Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Issues with Stash

I'd like to see more insightful critiques, backed up by reasoned thinking and delivered in polite manner in the knitting blogosphere. The going philosophy seems to be "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." I believe this short changes us all in the long run. To this end, I offer up my review of the podcast, Stash and Burn.

On the recommendations of a few good reviews, I added the Stash and Burn podcast to my iPod repertoire. I gave it a good try, listening to several episodes but the more I listened, the more it got on my nerves.

In an amongst some great interviews, helpful reviews, and interesting conversation, Nicole and Jenny complain about how much yarn they have and sigh over the difficulties of knitting it all up. They giggle and sigh a lot, but then they seem to have a lot of yarn. The sad thing is that I think they could do much better. They really are very smart women and have a lot to offer in their podcast.

The last episode I listened to, "Knitting the Natural Way", was the final straw for me. First, they started with a confessional of their knitting and stashing sins. Then they moved on to review two books. Finally, they finished with some stash busting tips. It was this last segment that bothered me the most.

The Knit-From-Your-Stash-a-Thon has turned into a destashing effort that has taken over knitters this year. The reasoning seems to be:
  • I bought too much yarn
  • I must knit up all the yarn I bought before I can buy new yarn
  • I like new yarn better than the yarn I have now
  • Therefore, I must knit up the yarn I have as fast as possible so that I can buy more yarn.
Stash and Burn offers listeners tips on how to "burn through the stash" faster. The tips include learning to knit faster, finding ways to knit longer, and adding embellishments such as bobbles, tassels and pompoms. No consideration is given to the quality of the knitting, the enjoyment of the process, or the beauty of the end product.

It seems to me to be pure consumerism, and a misplaced sense of frugality, to try and knit through a stash as fast as possible in order to free one self to buy more yarn. It detracts from the enjoyment of knitting as a hobby, turning it into a chore instead of a pleasure. Focusing on using up yarn when knitting, instead of the aesthetics of the end product, could result in more ghastliness for the pages of You Knit What? And how is it frugal to quickly knit something that uses up a lot of yarn, but that nobody will wear or want?

Instead, I would like to offer these tips for dealing with a large stash.
  • Purge yarns you don't like by selling, donating, or giving them away. Keep only the yarns you love and really want to knit. Keep knitting as a pleasure.
  • Get yourself a budget. Know how much you can afford to spend and then buy within your means. There is no need to feel guilty about buying expensive yarn, or a lot of yarn, if you can afford it.
  • Learn to think in the long term. There is no self life for yarn. Store it well and it will last you for ages. One day, parts of your stash may appreciate.
I think I will keep listening to Stash and Burn, if only to see if Jenny and Nicole can keep their momentum through the Knit-From-Your-Stash-a-Thon and to find out what they do with their podcast when it is over.


  1. Thanks for the link to You Knit What Two. I really missed the Original when they packed up and left the internet.

    I never thought Knit from you Stash was a great idea for myself. Yarn shopping, that I can afford, is part of the joy of Knitting for me. I'm with you all the way on this topic.

  2. I don't listen to the podcast you mention, or any other ones, for that matter, but to your ideas about using, or not, your stash, I say: "Hear, hear!"

  3. I have listened to Stash and Burn. There are some great podcasts out there. I like the one from knitpicks.com - go to the knitting room and then click on podcasts. There is a terrific essay on wool (how superwash wool is made) in Episode 4. I like www.sticksandstring.wordpress.com and www.caston.com. Unfortunately Brenda on Cast On has not been well lately, so she is not posting as often, but I enjoy podcasts and thought you might try these, if you have not already. Giggling continually I get most mornings that the young swim team is changing in the change room - I don't need it when I knit!

  4. I said I would knit from my stash this year, and it certainly doesn't make me knit any faster! I will use up a few balls of sock yarn and hopefully finish a sweater, but the dent in my stash will not be huge. I don't like having things I don't use elsewhere in the house, no fancy "company" dishes or things like that, and my stash and UFOs make me a tad nervous. That said, I like to buy the odd bit of yarn now and then, but the thrill often wears off and I wonder if I really need another hat... At least I don't giggle about it...

  5. Another tip - don't buy yarn if you don't need it! Good review, I'd heard some similar complaints about the stash-along thing a while ago, but hadn't heard of the podcast.

  6. I agree completely about the process things you wrote, of course. [I do enjoy how you write!]

    There is an art to building a stash. Well, an art and a science. The analogy I use most often, probably because my dad paints, is that my stash is my paint box. I try to have my primaries, things like charcoal, white, and navy wool sock yarn, a couple of sweater lots of Cascade 220 in neutral colors like a light royal blue or forest green, some white, ecru, and navy laceweight, a bag of oatmeal Wool-Ease for troop knitting, and a few balls of multicolor bulky (for when a kid stops by to learn how to knit).

    On top of that foundation I add colourways that appeal to the people for whom I knit, turquoise for my grandmother or burgundy for my best friend. If I see a skein on sale for a very good price *and* I have a specific project for it like a layette for so-and-so, I'll buy it.

    It's buying with intention. And yes, I do enjoy sorting through the appealing skeins and buying what I can squeeze into my budget, but I rarely have buyer's remorse -- because I think while choosing?

    What I actually have trouble with is gift yarn -- people give me yarn and it is rarely something I would buy. I think my outer personna doesn't match my inner knitter?

  7. You're not the only one with those feelings about the podcasts. I gave up after the third podcast.

    I decided that I was going to hold off on any new yarns and use the yarns in my stash this year for knitting donations for afghans for Afghans and Native American Support. Since they ask for natural fibers and blends in the donated items knitted/crocheted, I can pony that up with no problem from my stash!

    Thanks for the link to YKW Two! I so missed the first version =)

  8. I never joined the movement either. I love my stash & will knit from it in my own time. I also donated all that I "didn't" like to a group of Seniors who knit for charities. So I'm just letting someone else do the knitting for me for donations. ;-) I'm also all for the "process" and not the speed. It means more when I'm done, I think.

  9. I have only listened to one knitting podcast (to be un-named) and frankly, I was appalled. Just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD.
    Thank you!

  10. I agree! It is ridiculous logic to do anything faster so you can buy more things and think that it is somehow saving you money! People think they are being less driven by consumerism, I think, when the reality is so the opposite! I find the same thing with scrapbooking. I do think that if you have loads of things you haven't used yet, use them up, if you feel you have to earn a trip to the yarn store, but don't slap something together just to say you're done. What is the point of that?

  11. I love your point of view in knitting. After all, it's not a contest. Knit to relax, to enjoy the process of making something you can wear and show off out of a string and needles. Something that will other people go "Aahw" and that you can't buy in any store. It's not about getting rid of yarn any which way you can. Some of my items I make to gain experience, some I make as gifts. After all, I invest time and talent in it to make the best of it and not to slap something together just because I want to say I have another FO and used up some yarn I didn't like in the first place.

  12. I totally agree with you about the stash and quality of yarn. I never feel guilty about spending good amounts of money on good yarn, and I have cheaper yarn in my stash when I don't have disposable income. It's okay, I like to knit! And I agree that you shouldn't knit big stuff just to free up your conscience. Rock on, Laurie!

  13. when I have a lot of old scrapbook paper I no longer like... I make cards to give people... others seem to like the paper... which is always good for a Hello or Thanks you card....

    And I agree... sometimes you just have to get rid of all that stuff you bought but don't like... it always feels like a waste of money.. but taking up rom in the house is a big waste, too..

  14. You are such a great voice in blogville. As you know, I appreciate your interest in being positive. I also like the idea of honest criticism. Maybe you need to do a podcast.

    One more tip from me: resist the urge to buy yarn on spec (without a pattern in mind). There is a lot of beautiful yarn in this world. If you go home and can't forget it, find a pattern (or at least figure out reasonable yardage) and go back for it. Oh, and sock yarn doesn't count. :-P