When a maker says the word stash, they are probably referring to a collection of the primary materials needed to practice their craft. For knitters, yarn; for spinners, fleece; for quilters, fabric; and so on. Stashes can start out modestly—a single special skein received as a gift, or maybe leftovers from a project that you just can’t get rid of. Stashes are built up over time—weeks, months, decades—and additions may be made impulsively or deliberately, for a particular project or solely because of the enticing scent of wool coming from a pile of gorgeous skeins. We crafters can get emotionally attached to certain items in our stash (a skein of silk that reminds us of a far-away friend, a bag of qiviut fluff from a festival) and even to our stash as a whole.
In preparation for writing my recent Digits & Threads article about moths, I asked a few dozen folks on Ravelry what they thought about their stashes and if they had any words of wisdom to share. The responses were not at all what I had expected. Instead of giving advice on lavender sachets and bins versus bags, these experienced fibre folk told stories about their stashes—where they bought their first skein of yarn, the emotions they had about having a stash in the first place, and how they knew when bounty had become burden. I tried to pick just one story to share, but then realized that it might be more interesting to hear from a variety of voices. Be aware that the quotes below are not always in complete sentences, and, except for small edits for clarity, I chose to leave them in the authors’ own words.
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I’m grateful to (in alphabetical order by given or user name): Alison, Alyce, Carrie, Chris, filatura, Jekka, Laura, Mardi, Martha, plantgoddess, Tanya, and all the others who so graciously shared their stories.
What Is a Stash and How Do You Know You Have One?
Sandi: A woman at a conference rather timidly showed me the gorgeous skein she held, asked me if I thought it was all right for a cowl, and then said, “How do you know when you have a stash? This is the first yarn I’ve ever bought, for my first real project; I just want to know how long until I have a real stash.”
I blinked, trying to comprehend the concept of “a REAL stash” and looked down at the single skein of sock yarn in her hand. I pointed to it and said, “You do have a real stash. It’s that skein of yarn. A stash is yarn-in-waiting, more or less: You bought it, and now it is waiting to see what you will make with it. That’s a stash.”
Jekka: My husband refers to my stash as my palette and argues that I need to have a range of things in order to get ideas as well as to realize them. Of course, he has rather a large quantity of various woods, too.
Stash as Holder of Dreams: How and Why People Build a Stash in the First Place
Jekka: I was chatting with one of my students, and he mentioned that, for his mom, every piece of fabric was a dream. There is a way that fiber and yarn are possibility. The difficult thing is to (1) keep things organized and visible enough that when you have an idea you can find the yarn or fiber to go with it, and (2) say goodbye to stash that no longer fits your dreams.
Tanya: So many skeins are beautiful. But I’ve been learning to admire, rather than purchase, the colours I know I never wear but love the shade the dyer has created. My stash is probably as big as I find manageable…. It’s fun. I do enjoy diving in and using something I already have when I see just the right pattern. I still enjoy the stash. And the dreams it holds.