I went in to buy buttons...

I went to the fabric store to buy buttons, and came out with yarn.  That happens to me a lot.  What can I say?  It was on sale.

Because I buy so much yarn - a skein here and a skein there - and because I make things to sell, I need to keep track of what I have and what I use.  I thought I'd share my system here in case you need to organize your yarn, too.

Each skein is labeled with an accession number - the year and then a number.  The two skeins I just bought are 2016.4 and 2016.5. Only 5 skeins of yarn so far this year - I must be falling behind! Details about the skeins are logged in a journal.  I used to keep the log in Excel, but have found it's easier for me to do it by hand.  Go figure.

I also enter the yarn info on a business-sized card and put that, with a sample of the yarn in plastic sleeve in a note book.  The notebook is organized by which of the many bins of yarns that I have - roughly by fiber type.  This way, when I'm thinking about a project I don't have to pull out the bins first, I start with the book.  

Stash Busted!

I have a love/hate relationship with the word “stash.”  It has a dirty, illicit connotation - in fact, the Oxford English Dictionary tells us that it is derived from thieves’ cant.  Most of the definitions I’ve found include the word “secret” - as if we should be ashamed of its existence, or else afraid that an irate spouse should discover that we have been frittering - I say frittering - our hard earned cash on craft supplies.  

For some a stash is not a secret, but bragging rights: “You only have ten tubs of yarn in your garage?  I have twenty!”  “My husband will kill me if he finds out I brought home another fleece!”

William Morris said "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  This leads to the concept of de-stashing.  Tastes change, standards change.  When this happens it’s time to reevaluate the content of the stash.  Do I still think this yarn is beautiful?  Will I ever spin this wool?  If no, then away it goes, possibly to the guild raffle table, where someone else may find it useful and beautiful, and take it into a stash of their own.

I am trying to break myself from the word “stash.”  I am training myself to say “art supplies” instead.  It is, I think, nothing less than they deserve.

For one thing, there’s nothing secret about it.  It is well documented and catalogued.  I know where everything is, when I bought it, how much there is, and how much I paid.  (Please note that I have NOT added up how much I’ve spent - that would just be too depressing.)  

For another thing, there are many good reasons to have a store of art supplies at your disposal.  Here are my top ten:

10. You should never pass up a good deal.
9. The yarn store isn’t open at 2:00 a.m. when you want to start a project.
8. If you don’t buy it now, later when you want it, you won’t be able to find it.
7. It’s something to pass along to your children.
6. All the other cool kids are doing it.
5. You feel guilty if you walk out of the store without buying anything.
4. It’s important to support shepherds, independent fiber artists, and your local yarn shop.
3. All of those plastic tubs you buy keep Rubbermaid in business.
2. Who parks a car in their garage, anyway?
1. Because it makes you happy.

My mother's stash

When my parents retired, they moved into a farmhouse in a very small town - a village really, except that we don’t have villages in California.  The house had a barn.  It was small by barn standards, and I don’t know if it ever housed any livestock - possibly some farm equipment. 

One of the first things that happened when my parents moved in was that the barn was made over.  It was made structurally sound, cleaned, and a concrete floor was poured.  About 1/3 of the barn became the garage.  The rest was storage for the type of things that generally go into an attic - which California houses, even turn-of-the-century farmhouses, frequently don’t have.  There were Christmas decorations, and canning jars, and my mother’s stash.  

In the middle of it all was a large cutting table - mom was a seamstress.  But the cutting table was quickly covered in more, um, junk, and cutting was henceforth done on the dining room table, as it pretty much had been done all my life.  

I used to tell mom that when she died we were just going to burn the barn.  Mom was horrified.  What really happened was what generally happens.  When my father became ill, they sold the house and moved “to town,” into a nice mobile home park.  The stash went along and occupied the shed in the yard, a portion of the covered carport, and the closets in both my mother’s sewing room and my dad’s study.  Also under the guest bed.  It may have been pared down a little - I don’t know.

A few years after daddy passed away, mom’s memory began to fail and it became obvious to us that she could no longer live on her own.  My sister found a nice retirement community for her to live in, but she had to downsize to a one-bedroom apartment.  Although she could no longer do most of the crafts that she loved, she did want to hang on to some things.  My sisters and I packed up up a variety of yarn, fabric, thread and patterns, and those went with her.

It then fell to the family to deal with the rest of the contents of the house, shed and carport before the mobile home could be sold.  It was dirty, it was August in the San Joaquin valley, and it was sad.  The only thing that made it at all bearable was that my sisters, my brother, our spouses and most of my nieces and nephews were gathered together.  It was a family reunion.  

Most of the fabric/fiber sorting fell to me.  The cotton fabrics went to the church quilting group.  The quilts squares and pieces from the quilt that my grandmother started, and I remember my mother working on from time to time during my life, came to me.  The acrylic yarn went to the thrift store, as did the polyester fabric and most of the patterns - although some of them were designer Vogue from the 60’s and would have fetched a pretty penny on eBay - but there just wasn’t time.  

But it all had to be gone through, because in amongst the polyester and acrylic were some real treasures.  Like my grandmother’s quilt pieces. Like the fuzzy pink mohair, obviously intended for a sweater in the 50’s, but now is a fuzzy pale pink shawl belonging to Risé’s daughter-in-law.  Or the vintage rayon bouclé and Italian mohair that became part of the Albuquerque shawls.

The Albuquerque shawls include vintage Italian mohair and rayon boucle from my mother's stash.  

The Albuquerque shawls include vintage Italian mohair and rayon boucle from my mother's stash.