I think non-knitters have trouble with the stash concept. To non-knitters, having yarn and not knitting it means you do not like that yarn.
If a non-knitter gifted that yarn to a knitter, it might seem like the knitter doesn't really like the yarn at all. For example, a particular friend of mine just can't understand why I would ignore the 400 yards of gorgeous cashmere he gave me. He thinks I don't like the cashmere.
Knitters know not liking cashmere is impossible. But I do think there are several factors at work in the stashing and project selection process.
1. Non-knitters don't really understand just how much yarn some of us actually have. There is more yarn in my stash than I could possibly knit in the foreseeable future. Not knitting a particular yarn is, admittedly, at least partially due to the fact that I am a fickle, fickle tramp when it comes to new yarn. But it's also due to the sheer amount of other yarn in the stash. I don't really knit all that much, and I have a shitload of yarn. Therefore, the backlog is substantial.
Monkey, in Fiber Confections hand-dyed merino. Stashed December 2008. Project started July 2009.
2. Sometimes I don't knit precisely because I love the yarn so much. I am waiting for the perfect project that will best complement a particularly gorgeous yarn. Such is the case with my cashmere stash. And honestly, I think some sock yarns are prettier in the skein than they could ever be knit up.
Auracania Ranco, Multy. Yarn stashed April 2008. Unknit.
3. The stash is a constant source of joy and inspiration. I browse my stash the way I browse cookbooks, to remind me of all the possibilities that are out there. And because it just makes me happy. I may not knit something immediately, but visiting my stash reminds me what I could be knitting with. And as I browse patterns, I mentally align pattern to stash, and every now and then there is a spark. The perfect alignment of pattern and yarn and (this is crucial) the desire to knit this particular pattern in this particular yarn immediately.
Chevron Scarf, in J Knits Superwash Me Light Sock, Reno and Colorado colorways. Stashed March 2007. Project started September 2009.
4. Sometimes I just want to knit and not think. I keep self-striping sock yarn on hand for just that urge. A stockinette sock is soothing, like a glass of wine (or three) or a long hot shower. It doesn't challenge me, I don't have to think about how it's going to turn out (cough *toosmall* cough), I don't even need to read a pattern.
Uh, some kind of striping yarn. Maybe Trekking? Meilenweit Megaboots? Purchased at some point, somewhere.
My stash is not just for those rare occasions, when I look at the yarn and know exactly what it must become. Though that is nice. I stash because I like knowing I have something easy to knit. I stash because yarn is beautiful and because it gives me pleasure to look at it and touch it and imagine what it could become.
Also, because I can't pass up nice tweed when it's on sale, but that's another matter entirely.
How about you? Why do you stash? Are you saving up anything particularly juicy?