boxes sit the yarns I intend to use up this year, all sorted by project into plastic bags. I have two projects currently in my workbasket elsewhere in the house, and when they get finished I'll just grab one of those plastic bags and get started on the next project. My goal for the end of the year is to not have so much yarn sitting around — to have no more than will fit in those four boxes and my workbasket. So, like Lorna's, my organizational method is accessible, out of the way and visually appealing, but in a totally different way from hers. My organizational method may not have that "this is a studio where great design happens minutely" visual vibe that Lorna's does, but it does have a certain serenity and elegance to it that I value much more.
Organizational technique is highly individual and there really isn't a best overall method. It's like designing a diet or exercise plan for yourself: the supposed world's best diet or exercise régime is useless if you personally can't stick to it. Whatever organization method you use has to suit your space, your budget, the amount and type of stuff you've got to organize, to accommodate others who share your space, and also must take into account the way you work and relate to the objects you use. Some people need to see their supplies so they'll know what they have, while others prefer to keep their working area cleared away.
You're welcome to share your own tailor-made method of organizing yarn in the comments if you wish. My guess is that your method of organizing yarn is nothing like either mine or Lorna's.
But I think we can all agree to mock Vanna White's supposed method of organizing yarn, as demonstrated in the video above. Her antique pedestal bowl is really just some sort of especially rarefied workbasket that even she probably doesn't use a lot of the time. Can you really imagine her lugging that thing all over her house when she wants to crochet in different spots, as one does? It's telling that she doesn't have a real project in it, only an assortment of her name brand yarns, and it's a sure bet she's got a closet or some kind of storage unit somewhere in her house that's stuffed with yarn and that doesn't look anything you'd feature in a magazine spread.