On Knitting, Yarn Stashing and Consumerism

I have been thinking a lot lately about stash.  This is the term that knitters use to refer to their yarn, specifically to yarn which is not currently being used, but which is stored somewhere, presumably for future use.  Some knitters will have a skein or two lying around the house; some knitters have literally rooms full of yarn.  I try to buy yarn for specific projects when I need it, though this has not always been the case, and sometimes I succumb to the urge to buy some pretty yarn just because I like it.  This means that I have yarn stashed away, but not too much in the grand scheme of things.

I must admit, however, that lately I have been finding my stash very dissatisfying, for a number of reasons.  A number of months ago, I gave into impulse and bought some yarn because it was on sale.  It was lovely yarn; I bought five skeins of it.  This yarn was laceweight and the truth is, I don’t use laceweight yarn very much.  Plus, with my hand and wrist issues, I have to watch how many hours I knit.  It would take me a year to knit up that quantity of laceweight yarn.  After I bought it, I wasted days – yes, whole days – trying to find a project to knit with this yarn.  I used search functions on Ravelry and looked at laceweight patterns until my eyes threatened to bleed, but still haven’t found a use for it.  The fact that it is sitting there, in my stash, is not providing me with joy and comfort; in fact, it makes me uncomfortable and leads to stress.

I have also spent uncountable fruitless hours trying to find ways to utilize yarn I do have, rather than buy more.  It always turns out that the yarn I have doesn’t lend itself to the projects I want to make.  I am always happier when I see a project I want to knit, find the right yarn for it, and start knitting.  I have come to a conclusion:  I don’t really like my stash.  At least, not most of it.  Before you think I am having a severe reaction to my recent non-knitting induced stress, let me qualify.  I keep left-over yarn from projects I have knit – this is good in case I need to make repairs, or in case I want to knit a matching pair of mitts or something.  I also think it is lovely to have a few projects lined up, with pattern and yarn, so that one can have variety in one’s knitting, and be able to cast on something new on a whim.  I even think it is nice to have a few special skeins that have been bought with no purpose on hand just in case.  But more than that, I find having stash becomes stressful – I feel obligated to find projects for it, even though the projects I’m drawn to are never suitable, and I am obliged to store it, which adds to my stress.

This weekend, I was looking at a forum for people to show their storage solutions for yarn.  One of the things that became clear is that there are lots of knitters who have obscene amounts of yarn.  I know that there are knitters out there who routinely turn out a garment every two weeks.  They need to buy a lot of yarn to keep up with this output.  All power to them.  But, what appalled me on this forum was the absolute glee with which knitters crowed abut their addiction to buying yarn, while admitting most will likely never get used.   I saw the term SABLE bandied around – for the uninitiated, this means Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy.  This means that you could knit every day for the rest of your life and not finish the yarn that you currently have in your stash.  In some parts of the knitting community, SABLE is a desired state, and gives you bragging rights.

I wrote a post a few years ago (you can find it here) called WIP Crazy, in which I commented on the lunacy (in my opinion) of having masses of WIPs (works in progress – knitting projects that have been cast on but are as yet unfinished).  Many of the arguments I made there, with respect to cost specifically, but also to changing tastes and trends, hold up here too.  Having a stash of yarn which you could never finish knitting, not in three lifetimes, and then adding to it frequently, strikes me not only as lunacy, but as consumerism run rampant.

To summarize so far, I find that I personally dislike having too much stash.  I also think that having WAY too much stash is pretty crazy.  I have more serious thoughts bouncing around in my head about this, which have to do with austerity and privilege.

I am a Ravelry fan, and I spend time each day reading too many threads about knitting, yarn, patterns, etc.  I like beautiful yarn, so many of the forums which I pay attention to are focused on beautiful (read: expensive) yarn.  To me, these yarns are a luxury.  I buy them.  I knit with them.  I enjoy them immensely.  But I don’t buy 40 projects worth of them, and then stuff them under the bed and hide them from my husband.   Luxury yarn is just that – a luxury, and one I have to budget for carefully.  In this age of austerity, for most knitters, yarn is a luxury at any price point.   As I read these threads, I cannot help but feel disquiet at the sheer aquisitiveness and consumerism that have taken over parts of the knitting community.

One of Ravelry’s feaures pertains to stash.  It allows knitters to keep track of their stash, and also to search through other knitters’ stashes.  This has all sorts of useful functions.  But the fact remains that once you have the ability to photograph all of your yarn and store it in an electronic database that 5 million plus knitters can see, it is inevitable that a certain amount of competitiveness will take place.  “Ooh, my stash is bigger than her stash.”  It can lead to a certain keep-up-with-the-Joneses mentality.  (I am not knocking this feature; I don’t use it myself but mostly because I am too lazy to catalogue my yarn.  I see its appeal, but I also see the unintended consequences.)

For the past few years, while I have been working full-time and studying for an MBA, I have been knitting less, blogging less, and reading other blogs even less.  Still, even given the limited number of blogs which I follow, I can see that I am not the only knitter who is thinking along these lines.  My  discussion here has been about stash, specifically aquisitiveness above and beyond your capacity to knit, but many knitters and bloggers have been thinking about privilege.   Sarah Pope, of Whistling Girl Knits, wrote a very thought-provoking post on issues of consumption and privelege in the hand-knitting community.  Her post was triggered, in part, by comments from Bristol Ivy and Isolda Teague; all three were inspired to some degree by the Slow Fashion movement.   I found Sarah’s post particularly interesting because she points out the conundrum we knitters have:

By editing down our wardrobes; making only what’s beautiful, serviceable, and lasting; and avoiding the temptations of the new and the now, we have to rein in our purchasing from the very independent designers, farmers, and other artisans we’re so proud to support.

She is absolutely right about this point.  If we want the vibrancy to remain in the hand-knitting community, we need to support this community with our spending dollars.   In addition, if we care about how yarn is produced, about animal welfare, pesticide use, and fair wages, then we must buy from those producers who support these things (at a higher price of course).   Please go read Sarah’s post; she is more eloquent than I will ever be.  (She is one of the first knit bloggers I ever read, from back in the days of her previous blog incarnation.)

Karie Westermann, of Karie Bookish,  has recently been writing a lovely series called Building a Hand-made Wardrobe.  The last part is called Thinking Slow Fashion on a Budget.  In it, she addresses the issue of privilege head-on, and gives good advice and encouragement to knitters on very restricted budgets.  In her lovely way, she acknowledges disparity, both of budget and time:

It’s so easy to feel disheartened when you are still on the first sleeve of your wool-blend cardigan six months down the line, and you see someone looking swanky in their 134th unicorn yarn project of the year.

Karie advises knitters to avoid comparisons and be proud of their achievements.  I am fairly new to Karie’s blog but am enjoying it immensely.   I encourage you to read the entire series.  I definitely plan to follow her advice on how to critically examine your wardrobe.

Today is Thanksgiving in the US, a day that has always been my favorite holiday.   While I think about all of the things I am thankful for, I cannot help but notice the effects of austerity here in the UK.  Life is hard these days.   I find myself thinking that perhaps it would be good for us to try to buy what we need and use what we buy.   I love yarn.  I love beautiful yarn.  And I want to support the knitting community, including small producers and designers.  But I think I can do it without having enough stash to sink the Titanic.


Bazinga times two!

bazinga – 1. A catchy phrase to accompany your clever pranks. As popularized by Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory).  2. A short post highlighting something that Emma and Kelly think is freaking fabulous.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a Bazinga post.  Today, I saw this absolutely gorgeous cardigan design and knew it was time to resurrect the bazinga!  I sent a link to Emma, who was in agreement, so here you are:

Processed with VSCOcam with 6 preset

© Alexis Winslow

This is the Tiber cardigan, created by designer Alexis Winslow.  I swear its as if Alexis can read my mind.  I have already knit her beautiful Escher, blogged here, and her very chic Zelda cloche, which I blogged about here.  But with this cardigan it’s like she used a mind sweep on me to find exactly what kind of cardigan I would like.  And then she made it even better:


© Alexis Winslow

Just as I was about to hit the “publish” button on this post, Brooklyn Tweed released its first Capsule Collection, featuring eight new designs in Brooklyn Tweed yarns by the amazingly talented Olga Buraya-Kefelian.  I adore each and every one of them, but this one took my breath away:


© Brooklyn Tweed

This is Cusp, a spectacular piece, which is enough to make me change my mind about ponchos.  Like the Tiber cardigan, it should be viewed from all angles:


So, there you have it folks: a double Bazinga!



Knit Kurt Cobain’s sweater and save big bucks!

Yesterday’s Guardian had a lovely little piece called Smells like Kurt Cobain: his $137,500 cardigan deconstructed.  This was, of course, a report of how a cardigan worn by Cobain for a 1993 MTV Unplugged performance sold at auction for the grand and unexpected price of $137,500.  The cardigan is described as “a moth-eaten, oversized acrylic, mohair and Lycra mix”.  What I liked best is the delightful infografic that accompanied the piece, which I have reproduced for you here.

Cobain’s cardigan in detail. Photograph: PR handout

Cobain’s cardigan in detail. Photograph: PR handout

Knitters!  Here is your chance!  Finally, you can knit some something for less than it would cost to buy it!  How many times have you patiently explained to muggles (oops! to non-knitters) that, yes you do know you can buy four pairs of socks for $10 at Walmart but you actually prefer to buy a skein of sock yarn for $25 and then labour for a month to turn out a pair?  Or that, yes you could knit a sweater just like (actually probably better) than that cute one in Anthropologie, but the yarn will cost $175 and then you must tack on 60 hours worth of labour costs.  But now, your time has come!  Yes, knitters, you can KNIT KURT COBAIN’S SWEATER AND SAVE BIG BUCKS!

If you look at a photo of Kurt wearing the sweater, you will immediately ascertain that it is knit in very affordable, fuzzy, acrilyc novelty yarn.  You can likely find some in Walmart next to the socks.  For a more authentic choice, however, you can raid a yard sale and buy an old moth eaten sweater and re-claim the yarn.  Let’s say that you can find one for $10.  That would save you a grand total of $137,490.  Even after calculating in a hefty hourly wage for knitting – it still comes in under the price tag.  But, knitters – I have saved the best news for last!

This sweater has only 4 buttons instead of five!  To knit the authentic Kurt Cobain sweater, you will only have to buy four buttons instead of five, thus saving you an additional 70 cents!  As far as the smell (see the Guardian headline) well, that I leave up to you; I’m sure that we knitters are clever enough to sort something out.


Shortly before Christmas last year, I published a post with great mitten patterns (you can find it here).  Last week, I received a lovely mitten pattern in the mail.  As part of her Seven Skeins Club, Kate Davies recently released this pattern, called Kokkeluri:

© Kate Davies Designs

© Kate Davies Designs

I think these are beautiful, and if I ever get my hands back to knttting shape, I plan to make a pair.  (I already have the yarn!)  This pattern is only available to subscribers of the Seven Skeins Club until its general release in 2016.  If you are not part of the Club, never fear!  I have another seasonal round-up of great mitten patterns for you here.

I just love these Medusa Mittens by Annie Watts.  It is one pair in a trio, which includes the Mitts of Sysiphus and the Pandora Mitts.  They are all good, but these are my favorites.

© Annie Watts

© Annie Watts

They can’t be properly appreciated without seeing the back (or the front as the case may be).  What would Medusa be without snakes?

© Annie Watts

© Annie Watts

While I love fun mittens, and I love colourful mittens, I also have a fondness for geometrical patterns, and love the spare lines and muted colours of these, Midtown by Spilly Jane.  She was inspired by the subway ventilation gratings in New York City.

© David Trudell

© David Trudell

My mitten post last year had a couple of red and white themed mittens.  This seems to be a favorite of mine, as witnessed by this pair, the Celtic Inspired Mittens, by Janet Welsh Knits.

© Janet Welsh Knits

© Janet Welsh Knits

The Melancholy Thistle pattern by Pinneguri is pretty in this green and white colourway, but make sure you check out the projects on Ravelry.  There aren’t too many yet, but the variations in the colourways are really striking.  Check them out.  Aren’t the thumbs fabulous?

© Jessica Silversaga

© Jessica Silversaga

Weeds by Lynn Manderville is a lovely pattern.  I find these really appealing; the colourwork is great but I especially love the cuffs.  I am a sucker for seed stitch, and this green is gorgeous.

© Lynn Manderville

© Lynn Manderville

I love these Telšiai Mittens by Donna Druchunas.  These are based on a pair of Lithuanian mittens knitted in the town of Telšiai, and photographed in a Lithuanian knitting pattern book from 1933 (details at Ravelry link above).  The original photo is in black and white, but I think this blue and yellow combination is fabulous.

© Donna Druchunas

© Donna Druchunas

I really love Metasequoia, by Kristen Kapur (what a great name, too!).  I’m not even sure why I find them so appealing but their simple folksiness with a touch of whimsy, is really great.

© Kirsten Kapur

© Kirsten Kapur

Last but not least, I ‘m crazy about the Calaveras Mittens by JennyPenny:

© JennyPenny

© JennyPenny

In case you’re not convinced, just tlook at the reverse side.

© JennyPenny

© JennyPenny

The weather is going to get cold and frosty any day (at least for us in the Northern Hemisphere).  It’s the perfect time to cast on a pair of mittens.  Enjoy!

Still not knitting – Halloween edition

It’s been a month since I’ve been able to knit becaue of pain in the wrist and thumb.  I finally went to the physiotherapist who confirmed the sad truth – it is a flare-up of DeQuervaine’s tenosynovitis.  I have posted before about my previous problems with DeQuervaine’s, my (unsuccessful) surgery and prolonged recovery (you can read about it here, for example).   With admonitions to continue to rest my hands, along with ice and ibuprofen, the physio taped up my wrist and arm:


Doesn’t this look particularly goulish?  But wait!  Today is Halloween!  I don’t have a costume!  But who needs a costume when you look like this?  Never let it be said that there is not a silver lining to every cloud.


That’s all the news chez knitigating circumstances.  I’m still not knitting.  But I’ve got Halloween all taped up!


I finished my Laelia cardigan almost a month ago but haven’t been able to get photos taken until today.


When I first bought this yarn, I pictured it as a zesty, spring-y splash of citrus orange to liven up a summer sweater; something silky and lacey to slip over a sundress and wear with orange heels.   And even though it is most definitely a summer sweater, and will look great next summer over a cute dress, I can’t help but think it looks pretty nice against the brilliant fall foliage here at the back of my house.


The pattern is by Hanna Maciejewska and the yarn is the luscious Merino Silk Fingering by The Uncommon Thread.  I can highly recommend both pattern and yarn.  The two together make for a very serendipitous pairing.


(I have a terrible cold; thus the somewhat pained expression on my face.  Or it could be that I am all smiled out after jumping and whooping for joy today – Go, Trudeau!)  You can see how beautifully this yarn showcases the lace pattern.  I made two changes to the pattern.  First, as I’ve adopted from many other Ravellers, I’ve had the two cascading lace patterns “meet” at the back of the sweater.  In the pattern, they are separated by a laddered lace detail; this is done to accomodate the many sizes.  You need to do some fiddling with the numbers to make this work, and it won’t be appropriate with every size.  Second, I’ve knit the sleeves without any lace.

I had both bad and good timing with this one.  Bad timing because I finished it just as the cold weather is settling in, and it will have to sit in a drawer until the spring comes.  Good timing because no sooner had I finished it, then I developed hand and wrist problems which have prevented me from knitting.


Warning! This post is not about Rhinebeck!

It’s the third weekend of October, and as most every knitter knows, this is the weekend of the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY.   If you didn’t know this, the chances are good that you don’t read too many knitting blogs, because Rhinebeck is the pinnacle of the knit bloggers calendar.

Warning!  This knit blogger has not spent the last month frantically knitting away on her “Rhinebeck Sweater”, the sweater which she can wear to the one forum in which thousands of other knitters will admire and appreciate it.  A forum which is also (mainly) outdoors in (hopefully) lovely fall weather; in other words, prime sweater weather. (Alas, dear reader, this knitting blogger has spent the last month suffering from wrist problems and has not knit at all.) The Rhinebeck Sweater must meet certain criteria: it must show off your skill level, and/or show your love of a particular designer, and/or show your love of a particular wool/yarn producer who will be there exhibiting.  Most importantly, it must be finished in the car on the way to Rhinebeck and blocked overnight on the floor of your hotel room.

Warning! This post has no Rhinebeck Sweater photos, taken in bad light at midnight on hotel room floors or otherwise; please proceed reading with extreme caution!  For as we all know, the Rhinebeck Sweater must be photographed, hopefully as you stand next to the designer.  If you are a knit blogger, chances are good that your sweater can star in that most trendy kind of Rhinebeck photo, in which a group of knitters, each wearing the same fabulous new sweater design, magically find each other in the crowd and pose together in their matching sweaters.  (Note, as well, that many knitters spend both days at Rhinebeck, thus necessitating two “Rhinebeck Sweaters” and a fair degree of advance coordination to maximize photo opportunities.)

Warning!  This knit blogger is not in Rhinebeck at all. In fact, this knit blogger is sadly spending the weekend teaching Personal Development to MBA students on the other side of the Atlantic.  Note, crucially, that knitting is NOT part of the MBA Personal Development Curriculum, so this knit blogger cannot even pretend to be in Rhinebeck today.  Since I am not in Rhinebeck today, there will also be no photos of me eating fried artichokes (or at the very least, standing in a long line with the purpose of obtaining fried artichokes which I can then be photographed eating in my lovely Rhinebeck Sweater).   In fact, I have never tasted a fried artichoke in my life.  “What’s that?” I can hear you say.  “She’s never had fried artichokes?  Clearly, she’s never been to Rhinebeck.”   The fact that I know about fried artichokes is, however, clear indication that I read knitting blogs.

Warning!  This knit blogger is not currently spending all of her disposal income for 2016, in advance, by purchasing as much yarn as a human being can carry at one time, plus one set of interchangeable circular knitting needles, two cute knitting bags, a collection of handmade shawl pins, a spinning wheel, and some sheep.  This means as well that my next three blog posts will not be documenting my exponentially increasing stash.

To conclude, dear reader, this post is not about Rhinebeck!  You have been warned!  Does this post gently poke fun at all of you knitters enjoying Rhinebeck this weekend?  Yes, it does!  Am I spending less money this weekend than all of you lovely knitters in Rhinebeck?  Yes, I am!  Would I change places with any of you knitters at Rhinebeck this weekend?  Yes, absolutely!