Sunday, October 5, 2014

Yarn Stashes and the Fascination Street Slouchy

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”  

The same statement can be applied to a skein of yarn. It’s just waiting for the designer to
discover it. Sometimes the paths to that revelation take various routes, some simple, some more complicated. I can have a pattern flow off my hook the first pass and sometimes I end up frogging it four or five times before it works.

Inspiration can be a fickle muse. 

Last Saturday I was recovering from a nasty stomach virus. I wasn't able to finish the post I had been working on, so as I transformed back into a human being I began to think about what I was going to write about, and more importantly what pattern I was going to put up. I have a sketch book full of ideas but nothing I could whip up in an afternoon. I was a little lost, which led me to my yarn stash.

A yarn stash is exactly what it sounds like, a secret, or sometimes not so secret, stockpile of yarn. Most fiber addicts view the accumulation of skeins as treasure chests overflowing with spun fiber gold and colorful strands of gems. In reality, at least in my case, it is a much less glamorous stack of about twelve large Rubbermaid containers. They are sorted by yarn weights and fibers.

Yarn stashes are popular topics on discussion boards, blogs and in local knitting/crochet groups. Most fiber enthusiasts have a stash of some sort. They range anywhere from a large shopping bag to a massive hoard. The picture below is from a craigslist ad for an estate sale. This was the amount of yarn they were liquidating from one person:

So why do a large majority of knitters and crocheters impulsively buy yarn when we have no idea what we are going to do with it? Wouldn't it be much more sensible to buy it when we have a project in hand specific to that yarn? There may be people out there that can manage to do just that, but after reading hundreds of posts online I think it's a rare occurrence. Stashes that range between 300-500 skeins of yarn are not as uncommon as one would think. The longer one has been a knitter/crocheter, the larger the stash.

So when does a stash cross the line into a hoard? In an article online for the Psychology Today website, writer Jessie Sholl states that there is a fine line between collecting and hoarding. A great deal of people who tend to cross the line consider themselves artists, or in fact are artists. There is an aspect of uniqueness that appeals to those with creative tendencies when they continue to purchase yarn spontaneously. A fiber artists buys that one skein of hand painted fingering weight yarn because they will never come across it again, and that one skein can easily turn into ten. All of those single balls of yarn accumulate, waiting for the right pattern to come along. 

In the book Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding, David F. Tolin, Ph.D.,Randy O. Frost, Ph.D. and Gail Steketee, Ph.D. wrote: "People who hoard often come up with idea after idea, saving things for all kinds of creative reasons but never following through with those plans. They have become victims of their own creativity." This quote refers to extreme cases, and yarn hoarding is very different from the horrific stories we see on the news of people hoarding trash or animals, but it is an interesting aspect of yarn collecting to think about. I may not have a hoard, but I do have a large stash and that quote applies to me. Am I a victim of my creativity?

For yarn collectors there also seems to be a an element of shame attached to their stash. The definition of the word stash, according to the American Oxford Dictionary, Second Edition: v. store something safely in a secret place. n. a secret store of something. Common words associated with stash discussions include guilt, shame, obsessive, compulsive and embarrassed. I'm not immune to those feelings. I am aware of them every time I search through my stash.

Do other collectors experience this kind of remorse? Comic Book collectors are celebrated and their collections are considered investments, even though the majority of their stash most likely has little monetary value. People collect all kinds of things in this world. How is a comic book, a coin, a stamp or a piece of pottery different from a skein of yarn?

Why as crafters are we ashamed of our collections?

The struggle to organize and control the stashes we possess is also a popular topic and has led to several self-help articles on the web. There are stash buster pattern books and mobile apps. It seems like everyone has advice on how to pare down the overflow of skeins into a more manageable number. I succumbed to the shame last year. After donating several trash bags full of yarn that I would never use to Big Brothers Big Sisters, I made a commitment to myself that anything I designed had to be made with yarn from my stash. I could not, and more importantly would not, purchase any yarn to stitch samples. I would "shop my stash" for projects. So far I have stuck with that. It has taken ingenuity and willpower to make it work, but sometimes, like today's free pattern, the inspiration for the project comes from the yarn itself.

The Fascination Street Slouchy didn't exist until I held a skein of Cascade 128 in my hands. I knew I was going to make a hat, and as I picked the colors I knew it would be a slouchy, but it wasn't until I was stitching the third round the vision of the design solidified in my mind. To be able to look at a skein of yarn, hold it in your hands and envision the hat it could become is a little bit magical. I like the notion of having those seeds of enchantment sown throughout my life. Sometimes I don't want the science of where that magic comes from to salt that soil.

Oddly enough the hardest part for me is not coming up with the patterns. The most difficult process for me is coming up with the name for the pattern. How did I finally decide on the title of the new design? I was listening to The Cure as I wrote this post. "Fascination Street" is a great title for a song and for a slouchy hat. It also seemed to fit in with this week's entry. Looking for ideas in your stash is a little like strolling through a Fascination Street, peering in bins, shelves and carts, looking for the one thing that will spark the creative process in your own mind. You'll never know what you are looking for until you find it.

This week's free pattern: The Fascination Street Slouchy

The pattern is available for download on Ravelry & Craftsy.



  1. Hey I suffer from the craft supply hoarding thing too, BIG TIME. But, like you, I am really making an effort to make due with what I have on hand right now, and only buy things that I truly need when I run out of them like crimp beads and toggle clasps. And I am also making an effort to actually make all the projects that I've pinned on Pinterest and saved to my 'craft ideas' bookmark!

  2. I just want to thank you for two things today. I found out about your wonderful patterns through Craftsy's post today...somehow....I never know how I get to certain places. Anyhow I want to thank you for the prolific and wonderful toque and infinity scarf treasure trove you have posted there for the taking. You have made me solidify my plan to learn how to crochet properly (as I tend to fly by the seat of my pants with disappointing results). Just purchased a class on Craftsy to do that very thing! The second thing is that I can now indulge in a craft that is conducive to travel and visiting with people.

  3. I am not ashamed of my stash....I love it!!!

  4. As Stephen West say...I am a fiber collector:) Though I do have projects in mind when I buy yarn, it takes me a while to knit them all....I also am a pattern/knitting design book. I consider them art. I dare you to look at a book on lace patterns and not want to frame some of the photos;)