Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stash Challenge 2010 Debrief

My stash challenge has come to a close, and what a year it has been. Time for a de-brief.

Let's quickly review were I was when I started.
When I started my challenge I was fresh of a new year's resolution made by myself and DH to work from our respective stashes for a year. This past year has found us making choices to cut back on our spending - both out of desire and necessity - and looking for all the ways that we can re-use, re-purpose, up-cycle and reduce. One obvious place to look critically was our creative interests. I am happy to say that we both took the resolution seriously. With one vacation-related exception I went over 365 days without spending cash on new yarn. He did the same and didn't purchase any new wood. We both spent a modest amount on supplies (needles, saw blades, etc.) but the raw materials we worked with we found, traded, were gifted, or had already.

I started 2010 with over 52 skeins of yarn, spread out to over 10,000 yards.

During 2010 I increased my stash by 11 skeins. 1 skein was purchased while I was on vacation in Arizona (it's llama down!), 4 were purchased with gift money or a gift card, and 6 were given to me as gifts, or were trades.

Here's what I made.
Over twelve months I worked diligently from my stash. I resisted the (many) impulses to purchase new yarns for myself, and new yarns for gift projects; just by counting up what I had I knew I had enough yarn to work from for quite some time. [This truly was step one. I counted and photographed everything I had and entered it into a spreadsheet, noting brand, fiber and yardage. This made it all real to me.]

The challenges then were twofold:
1) Finding suitable patterns for the yarns I had on hand; and
2) Making the projects interesting to me, apart from the joy of a new purchase.

During 2010 I knit from over 28 skeins of yarn, equaling over 5,000 yards of yarn.

My projects ranged from the big (a sweater for DH) to the small (acorn decorations) and everything in between. Here's a quick list:

1 sweater, men's large
5 baby/toddler sweaters
3 baby vests
3 pair adult socks
7 kids/baby hats
1 adult hat
1 baby blanket
8 mini sweater ornaments
a stash of acorns (felted)

And four projects still in the works: a pair of socks, a baby hat, a child's vest and an adult vest.

Here's what I am staring 2011 with.
At the close of the year I still have approximately 35 skeins of yarn in my stash. That may seem like a lot, but 10 are for the vest for myself, and I have earmarked another 16 for specific projects. The others I will be looking to de-stash, trade or otherwise use up in a worthy fashion.

If I maintain fidelity to my plan I will have cut my stash from 52 skeins (63 skeins if you count what I added during 2010) to a mere 16 skeins.

Lessons learned.
I had a lot of realizations over my year, and many I shared along my journey. But here is a quick summary of a few that are still with me as I move forward with my knitting.

1) I don't have to buy new yarn to enjoy knitting; but lets be may enhance the pleasure I get from starting a new project.

2) There are lots of alternatives to purchasing new yarn outright. These include holding on to gift money for a special 'yarn fund,' finding friends that are open to trading yarns, trading or selling yarns via websites (ravelry, ebay, etc.). And while I haven't had any personal luck at the thrift stores I have friends that have found and purchased Alice Starmore and Rowan yarns at deep discounts. That's enough encouragement for me to keep looking every time I stop in!

3) My tastes and preferences in yarns have changed since I started knitting. I am more discerning now and less likely to search out cheap sources for cheap yarns. While there certainly is a place for frugality in knitting (especially when knitting for non-fiber-minded friends and kids) if I am going to make a project for myself I am going to save up for the specific kind of yarn that I want to use, rather than find a less expensive substitute. This has the added benefit of supporting local businesses too. While I do practice on-line shopping, finding the right yarn at my local store is a good thing for my community and our local economy.

4) I have a more finely tuned sense of which fibers work for which types of projects. When I started the year I would have been just as likely to use a silk blend as a wool blend for any given project. I didn't understand the properties (physical and economic) of specific fibers or their adaptability for different purposes. After a year of research, reading, critical reflection and exploration (mostly on ravelry and at the library) I can easily tell when I would want to use alpaca for a project, or a superwash wool with nylon.

5) Left-over sock yarns rock. These turned out to be the most adapable yarns around and I have really dug into my left overs to make some pretty cool, colorful and unique items. These include my zig zag pram blanket, my sweater garland and the Norwegian baby cap. I used to wonder what would ever become of my many, many sock yarn left overs. Now I know they can be used for all kinds of things.

6) Just because I had one skein of something didn't mean I had to knit a one skein project. This may seem like a 'duh' comment to many of you, but I have a hard time pairing yarns that were not purchased together for the explicit purpose of knitting up one project. Without this last year I never would have taken out all my yarn, looked at it, and looked at it, and looked at it again, and matched up different yarns and fibers for completely new projects. A good example is the Budgie baby sweater.

7) And lastly, just because yarn is on sale doesn't mean that I should buy it. I know that I will do this again in the future - a good deal is a good deal afterall - but I am much more likely to see a project and buy yarn accordingly, rather than see yarn and then find a project to match. I have realized that for me it doesn't make much sense to buy yarn with only a vague idea of how it will be used. I love yarn, fiber, color and texture and would love to live in a house surrounded by skeins and skeins of yarn. It would be like a museum dedicated to fibers. But I have a husband, kids, demands, challenges, other interests (sewing, cooking, etc.) and a pocketbook. For these reasons I need to keep my yarn purchases in check, and manageable.

At the close of my personal stash challenge I can say that I am proud of myself. I did it, I am happy with all my projects, and I learned a tremendous about about knittng, fiber and myself. Did I shake the desire to buy new yarns? No way. In fact, I have a pattern and new yarns already picked out for purchase. But I am starting a new year with a fresh perspective. I can practice restraint and my craft and creativity won't suffer. In many ways I'm better off when I think twice about my purchases.


fivegreenacres said...

Congratulations on your year, Friend! I'm taking your cue and a heaping dose of inspiration from you and hoping for similar results with my fabric stash. I don't know if I can yet impose rigid 'rules' but I don't have enough space for all the fabric I have and must stop the thrift store fabric scrap collecting business. My discipline is notoriously low, but I'm hoping for strength and resolve and at the very least am being mindful of what I'm buying (which should be little or nothing) and not just collecting with abandon. So thank you very, very much for the gentle push to do so, in the form of this lovely, inspiring goal. said...

Congratulations! You did great! So many good projects - your zigzag pram was certainly my fave.

I did the same last year with my stash. Here is the only caveat for me; I missed my LYS and the people who own it. It was seven months without stepping foot in there, and it certainly felt good to be back. :)

YarnKettle said...

I enjoyed your well thought out post and approach to destashing. Thank you for taking the time to study the process and what it brought you.
I struggle with #4 myself so it is nice to see someone else busting through the barrier.
Happy knitting!