Dr. Stashlove or: How I Learned to Stop Stashing and Use My Yarn

Your yarn stash is sneaky. You go along, buying yarn willy-nilly, never realizing that you’re feeding a monster. Handspun alpaca for a cardigan? Yes, please! Self-striping cashmere-blend sock yarn? Don’t mind if I do! BOGO dishcloth cotton? How could I say no? One by one, the yarn keeps trickling in, until reality (and a 600-yd skein of merino) smacks you in the face:

The yarn stash has taken over.

Once you realize that your yarn is out of control, it takes a little while to figure out what you’re going to do about it. There are five stages of stash reckoning.

Denial

You hide your yarn stash in a closet. If you can’t see it falling off the shelves, it’s not there, right? It doesn’t exist if you don’t look under the bed.

yarn stash

LALALA I CAN’T SEE YOU!

Anger

You begin to resent the stash. Why is it even there, nagging you to knit more and pointing out your failure to make 97 pairs of socks? How dare it do anything other than bring you joy!

Bargaining

You make an “arrangement” with the stash: you will only bring more yarn into the stash once you have used up all the laceweight yarn. Two shawls out, one skein of yarn in.

Depression

Why bother knitting at all? The stash will never be smaller. You have reached STABLE (STash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy), and there’s no point in even trying to tame the yarn beast.

Acceptance

Wait, yarn is an inanimate object—you can do whatever you want with it! Knit, play cat’s cradle, give it away, make string art, tie up a tree branch, burn it in a bonfire, whatever! You are the master of your stash.

Yes, this is an acceptable use for yarn.

Once you’ve regained authority over your stash, it’s just a matter of getting it under control. Here are three key steps to reducing the size of your stash:

1. Stop buying yarn.

This is the hardest step. We love yarn. It’s how we got into this crazy mess in the first place. It’s difficult to walk away from a gorgeous skein of hand-dyed silk or a great bargain on sock yarn. If you don’t have the self-control to go completely cold sheep, you can work on going “stash neutral”, only buying more yarn when you’ve used an equal amount of your stash.

This brings us to the next point:

2. Use your stash.

There was a reason you bought that yarn in the first place, and it probably wasn’t to be buried in a plastic bin for the rest of its life. Did you choose it for a sweater that you never made? Revisit your queue and find which pattern is was originally destined to be, then actually make the thing.

If that pattern no longer appeals to you, find a different pattern and cast on. Do you have single skeins that are beautiful, but not enough for a big project? Make a hat or a pair of mittens. Try arm knitting. Let your yarn fulfill its fibery destiny!

3. Give it away.

We all have a limited amount of knitting time on this crazy planet; don’t waste it on yarn you don’t love. Yes, you can find a pattern for every yarn. However, you don’t have to. If the yarn no longer speaks to you, let it go. Take some of your yarn stash to your crafting group and let your friends take whatever they like. Drop it off at a thrift store. Call and ask if your local daycare or senior center could use it. Someone else will enjoy it; there’s no reason it needs to take up space in your home or your psyche.

Where are you in your yarn stash journey? Are you still growing your stash or weeding it out?


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5 Comments

  1. Tonya S at 10:12 am March 7, 2018

    I just dealt with this. this past weekend. Once a year I do megabuying with my share of income tax return and minimal yarn buying the rest of the year I have less than a dozen bins of varying sizes before you say wow how is that under control, well I shop from my bins at home first, second my daughter shops at the bins of mom also, then I have them organized specialty yarns, sport, cake yarn worsted, cake yarn sport, now that all said I did give a bunch away (before I ultimately found out I was moving last year then I was sad I didn’t have as much yarn as I thought I did rofl)to beginner knitters and crocheters. I also knit gifts (right now crocheting a blanket for my granddaughter for Christmas)I am bistitual that helps I am also a patternaholic I tend to scan my patterns so I have an electronic copy in case the hard copies get damaged, in this case can’t find them because My hubby and son haven’t unpacked the sunroom the last room with unpacked items! Taming the stash is only overwhelming IF you look at it as a whole, Pick a closet, a box, bin or other storage place, go through the oh my gosh what was I thinking if you can’t see you using it in a year gift it to another crafter, don’t try and do it all in one day and don’t let too many people try and help you will get overwhelmed. I guarantee if you do it a bit at a time and don’t buy anymore more supplies until you are organized you will be ornganized in a hurry. Also, ask yourself some questions, Do you really need it or is it impulse? Do you really have room for it? Is it a comfort buy or do you have a definite project for it you are starting within 2 weeks? Can you buy all the yarn you need at one time for that project if you are saying no more than yes put it back for someone else to fuss with. My husband only says that he wants to see me using up the yarn not just buying have it neatly put away and more going out than coming in all reasonable statements, especially when it is being made into afghans and it keeps me from taking over the tv with paranormal programming (he’s only able to watch tv about 6 hours a day a couple hours in the morning and a few hours at night when he can’t sleep so even if I hate the show I keep knitting or crocheting!)STABLE is an addiction it’s all well and good to joke about it and I do but when an addiction rules your life it’s time to take control!

  2. Yamuna W at 11:41 am March 7, 2018

    I am the knitter with yarn for 97 pairs of socks waiting for me. That really made me laugh. I have been tackling those socks slowly. I don’t allow myself to buy yarn any more. Unless….
    It’s a special project and my stash doesn’t have the amount of yarn I need. I recently bought linen on sale to make kitchen towels. I love the knit linen towel I made years ago. I started my new towel this week. Yeah! I also bought yarn to make a pair of knee length exercise socks for Hatha Yoga Class. Haven’t started them yet. I’m pretty good at only knitting one project at a time.
    I am a pro at stashing yarn. I have a long table I use for sewing. What’s underneath? My voluminous sock yarn stash & my quilting fabric. It’s all in boxes & labeled. I recently took all the yarn out from under the bed. It was too dusty & hard to clean. Solution…It’s in my son’s old room. Some of it is the closet & some in boxes & plastic bags. It’s not all for socks.
    I am having trouble with tendonitis in my wrists from knitting too much over the last 40 years. My contingency plan is to weave with it.

  3. Christine D at 4:30 pm March 7, 2018

    I believe one should just relax and enjoy the yarn: Review it; admire the colours and textures; fondle it; select a skein or two or ten and knit something you didn’t know you wanted / needed when you bought the yarn. You could be snowed in for weeks and still have the materials to entertain yourself and enrich your life and that of others. Finally, remember — She who dies with the most yarn wins!

  4. Frances U at 4:15 pm March 9, 2018

    Ohhhhhh this is so funny! And so very me! Having spent the last 15 years acquiring stash, I have now surely reached STABLE (wait, didn’t it used to be SABLE?) A few years ago I had to really start addressing the situation because 1) my husband and I bought our first house and it has VERY small closets, 2) I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (no more 12 hour knitting marathons), and 3) I bought a spinning wheel and now I make MORE yarn as well as stash fiber for spinning. My solution was a three-pronged approach: First, I BUILT another closet with my own two hands (damn I love power tools!) to store my 24 large plastic bins of very organized yarn. Second, I only allow myself to buy more yarn if I don’t already have what I need in my stash to complete a pattern AND if the yarn is also on sale. And third, I have instructed my niece, a mortician and prospective funeral director, to just line my casket with my stash and bury me with it. Because yes, she who dies with the most yarn wins!!!

  5. Anna N at 1:55 pm March 12, 2018

    Glad to know it’s not only me

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