Simplicity and Craft ...

"Half" the stashBy Amelia © September 15, 2009

Dave Daniels just finished his Summer Of Spinning ... I admit that sometimes my own stash overwhelms me, so I watched his SOS and wondered how productive it would be. I thought perhaps a year of spinning might not even be enough to blow through my own stash. But Dave, did it! spun his whole stash and more -- 16.5 pounds of fiber!

I am relieved to see what Dave did; it means there's hope for me. Sure, it might take a full year, Julie/Julia style (Amelia/Mabel kind of has a ring to it, don't you think?), of attacking the stash to really put a big dent in it. I've been doing that somewhat in a variety of ways already; teaching has been a real stash-reliever, as I've been able to repurpose all of the space-dyed medium wools for my drum carding classes -- keeping the material fee low and my students thrilled with their materials. The spindling classes have benefited from the breadth of my stash -- fine wools, medium wools, long wools, and more recently I've been diving into the finer bits of stash for cashmere and camel on the Akha.

Scottish Twill suppliesI have found that I have so much fun spinning that my handspun yarn has outstripped my knitting needles -- so, suitably labeled and priced, it is on my table at Black Sheep and other shows. It makes me less stressed out about how to spin the yarn, to spin it simply for the joy of the spinning. I can choose to spin a soft, puffy yarn or a strong, durable yarn as the fiber or mood strikes me. Thick or fine, the entire cubby of Lincoln/Cormo or just the next 4 oz. packet.

When I want to start a new project, it's fun to go through my own private handspun yarn store to pick something fun to use next. And my mother knits too -- so she gets to shop the store when she visits, or get gifted from the handspun when I come to visit her.

Shepherdess CheckYes, having stash -- be it fiber or yarn -- aids the creativity process. The point is to find the line between creativity and overwhelm. Having been in 'overwhelm land' for some time, I am always grateful when I see a success like Dave's, or find a corner of my stash that has a focus and purpose like teaching. I look forward to my stash returning to a healthy creativity size. And then, like a nice sourdough starter, I can take from it and feed it without feeling overwhelmed.

Dave's triumph reminded me of my own goals, and of the ways I've explored in my work on them. There are great writings out there on the simple life and the frugal life, good ways to see what minimalism is in practice and then apply it to my fiber-filled life. My husband is a past secular Franciscan, and his own life is a good example of functioning minimalism; he has a bookcase full of books to feed his inner life, lovely art on the walls to inspire him, and a graceful, non-intrusive lifestyle.

Leo Babutta of Zen Habits, one of my favorite simple life blogs, has put together an e-book that I find really fascinating: The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life. He's right -- it could be three simple words: Eliminate the unnecessary. But we are complex creatures, and want more than that -- how do we identify the unnecessary? Do you keep the "spare" old-style light bulb because your 10 year bulbs might blow out early? (No.) Do you keep the extra t-shirt because t-shirts wear out (Yes, but it could also, if still brand new, end up being a gift for someone else in the meantime -- don't be attached to it).

So, crafters -- look at your stash. Look over your tools. Decide what you need, what your stash can be, and enjoy it.

Have you engaged in stash reduction or worked through your own stash? I'd love to hear of your accomplishments -- feel free to post a comment on the blog about your own story, or a link to your story on your own blog.

Need help destashing tools? See my posts on finding/selling used items:
Where can I find a used loom?
Where can I find a used wheel?
Where can I find a sock machine?

Need help destashing fiber? Ravelry has several destashing sale/trade groups (including a new fiber-focused one), and offers free ads for fiber as well. Better yet, consider trading in your own guild, or having a "white elephant" sale/trade day. My guild does that annually, we have a lot of fun with it.
© 15 September 2009 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at


Dave Daniels said...

Hey there, you've been a HUGE inspiration to me. Knowing that you do production spinning gave me the inspiration to see just how much I really could spin if I put my mind to it. One of the highlights was realizing I was running out of fiber to spin. Now, seeing your stash, I can see where I should schedule a vacation soon: your closet!
How's the new Watson wheel?

Peg in South Carolina said...

What a great post! My fiber stash keeps growing, growing......... partially because right now I am knitting Xmas presents. Also, I much prefer to spin the fiber the way I think it would look best for me. I generally have weaving in mind but nothing more specific than that. I just enjoy the spinning for its own sake. I could never do the SOS thing, though I do admire Dave! Perhaps i should not say "never." I have, in the past, said I would never knit socks, I would never spin.......... And thanks to the link to ZenHabits. I used to read it but stopped. Now I use a blog reader so am subscsribing.

Dave Daniels said...

I'm back to see your Mountain Loom again, and the for the Franciscan link.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

@Dave, thanks! You'd be welcome to take a gift from my closet any time you'd like to visit. Aren't those Mountain looms nice? I admit to owning more than one ;-) Martha and I are bonding well ... next up on her is my all-time-most-precious wool, roving I processed by hand from my very first Soay lamb fleece from my wether Rigel. Special wool for this special wheel!

@Peg -- I tried so hard not to have a weaving stash, too -- that lasted about, oh, 3 months. But I still have more fiber (by weight!) than yarn [I hope!] I've been using up my sock yarn leftovers lately in "scrappy" fingerless mitts, working out a new pattern before committing handspun to it. DD got the pair in pinks & purples, of course!

Unknown said...

For all that I have a what most (non-fiber) people consider to be a giant stash, it's really not all that big. I've got a bin or two of spinning fiber, three alpaca fleeces, a bin of sock yarn, a bin each for lace weights, cottons, and sweater-amounts. A bunch of gifted-to-me acrylic, which I'll admit is a mountain, but it's being slowly nibbled away at.

I think what keeps my stash under control is that I'm very, very choosy in my shopping, and since I started to spin, I'm even pickier. I'm not quite ready to spin fingering weight or below, so what yarn shopping I do is mostly in those weights, unless there's good worsted weight on very deep discount.

"Very deep discount" comes into play in my fiber shopping, as well. I collect fine and unusual fibers in 1-oz amounts; even when my budget is tightest, I can afford 1 oz (or 1/2 oz) of even quiviut. This collection will one day be spun and knit into a huge sampler lace shawl. For the rest of my fiber, I look for bargains. I haunt Craigs List and Freecycle, I make a note of sale schedules and which sources give me the best spinning experience and yarn for the price. I've even made friends with people who raise fiber animals, thus giving me a source for affordable fleeces. I stay within my budget, which automatically means that my stash remains a reasonable size.

And then, when I want to knit something new, I visit the stash and see if I have something suitable. Don't get me wrong, I still go out and buy yarn for a specific project, but I check the stash first. As the years go on and I refine my tastes and spin more of my own yarn for the stash, it gets more and more likely that I'll be knitting with something I already have.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

@Lisa ... those are great stash control tips! thanks!

pam said...

First and foremost - thank you for the link to Zen Habits!

And regarding "the stash" - I am reducing my stash in the best way possible - using it! I decided early this year to make and craft using only what I have in my stash! (I must own-up to a small purchase of gorgeous red and white bamboo yarns however for a future table topper - but otherwise - it has been working great!