food for thought, and a new project

A few weeks ago I discovered this blog, and a recent post (and subsequent comments) about the term "stashbusting" really got me thinking. If you read through the comments, there's a pretty interesting discussion going on. I'd never really thought about "stashbusting" as a negative term before (and I'm not sure that I do now, to tell the truth), but I've been pondering how Stash and Guilt and Consumerism and Creativity get all mixed together in a messy pile, and how that's not really a good thing.

Yesterday morning, I ventured to the basement with an assortment of odd skeins and leftover yarn to put away, and as I opened various tubs of yarn finding space and trying to keep organized, I caught myself thinking several times, "Good grief, there's a lot of yarn here." I felt guilty for a moment, because of course having a lot implies that I have too much, which means there is something wrong and I should take some kind of action to rectify it. Or that I should find some way to justify what I have.

I wonder if this is partly a gender thing that goes like this: because I'm a woman I enjoy shopping and accumulating stuff, but I'm supposed to feel guilty about it later. At least, that's how the stereotype goes. And specifically, as a knitter, I should feel guilty about having more yarn than I can knit up in the next week or month or year or two years (or whatever deadline you want to put on it) and therefore I should berate myself privately and on my blog, and joke about how my stash demonstrates how I have no self-control or discipline and then I should resolve to knit only for charity for a year to use up stash so I can allow myself to go buy more and then it all repeats. You see the vicious cycle here?

I'm not saying I'm immune to this narrative. Once upon a time I announced I'd go two years without buying yarn. That was more than two years ago and it was an epic FAIL. I remember telling my mom about it, and she laughed at me. Because she is wise and she herself has a substantial stash of quilt fabric and knows how these things go. I think it failed ultimately because putting limits on one's creativity is a stupid and useless thing to do. (I'm not talking about actual neuroses like hoarding or compulsive buying, by the way. Those are wholly different issues.) Knitting is a wonderful thing, and I should knit because I enjoy it and can make beautiful things that are often useful as well. I should not knit just for the purpose of using up yarn. Then it's a chore, and I have enough chores to do already.

You should know this about me: I am a very responsible, disciplined person. I'm also fairly organized (I think it would be a stretch to say "very" organized...) If I weren't extremely well-disciplined, I wouldn't have been able to finish a doctorate in music. If I weren't responsible, I'd be a lousy mother. If I weren't reasonably organized, the household would be in chaos, but it's not. I get things done, my kids are lovely (you know, except when they aren't, but that's cause they're kids), and I also happen to be a very creative person who knits all the tell me why, exactly, I'm supposed to consider it a personal shortcoming that I have a lot of yarn?

My brief moment of guilt in the basement yesterday did result in my picking out a couple skeins of sock yarn to donate to a community center for their knitting group. That was a good feeling, actually.

What do you guys think?

Oh, yeah. And here's a peek at my new project:

It's the top third or so of a Lightweight Pullover, using, oddly enough, some of the first yarn I ever stashed, or collected, or whatever you'd like to call it. I'll expound more on that later. Right now it's time to knit.


Siga said…
Your lightweight pullover is coming along very nicely.
As to all the stash issues - I think each and every knitter feels exactly the same way at one point or another.
cauchy09 said…
Yes! Thanks for joining the conversation. I think you are touching on the nuances that I hope to explore deeper this year as I reduce my rate of purchasing. If I can begin to understand why I purchase and why I have such negative feelings about it eventually, then it will be easier to change and stash smarter.

I'll never make something just for the sake of using up raw materials. However, there are those who label me a "buster" hence suggesting that that is my motivation. Those labellers seem not to understand the subtle insult therein.

Great sweater project, by the way! :)
Jessi said…
I don't have a huge "stash," but I never get rid of any piece of yarn longer than say... a foot. So, to me, it's a different perspective. I have "project yarn," that I am holding onto for a specific project or while I find the right project and I would never "bust" that yarn, but since I have all these bits and pieces left over, I do look for projects that will prettily use them up. I don't know how that relates, but to me, it's about finding a use for something that doesn't currently have one.

I feel like my definition is different, which skews the conversation. I am a naturally guilty feeling person (right now I am feeling guilty about 69 cent donuts), but I don't think I've ever felt guilty about building stash or busting it, either way.
revknits said…
I think feel guilty about stash is a lot like focusing on food and anorexia. The focus will not help.

Knowing I can buy yarn anytime often means I don't need to buy it now, and releases me. I'm not into yarn fads, so I don't worry about a yarn getting discontinued either.
Mrs. Allroro said…
Suze I'm just glad you are taking a good honest look at yourself (and your stash) and liking what you see.
FanTAStic post - so well thought out. The way you put it makes me want to print it out and hand it to all the customers who stand at the counter buying something and muttering about how "bad" they are or how "in trouble" they will be when they get home. And these are people who I know to be responsible, upstanding grown-ups and not people with psychological disorders. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Nobody says to a painter, you have too many colors in your studio. Nobody says to a Pianist, You have too many keys, you don't really need all 88 do you? I'm sure there are a few you will never play, don't you think? That's crazy talk for sure. So, as a knitter, you need a substantial stash. Logical. Quite logical. No guilt.
Julie in San Diego

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