An Inventory

This year, we spent Christmas with my in-laws.  My mother-in-law is in poor health.  She has cancer and then got pneumonia.  She was in the hospital for 2.5 weeks, moving to rehab on the Tuesday after Christmas.  For a while, we thought she wasn’t going to make it to Christmas, but she did.  For the moment she’s stable, but the cancer is advanced and at this point we count each day as a gift.  During the time I visited with her, we talked a lot about her life and what has been important to her and what is important to her now.  “None of that stuff matters to me anymore,” she said, referring to her physical possessions.  What matters to her is speaking with and spending time with her people — her children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends.

In November, my husband was laid off from his job.  This was something we’ve expected for some time, so we’ve saved money and he got a severance payment, so we are not in an immediate financial crisis.  He spent most of the last six weeks with his mother and is now starting to look for a job.  We don’t know how long it will take for him to find a job, so we need to manage carefully so that the money we have lasts for as long as possible.  As a result, buying yarn and fiber are definitely off the list!  I must craft from stash.

These two factors have me thinking a lot about what really matters and about how I want to spend my time.  I am feeling the need to let go of some things and consolidate others.  I want to spend more time on my fiber pursuits.  Over the last few years, I’ve acquired an astonishing variety of fiber books, tools, and supplies.  I’ve acquired things at a much quicker clip than I’ve crafted them.  Once upon a time, I kept Ravelry up-to-date, but I fell out of the habit.  I feel as though I don’t really know what I have anymore and to make plans, I need to know what I have.  It’s time for an inventory.

Fortunately, inventorying is in my blood.  For most of my growing up years, my father worked in stock rooms.  When I was very small, he worked in the warehouse of a local clothing store.  When I was 11, we moved to a different state where he had a new job as the manager of a hospital stock room.  My sister and I went to a private school in the same town as the hospital, which was a 30-minute drive from where we lived.  We commuted with my father.  Since we got out of school a couple of hours before he got out of work, we spent those hours at the hospital.  We usually stayed in the cafeteria, working on our homework.  Sometimes, especially on days when they were short-staffed, we hung out in the stock room, working on homework and occasionally answering the phone to take orders from the floors while the employees pulled and delivered the needed items. Twice a year, on a Sunday, the stock room closed for inventory.  All the stock room employees came in, along with people in other administrative departments, and my sister and I.  We counted every single item on every single shelf, balancing the inventory against the computer.

I started my personal inventory process before Christmas.  I started by consolidating — putting away all the random yarn and projects scattered around the house.  It’s a lot easier to do inventory when everything is where it belongs.  It’s a little scary to flash my stash, but here’s the pix so you can see where I am now.

These bins are the main stash collection.  Each of these is a 40 quart bin.  One of the bins holds finished projects waiting to be gifted, but the rest are full of yarn and fiber.  I sorted the fiber by type (wool, plant fiber, blends, batts, etc).  There’s so much wool that it takes up 8 bins and I’ve alphabetized the wool by breed.  I separated the yarn by weaving yarn and knitting / crocheting yarn.  Then I sorted each of those categories  size of the yarn.

These shelves hold the yarns made from plant fibers.  It’s mostly cotton, but there’s some linen and bamboo in there also.

These batts have been living in this suitcase since I bought them last April because I can’t fit them anywhere else.

This pile consists mostly of raw fleece, waiting for me to wash and process it.  There’s also a couple of bags of yarn that I haven’t put away.  That’s my four-harness, 28″ weaving width LeClerc Fanny counterbalance loom under all that fleece.

This bin holds raw fleece in smaller quantities.  There’s a variety of breeds in this bin, but no more than a pound from any one fleece.

These boxes hold fleeces that I bought and had processed by mills.  I believe there’s three fleeces total in here.  They are sitting on top of my four harness, 22″ weaving width Dorset direct tie-up loom.

These bins and the hamper on top of them hold WIPs.  A couple of years ago, I conquered all my WIPs, but now I have a new pile.

These are smaller bins, about twice the size of a shoebox.  They hold a couple of WIPs, including two or three that only need blocking, but mostly they are projects waiting for me to cast on.  I matched yarn to patterns and sometimes the needles are with them also.

Finally, this is my fabric collection.  Last spring and summer, I took sewing lessons.  I’ve mostly sewed pillowcases, which we send to the pediatric oncology ward where my cousin works, for nurses to distribute to the kids.  I actually have a lot more fabric than this, but everything I bought for pillowcases is stored at my mother’s house.  This is everything I have at my house.

I have complicated feelings about all this stash.  I’ll be writing more about it as I continue the inventory process.  My goal for the next week is to get Ravelry back up-to-date.  I’ve downloaded the spreadsheet of my Ravelry stash as a starting point.  I’ll write an update next week, to share my progress and next goal.

KCBW6, Day 1: If You Were Yarn


Today’s prompt is to write about what yarn you would be if you were yarn.  I was mentally writing a detailed blog post about this, with the premise that I am yarn in all its glorious diversity , when I received the following e-mail, forwarded from the Weavers of Orlando Guild to all members (names edited out for privacy):

Hi,  I am R,  S’s husband.

Before she died, S told me to get in contact with WoO and offer up her
substantial yarn stash to the WoO members.   Since this is mostly knitting
yarn I contacted one of S’s friend and knitter ( Also a WoO member).

There is a lot of high quality yarn, plus many knitting projects in various
stages of completion.    Each in its own container with pattern and check
off sheet showing the progress of the project.  Also many knitting books.  I
have everything organized and available to be looked at transported.

I would like to get this valuable material the right person(s), and am
asking for advice and help from you.   S, although not a weaver, did so
enjoy your organization, and wanted to share her yarn with the group.

Many Thanks,


I did not personally know S; I only joined the Weavers guild last fall, and there’s many members I have yet to meet.  Nevertheless, this e-mail hit me right in the heart.  When you make something with your hands, you use not just materials and tools but also the most precious resources any of us have — our time and energy.  Inevitably, something of ourselves is left in our work.  A stash is personal because it reflects our plans and dreams and wishes and hopes and possibilities, an investment of our future time and energy.  S’s yarns and books and half-finished projects aren’t just objects; they are a part of and reflection of her.

Nancy and me sorting through S's yarn and projects.
Nancy and me sorting through S’s yarn and projects.

S was a talented and organized knitter.  Her projects were mostly sweaters: pieced together, knit in the round, colorwork, cardigans.  She wasn’t stuck in any kind of color rut.  Her projects spanned every hue of the rainbow.  Most of her yarns were high-end, but she wasn’t afraid of novelty yarns.  She had a wonderful sense for combining colors and textures into her work.  Like many of us, she didn’t like finishing work.

I came home with 10 WIPs; Nancy took home many more than that.  Since I’ve never made a sweater before, I came home with the projects that only needed blocking or minimal seaming.  Nancy took home projects that still need collars and cuffs or that were knitted in pieces.  In addition to the WIPs, we left with a medium-sized packing box of kits.  These were projects that had pattern, needles, and yarn packaged together but S had not yet started knitting.  We had another, slightly smaller box, of WIPs that need substantial knitting.  We also left with three large boxes of yarn and a milk crate of books and magazines.

One of the WIPs I brought home is a particularly special project.  It is a shawl which E, S’s best friend, was knitting for S & R’s daughter.  E passed away two years ago, and the half-finished project came to S.  S finished the knitting, but hadn’t blocked it yet.  I will block it and return it to R so he can give it to his daughter.

Over the next several months, Nancy and I (and anyone else we can press into service) will be finishing the rest of the WIPs.  In January, we will bring them to Distaff Day and donate them to Project Warmies, a local charity that distributes warm items to several local shelters.  R gave us bookmarks, leftover from the funeral service, with a picture of S and a short obituary.  Project Warmies likes to have a little information about each donated item they receive, so we will include those bookmarks with each project.

The Guild will use the less expensive, big box yarns to make Kumihimo disks or other giveaway demos.  The Guild does many demos throughout the year, often at schools.  We estimate that we will go through 1,000 homemade Kumihimo disks this year!  The kits, WIPs that need substantial knitting,  remaining yarn, and books will all go into the Weavers of Orlando auction held in August.

R seemed happy with the plans for the yarn and projects.  S wanted everything to benefit the Weavers of Orlando or to go to a good home, where the items would be appreciated. We will do our best to honor those wishes.

As I read the e-mail then sorted through S’s yarn, I realized this: there is no “if.”  We are all yarn.  Every time we buy a skein for our stash, or spend time knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, dyeing or otherwise crafting with fiber, we incorporate the yarn into ourselves.  We eschew other possibilities and become a yarn crafter, a yarny, a fiberista, a maker.  Time drips through our fingers in the form of stitches, warp and weft, roving smoothed into yarns.  As often as we talk about SABLE (Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy), we know, somewhere deep down, that someday when we are gone (hopefully many years from now) our loved ones will be crafting an e-mail like the one above.  Someone who never knew us will be looking through our stash and our half-finished projects.  What will she learn about us?