Alpaca Direct Blog

Build the Perfect Notions Bag

One of my favorite sayings is "use the right tool for the job." If you loosen up your definition of tools, this applies to almost all parts of life. In knitting and crochet, our main tools are needles, hooks, and yarn. But don't forget about notions! These little lovelies are crucial to a nicely completed knitting or crochet project.

A few years ago I took stock of my notions bags, weeding out the things that I didn't use very often and putting together one main bag that I took with me everywhere with my current project. I filled the other bags with leftovers and put them with my stash.

Since it's been awhile, I looked through my bag again. I had most of the old favorites in there, but I needed to add a couple things that had disappeared in to the void of a project bag somewhere. Here's what's in my notions bag:

Here are my recommendations for building a well-stocked bag.

Must-Have Notions (in no particular order)

Needle Sizer: You have to have one of these in your bag to check unmarked needle or hook sizes. Guessing just doesn't cut it! This particular one from Knitter's Pride is great because of the magnifying section. You can place it on your knitting and really see those stitches when checking your gauge.

Handi Tool: Handi doesn't begin to describe this little tool. I really couldn't live without it (that might be overstating it a teeny bit). But seriously, this a multipurpose tool that you can use to pick up dropped stitches, as a cable needle, as a third needle for the 3-needle bind-off, and so much more.

Tape measure: What can I say about this must-have tool? You measure stuff with it, and you need one in your bag at all times. Also handy at Lowe's. I like this no-frills model. You really don't need frills on this, right?

Row Counter: The little green Katcha-Katcha is my favorite, although I seem to have a pink one in my notions bag. I think it was a gift. I like this type because you can lock it when it's not in use so you don't accidentally push it while it's loose in your bag and loose your row count. The horror!

Chibi tapestry needles: These are the best. In the photo above, you can see have a really old one. It was part of my friend's mother-in-law's knitting basket when she died, and my friend gave it to me. I think of her every time I get a needle out, which is a lot! My favorite version of these needles have the bent tips, which make it easy to get the needle where you want it to go.

Scissors: These are sort of like the tape measure—you know what they do, and you need a pair (or two) in your bag at all times. I like the large loop scissors, but I also have a pair of mini folding scissors that are great for travel. The ones shown in the photo above were a gift—I'm not sure of the brand.

Stitch markers: My favorite are the soft ring markers because they bend in my hands as I knit past them. I have baby hands, and the metal or hard plastic markers bother me. That said, you definitely need locking stitch markers, and the best are the Clover Jumbo Stitch Markers and the smaller Clover Locking Stitch Markers.

Waste Yarn: I keep a small amount of mercerized cotton or embroidery floss in my bag. I use it for provisional cast-ons and holding large amounts of stitches, such as on a sleeve. I like to use cotton because it won't felt to the working yarn. One-eighth-inch satin ribbon is also great for holding stitches.

Clockwise from top left: Knitter's Pride View Sizer, Clover Soft Ring Markers, Chibi Small Bent-Tip Tapestry Needles, Handi Tool, Knitter's Pride Cable Needles

Nice-to-Have Notions

Cable needles: I prefer the curved variety because my stitches don't fall off, but there are good straight cable needles, some with notches on them to hold onto the yarn. I like these from Knitter's Pride.

Crochet hooks: I have a crochet hook in my bag that's a couple sizes bigger than my Handi Tool. This works for larger-gauge projects when I drop a stitch or something horrible like that. Also good for my favorite provisional cast-on.

Stitch holders: These are handy to have to hold live stitches until you need them. It's good to have a few sizes on hand. We sell a nice variety pack.

Important Stuff from Around the House (or the office supply store)

Pen or mechanical pencil: I like a mechanical pencil because I can withdraw the lead when it's not in use. Very important tool for taking notes on patterns, keeping track of the size you're knitting, and myriad other things.

Highlighter: Meh. I don't use mine much, but I keep carrying it around. Many of my knitting friends use highlighters all the time, though, so what do I know?

Highligher Tape: Now this I use constantly! I love it for keeping track of where I am on charts. When it first came out, I ignored it, thinking it would be a pain to move and it would loose its stick, but I was wrong on both counts. I just fold over a bit on each end, which makes it super easy to move, and I've been using the same piece on a sweater chart for about four months, and it's still sticky! Highly recommend this.

Post-It Notes: Also crucial for note taking and keeping your place on patterns if you don't have highlighter tape. (Get some highlighter tape!)

You might be asking, What about the bag itself, Kathleen? Well, as you can see from the top photo, I prefer a mesh bag because I can see what's in there. The bigger black one is my main bag, and it holds all of the notions spread out on the table, with room to spare. (I see now that it's not clear in the photo that it's mesh. It is.) The blue and black bags are Walker Bags, which are the best. The other one is from Target, I think, and it's lasted for years, but it's showing its age, unraveling a bit by the zipper, and losing bits of fabric, while the Walker Bags look good as new.

Notions bags are also a great place to display your collection of buttons and enamel pins, as you can see! My knitting group shares buttons at retreats and things, and I pick them up all over the place. Fun to look at and remember where I got them.

I think I've exhausted my opinions about notions, but I'm sure I haven't covered everything. What did I miss?

Cheers,