I have a problem with my stash. I don’t like having one. I don’t judge anyone who has one, I just dislike having one myself.
It’s so much fun to buy things, and the world of making is full of opportunities to buy things. It’s so easy to confuse the joy of making with the thrill of acquisition, for inspiration to become lust. My stash, as much as I do like the things in it, is a reminder of that confusion. I have no problem buying things; but now, I just want my buying to be directly and intentionally related to my making. Right now, my making is instead shaped around the aftermath of a long-forgotten spending spree. That can be fun too, and limits are really just opportunities for creativity. But I’m getting to the point where I want to do more than that.
I’ve gotten pretty good about buying yarn. Somehow years of working in yarn shops convinced me that there is nothing new under the sun, that there will always be good yarn ready to buy when I’m ready to knit it, and there’s not much reason to buy yarn unless I’m about to use it. For the last 4 years at least, I have bought yarn only when I’m going to use it in the next 6 months. I still have a good bit of languishing yarn, though, even after all that time.
Fiber, though… fiber is a big issue. Every day on Instagram I see dozens of indie creations, and once they’re gone, they might not come back. There are more fiber clubs than I can count. To say nothing of all the possibilities in prepping one’s own fiber. It’s no wonder that many spinners have a stash that makes mine look like a sneeze.
I have about eight pounds of prepared fiber, and half a dirty cormo x fleece. It doesn’t sound so scary when I put it that way. But all of it is between three and eight years old. And that fiber that weighs about as much as my newborn babies takes up two large boxes in my mom’s basement. Even at my currrent rate of spinning, it would take a good two or three years to spin all that up. And it would be very easy to buy that much again every year.
I know I can’t make myself buy nothing. That’s a wagon I know I can’t stay on. So instead, I made myself a two-for-one deal. It worked with my WIP-down, and even though it took a year and a half to get down to one project, by the end of that time, my habits were different.
So here’s my program of fiber stash control: I’m allowed to buy fiber when I have spun twice the amount I want to buy. That sounds confusing. What I mean is, if I want to buy some 4-oz braid of fiber, I have to spin 8 oz before I can order it. I’ll show you the chart I made in my journal to keep track.
It’s pretty basic. The column on the left is purchases; on the right is what I’ve spun. The dashes along the middle line are my unit of measure. In the right column, one ounce is worth one dash. In the left, one ounce is worth two dashes. So when I spin, it goes into the right column, making room for more on the left. (True confessions: already sometimes it’s the right column trying to catch up with the left.)
The age of what I spin doesn’t matter; even if I spin what I’ve just bought, it still goes into the right column to earn more. In fact, I prefer that; I’d like to get in the habit of spinning what I buy fairly quickly. And since this system means I have to consider every purchase I make very carefully, I tend to want to spin those purchases right away; I’ve been looking forward to them, and they take so long to get here!
I’ve come up with a similar program for yarn. Like I said, I’m pretty good about buying commercial yarn with immediate intention, but I’m still buying, and there’s plenty of stash not getting used. Plus I am now generating all this handspun I want to use as well. Here’s the chart for that.
“Older yarn” can be anything: yarn I’ve had for a while, gifts (even recent), any handspun (for now, even newly spun yarn from newly bought fiber). Basically any yarn that was acquired without a particular intention, that will not get used unless I make a use for it.
There are no rules for how big a project has to be; I can totally cheat and crank out a couple of baby hats from old yarn to start a sweater with new yarn. The catch is, to go in the right column, the project has to be ALL old yarn. If I have to buy more yarn in order to use the old yarn how I want to (like with many of my ideas for using my handspun) it has to wait for a spot in the left column.
A hitch, you may notice, is that there’s no limit to how many projects I can start with old yarn, nor do have to ever finish any projects with new yarn. If I’m not careful, I could end up with my WIPs out of control again. I’m relying on my own sense of being easily overwhelmed to keep this under control, and the hope that my WIP-down formed habits that will stick. I’m pretty reliably down to two projects now, an easy travel one and a complex stationary one, with the occasional quickie on the side, though I do have another big one hibernating right now. I’m committed to finishing that this summer.
A look at my ravelry account tells me that, if I stick to this plan, I’ll have to spin about 15 lbs to get down to less than 1. Yarn is harder to estimate, but assuming one project per type of yarn, and that I’ll be adding to nominal “old yarn” with more spinning… I’m looking at a good 75 projects before I’m done with old yarn.
Wow. For both yarn and fiber, that’s at least a four-year program! I don’t know if that’s realistic. It’s also a strong argument against stashing, because even if I love something now, am I still going to be interested in it four years later?! And much of my stash is already much older than that.
I’d like to stick with it for a year and see if I seem to be making any progress. In an effort to find a wagon I can stay on, I may have picked one that’s never going to reach its destination.
My goal is to not be creatively limited by my stash. But really, it’s not my stash that’s limiting me; it’s how legalistic I feel about my stash. It does not really matter, in the light of eternity, how much yarn or fiber I own. If it were taking over my house or making me broke that would be one thing, but that’s not the case. What I’m trying to say is, I could also free myself creatively from my stash by… freeing myself mentally from my stash. Letting it go. Not worrying about it.
In describing the program above, I can sense the old perfectionism rearing its head again. This is only going to work if I remember that this is a guideline to help me do what I want to do, not a law I have to feel guilty about breaking.
I do want to make this effort and see how it goes. Of course, the real question is, how am I going to control myself on vacation, when my list of fiber-related visits keeps growing??
How about you? What sort of animal is your stash? How much does it bother you, or do you not worry about it?