coming clean

Posted on Posted in projects, spinning and fiber, Uncategorized

i am lucky enough to have a wonderful workroom in my house, equipped for all my fiber activities.

which i haven’t used much for the last couple of months. why??

because it has looked like this, pretty much since i got back from rhinebeck.

so messy, i could hardly stand to walk in there without tripping (ok, well, yeah, i AM a klutz, totally, clutter or not—but still). it’s not a huge room, and there is a lot of equipment in there, so any messiness feels like a lot. it’s hard for me to work if i have to step over things, or if it feels like the walls are closing in on me. when my spinning wheel must be squeezed into a small leftover circle in the middle,

i find it distracting to spin, feeling as if i should be cleaning instead. especially with this staring me in the face—this is all the fiber that has migrated to my studio during 2006

now, most of this was not purchased by me, but “inherited” one way or another. i was intent this year on NOT buying much fiber, and truly, i did not get much in terms of volume. i went for small amounts of higher-end things that i had not spun before, like beatifully dyed silk, some luxury blends, and some exotic fibers. that, obviously, did not deter the enablers around me, and i seem to have ended the year with waaay more than i could spin up before year’s end.

oh, and then there is my desk (my temporary desk until the other one is ready to be installed).

i have a terrible persistent book habit which i can’t help but feed regularly, especially if there are books available about knitting history, or ethnic knitting styles—i’m a total freak for that stuff. and, after a few years of being on austerity budget (the house is sucking up a lot of our dollar resources), i found this year that i had a little extra money to invest in my library.

but even i know that piling books on every horizontal surface in tall stacks does not a “library” make.
and my big work table, of which i am so enamored (i feel this is pure luxury, in terms of finally having enough space to accommodate it)—littered with crap (not the carder, of course)

all this and the fact that there has been yarn scattered ALL over the place for months now, and so many projects in progress that it makes my head spin just to try and count them.

how do things get so out of control like this? i am not by nature a messy person—i like neatness and order, and have always felt that, especially in my work areas, order leads to efficiency. there is nothing so pleasing while i am deeply focused on making something, than to put out my hand blindly and have it land right on the scissor i want, or the oil bottle, or the darning needle.

i do not want to grab onto a pile of dusty yarns scraps at that moment, nor feel the crunch of discarded yarn labels, or lay onto an empty packet of DPNs, when what i want is a full one. and i am not SO strict—i do believe that a little bit of creative disorder is simply a side effect of productive activity, and i can live with that.

but deep down, i fear the urge to let go completely and revert to some feral state where wool, books, projects, and knitting ephemera (among other things in this house) pile up and up, creating an ever-taller cage that eventually i will not be able to negotiate, and i will be like one of those people they find dead, having been crushed by a falling pile of stuff in their own home. (yes, i see that this may be an exaggerated, anxious, fear that is pretty much unfounded—but it feels, nevertheless, like it is nipping at my heels).

the other deep fear that i have is the fear of Just Too Much. i have always have trouble knowing when enough is enough. i have vascillated widely between being very poor and being quite comfortable, and then back again, between having no space and then lots, between having no choice, and having too many. i want to support small business, specialty producers, and great book publishers. but in that, i can sometimes end up with Just Too Much. having too much—thatis, more than i can use in a reasonable amount of time—is a terrible side effect of a higher standard of living, when there are so many people that have not enough.

the upshot of all this whining is that i find i need to clean up, take stock, and set some rules for the coming year (oh let’s face it, i should set rules of restriction for the next 5 years, but it’s all about baby steps right?).

so, yesterday i got to work on cleanup. and now my room at least is one that i want to go into

surfaces have been cleared of junk (though, as you can see, the book storage is still a dilemma for
the moment).

yarn has all been put away, and miraculously still fits inside the closet.
(now i am going to show you the yarn closet and i don’t want to hear ONE peep about it—you can rag on me for my yarn stash all you want, but remember—42 YEARS—this is not the result of a mere few years of stashing; this is a lifetime of it.)

it feels great to be able to breathe in that room again. there is a lot more to do in there—i have to figure out what to do with the fiber still. for one thing i need some more boxes. i insist now on clear boxes for fiber and yarn storage—no more having boxes which i can’t see into.

as i worked yesterday i thought about the rules i wanted to try to follow for the coming year:

  • i will Knit From MY Stash this year—i’d like to at least get it down to last year’s level. i used a LOT of my stash this year, but i also replaced that yarn with other things. i can support the small producers i know and love by showing off completed projects made with their yarn that is already in my stash.
  • i will MOST DEFINITELY spin from my stash this year as well—before it eats me alive. there is just WAY too much fiber for one person to have at once in this house. i have definite plans to go back to rhinebeck in the fall, where i may indulge again in small amounts of things, but no fleeces, and no purchases of quantity.
  • i will purposefully avoid all SALES. sales can be a downfall for me, even though i rarely get something i REALLY wanted before is saw it on sale. this must stop; it is useless and wasteful.
  • ditto for swapping and helping friends de-stash. i have to be careful about taking what’s offered to me; sometimes i take things because i can’t bear to think that they might be thrown out otherwise (and who actually “throws out” yarn or fiber??). this goal is more liquid, however, as i do have friends with whom i engage in a healthy kind of swapping or give-and-take. i will promise myself to be a lot more careful.
  • i will temper my book buying a bit, but probably not that much. i can most certainly do without buying designer sweater books. i bought few this year after a long hiatus, and i have to say, i don’t use them enough. i rarely knit from books—i prefer volumes about history, design, and pattern. and, my experience tells me that i should buy those books when they are available, because they are often published in small runs that are not repeated. go back “later” to buy them and they are gone, only to be found on ebay for double the price.
  • and lastly, i do not need more needles. i bought a bunch this year, mostly to try, but i still migrate to my favorites—addi circs and inox DPNs for regular wool yarns, ebony and rosewoods for lace yarns—and i have plenty of those in all sizes i think.

so that’s the plan. i’ve done it before, and i can do it again. i figure that these will be a few of the benefits of my plan—it wouldn’t be a good plan if i did not see benefits and/or payoffs.

  • i can give more to special, worthy causes that truly help others. these organizations often make my dollars stretch wa-a-ay further than a mere ball of yarn.
  • spending isn’t a big problem of mine, but if i spend less, there will be more resources for working on other pursuits—like our dreams (and our retirement).
    our jobs make a lot more sense when we feel like they are enabling us to work toward personal goals as well as furthering our employers’ goals, and not just meeting expenses.
  • i could take classes—i would love that! some of the festivals are great opportunities to get knowledge from people who i would not otherwise have access to in ohio.
  • i’ll have more time to focus on what i’m doing, too. without the distraction of looking at new products, deciding what to buy, and then shopping for it—not to mention how new baubles distract me from what i intended to work on—i can knit and spin more with what i have.
  • space.
    we moved from a city apartment to a house in order to have more space, not more junk. in my heart, i revel in a room that is mostly empy, with light pouring into unobstructed windows, diving under furniture, and over polished wood and rich wool fabrics. see any room in that picture for clutter and junk? heh. me neither.

i feel pretty good about these goals, but over the remaining days of 2006, i may add to them or modify slightly—i’m not sure i covered everything. oh yeah—i didn’t. i haven’t dragged out all the WIPs and sorted them yet. that will have to be tomorrow’s “coming clean” post . . .

there is knitting too, though it is mostly more clogs. i seem to be in a clog time warp. it just seems efficient to get all the clogs i want to make out of the way while i’m on a roll, and you know i never do anything in a small way. so i’m making myself a few pair and some for david and the house (we keep a basket of them by the door for guests, who are always so great about taking their shoes off at the door, even though we don’t ask it. for that, they get nice cushy clogs to wear . . .). and trust me, i am working completely from my stash on every pair. scout’s honor.

these are handspun alpaca. the fiber was ultra soft and poofy, but had a lot of junk in it. so i spun it up bulky with an eye for wearing it on my feet, and then hand-dyed it, though obviously not evenly . . . i made one pair a couple of years ago with it and they are toasty indeed, but worn-out now. so these are the replacements.

and, though i don’t deserve a reward just for straightening up my house, having this arrive in the mail today makes me feel like i’m getting some positive reinforcement.

believe me, my mouth is watering—can’t wait to dig into it.
so, when knitters DO take over the owrld, will we get these books on CD d’ya think? can’t you just imagine it—knitting or spinning and having someone tell you the story of hap shawls, in depth . . .

33 thoughts on “coming clean

  1. You described my feelings of being overwhelmed by my stash (in my case fabric). I am going to try and knit from my stash which is very small in 2007.

  2. My goals are similar this year, pare down and don’t get overwhelmed by STUFF. I have a hard time parting with things, and I hate getting rid of old clothes and shoes, even if I know I’ll never wear them again and I never really liked them in the first place. I’m going to spend the weekend sorting through my closet and really getting rid of a lot of old stuff, so I can go into the new year with less baggage.

  3. I really don’t have a big (enough) stash… but oh do I understand now the need for clear bins. The stash seems so voluminous when that one skein is MIA!

    Your goals are excellent and so is that ceiling you showed us yesterday. 🙂

  4. A great set of goals. I am totally loving your plastic closet storage solution, it looks so… inviting and full of potential.

    Have a fabulous 2007 🙂

  5. Oh Anne!!!! I love it love it love it!!!! You were organizing while I was organizing!!!!! You are so brave to bear your mess to the world; I think my mess was bigger though, therefore I would’ve been more embarrassed. You couldn’t see the floor with my mess. But now I can attest to the fact that there IS carpet in my closet area!!!!! Go figure.

  6. Good goals! I wish you luck.
    Sometimes when you limit yourself you really have to get creative and can find more ways.

  7. Your points really resonated with me – especially the idea of using money that would usually go to yarn for other purposes, both fiber-realted and not. Thanks for articulating these ideas, you’ve given me some good inspiration to knit from my stash.

    Have a great holiday!

  8. I like space too. Cleaning my work room was one of the first things I did when I started my holidays. I only have a fraction of the stash you do though. And I’ve already stopped buying so much yarn. I had to stock up first though.

    I liken my yarn closet to a wine cellar. You need a good stock of the basics, and then after that, it’s just a case of keeping it stocked and adding the odd special item now and again.

    I also like your idea of having a few extra clogs around for guests. I may just do that.

  9. Thanks for an inspiring post. I’ve only been knitting seriously for about 3 years so I haven’t had time to accumulate a stash like yours – but I still find myself with a slightly overwhelming amount of yarn. I think a lot of the “knit from your stash” sentiment that’s going around blogland is helping me to realize that I need to be more thoughtful and purposeful when it comes to the things I bring into my knitting life – and, to take it further, life in general.

    I *did* just buy yarn – but for a specific purpose. I’m (finally) casting on for your Japanese Feather Stole as soon as the yarn arrives. It will be my “Laceuary” project.

    Happy New Year!

  10. Okay so can I come live in your closet???

    Since nov. Money has been tight @ casa mosh knits and so yarn has gone un purchased…. My stash can now fit into one milk crate….

    So I’ve decided I’m gonna knit from YOUR stash for 2007 you can send your first box over whenever your ready….. Blues, blacks, greys, dark purples reds and greens preferably…..


    Speaking of which yarn will be heading your way soon(the special mosh knit yarn) I swear….

  11. I see someone’s already asked if your clogs are your own “recipe” but I’m interested too 😉 I’m not surprised people are happy to take off their shoes if they get to wear those snuggly ones. Your stash is so neat and tidy now, well done. Doesn’t it make you feel good to see everything in its proper place, I know it does me….until I have a feret about!

  12. You are reading my mind — I MUST do some serious organizing, after I clean, of course! As a newish knitter, my yarn stash is pretty managable, but… I am a long time seamstress and I’ve got way too much fabric. Unfortunately, my sewing machine has become so tempermental I can’t count on it working. Just yesterday I was thinking about cleaning up for a fresh start — and having my sewing machine looked at! Kudos for the inspiration!

  13. Sounds like you have a good plan. I really need to follow suit and get organized as well. Your yarn stash is quite impressive indeed, but I hate to admit that I’ve got your disorganization and mess handily beaten!

    Good luck to you with your 2007 goals. With the amount of fiber and yarn you already have in your stash, it seems quite feasible for you to happily create all year long without adding more than a few “must have” items throughout the year.

  14. I looooove your creative room! That is exactly what I am going to look for when we are moving into something larger. From the (Stockholms) city into a house a bit outside. Also my husband want a creative room. And, of course we need guest rooms. Creative rooms and guest rooms … then we can feel like home! Until then we’ll enjoy city life. (But how much can one do that with small children…)

    I wish you a great start on new year! Good health and plenty of knitting inspiration!

  15. Good goals is right. I have only been at knitting and stashing 3 or 4 years, and mine is outsized by proportion to your 42! I learned something good from this post, though — I like your smaller plastic bins. I have giant ones. I think smaller ones might help me focus better. I think I might get some smaller ones and go through your exercise of cleanup and organizing. Awesome!

  16. Your efforts at organizing and cleaning up your creative workspace are admirable and an inspiration! It’s a space anyone would love to create in. Happy New Year!

  17. Those are admirable goals for the New Year! What you said about the “terrible side effect of a higher standard of living” really resonates with me. I spent my day reorganizing my craft corner [There is no greater love than a mother choosing to conceive even though it means giving up her craft room!]. I was trying to find room for all my Christmas and birthday gifts, and thinking about things I still want. Then I came across a picture from when I did some charity work in Thailand and suddenly it all seemed so petty. How do we get caught in this trap of consumerism, feeling deprived even when we have so much? I know that isn’t exactly what you were trying to say, but still.

    Being purposeful about our spending– like your resolution to stay away from bargain bin purchases of stuff you didn’t really want before– it’s a good resolution.

  18. Did you ever watch Will and Grace? That closet shot reminded me of the scene when Jack sees what’s-her-name’s closet for the first time and drops to his knees in worship. I would do just that if I was in front of that closet in person. Very impressive! No need to apologize or justify it to ME!

    And we have the same taste in needles. I just discovered the organic loveliness of ebony needles. Yet another knitting love affair.

    Cheers for the new year. Congrats on all your hard work.

  19. I’m with you all the way — I just had to clean up a similar room to set up a temporary guest bed for hoChristmas guests. They’re gone now and so we’ve taken down the bed, and now when I walk back into the room, I’m amazed at the uncovered floor space — hey, there actually is carpeting in there! So I’m wondering, how long will it be until I mess it all up again??
    And how can I keep myself disciplined to work with the abundance of all the stuff I already have, and not haul home all sorts of new stuff?
    And what about the magazines?? Books are one thing, they sit nicely on shelves and form a “knitting reference library”, but what about all those magazines? Right now there are all those renewal notices that I’ve managed to ignore for the past few weeks, but I’m going to have to make some decisions about them soon. How many different knitting magazines do I need to subscribe to anyway? 3? 5? 7?
    And how do I decide which ones to let go of? I know which ones I really like and wouldn’t think of stopping, but what about those others that just *sometimes* have a good article or pattern — do I keep subscribing to them “just in case”?? When you’re not sure what’s coming up in future issues, it’s hard to guess which patterns/articles you’ll really be excited about.

    So here’s to a New Year of discipline and moderation, and of finding enjoyment in using the stuff that is already there!

  20. I need to do what you did. I cringe when I walk in to my yarn room. I’m trying to knit from the stash for a while.

    Happy New Year!

  21. I love to organize! I mean it-my family makes fun of me for it. I have a closet dedicated to my knitting that I organized so I can go and find what I need when I want it (hopefully). I found your site while I’ve been on a mad search for a toddler jumper pattern, and I’m soooooo excited because I ordered your child’s cabled jumper pattern! It’s gorgeous! I love it. I printed your entire Knitspot catalog of patterns because I think they are completely inspiring! I love all the awesome bags. I designed two bags that were pretty simple ones. But, I love the ones on your site.

  22. I have problems with sales and organizing and keeping on track with my projects. So, many of your goals for the next year are mine as well. My stash is disorganized and my purchases come in dribbles, which makes it seem like I am not overspending at the time, but I end up with bits and pieces that are not easy to make into anything but small FOs. Nonetheless, I think that concentrating on destashing this year will make me feel much more free in the future. I would also like to spin, and I see a spinning wheel in my future, so I can’t keep up the yarn binging with no purging!

  23. Whoa mama, that’s a whole lotta stash. Granted you say 42 years, but my goodness, still a lotta stash. I think you would be knitting for years to come on that stash before it goes down immensely. But it’s good to have goals and something to hold yourself accountable to it. I’m sure the stash is all beautiful and in plastic bins is the only way to go. I have a friend who has at least 100 cardboard file boxes (a bit smaller than copy paper boxes) and there’s no way to really remember what’s all there when it’s covered and you can’t see it. I guess that’s why she continues to buy more.

  24. I’ve enjoyed your blog very much since discovering it just before Christmas! This is an inspirational post with inspirational goals! My husband and I are SLOWLY renovating my grandmother’s house. She had a huge stash of fabric, fabric scraps, thread, trims. I’ve bagged everything up in order to go through one bag at a time and wash, sort, etc. Sadly there were no clear plastic boxes during her time….. *sigh*

    Enjoy all that organized space! Google “Bookcat” for an easy program to organize your books. Just enter an IBSN number, and the program searches the Internet for a photo of the book cover, title, author, etc…and makes your own personal library catalog of holdings.


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