Friday, January 11, 2008

on the piling of things

Gluttony is on my mind because it's the time of year when most of us find ourselves feeling obligated to reduce our stuff, or, at least, to halt the acquisition of more stuff.

While hanging out over on The Rav, I was looking at other people's belongings. Ravelry is great for that. It's quite possibly more voyeuristic than blogs. You can go there and stare and stare at people's yarn, their patterns, the things they've made, their dreams and aspirations in the form of things they want to make, the things they own, the things they're trying to own, the things they no longer wish to own ... all in one tidy place. It's a nosy person's paradise.

And it's any person's fascination, because even if not nosy, we are all driven by that great human need that only Jesus, the Buddha, and possibly the Dalai Lama have managed to put in check -- the need to endlessly compare ourselves to every other person we come into contact with. The more enlightened among us don't do this consciously. It's insidious, is what it is. You can be feeling fine about your weight, happy and gay about the 3 pounds you lost from skipping lunch four days in a row, and wham, some skinnier person saunters by and you're Henrietta Hippo all over again. My favorite line from As Good As It Gets, one of my favorite movies, is when Jack Nicholson says that it's not that you had a miserable childhood that gets you, it's knowing that somebody else had it good.

It's the roller coaster ride from hell. Compare yourself to someone dumber than you and you're a Rhodes Scholar. Compare yourself to someone smarter, you're borderline retarded. (This changes not only person to person, but based on whether you perceive someone's latest comment as smart or stupid.) Up and down, up and down, all day long.

You just never know which way the wind is going to blow.

There is a little awards ceremony going on in the forums on Ravelry. You can nominate someone for having a big yarn stash. One person has so much yarn it's spilling out of a room. Another has some 600 different kinds of yarn (some in multiple skeins) cataloged. Hey, man. It's no skin off my nose. The people want yarn? The people should have yarn. But someplace not too deep and not down low enough inside, I'm comparing myself and thinking, Okay, so I'm not that out of control. I walk away believing my "normalcy" has been restored, which means I can stay open to buying up more yarn (or books, or fabric ...), even the midst of being swept up in the seasonal push toward purging.

In the books group, someone asked how many knitting books everyone owns. Numbers ranged from the teens to more than 300. Personally, I own about 30, and about that many sewing books, though I haven't counted. What I found most interesting about the book question is how many people read other people's numbers and said, "Now I feel better. At least I don't have that many." Or, "I feel bad; I need to catch up."

The other night I was trying to place myself somewhere. I thought back to a couple of weeks ago, when I gathered all my sewing patterns and placed them in a big shoe box. All of them could fit, which led me to think about the thousands of patterns my aunt, who's been sewing since my father bought her her first sewing machine when she was a teenager, owns. When you enter her house, you're practically conked on the head by falling patterns and tumbling fabric. I have a ways to go to get to that, I told myself, and of course I'll stop before I do, because that's just crazy. A few days later I ordered 10 more patterns, thinking, It's not a house, it's just a shoe box and there's still room in it.

All that said, I continue to look for ways to cap the madness feel in control, and now I am considering reinstating a monthly budget. yaiAnn, over at, did a post a couple of days ago that furthered my thinking about my own expectations and motivations when I purchase materials. The word "unrealistic" is an understatement when applied to all the things I see myself making, and there are times, too, when, apparently, I want the accoutrements, the trappings, more than I want the things to be made from them. That has a piggish ring, depending on who's listening.


Adrienne said...

I *heart* the way you described the rav! LOL

sappmama said...

You are up?! You're as bad as me. :)

yaiAnn said...

Holy Crap! You're right.. it's totally worse elsewhere! I don't feel so bad now.. but it doesn't put more money in my pocket. ha!

sappmama said...

It is, but my point is that we all could be headed there, and "worse" should really only be relative to how we feel about our own accumulation of stuff. But it's not.

Christie said...

I totally agree with you. Awards for the largest stash? Geez.

I do love checking out who has and who did what on's interesting and sometimes I learn something.

I do think there is a attitude of the bigger the stash the better, but who wants to own more yarn than you could ever imagine knitting? I started listening to L & V for awhile and found myself needing more and more yarn...for no reason at all, other than to ooh and aah. I didn't feel better about it, but the enabling!

So like you said, with the beginning of the year, I evaluated what I've already spent my money on, and it is time to put it to use before I put any more out on something new. I say that, but who spent $20 on yarn last night...oh the knitter's life!

Anonymous said...

Hey sappmama, where or how did you learn hand embroidery? It is so beautiful and I can't do it to save my life. I am NOT a fan of machine embroidery. Is it something I should be able to teach myself with books?
Jeez, more books?????

I have just discovered EZ books and have collected them almost all within 2 wks. among others to be sure. Teaching myself to knit.


sappmama said...

Heather, EZ? You're in trouble now, girl.