What is a healthy stash?

There are tons of threads on Ravelry that allow posters to show off their yarn stashes. To the uninitiated, knitting is much like any hobby. Take origami, for instance:

In order to make origami, you have to have paper. Paper is sold in packs. Lots of different patterns and textures of origami paper are available. Therefore, if one wants to make an origami magic unicorn, one will buy a pack of magic paper and make the unicorn. Once the unicorn’s done, there is still a packet of paper (-1) left over.

Yarn is similar. A pattern calls for 1300 yards, but the skeins are 400 yards each, so instead of 4, you buy 5. But then, you knit below gauge and only use 4. But then, you keep the 5th ball instead of returning it because hey, some day it might get a hole and need to be patched, or perhaps this yarn might make a nice matching hat, since sweaters with matching hats are totally chic:

If I go into a yarn store, I don’t always have a project in mind, either. Maybe there’s a sale, or I’m in for a new needle and something pretty catches my eye. I might start going through possible projects for the skein, trying to sniff out the potential. I bring home the new yarn and plop it in a box, hoping to use it on my next project. Thus, stash is created.

Stash levels vary from knitter to knitter. There are people who just buy what they need, return what they don’t use, and donate any fractional amounts to thrift shops. There are people with a teeny little bag by the couch. There’s me, with two unfilled boxes arranged in colors and neutrals:

And so on, and so on… until we reach professional yarn stashing levels. Mochimochiland did a blog post about a huge yarn stash that is as big (or bigger) than some yarn stores:

Which leads me to wonder: what’s the “healthy” limit? Is there a point where you run out of time to knit all of the yarn you own (we call this SABLE: Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy)? Is it really so bad to have a ton of materials for a hobby? It’s just yarn, right?

Depending on the amount of space one has, and the tolerance of roommates or family members, that amount could vary substantially. For me, I find myself getting a little depressed when my stash fills up my two little boxes. I look in there, remember all the potential I’d given to those purchases, and start to feel hopeless to achieve the goals. If I’m planning a big project, though, I generally DO buy new yarn for it (something that befits the pattern), so the majority of my stash is comprised of single balls that are completely unrelated. Looks like tons of accessories are in my future…

How about you? What’s your stash like, and what’s “too much”?
– YX

11 thoughts on “What is a healthy stash?

  1. Great post. I agree that crafting tends to become a burden and a chore if you have too big a stash that you look at and know will never finish. I currently have that situation with quilting fabric. I've got a bit of a yarn stash but luckily its dwindling and I have no desire to buy more.

    1. I have plenty of yarn to keep me busy for a while. Lack of money is curtailing most of my crafty spending. I'll still be going to SNB!

  2. I've decided that too much is when you start forgetting what you already have and start buying duplicates or really similar skeins, but I think I have a long way to go before I reach that stage with my meager stash 🙂

  3. I've got a lot of yummy stuff in my stash – nothing too fancy and much of it bought on sale. At a good sale, I'll buy sweater quantities of yarn with a specific pattern in mind; however, I've not done a good job of actually getting started on the sweater. I don't think I'm at a SABLE level of stash, but those stupid sweater quantities really weigh on my conscience.
    I'm working on donating stuff I'll never use and avoiding sales – sorry LYS! Oh, and getting started on all those sweaters…

  4. I usually buy yarn for a specific project (even if I don't plan to actually knit it up for a while). Sometimes I also buy yarn just because I like to have some, but that usually consists of less than 25% of my stash. I think I have "too much" if/whenever I know that I bought yarn for something specific but forgot what that specific project was.

    My yarn tends to live all over the place, so there's really no visual trigger that lets me know when I have too much. (Right now, howeve, I am getting a little worried about how I'm going to transport my suitcaseful back home…)

  5. I have stash areas, and too much stash is when my stash exceeds those areas. I'm moving house in a month, so I've been trying to make my stash transportable. I've given away the stuff I won't use, and I've got several skeins attached to projects already. I, too, find myself overwhelmed by stash at times. The self-imposed sock club idea feels like a good one given that 70% of my stash is sock yarn.

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