You Can’t Take it With You

By Bonnie Swierzbin

Volunteering at the Textile Center Garage Sale, I’ve had my hands on a lot of fabulous yarn. On occasion I’ve thought something like, “Wow! This Kaffe Fassett sweater kit would never leave my house as long as I could grab it!” and sadly realized that perhaps the yarn was donated to the sale because a knitter couldn’t knit any more or maybe had died.

As I read Melissa’s recent blog post about steps for organizing and putting a value on her stash, I thought about additional steps that knitters can take to ensure that their beautiful and valuable stash ends up where they want it to when they can’t use it any more.

Although this post is mainly about yarn, the ideas here apply to embroidery materials, fabric, etc. as well. Thanks to the knitters in the Guild’s Virtual Sunday Knitting Brunch and Sandy Resnick of the Needlework Guild of Minnesota and St. Paul Needleworkers for sharing their ideas with me. Additional ideas that apply to weavers can be found at handwovenmagazine.com.

Floor to ceiling yarn of every color sorted into modular shelves.
Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash.

 

Yarn exchange groups

First, if you aren’t able to knit or stitch with certain materials any more (e.g., laceweight yarn, 32-count linen), but you can still work with other materials, you could take advantage of the many yarn exchange groups on Ravelry or a “stash reallocation” event with a guild or local knitting group. Such events are sometimes organized as swaps and other times participants simply bring what they can’t use and leave with what they want, then afterwards the remaining materials are donated to charity. On the other hand, one former stitcher I know took boxes of lustrous silk threads with her to assisted living despite her family’s protestations of “no space” because the stitchers helping her move knew that sometimes you simply need to see and feel some of the exquisite materials you’ve collected over the years.

Where there’s a will there’s a way…

Probably the most important step you can take is writing down your intentions for your stash when you are gone.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but a written statement of your wishes attached to your will or stored with your stash will help your loved ones know what you want far better than a half-remembered oral request from years earlier. Your statement should include the location(s) of your stash, especially if you’ve hidden some in the soup tureen (as Lily Chin once suggested) or stored half-finished projects in garbage bags in the basement.

You may want to provide access to your Ravelry account or a database where you keep information about the value and location of your stash. Your statement should also include contact information for whom or what group you want to handle your stash and directions for the proceeds if it is to be sold.

You are certainly familiar with the MKG auctions and the Textile Center Garage Sale if you want to donate your stash outright, and there are lots of possibilities for handling the proceeds if your stash is sold. You may simply want the money to be part of your estate. Other possibilities that I’ve seen knitters and stitchers earmark funds for include

  • Supporting their grandkids’ college fund
  • Supporting special Guild programming such as paying for a speaker for a guild anniversary presentation or providing a retreat scholarship

You may also want the materials themselves not to be sold but to be used in a particular way such as

  • Donating a special kit or set of materials to a charity’s silent auction
  • Donating appropriate yarn to a group that does service knitting, which may result in a tax deduction
  • Using supplies for Guild programming, for example, teaching knitting to kids or handing out kits at the State Fair
  • Door prizes for Guild meetings
Label it (for their sake if not for yours)!

In addition to Melissa’s stash-organizing steps, there are a few other things you can do to make life easier for someone who is processing your stash. First, it’s easier if you keep your project materials together including the yarn/thread labels. If you borrow the needles for another project, make sure you have written down what size you were using. It’s also helpful to keep materials in closeable bags to prevent critter attacks. Finally, remember to consider books and tools when you are thinking about passing along your stash. Put with your instructions a note about anything that is unusual, valuable or of historical interest.

 

It’s sad to think about a day when you can’t knit or stitch anymore, but one thing that’s helped me deal with the sadness of losing friends and fellow stitchers is using their stash for service knitting, making stitch markers from their bead stash for mutual friends, and knowing that sales from their stash supported people and organizations that are important to all of us.

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Meg Duncan

Vice President

(Term 1, Year 1)

Meg grew up surrounded by makers. Her mom, a master quilter, former Home Ec teacher, and 4-H club leader in Duluth, taught her to sew, embroider, and cook. She won a trip to the State Fair as the Dress Review Princess at 13! Another MKG member taught her to knit continental style 15 years ago. Meg can’t sit still and NOT be knitting, embroidering, rug hooking or sewing. Favorite thing to knit? Mittens! She loves taking classes and learning new things – absolutely amazed and inspired by all the amazing knitters in the guild! (she, her, hers)

Jess Dahlberg

Newsletter Editor

Jess learned to knit in middle school and attempted (but never quite finished) a few garter stitch scarves. Years later, she picked up crochet with her best friend in law school and eventually fell back into knitting. Ever since then, she's been a daily knitter (commuting time for the win!) and has never looked back. She enjoys knitting gifts for friends and family and loves trying new techniques. (she, her, hers)

Laura Haave

Great Guild Getaway Committee Chair

Laura learned to knit in 2003 by taking a four-week class during MIT's annual January Independent Activities Period. The class project was a striped hat knit in the round, and since that time, Laura has been a big advocate of 1) helping other adults learn to knit for the first time, 2) hats as a manageable first project, and 3) circular needles for everything. She enjoys thinking about knitting and planning her next project almost as much as she enjoys actually knitting. Laura is highly motivated by knit-alongs and loves to knit in community. (she, her, hers)

Anne Rojas

Librarian

Anna Turk

Yarnover Committee Chair

While Anna learned to knit at some long-forgotten point in time, her commitment to the craft really began her freshman year of college. Sitting still has never been Anna’s strong suit, and giving her hands something to do while chatting with friends or watching movies in the dorm brought a sense of calm during this new chapter of her life. Once the sense of calm wore off (and no one else needed a scarf), she began trying new techniques, patterns, and projects, and until 2018 was primarily a self-taught knitter. After being intimidated early in her crafting, Anna feels strongly about creating a welcoming environment within the fiber community for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. She enjoys knitting and fiber traveling, test and service knitting, a good challenge (knitting or otherwise), and is likely to have at least 3 WIPs at any one time. She is also learning to spin and ply her own yarn! (she/her/hers)

Bonnie Swierzbin

Marketing Director

(Term 1, Year 1)

Bonnie comes from a long line of makers, so between their sewing and her own knitting, her Barbies had loads of one-of-a-kind dresses. She loves to buy yarn and knit while she travels, so she has a yarn stash the size of Cleveland and memories imbued with knitting; she can tell you exactly what baby sweater she was making on the overnight ferry from Rab to Split, Croatia, in 1985. When she isn't knitting, Bonnie is dyeing yarn and vintage textiles, embroidering, and making felt or silk paper vessels. She's happiest when she is learning a new skill or knitting technique. (she, her, hers)

Melissa Mintern

Technology Director

(Term 1, Year 1)

Melissa has been knitting for 15 years. She loves socks and sweaters. She is a new member who hopes to use her marketing background to lift up the MKG. While she isn't local to MN, she really loves the atmosphere created by the Guild. Melissa and significant other Al enjoy traveling, wherein Al graciously offers to drive so Melissa can knit in the passenger seat. (she, her, hers)

Nikky Heidel

Membership Director

(Term 1, Year 3)

Nikky was first introduced to knitting in 2012 when her visiting sister-in-law taught her the basics of casting on and the knit stitch. A few weeks later, she learned how to purl from her mother-in-law. From there, it quickly became a passion and she has taken on each new project with a desire to expand her skill and discover new techniques. She loves a good mystery (knit-a-long) and knits way more shawls than a single person can wear in a month.

Betsy Preston

Service Director

(Term 1, Year 2)

Betsy never had patience for knitting, until she found herself spending a lot of time at little league games and waiting for the last kid to emerge from the locker room after swim practice. With her background in graphic design, stranded colorwork has a natural appeal. Not to mention the practicality of an extra layer of warmth. Betsy has recently begun publishing her original hat and cowl patterns, which are available on Ravelry. (she, her, hers) (See our Service Knitting Page for more information about our current projects and donation process.)

Janet Ungs

Programming Director

(Term 1, Year 1)

Janet taught herself to knit from a small green and white paperback called “Learn to Knit” at the age of 10ish. Her first attempt at a cardigan, with some very heavyweight baby blue yarn, was done without checking gauge. As you can imagine, it was very large, but amazingly still lives in the closet of one of her younger sister‘s friends! To this day, she still struggles with doing a gauge swatch every time, although the journey of making the product is always fun! Janet loves to knit socks, sweaters, and hats, but blankets? Not so much. She likes color knitting as well as making cables. Lace? Not very good at that. (she, her, hers)

Rose Tobelmann

Treasurer

(Term 2, Year 1)

Rose learned to knit from her mother at the age of ten. She started knitting on the ends of small paint brushes. She continued to knit off and on through her teenage and young adult years and became a more avid knitter after taking a Norwegian sweater knitting class through community education. Today, knitting has become a passion and she knits for charity, herself, and her family her stash. She enjoys meeting other knitters and learning new techniques.

Kelsey Sorenson

Secretary

(Term 1, Year 3)

Kelsey learned the knit stitch from her grandmother in middle school, and filled in the gaps enough to make lots of scarves for quite a few years. She began expanding her skills in college and is always looking to learn more. Kelsey is drawn toward projects that are seamless or include stranded colorwork. (she, her, hers)

Kelly Amoth

President

(Term 1, Year 1)

A visiting friend from Seattle taught Kelly the very basics of knitting (a twisted loop cast on and just the knit stitch) in 2008 before flying home. Turning to the internet (thanks knittinghelp.com!) Kelly taught herself through a lot of trial and error. Uncontent to keep knitting the scarf she’d started as her first project, she jumped into knitting a pair of striped mittens for her non-knitter, but very knitworthy, twin sister. Twelve years later the mittens are still in her sister’s glove box, and Kelly is usually horrified when she pulls them out and sees the mistakes she made using double pointed needles for the first time. Kelly loves knitting socks and is thankful for the many months of cold weather when she gets to exclusively wear her handknits. (she, her, hers)

Kathy Lewinski

Webmaster

Kathy has always been into crafts, but didn’t teach herself to knit until after college. She really got hooked while living in San Francisco when a friend opened a knitting store. To pitch in, Kathy started knitting up fun (and odd) things for window displays, as well as teaching classes. In the last couple of years, she has started designing her own knitting patterns (many of them available for free on Ravelry!) with toys and mittens being her primary obsessions. (she/her/hers)