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  • stash less & thoughtful crafting

    A month or two ago I discovered The Craft Sessions via the Woolful podcast, and it didn't take long once I'd wandered over to the website for me to add the blog to my blog reader. Felicia lives in Melbourne, Australia, and founded The Craft Sessions as a way to provide opportunities for craft and fiber retreats in the Australian craft community. I found myself reading backwards through the archives, and I definitely found myself drawn to a concept Felicia started writing about a few months ago: Stash Less. She also talked about Stash Less in the podcast, so here's a link to that episode if you haven't heard it.

    The Stash Less concept comes from a desire to be more thoughtful about what we make and why we craft. It's about intentional making. This quote from the post that introduced Stash Less really struck a chord with me:

    "'In the presence of good materials, hopes grow and possibilities multiply.' And I truly believe that is so so true. But I also think that there can be too much of a good thing. And that maybe that is where I am."

    I tend not to voice my own concerns with the materialism and consumption involved in the craft community too loudly - after all, I sell patterns, which also help to sell yarn, which helps local yarn stores and indie dyers and needle makers and all other sorts of folk in this beautiful web in a mutually beneficial way, and above all it helps encourage others to take up the needles and share this craft with more of the world. But it has not escaped my attention that the encouragement can go a little too far - we can become obsessed with this or that yarn, or dyer, or notions maker, and we can develop a fear of missing out that drives us to purchase things we don't need because we want them and we can probably find a way to use them later. 

    This isn't to say that I think having a stash of yarn or fabric is a bad idea. It's a totally good idea. Not only can it bring inspiration to be surrounded by beautiful materials, but you always have tools on hand when you want to try out something new. But I also believe that life is about balance, and after a period of acquiring a lot more yarn than I actually need, I'm starting to feel the other side of the stash more and more. It's making me want to slow down, pull back, and start to balance the scales. I know I'm not alone in this, but despite having a sizeable stash, I still tend to buy new yarn when I have a very specific project I want to make. This means that some of the stash yarn just sits there for years and years. Once yarn's been in your stash for nearly a decade, it's not likely to be super inspiring anymore, you know? 

    So Felicia's Stash Less concept really spoke to me. I don't feel the need to make it an actual challenge, like she has - or perhaps I'm just setting different parameters for myself - but I have noticed a change in the way I'm thinking about my projects, particularly after I wrote about wanting to take it easier this year. I'm definitely still thinking about the perfect slouchy cardigan I'd like to knit, among several other things I'd love to cast on for, but some time in the last few weeks I decided to make a real effort to finish all my current WIPs before beginning any new purely personal projects. Having 12 WIPs going at once stresses me out, so what's fun about that? I've managed to work my way down to five active personal WIPs since the new year (excluding my Beekeeper's Quilt, which is a leftovers-eater and will likely be going on for quite awhile), and you know what? That feels really amazing. Really amazing.

    I don't know that I'll ever be a totally monogamous knitter again. I'm not sure I can do just one project at a time; I've written before about the balance between having a complex project and a simple project going at the same time, and how it's nice to be able to pick up whichever I'm feeling up for that day. But it does feel extremely good to be working through half-finished projects that have been on the needles for ages, neglected as I distractedly run from one thing to the other, starting new projects with reckless abandon. I thought I'd share one of those projects here on the blog today since it's been a little quiet lately!

    This is the Splitta Genser, or Slitted Sweater, a pattern from the Pickles team (Pickles is a yarn brand/store in Oslo). I fell in love with the pattern right away when I first saw it on the Pickles blog, even though the sample is a vivid Pepto-Bismol-pink (I don't tend to go for pink). I saw potential, and I saw how the silhouette would fill a hole in my handknit wardrobe - namely that I don't have a lot of knits to wear with high-waisted skirts or dresses. I'm thrilled that the final result is exactly the sweater I had in mind when I cast on. Here's a peek at the back:

    The overlapping panels is the detail that really sold me on such a simple knit. I think it's a lovely feature and a little unexpected if you've only seen the sweater from the front. You can read my project notes and details over on Ravelry, and the pattern is available in both Norwegian and English.

    I started this sweater in April of last year, so it's a relief and a joy to finally have it finished, and I'm so happy it fits into my wardrobe in a way that nothing else I've made really does. It's quite in line with the Stash Less philosophy I've been swept up in, so I feel like it's helping me get off to a good start. I've been reorganizing the Paper Tiger studio again, trying to optimize the space to improve my focus and workflow, and I'm working on getting the whole yarn stash more or less into one place, where most of it is visible (see also: episode 11 of knit.fm, "Stash Control"). My hope is that this will help my shift in thinking, and prompt me to think about what I could be making with what I have on hand (and where that overlaps with what my own garment and accessory needs). 

    I'd love to hear about your own efforts at stash control or project planning. How do you keep things from getting out of hand?