Thursday, August 17, 2006

Unravelling Stash

I've been thinking a lot about "stash" these days and what it means. Not just what it means to me, but what it really means. Because if you think of the word "stash" outside of it's use by knitters and other crafty hoarders, it means a lot of other things. The first definition that comes to my mind is to hide something (a castaway, drugs, money) usually from other people. The second connotation I associate with "stash" is to save something so you wont use it. Like money for a vacation. For some reason, there is usually a secret involved. Finally, there's hoarding behavior - stuff you don't need, but covet (this one has the aroma of mental instability). So when I am buying yarn or fabric (or buttons or ribbon or beads) that I don't need, am I hiding, saving or hoarding, and what's the big secret? Do I need professional help?

Something I commonly overhear at yarn and fabric stores goes like this: "I have to hurry up and get home so I can hide this from my husband". I have even been known to say this myself, even though my husband, Tim, is unusually supportive of my habits (mostly because I pay for it myself). It communicates volumes about our dedication to the craft, our buying habits and our relationships! A code for the sisterhood of compulsive shopping.

I don't hide my stash from Tim or my friends (I show it off as soon as I can, mostly because they are stashers too) or even myself. I like to look at, smell and fondle my yarn, and I like to pull out pieces of fabric and put them together in interesting combinations. Sometimes, I'm so inspired that I make something with it. Other times, I put it all back and sigh and think 'some day I will use it'. When Tim first noticed my habits, he expressed concern (he hates shopping more than drinking water). I told him that artists don't paint with one color paint and that I needed a palette for inspiration. Obviously that's not entirely true anymore because let's face it: if they stopped making yarn or fabric (God forbid) I would be set for a very long time.

There seems to be no secret surrounding this stash behavior. Here I am, like many other crafters, posting photos of stash for anyone to see. There are even bragging rights! I've seen all sorts of products designed for us that sport the sayings "My stash is bigger than your stash" and "Whoever dies with the most stash wins". I have also read articles on how to dispose of your stash when you die, compete with legal advice! (I kid you not). I've had more than one conversation with friends regarding who has first dibs on what.

I guess there are people who have stash that they keep a secret or that they are saving, but most of the time, I think it's about getting caught up in the moment (or maybe a really tempting sale). Usually when I buy something, it's because I'm in love. Maybe it's the color or the texture. Maybe it's just that time of year (Right now I am seriously lusting for the perfect burnt orange yarn which is a sure sign that fall is coming). I have very good intentions. It actually makes me sad to look at yarn that I don't want anymore, which is way I am learning to give it away.

Leftovers are the exception.

These automatically become stash because you can't just throw the extra stuff away, it would be wasteful! For a while, I was saving all my clippings to throw out for the birds and squirrels to use in their nests. It was cool to see all that yarn and to remember what I made with it, but it got to be a little too much and I imagined the mess it would make on the lawn. Besides which, we use biodegradable trash bags and the birdies can still find it in the landfill (don't burst this bubble for me, please, if it's not true).

I don't think I need psychiatric help. I am keeping things under control. I practice safe shopping habits like staying out of stores, only buying for a specific project, and not using a shopping basket. The one habit that drives some other people a little nutty is that I carry things around with me in the store for a very long time, testing to see if I am really in love or just smitten. If the feelings wane (or if I recover my sensibilities) I put it all back. Try it!

Edited to add:
I just bound off the second sleeve of Tilia!!! It is truly a miracle. I still have to buy another skein to finish the neckline and sew seams, but that's nothing! PHEW!

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