Last year I read A Stash of One's Own: Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting Go of Yarn, a book of 21 essays from knitters collected by Clara Parkes. As I was reading, I couldn't help thinking about what I would write if I'd been part of the collection. And then I decided to just go ahead and write something.
A few years after I started knitting, I started really building a yarn stash. Ravelry made it super easy for me to sort and organize my collection, and I spent hours and hours imagining all the different things I could make with the yarn in my stash. Ravelry also introduced me to something else: destashing.
Sometime around late 2008 or early 2009, I became part of a Ravelry group devoted to people who were in search of specific yarn and who were getting rid of some of their yarn. Daily, I looked through every post in this group and looked through the destashes of a number of knitters, searching for treasures. And there were so many. This is how I discovered a number of indie dyers and how my stash grew rapidly. I had no worries about my stash getting "too big" because I knew I could always destash. (I also felt that the stash was an investment that could be used in the future for needed funds: and others must have felt the same way because destash threads often mentioned unexpected car repairs or vet bills or the like.)
And I did destash, quite a bit. My stash didn't really get smaller because I was bringing in just as much (if not more) than I sent out. But during this time, although I kept dreaming about the things the yarn could become -- and I did quite a bit of knitting -- my focus really was on acquiring more yarn (or not necessarily more yarn, but specific, desired yarns).
I had become a yarn collector. The thrill was in the chase for that elusive indie dyed yarn where the updates sold out within 5 minutes. For that perfect trade of one great yarn for an even better one. And it was indeed a thrilling couple of years. Each time I checked that Ravelry forum, my heart would race at the possibilities of what I might be able to get.
I remember sitting in front of my computer at 6:59 pm hitting refresh as fast as I could so that I could be sure I would see that 7:00 update as soon as it went live. It meant seeing a color that I liked and throwing it into my cart before I thought too much about it and racing through the steps of the checkout process. I had to finish the process as fast as possible or I risked getting "cart jacked" (Etsy -- and pretty much everything was on Etsy at this point -- didn't reserve an item in your cart; if someone else also has it in their cart and checks out faster than you, that person gets it.)
It was an incredible high to get to the end of the shopping process and have "won" some of the sought-after yarn. Then it would be off to Ravelry to go post in that specific indie dyer forum about what you had managed to score. It was both a way for us to share in the excitement as well as to brag just a little about the awesome yarn we'd been able to get. And trades sometimes started happening right then and there as people who had just grabbed any yarn that they could tried to get yarn they actually wanted.
Once, when Wollmeise was nearly impossible to get (and I actually didn't do the 2 am updates -- the hour was because Wollmeise was in Germany), I remember finally getting my hands on this yellowish green color. I didn't like the color and didn't plan to use it at all. But I did have a plan -- I would trade the unwanted color for something else that I really did want. And my plan worked. My yellowish green was traded for the most gorgeous blue. I couldn't believe someone else would trade that beautiful blue for a rather bleh yellow-green. And I did use the blue to make a shawl.
But there were other yarns that passed through my hands as parts of trades or as a destash so I could put some money in my PayPal account to have funds for other yarn. For your stash section on Ravelry, one of the tabs is Traded/Sold/Gifted. And I built up a really large traded/sold/gifted "stash." Sadly, a few years ago, I deleted all of those stash entries to "clean up" my Ravelry account. I wish I hadn't done that. I would love to see the history of those skeins that passed through my hands on their way to someone else.
I still have some of the yarn I got during that frenzied time. Some "old school" Plucky Knitter from back before bases had names. There's a gorgeous green that I can't believe I still haven't used. But I'll find the perfect project for it someday. Until then, it remains as one of the oldest skeins in my stash. I have some JulieSpins, lots of JulieSpins. She was one of my weaknesses, and I've used a lot of her yarn over the years. I'm thrilled that she's still dyeing gorgeous colors. But there are other dyers whose yarns were "hot" that are no longer dyeing. The one I remember most fondly is Mama Blue. I still have some Mama Blue in my stash and it's one of those things that I doubt I'll ever destash. Those skeins were a result of "wins" in update frenzies. And since she stopped dyeing years ago, I'd never be able to replace them. But I really should use them instead of keeping them enshrined in my yarn closet. And there are skeins that "got away," that I do actually regret getting rid of (oh, numma numma, I'm looking at you).
But I did actually use some of that yarn. I still wear the socks I made out of that skein of Sundara that a friend managed to snag for me. I made some socks out of some Yarn Pirate yarn and gave them to another friend. More socks I still wear from some Lotus Yarns and some numma numma that I didn't destash (Blackberry Jam colorway -- yummy!). A cardigan, a sweater, some shawls, even more socks.
I don't really want to go back to that time. It was sometimes stressful and sometimes upsetting (I can't tell you how many times I was "cart jacked" and ended up with nothing after an update). Yes, I got some truly gorgeous yarn, and I did ultimately have a lot of fun. But now I view my stash a little differently. Instead of being an "investment" or fodder for a future trade, my stash is full of yarn that I love for itself and yarn that I've picked up while I'm traveling (which could be the topic for an essay all by itself). Yarn that I truly do intend to use someday. Sure, some of it might be destashed at some point, but I'm a lot more selective about what I put in my stash these days. I do still go through a little update frenzy (Must Stash, anyone?), but nowhere near how it used to be.
I loved my ever-changing stash then, though I love my now more stable stash even more. But I also love the remnants of those days and the ability to reach into the stash and dig up those long-held treasures when the perfect pattern comes along. Hmm...maybe it's time to find that perfect pattern for the Mama Blue BFL sock yarn or the Plucky Knitter in Eyes Like the Sea (yes, a Princess Bride reference). Those are the two still unused skeins that have been in my stash the longest (since January 2009). It's time they became something besides just a good memory.
Just the sock yarn -- most often involved in the stash/destash cycle. June 2009.
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