When you’re a fiber lover you know how quickly your stash can get out of control. When you started knitting or crocheting you had a small box of lovely, squishy yarn that fits nicely under your bed, and now months or years later you have lovely, squishy yarn stuck in every nook and cranny you can find! And how is it that even with all this gorgeousness surrounding you, you never have what you need to knit that amazing pattern you just found? Sound familiar?
I started organizing my stash because I had no idea of what I owned, I just kept buying for projects as I decided to knit them. When I realized how out of control my yarn was, I decided I needed a system. It took several days to catalog and photograph everything, but what a huge difference it made! Surprise, surprise, I gravitate to the same colors and dyers over and over again. My stash is predominately orange, earth tones, and the occasional teal. Enough about my stash, let’s get yours’ under control! But where do we start?
As a professional organizer, I like to break things down into easy steps for my clients. The reason I hear most often for not organizing things is that it’s overwhelming. Following a series of smaller steps can help to take away that feeling. Larger projects become manageable and achievable. There is no need to tackle everything all at once, do things at your own speed.
First, gather all the supplies you will need.
- Plastic containers. I prefer bins with locking handles. This helps keep critters and insects out of your yarn. You will need at least one bin marked “Planned Projects” and another marked “Left Overs”, the rest can be labeled A, B, C, D, etc.
- Ziplock bags (1 Gallon or larger) and Post-it notes or scrap paper – this will be for your “planned projects”
- Cedar sachets – one or two for each plastic bin, just in case
- Large trash bag or cardboard box – this will be for the yarn you are no longer in love with
- Camera or phone
- Flat surface with a medium grey background. I bought a yard of grey felt at the craft store for $1.00. More on this in Step 4.
- Computer, or pen & paper
- Your stash. You need it all in one place so you can see how much you actually have!
Now we are ready to get started, so take a deep breath and let’s dive in!
Any yarn you already have projects for needs to be pulled out first. Separate it into the individual projects and put into the Ziplock bags, making sure you keep all the yarn for that project together. If you already have the patterns printed slip them into the bags with the yarn. Otherwise, write the pattern name on the sticky note or scrap paper and stick in the bag. I suggest printing any patterns you don’t have hard copies of. This makes it easier to start something new, everything is ready to go! Put these projects in the Planned Projects bin. You may also want to make a list of the items you need to finish the project, like buttons, clasps, or beads.
Next, you need to decide how you want to actually organize your stash. There are several ways to do this, but it will be easier to do if you decide now.
- My stash is organized alphabetically by dyer or manufacturer. I know if I’m looking for Skeino yarn, it’s in the bin for “S”.
- By color
- By weight
- By fiber
- By bin – instead of planning the organization, toss it in a bin and note the bin #, this is definitely the easiest way, but may not give you as clear a picture of what you actually have.
Once you’ve decided on the “how”, it’s time to sort accordingly. For this step I suggest doing it all at one sitting, stopping in the middle will make it take longer and there is greater chance you will not finish. If you’re going strictly by bin number, skip ahead to Step 4. Start making piles sorted by your chosen organization plan. Keep all like things together.
If you decide to alphabetize, I suggest sorting twice. First, make two piles, the first is a pile with letters A – M, the second is letters N – Z. From here it will be easier to sort just the A – M pile into the correct sequence, and then the N – Z pile. If your stash is extremely large you may need to sort A – M, then sort this into A – F and G – M, etc.
As you are sorting pay close attention to how the yarn makes you feel. I know this sounds corny, but you will come across things that you are no longer in love with, yarn that seemed too good to pass up at the time but that you know deep down you won’t use. Put this yarn in the giveaway bag or box to be donated to friends, charity organizations, retirement homes, etc.
If you have partial skeins from past projects put each one in a small Ziplock to keep the ball together and add the label if you still have it. Put these in the Leftovers box.
Make sure you keep dye lots or matching colors together, I usually put these skeins in Ziplock bags.
This step will take a while to complete, so be patient. This is when we start cataloging what you have. You will need a flat surface and grey background for the photos, and pen and paper.
On pieces of paper or sticky notes, write your bin numbers or letters. You will take a picture of this before you photograph the yarn.
Medium grey background – when you photograph your yarn you want to get the truest color possible. A white background will make the colors brighter because it reflects light, a black background will darken the colors because it absorbs light. The medium grey will give you a truer color.
Take a photo of the first bin number/letter, then start taking pictures of the yarn that will go in this bin. When that bin is full, take a photo of the next bin number/letter. This will be faster than trying to write everything down. Make sure you put the bin number in the actual bin so you can see it.
When you take the photo of the yarn, make sure you also photograph the label on the yarn. I take the front showing the brand/dyer name, and the back with all the information on yardage, washing instructions, etc. When I organize stashes, I take the label photos first, then an overall of the complete skein.
Decide where and how you want to store your stash information. I like the “Secret” board option on Pinterest. I can upload the photos and add tags, and no one else has access to them. I also happen to love MS Excel, so I keep a spreadsheet with all my stash information. Another option is to create folders on your computer and save all the photos there, or you can print all the photos and keep a photo journal. I love the photo journal option as well for tracking completed projects!
If you are using Excel, my spreadsheet has the following columns:
- Yarn dyer/manufacture
- Dye lot
- Purchase Date*
- Purchased From*
- Purchase Price*
- Bin Number
*The purchase information is extremely important. When you start cataloging your stash you will quickly realize the amount of money you have invested. If you have this information noted as well as the corresponding photos it should be covered under your homeowner or rental insurance in case of significant damage, such as fires or floods. Check with your insurance company for more details.
This step is the most important. You want to be able to see what you have as well as be able to sort and access the necessary information.
Maintenance – once you’ve completed this for your existing stash it will be easy to maintain for the new yarn you bring in, just photograph, add to the bin, and update your list!
Keep your Planned Projects box where you can see it. You will be more likely to work from it if it’s easy to get to. As you come across new projects, pull the yarn from your bins, print the pattern, and add to this bin. Don’t forget to update the new location on the list!