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JF's Notebook
Photo of Jared Flood

Notebook

Penned by Jared Flood

Hello and welcome! I'm a knitter, photographer, designer and the creative director at Brooklyn Tweed. I use this notebook as a space to record inspiration and write about my creative work both inside and outside of BT. Thanks for reading, and don't be a stranger—I love hearing from you!

The Reality Check

February 22, 2010

Is there anything more humbling, dare I say embarrassing, at least for a knitter than coming face to face with the whole of your Knitting Materials? This would include Stash (all of it), unfinished projects (old, new, and reaaaally old), & Tools both large and small (everything from swifts and winders to all 18 of your floating tapestry needles). Well this is what happens when knitters move. And generally the amount of years you’ve lived in your own Knitting Paradise exponentially increases the scope of just how many loads you’ll be making out to that van.

Aside from about 13 days of travel, my life has been eaten by a stressful urban move. And while I absolutely love the architecture of Brooklyn brownstones, and wouldn’t trade them for anything, Moving Day is probably the only time I find myself truly cursing the day I ever heard the term “3rd flood walk-up”. And when you move from one “3rd floor walk-up” to another, by my math, it’s more like a “6th floor walk-up”. Multiply that by every box of yarn you own (knitting books too) and you might find yourself wistful and dreamy for even the smallest of elevators.

Moving Day

Of course it’s not all drama, especially in hindsight. I’m in a place with great light and more space (for all that yarn) and while it’s easy to complain, I really do appreciate a good purge every few years. Which brings me to today’s post about being honest about what we have, and more importantly what we, as knitters, need.

It makes sense that our knitting palettes become more refined as our craftsmanship does. That happens in any artistic discipline. And in studying what I’ve held onto over the years, I began doing what I do whenever I’m faced with an overabundance of information — organizing and categorizing. In doing so, I’ve started to notice that my stash (which I used to brag as very modest… somehow I don’t feel comfortable with this description any longer) falling into three main groups.

Shetland Silk

The first is the group that is most obvious and, I think, most important. Those are yarns that really excite me. Often recent acquisitions, or older, special acquisitions that still retain that spark that gets ideas running around like crazy in my head. These are the yarns that usually live on top of a given pile or drawer, or at least are never far enough away that I can’t have immediate access to them. These yarns have no surprises — I know I have them, I know I want them, and I know I’d make a fuss if someone took them away from me. These yarns have evolved with me and I believe are very valuable in terms of how I use my time as I continue to make projects with my collection of materials.

The second group is actually the hardest for me to reconcile. These are yarns that, at one time or another gave me The Spark, but have not retained it as I’ve grown as a knitter. These are yarns I definitely still like a lot, but I wouldn’t say I love, or couldn’t live without (if I’m really honest). These are the yarns I’d be grateful for if I ended up stranded in the arctic with nothing but yarn and time… but the yarns that,over the long run, will probably end up taking up the most room and take the longest time for me to give away because I *might* use them. When I finally do end up stranded in the Arctic and somehow my yarn is magically there with me, maybe I’ll kick myself for getting rid of much of this group, but until that happens, I probably will appreciate the extra space (both physical and headspace) they allow.

The third group is easy — it’s the group that randomly finds its way in and sneaks around my generally thorough screening process (which, when you’re living small, is very very important). This includes all the yarn that has been given to me when people are cleaning their apartments and know that I’m a knitter, or yarns that were so reasonably priced that I couldn’t bear to see them go to waste, even though that’s kinda what they’re doing anyway. Now they’re just doing it in my closet. Or they could just be those few odd mystery “What-Was-I-Thinking” skeins. There are some of those too.

All this to say that I’m being diligent and most of all honest with myself about what I need and what is surely overabundance. Too much yarn sitting un-knit starts making me feel nervous and greedy, especially if I think how much more beautiful this yarn is in the hands of someone who is enjoying every stitch.

Old Projects

Among other things that were lurking in the shadows: baskets of unfinished projects, some of which I promptly frogged for salvaging yarn (Group 1), and others that genuinely got me excited again and have rematerialized alongside my current project baskets.

And then there was my trusty (dusty) minstrel… just waiting to be used to turn all that excess fiber (did I mention, there is fiber too?) into more… yep, yarn.

Dusty Minstrel

I’m committing to at least giving this all a good try and passing on some wonderful materials to appreciative fingers. And with the survivors of the purge? Well I think I’ll just get knitting with those.

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63 responses to “The Reality Check”

  1. In regards to stash yarn that you no longer "spark" for….I sometimes have had success from running these through a dye bath to give the colors more depth and shift. Often that will bring back the spark. If not at least when you end up giving them away you have done something to make them more beautiful.

  2. the hardest category for me is always the yarn that i'm not super excited to use anymore (usually acrylic) but that i know could make a WONDERFUL charity donation (like part of, or all of, a blanket for a homeless shelter or foster child).

    i hold onto it and hold onto it, unwilling to part with it because i know i should be doing good with it, but am not because i am doing good with other yarns!

  3. I can really relate to your 'What-Was-I-Thinking' comment. I have quite a bit of those in my basement and decided to give it away to the nursing home. I am sure some lovely lady would love to get their hands on those.

  4. You definitely hit a note with this one… I began knitting only recently (about two years ago), and about one year in I had a huge urge to buy all the yarn in the world. In the world I was living in (i.e. a small Eastern-European country with only one yarn factory), however, this was mostly low-quality yarn. I didn't know any better. Now I have masses of it waiting for me back at home, and of course I won't let it go to waste. But it hurts me sometimes to be making a gift from something like that when I know it's sub-par to all the other wonderful yarns I've discovered living abroad (the UK is a treasure-trove). Well, to be fair, not all of it is bad, there are some wonderful yarns, luckily, and those make me happy that I didn't go all wrong in my ignorance. But I'll definitely be punishing myself for rushing into stuff for a while by not buying additional yarn… :)

  5. This sentence: "Too much yarn sitting un-knit starts making me feel nervous and greedy, especially if I think how much more beautiful this yarn is in the hands of someone who is enjoying every stitch." Wow! I love that. What a wonderful way to look at stash. I think I might do some cleaning of my own.

  6. I agree with one's stash becoming more sophisticated as our skills develop. I feel like mine certainly has. When we downsized, house-wise, three years ago, my stash and knit-love were under control. I vowed that move would be my last, and now my stash is in danger of becoming ridiculous. Coincidence? I think not! Maybe I need a reality check of my own, but so much of my yarn would be perfect for one of your patterns. I place the blame squarely on you, with thanks.

  7. I swore I would never turn into my mother with the 3 see-through large tubs of acrylic yarn, which I was happy to be rid of when she passed away *I donated it, and kept all the needles and things that go with knitting for myself*

    Instead I have one tub that is full of my handspun, my fave wools and what-nots that is now full to the brim….and I'm thinking I need to start another tub…

    So no I will not be my mother with 3 tubs of acrylic, I will more likely be my mother with 3 tubs of wool and cotton…

    I feel your pain…I wouldn't want to move all this..It's almost embarrassing :)

  8. I too live in NYC, and I don't have much space. So basically the size of my stash is dictated by how much room I have left in a trunk.

    Which means I need to get knitting if I wanna buy some new yarn.

    Loved the photos in this post. Total yarn porn. :)

  9. I hope your new abode is worth all that stair climbing.

    When we had to move (out, then in again) due to an earthquake, the big accumulation was cake pans of all things. That was before knitting, though, so I'm sure my stash volume has far outgrown the cake pan department by now. :-)

  10. Gearing up to move myself, this is exactly what I am afraid of…. And, kind of (as far as the good purge goes) looking forward to.

  11. "One man's junk is another man's treasure" – go with your gut, and donate pile 3 to charity, new knitters, community projects, whatever.

    But that Minstrel. Yum. I have a Mazurka, and I love him.

  12. I love how this post applies to all of life. I do have the yarn stash and it seems to keep growing no matter how much I knit or crochet! How does that happen? And then there is the fabric, which I am usually good about getting sewn up. As a matter of fact, I completed my last UFO. Hummm, maybe it is not really my last one as I have some material that could be made into charity quilts. Well, and then there is all the stuff in the house, I love antiques and thrift stuff, need I go further? Ha! So I try and pare it down, either by barter, or donation. And I honestly do try not to buy anything new…..lol.

  13. We've done the 3rd floor walk up to 3rd floor walk up twice now. The first time we recruited friends and it took all day and then some. The second time we saved up and hired movers. It was the best 500 dollars I've ever spent. I feel for you!

  14. I can completely identify with your assessment and I think many knitters are in the same boat. Happy house cleaning!

  15. You said it all very nicely…makes me look at my stash in a different light. I have about six tapestry needles…somewhere.

  16. Oh, my, even your generously sized stash looks organized and inviting. It is amazing how much can somehow accumulate, and I give you much credit for doing what needs to be done. You're a stronger person than I! Enjoy your new apartment and a fresh start for spring!

  17. Well Jared, it must be the season for this sort of thing.

    I too, just moved and have gotten around to the, also, 3 groups of yarns, projects, hoards = stranded in the Arctic. You are right, we do get a little more picky about what is "To die for" as our skill advances.

    I have found a few things that made me also ask, "WHAT WAS I THINKING!"

    I also downsized in homes. Since my first love was reading, books are also going through this "reality check".

    I desperately NEED a Kindle or fact simile. I have owned some of these Anne McCaffrey books since I was active duty and in my late teens/early twenties! I'm 48 now! Some were my parent's, who are both gone now….

    Priorities!! lol

  18. Oh, I understand. There is so much yarn in my little apartment and so many knitting needles and related paraphernalia and so little time to knit in.

    Good luck on the move.

  19. I dread the very idea of moving – I live in a tiny one-room apartment but dread to think how much yarn, fibre, fabric and assorted craft supplies I have hiding in every nook and cranny! And god forbid I ever have to move back to the UK (I live in Japan) – I couldn't afford to ship it all, but would have a hard time narrowing it down to a suitcase-ful!

  20. Thank you for being so honest. Anyone who has knitted or crafted for any length of time has stashes such as these. As I continue to purge old projects and the ingredients for said projects, I find that I never miss what I throw out. Well, maybe, sometimes I do. But, mostly not. I too have yarn that's been given to me by someone who has purged and I have this grand idea that I will make it into something to give them. Perhaps a table runner, or shawl or socks. I thought it would satisfy all parties. But, right now it's just an idea floating around in my noggin while my stash continues to grow. Good for you for sorting!

  21. I know how you feel. I moved from Michigan to Georgia in November, and am moving to Las Vegas in about a week. What kills me is the amount of "Well, I can't really afford the good stuff (college kid budget) so I might as well buy this kinda cheap acrylic blend" skeins. Can I please trade all of them in for a couple of skeins of the good stuff?

  22. I am too in the midst of this dilemma except for the moving. I love most of my yarn but there are batches that I could part with and I do have a wool room. I'm not young with 50 years to use it up. Couple that with a trip to a wonderful yarn shop next month and Maryland Sheep & Wool and it is making me think. I will go but buy very sparingly as I have this year.

  23. I recently went through my stash too and was amazed at how much yarn did not make the cut. I have an alarming number of bags that I'm going to give away… Hope your move goes well and that you're settling nicely into your new home. :)

  24. Send any yarn my way! We have a Prayer Shawl & Scarf Knitting Ministry that would love any kind of yarn. We can mix yarns by making a horizontal scarf to give to others.

  25. Hehe, I agree that category 2 is the most difficult to deal with. A thought I had this morning about yarn was that I should have a more relaxed feeling about yarn that can be purchased today than yarn that is no more to be found. But I keep saving those yarns too. Another yarn thought from this morning: how many lifes would I need to use up all my yarn. Honestly, I don't finish more than perhaps +- 12 knits per year… and still I keep bying new yarn – at least if I have a concrete project in mind that I will start immediately.

    Cheers and good look in your new flat up in the skyes of Brooklyn!

  26. oh, yeah, same 'problem' everywhere. My new years resolution is to use all the exciting yarns before going out to shop new ones. But – of course – if i happen to find myself in a yarnstore and they have must haves I will probably make an exception.

  27. Hello ! I'm french and my english is not very good but please could you tell me the name of your gorgeous brown yarns (picture 1 and 3 :-)).
    I love it ! thanks a lot.

  28. I had my wakeup call 3 years ago when I had to pack up all my fibery things into storage before moving to Europe. I certainly have a healthy amount of the first and second groups, but of the third, I just decided to give it all away. It's symbolic of moving on, and leaving behind all those things you thought you needed or wanted, but never really did.

    I bet I made some knitter happy at Salvation Army!

    Good luck with the move, enlist all your friends with a bribe of pizza and wine. Always works.

  29. I just purged my stash and donated it all to charity knitters. I limit my stash to a certain space (6 small bins). Too much stash makes me jittery. I am craving some heathery wools like I see on your blog. They are hard to find!!

  30. this year we will move, too. with 3children and tons of yarn—
    you make me scary 😉 and nervous….to hide all the stash from my husband!! there will be truth!!!! soon!! (i will take pictures for flashing my stash)
    best wishes and go on, collecting nice yarns, yours eva

  31. I love this post. And yes, it's a wonderful thing to purge yarn based upon the ONE question – Does this inspire me? You can do it with clothes, books, and fabric, too, but yarn especially.

    That said, I also remember that no one ever told Van Gogh he had too many colors of paint. Our yarn is our palette, and we are artists. Keeping a ball of yarn, even if ONLY for inspiration, is completely and utterly our right.

    Thank you for this.

  32. I understand your pain! But believe me, I've been out of work for a while which is the equivalent to me of being stranded in the Arctic and my stash has saved my life.

  33. I own a shameful amount of yarn. In car terms, let's call it a Chevy Suburban.

    In the past I have destashed on Ravelry and elsewhere, but frankly I find the interactions depressing, people's cheapness/unreliability disheartening & I just generally can't deal with it. So the only option is to quit buying and keep knitting!

  34. This sounds like me with my sock yarn except there is no category three. It all falls under yarn I adore and yarn I like but haven't gotten around to using. I can't seem to get enough sock yarn and it is easy to buy because you know about how much you need at all times.

  35. Good for you! I did a destash this past year and it made a dent, but that mid-range yarn just keeps hanging on. I also have bins of FOs that I never, ever wear. I think it is time for me to take another run at the stash and an honest look at those FOs. Hello universe, here they come! Thanks for the inspiration.

  36. Ugh, moving! We almost ended up moving far north in a few months, but it fell through. That would have been our 9th move in 18 years (and seeing 2 of those homes we lived in for a total of 13 years…) but it is a wonderful feeling when you have started with every nook and cranny clean and downsized! I just cleaned out my stash during the superbowl, got rid of the yarns partially used with no future in my head, or yarns i have turned snobbish towards. Even doing this felt refreshing. Enjoy setting up your new home!

  37. "It makes sense that our knitting palettes become more refined as our craftsmanship does. That happens in any artistic discipline." A similar thought occured to me recently regarding my modest stash of quilting fabric, particularly as I seem to be doing more and more embroidery these days. Splitting it into three groups as you've done would be a good way to sort it, great idea. I'm just grateful I stopped buying at random a while back…

  38. 3 years ago we moved from a really small house to a really big house (at least it seems huge to me.) As the house grew exponentially, so did the yarn stash!I hope I never have to move to a smaller house again!

  39. It is easy to buy all of the yarn in sight without regard to what you will really use ignoring obvious lack of cash flow. I have skeins I bought that were hugely discounted and now I'm wondering what to make with them. Some are very high quality, but they are still a bit of a toss up as to whether they will be used.

  40. every bit of it looks gorgeous to me (but maybe that's b/c it keeps me from investigating my own guilty stash pleasure). wonderful pics.

  41. I've de-stashed and donated to charity every year for the past 4 years–it's a great feeling to know that even if I fall out of love with a particular yarn, someone else will benefit from it. But I am alot pickier about yarn now, as well, since I have gotten more experienced with knitting…

  42. Over the past year, I've cleared most of the yarn and fiber I'm not crazy about out of my stash. That still leaves a substantial amount, and I'm happy about that. Living in an area without a yarn shop, I love the idea that I can "shop the stash" and come up with the materials for just about anything I might want to make.

    The idea of having to move it gives me the wobblies, however.

    Enjoy your new home!

  43. A Spinning Wheel? I love that plan! Still knitting the Shawl but I'm changing my yarn to beaded Cashmere/Silk! Tanglewood Trish

  44. This year I've decided to knit up half my stash before I buy any more wool. There is a recession on, after all, although you could argue that spending up big of wool will help to get us out of recession! The recession is also the perfect excuse to donate your wool. Here in NZ we call thrift shops op shops – short for opportunity shops. Not only will you give someone else the opportunity to knit up your cast offs (or enrich their own stash!) you give yourself the opportunity to get rid of the self-delusion that you'll ever knit up the stuff.

  45. I'm fairly new to knitting, and already I have your same problems. As a student, I also move quite often (in fact, I'm moving again in 2 months!) and I have recently decided to reorganize my knitting. I do this every few months (I suppose because as a student I can only afford the smallest of all small places) and until I read your post I thought organizing yarn and projects was simply something I had to do very often because I am new to knitting and haven't quite grasped the whole "how to organize everything knitting related" concept. But your post made me realize this is something all knitters deal with! Thanks Jared, although knowing this will forever be part of my knitting experience doesn't exactly excite me, it's nice to know I'm not the only knitter whose got a too much yarn in their stash, and too many projects to rip out. over and over again.

  46. I am always inspired when I come to read your blog! I have to move soon and don't look forward to it, but do look forward to more room and de-stashing some of my yarn.

  47. Um, at the risk of sounding really pathetic, can I have some of your stash if I pay the shipping? Seriously? Really? :)

  48. Good luck getting everything organized! I love the opportunities for new starts that events such as moves create.

  49. I totally understand. Last year I rented a studio space and I moved ALL of my knitting/yarn/craft etc stuff to the studio…..I was ASTOUNDED!

    I have given away some, have some on etsy (an ongoing project) and even finished up some old projects!

    It can be more fun than you think if you can get over the shock!

  50. As I read your post it rings all too true. I have 6 tubs under beds, a tupperware drawer unit in a closet, and a 4-foot 5 drawer unit all filled to the brim with yarn I have aquired over the 6 years I've been knitting.

    Of course mine is nearly 85% yarn I will never use as they are all synthetic yarns bought prior to my appreciation of natural fibers.

    So as you begin dontating to appreciative fingers, these fingers would be most appreciative. I just recently "found" natural fibers and have little exposure to them as my funds don't allow for much in the way of knitting expenses… I welcome any opportunity to expand repertoire.

  51. As I read your post it rings all too true. I have 6 tubs under beds, a tupperware drawer unit in a closet, and a 4-foot 5 drawer unit all filled to the brim with yarn I have aquired over the 6 years I've been knitting.

    Of course mine is nearly 85% yarn I will never use as they are all synthetic yarns bought prior to my appreciation of natural fibers.

    So as you begin dontating to appreciative fingers, these fingers would be most appreciative. I just recently "found" natural fibers and have little exposure to them as my funds don't allow for much in the way of knitting expenses… I welcome any opportunity to expand repertoire.

  52. I have a knitting daughter living in a 3rd floor walk up in Brooklyn. I always time my visits to not be when she is moving. :-)

    But she (and my other knitting daughter) enable my stash enlargement because they already free about stating that when I die, they are fighting over my yarn. I have the worry of it going permanently to waste removed from my concerns. :-)

  53. similar situation here. you wouldn't believe the ribbing I got from my movers. it was all in fun, but it did get me thinking about what I need to move along to a more appreciative home.

  54. HA! Is that ALL you got for stash? Pitiful, just pitiful! LOL

    I moved, stash and all (and I have THREE wheels), almost two years ago. Still recovering. And I made 76 trips with stuff from one too-small place to the other smaller place. Yup, I counted. Now, the next move… oh, let's not even go there.

    Wishing you much happier times in the new place!

  55. Personally, I'm somewhat proud of myself that I've kept my stash reasonable. I'm sure there are skeins in there that I could've done without, but for the most part all of it still holds "the spark" for me. Your post makes me think of a good friend who has the stash of a yarn shop in her attic, not just 2 or 3 see through boxes, more like 20 or 30! It's the biggest stash I've ever seen. I go to her house BEFORE I go to the yarn shop to peruse her selection. Can't imagine her having to move (and justify!) all that yarn! =)

  56. I keep all my knitting stuff (except "in progress") in one large plastic storage box. If it doesn't fit in the box, I don't buy it, or I start knitting it straight away, or else I have to get rid of something I'm not going to use. The box keeps me honest 😉

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