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Fall is upon us again. The shorter days! The snappy breezes that prompt the lifting of sweaters out of their summer storage, thoughts of snuggly evenings and cocoa! The idea of knitting with anything heavier than crochet thread no longer makes us sweat before we've even touched the needles! We're ready to get out the wool, or the bulky chenille, or whatever yarn it is that was just too hot to look at while the mercury was in orbit.

If you are the sort of knitter who carefully packs yarn away each season, tenderly resting anti-pest remedies among the cushiony balls and skeins, whose yarn stash is a model of organization and prudence, or if you are the sort of knitter who never has more yarn at hand than the current project needs, please stop reading.

Ok, it's just us, now: we who shove and stuff our yarn away and than find to our dismay that we have made duplicate purchases. We whose yarn is falling out of the holes in the bottom of plastic grocery bags underneath the stand holding the dead plant in the foyer (I hope there's more than one of us). [planter picture] We who find, when we are madly scrubbing in anticipation of houseguests, forgotten skeins of yarn hiding deep under book cases, sofas and big things we don't bother to look under. We who wrest one ball of yarn from a bunch only to have it bring all of its kin along for a grand bounce across the floor. We who find skeins that have been cavorting since God knows when with dust bunnies and pet hair, now resembling nothing so much as mutant moles.

For several years now, I've been faced with the spectre of my winter yarns come fall. Since I touched them last, they've become tangled, frayed at the ends, dusty, and for all I know, lousy with moth eggs. While I untangle, de-dust, and re-sort them, I swear they've become savage and aggressive through my neglect. And by the time I'm done with the Great Untangling, inevitably, two things come to mind:

            1.         I have way too much *&#)% yarn; and

            2.         A lot of it just isn't as cute as it was the last time I saw it.

This will be the last year that I am forced to endure the Grand Untangling before I can even start on my lovingly, longingly compiled list of things that I want to knit during the cool seasons. I say we break away from the tyranny of spring cleaning. Why not use the waning hours of evening sunlight to reexamine and purge our stuff? After all, are we not preparing to hunker down in our dwellings for the long winter months? Do we not face the prospect of staring at our four walls until we risk a descent into madness that would jar even Kafka? I suggest we do what we can - now - to make our abodes the cozy comfy and creative places we want them to be.

And to do that, we hoarding knitters must get control of our supplies. Organization is all the rage right now, on television, in magazines and books. Let's jump on that bandwagon. Let's adapt the benevolent mantra of "reduce, reuse and recycle" to our own use.


Pull all of your stuff out of whatever storage system and/or anti-system you use and take a good, honest and long look at your knitting supplies. How much of it do you really love? How much yarn will you really ever use? How many books and/or magazines do you actually refer to? Are you saving a big shopping bag full of skritchy vintage yarn that you got at a thrift store ten years ago (not that there's anything wrong with that)? How much of your yarn is, ahem, covered in pet hair (not including those yarns deliberately spun from your furry friends)? How many needles are bent, or are chipped, or are missing a mate?

Wouldn't you be just as happy with less of it? Sure, you would! Take a deep breath and start making a "get rid of it" pile. Make it big.


Get your knitting friends in on the action. Indeed, if your social circle has members active in other crafts prone to supply-hoarding, encourage a mass shedding. Bribe the friend with the biggest house with whatever it takes to make her or him host a gathering, then have everyone show up with the stuff they no longer want. If your friends are like mine, the scarcity of free time might necessitate offering good booze to ensure attendance, but once there and liquored up they'll enthusiastically swap their stuff away.

Have joy in your heart when you part with your stuff. Use the utmost discretion in picking up new-to-you stuff. Be resolutely honest in your answer when you ask of each item "Will I really use you?" The key, and this is very important, is to leave with LESS than you came with. LESS. I mean it. If you go home with the same amount or, God forbid, more, you're defeating the whole purpose of this exercise, and I wash my hands of you. Also, DO NOT GO HOME WITH YOUR OWN LEFTOVER STUFF. You'll only be tempted to put it back in your newly-reduced stash. Go home with someone else's leftovers.


If all went as it was supposed to, you and your friends have gobs of stuff left that none of you wanted. But someone, somewhere wants it. Donate it! Schools, senior centers, community centers, libraries, and thrift stores are good places to start. Many hospitals have blanket and/or chemo cap programs with many willing hands but not enough knitting and crocheting supplies. Organizations that work with troubled youth are often dreadfully undersupplied. If group dynamics dictate, designate a charity before hand. Some people are more likely to give till it hurts if they know who, exactly, is going to benefit.


Do you feel lighter? Sure, you do! But there is still more to do. Dedicate ample space for your passion. Gather up all the dog-eared pages from Knitty you've printed out, all the free on-line patterns that are sitting in haphazard piles. Hie thee to your local office supply store and invest in binders and three-hole punched plastic sleeves. Put the patterns in the sleeves, classify them according to your wont (e.g., sweaters all together, or all cabled items together) and pop them in the binders.

Invest in some magazine holders. They're infinitely classier than a tumble-down pile and they fit on many bookshelves. Dust and reshelve all of your books. Invest in a needle holder. If you like to look at your yarn for inspiration, clear out a book case and NEATLY stack your yarn therein. If you have the room, use a few dresser drawers; if not, there are nifty clear bins that fit under the bed. Again, organize your yarn the way that makes the most sense for you. By color? [shelf picture] By weight? By fiber content? Whatever. At the end of all of this toil, you will know what you have, and exactly where it is.

And you will be able to embark on your creative winter sleigh-ride without stopping to untangle the reins. Or pick out the dog hair.


Kate Boyd lives in Oakland, California with two pets, a spinning wheel, and subversive plans for world domination.