The Yarn Diet


Wham Bam Thank You Lamb! Cowl. Free pattern on Ravelry. Super Bulky yarn.

Yes, I’m a fiberholic. I love yarn. I love knitting. (I used to crochet and now not so much as I prefer knitting.) And yes, like so many knitters, I have a stash. A large one. Large enough that it could definitely be classified as SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy). I take some comfort in the knowledge that I’m not alone in this; it means I’m not as weird or crazy as some of my family members might think. There are multiple groups on Ravelry and Facebook that support this. I belong to a Facebook group dedicated to supporting those on a yarn diet. (They’ve had to stipulate that there are to be no posts about yarn cravings and yarn temptations resisted – it’s kind of like waving hot baked goods in front of a dieter.)

But… I started a yarn diet last year and discovered the downside to stashing: it’s difficult to select a project to match the available yarn. Or maybe I’m pickier about it than others who are attempting stash reduction, I can’t decide.

There’s a reason for myriad knitting patterns touting “one-skein somethings.” In my stash, I have many single skeins. Some are loners – I have no other yarn of that type or similar type. Some are fraternal twins – I have more than one single skein, all in different colors, sometimes compatible colors, frequently not. When selecting what to make, I have to consider the weight, fiber composition, texture, and color.

And really, while I could make hats and cowls and scarves until I die, what the hell do I do with them?? I live in Southern California and except for this winter, the weather is pretty accommodating and doesn’t particularly require heavy knits. Thus, I somewhat regret my early love affair with bulky yarn. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it, but I have to be practical. I have found some use for these items since starting work in an office that is cooled to arctic-like temperatures and my desk is directly underneath a vent. Before I started this job, I gave about a dozen scarves and cowls to my sister and was happy to do so.

The advice I get most often is “donate them to the homeless.” Yes, I can just see a homeless person following the instructions to hand wash and dry flat that 100% merino wool. I can’t even get my children to accept knits that require that. I love natural fibers probably more than I love bulky yarn. We could debate the value of giving someone a warm hat or scarf, even if it won’t last long because the care instructions won’t be followed, but the bottom line is I’m not going to waste my time, knitting or debating. (I also believe that knitted pet beds should be made from inexpensive, washable yarn and not $20/skein 100% wool.)

Speaking of my children, my family isn’t terribly cooperative, either. Both my boys now live where it gets cold enough to snow. I should be cheerfully knocking out hats and scarves for them. But again, I’m running into that wash/wear issue. Even if they’re receptive to the item, the reception becomes static when I tell them they can’t just throw it in the washer and dryer. In addition, the prospect for grandchildren is looking pretty grim. As for the rest of the family, my nieces and nephews tend to give birth to male children, and I have few colors in my stash that are either neutral or not frankly feminine. There’s also that wash-and-wear issue again. I don’t feel a new mother really wants to hand wash/dry flat anything, regardless of how adorable and hand made it is. And a note to any nieces and nephews reading this: if you have heard I’ve given baby knits to friends of my children or even total strangers, while you have received nothing, now you know why. Feel free to let me know when you have a female child in the making and whether or not you’d be willing to hand wash and dry flat.

I know it seems counter intuitive to the whole “reduce the stash” ideal, but when I started to realize these onesie-twosie balls of yarn were going to be an issue in terms of actual use, I started buying in quantity. I may now have more yarn, but I also have more options in terms of what I can do with it.

As much as I love Ravelry, and as helpful as I find it in reducing stash, it also highlights the dangers of the one- and two-skein stash. There just isn’t a lot you can do with it. Your choices are pretty much hats, scarves and cowls, perhaps newborn or preemie cardigans or vests.

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