The Yarn Diet


It frightens me when I calculate the number of years since I became a knitter. When people ask me how long I have been knitting, I shrink from responding. How in the world could someone as young as I am have been knitting for over forty years? That is a lot of stitches. You know how they always like to calculate how many times something could go around the world? Well, maybe the corollary to that is how big a garment I could have knit with all those stitches—a blanket which could cover our house? An even larger building? Perhaps the town of Rye Brook?

Of course the by product of all those years of knitting has been yarn accumulation. Knitters go to yarn stores. Knitters see yarn they can’t live without and they buy it. It accumulates at a rate that can never be matched by output. Knitters may be more or less forthcoming about how much yarn they have. Some revel in excess, some squirrel their yarn away in discreet caches. Some inventory their stockpile, others go to their maker leaving relatives to sift through bewildering scavenger hunts of half-finished projects and orphaned treasures.

 I believe I have written about this before, but at the beginning of 2009 I went on a pretty serious yarn diet. It had become clear even to me that my stash was a lot like my own private yarn store. Now, I think there are a lot of knitters with this situation. They may or may not be open about it, but I had started to feel like I had just ingested way too many desserts. There was yarn everywhere. I had yarn in plastic bins under my bed. I had a dresser full of yarn. There were three large plastic bins of yarn in the Blue Room and more yarn in plastic bins in the basement. I felt a little ill when I thought of all that yarn and it was time to go on a diet.

I stopped buying yarn. Now this is not a statement which would endear me to any yarn merchants. Yarn retailers do not want their customers to reduce their stash, but I had come to the point where I just had to do it. This wasn’t easy. The joy of walking into a familiar or a new yarn store was greatly diminished when the impulse to purchase was removed. Rather than a delicious immersion of the senses, walking into a yarn store became a test of virtue. Could I hold out or would I succumb to some brightly colored, gloriously soft skein of yarn? I have always been an all or nothing kind of person. No small bite of chocolate for me, either I eat the entire bar or I abstain. And for the past two years, with a few exceptions, abstinence has been my preferred method of stash control.

Okay, there are some exceptions. New York Sheep and Wool is an exception. The annual pilgrimage to NYSW is a social and cultural family event. That was covered in a previous blog post. However, for two years I have returned from NYSW empty handed. How is that for virtue intact? Stitches East is another exception. However, I am extremely proud to report that this past October, I returned from Stitches with only the yarn I brought. There were no surreptitious purchases made. That queasy feeling of having eaten too big a meal was still with me.

The flip side of the abstemiousness of a yarn diet is the complete and total enjoyment of stash. I have one heck of a lot of yarn. I have moved much of it down to a corner of our newly cleaned basement. It is kind of stash central. My yarn is safely stored in big plastic bins and segregated by projects and type. It is a little corner yarn store. I have plenty of works in progress (wips in yarn lover parlance) waiting to be picked up and worked further. I have accumulated yarn designated for specific projects. There is plenty of yarn which could become most anything, it just needs to tell me what that would be and there is lots of odd skeins and bits which only need to be re-purposed. That latter category is what I use for the craft projects I hope one day to sell.

This week my Morehouse Merino fuschia and green demanded attention. It has been calling softly to me for a few weeks. I could see it in the bin in the Blue Room when I watched tv. The bright colors shone through the opaque plastic. I love Morehouse Merino. It is very soft, unplied yarn. It is pretty much unprocessed and there are even bits of vegetative matter, little pieces of straw, adhering to the fiber. My mother really disliked that. I don’t. It reminds me that this yarn was once the fleece of a beautiful merino sheep. So yesterday, despite the fact that I can’t count the wips around the house, I wound a few skeins and began The Kentucky Sweater. The yarn is soft and I love the feel of it sliding through my fingers. The bright green and fuschia might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love the colors together. I picture myself in the sweater next winter with some jeans and fun socks. I will be warm and toasty.

Slowly some space will open up in that bin in the Blue Room. That is okay. I don’t need to fill that space. I am enjoying the thought of the yarn in all those spaces becoming things: hats, mittens, sweaters, afghans and baby clothes. Those spaces will slowly open up over time and I will have enjoyed finally working with all that gorgeous yarn which at one point in time called to me and demanded to be mine. I will have had the pleasure of working with it and it will have become something useful. That is a satisfying yarn diet.


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