Taming the Yarn Beasts

Keeping things neat and organized makes a space not only pleasant to look at but locating things much easier. I’m a well organized person by nature and nurture. I was probably the neatest kid in school with an actual organized toy box (so not kidding). And I also was taught well by the US military how to be even more organized (very well organized). I learned color coding, making lists, and a bunch more than you really want to know. But this minor OCD does come in handy for other things in life. I know where just about anything is in the house without looking and can tell the hubs where to find it if he’s trying to look for it. This includes stuff in drawers. And I can organize my office to where I can pretty much do the same. Rarely do I have to hunt for something unless it’s been a long time since I’ve used, seen or placed it in its spot. So when it comes to organizing my yarn, it’s no different. When I started out collecting yarn and establishing my yarn stash it wasn’t planned and there wasn’t an office to store things. I kept them in tote bags, usually beside my bed or inside my closet. Eventually the stash became a beast. My first attempt in our former house was a shelf system. I tried to organize them by stacking and then by fabric boxes for extras. This worked for maybe a year, then after more yarn found its way into my house, I had to buy milk crates and put them on the sides with yarn packed into them. This was fine until we moved to Texas. The yarn stash has become rather large. Mind you I’ve received some of this yarn from folks donating it to me because they are no longer interested in fiber work or inherited it themselves and do not want it. I’m the collector of unwanted yarn. When we got here, the apartment didn’t really allow me to have the same space, so much of the yarn was packed or hidden away. But once we got our house and I finally got a real office, I knew a better system was necessary. I love IKEA, let’s just say that upfront.

Shelf organization

Their stuff is better made than some folks give it credit. There we found a 5×5 open block KALLAX shelf unit. Once the hubs got it assembled and mounted to the wall, I started unpacking. It worked very well for color separation, special yarn sections and the box of misfit yarns. I was also able to store my fabric, sewing supplies, and beading supplies. I do regularly have to do a clean up when I’m in the midst of multiple projects using lots of yarn, but the system is the best I’ve had. With that, I know not all folks have the space for this, so I thought I’d give a few tips on taming your yarn beasts that helped me and maybe help folks find a way to get their yarn a little more organized.

First off, you may want to go into this with clear thoughts and be ready to make a few sacrifices, if necessary, to get it under control. The stash must be tamed. You’ll need to find all of your yarn and bring it to one spot. I used to be bad and leave knitting projects in the living room, bedroom or wherever else all over the house. If you do the same, go collect them all and bring them to one place. If you’ll store it in your office, spare room or bedroom, bring the yarn to that room. Now, you’ll need to do something you may not like. We all have WIPs that sit untouched, sometimes for years. Look through your WIPs and decide what must absolutely be kept and that you will finish and those which will not make the cut. Be realistic here. If you have 20 WIPs, will you really finished the baby blanket you started 2 years ago? Or that shawl that you ran out of the yarn for and was supposed to go find more (still haven’t). The ones that are cut need to be recycled and ribbeted apart. I would recommend having a ball winder handy for this as it might be quite a lot. Keep the ball winder on duty, now you’ll need to wind all those 1/2 and partial skeins barely held together. And if you’ve got scraps of yarn, save them in a pile for the magic ball. Once you have this all done you might wish to separate your yarn into distinct sections. I prefer color coding. It makes it quite easy for me to grab what I need. I know others separate on type of yarn, such as acrylic, wool, silk, mohair, etc. And another I know separates by weight. From lace (0) to jumbo (7) kept categorized and separate numerically. It doesn’t matter how you do this. Whichever works best for you is the right way.

Once you have the yarn selected, wound and sorted it is best to do a written inventory. I learned the hard way, if you don’t, you’ll buy 2 skeins of black mohair that you already have and couldn’t recall. I made a list via Excel spreadsheet and keep it on my iCloud so I can accessΒ from my phone it while I’m in the store. You can also print a copy of the list and keep it in your purse or wallet if that’s a more viable option. Be sure to write down key things: basic colour, colours name, brand, lot number, weight, what it is made from, and origin for each yarn. It comes in very handy at a store! Now, sort them into something for the organization. Some options: tote bags work well because they can be put in tight places and used as a WIP carryall; plastic bins, large clear flat ones can be labeled and slid under beds, up onto high shelves or stacked to save space. And being clear helps find things quickly; milk crates, you can buy these at Wal-Mart for $1 – $2 a piece and squish quite a bit of yarn in them sideways. These can be put up on a shelf in lines or stacked on top of each other; and finally shelving. Large shelves like mine or even 1/2 the size depending on your yarn beasts, can provide great organization. I’m sure there are many other options, and please, let me know how you organize your yarn if you found a great way. Once you’ve got this all done, I recommend keeping your yarn all in one place, as best you can. I’ve gotten into the habit of always taking my yarn project back to my office when I stop so that I don’t end up with one on the coffee table, night stand, couch…. everything goes back into the office. A tote can help by putting everything into it and just placing the tote in your yarn stash location. The last two things I would suggest are these. 1) Do this cleanup annually. Don’t get sucked into a bigger beast year after year. Make it part of spring cleaning or right before the holidays so you can buy new yarn for gifts. 2) Donate any unused yarn to charity or thrift store. Please do not throw away yarn simply because it’s old, you no longer like the colour, or it was a gift to you and you never liked it. Let the yarn be used by someone out there. I often will accept donations from friends, family, strangers because of any of these reasons. The yarn I know I won’t use I donate to charity or ask a new fiber artist if they’d like some practice yarn. It’s just good yarn etiquette. Okay, I hope I gave some good tips, remember to organize to what will help you the most and with the space you have. It will yield a much more productive process and enjoyable experience.

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