How to Organize Your Yarn Stash, Part 1: Get It Together

comments (11) August 13th, 2008     

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LindaPermann Linda Permann, contributor
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Keeping it real: This is what my craft room/office looked like during the sorting process.

Keeping it real: This is what my craft room/office looked like during the sorting process.

Photo: Linda Permann

We all have them. Those buckets and bags of yarn that hide under the couch, stashed in corners behind bookshelves, under the bed, or even out in the open. I have always prided myself on keeping my stash under control; in fact, it seems like I hardly ever buy yarn. But, boy, do I have a knack for acquiring it—from friends who are moving, as leftovers from design projects, and from my old job where there was always a box of free yarn. I recently moved apartments, and darn if I didn't see another gigantic bag of yarn every time I moved a piece of furniture. Although I have to keep some of this yarn in case there's a technical issue with one of my designs down the road, the other stuff inspires feelings of guilt for projects I'll never make. If you love your stash as is, don't read this series of articles—it's totally fine to have a lot of yarn! But if you're living in tight quarters and need some inspiration to pare down (and in turn ways to keep your spending down), here are some steps for getting your stash in control.

This first part deals with getting your stash organized, operating under the premise that you aren't getting rid of anything. It's good to take stock of what you have (after all, after you untangle all the yarn knots, you might not have as much as you think) and then decide what needs to go and why (I'll talk more about that next week!).

To organize your stash:

1. Get all of your yarn in ONE place. That's right, pry it out of the corners and out from under the couch. This is important because you may have multiple balls of the same color in different locations, and it will be helpful to
see what amounts you have of each yarn before you make any decisions about what to keep.

2. Sort your yarn. How you want to sort it is up to you. I first sorted my yarn by brand/type of fiber. Multiple colors can go together, theoretically, since they are the same gauge so you can put them in the same stack if you like. If you tend to have multiples of each color, you might want to group them separately, however. If, while you are sorting, you get inspired to combine certain yarns for a project, put them together in their own stack. If you have lots of bits and pieces of certain types of yarn (i.e., novelty, sock, etc.), you might want to group them together. Use your intuition and go with what makes logical sense to you.

Note: If you are anything like me, you might feel like running away from the apartment at some point during this process. It's okay to take a break; all of those tangles can be exhausting. See the photo of my floor above for evidence! Come back to it when you feel up to it.

3. Bag it. Buy a box of slider-top gallon-size bags from the grocery store and bag all of your like yarn together. (If at this point there is something you definitely want to throw/give away, go ahead and put it in a separate pile, by all means!). For piles too big to fit in one bag, you can store them in a larger clear bag or a bin of their own (see below). Having something see-through is key for me—I don't want to have to open several bags to find the yarn I'm looking for. There is a double bonus to bagging the yarn: 1) You can squeeze a lot of air out of the bag and yarn before you close it (trust me, this works just as well as the as-seen-on-TV space-saver bags) and 2) when you're looking through your stash later, you can grab seven balls at once (in the bag), and nothing will unwind and get tangled!

4. Bin it. Put the bags into a larger bin (or bins). I have two 66-quart storage bins for my "stash" and one large metal bucket for the WIPs, and am aiming not to let anything more than this take up space in my life. If you don't have enough bins to contain your stash, either buy more (be sure to consider what will fit in the amount of space you have), or really think about the amount you want to allow yourself to keep. Next week, I'll give some tips and motivation on why and how to let some of your yarn go.

5. Pat yourself on the back. Go sit down and have some cookies. This yarn sorting is hard work!

posted in: organize, stash, destash

Comments (11)

WeeScotLass writes: Where does it all come from? I swear my yarn breeds more yarn. I recently gave away 2 large lawn and leaf bags of scrap fabric pieces to a local home that specializes in disabled, indigent elderly. These people have very little but the basic minimum. I also donated a lot of clothes that I was going to give to the Sally Ann, (Salvation Army). There was not an inch of yarn nor a single sock that wasn't appreciated. My last experience with the SA was less than satisfactory. I had 4 quite expensive dining room chairs (the padded upholstered kind), that had a few easily removable stains on the seats. They turned their noses up at them. I could have removed the stains, with a little oxy and elbow grease. That experience soured me to that organization. Ergo, the home for the elderly.
When I come across a few balls of the same yarn, I weigh them before storing. It has saved me getting to almost the end of a project and running out because "it looked like enough". I also weigh finished projects that don't use an entire skein. Write the weight of the finished item and include it with the small balls of similar yarn along with their weight. Saves time and frustration. I often include a copy of my favorite patterns in with the proper weight yarn. My pattern binder keeps the original safe. Hmmm, time to go through that again too.
The dollar tree has the see-though garment bags, also the hanging shoes bags. I have my I incompleted and currently working on projects stored in the shoe bags. One in each slot.
Great ideas from everyone. Thanks
Posted: 12:56 pm on January 8th
Sans6 writes: If you want to reduce/remove your stash (hope you have a good reason ;-) ) ask around about groups making blankets for dog rescue organisations.

I gave away ALL of my stash to such a group when arthritis in my elbow prevented any knitting or crochet (4 of the biggest plastic garbage bags!!)It felt good to be able to help.

Ten years later, and on good meds, I am able to knit again(rheumie told me it's excellent for my arthritic fingers!) and I have a NEW stash of modern yarns,including a precious hank of hand dyed qiviut I bought in Alaska when on a cruise there in 2015.
Posted: 7:05 pm on March 8th
APaulineH writes: Hi everyone. Happy New Year. This is my first post, part of my get organized goals for 2013. First I have to say that I have more yarn than some yarn stores and I would like to give away the stuff I am never going to use. Obviously I would like to give it to organizations that are non profit and get a tax right off. I have done this in the past but want to reach out to other organizations and spread the cheer. I would like advice on selling on ebay with all proceeds going to charity and how that works, if anyone knows. Also I have really nice wool yarns that most likely I will never work with as I have more lovely yarns in the form of cashmere etc that just feels so much better in my hands. I live in CA and have a large studio and have a fantasy about giving classes for young people who want to learn crafts such as knitting, bead work, ceramics, and sewing. (Ive been collecting for years). Thing is I am not a teacher and lack the confidence to get started on my own. I am not doing this for the money. I want to be clear on that,but if I cover costs etc my husband would be happier. SO this is going out there to knitters, weavers, spinners, felt-ers and people who work with clay and fiber arts etc that if you are interested in helping me start (a) projects for kids who otherwise might not get the opportunity and or those whose parents can contribute and you live close enough that we can work from my home in the Santa Monica area, please contact me. This is not an offer for a job it is a request for experience crafters who are retired and or want an opportunity to give back.
I hope that someone reads this post and I may try putting it up elsewhere on the web.
Posted: 4:22 pm on January 3rd
Ginben1 writes: Try using large Space Bags. You can stuff them full yarn and then compact them by vacuuming out the air. They will slide under the bed or can be stacked on a shelf.
Posted: 8:26 pm on December 26th
bmarty writes: This just got me thinking. What about those under the bed shoe sorters. I would think a skein might is roughly the size of a pair of shoes, and you can press them together if you want. They have sorting pockets and they are usually made of plastic so you can keep the dust/hair out. You can also get see through ones. :)
Posted: 2:16 pm on April 11th
Irish13 writes: I found a 15 cubby style unit made by ClosetMaid in Target on sale for $28.99. It is a heavy piece of furniture. I'm going to put it against my wall in my spare room and fill the cubbies (just like in the craft stores) with my yarn. This way, I can see what I have at a glance without routing through bins, etc.
Posted: 8:56 am on September 13th
Tnuctipun writes: Has anyone considered the Ikea hanging tube net thing? Looks like a fishermans net? I think its called a FANGST. Its very cheap and is perfect for high bulk low weight storage and is see-through.
Posted: 6:35 am on September 1st
Char50 writes: I tried putting my stash of yarn in buckets and bins, but it was a pain to have to move bins to get to the yarn I wanted. I found the perfect solution. Hanging sweater bags (the ones with the clear zippered fronts. There are usually 6 to 8 shelves in each. I sorted my yarn by colors and by weights (baby, sport, worsted) and put them on the shelves. I can get 8 skeins (10 if I must) per shelf. I have a spare bedroom with a large closet to keep them in. I currently have 3 full ones. For my crochet threads and miscellaneous items (trims, buttons, ribbons, etc) I have a clear front zippered shoe hanging bag. All I have to do is open the bi-fold closet doors, and I can immediately see all the colors and number of skeins of each that I have. NO MORE DIGGING!
Posted: 1:49 pm on August 30th
LindaPermann writes: these are great ideas. i'd love to have it all in one displayed space, but there's no room in our apartment! I think being able to see it is a definite must!

I'm going to check around for a local group that might want the yarn, but if not, I'll donate it to goodwill where I am sure some thrifty, crafty soul will be happy to find it.
Posted: 6:27 pm on August 18th
Jen1964 writes: I like your idea of getting it all together (literally). We've tried keeping our yarns in bins (which keeps the dust out), but lately, it's behind glass. What? Yeah, an extra hutch or display cabinet works great. The colors are beautiful, and the scraggly unsightly stuff goes in matching baskets. I don't know why, but my whole family liked the look of it, and since I could see it, I found it easier to work out plans to use it. And by the way, there are some schools which are doing knitting clubs. They would be so grateful for some of your excess stash.
Posted: 11:14 pm on August 16th
StrawberryPie writes: Wow thanks so much for this tip! My problem is lack of space for storage though. What Im going to do is install some wall shelving units then get some whicker baskets and do it that way.
Posted: 10:37 pm on August 14th
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