In my bedroom of my quaint 2 bed home are shelves, crates, and cubes filled to the brim with saturated colors painted onto various fibers, from the cheapest acrylic to the squishiest silk blends. Airy mohairs and dense wools spill from nooks and crannies in every visible corner; self-striping cakes and loosely twisted hanks stacked higher and higher until they threaten to topple to the floor.
And yet, I want more. I need those hues of color I haven’t yet added to my stash, that perfect shade of purple that will keep me up at night if I don’t find out how it looks knit up, that speckled combination I never would have thought to put together, and yet here it is in all its glory! There is no place for it, no chiseled-out hole for it to fill, but it has to come home.
Why, in this vast universe, do I feel like everything I could possibly need isn’t enough? I have enough fiber to keep me busy for several years, and somehow, I continue to convince myself that this yarn will not sit unused…but it does. Some of the very first skeins I’ve ever purchased still sit on my shelf wound into their hanks, barely crossing my mental radar when searching for yarn for that next project. I know they’ll be perfect for something, but I have no idea what that something is.
As a male in the knitting community, finding projects is increasingly more difficult as magazines, books, even online publishers don’t want to feature patterns for men. (This is an ongoing issue that warrants further discussion at a later date.) So, when the projects I’m willing to knit become scarcer, why do I feel the need to continue purchasing additional yarn? How much yarn is too much yarn?
As much as I, and many others, want to argue that the answer is, “there is no such thing,” I think we have to examine what it is we’re actually doing when we buy that skein we couldn’t possibly have a project in mind for.
Why do we buy anything? At the basic level, we either need or want something. We need food and water, clothing, and shelter, so anything that fits into a sub category of those can be classified as a need as well: pasta, cheese, milk, new shoes, ties, underwear, cleaning supplies, furniture, etc. Of course, you can also break down the needs into subcategories of wants such as, buying generic over name brand: you need the food, you do NOT need the name brand.
Similarly, I think we can break down our wants into needs/wants as well. Even though we don’t NEED yarn, we do need hobbies, as activities we enjoy are a huge part of our happiness, and being happy is an essential piece of humanity, ergo, a need. In order to have a hobby, you need to have the tools and materials necessary to enjoy that hobby. In this way, we can say that yarn is a need. Yarn = supplies = hobby = happiness = humanity.
Add this logically built-out need for our hobby to the ever-growing phenomena of retail therapy. Its no secret that shopping is a(n) (arguably unhealthy) coping mechanism for all sorts of things: depression, anxiety, a bad day, poor impulse control, entitlement, etc. (none of which are inherently bad, merely a side-effect of our culture).
How do you feel when you buy that next skein? Happy? Excited? Calm? A bit more relaxed, maybe? I sure do. It’s that little thing I need to make me feel better. I have personally found that I shop for yarn on days that were bad or just so-so, but on days or weeks when I’m my happiest, adding yarn to my collection doesn’t even cross my mind. I love the squish factor when I’m in my LYS, but I’m much more able to say, “Not today,” and move on to what I already have.
None of this touches on that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) ideal, where if you don’t get it now, it’ll be gone, but I think we all know where that resides within ourselves.
Yarn is that squish factor we need when we either can’t hug our pets, can’t have pets, or simply want the ability to pet something soft without looking like a complete weirdo (but I will inhale my yarn in public as if it’s a bouquet of roses sent to me from Heaven. Let them stare). When I’m buying yarn, I’m saying “I have a home for you. You can live with me. I’ll take care of you.” It fills a void I’m having that day, and then goes home to fill that hole on the wall, where it will sit and sit, until I’m happy enough to return to what I already have.
So to answer the question, “how much yarn is too much yarn?”, I’m afraid my answer is still, “there is no such thing,” because my happiness is tied to my hobby, and my hobby is tied to my ability to practice it as I please. I will never stop buying yarn, but I will focus more on my happiness in other aspects of my life, and maybe then my purchases will be more meaningful, and fewer skeins will sit on my shelves collecting dust and hoping for the day they’ll finally become something beautiful.