Yarn Conflict

I’ve decided I want to buy about 5 sweater’s worth of yarn in the next few months.  I’ve got a birthday coming up and, even if I don’t get the yarn as a gift (and Rainer and the kids have a list  of affordable options to choose from), I’ll know I’ll get money and have fun with that. I want to get different weights, different colours, and different fibres.  A real mix.

It’s interesting since I’ve been exploring the yoga yamas and there is, at least on the surface, a direct conflict between the way that they resonate with all the gathered wisdom of my life and this deep and growing need to acquire.  One of the yamas is simplicity and non-covetousness.


Kick Sack


I have a hard time spending money on myself.  It’s a product of never having lived on my own, never having had an income before kids, never really having had disposable income.  Rainer and I moved in together when we were young, combined bank accounts, and worked our asses off every summer to pay for university.  Then kids came.  Eventually he got a ‘real’ job and things freed up a little and we could do things like occasionally buy new pants or eat fancy vegetables.  But my mental money mechanisms are set to ‘caution’.

I have gotten a little better in the past few years at being mad with my mad money.  Did you have an Oma like mine?  I would sometimes get a card from her with $5 in it and she would clearly let me know that it was Mad Money.  She always capitalized it in her graceful cursive.  I wasn’t to save it or use it for responsible things.   I often ended up buying a new Nancy Drew book when we were next in the big city of Regina and perhaps a wee bit of 5 cent candy at the grocery store across the street from school.  I was to play with it, indulge myself, go a little mad.

What I realized as I was trying to tease out the apparent contradiction between my years-long practice of simplicity and this decision to buy a lot of yarn was this: every time I want to knit a sweater I feel a Puritan harshness rising in me.  Using the 3-4 sweater’s worth of yarn I do have on hand seems reckless and improvident.  Wanting to knit a project in a colour or yarn weight I don’t have on hand seems rash and indulgent.  Buying new yarn is a process fraught with emotional and psychological eddies.

In other words, as things currently stand my hobby, my deep seat of creative satisfaction, my process for clothing my family in warmth and comfort is a complicated dance of justification.  I want it to be my dance. Period.  I want it to be play.  I am not purchasing for the sake of owning or collecting. I want to be able to have an urge to knit myself a grey tweed sweater, or Sandra a blue hoodie, or Rainer a glorious cabled sweater, or, or, or… and to just do it.

Make hay while the sun shines.  Go mad with the mad money.


11 thoughts on “Yarn Conflict

  1. Wendy says:

    I know exactly how you feel. It is the main reason that I haven’t really become much of a knitter. The idea of using all that yarn, which is so expensive. Ah, it just about kills me.

  2. attachlings says:

    Yep. That’s me. I feel soooo bad when I spend money on something for me. Except buying knitting stuff isn’t just for me…it’s to make gifts, handknits.

    Then I realized it wasn’t whether it was for me or not that gave me trouble…it was that knitting gives me great joy. Ah, there’s the heart of it. That darn puritanism again.

    I am not allowed to buy things simply because it brings me joy.

    Well, that’s gotta stop.

    And yesterday I ordered the needles from Knitpicks that I’ve been drooling over for months. Squeee!

  3. Kika says:

    We had our first child while in university and then all my big plans of working full time flew out (or I threw them out) the window; I realized my life would be forever changed. Anyways, we’ve always lived on tight budgets and when my parents gave me a birthday gift, as an adult, they would specify it was for ME. Not bills or practical stuff. I appreciated that b/c it gave me permission to buy without guilt. The tension that you write of isn’t always unhealthy, though, because we do need to be responsible with our finances, right? But even when we believe in and choose a life of (relative) simplicity, there are times when it is frustrating to have to be so budget-conscious or over-analyze purchases for whatever reason. It is not yarn that I dream of but pottery dishes or two big comfy red reading chairs for my living room:)

  4. Mariah says:

    I suffer from just the same thing. Guilt and shame can be so big.

    I pay attention to our financial reality and when I can I go for it. It’s only when I’m impulsive that I feel regret. Sound like you’re paying attention, Sarah. I hope the shopping is a joyful as the knitting.

    Do you have patterns picked out?

  5. Valarie Budayr says:

    Please treat yourself to the yarn you love so much. Is there anything simplier than two sticks and a ball of yarn ? Knitting is part of my cultural tradition. The items made with the wool can endure many years of wear and be shared with others. Our knitted items show a timeline of living. A cherished moment with a piece of fiber that has been lovingly crafted into something wonderful….or sometimes not so wonderful but always with the thought and intention of bringing warmth and beauty from something so very simple.
    If I haven’t convinced you yet what about a stash swap ?

  6. eden says:

    I know the feeling 🙂 Which is why I love the system that my husband and I use. We have a joint acct that gets our paychecks and that we use to pay bills, buy groceries, etc. But we also have individual accts and we each get an “allowance” each month (“extra” money after paying bills, savings, etc.) and that’s ours to spend on ourselves. It removes so much guilt.

  7. Lolly says:

    Your last few paragraphs really get to the heart of this philosophy that I have been studying – something that the yamas practice can go hand-in-hand with! There is this notion of “lela” – pure playfulness! the idea that one thing every single day must be done for the pure pleasure and relish of it. There is a difference between simplicity and austerity – and you have found a way to bring joy to the simplicity – knitting can be that joy! (or whatever else you choose!). It is also my joy! …and the creativity and inspiration that you provide to me, and to so many others should also wipe away any remnant of guilt, dear S! 🙂

  8. Rabia says:

    I feel the same way about art materials. Good quality paints, pencils, paper, markers, etc. etc. are so expensive that I feel that a dabbler like myself should not be wasting my money on them.

  9. ChristineMM says:

    I understand your practicality. Now, there is something else entirely at play here, your creativity. I totally understand the temptation to work with a new color yarn (that you don’t own) or to want to have a finished product you have seen somewhere, some pattern that you think would be great for you.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with buying more yarn to actually use for a new project and letting the stash sit there untouched for now.

    I have bought yarn for projects and then found out it was not a good idea. I am on the third skein of a new sweater and must frog it. The idea in my head with the colors is not working out in real life. Now I have no ideas for using the two different kinds of yarn. My practical side wants to find something to do with it to make it useful and to not be wasteful.

    Yet new patterns to make and other colors tempt me.

    Plus I have three or four skeins of sock yarn and still can’t knit a sock, tried this month again and failed.

    Don’t beat yourself up. Treat yourself.

    Knitting is time consuming. I do not feel guilty for not yet knitting my DH a sweater (takes me 12-16 weeks). Sorry DH. It’s not like he doesn’t have enough store bought sweaters to wear. Well when I am in the mood I’ll make him one but to make one out of force or guilt is not the thing I want to do.

    I also refuse to make sweaters my kids ask for as I know for sure they will never wear them as past sweaters store bought were rejected unless in cotton (something I hate knitting with so far).

    I did live on my own and I did overspend and get into debt. It was terrible frankly. The fun of shopping to destress and the feeling of never being satisifed even when I was over my gross annual salary was not worth it when I had to pay that debt off and make years of sacrifices to get it paid down. Just think of all the angst you were possibly spared from not having had your own income before marriage.

    Now that I’m married to a very reponsible finace person who keeps me in check I can say it is a secure and much better feeling than what I felt as a frivolous single woman spending without thought who wound up in deep debt.

    (Not that every young single woman gets herself in debt but that was my experience and it is what many of today’s American college graduates have on their graduation day.)

  10. Amanda says:

    I can totally relate to this post. It’s why I haven’t knitted a sweater yet. I’ve bought enough of one kind of yarn for a single sweater — twice. And then I’ve used it bit by bit for smaller projects.

    We’re in a better place now, financially, and I find myself satisfying long held-off cravings for craftiness. I’m no shopoholic, but when I can budget safely for it, it does feel nice to enjoy a little abundance! 🙂

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