Monday, November 5, 2012

Organizing yarn to make room for more yarn

The Royal Winter Fair is on again and this year I didn't wait to go because: yarn!  Even though the animals and giant squashes and butter sculptures and amazing stalls selling wool blankets and riding boots are also a marvel to me, I am such a creature of habit, I still get the most excited about the farmers' yarn booths.


Actually, this is not entirely true.  I get out of my mind excited about the canola growers' stall.  Why? because they put out a sandbox filled with canola seeds for kids to run construction equipment through, and O.My.Gosh, if you have not held canola seeds in your hand, you have been missing something big.  The seeds are small and round, with a slick surface, and as they pass over your palms they seem to massage every nerve you never knew you had.  I usually stop by a couple of times when I visit the Royal, because when the happy tingly feeling finally starts to pass off 15 or 20 minutes later, I feel the loss.  If I knew how to buy canola seeds for domestic use, everybody would be getting a jar for Christmas.

And Another Remark

I did mention wool blankets, right?  I passed a vendor selling Pendleton wool blankets and decided that that is what I am asking Santa to bring me for Christmas this year.  They are gorgeous, and enormously soft and colourful.  Everything you want in wool plus: it's already made into something.   So you can just enjoy sitting under it all winter, while making something else with wool that came in yarn form.

And Back to the Yarn Problem

I am calling this a yarn problem because it is, but it's a problem I mostly solved over the rest of the weekend as I will explain shortly.  The happy part of the problem:

Meadowview Alpaca Farm was back again this year and I was able to acquire two skeins of the boot sock yarn I knit into the most amazing socks after last winter's Royal.  This time the fiber content is a bit different:

Mostly alpaca with 20% wool for strength and elasticity, as opposed to last year's mostly alpaca with a bit of nylon for strength but no elasticity at all.  I am really looking forward to knitting with this even though it might have to wait until January, depending on how crazy I get with the gift knitting.

One promising point is that they will be fast to knit up:

The new yarn is, if anything, slightly heavier than the super quick worsted weight I had last time (shown in citrus colours.)

Resolving the Yarn Problem

This problem is not entirely about yarn, but because I knit and spin and, now, weave, it's a big factor.  It's about the space.  I have two generous cabinets in which to stow all my yarns and fabrics, plus a three-drawer filing cabinet, plus the cubbies under the coffee table where I spend most of my knitting time, plus a few baskets near my desk.  And it's not enough.  For over a year now, yarns and fabrics and roving have been piled up on the floor around chairs in the room where the cabinets are, and also cascading over the edge of the baskets stored on top of said cabinets.  It's Not Good.  I had to do some shedding.

Saturday I thought: I'm just gonna stay in this morning and get this job done.  I was still finishing off about 12 hours after I started.  There was a lot of yarn in there.

Some of it I compressed using vacuum storage bags; some of it I just reorganized.  Some of it went away.

Top Three Yarn Organization Tips

1/ If you know it will be at least six months and more like a year or two before you're able to work with something, put it in a bag with all its on-hold peers to shrink via a vacuum: they'll drop to a third of their volume and be out of your way (but still accessible if plans change.)

2/ If you get an idea for how to use a yarn as you're sorting, put it into a Ziploc bag with a large note you can't miss seeing.  Then stow it in a different area for go-to projects, ready for the next time you finish a project and think, What next?

3/ If you can't bear to throw out short lengths of leftover yarns, label paper lunch bags for yarn scraps: shorter ones for gift tags, dye-stable superwash yarns for tying skeins if you spin or otherwise re-skein yarns, and longer ones for tying parcels.  Then store them on an easily-accessible shelf, ready to be added to or investigated in future.

Why Bother

Since I did all that work, the room where I do the most work looks practically Spartan, in a good way.  I could bring in a Christmas tree tomorrow and not have to tidy away a thing.

Yarns I'm done with, but which I felt I shouldn't be done with and felt burdened by, and guilty about not loving to work with any more, are either shrink-wrapped or on their way to other knitters. Hello, freedom.

All the current knitting is stowed in baskets under the coffee table, and the non-current knitting is sorted in the cabinets for weaving, spinning, or knitting socks or heavier things.  Projects on snooze (it's only two sweaters, but sweaters are big) have been grouped in an easy-access place to be resumed as soon as practical. 

Patterns I've knit before and want to knit again are in clear page holders in a group, ready to grab for gift knitting; patterns I started and didn't like have gone to recycling so I don't have to pass by them on my way to what I really need.

I found great yarns for gift knitting, and swatches from three-year-old ideas that gave me new ideas for those yarns.

I am poised.  I feel calm and collected.  I love my space, and I love that I can use all my craft time for craft, without more than a moment's loss to finding stuff.

And that my friends, is what it is all about.  Well, that and getting the alpaca sock yarn into cakes and project bags with sock-friendly needles... just in case.


Unknown said...

HI, After you un-vacuum the yarn does it have the same loft? Or is that an unbelievably silly question?

Mary Keenan said...

Definitely not a silly question... I think it would be flatter for a while but once blocked it would pop back. The trick is if you're swatching with it before it pops. Maybe you'd lave to let it sit for a while? (there's a good chance I will never unvacuum this particular yarn so it's not a question I asked myself, but should have!)