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Spring Cleaning: 7 Ways to Organize Your Yarn Stash

March 5th, 2013

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Knitting expert Barbara Breiter joins us for her monthly column on tips and techniques for yarncrafters. 

I don’t need an extra closet for my stash…I need a whole extra house! If you’ve been crafting for any length of time, I’m sure you know the feeling: you’ve sworn off buying anything new but still…the new skeins always call your name.

There is an infinite number of ways to store yarn and supplies. Whatever method(s) you choose depends to some extent upon your available space, your budget, and the size of your stash.

Spring Cleaning: How to Organize Your Yarn Stash

If your stash is relatively small, you can keep a spreadsheet with the yarn name, fiber content, color, suggested gauge, etc. (If I were to start a spreadsheet though, I would spend the next year working on it, so that idea is out for me.) Be sure to also check out Ravelry (the free yarn community), which has easy-to-use online tools to keep track of your yarn.

At my home, I’ve organized single (or at the most two) skeins by fiber and color. For my collection of cottons and blends, I’ve used inexpensive plastic bins that snap together. (Click here to see an example.)

My single wool skeins are also organized by color. These are waiting to be knit up some day in the classic plastic bin with drawers, widely available in just about any store. (Click here to see an example.)

When I have more than two skeins of the same yarn, I want to keep them together. I have two methods I use for this due to lack of space:

First: I put yarn of each type in separate plastic shopping bags and tie them to keep them neat. Just slip the handles of the bag over a hanger and hang in the closet!

Yarn in plastic bagsSecond: Since, my yarn closet also has a shelf on the top, some of my identical skeins rest to together in separate clear bags. (See photo at right.) If you put them in the bag lined up neatly, you can make quite nice, space efficient stacks. These bags are used to ship the yarn from the mills. If you don’t have any of these, ask your yarn store for some the next time you’re there. I’m sure they have dozens.

Similarly, when you buy a blanket, sheets, or other bedding, they usually come in nice zippered plastic bags. Do not throw these away!  They are indispensable for storing yarn and needles!

The smaller ones that pillowcases and shams come in are great for circulars, double points, and hooks. Double points are kept in their original little cases so the same size stays together. Then I have two zippered cases, one for the smaller ones and one for the large ones. My circulars are organized by length in different cases.

My straight needles are organized by size in dedicated needle cases. Some were bought for that purpose and one I sewed myself in a particularly creative burst one day. You can click here to see some different hook and needle cases on LionBrand.com.

Of course, there are many other ways that you may find to stay organized, so be sure to check out the links below AND share your own tips in the comments. Now get to spring cleaning!

Related links:

  • lionbrandfan

    Don’t forget about Nimblestix. You can organize your yarn stash on there as well.

    • txbrwneyegirl

      What is Nimblestix?

  • Karen DeKok

    I have mine in totes on shelves. New skeins on one shelf and scrap on the other. They are sorted by color groups in the totes.

  • MorrisCoveMom

    I use empty oatmeal containers, the cylinder kind, for leftovers, separated by type and thickness. Then I have one tote box of almost-finished projects, and one tote box of gallon ziplocs holding skeins earmarked for projects. So I’m down to using 3 shelves of one bookcase. And the rest, I’m happy to say, I’ve proudly used up. Finally.

    • Frenchy

      Thanks for this suggestion! It came at a timely moment when I just finished a canister of oatmeal and opened a new one. I think the oatmeal container would work really well when working on a project. Put the skein in (use a smaller container for small skeins and a bigger one for super saver size), poke a hole in the lid and run the yarn through the hole. It will keep the skein clean (I have pets, so hair can be an issue) and organized. Merci!

  • LaCabeza

    My stash is housed in over one dozen bins (plus 2 pieces of luggage – oops!) and is generally organized by fiber and weight. Large single-source yarns or project-size lots are kept together. Circulars are organized by size within zip-pockets in a 4-inch binder.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarahjanechristianson Sarah Christianson

    Since I don’t need these tips I obviously do NOT have a big enough stash. Must work on that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=837399571 Nicole Ferrara

    Those cheap stackable bins are awful. They couldn’t take the weight of the yarn and broke within a day. I’ve been using the rolling plastic drawers that sell at walmart for like $20. They are ok, but you can’t see all of the yarn. I need to eventually build a wall like the photo.

    • CarolB

      Try the cubeicals cube shelving from Closetmaid. You can get them at Walmart or Target. They are shelves with cube sized cubby holes. I stash mine in the cubbies organized by color.

  • http://www.facebook.com/abha.khadar Abha Khabar

    l. They couldn’t take the weight of the yarn and broke within a day. I’ve been using the rolling plastic dr

  • Teresa

    I use 2.5 gallon zipper plastic bags. The ones I have are by Hefty (most affordable) but I think other companies make them too. All of my “plain” yarn is sorted into them by color. These bags can hold a lot! The bags are stacked on a bookshelf under my stairs right now, and the more textured yarns are in bags as well and in an old cedar chest. My goal is to set up shelving in my craft room for the. I want to use the wire shelves that you would use in a closet and use pants hangers to suspend the bags of yarn from the shelves. Just a matter of time and money.

    • C K

      The cedar chest is a great idea!

    • txbrwneyegirl

      I have a cedar chest, but I had concern that the yarn will have the cedar smell??

  • Laura

    I use those giant pretzel or snack containers from Sam’s Club, or Costco. They hold so many skeins,and the stack. See thru, too!!

  • Brigitte

    I love the wall idea so you can easily identify the yarns. I live in the desert and it is extremely dusty so I currently keep everything in those plastic tubs with lids which is not working. Any suggestions?

  • Roxanne

    I use the ziplock bags by Ikea. They come in several sizes, are a sturdy plastic and are affordable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beth.wiechman Beth Wiechman

    I use the over-the-door shoe organizers to store some of my yarn. I actually have two shoe bags on the inside of my closet door.

  • Sherry

    Much of my stash is in the cedar chest – you can really squish a lot in there and it’s especially good for the wool or wool blends. The rest is in plastic crates with lids ready for the big move this spring. Still have some in the closet in hanging shoe shelves and a plastic 3-drawer unit. And the “orphans” are in a big basket by my chair waiting for small projects. I REALLY love the wall.

    Sherry

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  • Bobbie

    I’d love to store my yarn in open storage so that I could see the pretty colors and textures and what I have. Unfortunately, here in Florida (the tropics) there are so many critters intent on eating wool and even cotton, like moths, crickets, molds and cockroaches, that I am at a loss as to what to keep it in besides ugly plastic tubs with latching lids. I don’t really want it to smell like moth-balls, or even cedar, so those solutions are out. Any ideas out there on this subject?

    • Karen

      Lavender smells good and is actually more effective then cedar 4 keeping out bugs

    • Sandeleh Francis

      I buy strongly scented (doesn’t that sound better than “smelly?”) soaps at the dollar or discount stores and put a few bars in with my stash. Smells good and some of them repel the critters. I’m in Central Cal, so not nearly as many critters as in FL. I’ve not found anything better or easier than the ugly plastic bins, tho.

    • speesc

      Irish Spring bar soap is great for keeping pests away. I use them in my storage and haven’t had any problems.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Miaren-Crowsdaughter/100002585028249 Miaren Crowsdaughter

    My husband got me a storage bench. It’s not exactly ‘organized’, but now my yarn box is serving double-duty as my computer chair! (Also, there are holes in the back panel, just under the lid. I could easily run the end of my latest ball of scarf yarn out the back and work on it without the cat getting involved!

  • Char55

    I use hanging sweater bags with clear zippered fronts (cost about $20-$30 ea). They have 6 to 8 shelves each and each shelf can hold 8-10 of the 6 oz skeins. I have 3 full ones and enough to fill a couple more. For buttons, trims, and crochet thread I use a hanging zippered shoe bag that has 10 shelves…this could also be used for single skeins of yarn. This keeps my yarn dirt and dust free as well as keeping my cats out of it! I can see at a glance just what colors and how many skeins of each I have.
    I use picnic utensil/napkin holders to hold my crochet hooks. The long pocket on one side (intended for napkins) is where I store my long flexible afghan hooks and gauge rulers. The 3 pockets on the other side (intended for knives, forks & spoons) I use for regular crochet hooks (one for plastic, one for aluminum and one for steel) I can just grab the handle and take it wherever I am going to be working. My 10″ afghan and double ended crochet hooks I store in a pretty vase.
    For projects calling for bobbins of yarn, I used to wind the yarn around a spring-type clothespin and hold the end in the mouth of it. I have since found that foam hair rollers can do the job as well with no danger of the yarn snagging on the wood of the clothespin…just remove the foam and wind the yarn around the center post and click it closed. A package of 4 different sizes is around $6 – $8 dollars. The center posts in mine spin but mine are old ones that I salvaged when the foam was deteriorating. If the new ones don’t have a center post that spins, slip a piece of a drinking straw over it and wrap the yarn around the straw so it will spin.
    MaryMaxim has clear zippered blanket bags on sale that I am using to store completed full-size afghans. Clear zippered bags from sheet sets are perfect for storing completed baby afghans.

    • txbrwneyegirl

      WOW! I need you to visit with me and help me get organized!

    • gayle

      I like the hair roller idea for bobbins!

  • Sherry

    My stash used to be stored in a very well built cardboard box, I stored the yarn so that I could just open it up and see the colors, but now, I have plastic tubs, the smaller ones about 5″ high, for other yarn that I’ve bought. Someone was talking about not liking the smell of their yarn. I discovered, by accident, that if you store yarn in the same box as tea bags, then the yarn will smell like the tea. It is not overpowering, but nice to smell as you are working the yarn.

    I keep yarn that isn’t in the box or tubs in ziploc bags, it keeps them nice and you can see what is there. I also have been reusing the heck out of the bag I got from being in a survivors of cancer race. It is a very heavy bag that is clear. I can roll things up in it needles, pattern, and the working piece, in it and not worry about losing something when I stuff it in my bag when I’m off visiting the doctors or other times when I know I’m going to have to wait.

    I’m going to be moving in the future so I’m bookmarking this page for all of the different suggestions that you wonderful posters have given. Thank you so much.

  • cecelia

    I like the Sterilite clear plastic storage containers from Wal-Mart with the lid which raises from either end. They are about 7″ high and a little over a yard long. Four of them fit nicely under my bed so when I need yarn, just roll them out and I can see the yarn through the top (they also have rollers). Can’t beat them.

  • Linda

    I store my stash in clear plastic bins (and a couple of space bags!). Some are in the house, in the stairwell, others are under the bed. I also have several in the garage. I use an Access database to keep track of the brand, name, fiber content, weight, color, lot #, bin #, quantity and length. When I print out my sheet, I can reference yarn for new projects to see if I have enough of any type of yarn for that project. Every few years I have to go back through the bins and make sure they are correct (inventory control), but I had to do that anyway without the database.

  • TheEmperorIsStarkers

    My stash is stored in a clear zippered bag that was originally the packaging for our queen-size down comforter. I love having such a large clear bag that’s reusable and perhaps more importantly FREE!

    • http://www.facebook.com/louise.hood.12 Louise Hood

      One bag?

      • TheEmperorIsStarkers

        LOL … I know, I must seem like a total amateur. But to be fair, I live in a 200 sq foot RV at the moment, so that’s actually quite a lot! And it doesn’t count the very large tote bag full of my WIPs, and the two Kleenex boxes of tiny balls of scrap yarn.
        I had another idea since posting about the comforter bag too. Pre-washed salad comes in lovely clear, lightweight plastic containers which click closed. I’m going to start storing my scraps in there, so I can easily see what’s on hand.

  • jazzyjb153

    I find the space saving bags great for some yarn storage and the yarn is perfectly fine once you open the bag to let the air in again. I also have a nice deep wicker basket for storage also.

    • sunshinemom

      I found the space saving bags (2 different brands) didn’t hold well when preparing for a trip to China, so used large freezer Zip-Lock bags, squishing the air out while sitting on them on a firm chair. The seal held well, and have used some for my yarns also.

  • http://www.facebook.com/calissa.jensen Calissa Ann Koniewicz Jensen

    I have a bookshelf with cubby holes and an attached desk for my sewing machine from ikea. I use 2 wicker baskets for some inexpensive yarn in the shelf. And i have another shelf with many different clear vases for my knitting needles. I use the wide vase for big needles and skinny vase for smaller needles. Plus i added long stem fake flowers in a vase to add that pretty touch to my knitting nook. Soon i will be adding a lovely chair so i can spend time knitting in my room. I have to spring clean soon and make room for the chair however. Many of you have great ideas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/grace.smith.37669528 Grace Smith

    I use the clear plastic tubs, but separate my yarns by use/project-type: baby yarns, dish cloth (cotton) yarns, Christmas (holiday) yarns, specialty yarns (like fun fur, pomp-a-doddle), scarf yarns, sweater yarns, etc. That way, when I get in the mood to do a particular project, I can go to that specific bin of yarn.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaycee.hosier Jaycee Hosier

    For my double-pointed needles, I bought a bunch of glow-bracelet tubes, emptied them, peeled off the black label, and decorated to my hearts content. Each tube holds a different size, and they stack on the shelf nicely with a little help from the bottom half of a saltines box. And all the glow-sticks? I gave away a bunch at Halloween. The rest are waiting for an awesome summer night for an impromptu glow party!

  • scarves1

    when I read the beginning of the first sentence, “I don’t need an extra closet for my stash…” I was angry that her stash only required less than an extra closet..then I read the rest, “I need a whole extra house!” Now that I can identify with!!! I went to my LYS last week and bought 3 different yarn FOR 3 DIFFERENT PATTERNS I brought with me. I’ve never been that careful before!!! Okay, so I brought a friend with me to play “my conscience”. It worked!!! But…I am going back there (Paradise Fibers) tomorrow for a “Yarn Tasting”.

  • Dianedora

    Tuesday Moning has plastic bins with lids…very reasonably priced. I just bought 3 large ones for 4.99 each.

  • http://www.facebook.com/harriett.potter.stoddard Harriett Stoddard

    Get a puppy and you won’t need a place to store your plastic needles. Nor a lot of your yarn.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kristine.gustavson Kristine Gustavson

      Yarn can cause intestinal blockage in dogs, so be careful with trimmings and keep balls of yarn away from them. Some dogs tend to start swallowing a strand and it goes down and gets tangled as it moves through. Surgery to remove it can run into the thousands of dollars so best to prevent the problem.

  • Anneaptl

    I bought a work box similar to those used by for example carpenters. I keep all my knitting/crochet supplies, buttons, needles etc in this. I then keep my wool stash in long flat plastic tubs (3) on wheels under the bed. I also have a box beside my chair in which I keep my current projects. All my patterns are in folders or on my iPad. It works a treat and the place is kept tidy which was my husbands only request! What I would love though is a large utility room so that I could have a yarn wall!! Need a new house to get that though so never gonna happen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melissa.kapper.zuckerman Melissa Zuckerman

    My stash is a mess. But I keep my all my needles and other knitting notions in a shoe bag over a closet door. Each pocket is numbered by needle size. Works great!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristine.gustavson Kristine Gustavson

    I have a small stash which fits in one of those over the door hanging shoe bags. I got the kind with the clear fronts and it is easy to see what is where. My fabric stash, however–that is another story.

  • SJ/Maritimes

    Up here in Canada, we use fabric softener sheets in the bags when storing blankets, pillows, & off-season clothes. Maybe try them with your stashes. You could also take an empty toilet paper roll, put in potporri, moth balls or what ever inside it. Then take a dryer sheet, cut in half, put it on each end and wrap an elastic around the ends.Works for us, why not for warmer climates?!

  • Ludia Buza

    I have two plastic shoe bags that will take about 6-8 skeins of yarn and i love it.

  • CATE

    HELPFUL TOOL!
    Does anyone know where I can purchase the plastic straight pins used for holding full rollers of hair on your head. I find these so useful when sewing seams in sweaters etc.

  • Char55

    A picture of my yarn stash in hanging sweater bags.

    • Jodi DeGeorge

      Jealous of both your stash and organizing method!

  • Heather McLeland-Wieser

    I have one of those kids organizer sysyems from Ikea with frosted plastic lidded bins that look stacked but actually pull out easily. And they are part of a reasonably attractive wooden table/bench. I’m on a stash diet so 6 bins works now but in the recent past….chaos.

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