Designing with Stash Yarn

Today’s thought process was inspired by a question I read in a ravelry forum last week and the very common practice in the knitting/crochet world of having a yarn stash.

I have no apologies for my yarn stash. A lot of it was purchased while our household had two incomes and no children. A lot of it was purchased on sale, with specific projects in mind and/or from unique vendors that I get to shop from once a year (or less). Certainly there is yarn is my stash that I’m sad I haven’t gotten to work with yet and some projects I’m dying to make that just haven’t made their way up the queue yet. But that would be the case even if I wasn’t moving into the design realm.

On one hand, yarn isn’t going anywhere. The idea of “hoarding” yarn might seem a little silly when you realize how much yarn is out there and how much of it is readily available. But on the other hand, there are yarn producers that go out of business, independent dyers who may not make that particular colorway ever again and naturally colored sheep wool that is hard to get from any source other than a sheep owner with a booth at a festival. And I can only imagine how much bigger my stash would be if I had had the chance to attend Maryland Sheep and Wool or Rhinebeck when our budget was more flexible!

The question that came up on the forum was about designing with stash yarn. There are yarns I have that have either (a) been discontinued or for whatever reason aren’t publicly available, (b) are in a discontinued color or (c) are available in limited quantities from etsy sellers.

The goal as a designer is to get yarn support through books, magazines, yarn manufacturers or independent dyers…but that isn’t always possible. Your design might not be chosen by the group you want yarn support from or you just don’t have the “design clout” yet to get the support you need. In this case, it is rather easy to self-publish a pattern (some would say too easy, but that is a post for another day) and in my case I have the stash to pull from to make a swatch and a sample.

Whether or not it is a good idea to design with stash yarn? Well, I think the question depends a lot on the yarn. If we’re talking a 100% worsted weight wool or a 50/50 merino and silk blend or a superwash wool and nylon sock yarn…then it is very easy to find substitutes and I wouldn’t hesitate to work with a discontinued yarn. If I’ve got something in my stash that looks and acts like a yarn that I can buy retail, there is no reason not to go for it. Especially with a sock yarn – they are so popular right now, even with people who don’t make socks.

There is also the possibility of working up another sample in a current yarn eventually. Depending on the size of the item, you could do one sample in your well-loved but hard to get yarn and then a second in something more commercial. I think this has a lot of value in selling patterns as well, since there are a lot of knitters and crocheters out there that have trouble picturing an item in a yarn (and even a color) that is different from the picture in the pattern. (Insert discussion of the usefullness of ravelry here.)

This is my guideline for class samples. I try to use yarns that are easily replaced so I can work from stash instead of buying new each time.

On the other hand, some of the discontinued usual blends in my stash will never be used for designing or for class samples. And the yarns from sheep and alpaca farmers would probably only be appropriate for a pattern meant for spinners. The kind of pattern where I could note the wpi of the yarn, the fiber content and the gauge achieved…and leave the rest up to the crafter to find a suitable substitute.  Some yarns are just not easily substituted.

This position might change when and if I am designing and receiving yarn support more consistently, but for the time being my stash has certainly come in very handy indeed.

About Structured Stitches

Designer - Knit, Crochet and Architecture
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