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  • Writer's pictureBecca Norman

Too Much Yarn

Updated: Mar 13

Problematic Phrases

Lately I can't get on social media without seeing someone talk about their "yarn addiction" or how they already have so much yarn that they don't even know what to do with it and yet they continue to buy more because "you can never have too much yarn" or, "it's not a problem if it makes me happy."

I have a lot to say about that. But before I launch into a full-blown judgy rant, I’ll give you a brief history of my relationship with yarn.

A Long and Complicated Relationship with Yarn

I learned how to knit about 25 years ago, with some random balls of yarn left over from when my mom was into knitting, and also some sparkly stuff from my Barbie knitting loom kit. That's right; even my Barbies had knitwear.

For the next several years, I didn't knit anything serious; it was mostly just swatches, and scarves, and you know, nothing really fancy. It was just a skein here and there, usually from Walmart or a garage sale, and I would get just enough for whatever the next thing was that I was knitting. And I would mostly use it up.

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A Turn for the Worse

In my early 20s, I started to get more serious about knitting, and I also started knitting more different types of things. I made a lot of weird seed stitch beanies... I think it was when I got into knitting stuffed animals that my yarn-buying started to take on a whole other level.

I felt like I needed to have every color, and sometimes I would buy all of these colors. and then realize they weren't the right weight for the next pattern I wanted to knit. So I bought a whole bunch more colors in that weight. I developed this habit where whenever I would see yarn on clearance at Hobby Lobby,

I felt like I had to get it -- because the reason it was on clearance was because it was being discontinued, so if I didn't buy it I wouldn't be able to get it a different time because it would never be restocked!

The Problem

The problem was a lot of these yarns I never even used. And I also shopped on this site for discontinued yarn: I think it was called or something like that. I don't think it's still a thing.

The catch with that website was they came in lots of usually 10 skeins or so, which was exciting for me because it was enough usually to knit a whole sweater, and I had all of these ideas about sweaters I would make.

So I would order a few lots of this really cheap yarn, and it ended up being so much yarn, but sometimes they weren't so great because they were usually factory rejects. They had knots in the middle of the ball, or there was, like, a place where it just was cut. They were usually not the softest. Sometimes the colors were weird.

I did all of this because I was on a really tight budget, and I had this scarcity mentality that made me feel like taking advantage of these deals was URGENT. Can you relate?

Now, let's get back to all these phrases I keep hearing in the knitting community and why I have a problem with some of them.

"Yarn Addiction"

First of all, I decided that it's not funny to joke about addiction because it's a really serious problem that ruins a lot of people's lives and, so to casually talk about your addiction like it's some kind of a joke or even a good thing... I just really don't think it's funny.

Second, even if you're being sarcastic and jokey, it IS possible to have an actual addiction to things that seem totally harmless. Even yarn.

"You Can Never Have Too Much Yarn"

Oh, I beg to differ. I hear from so many other knitters about how they have so much yarn - so much, in fact, that they don't even know where all of it is or what they have, so whenever they want to start a new project, they can't find the yarn that they think might be in their stash, so they just go out and buy more.

Guys. Sounds like hoarding to me. And a lot of people, you know, proudly call themselves "yarn hoarders" but guys, once again, hoarding is an actual disorder that really affects people's lives. Why are we promoting this kind of behavior?

I looked it up in my husband's DSM-5 desk reference... Let's read a few of the criteria and see if any of it sounds familiar:

"Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and to distress associated with discarding them. The difficulty discarding possessions results in the accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas and substantially compromise their intended use."

*I am not a licensed behavioral healthcare provider and this is not intended to diagnose or treat any conditions.

"It's Not a Problem if it Makes Me Happy"

Oh boy. I mean, really I think this falls into the realm of what we're calling "toxic positivity" these days. And the other thing is: if you have to keep acquiring more, does it really make you happy, or are you just getting a temporary dopamine hit every time you bring more home? And third, are you a yarn collector or are you a Knitter, or Crocheter?

Whatever are we to do about this?

Well, let's get back to my story. I didn't have nearly as much yarn as some people do, but for me it was too much. It was starting to feel overwhelming, and my dedicated yarn storage bins were full, and I still had more yarn, and so it started getting stashed in different drawers, and just on my dresser and stuff. And it was actually stressing me out.

Trying out Minimalism

In 2017, I decided to dip my toe into the waters of minimalism. I listened to a bunch of podcasts and then finally, when my husband went to Iraq, I got Marie Kondo's book and I just went for it. I followed all of her steps and it was... it was life-changing - just like she said it would be.

It was slow progress because my three children were very young at the time and also because of the aforementioned deployment, but little by little, my mindset started to change and as I sorted through all of my possessions, I realized how much I really have, and that scarcity mindset started to melt away.

Still a Struggle

Even so, whenever I tried to tackle my yarn, I just wasn't able to part with any of it. Every time, I would pull all of it out and I would look at every single skein and ball, and every bit of it, and I would think, "I can't get rid of it; I might make something with it! What if I want to make something and I need this color? and I already bought it and I don't want to have to buy it again, so I have to keep it..."

I Have Issues Too...

So see, you guys? I uh, I've had a few hoarding tendencies myself. I knew we would be moving again and we really wanted to go somewhere OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States") so I knew that good closet and storage space was not going to be guaranteed and I needed to do something about it.

So I committed to not buying any more yarn until I had reduced my yarn stash from two storage bins, plus some extra, to all of it fitting in one bin. And I did it! It's very full; I CAN get the lid closed. It's not the prettiest organization method, but it works for me.

A Very Long Yarn Fast

From August of 2019 to February of 2021, I didn't buy any yarn. Some was given to me, as tends to happen when people know you love knitting. After a while of knitting my way through my stash, I got a better feel for what I like and don't like. And I realized that there were some yarns in my stash that, as much as I didn't want to get rid of, I didn't really want to knit with them either. So I sold those!

23 Stash-busting Projects

I made quite a bit during that time. I finally made sweaters that I’d had in my queue for years. I used some wonderful cashmere blend I’d been saving for something really special for over 10 years. Many more accessories and small fun projects. 23 projects using only yarn that I already had! It felt so good. And honestly, even before that, I had been trying to stash bust for a while.


Full disclosure though: I do have one more sweater amount of yarn downstairs that I got because my daughter wanted a sweater, and what do you know: I didn't have enough of a color that she liked to make a whole sweater, so I had to buy more.

Moving Forward

So obviously I have some more work to do. I do. I know that. And after I knit that sweater, I'm gonna go on a diet again and just stash bust. I have started buying some more yarn again, but I'm a lot more careful about it now.

I always know exactly what I want to make with it, how much I need, and what color, and I'm also mindful of the colors that I buy going well with the other colors that I have, so that whenever there's a small amount left, if I want to use a couple of them together it'll look nice.

Anyway, that was my solution. I hope you feel inspired to do something similar.

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Jun 19, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I enjoyed your article and appreciated the honesty about how we can diminish the reality of hoarding behaviours. Personally I felt worse about my stash of 12 totes though when I saw you were struggling to reduce from 2 totes to 1. Wake up call I guess 🙂

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