Clara Parkes is the author of several books on fiber, yarn, and knitting. In A Stash of One’s Own, she collects essays from various people involved in fiber crafts, almost all of them knitters, some of whom are also dyers and spinners. Each of these contributors describes what their stash means to them, which might include when it was started, what it consists of, how they add to it, and what makes them reduce their stash (however reluctantly). As far as I know, all of the contributors are well-known names in the fiber/knitting world, such as Debbie Stoller and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. (There might be an exception for the shepherd who dyes yarn.) I personally didn’t recognize many of the names because I’m not involved deeply enough in the fiber and design community, but I’m definitely going to want to check some of them out after reading the mini bios about each of them.
Some of the essays are light-hearted or humorous, such as Ann Shayne’s contribution “The Life-Changing Magic of Keeping it All.” Others are more serious or even somber, such as a couple that talk about how their mothers’ deaths are related to their stashes and their view of those stashes. Two essays that really stood out to me were a couple of serious ones, one entitled “Work in Progress” by Lilith Green and the other “Comfort Yarn” by Rachael Herron. Green discusses body images and how her view of her body for a long time prevented her from knitting garments for herself and how she is now learning not to hate her body and to stash for the body she has, not the one she thinks she should have. Rachael Herron’s contribution is about the importance of having yarn to use in times of loss or other times you need comfort. I may take her up on the suggestion to have a box, possibly labeled “comfort yarn,” that contains yarn you don’t have a plan for. It can be any kind of yarn as long as it is “soft and pleasing to both the hand and the eye” (p. 142). She recommends not even having a pattern when the time comes that you need the yarn because it might be too stressful to deal with precision and gauge. Instead just cast on some stitches and knit what you feel like, varying the types of stitches (knit, purl, seed, etc.) when you feel like it.
I liked all of the essays. The only times I found myself not quite enjoying something was when generalizations were made about knitters/spinners/etc. It particularly stood out to me when Clara Parkes, in her own essay for the collection, wrote that “Every knitter will be able to pick up a skein from her stash — any skein — and tell you a complete and compelling story about it” (p. 109). Um, no. I’m sure many knitters can. And I’m just as sure that some, myself included, cannot. That ugly multicolored ball of mohair? A fellow knitter had it, didn’t like it, and gave it to me. There, that’s a complete story. Not particularly compelling, though, and there’s probably yarn for which I can’t recall how it made its way into my stash. Parkes recognizes that fiber crafters are all different, but reading something like that can make me feel like I’m doing something wrong.
But generally this was a lovely, fairly quick read. I have other books by Parkes that I like, and I enjoyed her essay aside from that sentence that was a bit of a turn-off. I’d recommend this for anyone who has a stash, wants one, feels distressed about how large theirs is, or as Parkes suggests, perhaps even a “nonknitter who wants to understand why your beloved relates to yarn the way he or she does” (p. 9)