Cool sale: http://www.customyarns.com is offering a free skein of Pizzazz (which retails for $36/skein) and a free skein of Showstopper (no clue on retail price) to anyone who orders at least $20 from them.
They also have a really mouthwatering collection of custom yarns, which is worth checking out. I LOVE their colors, and unlike most shops, they offer yarns I can’t spin–multistranded yarns, metallic yarns, eyelash yarns, and so on.
I went over there and checked it out, but didn’t buy anything…not much point in getting a skein or two of yarn, and at the moment I can’t afford enough for an entire project.
More to the point…even if I did buy it, I know I wouldn’t use it, which makes it a waste of money and space. I used to accumulate stash with the best of them, but I am actively avoiding stash-building now, because I’ve realized two basic facts:
(1) the vast majority of items entering my stash (and, I suspect, most people’s) will never get used;
(2) I don’t need it. The world is full of interesting materials. Whenever I want a new project, there will be PLENTY of materials on hand to do it. If it isn’t this particular material right in front of me, it’ll be something else–and I’ll be fine with that.
Stash is basically a power/control issue. It’s “I want to be able to make THAT throw out of THAT particular red alpaca fleece, and I don’t trust that an equivalent one will be available when I get around to it.” It’s the same instinct that makes us save up for a rainy day, gather food for the winter, and put on fat so we don’t starve. But we’re living in the midst of abundance; we don’t need stash, any more than we need extra fat on our bodies. And I view extra stash as a burden, not as a benefit…it takes up space, it takes up money, and it takes up mental energy.
One of the things I’ve discovered from living in a very small space for the last year, and having nearly all of my items in storage, is that we don’t need most of the things we have. 90% of the stuff I have in storage has been in storage for the past year; I can go down and get it, if I need it, but I haven’t needed it. The stuff that is currently with me is the stuff that I genuinely need, and there isn’t much of it. In the early days, I went down to the storage space once a month or so. These days, it’s maybe every few months. But 90% of my stuff is still in storage, and I need almost none of it. Big lesson there.
The question of “what if I couldn’t get X?” came with me through Southeast Asia…I was traveling with a backpack and couldn’t bring more than half a shoebox’s worth of craft materials. Moreover, I was traveling light–all my belongings weighed about fifty pounds–so I couldn’t afford the weight of, say, a big pack of beads.
I thought about it carefully before I left and brought a careful selection of items to give me the biggest possible variety of hobbies in the smallest possible space. You should have seen what I planned to bring with me! Blackwork embroidery projects, another embroidery project with fabric, ribbons, and beads, a book on craftwork, and so on. That was what I thought of as a minimal stash for six months’ travel (and I thought I was traveling light). My friend who had been on foreign backpacking trips before took one look at it and started laughing. “You’re not going to use it,” she said. I said, “But what if I can’t get any craft stuff in Southeast Asia?”
It turned out that we were both right. There is very little conventional craft stuff available in Southeast Asia–at least for the things we think of as craft–but it didn’t matter, because I wouldn’t have used it. In fact, of the small collection of craft stuff that I did bring–silk for spinning, a few beads, origami paper, and a few other small crafts–the only thing I really used was the silk and the knitting needles. I wound up sending most of my craft supplies home after a month or so, as a useless burden. (My feet were hurting.) If I’d needed a craft to do, I could have found one–even if I needed to hand-spin reeled silk into yarn for knitting, or learn to braid using coconut palm fronds, or whatever was available.
So what I learned out of that experience is that, first, there is no point in carrying anything that you aren’t immediately working on–the world is awash in craft materials, and as long as you have a healthy curiosity and a certain amount of creativity, the journey will be full of creative richness no matter how little you own. Second, anything you aren’t immediately working on is a burden–even if it’s a relatively small one.
That said, I’m not against having a small stash…it is extremely helpful to have a basic set of tools and materials. I have three boxes of fiber under my bed, basically enough to sample anything, and provide materials for a few small projects. I don’t really need it, but it’s nice to have; it saves me a trip to the shop when I want to test something. I don’t need more than enough to sample; once I decide I want to use it, I can always get more. Even exotic stuff like guanaco is fairly readily available online. If it isn’t available, I come up with another project, which takes about three seconds. So that gives me a lot of variety with relatively little drag.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that most things can be made with a minimum of tools. I don’t feel the need to buy painted rovings, because I know how to paint my own. Granted that I won’t be able to get *that* particular painted roving, but I can get a close approximation by painting my own. (Or I can order another, different-yet-just-as-nice painted roving once I want to start the project.) I can blend stuff on hand cards. For me, there’s something elegant about owning the exact minimum of tools and fibers necessary to make (almost) anything–exactly enough, without anything left over. If and when I move back into my own place, I think I’ll probably stay with that philosophy. 125 lbs of fiber for someone who uses maybe 8-10 ounces a year is utterly absurd. That’s not a sensible stash, that’s hoarding. 3-4 pounds is more than enough.
I’d like, at some point in my life, just to be able to go through life and trust thatI’ll find enough along the way–because I am almost certain that that’s true–but I can’t quite bring myself to do it yet. I have the same instincts towards hoarding that everyone else does, having been brought up in the same society. But there was something really wise in the Lao philosophy–they tend to live in the moment, and feel sorry for people who think too hard. If a Lao farmer raises enough rice by April to feed his family, he simply stops working for the rest of the year, and enjoys the leisure time. Granted that this attitude does have its downsides–long-term planning is not a Lao forte–there is something to be said for simply enjoying life in the moment. I view stash-building as living in the future–planning for “someday”–and so am trying to avoid it.
There are, of course, other reasons for stash-building–mostly social and entertainment–but I’ve discovered that I can have just as much fun watching eBay for new and interesting items without actually buying them. I mean, if it’s really appealing enough then I’ll buy it, but I very rarely bid–it’s more a source of interesting ideas than anything else. Ditto fiber festivals. As for the social aspects…these days I mostly talk about interesting discoveries/ideas (when I run into other fiber artists, which I don’t often), and that seems to work fine for me.
Anyway, different people accumulate stash for different reasons, and I think the size of a “working stash” varies from spinner to spinner (mine is particularly small because I work on small, slow projects), but I think the instinct to acquire stash is something that’s worth thinking about. It’s rather like fat–a little bit of it is vital, a medium amount is fine, but lots and lots tends to be a drag. How much of a drag depends on your resources and circumstances–some people can better afford to acquire/store it than others. At the moment, I very much prefer to live and travel light.
All that being said, do check out the yarn shop I mentioned at the start…it has some utterly gorgeous yarns, and some really cool ideas. I’m glad I went for a look, even though I didn’t buy anything. 🙂