Over on Ravelry, I spend a good chunk of my time reading and posting on the Stash Knit Down group. What I love about it is that there is no initiation ritual, no solemn oath not to buy yarn for a month, a year, forever, no hard and fast rules. Instead, the moderators have come up with several clever challenges that are easy to follow or adapt. I can't claim that I have made a huge dent in my stash during the past two years as an active member of the group, but some space has been cleared. While I used to solve stash overflow issues by dropping by the Container Store every year or so, now I celebrate downsizing in whatever form I see it. Blue yarns have recently been consolidated in one drawer instead of two; same for purple yarns. Slowly but surely, knitting progress is being made and see-through plastic drawers can be reclaimed for other uses.
For 2009, one challenge offered by our brilliant moderator was to knit or crochet 100 skeins of stash yarn. For a brief moment of delusion, I wondered if I actually owned 100 skeins; it only took counting the brown, purple and red yarns to come to my senses. Forget the greys and pinks and greens. Forget the separate container of Kidsilk Haze and Manos collected through many years. I could face a "100 skeins challenge" for another year or two.
(This may be a good time to point out that I have been knitting, on and off but mostly on, since the age of 14. Some skeins in my stash are close to 25 years old. I love them that much.)
This reality check propelled me to sign up. The simplicity of the goal appealed to me. I became like a kindergartner obsessed with stickers for good behavior. Blankets, especially the ones involving multiple strands knitted together, gave me a good start back in January, allowing me to slow down and knit a little bit of lace later on. I noticed my scarves would go on past a reasonable length just so I could check another skein off and get closer to my goal.
Obsessive knitting behavior has paid off; I kept a tally on my Ravelry profile page and reached my goal on Halloween. One hundred skeins all knitted up; this has made me ridiculously satisfied, just the way one feels after dropping off huge bags of discarded clothing or toys at Goodwill after a good Spring cleaning. Aaaah. Deep cleansing breath.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn't stop buying yarn this year, so my net result isn't really one hundred skeins gone from the stash. Still I bought way less than in the past. I also buy yarn differently now -- almost always with a precise and immediate purpose, and with the aim of rounding up stash, and improving it too. It is a very nice feeling to look around and love the yarn I do own.
I am going to keep going, counting skeins all used up until the New Year, and start anew in January. The Rav group also gives us the chance to formulate monthly goals; since I recently registered for Stitches West, which comes to the Bay Area at the end of next February, I decided that my priority is going to be using up yarns accumulated during past Stitches conventions.
You see (I know many knitters do see this), there is stash yarn, and then there is Stash Yarn, the kind brought back from a one-of-a-kind source, a fiber festival, a scene of utter debauchery like the Stitches Market, or a unique pilgrimage to a local yarn shop during a visit to a foreign country. Rare and precious stash, the kind that might wait around for years for the Right Project.
Focusing on using my stash yarns first helps me to learn that there isn't really One Right Project looming up there, waiting for me to discover it. Instead, I might comb the yarn database on Ravelry, to see what others have made with my precious stuff. Or I may just figure it out myself. If it doesn't work out, one could always (gasp) frog it and try it again later. But for all of this to take place, one does have to visit the stash often enough to be reminded of all its potential.
Yesterday, I did just that. Then I acted like a grown-up and used the Stash feature on Ravelry for the first time; I skipped the photograph stage because I just don't want to give up more knitting time to Ravelry as it is, but at least I listed most of the yarns I have brought back from previous Stitches conventions. This should help me as I challenge myself to knit at least some of them up between now and February, 2010.
Exhibit A: these four skeins of hand-dyed silk-wool blend followed me home from La Lana's booth several Stitches West ago. I bought them impulsively, imagined I had enough for a shawl, swatched once or twice, but never decided what to use them for. Last week, inspired by Norma's blog, I remembered the Palindrome scarf, a reversible cable number that I had bookmarked ages ago. The clever, easy-to-memorize pattern is here.
I didn't expect the thick and thin yarn, Phat Silk Fine, to work out this perfectly with a classic cable texture, but I was wrong. The only issue was a pronounced difference in color saturation among the four skeins. I ended up alternating two rows from a dark skein with two rows of a lighter one. The general effect is one of subtle striping. It adds an interesting depth to the overall color, in addition to the slight shine of the yarn.
This is a pre-blocked close-up (there is a slight traffic jam on the blocking board right now and simple scarves need to wait their turn), but I am already very pleased with the result and determined to cast on for another Palindrome later this week. With stash yarn, naturellement.