Taming Your Yarn Stash into Submission

I find organizing my yarn stash more fun than should be humanly allowed, but there are many who find the whole process completely overwhelming. For those of you who feel like you are being held hostage by your yarn, here are a few pointers on how to organize your stash.
stored-in-bags

The first thing you will probably want to decide is how you want to encase your individual skeins. Some free spirits leave them bare-assed naked, flapping in the breeze. Others purchase those see-through hard plastic shoe bins and put their skeins in them. I know folks who consider the plastic zippered bags that sheet sets and comforters come in to be worth their weight in gold and they snap them up to store multiple skeins of similar yarn. I’ve read a lot of debate back and forth on the merits of letting yarn breathe. Personally, I like ziploc bags. They are clear so you can see what is in them, they are sealable so they will form a barrier against any marauding critters, and they’ll keep the dust out. If you really want to let your yarn breathe, you can cut a small diagonal cut across one bottom corner of the bags.

sock-bin-2-contents

Next order of business is to decide how you want to group your yarn. You have some options here. You can group them by weight, i.e. put all your fingering weight together, your worsted weight in one spot, your laceweight yarn in another, and so forth. You might want to group them by yarn manufacturer or Indie designer. For example, I buy a lot of yarn from certain indie dyers so I have certain bins for those designers. The key here is to come up with a labeling system. Think of your yarn collection as a library. If you went to a library and there were no call numbers indicated on the shelves or the ends of the bookcases, you’d spend a lot of time wandering around trying to find what you wanted. Or if you were just interested in browsing through the Mystery collection, you’d look for a sign that said “Mysteries.” Good signage helps make a good library and good labeling is going to help you get that stash under control. Personally, I like the Brother P-Touch labelers because they are relatively cheap, found in most office supply stores, and the labels are easy to print out in the size font you desire.

washcloth-yarns

Some people like to group their yarns by fiber content. In my stash organization, I have a combination approach. I have a drawer that is filled with cotton “washcloth” type yarn. I have another drawer that houses my alpaca fiber collection. If parts of your yarn stash are a small “niche” collection of a specialty fiber, this might be one area that you could organize by fiber content.

more-project-drawer

Eventually you might find that, in addition to the methods mentioned above to organize your stash, you start eyeballing certain parts of your stash for particular projects. How do you remember what yarn you had in mind to use for what project? Well, I like to set aside certain drawers to be “upcoming project” drawers. I’ll put yarn for a particular project into either a ziploc bag or a small project bag along with the pattern (if there is room) or a slip of paper with the name of the pattern). That way, when I’ve finished one project and am ready to begin another (hmph…of course I usually have 3 or 4 projects on the needles at all times but hey, some day I might actually finish everything I currently have in progress BEFORE starting another project), I just go to my project drawer and look through my bags until I see something that catches my fancy.

project-drawer

I might just mention that dressers that aren’t being used are great places to store some of your stash as are bookcases. I particularly like the open cubed bookcase from Ikea (see my “Putting the Funk into Functional” post) for storing yarn, too. If you can possibly swing it, I’d say try to store your stash in such a way that you can actually see it or easily access it. If it is tucked away completely out of sight, it will be awfully hard to know what you have and even harder to be inspired to use what you have. Of course, if you are purposely trying to hide what you have from someone, well then…….can’t help you there. That would be a topic for another post.

spinning-fiber

Hope these ideas have given you some incentive to get your yarn stash a little more organized and ready for your next big knitting adventure.

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I Moo with Cards – Do You?

Thanks to some of my knitter friends, I’ve discovered an English company that makes the most delightful business cards. Their name is “Moo” and how could I NOT fall in love with them, given my dairy farm heritage? Let me introduce you to the charms of “Moo Cards.”

Modern, Unique, and Hard-to-beat!

Modern, Unique, and Hard-to-beat!

The first thing you notice about Moo cards is that they are an unusual size. They are smaller than your average business card and they are skinny. They are about 2 3/4″ long by 1 1/8″ wide. The next thing you notice is that this company knows how to package their products. The cards come in cute little hard plastic boxes wrapped up in colorful cardboard binding.

What a variety!

What a variety!

Allowing tremendous variety for no extra cost is one of the perks you get when ordering your Moo mini cards. The minimum order is a packet of 100 mini cards and you may pick up to 100 images for your cards. Wow! Choosing those images is so much fun and Moo makes it easy for you to see what the final image will look like after it walks you through the step of cropping your images to fit the cards. Then you have the fun of choosing what text you will put on the back of your cards but don’t be overwhelmed at the thought of choosing 100 different texts. That’s not an option. You put the same text on all 100 cards.

Dispense your cards in style!

Dispense your cards in style!

Moo also sells these neat little dispensers for your mini-cards that have a ring to clip onto your key chain or your purse. The top slides left or right and then you can use your thumb to slide a card out. Very slick! The dispensers come in bright orange, buffo black, white, and hot pink (my descriptions, not theirs). Moo.com sells the cards for $19.99 for 100 mini-cards and the dispensers are $4.99. They sell other styles of dispensers, too but these are my favorites.

Use your moo cards for Gift Tags.

Use your moo cards for Gift Tags.

Moo cards don’t have to be used for just business cards. You can have them printed up as gift tags and put closeup images of your finished knitting or quilting or other crafting on the other side. You can also order text mini-cards using designs that Moo has available. Some of their suggestions are “We’re moving” cards or “New Baby” cards or even “Good for One Hug” cards. You really are limited only by your imagination. And speaking of imagination, I’ve discovered that there are quite a few fellow Moo card enthusiasts out here on the Web who enjoy exchanging and collecting each others’ Moo cards. It is quite fascinating to see the different designs that people have come up with for their cards. In a way, it reminds me of the way ham operators exchange QSL cards with each other.

Have I wet your appetite for checking into Moo.com? Head over to http://www.moo.com/ and check out all that they have to offer.  Soon you’ll be Moooo’vin and groovin’ with the rest of us.

Putting Some Funk Into Functional

My multi-functional craft room.

My multi-functional craft room.

How does a writer who is also an avid spinner, knitter, and scrapbooker arrange her craftroom?  Well, first you have to wait until your youngest goes off to college unless you are lucky enough to have a spare room that isn’t claimed by guest beds or widowed parents.  Then I’d recommend following the law of squatter’s rights.  Get into that room, move their things out to another area of the house before they’ve made their first visit home, and stake your claim.  Oh, they might squawk when they first see the new arrangement but you can always offer them a sleeping bag on the floor if they are determined to sleep in their old room.  Just make sure you tell them that you don’t get off your computer until 11:15 p.m. each evening.  Trust me!  You don’t want to make it too comfortable for grown children to return to the nest.  Do that and before you know it, you have a six-foot boomerang child draped on your couch eating you out of house and home. 

My son hadn’t been gone long before we had his bed moved into a guestroom, the baseball wallpaper stripped off, and the walls painted.  When our son, the minimalist, was home between semesters or on holidays, he still had a private room but now he had to share it with the yarn swift and ball winder and the cutting table.  It was also my library den but he’s a reader, too and had no problem with sharing his space with a lot of books.

Once the walls and window treatment were done to my liking, I had to figure out how I was going to arrange the small space to accommodate all my interests.  I’m a writer so I needed access to a computer and printer.  I’m cheap where I want to be if it means I can spend more on things like yarn so we managed to wrestle the old “L”-shaped computer desk down from upstairs and into the corner of the room.  I found a small printer/paper stand with pull out shelves that fit perfectly on TOP of my computer desk.  I managed to stash my TV on the top, scales and TV remote on the next shelf, and my photo printer and Dymo label writer on the bottom shelf.  Everything is within easy reach but it still leaves me plenty of workspace.  My laser printer sits on the desk next to the stand and the rest of the space is available for miscellaneous things I’m working on.  I hunted around the house and found two plastic drawer units on wheels that fit right under my computer desk.  They are great for holding all sorts of things like office supplies, bills to be filed, notepads, and sewing supplies.

I stuck my spinning wheel next to the computer desk so that I can look out the window while I spin.  I salvaged an old chord organ bench that I wasn’t using and stuck that under my work table.  It is just the right height to sit on when spinning and it is easy enough to move it over to the wheel when needed. 

A wall of organization.

A wall of organization.

The next item to go into my workspace was a shelving unit I found at Ikea.  It was perfect for my notebooks full of knitting patterns, my scrapbook albums, and my yarn stash.  This particular unit is the middle section shown on the right.   There are sixteen square cubicles within this one unit.  Ikea also sells see-through plastic storage bins that just fit into a cubicle.  I started out with four of those but I’m now up to eight.  On either side of the Ikea unit are two old storage unit pieces that we had in my home as a kid.  I can still remember helping my dad sand those down and paint them.  I had them in my mom’s assisted living apartment and one day, in a frustrated attempt to think of a way to help her remember which drawers held what, I took a magic marker and wrote on each drawer things like “Underwear” and “Socks” and “Shirts.”   My bright idea never did do any good.  When Mom had to be moved into a nursing home, I moved these units into my craft room and they were a perfect fit.  That left me with the problem of looking at drawers that were labeled “underwear”, etc.  So I took some acrylic paint and painted over the labels.  Once that dried, I used a calligraphy pen and wrote out new contents for each drawer.

 

Close-up of Bin Areas

Close-up of Bin Areas

On the left is a close-up of the bins in the Ikea unit.  I love to label things so that I can find them easily.  I’ve labeled the clear plastic bins with the specific yarn brands that I’m storing in each bin and numbered each bin.  This also helps when you are cataloging your yarn stash because you can identify what bin you are going to store your yarn in.  I like to store my knitting patterns in plastic sleeves and filed in notebooks.  I label the notebooks so that I can easily know which notebook to pull out when I am looking for a specific type of knitting pattern.  Since I am also an avid scrapbooker, I have books and notebooks with scrapbooking ideas here as well and have my scrapbooking albums on the bottom of the unit.    Along the top of the unit, I have knitting and crochet leaflets/booklets and certain books that I refer to quite often.

My scrapbooking work table.

My scrapbooking work table.

Finally we have my scrapbooking table.  I’ve got all my scrapbooking tools stored within easy reach here.  My scrapbooking papers are all filed by color and are stored in a bookcase in the closet in this room which keeps it out of the way but within quick access whenever I need to get to them.  I like to keep little bits of funk scattered around like the doll my kids gave me when I turned 50 or my old workplace desk nameplate.  It’s always fun to make a space a reflection of your own personality.    So there you have it.  Welcome to my craft room.

Use Your Yarn Stash to Make Greeting Cards

Make your own cards using pictures of your yarn.

Make your own cards using pictures of your yarn.

Every knitter and crocheter has it……..a yarn stash tucked away here and there which is probably growing bigger even as you read this. It’s like the miracle of yeast. It just expands. Heaven help us if our spouses found out how much yarn we really have on the premises. That’s why it’s always important to have a good set of reasons why you collect yarn ready, in case you are ever required to defend your addiction.

I, for one, have always tried to march to a different drumbeat. Therefore, forget global warming. One of my favorite reasons for my stash is that I’m preparing for the next ice age. But seriously, as I was photographing my latest yarn purchases so that I could document them online up in Ravelry, I got to thinking that there must be some way I could use all this fibery loveliness now before I’m actually ready to knit with it. And then it struck me. Why not use my digital photography and scrapbooking hobbies to create my own notecards featuring the yarn in my stash?

I’m happy to report that the project has been a success and I’m happy to share it with you. Here is what you are going to need:   yarn (or finished knitted/crocheted items); digital camera; photo editing software; photo printer (recommended); assorted colored  and white cardstock; envelopes; self-adhesive mounting squares, scissors.  Nice to have: Paper trimmer.

I used the Kodak EasyShare software to prepare my pictures for printing.

I used the Kodak EasyShare software to prepare my pictures for printing.

1.  First you will need to pick out some yarn or projects to photograph.  Drape some solid-colored fabric behind the yarn for contrast.  One of my favorite backgrounds is an old sweater of my mom’s.  Be creative!  Find some small objects to arrange next to the skein such as DPNs or stitch markers and snap shots from different perspectives.  If your digital camera has a macro feature allowing you to take closeups, try getting quite close to the knitting or skein to get a unique look at the fiber up close.  I almost always turn my flash off because I find if I leave the flash on, it tends to wash out the colors of my yarn.

2.  Next, transfer the pictures to whatever photo-editing program you are using.  I happen to use the Memory Manager program from Creative Memories.  Once I’ve tweaked the photos to my liking, I save copies of them to a file on my computer.  Then I open up my photo printing software, which happens to be the Kodak EasyShare software that came with my photo printer and prepare to print my photos. 

Decide what size photos you want to print.

Decide what size photos you want to print.

3.  My Kodak EasyShare printer allows me to print a variety of sizes of photos.  For this project, I chose to print two 2.50″ x 3.25″ photos per 4″ x 6″ sheet.  If you don’t have a printer that can print photos at home, there are many options available to you, including same-day printing at such places like Rite-Aid and Wal-Mart, where you can print different sizes.  You can also send your photos via the Internet to online vendors who will print them to your specifications and then mail them back to you.

4.  Now comes the fun part.  Cut your pictures apart if you need to do so and then I like to sort them into color groupings.  I find that saves me time when looking for cardstock that I can mat them on.  Get the rest of your card-making supplies together.  I like to have a paper trimmer, mounting squares, scissors, and tape runners at the ready.  I happen to be lucky enough to have my own computer/yarn/craft room so all my scrapbooking paper is close at hand, too.

5.  OK, now you are going to place a photo on a piece of cardstock that will coordinate with the colors in the yarn or project and secure it with whatever adhesive you are using.  I always use archival safe adhesive just because it has been ingrained into me from my scrapbooking training.  You can easily find mounting squares at any craft store that sells scrapbooking supplies.  Now you can get all anal here

Arrange your pictures into groupings by color.

Arrange your pictures into groupings by color.

and measure and mount but I like to just eyeball things and then stick it on a piece of cardstock.  Once I’ve got my picture on the cardstock, I use my paper trimmer to trim the cardstock down to leave a small border around the picture of approximately 1/4 to 1/2″.    Again, I just eyeball it but if you want to measure and mark before cutting, be my guest.

For this particular project, after mounting the photo on the first cardstock, I found a coordinating piece of cardstock, stuck the mounted photo on top of it and then, eyeballing it once more, used my trimmer to trim the second piece of cardstock, leaving a slightly larger border this time. 

That’s really all there is to it.  You can certainly get fancier if you want to and many of you who have made cards before will have lots of other ideas to bring to a project like this.   You can even make your own envelopes but personally, I don’t have the time or patience.  I went to our local craft store and found a value pack of 25 cards and envelopes made out of 80 lb. card stock which was on sale for half price.  I think I paid about $4 for the pack.    I’m making these cards to give to friends as a belated Christmas present and plan to give them in groups of 5 cards and envelopes each, maybe more if fewer people show up. 

Knitting notecards make a nice gift for the knitters in your life.

Knitting notecards make a nice gift for the knitters in your life.

Finally, if you are using them for yourself (and I hope you will plan to make some to use), just store them away to grab when you need a note card to send to someone.  If you are looking for an easy gift to give to a friend who enjoys knitting, take a stack of the cards with envelopes and tie them up with a pretty bow of , what else, yarn.