Ah, for the days of yore, when my biggest worries were how to pick up stitches, remembering to move the yarn toward me for purling, and how to continue in pattern when the next bit would be "knit 2 together" but you only have 1 stitch at that point (still don't have an answer for that yet!) But last week, as I contemplated my ball of white, white yarn, in public, at my neighbourhood knitting group, and saw the smear of curry across the bottom, I knew those days were long gone.
I learned a valuable lesson--don't leave your precious new balls of yarn in the back of your car, not if you might also put the leftovers from that new Indian restaurant in the same vicinity, and if the leftovers might leak a bit, and if they're in a paper bag, and the paper bag is touching your white yarn--you get the picture. My knitting friends suggested washing the yarn, but I worried that that would simply spread a slight tinge of curry across the entire ball, and really, there was only a small portion affected.
Lucky for us (me, and anyone else in the world who has curry on their balls) when you use a ball winder* it naturally winds the ball in an interesting way: rather than simply going around and around (which would create a ruinous curry bit every 10-12 inches), it goes up and down on a diagonal, such that (if you have curry on your balls) you call knit a substantial curry-free length, then cut out a section of yarn with frequent curry spots, then knit the good bit again. For me, it was about a 6 to 1 ratio of good stretches of yarn to bad stretches of yarn, and I have plenty of yarn, so losing a fifth of it isn't really an issue.
(Yes, I'll be weaving in a lot of ends, but not insurmountably so--it's a Xmas stocking, so it's not going to be worn, and my weaving can be a bit perfunctory).
So, a few helpful hints re storing/transporting your yarn and projects, because things can go wrong:
Don't leave your yarn in the back of your car (or on your kitchen counter, or God forbid on a floor). Transfer to protective receptacles (I'm stunned at how much yarn I can cram in to a box from Japanese import store Miniso, and they're so cute and cheap and easy to transport (they start flat, and you unfold them easily, and there's even light metal strips inside for support), and they have transparent panels so you can see inside!)
Invest in some good point protectors* for your needles. As a new, panicky knitter, I used these every time I set my project on the desk/table ... and if I were on double-pointed needles, I had point protectors on all the ends except the two working ones and was constantly moving 'em around. I am less panicky now, but, in cavalier moments, when I toss knitting into a bag so I can work on it later that day, and then leave it there for weeks before recalling "Oh, that's where it is, in the bottom of the grey bag!" inevitably my needles will have slid out and my knitting will be lying loose and vaguely unraveling. The good news is it's probably stained with whatever was at the bottom of the bag with it, so I might just throw the whole thing out.
Where possible, get the local yarn store to wind your yarn, or at least wind it in front of them, in case of disaster. I have a swift* at home, but that's for emergencies. Two nights ago I spent 1 hour and 45 minutes unraveling a mutant skein of normally well-behaved workhorse yarn Cascade 220 green worsted ... if I'd taken the extra two minutes to wind it at the LYS (local yarn shop), they'd have caught the mistake in the way the skein had been assembled, and either fixed it (they're better at it than we are) or replaced it with a less troublesome skein. P.S. Some of your knitting friends find unraveling relaxing; find out who these freaks-of-nature are, cultivate them, and if you're not in a rush save your raveled skeins for when visiting them, they will love you for it.
This won't stave off disaster, but it does prevent a medium-sized annoyance (a "grande" annoyance, if we were at Starbucks): if you purchase yarn for a project, keep it in a bag/box/container with some evidence of What The Project Was Intended to Be (a print-out of the pattern, the name of the pattern scrawled across the bag in dark marker ink, a post-it, etc.) because next week, month, year, decade, you will, I promise, have forgotten what you intended to do with it, esp. if it's just a few balls ... when I invest $300 in dozens of skeins at a time, I normally know "that's the new Sophie's Universe bedspread," but not for just a handful of balls, sadly looking up at me out of a bag, as I fumble in my memory for thoughts of vest? ... scarf ...? shorts? ... spats?
On the Needles
Falling Snow Stocking (my third one! I'm at round 39).
Sophie's Universe crochet project (Part 12: Round 88, the "Zigzag Hills")
GGN Norwegian Ski Sweater (still adding the steek stiches while knitting from eventual armhole to neck, I'm about 99% done with the final chart of the torso piece--but there are still arms to be knit!)
Persian Dreams Blanket (row 39 of the fourth hexagon)
The second Double-Knit Vice Versa Scarf, still about 3/4 of the way through, this is a bit back-burnery as it's my travelling knitting but I keep forgetting to take it with me
*ball winder = helpful spinning device for converting hanks to balls, generally worked in conjunction with a swift* (hank goes around the swift, yarn end travels to ball winder, you crank a handle, things spin, a ball is formed)
*point protectors = should really be renamed "stop yarn from sliding off your needle thingamajigs" because it's not like the points of needles are precious and need protecting
*swift = helpful spinning device for converting hanks to balls, generally worked in conjunction with a ball winder* (hank goes around the swift, yarn end travels to ball winder, you crank a handle, things spin, a ball is formed)