Barbara Benson mentioned in her newsletter that she’s moving and thus beginning a big yarn de-stash, and I thought, “Oh, blog topic.” I actually have some experience with de-stashing, the de-stashing of Other People’s stash that is.
Do I have a stash? Yes actually. It sits in two Ikea baskets in the cubbies of an Expedit. It’s mostly colorful ends of yarn that’s not quite enough for submission swatches. I’ve started sewing old submission swatches together into an afghan, crocheting up the yarn ends to even out corners as I go. I generally buy yarn for definite projects, after thinking it over for a week, and getting a push from my husband who is tired of me being cheap.
My first Other People’s de-stash happened when I was still nursing my first baby, and always cold. We’d just moved, Dan had taken a technician’s position that might become an engineering job so we could be near my parents as my Dad moved into hospice. I prayed for money for yarn to make myself a sweater. My uncle’s mother-in-law’s cousin’s mother who had owned a yarn store in the 1960’s wanted to de-stash the last of the yarn store yarn, and I got a box in the mail; which turned into sweaters and a gift.
My second OP de-stash happened when my new pastor’s wife was moving into town, noticed that I knit, and gave me her college yarn box from when she lived near WEBS. It was mostly coned cotton, and I made baby things and washcloths out of it, because it washed up so soft. I find cotton hard to tension properly, I usually wind it around my index finger a few extra times, or crochet with it, I’m not sure why the tension is easier with crochet.
In the course of a Lego Club for homeschool, I met Loni, with whom to this day I spend an afternoon a week so our kids can play boardgames while we chat. She is a voice of reason in my design process. Her mother is a prolific crafter who hooks rugs, weaves and knits. But she had a stressful amount of yarn. I think there were 4 black garbage bags when this one arrived. I’d begun to design then, so I had different priorities: Was this yarn discontinued? If I used it for a sample, would it hurt the pattern sales?
I took up the living room floor and sorted (the kids got a little underfoot because wool bounces like a ball, which gave them ideas, but they weren’t fighting or crying, so it was fine.) Once everything was together either by the same yarn, or colors and weights that worked together, I re-bagged it. I want a sweater (bag) This would work for one of my kid’s hat (bag) This would work well for the girl at church that I taught to knit (bag) I’m not fond of any of these colors (bag) The not fond bag went to the city clerk at town hall – she collects yarn for the prolific but not wealthy crafters at the senior center. I think their finished objects wind up in charity. People have such different ideas about color – if the yarn is of good quality, I quell the guilt. Someone will want this.
I joined Facebook originally because my friend Katie teased me that using Dan’s account was confusing (and cheesy). She had tried knitting during the “Knitting is the new Yoga,” era, and decided to stick with regular Yoga. There were 4 tubs from that one. I was visiting my in-laws who lived near Katie when that happened, so I took over Mom-mom’s living room. We did not have room in the mini-van to bring everything home.
Katie’s stash included a lot of how to knit books. Dan’s niece got intrigued so I turned one tub into the learn to knit kit with needles, books, and soft wool that was worsted weight that she could work with, as well as a sweater’s worth of yarn. She took to sitting cross legged in an arm chair surrounded by yarn working on her garter stitch swatch with her tongue sticking out in concentration.
I knew that my friend from college was in a temporary tight budget but wants a sweater stage, so I mailed her (I think it was 2, but it might only have been 1) sweater’s worth of yarn so I didn’t have to truck it to Massachusetts. When we got home, I meant to send the gold lama yarn to the city clerk, but my daughter begged for a flower fairy dress, and we collaborated on the design. Matthew finally got his robot sweater. Dan wizard-ed all our belongings plus the yarn I did keep into our van somehow, including the tubs – unless those went to my mother-in-law instead? Some yarn went to the city clerk again, but some got used up in a learn to crochet class at homeschool coop.
Sue from church gave me some organic yarn she’d bought at a farmer’s market, and I used it on a hooded cowl for myself, leading to this conversation with Dan:
Me – what do you think of my new hooded cowl?
Dan- the colors are a bit muted.
Me – the yarn was free.
Dan- It looks GREAT!
So, what tips to I have for people who must de-stash (besides send it to me?)
- Find a nice large space with good light and happy music for sorting in.
- Have sorting supplies on hand, like zip lock bags, baskets, and yes a garbage (if the pieces are too small, pitch them, same with moth damage.)
- Arrange it by fiber, weight and color so it’s kitted by project – hat-able, mitten-able, sweater-able, colorwork experiments, etc.
- Know what colors and weights you will actually be likely to use for spur of the moment projects or for submission swatches (so many of us knitters are designing these days, yes I mean you.)
- Look for charities – library groups, senior centers, children’s learn to knit groups, your own students or proteges (beginners do better and persevere with good yarn. Many of them are impossibly prolific. Do not doom them to scratchy acrylic and impossible novelty yarns from e-bay.) Send all the un-kitted yarns to them – they will actually thank you!
- It’s easier to be unsentimental with yarn you didn’t buy in the first place. Perhaps you should switch with another friend who is also moving!
Celebrate when you are done!