The Pitfalls of Stashbusting

July 8, 2009

Stash – tr.v. To hide or store away in a secret place. n. 1. A secret place where something is hidden or stored away. 2. Something, such as money or an illegal drug, that has been hidden or stored.

If any of you know knitters (or are knitters), you probably know how easily one could replace “illegal drug” with “yarn” in the above definition.

Some knitters don’t have a yarn stash; they buy yarn for a project or two, knit it up, then buy yarn for the next project. If they have any stash, it’s those finicky little leftover ends of skeins they didn’t use up.

But many knitters do have a stash, a cache of yarn they keep to inspire, to pet, or just because their hands move at a slower rate that that of the projects being added to their wishlist.

Many probably come upon their current stash status through honest yarn lust, by buying yarn for the next two (or three or twenty) projects, or being unable to resist anything discounted more than 40%.

However, I have the feeling that there are at least a few knitters whose stash snuck up on them – I have a bag of acrylic yarn of unknown origin, as well as some odd skeins from my mom’s friend’s stepmother’s former stash and have pretty much no intention of using them for anything besides playing with the cats.

For almost as soon as a knitter realizes that their stash qualifies as, well, Stash, they begin to to think of “stashbusting”.

Stashbusting is a noble goal – it’s less expensive than buying new yarn for a project, frees up space…and I am very bad at it.

Case in point: At the end of this past semester, I bought a skein of yarn that I really loved and did not need. I had no purpose in mind for it, just a vague impression of “hat”. But I was determined that this skein would not vanish into the stash, that I would make use of it and soon.

So I knit a hat. The Ganomy Hat, by Elizabeth Zimmerman from her book, A Knitter’s Almanac. A good hat with neat shaping that completely covers the ears, a common hat lack.

I was left with a smallish ball of yarn and this is where my failure always begins. The amount of yarn looked much too small to make anything useful with, but I hauled out my postal scale and weighed it. A few calculations later, I made a horrifying discovery.

The hat had only used of half the yarn!

With some quick thinking, I used the scale to divide the remaining yarn into two smaller, equal balls. Surely there was not enough to make a pair of mittens, but maybe if I mixed it with something?

Alas, I had no good brown or blue yarn that matched. So (and this is the horrifying bit) I bought more yarn to match.

And I knit myself a pair of mittens.

Truly, a nice pair of mittens. Mitered Mittens, also by Elizabeth Zimmerman, from the same book. Not too fond of the thumb, though.

However, there was still some yarn left from the original skein. So, with a heavy heart, I weighed it.

A quarter of the yarn remained.

I’m looking up cowl and scarf patterns as I write this.

n.

  1. A secret place where something is hidden or stored.
  2. Something, such as money or an illegal drug, that has been hidden or stored.