Thursday, April 12, 2007


Stash....I've read a lot of things about stash over the 30 years I've been collecting mine, and a few people have given me stash advice in person. I was out walking one day this week when stash advice began to replay in my head. I want to record some of those ideas before they go underground again for another decade or so!

Pat Slaven recently wrote a very poignant essay about stash, inspired by the death of two good friends. She was somewhat involved in dealing with the stashes left behind by both these women. In one case she was invited to view the friend's quilting stash in order to pick some fabrics to make a quilt for the 6 year old son of the deceased woman. Are you getting misty yet? She tried not to influence the young boy, but she did hope that he would choose fabrics that would still speak to him as he grew and matured into a young man, and beyond, as this quilt would hopefully stay with him for many years. Pat was relieved that he did choose fabrics that were not specifically for very young boys. The poignant part of this story is that Pat discovered that her friend never seemed to have used any of these fabrics. There were no quilted projects in progress, no finished projects anywhere in the house, and no one remembers ever seeing her sew. There was only her stash. Her friends and family can only speculate what this stash meant to her. Was she going to learn to sew? Was she just interested in collecting interesting fabrics? Who knows, but her stash remained hidden in various closets in the house, complete with sales receipts.

Many years ago, in a weaving class with Daryl Lancaster, she admonished all of us to enjoy our shopping experiences. She said, "Shop to shop, buy what appeals to you! Then weave from your stash!" This has been my motto for many years, ever since I first heard Daryl say it! I shop with such abandon! I buy things that call out to me, and boy do things sing to me. The problem now is that I have opportunities to buy (and do buy) at a faster rate than I can weave. I now have some serious space considerations, and no hope of catching up if I continue to have SEX (Stash Enhancement eXperiences) at this rate! My studio looks like a warehouse, and it's often difficult to access my looms, much less my stash. I do weave from my stash, but the effort it takes to get things out and examine my stash is often competely overwhelming. Sometimes I have to take a month's break before I can face going back into my studio to put some of that stash away. It's too hard. There's too much of it, it doesn't fit neatly on my shelves (in plastic bins, and in anything else that will contain it) anymore. Trying to find things has become a herculean endeavor, and I am not strong enough for the task! I now have my spinning stash in one bedroom, my knitting stash in another, and all of my weaving stash overfilling my basement studio.

This leads me to a bit of advice I heard recently on a podcast I enjoy: "Cast On" by Brenda Dayne. As part of her New Year's ritual each year she goes through her stash and reorganizes it. She had some fantastic ideas, especially for anyone whose stash is still moderately sized. She calls her yearly process the "Airing of the Stash." She gets it all out for viewing. Yarns that will make complete projects she bags together, and when she has several complete projects bagged she places them all together in large vacuum bags and proceeds to vacuum them into a small concise size, which can be stored and easily viewed. You go, Brenda!

It gets even more interesting after this. With the rest of her stash, which consists of small batches of yarns that appealed to her when she bought them, she begins grouping them into possible projects. She looks at color and texture and decides what yarns look good together. These also get vacuum bagged together, after being collected into various possible project groups. What a feat of decision making and courage! She makes it sound like this possibly takes place during ONE day, maybe a couple of days. I may remember this wrong, but I've pictured this more random stash spread out on a bed! I'm thinking of my random stash taking up every horizontal surface in every room in my house, and me playing a horrific memory game (oh, where is that lovely aubergine mohair that would go so well with this celery green alpaca? Did I see it in the dining room or the basement?) Ha! After 30 years, I think my stash has become a behemoth, a monster, a nightmare.

But, to get back on track with Brenda Dayne's idea: Here's one awesome benefit of doing this. At least once a year you see your stash. It rekindles the ideas you had when you bought each thing, which perhaps will get you started on a new project, and/or motivate you to finish current projects in order to start something new. And better yet, now that you've seen your stash, when you are out shopping and some wonderful little tidbit leaps out at you, you can make an intelligent decision on whether you really need it or not! How great is that? I might be panting over some incredible blend of color and luxury fiber, but perhaps I won't buy it knowing that I have something equally wonderful waiting for my attention
at home.

This idea of "viewing your stash" at least once a year is a terrific idea. I just can't figure out how to do it! I'm not sure I can share photos of my own personal stash here, for two reasons. The first and biggest reason is that it won't all fit in one picture, or even two. It might fit in a photo album! The second reason is that I'm a bit shy about this. It would be like showing the dark side of my addiction. It's not pretty!

Well, okay, here's one picture (what's a blog entry without a picture?). I think this is about 1/4 of my linen stash for weaving, with some other stuff in the background. I swear not all of my stash is this messy....really!