June 17, 2008

Stash; process; tubes.

Wow, it's been a while since I posted. Didja miss me? I've been Action Guy instead of Words Guy for a while. Which sounds much cooler than it is; most of that action has been of the knit-one-purl-one and ply-from-both-ends-of-the-ball variety. I haven't done anything blogworthy, just a lot of the same stuff I always do. I haven't even dyed anything technically interesting. Cool-looking and fun to spin, yes, but by the tried and true method of putting the wool in a pot with some dye and making it hot for a while. I did a couple things where after that I put the wet wool in a baking dish and sprinkled more colors on it, then made it hot some more. Then I rinsed it, let it dry, and made it be yarn. This involved moving my foot up and down for a long time. See? ACTION!

At long last, though, I have words. Mainly because I've been reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's books. Damn she's a funny writer. If you don't know the Yarn Harlot, you must read her blog immediately.


According to the Yarn Harlot, the 'low-stasher' is a rare bird. From what I've seen in knitblogs and Ravelry and whatnot, she's right. Knitters like to buy far more yarn than they can use. I've seen pictures of stashes that have more wool than my favorite yarn shop. And it's not a small yarn shop, either. (It's not hard to have more yarn than my local yarn shop, Digs, which is also a fabric, soap, clothing, book, card, candle, and randomgirlyshit store. This upsets me more than it should. I just want the yarn.) Apparently, it just ain't normal to buy only yarn you have a use for.

Well, I'm not used to being normal. It would weird me out if I were normal. Me, I leave the yarn store without yarn more often than not. Yeah, you heard me. I walk out with no yarn. More than half the time.

Why? Well, I got to thinking about why, and this is what I came up with:

1: I spin. I spin quite well. I like my handspun better than almost all commercial yarn. So I often find myself picking up something lovely, thinking, "This would be just perfect if it was 100% merino instead of merino/mohair, if that brown was a little deeper and it had green instead of blue, and it looks splitty, it could stand to be spun just a teensy bit tighter..." -- and I rush home to dye and spin the yarn in my head. I imagine the almost-perfect yarn waving forlornly at me as I leave, then going to post Evanescence lyrics on its Myspace.

2: I'm picky. This kinda goes hand in hand with #1, but I was picky even before I learned to spin. I touch everything in the store, just like the people with the huge stashes, but I guess I don't like what I'm feeling as much as they do. It's not really a matter of scratchy versus soft, because sometimes I'm in the mood for a little texture and will deliberately pick something that's not too soft. But the texture, the color, the weight, everything has to be just right or I don't even pick it up.

3: And thirdly, probably the most important contributor to my small-stashy-ness, I'm a night owl. My 'OMFG gotta cast on rightnow!' urges tend to occur at about one in the morning. If you know of a yarn store that's open at one in the morning, by all means let me know. Now, I know some people stockpile yarn against these occasions, and I do occasionally buy something because it's just the kind of thing I most often use -- I do have some stash. But then when the urge occurs, I use one of those things I stockpiled. So it gets used up. So the stash stays small. Voila.

I'm not by any means saying that other people ought to be the way I am. In a way I kind of envy the people with huge stashes. But when I envy them, I don't think about having all that yarn, I think about using all that yarn. When I have an idea that I could use some of my stash yarn for, that adds extra joy to the project. It's like... processing the yarn through, turning it from potential to actual, is what gives me joy.

Yeah. It's like that. A big stash just looks to me like... backlog.

So that's why my stash all fits in one bookshelf, and is likely to continue to do so. Granted, there are yarn deposits all over the house, wherever I happen to have been working on a project -- a small pile on the dining room table, a layer on the top shelf of my Etsy-business area, and quite a thick stratum of mostly-finished projects on my desk -- but if I gathered it all together, it would just about fill the empty bottom shelf of the bookshelf my stash lives in.

Uh-huh, my stash area has an empty shelf. Has done for at least a year now. I'm a freak. A FREAK I TELL YOU! I'm super freaky. Yow! *James Brown dance*


I think my stash minimalism is closely tied to my knitting style. You may have heard that there are two types of knitters, 'process' knitters and 'product' knitters. Process knitters are about the knitting, and project knitters are about the having-knitted. Of course every knitter's a mix of these. If you like knitted objects but don't like knitting, you'll just buy something someone else knitted. If you like knitting but don't like having knitted objects, you'll... um. What would you do? Make one scarf six miles long? Knit bizarre art emplacements that trail off in knotted strings and found objects, and sell them to museums for millions? (Note to self: find out if it's been done.) Anyway, it's like the Kinsey scale for knitting.

Me, I'm pretty far over on the 'process' side of the scale. I don't even like patterns, because that's too much thinking and not enough knitting. I'll happily make ginormous garter-stitch afghans, which most knitters consider the equivalent of rolling a rock up a hill over and over for eternity. Hell, maybe I'd enjoy rolling a rock up a hill. I like sweeping. And digging holes. I once had a job taking tags off tiny decorative objects and putting different tags on them; I was happy as a clam doing nothing but picking tags and sticking tags all day. I find repetitive activity soothing, I guess.

Where this ties into stash is in the method I use for deciding what to knit. I don't generally think something like, "I want to make a cropped, cabled cardigan out of blue-green wool-silk tweed." My thought process is more like, "I want to make a flat thing with small needles." Sometimes it's just, "Makes mor loopz now!" I know I don't look like a lolcat, but occasionally I'm just... not complex.

So I get this urge, at one in the morning, to make a flat thing with small needles. I go to the cylindrical pottery thingummy that I keep my needles in, and see some needles that look about the right amount of small, and I take them. Sometimes I look at them and discover that they are, say, size 4 needles. Sometimes I don't even look. They feel about right, that's what counts. And I have an idea of what kind of yarn feels right on this size of needles, so I grab all the yarn that feels right-needle-ish.

So I'm holding these needles -- usually scratching my head with them -- and looking at this pile of yarn. My stash is, as I mentioned, small, so there's maybe half a dozen yarns there at most. I might pick them up one at a time, or poke them, or wind a strand around my finger. Now I'm thinking about the flat thing. I feel like flat. What things are flat? Scarves, afghans, parts of sweaters. No, parts of sweaters aren't flat enough; they're meant to join up, so you have to think about them as round. Scarves and afghans. Do I have enough for an afghan? Nope. Looks like I'm making a scarf. Images of possible scarves flit through my head as I look at the yarns. As soon as I see a picture I like, I grab the yarn that inspired it and put the rest back.

Then I sit down and cast on, and gleefully make mor loopz all night. It keeps my hands happy while I watch videos or read. (Yes, you can read while you knit! They make little book-holder-upper doodads, you can get them at most big bookstores.) When my project is done, I give a little sigh of sadness. No mor loopz. All goen. Sigh.


Ooh, I want to knit a round thing on big needles! *rush to stash* *grab size 9 dpn's* *ponder several colors of Lamb's Pride Worsted for five minutes* *cast on hat*


Which brings us to my favorite thing to knit. I reckon most folks, if you ask them what's their favorite thing to knit, will describe a finished item. Sweaters. Mittens. Baby blankets. But I, well, I am superfreaky, as we have already determined. My favorite thing to knit is tubes.

Tubes are, of course, very useful in knitting finished items. Socks, hats, sleeves -- really, the human body can only be properly fitted by making tubes. But the freaky thing is, it's the tube part I like. Having to put a heel or a toe on it kinda... dilutes the joy. Oh, I do it, of course. I put thumb holes in wrist warmers, heels on socks, round tops on hats (with the keen spirally decrease, I do like how that looks). But if I had my druthers -- if I could think of a use for it -- I'd just knit a humongous tube, and I wouldn't cast off until it was so long it was a pain to turn around.

Having realized this, I think I'm going to knit a series of arm and leg warmers for my Etsy shop.
Hm, and maybe neck warmers. The kind that are just a soft, stretchy cowl with no shaping. Just round and round and round. Mmmm, tubes.

Scuse me, I have to go plunder my stash.


mosrael said...

Hells yes! I don't usually read knitting/fiber journals, but yours is damn funny and I learn stuff too. It's always nice to know there's someone else out there who enjoys sweeping (it's not boring, it's meditative), and that I'm not the only one leaving a yarn store empty-handed. I feel bad doing that, but I'm a lifelong window-shopper, and dammit, yarn costs money! Since I'm still learning, too, I don't want to buy something pricey and then make a hash of it. (This has happened many times, in many mediums...)

Speaking of which, would you have any advice on knitting items with eyelash yarn? I've been trying to make this one hat for way, WAY too long, and even if your advice is "mail it to me with some cash" that's cool too. I have named it the Ongoing Hat Disaster.

Jesse said...

Well, first off, it's not you. Eyelash yarn is objectively a pain in the ass. :D

Knit loose. Go up a needle size or two. Or three. Give it room to fluff out its fluffies. Depending on your pattern, that might mean reducing the number of stitches. It might take a washing or two before the eyelash frizzlies will stick out properly.

As for buying something pricey and making a hash out of it, I used to think that way too. Then I realized: yarn is reusable, right? Better to get something that feels wonderful to knit with, so when you have to rip back your project and re-knit it, you'll still love the yarn. :D

Anonymous said...

What about tubescarves? 5 feet for delicious tubing, without any hole or bendy bits to ruin your fun :)

(Plus they're super pretty and comfy)

Anonymous said...

*of delicious tubing.

I've been doing that more than usual lately. Sorry.

Jesse said...

Ooh yes indeed, the tube scarf is relaxation incarnate. I remember when I made Luka a longcat scarf, I spent three whole days just going around and around. Aaaah, bliss. :D