What’s in the bag?

I’m a ‘bag lady’. I have a work bag, a knitting bag, a crochet bag, an embroidery bag, a whole bunch of reusable grocery totes that occasionally become secondary project bags, a bag in my car with emergency supplies, a tool bag, and as I look around my crafting space I currently have a bag of clean and empty Oui yogurt jars and a bag of pecans waiting to be shelled. Yup, bags are my primary organizational system.

In my knitting bag, I have a needle roll with 60% of my needles in it. The huge clunky ones are in a jar in my craft space, along with same-size-different-length needles on the longer side. My crochet bag has a hook roll. Neither of these organizers really hold any tools. Those tool bags are the bags I’m going to talk about today.

The little tool bags inside the big bags are all small zipper totes, all roughly 9” x 9 ” x 1 1/2” and similar to cosmetic bags. Inside my knitting bag and both* crochet bags, I have quite a few common items.

  • a 3”x3” Post-It notepad, lined for writing
  • a pencil
  • an eraser (the pink rectangular type)
  • a small snap-close plastic container of stitch markers
  • a small plastic needle or hook measuring gauge
  • a seamstress type measuring tape
  • a couple of safety pins
  • a couple bobby pins
  • travel scissors or nail clippers
  • a couple yards scrap yarn. This is rolled into a little ball no bigger than a jawbreaker candy.

My knitting bag has a few things my crochet bags don’t: cable needles in several sizes, some point protectors, a crochet hook, and some vintage safety-pin-looking stitch holders.

So, what’s the reasoning behind these? Some are pretty obvious, but I’ll elaborate on the less obvious.

Three by three Post-It note pad

I don’t write small, this size allows me to put a full sentence reminder to myself. It’s big enough to do math on. It’s small enough to not dominate the zipper bag and go in and out easily. I use singles as place markers in my patterns, underlining the row I’m on, the size really blocks out following rows well for easy focus (sometimes I block the above rows too). I can put one off to the side to make tally marks on to keep counts in various patterns. And when I’m in public, I stick one to my business card with additional information because I’m always telling people where they can take a class from me. I’ve tried ordinary note pads, bigger and smaller, but Post-It’s are just plain awesome and this size works exceptionally well for me. If you write small you may be happier with smaller ones, but a sticky type beats plain paper every day.

A pencil and eraser

A Ticonderoga pencil specifically, because it’s real wood and they are well made for about 3 cents more than those awful plastic ones. I stock up on supplies at back-to-school time. I have also found the fun kid and holiday motif pencils sold at Target and Michael’s are often really good wood too and have had several in my bags over the years. My work crochet bag has a red pencil with white polka dots and blue flowers. I do not use mechanical pencils, because those require a hard surface to write on. The fine lead will just poke a hole in your paper if it’s on your knee because you are working in the doctors office waiting room. I feel no concern writing on my pattern, making a tiny note in a book, or scribbling out the math for a project if I’m using pencil. That’s what erasers are for, and I carry a big one. The other reason I carry a separate eraser is that the ones that come on pencils are never big enough. I like the Pink Pearl type in my bag. I like the ones that fit over the pencil’s eraser, but I’ve found they don’t hold up well in a bag. Too much movement cracks them, then you have little bits of eraser all through your bag.

Safety Pins

These don’t really get used for knitting or crochet. I have them there for giving away. In an emergency, me and my yarn bag look like a good source of rescue to those having wardrobe malfunctions. It’s sort of passive advertising, and non-crafty people don’t know that knitters do not have a needle and thread on their person at all times. I keep my bags stocked because that guy on the bus who just realized his fly wasn’t down but broken is going to look for the craftiest looking person he can to get him out of a pinch. The young mother whose purse strap just bit the dust, the toddler whose lovey just lost it’s arm, all have sought me out in public because of my yarn bag. “Um, well, this is crochet, but I have a safety pin” has flooded needy strangers with relief on many occasions. It’s an opportunity to be a Good Citizen.

Bobby pins

The Clover company has an amazing array of tools and products for all kinds of fiber arts, I own many of them. I’m really happy with their quality too. But they have yet to improve on the humble bobby pin. I suppose this is a bit of a ‘hack’, but it is really just practical and frugal. Nothing Clover sells can be got in the quantity of 50 for a dollar. I feel no guilt losing or giving them away at that cost.

So how do I use them? They are my ‘locks’ when I put my project back in the bag. For crochet, I slip it through the loop on the hook, then down over the completed rows. For knitting, I slide one on each end of my needle(s) through the front of the stitches. They won’t snag the yarn. If it comes off the needle/ hook, it holds the loops from un-looping and to each other. They can be got in several sizes and occasionally fun colors (look in the kid section of the hair accessory section the next time you are at a dollar store). And, you can put them in your hair to keep it out of your face while working.

Scrap yarn

This is useful in a bunch of ways. I have a large skein of Red Heart in a hideous orange I got in a freecycle box. It’s my primary source of scrap yarn balls as it’s not a yarn I’d ever make a gift from or wear myself. It’s really the most dreadful shade of orange ever produced. Scrap yarn is often called for in knitting for the trying on or holding stitches instructions. In crochet, I’ll sometimes swatch a stitch or section before going to it in my good yarn on my project. I use it to demonstrate the basics when that curious kid comes and starts asking lots of questions in random public places. I’ve even given it away to children after teaching them how to make a chain using just their fingers. It’s another Good Citizen thing, and the yarn was free.

So, that’s more than you ever needed to know about what’s in my bag. What’s in your bag?

*because I teach crochet, I have one that lives at work permanently along with a few hooks, my class handouts, beginner patterns, and the student yarn.

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