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Yarn stash as a source of joy
There are years of stashing up and years of stashing down, but through it all, yarn can be a source of joy and thoughtful consumption
I’m trying to consume things more thoughtfully and, in general, buy fewer things.
I’m also someone who makes a living by making things for other people to buy.
This is a conundrum, and one I recently talked through with another artist. You’d probably recognize her name if I shared it, but I’m not going to quote her because it would be like her tacit endorsement of my yarn, which isn’t the point. What I want you to know is this: the central idea for today’s Sunday letter didn’t start with me. It comes from someone who’s done some deep work thinking about consumption, capitalism, and making a living from selling things.
The idea is this: commerce is not always capitalism.
Commerce has existed for thousands of years. Modern capitalism, on the other hand, is where most people have only their time and labor to sell, and capital (the factory, the means of production) is owned by just a few people. This system is just hundreds of years old. I think this is why back-to-the-land movements are so powerfully attractive to me. They try to carve out a third way, between capitalism and socialism, where people can live simply, but well, outside of systems that seek to extract every bit of everything out of us.
Engaging in commerce—most small businesses—are closer to this idea of a third way. Commerce doesn’t have to be extractive. It can be about making useful, beautiful things that bring joy and have a long life. Their impact on our lives is great, and their impact on the earth can be as minimal as possible.
Yarn is one of these things for me.
My yarn stash is the place where I “shop” for the materials I need to do one of the things I most love to do: knit and make clothes for myself.
In my stash, I have both superwash and non-superwash yarns because I find that balance and context matter a lot to me, and I don’t hold myself to a standard of perfection. There are some times when I say to myself, a superwash yarn is okay to use, even though it’s harsher on the environment than non-superwash, because my lifestyle is to use harsh things sparingly. I can give myself permission to knit a sock that will be hardy for washing in my washing machine. I can give myself permission to use a yarn that has crisp and lovely speckles (as can only be achieved on a superwash yarn) because it brings me outsized joy.
I also use non-superwash yarn in abundance, and love how gentle it is on the earth—my sweaters, when fully worn out and threadbare, are capable of becoming compost and nourishing the soil. And they’re going to have a long, long life by that point.
Yarn brings me joy.
I love everything about yarn: the colors it’s capable of absorbing, the texture, the feel, the possibility, the promise. My yarn stash brings me joy, too. It’s a place of possibility and a beautiful collection, all at the same time. I have treasured skeins that I may never knit, and I’m okay with that, because they fulfill their purpose simply by bringing me joy, every time I look at them.
There’s a tired old joke that goes around yarn shops and festival booths and bad t-shirts about having to hide your yarn purchases, or having too much yarn, or husbands not approving of your yarn stash. Even in the most progressive, smash-the-patriarchy households, I’ve heard some comment of derision about the size of stashes. And it makes me sad every single time because yarn is a source of joy.
Because whether you, or I, add to our stash or not, the decision to buy something is full of nuance. I can’t tell you that buying more yarn is bad or that your stash is “too big,” and neither can anyone else. Only you can. Your creativity, your source of joy is just that: yours. (Note: I am not talking about clinical levels of over-consumption or consumption that leads to crushing debt. A small percentage of us will have this level of problem, but it’s still not about the yarn.)
I’m thinking about consumption and yarn stashes a lot these days, as I move into a season of more making and dyeing and more shop offerings. Commerce is not always capitalism, and it definitely isn’t late-stage capitalism where goods become disposable and over-consumption and hauls are the norm.
It’s okay to buy treasured things that will be enjoyed for their beauty. That handmade piece of pottery. That sweater’s quantity of hand-dyed yarn.
In the spirit of thoughtful yarn consumption, I have a few offerings for you today:
An article with my 5 tips for happy yarn shopping. This is my very best advice for shopping a yarn sale, or a shop update, or a festival, without overconsuming. For finding that balance of happy, joyful yarn purchases that add to your stash in the most useful ways. Lots of yarn dyers (including me) are having sales right now. These tips should be helpful to you in deciding which sales (or events) to shop and how.
A helpful one-pager that incorporates all of my advice and spurs your creative thinking and yarn planning.
One more thing: Yesterday, before opening up my studio sale, I tallied up donations to my Community Fund.
My Community Fund is mutual aid in the best sense of the word—between knitters who have something to give and to knitters who are limited or low income, who are impacted by systemic racism, or who are going through a rough patch. Through my Community Fund, you support me, too. I receive full price (or in the case of the sale, discounted price) for my creative work, too.
Because of you, there is mutual aid within our community, and I was able to send your support out to about 10 makers in the form of gift cards (grants) to my shop.
Whether or not you choose to shop my sale, whether or not you have ever donated to or applied to my Community Fund, whether or not you support my writing with a paid subscription, I want you to know that you being here matters.
Buy the things that will bring you joy, and give them a long, long life.
If you feel seen or supported or feel yourself growing because of my writing, you can now become a supporting subscriber with a paid subscription!
You’re invited to shop my ✨studio sale✨
Up until 2021, I did a big studio sale every year with all the prototype skeins and wasn’t-exactly-what-I-intended skeins and playful skeins that didn’t fit into a theme. These are the real treasures of a working studio, and the skeins that most often power my own creative clothes-making.
After a year’s hiatus, the sale is happening again and it’s open now. This is a progressive sale, which means that for the first two days, everything is 10% off, and then for each subsequent two-day block of time, the discount increases. It’s a bit like safe gambling: how low will the discount go before the skeins you really really want come home with you?
The current discount will show up, automatically, in your cart.
It’s 10% off today and tomorrow (20% off on Tuesday and Wednesday; 30% off on Thursday and Friday; 40% off on Saturday and Sunday). All automatically added in your cart.
Use the code COMBINESHIPPING on 2nd or subsequent orders, and I’ll pay for any extra shipping cost because of the extra weight. (Not on the same day and please don’t buy just one skein, and then load up in a second order so I cover the big part of the shipping. Technically you can do that, but it wouldn’t be cool. Honor system here.)
Newsletter subscribers (you!) get first dibs today. I won’t be sharing about the studio sale on Instagram until tomorrow.
Spend some time with your yarn today
What I hope you take away from today’s Sunday letter is this: I hope you will see your yarn stash as a source of joy. Spend some time with your yarn. Look at the beautiful skeins that have inspired you.
Through it all, your stash is your personal yarn shop. It has all the colors that delight you, all the skeins you need to create something beautiful, and all the memories of joy, waiting to be rediscovered.
If you choose to add to your stash, let in all the joy that buying yarn can bring.