Manage That Stash
There’s a disorder going around that I would wager many of us have and don’t realize it: SABLE. It stands for Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy. That means, quite simply, that your yarn stash is huge. It can be a life-altering disorder, causing issues in finances, home and, yes, even marriages. The biggest concern is running out of room for new yarn.
But there is hope, my friends, and it doesn’t involve anything as dramatic as purging! The cure is simple and true: organizing the stash and knitting it down. Follow these simple steps and you, too, can overcome this potentially debilitating condition.
Admit you have a problem. SABLE can only be cured by acknowledging that you have more yarn than you can knit in the next few years.
Over the next couple of days, organize your yarn by weight. This is the moment of truth when you will see exactly how much yarn SABLE has caused you to accumulate. Begin by emptying all your drawers, boxes and baskets of yarn, finding every scrap no matter how small. Organize it into weight categories: lace, fingering, worsted, etc. The reason why organizing yarn by weight works best is that in the future, you’ll be able to find the closest comparable yarn for the project you want to knit.
Step 3 (Optional, But Recommended)
Sort your yarn weights into project “kits.” You can start by heading over to your favorite pattern-supplier website, searching by yarn weight and selecting patterns. You can even do this for yarn scraps (to use in scrappy blankets or hats). Set aside one- or two-skein sets of yarn for shawls, cowls and accessories. Once you’ve chosen a pattern, write a note about the pattern and the source, select the yarns from your stash, and kit it all together for the project.
There is a side note here. I love looking up a specific stash yarn and finding patterns that use it. Designers are masters at knowing just how to use a yarn to highlight its best features, so knitting one of their patterns in that specific yarn is ideal. But there are times when you want to try a different yarn than a pattern calls for (which not only helps speed up the stash busting, but also encourages experimentation), and that is where yarn substitution comes in.
As a starting point, find a yarn that is the same weight as the one in the pattern you’ve chosen. For example, if the project yarn is worsted weight, then start your search in the worstedweight category (lots of yarn sellers’ websites are set up so you can search for patterns by yarn weight).
Just because a yarn label indicates a gauge that’s different from what your pattern calls for doesn’t mean that your yarn automatically isn’t suitable for that pattern. If you’ve checked the worsted-weight category and couldn’t find anything similar in your stash, you can go down to a lighter weight (or up to a heavier weight) and change needle sizes to achieve the same gauge as given in the pattern. This step will involve swatching, both for gauge and to determine whether you like the resulting fabric.
Now look at the fiber content. Different fibers have different properties, and you’ll want a yarn that’s made with a fiber or a blend of fibers that closely mimics the drape
and feel of the original yarn in the pattern. If the sweater is intended to be warm, then you want to stick with warm fibers like wool or acrylic. On the other hand, a light, summer shell won’t be so cool and fresh in a heavy wool!
Once you’ve narrowed down your search parameters and have chosen a yarn from your stash, work a swatch with that yarn; then wash and block the swatch. This is so important that I’ll say it again: Swatch to make sure you like the yarn you’ve chosen for the project.
After you’ve chosen the yarn, you need to make sure you have enough to complete the project. Unless the yardage per skein of your stash yarn is the very same as the yardage per skein of the yarn recommended in the pattern, the number of stash-yarn skeins that you need for the project will not be equivalent to what’s given in the pattern.
So, you will need to do a bit of quick math here to determine how much yarn you need: Multiply the number of skeins used in the pattern by the number of yards in each skein to determine how many yards are needed for the project. Example: 5 skeins x 220 yards = 1,100 yards. Now do the same for the yarn that you want to use from your stash. Do you have at least 1,100 yards? Great—you’re good to go! If not, you may want to use another similar stash yarn for edgings or to create striped fabric. Or you can just move on to one of the countless other patterns out there that will be appropriate for the amount of yarn that you have.
Follow these three rules of organization when you put everything away:
Rule 1: Whether you want to use cubbies or baskets, buckets or bins, find a home for your organized yarn.
Rule 2: After spending the time to organize your yarn into weights and project kits, keep them all together. You can continue to organize within each yarn-weight category, such as by color or by fiber content, but keep like with like.
Rule 3: Label! Not only will labeling help you quickly identify what is in each yarn section or what a “kit” is for, but my own—totally fake—studies have shown that it increases joy in all SABLE patients.
Now you must knit up your kits! If you cannot knit it, then give the complete project kit to someone as a gift.
Knitting is the joy, the cure and the hope for crafters everywhere. Completing Step 5 means your stash has been managed!