Hello Stash!

Last week I got the most EXCITING surprise! A family friend’s mother passed away five or six years ago, and happened to be an avid knitter. Well, I just inherited pretty much her entire stash, and it’s not like when someone says, “Hey, my mom left a bunch of yarn in the attic, you want it?” and it turns out to be a big box of moldy acrylics. This is nice yarn, and my own stash just grew exponentially.

(Actually, that’s not hard, because as a poor, recent college grad, I haven’t had the money or space to develop any real ‘stash’ as such. But STILL.)

It looked like this upon arrival.

I spent literally an entire day sorting it. I was in heaven. I love sorting things. I know it sounds OCD, but I’m not ashamed: sorting is one of my favorite things to do. And I also love fiber. So, spending a day sorting by fiber content, yarn weight, color, texture, etc.–it was a blast. (Well, other than the mothball fumes and cat hair, which did aggravate my delicate lungs. The fact that I was constantly burning tiny scraps of yarn didn’t help. More on that in a bit.)

The sorting process looked like this:

That was my favorite batch–good, solid wool yarns, in great colors. The lady whose stash I inherited bought a lot of novelty yarn–highly textured mohair blends and whatnot–which is fine, but not something I use a lot, myself. But give me a solid worsted wool yarn, and I’m in heaven. I think all those round balls in the center are some sort of Rowan Tweed, but they didn’t have the labels.

It was a strange thing, too, going through these boxes, because I learned a lot about this woman, but I don’t even know her name. I know she was pretty organized–not only were the various boxes and baskets already basically sorted by project, but I found a bag full of ball bands and other labels, each one with a little scrap of the yarn wrapped around it, so that it would be easy to know which band went with which yarn. Smart! (More on this in a later post.)

I know she mostly knit sweaters, and she liked colorwork. There are several half-finished intarsia sweaters in here, as well as a whole basket full of tiny bobbins of yarn from an intarsia project. The whole concept of intarsia rather terrifies me–so many ends!–so I’m impressed. (Non-knitters: Intarsia on Wikipedia.)

I know that either she liked mohair a lot, or it was popular in the time period she was knitting, because there are LOADS of mohair yarns in there. (Some of them are blends that just seem WEIRD these days, like the two sweaters’ worth of 95% mohair/5% nylon yarn.)

I know that she probably didn’t really knit socks–I found three vaguely neglected half-balls of sock yarn, sans labels. And the reason I take this as proof she wasn’t a sock knitter is this bit of common ground I found between us:

That’s one of many bags of basically unusable scraps of yarn. I’m very relieved to discover I’m not the only person who saves that last few yards on the very vague possibility that it might be useful one day. And believe me, if she was a sock knitter, there would literally be BAGS of sock yarn ends.

So, it was a little like getting to know this person through her yarn–an awesome experience, in more than one sense. Imagine inheriting a stranger’s library, and what you could learn about them from it–it’s like that, but with yarn.

And I think that it’ll challenge me as a knitter, since her projects were so much different than mine. I mean, I need to use the yarn–that’s why it was given to me, because her daughters wanted to see it put to good use–so I’ll need to stretch my limits. Yay!

I have more to say about this whole experience, so in the next couple of weeks you can expect posts about things like determining fiber content of mystery yarns, and all the fun tools that came along with the yarn.