I have a toddler, and I do a lot of my knitting over her while she naps on my lap. Therefore, I have to balance the convenience of having everything close to the nursing chair with safety for when curious toddler hands are awake and exploring. After several experimental strategies, this is the yarn storage system I've created, designed to maximize my ability to reach things from the chair without putting anything within toddler reach.
This system is comprised of the following items:
The lower half of the bookcase, covered by the doors, houses surplus yarn, all of my knitting books (and my cake decorating books as well), magazine racks full of loose patterns, papers, printouts, etc., my dice cup for RPG night (because if my daughter sees it out, she calls out, "DICE!" and demands to play with those shiny little choking hazards), and anything else I can cram in there that I don't currently need. My Denise interchangable knitting needle set box with any needles/cords not currently in use sits with the books, which is one of the wonderful elements of the Denise set.
The very top currently houses unsorted stuff, some of it knitting-related (like large cotton cones), but a lot of it is general stuff we need to keep out of toddler hands (like RPG minis).
The upper middle contains my working shelves. The bare one is where I store things I need to be able to reach from the chair, although I can't quite reach the far left side and back corner. That's also where I put a glass of water during baby nap time. However, anything moved noisily around on that shelf during the nap will interrupt the nap, so I have to keep most tools in a separate location.
That's where the beauty of the system comes in: the plastic garden net-fence. I bought a roll of the stuff, far more than I needed, but it was the smallest portion available. I measured out a section wide enough to wrap around the sides of the bookcase and cover the shelves as needed, then cut it with wire cutters. It is held on the sides by being hooked over the 3M hooks (removable, in case of improper placement and for reclaiming the bookcase in the future with minimal damage). The fence is just stretchy enough to be pulled over the ends of the hooks but remain tight. On the underside, it is affixed to a shelf with three staples from a staple gun. It is also stapled to the middle of the shelves on the facing side. It is open on top. This allows me to open either side to access yarn, add more, etc.
The fence is sturdy enough to hold yarn balls securely in place but let me pull a feed out (using centre-pull balls). Excess yarn can be wound up and tucked back in.
The fence also allows for otherwise noisy tools to be used and put back almost silently simply by hooking them into the holes. The small scissors for detail work tuck nicely into the lower portion. My pliers (used to pull yarn needles through densely-stuffed pieces) hang fairly well on the fence as well, although I do have to ensure they're pulled fully down or else they'll tip out and make a huge noise. My big scissors don't fit in the fence, so I knitted up a quick'n'ugly scissor cozy, sized exactly to them (basically a tube that opens out to a flat bit at the top) that hangs on the side of the fence. I can slip them in and out in silence, and they're securely out of toddler reach. Lastly, the fence is great for hooking on all kinds of other tidbits, from a string holding thread spools to a line of locking stitch holders. I've even got a wooden tulip my husband brought me from the Netherlands tucked in as an impromptu decoration.
To one side, right above where I sit, I've got all of my double-pointed needles, sorted by size (using a needle gauge) and held in groups by elastics, all in a toilet-paper tube. I sealed off the bottom of the tube (take a piece of packing/duct tape about the length of the tube and then a shorter one, put the shorter one on the middle of the larger one to create a non-sticky middle, then tape that whole thing to the bottom of the tube, voila, instant little holder) and poked some scrap yarn through it to tie it to the fence. An angle is better than straight up and down, both for noise control and ease of access. A firmly-stuffed yarn ball (see my basic little yarn ball pattern) serves as a sewing needle/pin cushion, also tied to both the fence and the paper tube with scrap yarn. For extra safety, I try to ensure that no threads dangle and that needles are all on the top and pushed in fairly deep so they won't slip out and end up on the floor.
I stuck some little-used straight knitting needles into some of the yarn so I can quickly wind up any dangly yarn that's in use to keep it out of little hands. I can even hang small projects on circular needles on there, if needed.
There are two downsides to this system: one is that by putting everything open so high as to be out of toddler reach, I no longer have a convenient place to write notes as I create patterns. I keep a notebook inside the bottom half, but I either need to remember what I did after the fact and find time to write it down while the memory is fresh, or guess later. The second downside is that if a project has a yarn ball on one side of the fence and knitting in works on the other, the project is somewhat locked in and can't be taken elsewhere to be worked on, unless either side is small enough to be pushed through the holes of the fence. That's why I keep at least one portable project outside of the system (and use a homemade yarn container for it).
This is the full system, with the doors open (note the childproof latches on the tops of the doors).
These photos show the right and left sides of the system. You can see the plastic 3M hooks holding the fence on the sides.
The scissor cozy, a nice easy way to keep the scissors safe and quiet for picking up and putting down during the baby's nap. It's a simple tube knit to fit my scissors, then flared out at the top and tied onto the fence securely.
The next two photos show the detail of the working area; the second photo is the same as the first but with labels added to explain what and where the parts are.
Obviously, not every knitter will need to arrange things in consideration of a toddler, much less one that sleeps on the knitter's lap. But this system could be easily adapted to keep out cats and other pets, to put things in easy reach of the elderly or disabled, or in any other situation where a knitter wants a lot of yarns easily available but held in a secure and safe fashion.
If anyone replicates any part of this setup and posts pictures, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know so I can link to you!
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