Friday, February 1, 2013

Destashing 101

Yarn Pile

Since the beginning of the year I've been thinking about and doing what a lot of knitters think about and do at this time of year - destashing a bit of yarn.  Cause you know, it's like starting the new knitterly year fresh and all that jazz...or...something along those lines.  I can't remember.  My brain is hopped up on yarn fumes right now, so you'll just have to excuse me here for a bit.  Anyhoo, I've been making lists, pulling out bins and bags, inspecting skeins, and most importantly, been giving each and every single skein of yarn in my stash a long hard look and careful consideration as to whether or not if it should stay or be voted off the island.

During my (oh so ongoing) destashing selection process I've been asked several times what exactly IS destashing?  And how do I personally go about doing it?  How do I know how much to sell a skein of yarn for? And why would I even want to sell any part of my stash anyways?  I'm sure there are several knitting blogs and posts out there in the blogosphere about this subject but I thought I would post about my process and thoughts on destashing anyways.

First off, destashing is when you sell, trade, donate, or toss (as in throw it in the garbage!!) your extra or unwanted yarn.  Destashing can also refer to knitting needles or crochet hooks, notions, and bags.  Destashing isn't limited to just knitting.  It could also be applied to any other craft - fabrics, beads, floss, get the point.  Now, you're probably wondering why on Earth would someone want to get rid of their yarn and supplies?  Well, various reasons really.  They want to make room for new yarn, they've already made a million and one projects with a particular yarn or colour and if they have to knit one more thing in it they'll shove the closest DPN in their eye.  Or maybe they thought they would love knitting but couldn't get the hang of it, or maybe they made the switch from straight needles to circulars.  Or how about they were given an ultimatum of either getting rid of some of the "knitting stuff" if they want other people living in the same house as them.  Not that I would know anything about that... Or worse case scenario: they have to sell some of their beloved yarns in order to make some extra cash for an emergency or whatever else that can unexpectedly come up.  For me, I was hoping destashing would help me get my knitting areas organized and under control.  Mainly so that I can close the closet doors without having to shove bags aside so that I can close said doors unscathed, and so that I don't feel overwhelmed every time I go into the stash to pick out yarns for the next project (and then feeling extremely guilty if I want to purchase yarn rather than use stash yarn).

I'll admit that I usually attempt to destash at least twice a year.  It's my sad way of trying to wrangle the stash and trying to get control over it rather than have it control me.  In the end I ultimately hope that it means that I will knit only with the yarns I love rather than trying to knit up and use the "crap yarn" before allowing myself to knit with "the good stuff".  I'm sure there's a huge number of knitters out there that can relate, and who are currently going through or have gone through that phase at one point in their knitterly lifetime.  I half-heartedly tried to go through that phase myself but stopped when I saw a post on Facebook one day that pretty much said that exact sentiment: "life is too short to knit with cheap yarn" (and really, "cheap" could mean anything. I'm not trying to be a snob here!).

That's when the planets aligned and I came to my senses and realized that yes, life really is too short.  What if I had spent 3 months knitting with nothing but kitchen cottons, got struck by lightning, and didn't get the chance to knit with all the lovely MCN or merino cashmere silk yarns that I have in my stash that I've been dying to knit up?  Ack!  How horrible would that be?!?  Yikes, I don't even want to think about that!  I'm happy to say that I think I got rid of all my "beginner's stash" a few years ago.  Yes, there are still some stragglers left behind but for the most part my stash is in a good spot.  And in case you're wondering what a beginner's stash is, it's the yarn that you purchased during the time frame of when you were starting to knit, when you were a beginner knitter.  When you had no idea what you were doing, what you were buying, and had no knowledge of what was good.  Not all beginners go through that though, I know a few who started out with the good stuff because they had the guidance of a knitter from the start.  If you were anything like me, at my start I didn't know any other knitter and Ravelry didn't exist yet.  So I was stocking up on yarn from big box craft stores and places like Walmart.  My idea of luxury was when I actually bought a skein from a real yarn shop.  But even then it was a skein of super bulky yarn that only had 50yards to it.  Now that I think about it, what was I planning on doing with 20 balls of kitchen cotton in bright and highly variegated colours??  Did I honestly think boucle was cool?  Or that I would or could wear anything made with eyelash yarn?  Eeeee...if I could go back in time, I'd slap myself silly!

Anyhoo, back to the point of this post.  Destashing.  So how do I go about destashing?

Well, let me give you a mini lesson: Destashing 101:

:: First ::
Before we dive into our yarn stashes and start throwing skeins and balls around all willy nilly like, I would like to say that this would be the perfect opportunity to organize your stash, that is, if it's not already organized.  My stash may look messy but it's organized chaos.  I actually know where it is all.  Some knitters like to arrange their yarn by weight, by colour, or by potential project type (like all yarn for future socks in one pile, sweaters worth in another, etc.).  I have my stash organized so that one bin contains nothing but workhorse yarns (Cascade 220 and Patons Classic Wool), one of "Indie-dyed" yarns (Cephalopod Yarns, Plucky Knitter, MadTosh, etc.), one of "Canadian Indie-dyed" yarns (Tanis Fiber Arts, Sweet Fiber, Everything Old, etc.), one of sock yarn (Koigu, Malabrigo, Regia, etc.), one of bulky weight yarns, just to name a few.  I stick a Post-It on each bin and note what yarn brand the bin contains.  I also have huge heavy-duty storage bags that I put all my mini skeins for hexipuffs in, another for leftovers, and a few for skeins that don't fit into their designated bins.

Now would also be a good time to do a little inspection of your stash.  Even though yarn doesn't go bad, it doesn't hurt to do a careful look-over from time to time.  I personally like to do this every few months. I like to rotate the bin order, go into random parts of the stash and bring older yarns closer to the top, and I like to take different skeins from different areas of the stash and inspect them.  Depending on how and where you store your stash, I think it's always a good idea to look over your yarns every now and then for bugs, infestations, and discolouring.  I usually store my pricier yarns in Ziplock bags before placing them in large plastic bins.  That might seem like a lot of plastic but I worked hard and paid good money for these yarns, I'm not going to let some critter eat it up and ruin my chance of knitting with it!  Some yarns are in Ziplocks in baskets and in underbed storage units.  Some are kept in my sock drawer.  All yarns are kept out of direct sunlight.  

I live in an area that is prone to silverfish, since Victoria is full of extremely old houses and buildings (luckily my complex doesn't have them!), and my entire townhouse is wall-to-wall carpet (I'm always on the look out for carpet beetles), and since I always have a window open somewhere in my house I run the risk of having moths, wasps, spiders, and who knows what else coming into the house as well.  I know some knitters store their stash open cubbies style a la LYS, some knitters use straw baskets, and some use a cabinet or chest of sorts.  Definitely take the time to think about your area and your house and what risks your stash may be under.  Take a few minutes to untwist a few random skeins, to poke your finger around a few balls (that sounds so dirty!), to run your fingers through the strands of those bulky hanks, and just make sure nothing is living or eating or breeding in the yarns that you paid you worked your butt off for.  And while you're at it, depending on where in the house your yarn is located, look for any discolouration - is the yarn under that ball band slightly darker under than the rest of the ball?  Maybe putting your stash in the sunniest spot in the house isn't a good idea.  Also check for any weird smells.  You might think this is all too much work, but think about the money you invested in your stash.  Think about how horrible it would be to knit half of a cardigan only to discover that the last skein is riddled with white spider eggs.  Or worse, that the bottom of a box was ravaged by some bug and it's extended family.  Yuck!

A little preventative action will save yourself any future heartache and/or headache, trust me.  Not to mention that if you plan on donating or selling any of your yarn, that you should let it out into the knitterly world clean and ready for knitting.  Think about it, you wouldn't want to buy yarn from a fellow knitter, only to discovered that it's full of insects and it is now infecting the rest of your stash.  Or bring home yarn only to find out that it reeks of moth balls (which is one of the hardest smells to get out of wool, seriously!).

Ok, now onto the fun part...

:: Toss ::

This is the easy peasy way of destashing yarn.  If you have no attachment to the yarn and you have no idea what to do with it, where to drop it off at, or don't think anyone else would fancy it, you can just toss it into the garbage.  Simple!  Definitely toss out anything that has been attacked by bugs and rodents.  Some knitters toss out anything that doesn't have a label and some will even toss out their leftovers.

Feel guilty about throwing yarn into the garbage?  If it's still a useable skein of yarn and preferably still has the yarn band or tag on it, you might want to consider donating it.

:: Donate ::

Don't know what to do with the yarn you want to donate?  Here's a few ideas:

♥ If you're part of a knitting group or club, bring your bin of yarn to the next knit night or meeting and see if anyone else wants it.  Remember, some knitters out there like to knit stuffies or could be making a type of scrappy blanket coughBeekeepersQuiltcough and would appreciate your leftovers.

♥ Got a crafty friend?  See if they want anything.  My friend Aja made a seriously kick ass Halloween wreath with some novelty yarn that we got in a grab bag.  My other friend Arika took some novelty yarn that I had off my hands because she plans on weaving something funky with it.  Just because you don't want to knit with it, doesn't mean someone else doesn't want to craft with it!

♥ Ask your LYS if they take yarn donations.  I know one of my LYS takes yarn donations and they give it to a charity that will knit items for those in need.

♥ Your LYS doesn't take yarn donations?  Look around, I'm sure there's a charity somewhere in your area that will be glad to take it and use it to make blankets for the homeless or preemie hats for local hospitals.

♥ If you can't find a knitterly charity, donate your yarn to the Salvation Army, Good Will, or some other second hand shop.  It may not be huge, but a lot of second hand stores have a crafts section.  

:: Sell ::

I'll admit that selling your stash can be a little scary.  Sometimes it can be a little more work for what it's worth, or it can be hit or miss since every knitter's perceived value of a yarn is different.  Definitely be realistic.  Don't expect to make a huge profit.  Or any for that matter.  I think breaking even is probably the best way to go.  I don't know about you, but I wouldn't pay more for a yarn that I could get at a store, online, or through someone else.  Not unless it was a super rare yarn and I absolutely love it and know I would not be able to live without it in my stash.  So keep that in mind when you think you can tag on a few more bucks for that skein of MadTosh and think no one will notice!  I've also noticed that some knitters will try to sell a yarn that they themselves have purchased through someone else's destash and will try to charge for the shipping that they've paid on top of the original destash price.  The sale price usually ending up almost double what the yarn is being sold at by the company!  While the knitter is trying to break even and then some, in those cases the yarn will sit and will most likely never sell, since there usually is someone else who's destashing the exact yarn for the actual cost or less.

With that in mind, here are some tips on how to figure out a selling price for your yarn:

♥ If you just want to get rid of the yarn but want something for it, you can try selling the yarn at a discount.  Like for half the price or a few dollars less than what it's being sold for in stores.

♥ If you have a higher end yarn, you can try selling it for the same amount that you paid for it, pre-taxes and pre-shipping (if applicable).

♥ Can't remember what you paid for the yarn?  Look up the yarn on Ravelry and see what other people are destashing that yarn for and use that as a base.  Some yarns fluctuate in prices depending on the demand.  Take Wollmeise for instance.  They have some colourways that are only dyed up once in a blue moon, some that they've discontinued, and some that are brand spanking new that they sell out in a matter of seconds during update time.  Since these are the yarns that knitters are looking for, some knitters will try to ask for a few dollars more.  If you find out that a few months later Wollmeise has started dyeing up that colourway again and the market is now over saturated with it, no one will be willing to shell out the few extra dollars.  So adjust accordingly.

♥ Not sure what to sell the yarn for?  Again, you can look up the yarn on Ravelry and check out what other knitters are destashing their skeins for.  From there you can decide if you want to list yours a little cheaper so that it will be more enticing to future buyers, or if you want to set the price the same as others.  Keep in mind that shipping costs can be a deal breaker for some buyers and that could be the difference between someone purchasing your yarn over another knitter's who's skein is priced the same.

Some different methods of selling your yarn:

:: Easiest ::
If you're not in a rush to get rid of the yarn and don't mind it sitting in the stash for a while, then you can go the easiest route ever.  And that's to file the yarn in your Ravelry stash page as "Will trade or sell".  To do that, you need to edit stash and at the top right corner you'll see a drop-down menu called stash tab.  Keep in mind that any yarns labeled as "Will trade or sell" will NOT show up on your in stash page, which is the default when it comes to looking at your stash page.

Even though you're not soliciting your yarn to anyone, try to have a good photo of the yarn and try to have as much info on it as you can find, such as dye lot and colour name.  You wouldn't believe how many times I've heard stories of knitters running out of yarn, only to find a lonely skein on Ravelry simply because another knitter had noted the dye lot on their stash page!  Also, if you can, quote a shipping estimate - approximately how much will it be to send the yarn within Canada, to the US, and Internationally.  It might seem like a lot of work but in the end it'll save you and your potential buyer time and the effort as to whether or not it'll be worth it.

I've destashed a few sweater quantities via this method and it makes me feel better to know that the yarn will be heading to a good home and will be loved, considering that the knitter went out of their way to find the yarn amongst all the stash pages on Ravelry.  It makes me feel like it was meant to be.

:: Easy :: 
Another easy way to sell your yarns is through the various forums on Ravelry.  No, I didn't mean just randomly make a post about how you're selling a gorgeous skein of something!  My goodness, that would be poor online manners!  What I mean is, when you actually look around on the forums you'll see that there are threads dedicated to those who want to destash their yarn or are trying to find a yarn.  Most yarn companies will have these threads, just look for the thread with the words "ISO" (meaning: In Search Of) or "Destash".

In these threads you can make a post about the yarn(s) you're destashing.  Just make sure the yarn pertains to the group - as in, you don't want to be peddling your skeins of Malabrigo in the Knit Picks only thread!  When posting about your yarn, again, have a good photo of it, include any details (like how many skeins are up for grabs, shipping), and generally it's good form to dish out where the yarn has been.  Like does it come from a smoke-free home?  How about pet-free?  Or maybe you only have 3 cats that like to roam your stash?  Was the yarn stored in a bin free from all of these elements?  Some knitters will really need to know, in case they are deathly allergic to cats or sensitive to cigarette smoke.  If you're posting in several forums about your yarn, you might want to make a note of that in the post to.  You don't have to go into great detail about it, simply a "x-posted to Yarn Hoars" or something along those lines.

If you take part in yarn clubs and the yarn is from said club, you might want to see if any other club member wants to purchase your yarn first.  If you get a solo skein every month or so, there will be someone who wants to make a larger project and chances are they will be looking for another skein.  If you are part of a sweater club and you get to pick the colours but the colour didn't turn out the way you had hoped for, another club member might want it.  You'll never know unless you put it out there.

Don't be sad if this method doesn't work out for you.  Some forums get a lot of posts within a day and yours could get buried in them.  Some threads just might not get enough traffic.  Don't get discouraged, there are more ways of selling your yarn!

:: Normal ::
If you've got a somewhat desirable stash that other knitters long for, and those knitters happen to be people you know, you can let them know what you're selling.  And if you have a lot of knitters in your area, you can let them in on the info too.  This is my usual way of destashing, as I like to give my friends and knitting group first dibs before I let the rest of the knitting world in on the destash.  That, and it makes me feel better to know that the yarns that I had carefully chosen and once loved dearly, will be going to a good home with a knitter that I trust.  Sounds hockey, doesn't it?  My stash is valuable and means a lot to me, why wouldn't I want my yarns going to a good home?

:: Hard ::
Like I said, when I destash I usually go the normal route and then onto the easier ways.  But if you're going hardcore and need to sell your yarn, you can always try selling your yarn through various online marketplaces and auction sites, such as Craigslist, Ebay, and Etsy, just to name a few.  Depending on what yarns you're trying to sell, this route can be a little on the hard side.  Auction and shopping sites will charge you a small fee to list anything and online classifies sites can't guarantee a single viewing to your post.  Sometimes the yarn will have to be sold at a fraction of the price originally paid for in this method, in order to get the yarn moving.

If you can't sell your yarn using any of the methods listed above, you just might have to bite the bullet and either keep it and knit with the yarn, donate it, or try trading it.

:: Trade ::

Don't really want to just give away your yarn but not really wanting to sell it either?  Why not consider trading it?  If you're lucky enough to have an awesome-sauce knitting event company like Knit Social in your area, then there just might be a yarn swap event in which you can trade your yarn at!  Amanda and Fiona, the fabulous ladies behind Knit Social, had already put together a few yarn swaps in which local knitters were able to bring the yarns they wanted to sell and trade while being able to drop off their unwanted leftover on a freebies table!  How cool is that??  From the looks of it though, these events are rare, so keep your eyes on the look out for them!

Another way to trade: Ravelry swap groups.  I was heavily into the swapping on Ravelry.  I was so into it that I had to put myself on a swap diet!  Then eventually I had to force myself to swap because I was buying yarn for the sole purpose of swapping it!  But I'll admit that I did score some pretty awesome yarns and collected a lot of new-to-me and very indie-dyed yarns this way.  I scored my first skein of Sanguine Gryphon through a Ravelry swap.  And I discovered a fair amount of Australian yarns that I didn't even know existed.  There are so many different types of swaps available too, from different price ranges to dyer specific.  Heck, there's a few swaps where you don't even need to trade yarn!  You can offer up handmade stitch markers, project bags, knitting services, or even candy!  Just be sure to read the swap rules - I can't emphasize this enough!  Every swap group has their own set of rules and conduct, be sure to read them over thoroughly so you don't get burned or burn someone else in the process.

Be careful with swapping too.  It can be totally addicting and I highly advise that you watch out for how much you're swapping.  Shipping costs can get pretty pricey and can add up really fast.  For instance, putting together a Hello Kitty themed magic yarn ball may be loads of fun and may have you giggling all the way to the post office...that is, until you find out that shipping that ball of Sanrio goodness is going to cost you $15!!  Definitely factor in shipping costs to determine if what you're swapping for is worth it.  The high of swapping can also get you swapping things that you either don't need or didn't want to swap away in the first place (this rings especially true for the higher end swaps).  Keep in mind that what you think is a luxury and/or snobby yarn might not be the same for the rest of the group.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to deter you or put a negative spin to swapping.  I've meet some awesome knitters through swapping, have gotten some pretty cool things that aren't yarn because of my yarn (I got a massive bag of safety eyes and some brand new tips for my interchangeable set for a few skeins!), and have made someone else's day by "granting wishes" by sending them yarn that I probably wouldn't use.  Trading is a pretty awesome way of getting yarn you'll use/want for yarn you no longer care for, or to get other things in exchange for your unwanted yarn.  Before I started selling my project bags, I was making them to swap with.  I know a few knitters who can knit faster than a speeding bullet and so they offered up sock knitting services in exchange for yarn and other goods.  Swapping can totally be your friend, as long as you don't go overboard.

Well, that's all I've got to say about destashing.  Any questions?

I hope this post has helped anyone who's been thinking about destashing but didn't know how to go about doing so.  If you have anything to add, please do so in the comments!  I would love to hear it and I'm sure others would too.

Oh, and just a note about the yarns in the photos above: they are NOT for sale.  These were the skeins closest to me and so I simply grabbed them and snapped a few shots of them for the purpose of this post!  Except for the novelty yarns in the "Toss" photo.  I'm thinking maybe it's time to get rid of them.  I had purchased them shortly after I got my loom and had grand plans of weaving with them.  Um, yeah...obviously that hasn't happened and don't think it will happen any time in the near future.  C'est la vie!

Ok dear Knitterly Friends.  This post has been long enough.  Go forth and destash (or knit) away!

♥ Happy Destashing! ♥


  1. what a fantastic post, melissa! i can only imagine how much thought and work went into this :) this is definitely something i'll come back to time and time again... as well as sharing with others :) xo

    1. Aw, thanks Rebecca!!! ♥ I really do hope it'll help a few people out!

  2. i'm seeing 3 TML spectrums! good girl!!

    1. Hahaha...good eye Liisa! I gave in and thought I deserved it after destashing some yarn that I had multiples of! ;)

  3. K, totally drooling over the 3 skeins of yarn in the "Destashing 101" pic. I have to know what that is!!

    1. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you on this one! Those 3 skeins are Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Lite in the colourway Spectrum. When I first saw them, I wanted them soooo badly. But ended up leaving the shop without them. But then I thought about them non-stop for a week and finally gave in! ;) Now to figure out what to do with them...

    2. Thanks! Now I can obsess about them! ;) Can't wait to see what you make with those gorgeous skeins!

  4. Wow...lots of info here! Thanks for a great post! :)


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