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The art of stash

When I was a child, on a shelf in the fold-up kitchen table/shelves unit was a collection of old Maxwell House coffee jars containing buttons. Lots of buttons. I think some of them came from one of my grandmothers, but my mother added to the collection. Before a worn-out garment was thrown out, the buttons were cut-off and added to the button jar for the relevant colour. If we needed buttons for something we were making (we three girls learnt to sew quite young), we went straight to the button jars.

My Dad’s never done much sewing, but he too had a collection of Maxwell House jars in his workshop, filled with nails, screws of assorted sizes, and other useful making-things bits.

My parents switched to percolated coffee in the late 60s/early 70s, thus pretty much ending the supply of Maxwell House glass jars… but I digress ๐Ÿ™‚

Having grown up in a household in which making things and fixing things was quite normal, I acquired the habit early in my young adulthood of having a moderate stash of stuff – knitting needles of assorted sizes; sewing cottons and embroidery yarns in a good range of colours; interfacing of various weights and lining materials in basic colours; fabrics (I sewed much more back then than now); knitting yarns in various quantities. Not being one of those very goal-focused, organised people, I would at times buy fabrics, yarns or tools on sale, without a specific project planned, and I still do that – although much more moderately than some I know!

I don’t have a HUGE stash of anything – but it’s a good size for my way of working, especially now that I live 25kms from a small town with limited yarn/fibre. Some people decide on a project, plan it in advance, purchase exactly what they need for that project, and work on it exclusively until it’s finished.

I’m not like that ๐Ÿ™‚ When I decide I want to do something, I love to be able to start it right away, if possible. While being able to order online on a Sunday or at midnight or whenever inspiration strikes is wonderful, I get impatient waiting for things to arrive via snail mail – especially when it can take 3 weeks for something to come from overseas. So, I love being able to go to the cupboard, and find a suitable yarn, or fibre, or fabric, or whatever, and start making while my enthusiasm is fresh, and while the time is right for me. It doesn’t always work that way, of course – a cupboard is not the same as a fully-stocked shop! – but I’m reasonably good at buying useful things, and I can improvise/adapt when I don’t have exactly the right ingredients (rather like my cooking…)

Given that finances are somewhat tight just now, I’ve been stash-diving a reasonable amount the past couple of months. The dog coats I made in May came from stash; all my recent knitting has used stashed yarn; and when I wanted to photograph stitch markers for the online shop, I pulled out my tin of ribbons of many colours and used those as backgrounds. I’ve also been using some of the narrow ribbons to tie sets of markers together, and some paper from the scrap-book stash to package up the stitch markers. In the next few weeks, I’m planning to make a new light kimono-type dressing gown for my forthcoming hospital stay – and I’ll use some fabric that’s been in the stash for ahem some years. I also may make an outfit for a jacket for a formal dinner in August… and yes, there’s some fabric in the stash for that, too.

Having a stash is simply a way of life for me. It’s not huge or out of control, although it would take me a good couple of years to work through it all – but not several lifetimes. I’ve got yarn for about 5 jumpers/cardigans, maybe 20 pairs of socks, and a similar number of shawls (I’ve knitted 7 this year already!), plus an assortment of weaving yarns enough for maybe a dozen projects. I gave away a fair amount of spinning fibre a while back, but I still have one small box full – so if the fancy takes to spin yarn for a historical-textile weaving project, or a fine lace shawl, I can just go to the cupboard and start. I also destashed some yarns and fabrics that had accumulated that I decided I’ll never use – all to good homes!

I do tell my DH that, compared to many people, this is not a lot of stash. He’s not convinced. But then, most of what he does is digital, and is stored in electronic bits on computer drives, which don’t take up much space at all. And he doesn’t get the pleasure of deciding on a Sunday afternoon to start creating something… and having just the yarn on hand to do it!

2 Responses to The art of stash

  • bells says:

    You’re quite right you know, on all counts. Having stuff close to hand is just a way of life for many of us. Already, a week into my sewing career, I’ve found myself feeling a bit lost because I don’t have a stash to turn to. I can see I’m goign to have to rectify this quickly. I’m so used, as a knitter, to being able to reach for something i want to work with and just do it, and to shopping, as such, from my spare room. I suspect it’s the same for many of us, as well as being fun!

  • Bronwyn says:

    I confess that my sewing stash may be larger than my knitting stash. Years ago, I made costumes for Canberra Rep, and played with the idea of costume design as a career… only to realise that it really wasn’t me. Until I was about 40, I made many of my own clothes. But a few years ago, it finally occurred to me that I didn’t actually enjoy sewing for myself. Being an odd shape, and having to adapt patterns, and never being sure how it would look until it was finished… so now I only sew occasionally. However, I still have the stash ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m sure your fabric stash will develop over time – to a sensible level, of course! A practical stash – not an overindulgent one. That’s my argument, anyway ๐Ÿ™‚