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Wildflower yarns and knitwear

Stash - Destash

So, what sensation or emotion is elicited by the word “Stash” for you?  The topic of Stash can be touchy.  But I’m wondering why?  As yarnies, we, naturally, love our yarn.  We share it, make other people touch it, look at it longingly.  It can soothe us.  It can inspire us.  Why, then, do so many of us become timid, almost embarrassed about something that otherwise can make us really happy?

Perhaps I am in the minority – but I am proud of my Stash.  There, I said it.  Not only do I enjoy my yarns, I take comfort in them.  I like to be surrounded by them.  They are like a travelogue – roving I got at Rhinebeck in ’05, or some unique yarn that was purchased from a handspinner.  There’s the organic and low process yarn that I got when I was visiting a friend.  When I knit with these yarns they can take me back to where I was in my travels, or when we (me and the yarn, that is) first met.

Our Stashes are often measured by the amount of storage required to house them.  For some folks it is a big plastic bin, other it may be a closet.  Still others may use major kitchen appliances for Stash storage.  Mine has its own building - not bragging, just letting you know that my Stash is Serious.  As a former LYS owner, I have a few remainders.  As a designer, I have wonderful samples from manufactures.  As a Sheep and Wool Fest junkie and avid supporter of local and low-process yarns, I have full lots of hand-dyeds and one-of-kind yarns that I treasure.

We have invented “Yarniverse” shorthand for our Stashing.  The best, of course, is S.E.X. – Stash Enrichment eXpeditions.  The simple use of this term infers something intimate, something fundamental, something that holds a thrill or delight.  And don’t we love when there is S.E.X. – a trip to an LYS, or a chartered bus that takes us right to the mill.

I suppose your relationship with your Stash can be seen as a reflection of your personal style.  If you are very tidy and someone who actually finishes one project before you begin another (bless your heart) – you may be the one-plastic-bin type.  You may also be someone who keeps a tidy home and are an anti-clutterist.  If you are the type to have a closet full of Stash, you may be a little more ambitious than the one-bin yarnie, perhaps with two projects running at once.  This appeals to me – one big project that stays home and perhaps another more portable project to throw in the knitting bag.  Then we move up to those who’s Stash has its own room, well, these people are a little more serious.  They purchase yarn without knowing what they are going to make with it – they’ll figure it out later.  Lastly there are those like me – absolute fibergasmic freaks.  Every color and texture holds a secret treasure yet to be discovered.  We rarely have a project in mind when we have S.E.X., we just know we need to have it in our lives.

But somewhere along the line, our friends – the yarn – transform from a pleasure to a “guilty” pleasure. We get uptight about it.  We feel the need to play it down, we need to hide it – often from our significant others.  When I was a shop owner, I was frequently amused by things people would say when they made a purchase.  “Oh, I’ll just hide it in the trunk of my car and bring it in the house a little bit at a time.”  I would wonder – why?  Why not run into the house and declare – “look what I found today – isn’t it beautiful?”  But instead, they made reference to their mobile storage unit, and strategized how to assimilate it into the house by dark of night.

What makes us so conflicted?   Do we feel as though we are overindulging?  Do you feel this way if you buy the ingredients for a special meal or when you shop for clothes? If we held hand-painted or artisan yarn in the same esteem as a painting or other piece of art would we still feel this way?  As I surf the net and look at blogs and spend (way too much) time on ravelry – I see lots and lots of talk of “yarn diets” and of “DeStashing.”  There are internet groups and forums devoted to discussions of how to cut back, downsize or eliminate Stash– as though purchases once made were on par with a drunken Vegas wedding that needs annulment.

Thinking about this question – to Stash or DeStash  - brought me to the ideas of possessions and attachment.  In the consumeristic societies where most of us live, people have interesting notions about their “stuff.”  Generally speaking, we like stuff.  We have houses and storage units full of it.  Our kids get tons of it for birthdays and holidays.  Even if we are not very materialistic people, we still have a fondness for particular objects.  But where does the uneasiness come into play?  We seem to think people are going to judge us based on our Stash.  And the overall assumption appears to be that they will judge us negatively. 

So how do you relate with your fiber holdings?  Really think about this for a moment. Why might we feel the need to hide our fiber?   Does it make you feel happy to know you have lots of yarn at hand –remembrances of the places you’ve been and the people you’ve met?  Or do you feel embarrassed – playing down how much you have – whereever you keep it.

Suspend belief for just a moment and step outside yourself.  If you can make this objective leap, really look at your feelings about your Stash.  Do you smile when you think about it, or do you shrink or shudder? Now, how does your reaction reflect upon your thinking about belongings, your lifestyle, your environment or your current life?  Perhaps the push-pull of how you relate with what you have in your freezer or under the bed is a reflection of a current state of mind, or long held beliefs and habits. It can be a very powerful, albeit often challenging exercise to ask yourself direct questions about your habitual patterns. For me, I see a potent reflection of my basic attitudes toward abundance in my life.  It informs what I view as precious and worth keeping, and what needs to go. I will frequently invite dear friends into my studio and tell them to “go shopping” for a project.  I am intrigued as I watch my oftentimes unexpected reaction when they grab a ball of something that I once found so precious that I believed could not let it go.  Sometimes, that’s the best one to offer.

So, if you determine you are driven to embrace your Stash, interact with it – decide how to organize it, how to let it turn you on.  If your determination is to DeStash – consider working up charity projects to donate to hospitals, children’s sweater drives, or one of the many other wonderful knit drives out there.  If you choose to purge, look for a yarn swap – but don’t swap – give without expectation of receiving.  Donate extra Stash to a cause, a new knitter, or your kid’s art class.  As you sort through things, use your newly gained discernment to guide you as to what to do with the stuff you no longer desire.  It could be the greatest gift for someone else to receive.

Canadian knitting charities UK & US knitting charitiesKnitting for Orphans Knitting for Others
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Tara Jon Manning is a designer, and author of five books. With her book “Mindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the Craft” she pioneered the Mindful Knitting movement, and invites knitters and readers alike to apply the instruction of basic mindfulness meditation to the work of their hands. Among her other books are the newly released “Nature Babies” and “Men in Knits.” She lives with her family in Boulder, Colorado.

Visit to learn more about Tara’s Mindful Knitting retreats and workshops, and her blog, Earth-Sky-Knitter, for musings on life, knitting, dharma and motherhood.