Thursday, May 19, 2011

curating vs. creating

I read a blog post recently that made me stop and think about how I approach my hobbies. I can't recall where it was, so I apologize to the originator of the topic, but it was about "curating" vs. "creating."

I have stashes of both yarn and fabric. Some of it is very, very old. I can point to some stuff that I've had since before I met my husband (10 years ago). What's up with that? Why haven't I used it? And will I ever?

I really got to thinking about what that means. How many of us just buy stuff because it appeals to us at the moment, but it never gets made into anything useful or beautiful? Has this always been a problem for crafters? I mean, who hasn't come across or heard about someone's Grandmother's attic stash of vintage fabrics or trunks of yarn that have been sitting in the corner of a basement or closet for umpteen years?

Is it the norm to do that? I wish I could say I just buy yarn or fabric for a specific project and use everything I spend money on. My mom has always been like that and we've had discussions about why people "build a stash." Mom thinks that having a shoebox-size plastic bin of sock yarn is excessive...and then I showed her my underbed storage box. I have enough sock yarn in there to make at least 15 pairs of adult socks, I bet. And that might be a small stash to some people! I've also been to the fabric store with my mom and picked up a few cuts of calico just because I think they are pretty, and she's always asking "why? What will you use it for?"

I always answer that it's pretty, it's a basic, I could use it for a quilt or a sundress for Daughter or something...some day.

But what it boils down to is I'm a collector. And, sadly, I'm pretty good at it! I can shop a clearance sale like nobody's business. I recently picked through my yarn stash to see what I had for baby sweaters (there's going to be another friends & family baby boom soon), and I came up with a heck of a lot. A shocking amount, really, and some of it has been hanging around far too long. Because while I "stock up" on these "stashbuilders" using sales and coupons, I find I rarely turn to stash when I need to make a gift. Because stash is boring to me. Shopping for new stuff is fun! When someone announces a pregnancy my first thought is toward going out to buy supplies to make a gift.

So while I do knit and sew quite a bit, I am more of a curator than a creator. I curate a collection of yarns, fabrics, embroidery supplies, books...and I get so bored with it, as you would if you looked at the same collection day after day.

I think it also speaks to our rampant consumerism. How many blog entries or ravelry pages have you seen with someone's yarn purchases for the week or fabric stash additions? I've been guilty of it myself...nothing much to write about, nothing created, so instead I show off what I bought. Big deal. Why are we writing about that? And why are we buying so much stuff, anyway? Not that it's wrong to purchase supplies, that isn't what I am saying at all...if you pull fabrics for a quilt or garment and something is missing, by all means buy a yard of something snappy to make the project sing. And if you're fresh out of pink baby yarn but your cousin is having twin girls, of course it is sensible to get what you need.

But to just keep buying stuff...for "some day?" I'm starting to feel a little ridiculous about it, myself. So I'm putting my money where my mouth is. That's probably not the right expression. But you get the idea.

It's time to use up some stash, FOR REAL. And I've set up a tasty reward for myself. I received the new and updated version of Aran Knitting for my birthday. If I can wrestle my stash under control by the end of the year, then I plan to buy myself a Christmas gift of lovely yarn to make one of the designs from that book. It's kind of subjective, I guess, because I don't have a particular amount I'm looking to reduce...I'll just kind of know when I feel like I've reached my goal.

Look, I've already started:

We all know this one, yes? A February Baby Sweater, of course. I had 3 balls of Knitpicks Telemark sportweight wool in the carnation colorway. That's 309 yards of yarn. I'm using a US 5 needle and I think it's going to come out just right.

And here are two roughly 0-3 month sweaters, knitted using free patterns from here, each taking one ball of baby sport yarn. The light blue is Bernat Softee Baby (US size 4 needle), the navy is Lion Baby Soft (US size 5 needle). The cream bonnet, which needs blocking quite badly, is from a Leisure Arts layette book and is made from some sort of fingering weight acrylic baby yarn on, I believe, a US size 3 needle.

The only person in my life who is actually pregnant right now is my sister-in-law, who is due at the end of this year. They find out the gender next month and then I'll know what to focus on. But I am pretty sure my sister will have another, my other sister who is getting married this year will surely have one or two, and our good friends are hoping to add to their family soon as well. So having a stash of little sweaters (rather than a stash of baby yarn) will serve me well.

I am even hoping to pull some coordinating fabrics from my bins to make some little pull-on pants or sundresses or little quilts to go with some of this knitted stuff.

I may still purchase some "supplies" this year. If I need something to finish a project or for a very specific gift, I'll head to Joann's. But I'm excited to stop curating and start creating.


Steve Finnell said...
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Louise said...

Awesome. I'm trying to use stash this year, too-- I'm actually on a fabric fast for a year. I started on March 19, 2011. Is it bad that I know the date off the top of my head? I love the idea of a "stash of little sweaters rather than a stash of baby yarn". Cheers!

Karen said...

I've been trying to focus on this too over the last year. I've also sold some of my "stash" on a sewing forum to someone else who will either curate it or make use of it-- either way I got some money back out of it and I did not use it to buy more fabric! Woot!

I love your sweaters. Annie is still wearing her little white sweater regularly.

Shari said...

Just wanted to say that I love that you are back to blogging. You are one of my favourites :D