Knitters like to have a big stash. Sometimes we take a lot of heat for it from our spouses, our non-knitting friends, or even from the guilt monger in our own heads. But be assured that having a great stash is nothing to be ashamed of! You should be proud – it means that you’re a real knitter. No one would ever criticize Jacques Pepin for having a well-stocked pantry. He probably has hundreds of items on his pantry shelves with no immediate plans for them - but he needs to have them on hand when he’s ready to cook. Many of his pantry items are the basic elements of his cooking repertoire, but I imagine that many others are probably special and unusual things that he keeps on hand not only because they’ll be useful at some point, but because they will inspire him to create something new and different - something utterly spectacular. That’s exactly what your stash is.
Let me clarify something. Yarn in a designated amount, associated with a particular pattern you plan to knit, isn’t stash; it’s a committed project in your queue. That yarn is like the groceries you buy for the coming week. Stash, as I mean it, is yarn you buy with no specific project in mind. You have sweater quantities of yarns in fibers and colors you love, love, love. Maybe it’s smooth merino in your shade of red, or alpaca silk in a soft beige that really flatters your skin. At some point the perfect pattern will come along for that yarn, but unless you get the yarn you want when you see it, it may not be available when you need it. Yarns and colors get discontinued all the time, and as they say, if you snooze, you lose. With the yarn in hand, you can relax and take your time selecting the perfect pattern. It's like the San Marzano tomatoes I get by the case because I use them all the time, and I can never find them when I need them!
Another part of a knitter’s stash is the collection of absolutely gorgeous fiber wonderfulness that make you swoon when you see it. These hanks and skeins speak to you at the yarn shop, whispering in your ear, and you are compelled to take them home despite the fact that you have no earthly idea what to do with them. They're costly and precious, so you only buy a little bit, but that's okay, because with these lovely yarns, a little goes a long way, like truffle oil or dried porcini mushrooms. You know the yarns I mean--that jewel-toned sport-weight cashmere, or that that chunky hand-dyed wool in the rich earthy shades. You gaze at their lovely colors, fondle their texture, and dream about what you might do with them. it’s a joy just to see them nestled in a basket. You show them off to your knitting friends who all ooh and aaah at your treasure, and you are pleased. When you're ready to knit them, you might choose a pattern designed just to highlight these fabulous yarns -- maybe a little shawlette for your cashmere - maybe a luxe cowl for the chunky hand-dyed. Or you might toss in a dash of over-the-top luxury to turn the ordinary into the spectacular. Like drizzling truffle oil over plain pasta, a little cashmere ruffle can turn a plain scarf or mitten into something spectacular and dazzling. But you probably won't do it if you don't have the stuff already in your stash.
So, new knitters, please know that your growing pantry of yarns should not be a source of guilt or embarrassment. Rather, it's reassuring and comforting, and the very thought of our stash makes most knitters incredibly happy. A well-stocked stash is a source of joy, but most of all, it's a source of inspiration. Buy what you love when you see it, whether you need it right now or not. It will not go to waste, and it will help bring out the creativity in you.