It’s a good idea to go through your stash periodically to remind yourself what you have, check for damage, and just wallow in the goodness. For many people, this is something they do around January 1 or as part of spring cleaning. For me, the urge hits in the fall, just as I’m starting to plan my holiday knitting. This fall, the urge was compounded by looking up into the bottom of a bin above my head and seeing what looked like, GASP, moth bodies. Clearly something had to be done, and stat.
Tools and Materials
When we were expecting our first child a few years ago, the creation and organization of a baby room forced us to get our office organized, as well. I needed a good place to store all the yarn vertically, since the office had very limited space and had to do triple-duty: office, craft stores, and a place to keep a futon so it could be turned into another guest room when needed. So of course we headed to Ikea.
Based on the measurements of the room, I ended up with two white Ikea Billy bookcases – one in the wider 80 cm size, and one narrower 15.75 cm size. The larger case holds the yarn and *some* smaller spinning braids, though lots of my spinning material is in Rubbermaid bins in the closer. The narrower one holds mostly knitting and spinning books and notions – boxes of buttons, a burnt-out incandescent lightbulb I use when I need to darn socks (hmm, maybe I should ask for a real darning egg for Christmas?), extra bobbins, my swift and ball winder, plus some space at the bottom for other random books about other crafts and gardening.
Through some experimentation in the Ikea store, I figured out that I could fit one large, one medium, and two small Samla storage bins on each shelf of the larger bookcase. I like these bins in that they fit, and they’re clear, but… the lids are NOT airtight. Fiber enthusiasts debate whether you should keep everything airtight to keep out bugs, or not, in the theory that the yarn needs to breathe. You can buy separate clips to latch shut these bins, but I found them a little fiddly and didn’t invest in them (even though they’re super-cheap.)
Using Ravelry to Track the Stash
Anyway, when I set up this system, I put almost everything in my Ravelry stash. Bless the Ravelry stash option. I’m envious of people who started knitting or crocheting after Ravelry came on the scene, because they actually have a shot of tracking everything they’ve ever done. For the rest of us, it was sort of, “Hmmm… what do I remember doing?” and then devoting large amounts of time to get stash and old projects organized. (I gave up on putting all the old projects in there.) I’m good about tracking all my current projects and now have the stash (mostly) under control, but I haven’t taken full advantage of the “in my library” feature yet. Maybe that can be one of my goals for 2015.
As I said, I had *most* of the stash under control. Then I moved overseas. I’m really glad I hadn’t used the “stored in” feature in the Ravelry stash queue, in which you specify where exactly each skein is, because the movers opened the boxes and shoved everything together, anyway. I did have things vaguely sorted – sock yarn in one bin, leftover bits in another, handspun in a few, others sorted by weight or fiber content, etc.
Then, the Great Moth Panic of Fall 2014 inspired me to do it all again. I went through every bin and laid eyes on every bit of fiber. I checked for damage, made an assessment of whether or not I really still wanted it, and checked to make sure the information in my Ravelry stash was accurate. I also numbered the bins, 1-25, so I could finally use the “stored in” feature. (When we move back to the States, I will keep an eagle eye on the movers and say, “Do NOT rearrange the contents of those!”)
Then the really rough part came – identifying the partial skeins. If I was lucky, the partial skeins still had labels with them. If not, I had to remember by feel what I had used it for, then go to that project in my Ravelry and pray that I had entered the yarn information there. Thankfully, if it was something I’d done since I started using Ravelry in earnest, then all the information was there. I used a mailing address label to write down the info and stuck it around the end of the remaining ball of yarn, complete with weight remaining (and thus rough yardage remaining), then put it in a bin. Anything I didn’t want, I donated to a group of brand new knitters who didn’t really care what type of yarn they were working with (yet).
Where Did I Resist Being Type A?
I realize labeling every scrap of yarn is a little crazy pants. However, some of those partial balls of yarn came in handy when I started planning to knit the Welcome to the Flock and realized I had all the yarn I needed for the whole thing – including enough scraps for the wee sheepies. However, there were some things that were a bridge too far, even for my Type-A personality.
- Truly TINY bits of yarn. They can be stripes. Or waste yarn. Or Christmas ornaments. Or a box of pretty fiber to look at.
- Small bits of yarn that belong to items my family wears a lot. If something springs a hole (and it happens), I want to have the same yarn for repair work. I put all this yarn in a labeled ziploc bag so it would be really obvious to me not to use it for anything else.
- Cotton yarn used for dishcloths. I don’t knit dishcloths often, but I find they make great housewarming or hostess gifts and like to have a stack of them on hand. I don’t track these in my Ravelry queue, and I’m not going to use the yarn for anything else, so why stash? The cotton dishcloth yarn also suffers from being a jumble of partial skeins, which are much more of a pain to stash. Besides, it fit all in one bin.
- One giant bin of fingering yarn I use for colorwork. This bin, I actually want to get stashed. It just… hasn’t happened yet. It was also the one with the moth problem. I know everything in this bin is (mostly) Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport (my absolute FAVORITE for colorwork) and (some) Knitpicks Palette. It’s easy enough to rummage through that one bin when I want to do colorwork and compare colors in real light, rather than try to figure it out through the Ravelry queue, that I haven’t had much motivation to officially track it in Ravelry.
This left me with four bins that have not been stashed. Since I was in a labeling frenzy, and again, to keep things from getting mixed up, I made sure these bins clearly said on the outside that the contents were NOT in my Ravelry stash.
As I said, going through this process right before starting my holiday knitting made me realize I had a lot of things on hand already that I could use for upcoming projects. I also came across yarn I’d forgotten I owned, which generated the ideas for new projects. I got rid of some stuff I didn’t want anymore, and it felt FANTASTIC to have (almost) everything officially stashed in Ravelry so I can do a better job planning projects without always buying new yarn. I went on a bit of a yarn-buying spree after this, as well, which filled the bins… so no more stash acquisition for a while. There is PLENTY of space for enough yarn to knit for years and years, so if it doesn’t fit in the bins in this one bookcase, I can’t have it.
How do YOU organize your stash? I’m pretty satisfied with my recent efforts but am always looking for more tips and tricks. Let me know in the comments what your process is!