Streamline Your Yarn Stash in 3 Direct Steps

Does your stash of yarn appear to be growing with no end in sight? Would you like to scale things down a bit and use up all that delicious wool? The best intentions will never become reality if you do not take action. Using up that stash is easier than you think.

Here is my 3-step suggestion to transform your collection of yarn into finished items:

Classify, Connect & Chart!

Step One: Classify
In order to begin producing finished pieces from skeins, hanks, balls or cones, you must take stock of what you own. Identify the types of yarn, color, yardage for each and keep in mind ideal application uses. You will need a way to track this information. There are several methods to do this and I recommend you follow the plan that suits your personal preferences. If you do not like the system you will not use it! Some ideas:
  • Index cards
  • Spread sheet
  • Notebook or Binder
  • Ravelry
My personal favorite is Ravelry. I can quickly add as much or as little detail as I like and it is easy to keep track of my depleting inventory as I complete projects. If you opt for a notebook or index cards, think about using a small piece of yarn taped next to the description. If you decide on a spreadsheet, consider using color to designate yarn weight, fiber type or other characteristic. 

Details you may want to include in yarn type are: fiber (wool, silk, alpaca, linen, hemp and so on); weight, color. For the yardage, it is better to underestimate than overestimate and run the risk of not having enough yarn to complete a project. Lastly, and sometimes most importantly, give any details about the best application that come to mind. You may have a beautiful worsted weight wool that looks soft and squishy, but when knitted up it tends to scratch. Note that detail so you can plan a project accordingly. Likewise, if you have a slippery yarn you may note that you would prefer not to knit complex cables or lace with it as the effort extended to keep the yarn under control may deter you from tackling the project. Perhaps the yarn is suited to felting, making baby items or rugs. These and other details will help you decide what to do with the yarn.

Once all your stash has been classified you are ready to move on!

Step Two: Connect
This is the fun part! Now that you have spent time wading through your stash, it is time to match yarn to projects. Sort through your patterns, flip through your knitting magazines and books, or head to the internet and do some research. This is another place I utilize Ravelry. With my stash yarn photographed and catalogued, it becomes much easier to marry my inventory to patterns.

This process will bring new inspiration as oftentimes connections between the yarns themselves arise. You may have purchased two different colors of the same weight yarns at different times, and find they are perfectly suited to be knit up together. Or perhaps you fall in love with a chunky weight pattern and know just the two or three yarns in your stash that can be knit together to create a chunky weight. Explore, be inspired and take on challenges.

Often my first step will be to search patterns on Ravelry from my own library. I have logged the books and periodicals I own already and can search online for what fills my bookshelf. I also like to option to search for patterns based on yarn weight and yardage. Once projects are connected to patterns, I like to "cast on" the project in Ravelry, which is simply adding a new project to my profile. Even if I do not plan on starting to knit or crochet right away, I can assign yarn to projects and know my stash will be depleted accordingly. If you are not using Ravelry, be sure to keep record of all your yarn/pattern connections.

The next step is the one that takes the projects from being identified over into the realm of getting started: Make project bags for each one. Get that yarn out of the stash community and into its own spot with the pattern! I use bags acquired at fiber festivals, zip-lock bags, recycled shopping bags, etc. The idea is to have the yarn and the pattern together so you can pick it up and start at a moment's notice.

The hard work is done, you are ready to finish it up!

Step 3, Chart:
Do not overlook this critical step. It is important to have a mental reminder of the decisions you have made to use up your stash. In this case, as in many others, there is truth to the old adage, "Out of sight, out of mind."

Make yourself a listing of all your newly connected projects. This can be on Ravelry or a hand or typewritten sheet. I like to have a list online and a hard copy. I post a handwritten sheet at home and have a photocopy of it to tuck in my purse, folded inside my datebook. When I am wondering what to start working on, or continue working on, a quick glance at my chart loaded with interesting projects is just what I need to get going. If you make up project bags and tuck them away on a shelf or in a closet, they will sit there just like your stash has. On the other hand, if you make a reference for yourself of what you took the time to plan, you will be more likely to keep on track.

The chart is also an ideal way to make sure you have accounted for all the finished applications of your projects. This is the way to find out if you have enough gift items planned for the holidays, or charity projects to complete or new patterns to create or try out. Have you promised someone you would knit them something, or did you always want to make yourself a tea cosy? Now is the time to get those desires one step closer. If you have to go back to your stash and match up more yarn to projects, so be it. If you find holes in your desired production and you do not have the yarn already, record them. Either add to your Ravelry queue or write them down on your chart. As you finish projects you can think about adding new ones. I would not rush into that, though. If you are like me, you have more yarn than you know what to do with, even if you were a trooper and went through steps one and two already!

The chart allows you to identify if anything is missing, or if you need more balance. For instance, if all your projects are major time investments, like cardigans, fair isle sweaters and aran blankets, you may decide to add in some dish cloths, hats or cowls. Likewise, if all your projects seem like they will work up quickly, you may realize the time to cast on that first sweater has arrived.

One of the benefits of organizing your stash by classifying, connecting and charting is to add variety to your work. If you usually only have one or two projects going at once, classifying becomes a vehicle to add some spice to the usual routine. It also helps give you control over your stash building habit. Sometimes we knitters feel guilty about collecting so much yarn, especially when we had every intention of making something beautiful when we indulged ourselves. Then the days since our purchase was made slip into weeks, months and even years. It can be a reason to be down on ourselves, especially if we keep up the yarn buying habit. Classifying, connecting and charting helps you take charge by improving your organizing skills. The skill of getting yourself organized brings you that much closer to accomplishing your productivity goals.

Tip: While you are doing all this wonderful classifying, connecting and charting, make yourself a little note that reads "I am productive" and pin it where you'll see it each day. That reminder will enlist your subconscious each day to keep your needles or hook moving along through your stash. 

Until next time, happy stash attacking!

~ Wendy Ann


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