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Dear Clara,

When I downsized, I reduced my stash from 144 boxes of yarn to 40 boxes. It has been transferred to an armoire and five nine-shelf sweater bags with zipper covers as well as eight of the original boxes. My knitting books have been reduced to two shelves. I feel that I have done a good job and I try to knit out of stash whenever possible, but as every lifelong knitter knows, sometimes I must succumb to temptation.

How big is too big where stash yarn is concerned? I am in my early sixties and becoming resentful of comments that I will die before I use my yarn.



Dear Stashful,

Stashes are one of the most personal things I know. They’re an extension of our bodies and our souls, a manifestation of our hopes and dreams in wooly form.

To suggest that someone’s stash is too big, or to shame a person for buying new yarn when they “already have yarn” in their stash, conveys a profound misunderstanding of why we stash in the first place.

I do know a few serial monogamists who work on one project at a time, buying new yarn only when the needles are again empty. But they are the minority. Most of the knitters I know, and I’m including myself here, maintain healthy yarn stashes with only a vague connection between intake and output.

We stash with the very best intentions. We stash for the pure love of a yarn, for the way it makes us feel when we touch it or examine it in the sunlight, for the story it tells, for the memories it holds of a time or place in our life.

Rules? Really?

There are no rules about stash size, nor are there any rules about using all your yarn before you buy more—unless it’s a rule you want to impose on yourself, and that’s your choice. But it’s certainly not for someone else to say. Likewise, I don’t recall signing any agreement to use up all my yarn and scrub the shelves clean before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Did you? The next time someone uses that line, you might do well to remind them that it isn’t in our rule book.

Now, I think it is important to acknowledge that you have, at one time in your life, had a pretty sizable stash. I don’t know how big these boxes were, but 144 of any kind of box sounds like a lot. Maybe the people giving you grief today still see you as the 144-box stasher of yesteryear.

Then you downsized. You eliminated more than 70 percent of your yarn and got rid of all but two shelves of books. Presumably you love what you kept, you use it whenever you can, and you feel pretty proud of yourself. That’s a huge shift. Can we pause to acknowledge this?

Basic Questions to Ask

You mention that you must succumb to temptation from time to time. Of course. If the arrival of new yarn is raising eyebrows or has even you worried, let’s reduce the discussion to some basic questions.

  1. Are your hallways still navigable?
  2. Do you no longer use your stove because the oven is filled with yarn? Is the fridge unplugged and packed with skeins?
  3. Do you no longer bathe because the tub is full of yarn?
  4. When you go to bed at night, do you have a clean bed to sleep on, or is it covered in yarn so you just curl up in a corner on the floor?
  5. Are you embarrassed to have people over for fear they’ll see the size of your stash and judge you and/or call the authorities?
  6. Are you not paying for housing, food, and clothing—taking care of your basic human needs—in order to buy more yarn instead?

No? I didn’t think so.

There’s a line between “collector” and “future candidate for Hoarders: Buried Alive,” and those questions begin to draw it. If any struck a little too close to home, perhaps it’s time for another culling of the skeins. Just a little one.

Shared Space

Your letter didn’t specify if you were getting grief from people who share your home, or just from friends who come to visit. Living alone is a fantastic luxury that can get us into trouble if we have acquisitive tendencies and nobody to keep them in check. But when we share our home with other people, we must compromise. If your stash downsizing was a compromise, I’d say well done you. I’ve lived for more than two decades with a minimalist and am, myself, a “non-minimalist.” We’ve had to navigate some compromises, especially where the yarn is concerned.

Which is to say, if your family is currently cowering in the garage because your yarn still takes up every room in the house, it may be time for another talk. But if you’ve negotiated a distribution of space that feels equitable to all parties, what you do with your space is your decision.

And as long as your stash is a source of richness and inspiration to you personally, as long as you’re taking care of all your basic needs and have negotiated a fair use of space with others, then the actual size of this stash? Nobody’s business but your own.


How do you store your yarn? Ideas, strategies, schemes, and furniture under discussion over in The Lounge: “Storage Ideas for All that YARN?”

About The Author

In 2000, Clara Parkes launched Knitter’s Review, and the online knitting world we know today sprang to life. Author of the series that started with The Knitter’s Book of Yarn (2007), Clara is the author of  Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World (2016) and A Stash of One’s Own: Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting Go of Yarn (2017). Her latest book is Vanishing Fleece: Adventures in American Wool (2019).


  • Excellent calm empathetic good sense. We heard recently of someone who hides yarn from her family behind the bath panel – never get driven to that level of dishonesty!!

    • Thanks for the secret hiding place tip, Linda! Show of hands for the number of people who read that and had an “aha” moment.

      • (I should add, it’s a good STORAGE place, not hiding. I’m with you about never resorting to that level of dishonesty. It just won’t feed healthy relationships.)

  • Love this!

  • Woe is me. I’m reading another book on how to declutter.

    • Ah, but did you BUY it? Therein lies the rub…

      • I had that EXACT thought when I bought Marie Kondo’s book. “Hang on, isn’t this adding more STUFF when I’m trying to declutter?” Irony.

  • Thank you Clara! I also live with a minimalist. An Army guy. My stash is hidden beneath all the beds in the house. He doesn’t look there.

  • I’m decluttering everything else, but yarn & fiber. But then I suppose that just leaves empty space for someone else to fill. Hmmm…maybe I should be expanding my personal space/territory instead.

  • Amen, Clara! I think the entire world would be a lot better off – barring, of course, helping those truly in need of help of any kind – if everyone just would do a lot more of minding their own business,

    • Hear, hear!

  • Thank you Clara!!!!! Who wants one crayon in their box????? I want the biggest one with all the colors I love!!!!❤

  • Great article. I recently gave a stash donation to charity. Took a look at what I had and was honest with myself asking the question – how long has it been sitting there with good intentions? At that point it went into the bag and donated. It is a good feeling to know someone is making use of it now rather than maybe in the future. What is left is a healthy stash I can actually use.

    • As a leader I learned the acronym S.A.B.L.E. – Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy. Works for me since I plan living a long, happy, knitful life.

  • I love this post, Clara. I have a room full of wool, lots of hampers, but that doesn’t stop me from picking up 5 skeins of linen or 4 skeins of silk when I see them at the thrift store. Yes, my local thrift store is AMAZING. One can never have enough wool/yarn, and my friends get my stash when I’m gone. I’ve left instructions.

    • I have a lovely friend from church that volunteers at one of our local thrift stores…and regularly reviews the incoming donations. She is a knitter, mainly of prayer shawls and dishcloths, but we share the passion. However it was awkward when she brought me some yarn she saw come in (and purchased) that I had donated. She thought I would like in some ways she was right–I had at one time. I think it will become a hat for charity.

  • I am in the process of cleaning out my house to get it ready for renovations and then being put up for sale. My stash which was both in a walk in closet, and on shelves, baskets, and plastic boxes was all kept. Books for the most part were whittled down, but a lot of books are going in storage for a bit. I look at it as a big savings account. My life will change this year and I don’t know if I will be working after I sell my house. I view the basic workhorse yarns that I have accumulated as my personal store. I know that I can knit up a new design, shawl, man’s sweater with my stash. While people laugh, or make comments I simply say two things.

    It makes me happy.

    I don’t want expensive jewelry, fancy cars, fancy house. I don’t drink, do drugs, or spend a lot on clothing, shoes, but for me the wonder of color, texture and what I can make with my two hands makes me happy.

    • I have been known to make the “shoe argument,” too! This is my happy place. Having said that, I’m happier when I’ve got it down to yarns I really plan to use.

      • but Kay, I am going to use it all! lol

  • As the owner of (arguably) the world’s largest stash I couldn’t agree more vigorously with this assessment. I love my stash and share it and enjoy knitting from it every day. I’ll never understand people’s desire to judge!

  • Joanne, I’m glad to hear it. I agree with everything Clara said – except in the case of mortality – which includes everyone, I’m afraid. A single knitter dear to our community passed away unexpectedly a few years ago, leaving a huge, very expensive stash with no executor or instructions. It broke all our hearts. Distant family members were going to dump it off at the nearest senior center or sell it on eBay for pennies. Someone from our community agreed to step up and was eventually able to intervene.

    But please, stashers, DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU, OR impose it on anyone else. Ask someone(s) for their permission to be your stash-executor, write a note with the instructions and their contact-info, and tape it to the lid of the top bin or bag or shelf.

    Yes, each stash is very personal – it is our own business and no one else’s. But since you can’t take it with you (no, really, you CAN’T), take responsibility of it for its lifetime, not yours.

    • Last year, my local knitting group redistributed the stash of a member who had passed away. We hadn’t known she was a good starter and not such a great finisher! But it was lovely taking some of her projects and finishing them.

      My husband has strict instructions, should something happen to me, not to worry about the yarn stash. He knows “there’s a lot” and he is to call the knitting ladies and they will take care of it. Sometimes I worry about how much there is, but I like all of it and look forward to knitting with it!

    • Apparently, I’m feeling mortal lately, because I’ve been thinking about this very thing lately. I love the idea of a “stash executor,” but exactly what instructions to leave? I think it would be great to leave your stash to your knitting group but my former fantastic group has dissolved, mostly moved away to places all across the country. So – I’m not even sure who would want my stash!

    • Another vote for a little thinking ahead here, from someone that had to help clear out a relative’s house that they’d had since the 1960s. Its a physically and mentally exhausting job. Eventually you do get to the point where you can’t make any more decisions and just want rid of it. Dealing with the death of a loved one is bad enough without having the house clearing job from hell on top of it. Also, if you can’t bring yourself to use up some of this stuff, why would anyone else would be interested in it? That said, if you’ve had a clearout recently, maybe this is 40 boxes of really stellar stuff…

    • Absolutely concur! My phenomenon knitting teacher for years is my stash executor. Seriously, written into will and my entire family knows to contact her. I scored 10 skeins of Cervelt. Only 80 skeins were ever produced for knitters worldwide. (excluding what went directly to high end fashion houses). I’ve never spent so much per skein and hope I live long enough to figure out what to make. That purchase alone made me decide about getting a stash executor. Trust me. My soul would never rest if my family dumped it (or my silks, cashmere, etc). I want the remains of my carefully curated yarn collection to go to dear friends, who’d appreciate it and lovingly knit memories of our times together with every stitch.

      • Wow! I’m glad I googled cervelt. Amazing fiber and story.

    • Please do this! This may be at the heart of the stated concern. When parents pass the load can be overwhelming, particularly parting with something which is not usable to the heir but which was treasured by the deceased.

  • Great advice, as usual. I just tell people that knitting will be my post-apocalyptic survival skill. Hats for food, anyone?

    • Agreed. Acquiring stash is prepping for the future zombie apocalypse. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

  • Fantastic article Clara! I am lucky that I don’t have to confess to the size of my stash because I can always call it “inventory” or “future samples”! Lucky me!

  • I am grateful for the stash I have. It makes me feel rich in lean times and I can be generous with others if I so desire. My knitting daughter will be my woolxecutor when the time comes.

  • Thank you so much for this!

  • I had to declutter a couple of years ago when we moved and the hardest things to deal with were books and yarn. The book solution was…if the title was in the local library (except for books with sentiment attached), out it went. For yarn….if it didn’t make me feel good to hold it, out it went. At the end of the decluttering, I felt amazingly lighter and free. Now my stash is getting smaller because everything in it is something I want to use. finally, this has to be something that comes from within yourself, otherwise it feels painful.

  • …vague connection between intake and output….Oh, Clara, you do know how to turn a phrase. Thanks for making us feel better about our fiber collections.

  • Exactly!

  • This led to a discussion with my husband about what he should do with my yarn and…which friends he would like to have his fishing gear. When the time comes, of course. A very valuable and eye-opening conversation. Thanks, Clara, for being the catalyst.

  • I used to be a buy for the project only type but my knitting speed does not keep up with projects planned!
    I also have 5 daughters that will have divide my stash and needles among themselves…
    I have thought about writing something down about division of goods.

  • My kids and husband don’t knit or sew, and I used to go around saying “Don’t sell these needles in a garage sale”, “this is cashmere” etc, – until one day my daughter told me to put the price tags on everything now and get on with life. Now I think of how happy someone will be to score my handmade needles and Swiss sewing machines for a song. Won’t they be thrilled? This makes me happy. 😉

    • Nice! Your daughter gave you excellent advice 🙂

  • Thank you – this was sheer perfection!

  • My stash is probably too big, but I figure it’s a pretty cheap addiction. I don’t get my nails done very often, color my own hair, keep trying to lose weight so I’m not buying any clothes. $25-50 every now and then is nothing, even if it does take up a lot of space in my closet.

  • Oh I feel so much better. Thank you for putting things (those things would be the many, many skeins of yarn in my enormous stash) into perspective. My yarn isn’t hurting anyone!

  • My yarn is a comfort thing to me. I love the way it feels, the way it looks and the way it calms me when life gets stressful. I’m a consultant working 70 hour weeks and this is my main hobby. I’m okay with that.

  • Wonderful article but I have to say I absolutely disagree with one thing: sleep on the FLOOR when you’re lucky enough to have a bed full of YARN?!? 😉 Silly, you dive, burrow, and snuggle, catlike, into the happiness made manifest! XD

    • This made my entire day – I laughed and now the thought of snuggling in a bed of silk and cashmere will take me through a gloomy day with a smile.

    • Ha!

  • I have self-imposed yarn rules, but only because having a stash doesn’t work for me in both a financial and yardage way. I don’t want to have a ton of money sunk into a yarn stash that I never use, so I only purchase yarn when I am almost ready for a new project. And sometimes I *do* have stash for a project, but will be off my one skein (and of course that color would be discontinued). I’ve found that imposing my “you’re not allowed to buy new yarn until you’re 75% of the way through a project” is an amazing motivator. because then I am excited to start a new project (which I can’t do until the yarn arrives) , have nothing to knit on except the thing I need off the needles, and it fulfills my urge to buy things.

  • I don’t see the harm in picking up charity shop yarn or the occasional impulse skein or two, but I do not understand the stashes of those who have sweater quantities of high-end yarn but never actually finish any sweaters. I can see how it must drive their partners nuts when they arrive home with yet more yarn. Recently an older member of the spinning guild passed away and her son was appalled by the room full of fibre and yarn which he found. There must be some self-delusion going on in these cases.

    • I’m definitely in the minority of knitters who don’t stash. However, for those that do, I think of it like any other form of collecting, with the added bonus that some of it will turn into beautiful knitted objects! if the room had been full of Hummel figurines would you have felt the same way?

  • Great post! I have an experience with this. My Mom’s cousin was a fabulous knitter with a stash to match. When she was near the end of life, she was truly distressed worrying about her stash. None of her children knit. Hopping to ease her mind, I told her daughter if it helped, I would take it. It helped, but I never expected what came in the mail several weeks following her passing. I should have known, right? Boxes and boxes (vacuum packed!), literally thousands of dollars of absolutely beautiful yarn. Way more than I could ever use. So I went through it all, and sorted what I thought I would use, and then bagged up the rest, gathered all my cousins, aunts, sister, and mom for a “stash bash” party, and let them at it. We are ALL still knitting from that yarn years later, and we think of her every time we use it, we talk about her when we use it. It is a great way to keep her active in our memories. As for my own stash? I have been whittling away at it, and hope to get it to a more manageable size. I’ll choose a yarn executor soon and leave some instructions, but they will be general – I don’t want to burden anyone with my yarn if they don’t want it.

  • Another factor to consider is the vulnerability of your stash. Unless you’ve locked it away in fire proof, flood proof, moth proof, mold proof storage unit, any sizeable stash is just money at risk. Personal experience in the recent flood brought this truth home. Landfilling a garbage bag of wet, gooey, smelly yarn was one of the more depressing tasks during the week it took to remove my personal items. It certainly took the pleasure out of my yarn stash. I’m glad I haven’t had fire damage. I have seen friends and family members go through that, so I know things don’t just burn away, they get scorched, smoked, sooty and then soggy. Then there’s hurricanes and tornadoes…

    • I’m sorry – that must have been awful!

  • Isn’t part of the problem in our Western society the fact that we over-consume. wouldn’t it be better to think carefully before we have to own something beautiful -even though it brings us joy -why do we have to own it. The environment cannot be healthy with overconsumption.

  • Phew!!

  • I’ve reached the point where I’m struggling to find space for my stash. (Four under-the-bed boxes, one huge magazine basket, and two big salad bowls. Not huge by some standards, but more than enough for me.) Plus three shelves of books, and a small fiber stash now that I’ve started spinning. I find buying yarn generally stressful – where will I put it? What will I do with it? I still buy for specific projects when necessary (like when knitting for dear ones with wool allergies, poor things), or pick up a skein or two of a workhorse yarn I know I’ll use, but I enjoy the challenge of making things from my stash. I love colorwork, which helps, and sometimes the restrictions imposed by the stash makes me more creative.

    My eight-year-old niece has started knitting, and for Christmas I gave her a bunch of yarn that wasn’t working for me – funky yarns, small skeins, odd skeins. It works for the kinds of things she’s making, and she was delighted.

  • Dear Clara, you always make me giggle. And you relieve guilt. Since I still can use my bathtub, I’m good.

    • Whew!

  • Maybe it’s about how you and your loved ones in your home feel about the stash. Mine is not that big compared to some (think small 3-drawer dresser), but it’s a lot bigger than it used to be, and it weighs on me. So I’m knitting from stash until I’m down to one drawer, and then considering that reasonable. 🙂 But that’s just me. That said, lately I’ve been buying pink yarn and knitting hats, including the orders that keep coming in from friends and family who marched hatless and want a reminder, so the “knit from stash” thing has flown out the window temporarily. 🙂

    One thing I’m glad I’m doing is giving away the partly used skeins that have been sitting there and that I can’t think of a use for. I used to think I had to use every last bit, but now I donate most of it rather than thinking up scrap-busting projects I don’t really want.

    • That’s the thing, Anya. I don’t even think it’s about a specific size, it’s about whether or not it weighs on you. If those feelings are there, it’s time for action. Which you’re taking.

  • I can relate. We had a house fire in 2009. The first place my husband checked with the firemen was my stash room, bless him! He rescued all of my spinning wheels (about 8?) before checking his destroyed hobby room. A couple of weeks later we were able to go in with a professional recovery crew. It took me half a day, but all yarn and fiber that wasn’t in tubs went in the trash, as well as my magazines and most of my books. The recovery crew was amazed that I was able/willing to throw so much out, but I wasn’t willing to pay for or do the cleaning of all of it. I now have a 16’x28′ woman cave with a manageable stash I keep on top of. I don’t recommend this method of downsizing, but it made me realize what is really important in life.

  • Well……I have made peace with the idea that too much of a good thing is…..Wonderful! When my kids moved out, I created a Yarn ROOM and a “Creative Place” in the bedrooms! I love my “Creative Space.” One room is for yarn, and one displays my 200 Knitting books, my sewing machine, my closet filled with quilt fabric, embroidery floss, buttons, etc. Oh, the color!
    I implore all women to STOP APOLOGIZING for loving beautiful fibers and wanting to surround themselves with as much as possible. We all need Beauty and Inspiration to feed our souls and spirits. Let’s recognize that Women Beautify the Universe; if not us, then who? We need to wear color, knit every moment when we are not quilting or dreaming through lovely books of patterns, smile because our stash makes us so HAPPY !!!

  • A knitting friend once said that it is very economical to have a large stash because it insulates your house! Good advice, right?

  • Love this! Great insight into the hearts (and purses) of creatives!

  • Love this, the comments as well!! Can hardly type this for tears of laughter, I empathise with you all.

  • Sorry I’m so late responding to this. Like many others who commented on your article, I am very impressed with your thoughtful response to what can be a thorny issue between knitters and the family and friends of knitters. You asked good questions and made a number of supportive statements directed at Stashful. All knitters as well as family and friends of knitters would do well to read your Inspiration. Thank you for taking time to write this piece,

  • More and more these days I find myself thinking “mind your own business!” The checkout chick that wants to know what I have planned for the weekend, or what I’ve been doing with my day. (Thanks for DIY checkouts.) The insurance man wanting to know why I just sold a 2 year old car. Work wanting to know why I can’t come in on my day off.

    Luckily I live alone. I have been cutting down on belongings recently thinking that I might sell my house, and have let lots of stuff go, but not 90% of my stash, or knitting books. Other craft things and the 10%, I’ve given to a 12 yo friend who appreciates such things – her mother recently told me they were at the shops when she said “Mum, I have to go home!” Why? “I need to knit!” I couldn’t think of anyone more worthy.

    Money is a bit tight at the moment and I haven’t bought any yarn for about a year. Knowing that I have a good quality stash with some sweater quantities gives me great comfort. I can knit anything I want from it, and I’m easily able to resist buying anything new. I just take a note of what I wanted, what I thought I’d make with it, and one day when life is different I may still want to make it, but probably not!

    Lean times come around when you least expect it.

  • Hi y’all. I just wanted to let the lady with the stash dilemma???. know I have been stashing yarn since the fifth grade. I’m now 68. I also use my stash whenever I can and save left overs from projects and make Little people things. I also teach family how to knit, crochet etc. They use from my yarns. I love looking and touching my yarn. I’ve will never have too much

  • Love it…yarn and craft supplies…my (down fall) or passion…

  • I was hoping to come here to find help talking to someone about their yarn stash, but feel really stressed on reading this article.

    Some other questions you should probably add there to ask yourself…
    Does your space (home, room, etc) smell funny?
    Can you rearrange your room for spring cleaning?
    Is your yarn attracting mice?
    Is your collection overflowing from your space and crowding out other people’s space?
    In shared spaces, are you truly seeing the distribution of space for what it is or do you just feel angry that you don’t have more space?
    Ask if your cohabiters are stressed or annoyed by the high volume, distribution, and storage of your collection throughout the living space.

    I’m not naturally inclined towards minimalism by any means, but growing up with a “collector” pushed me toward being an organizer.

    When people ask if you have too much, it might not be that they are judging you, but that they are worried. They might be able to look past the love of the collection and see the leaning bookshelf or smell a new unhealthy odor. You don’t have to be at “buried alive” levels of bad to be creating an unhealthy living environment for yourself and others.

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