Stash Enhancement March 08 2017

We are now well underway on the wool festival season, so it seems like a good time to talk a bit about how to keep our stashes well-curated and (sort of) under control.

There is a continuum among yarn crafters as to the level of stash that they are comfortable holding, ranging from only buying yarn for the next project when the previous project is finished to Stash Amassed Beyond Life Expectancy (SABLE). Most of us lie somewhere in between these two extremes, but lots of people talk/worry/feel guilty about their stash.

The goal of this blog post is to share some tips on how to have a guilt-free stash, of whatever size best suits you, and how to get the most out of the yarns you have. After all, you must have bought them for a reason, right?

Step 1: Stash Assessment

One of the biggest problems I run into when thinking about my stash is that I don’t know exactly what’s in there! So the first key step to thoughtful stash enhancement is to take a bit of time to look through everything and make sure you know what’s there.

Go through your stash (I try to do this once a year, usually over the winter holidays) and take a close look at everything. This is a great opportunity to make sure that no little critters have found their way into your precious skeins, and also to take stock: that skein of gorgeous teal laceweight that you’ve had for five years – are you really every going to knit it? What about those wildly variegated skeins of sock yarn that you couldn’t walk away from, but you know you’ll never use? This is a chance to do some stash pruning, and find a new home for those yarns that you know you’ll never use. Some of these can be put up for sale, some can be donated to the charity shop or other yarn-taking organisations like Knit for Peace. Before you know it, you’ll have a nice pile of things to clear out, and a stash that has a bit of breathing room for upcoming purchases.

Find a way that works for you to keep track of your stash that you can refer back to and identify what you’ve already got without having to unpack everything again. I like to keep track of my stash on Ravelry but am very bad about keeping it updated and current – you may find a different method that works well for you. It may also work better for you just to keep a list of gaps in your stash that you might like to fill. However you do it, having a method for knowing what you’ve got in your stash and what you need at any given time is key!

Step 2: Prioritise Future Projects

The next step after sorting through your stash but before being overwhelmed by yarn fumes at your next show is to think a bit about upcoming projects. What are you aching to start – a new jumper? A glorious lace shawl? A mini-skein project? Make a list of your to-do projects and prioritise them so you have a clear vision of what’s going to be next on your needles or hook.

Then go back to your stash (either in person or via your record keeping system): do you have anything that will already work for any of those projects? If so, you are golden! Get started right away, or put the yarn aside with the pattern and tools so as soon as you are ready to start, you have everything together in one place.

If there’s a project you have on your list and you don’t have any suitable yarn in the stash, that yarn can go on a new list – the shopping list. Make sure you note down any key characteristics needed: weight, yardage needed, particular fibre content you want to match, and maybe a few notes about the project.

Another good tactic for using your stash is identify if you have any yarns that might work for part of a project – for example, a skein of 4-ply that would be great as the main colour for a shawl that uses mini-skeins. Then you can put the mini-skeins on your shopping list, knowing that you’ve already got the rest of the shawl in stash.

Step 3: The Shopping

Now comes everyone’s favourite part: yarn shopping. Whether you are going to your LYS or to a festival, there’s always the danger of being overcome by all the inspiration, so here are a few tips that may help.

  • Take a look at the LYS website or the show website and see what’s available. If there’s a particular vendor at a show that has a yarn on your list, make sure you know where they are so you can find them easily.
  • Remember to take your shopping list, maybe with purchases prioritized
  • Stick to your list (this is the hardest one!)
  • At a show: if sticking to your list is going to be tough, set aside a set amount of money that you can splurge with on things you just can’t walk away from. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
  • Only take cash and leave the credit cards at home.

More generally – really think about what you’re buying. You don’t have to have a specific project in mind, but now that you know you already have five skeins of blue and purple 4-ply yarn in a box at home, it will be that much easier to put that lovely skein that’s calling to you back on the shelf.

The bottom line is this: take a bit of time to sort through what you’ve already got on hand and get rid of yarns that aren’t calling to you any more. Armed with a better knowledge of your existing stash, you can then go out and fill in the gaps that you’ve identified for upcoming projects.

-Rachel aka PorpoiseFur