This Is How I… Organize My Needles and Tools

Tool_Kit

One of many tool kits Grace has assembled for her knitting projects.

Here in Vancouver, the sky is covered with high, grey colds and the damp wind feels like it could bring rain to us at any minute. Good ol’ spring. On days like these I am more than happy to spend my weekends indoors, and being bottled up inside makes me itch to re-organize my ‘playroom’.

I have been knitting for over ten years now and I have accumulated my share of ‘toys’. I try to keep them organized so I can whip them out at any second – I am terrified of being caught at a bus stop, dental appointment, or social engagement without a project in hand, complete with it’s own little toolkit. Let me take a few minutes to show you how I set myself up…

In the early days, I used only straight knitting needles. I must have bought Lewiscraft’s entire collection of acrylic needles when they closed down years ago. I had a set in every size and I kept them rolled in a large fabric wrapper. You can make these yourself, but I bought mine at a craft store. They have little dividing pouches so you can separate your needles from smallest to largest. I still have this wrapper, even though most of my straight needles has been gifted away….

Needle_Wrapper

Grace’s cloth ‘wrapper’, used for holding her straight knitting needles.

When I started collecting different lengths and sizes of circular needles, I just threw them in a box. They became tangled and hard to find. I never knew what sized I already owned, so I kept re-purchasing the same sets over and over again…

Needle_Box

An organizational head-ache…

Then came the days of Ravelry. This website was not only a place record my projects, but an online resource that kept track of my needles as well! I can update my needle spreadsheet with the size, length, and type of material the needle is made from. Once I invested with a smartphone with internet capabilities, I was never left stumped at the LYS wondering if I owned the needles required for a project – that information was now at my fingertips.

After a few years, I got sick of my messy little ‘needle box’, I needed to figure out a better way to organize my collection. I tried a few commercially produced needle cases with dividers, but they all seemed to be a little small or awkward to use.

Last winter I finally discovered my favorite way to store my needles. I went to the office supply store and bought the widest binder I could find that zipped closed. I filled it with clear zippered plastic pouches that clipped into the binder. I marked each of these pouches with a needle size and put all my needles of that size into one pouch (double pointed, circular, metal and bamboo). Now when I go to start a project, I can find all the appropriate tools I will need in one easy, organized place.

Needle_Binder

Now Grace stores her knitting needles in a customized binder.

All my needles, that is, except my interchangeable needle sets. I own two different brands and I keep them separate from each other in their original cases. These cases come with a place to put the cords, connectors and needle gauge, and a quick peek at the collection tells me which sizes are already in use. I have not felt to need to change the way these have been organized.

I have a lot of little tools as well. I have accumulated multiples of just about every type of tool you can imagine – scissors, tapestry needles, baggie of stitch markers, tape measures, crochet hooks, scales, dental floss… the list goes on. But that also means I have multiple toolkits available to keep with individual projects. That way whenever I am in a ‘grab-n-go’ situation, I do not have to scurry around my workspace looking the right tools – I can just grab one of these complete little kits. It saves me a lot of time and hassle!

Little_Toolkit

Another of example Grace’s little tool kits.

I have a selection of ‘backup’ tools as well, such as stitch holders and T-pins that I don’t often use. I store these in one massive bag with clear, divided compartments. This bag would be cumbersome to bring to a knit night, but it’s perfectly handy tucked under my side table at home.

Big_Toolkit

Grace’s large storage bag for holding her extra tools.

Grace_Baskets

A few of Grace’s baskets.

I’m not a huge fan of plastic storage tubs unless they are protecting and organizing my unused fibre and yarn. A utilitarian tub next to my knitting chair makes me think I am about to bury all my unfinished knitting projects into my back of my closet. I like my knitting projected to look inviting… I much prefer to use baskets to store my works-in-progress even though if they are not stackable or protective in anyway. Surrounding myself with balls of yarn peeking over the rims of colourful baskets is much more inspiring – you just need to pick them up and knit! So friendly, warm and appealing… even if it’s a little more cluttered.

I use a variety of different project bags as well. “Traveling projects”, or the quick knits that keep me occupied while I ride the bus or wait for my restaurant meal, must be small enough to fit into my purse or backpack. I find a light nylon bag with a wrist strap to be ideal so I can manage my entire project in my hands. Small plastic tote bags (the kind given away by some high-end stores) make fantastic project bags as I well. It doesn’t matter if they get folded or dirty – most can simply be recycled after they have outlived their usefulness. These are my bags of choice for camping or knitting small projects outdoors.

Small_Project_Bag

One of Grace’s smaller project bags… great for carrying socks and hats!

Fancy_Knitting_Bags

Some of Grace’s fancier project bags – great for knitting in restaurants.

Large canvas tote bags are great for sweaters and other bulky projects. Because they have little structure, they do not take up extra space when they are not full. But as your project grows, so will they. Most of these bags are easy to clean and cheap to purchase. Some LYS sell totes with their logo or name on the side; I know I like it when I can support my favorite LYS at knit night!

I own other fancier bags too, made of finer materials such as faux leather or upholstery fabric. These can also make excellent purses and or day-bags, but I find they can be a little heavy and unwieldy if I only want to carry a half-finished sock around town.

The size, quality, and shape of my coffee cup (my most beloved knitting accessory) is another extremely important subject, but I am afraid it will have to be covered in a future blog post.

Coffee_Mug

Grace’s favorite coffee cup.

Organizing your supplies and tools isn’t critical to finishing a knitting project, but having a clean and accessible workspace can make your crafting time smoother and more pleasurable. I find the tidier my workspace is, the more inclined I am to spend time there. I put my yarn and fibre on display, arrange my patterns into a queue, and then relax into my little woolen sanctum.

Cheers!
– Grace