There are a few things to consider when investing in a storage “system” for the yarn stash that is currently occupying every nook and cranny in your living quarters. Regardless of whether you have 5 skeins or 500 skeins of yarn there are some requirements for the storage of said yarn that remain constant. These are breathability, pest deterrents, space required to house storage containers, and ease of identifying contents.
Breathability and Protection
Fibers, especially animal fibers, will mildew. In my opinion, this is the top concern for storing fibers of any kind. This not only applies to yarn, but to fabrics as well. If your fibers are damaged when you go to use them your investment, sometimes a significant one, is lost.
An appropriate storage container should be able to be tightly sealed, with most of the air removed. A plastic zipper bag is a good example of this type of storage system. Or, alternatively, breathable in some fashion, such as a basket, or chest. The least desirable condition for fibers is a warm, humid one which encourages growth of mildew. If using a basket or bucket type of system, it is a good idea to cover them in some fashion to keep dust from collecting on the yarn.
Protection from sunlight is also a consideration. If you choose to use clear containers, be aware of where you are storing them. Make sure they are not stored in front of or near a window where they would be exposed to sunlight. Just a tiny bit of sunlight on the same spot every day can quickly bleach out fibers and make them much less desirable for use.
Natural fibers, including animal and plant, are all attractive to pests. Moths are one of the knitter’s most dreaded creatures and one that has sent this knitter in a frenzy, with a fly swatter, running throughout the house screaming “Quick, close the door to my sewing room!!”. Regardless of which storage container you choose for your yarn, it is a good idea to place some type of pest deterrent in each container.
Cedar planks or balls in each container help to keep the buggers away. Small bars of soap (unwrapped), like you would get at a hotel, work also. Do not use moth balls, they make your yarn smell terrible! Additionally, whatever you use to deter pests, make sure that it is not oil based or contains some chemical that will damage your fibers in the process.
Types of Containers and how much space is needed to “store” them
The type of container you ultimately choose will be determined by how much space you have to “store” the containers and how you are going to separate the various skeins of yarn.
Space is a huge consideration when choosing a storage system. After all, the objective here is to store and organize the fibers, not consolidate them into another piece of furniture. Where are you going to put the containers? Would a stackable system be an option? What about a hanging one, like the hanging wardrobes you can put in your closet? If you decide to use plastic bags, what are you going to store them in?
What format is most of your yarn in? Is it mostly in skeins, cakes, balls, or some of each? If you are storing 90% skeins you might consider hanging them. If storing wound cakes or balls clear plastic containers or plastic bags might be an option. Baskets and buckets work well for a mixture of formats.
When considering a universal storage system for yarn it is important to figure out ahead of time how you are going to separate the different skeins. There are many ways to do this and it is all up to individual taste and usage requirements. For example, Fair Isle knitters might want to separate their yarns by color, where general knitters may prefer sorting by weight. You can also sort by fiber content, or even by intended use. The possibilities are endless. The main thing to remember when sorting is labeling. If the contents of the container you choose are not visible then good labeling saves loads of time later on.
The type of storage system I currently use for my fibers is a plastic bucket system. The buckets do not have lids and they are stored on bookshelves in my sewing room. The fibers are sorted by type and I have little bars of unwrapped soap in each container. Eventually, I hope to move my yarn into a large wicker chest that is also in my sewing room. However, I want to sew a canvas lining for it first.
Even though this is the system that works best for me, I have tried not to “recommend” any particular system. Rather, I hope this article helps you in selecting the storage system that best suits your needs and space requirements. Sorting yarn can be fun, especially with a larger stash. Sometimes it can be like Christmas. Hopefully this has inspired some of you to get that stash organized and up to date.