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Wool Overwhelm: When Stash Attacks

I was going to name this post “What to do when your stash and knitting overwhelms” – But before we even go on to look at that I am quite confident in saying that there is no one solution.

This is not a ‘How to’. This is more of a WTF!

I am so delighted with my stash from EYF 2018. Everything was a considered purchase. I certainly didn’t go as “mad” as I could have, but I have no regrets about buying any of it.

This is true of all of the yarn in my stash. I do not hold sway with the idea that we should be embarrassed or guilty, or that – heavens forfend!  – we hide it from our loved ones. That is a darker and much more complex issue and, really, its not funny at all.

Ginger Twist Yarn in my stash

But aside from popping my EYF skeins into ziplock bags (I’ve seen no moths since last year, but this has always been my method of yarn keeping…there will never be open shelves of yarn on display in my house ), I’ve not yet put them away in my stash boxes. I keep looking through them and thinking about the plans I have for them, and then thinking about all of the other things I have to do before I can get to that. I was even thinking I need to knit older stash, before I allow myself to cast on with these new additions. Is there no end to the pressure I put on myself when it comes to yarn and knitting? Apparently not.

This weekend I had all the knitting books out and was trying to match up patterns to yarn. I was getting frustrated at things like, not quite having enough yardage, or getting all grandiose and teaming things together that I would not normally, in patterns that I would not normally make, just to use the yarn up. All the while having a word with myself, because I know that there are projects on my wishlist, that just need time – summer projects, or a special cast on for my 40th, or things I just want to knit before other things…..none of that quells the need to KNIT ALL THE THINGS NOW.

I’ve definitely become more of a process knitter and I’ve never been a particularly quick knitter, but progress is much slower. Add to that things like work, and knitting and wool focus for KnitBritish and there seems to be even less time for knitting things I would like to make for myself.

So this weekend, instead of happily cracking on with new cast ons, I find myself, somehow, edging away from it. Almost like its a mountain that I can’t quite climb. Not only that, but I’ve added to that mountain this weekend by making 2 yarn purchases. Both for intended projects (one to go along with yarn I already have for an intended sweater), but still, what a thing to do.

I’m feeling really overwhelmed today – its weighed on my mind all day. Of course, I took to IG to ask – what do you do when wool overwhelms. There were lots of suggestions and lots of people just weighing in with their own overwhelms too. Thank you for sharing. I’m in turn going to share some of the broader ideas here; what fits for someone else, may fit for you, but one size does not fit all! When it comes to dealing with stash, we all have different attitudes to buying, and different attitudes to stashing. What overwhelms me, may be a drop in the ocean to others. These are just some of the things that others try.


Give some to charity or destash

This is a great idea. I do this regularly. I have a bag in my office where I put odd ends of yarn that I know I will not use, and also skeins I know I no longer love. I usually give the bag over to the Edinburgh Direct Aid, who are always looking for a variety of craft supplies to take to refugee camps and to teach craft skills. I did this just before EYF though, so that’s not really part of it, this time, for me. I also give away skeins as prizes too.

Organise your stash

Whether you Kondo the shite out of it, or you have more commonsense, sleeves up approach to stash admin, this could be the way to go. Split your work stash from your play stash, or your gift knitting stash from your own project stash…maybe this is the key?  You could also have a bag of odds and ends and yarn that you know will be for charity knitting and keep it separate too. Now, where are we going to put it all??

Try not to feel too guilty about it

Again, this is not so relevant to me. I don’t feel guilty about my wool purchases. I used to. I got rid of what made me feel guilty and I don’t make purchases that I will regret. Guilt is a very odd creature and I do understand that there are guilty pleasure purchases and guilt surrounding overspending, etc. I can’t apply that to me this time.

Use your Ravelry stash or make an inventory

This is something I am trying to get better at. I sometimes don’t take photos but put the rest of the info in the Ravelry stash, as it is great for seeing at a glance what you have.

Alternatively, get a lovely yarn journal book, or hack a notebook to make it your own very special inventory of yarn.

Of course, all that organising could put even more emphasis on the overwhelm, but perhaps its the road to less-overwhelm in the future?

Impose a restriction 

This can be a double-edged sword. While I would never let a loved one dictate how I purchase yarn, I can definitely do it to myself, for short periods.

I hate phrases like “yarn diet” or…worse… “cold sheep” – diets rarely work and, well to be frank, the person who came up with cold sheeping deserves no stash at all! If you are planning it for a long period then I think terming it like this is a bit cruel and limiting to yourself – whatever your good reasons for not buying, you are making a hard thing even harder. Also, I do believe that if a skein of yarn is meant to be in your life then you should be together, no matter of restrictions. Some skeins of wool speaks to your soul, can we ever ignore that vibration from a special skein? Really?

I cannot tell you how many people I see at big wool events who say, “The temptation is huge, but I’m on a yarn diet”. While it is good to try and be more considered about stash,  I am afraid I would have to take myself way out of the path of temptation, if it were me. It could go badly the other way and then there would be that guilt!

While I could never go on a long restriction I am going to aim to make my next yarn purchases at Woollinn, on 26th May, in Dublin. Eight weeks is probably ok! At least I will give it a try. It will mean that I will probably avoid yarn shops and events til then, and sit on my hands when if I am in one! Though again, I can never really rule out being on the same layline as a really special skein, the kind with those good vibrations and not taking it home.

Just deal with your current WIP and don’t worry too much

In the short term, for today, that might work. But if you – like me – have ever buried your head in the sand over an overwhelming situation in the past, you try your darnedest not to do that with other situations. Long term this will add to the problem and make it worse.

Make more Good Intentions!

This is a great idea and thank you to those who’ve said the Good Intentions club is helping stave off your own overwhelm. As I said on the podcast, we will definitely be keeping this going so I could go and pair up stash to patterns. I don’t really want to do this with all my stash, as I feel its almost like setting myself up for failure if I don’t get round to them all. Nothing adds to the overwhelm like a tonne of yarn and patterns all ready to go!

I will perhaps do this with my sweater quantities. I currently have 6 or 7 SQ, which I am led to believe is not a lot compared to some, but that feels like a whole lot of knitting to me, and a whole lot of knitting not getting done, if they aren’t moving from their box! I have some definite ideas for one or two, but I should make plans for the rest. That could help a lot.

Cut down on the KnitBritish knitting

For a long time the knitting I was doing was for reviews or for my own swatch bank for sessions, etc. Thankfully some woolly muckers have enjoyed helping me review yarns and this has helped me inordinately. I still feel that I have to review too, which I don’t. I know I don’t. So I need to get over that. I’ve also decided that I am not taking any review items for the next little while. That may be non-wool products too, as believe me these can mount up and overwhelm too. There is enough in the pipeline for now, and I don’t need to take on more at the moment. Thanks to all those who said you can definitely stand to be de-enabled for a wee while (though,  of course, I can enable you when there are no reviews just the same as I can when there are!)

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL. I don’t see one total solution today, maybe its a combination of ideas…maybe its my mood in general that needs to change. But I know it will change and I know its not the only time I will feel like this. That mountain will be there again someday, I think its inevitable! Just as my love for wool and great patterns is undeniable too.

Thank you again for sharing you own wool overwhelms and WIP angst with me. That is one thing you can always be sure of in this community – you aren’t the only one and you feel the support of others around you who have gone through or are going through it too. Thank goodness for you!



  1. Sarah S says

    Thank you for expressing my angst so well! I’m glad to know I’m not alone. And thank you for introducing me to so many amazing yarns and their stories.

  2. I had a big de-stash the other year, nearly all (whispering in a low voice) acrylic as a lady on the bus told me her grand-daughter was crocheting blankets for a hospice/cancer ward where her other grandpa had stayed, but other odd balls from charity shops…(I still have a few of these mystery yarns left but those are more for the cat to play with than anything else)… since listening to your Knit British podcast my wool stash/yarn pantry has grown rather in size (it co-incided with me learning to knit better but also to properly consider what it is I’m putting on my needles) but I think I can hand on heart say there’s nothing in the wool pile that I don’t love, some yarn is for future gifts (socks) some is for play (enabled by knitsonik and her lovely books)…all of it has a story behind it, even if that’s remembering where it came from and the friend associations it then takes on.
    This is my hopefully my year of garment knitting so I can explore some of my jumper quantity purchases and knit them into pieces that get worn and loved.
    I do need to invest in proper storage for what I havethough, so maybe that is one way of managing stash or as I think Leona of Fluph called it, “curating”…I know if all mine was in easy to stack plastic boxes then I’d be able to visualize it better when I’m out so that will be my focus for the next little while.

  3. Cheryl says

    Something that I have found to work when feeling overwhelmed, is the “every other” method. We have all felt a bit over the edge when gazing at our accumulated yarn. The reality of how fast I can knit, the yarn I have and then of course the possibility of new purchases can really be a lot to swallow. When I’m feeling pressure…this usually comes about when I’ve just purchased new yarn, I impose the “every other” project plan. Buying new yarn to make something is exciting and I need to get it on my needles right away, guilt free. The next project I start will be with stash yarn and that brings with it it’s own good feelings. I’ve followed this idea for as long as a year and it was fabulous. I’ve returned to this method of balancing from time to time when needed. It works for me!

  4. Eva says

    Must be the Spring! I had seasonal nightmares about me leaving behind boxes of beautiful yarn and dear family just thowing it away because they really do not know the stories my skeins are telling. Then a nasty lateral epicondylitis hit me out of nowhere (not really true, I was moving house and the 70 o so boxes of books token from the shelves did to me what playing tennis does to others). I am knitting – a bit – but it hurts, it really does, no matter how skilled my therapist is. So what? I had to quit knitting shawls (the real tragedy as my ravelry projects page shows) and even winding skeins into balls. I therefore started a yarn diet mostly by not looking at the yarn on the market. Donations are an option too, at least I know who will enjoy my stash. But, you know what?, I don’t smoke and do not sip spirits. I do not buy fancy clothes for the logo on them, my real treat are fairysteps hanmade shoes – and they seem never to go out of fashion or be worn out – so I buy yarn! Mostly from small local producers, because there is always a great story behing a sheep. At least someone will spread a bit of butter instead of margerine on his/her morning toast because of my obsession. xxx eva

  5. Carin says

    I used to feel overwhelmed (not guilty – that’s different) too, but honestly, buying and planning is as much fun as knitting! What worked for me was to separate out sweater quantities in separate clear plastic sweater storage bags. I made a list and vowed to end the year with fewer SQs than I started with. That’s all. I’ve done that three years in a row, and it’s made me feel that I have a handle on it. Last year I did something similar with yarn for shawls, but that has been less successful in terms of reducing stash. Still, I know where to shop the stash when I find a must knit pattern, and as long as I can stuff it into the one giant bag, I don’t feel so overwhelmed by it.

  6. Iosaturnalia says

    This is more of a helpful comment about preventing your stash building up to overwhelming levels, but it may be of use to some people! Before last year’s Wonderwool Wales, I made a Ravelry favourites bundle with things I was shopping for, and included weights, colours and lengths I was shopping for. It had quite a few sock patterns thrown in, to legitimise those special skein purchases, and it was far more things that I could possibly have bought. The idea was that I made an easily digestible list of the patterns I had been wanting to knit and had nothing in stash suitable for. On the day it proved quite exhausting, making all those decisions, but I didn’t stray offlist and over the summer I knitted almost all of them into things I love! (I have two 50g Fivemoons luna skeins left, and two 100g Triskelion Yarn skeins finally being knitted up into a cowl as we speak, but I knitted two shawls and a pair of socks and was very happy with them).

    By July, I felt things were going so well that I thought “I’m on a roll!” and instead of making another careful list, I went a bit mad and bought 5 or 6 100g skeins with no ideas at ALL what to do with them. Most of those still languish in my stash box, making me feel sad and uncomfortable that I spent my money on them and haven’t anything to show for it.

    This year for Unravel I was after only a sweater quantity of yarn for a single colour project and I bought it at almost the first stall I came to. I did get a lovely DK skein that called to me, but that was it. I’d spent my money and I felt sort of flat. But now, only two months on, that sweater is almost completed and the DK made a glorious squishy hat just in time for the Easter snow.

    In conclusion, I think I need to work on retraining myself, and my eye, to go from “ooh, look at the pretties!” to a more considered regime of purchases, like Louise at EYF, and not to feel so flat about them.

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