Taming Circular Needles:
The Browning Fishing Binder Bag

Soft Tackle Binder Bags
I first saw one of these in use at the Knitter's Review Retreat a few years ago. I was intrigued by the degree of order and organization it allowed, and amused by the concept of using a fishing bag for knitting. But inwardly, I was convinced I'd never be able to manage such order myself.

Time passed and my circular needles multiplied—yet like guilty children after a vase has been broken, specific needle sizes would disappear the moment I needed them. Hence, the rapidly growing family of needles.

Last month, after searching one too many times for a lost pair of circulars, I decided it was time to give these binder bags a try. "I'll just pop over to Target and see what they have," I thought confidently. This was just before Christmas, and mall traffic was daunting—but I was sure I'd be done with my mission and be home in time for afternoon tea.

No such luck.

I proceeded to a specialty sporting-goods store that had an entire section dedicated to fishing. No binder bags there either. Frustrated but not deterred, I battled traffic and went to a third store that specialized in fishing wares. And again, not even a hint of a binder bag.

I went home, made that cup of tea anyway, and took my search online. I struck gold at Bass Pro Shops and ordered two different bags to test. They finally arrived last week. Despite different markings on their covers, the bags turned out to be completely identical—down to the precise location of the "Made in China" tag on the back inside flap.

What follows is a composite look at the Browning Fishing Jumbo Worm Binder (SRP $19.99) and the Bassmaster Jumbo Tournament Worm Binder (at press time, January 2006, this was on sale for $14.88).

Something's Fishy
These bags were originally created to hold soft plastic and rubber worm and baitfish baits for fishing. And yet, as knitters have known for a while now, they also work perfectly as circular needle organizers.

They come in different shapes, but most begin with a hard-sided binder that's covered in a rugged, outdoors-friendly fabric.

Pockets on the front inside pageInside the front cover are four zipper pockets measuring approximately 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches. The pockets are made of a thick clear plastic with embedded mesh for durability.

Although they're ideal for smaller items like scissors, stitch markers, stitch holders, and measuring tapes, they are initially very tight and the insides difficult to access.

heavy-duty poly bag with metal grommetsIn the center of the binder, two large binder rings hold industrial-strength poly bags with Ziploc-style closures and some sort of metal grommet to keep the bag from tearing on the rings.

Both binder bags came with seven inner poly bags. I immediately knew I'd want more and emailed the manufacturer to find out about refills. I will update this review when I've heard back.

Each bag will comfortably hold several pairs of circular needles. You could label each bag by size group—size 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, etc.—to make the seven bags go as far as possible.

If abundant bags are your priority, the Extreme Binder Bag (whose shape more closely resembles a lunchbox) has easily available replacement bags.

larger pockets on back inside coverThe inside back page had two additional zipper pockets made of the same plastic reinforced with mesh. These measured 9 inches x 5 inches and held shorter DPNs and larger tools perfectly.

A zipper around the perimeter of the binder helps keep everything secure when in transit. And a handle, either on the wide or narrow edge of the bag, enables easy transport.

Both these bags had a padded rubber handle on the short edge of the binder.

a discreet back coverAnd both bags had a plastic-covered ID card case on the back, just in case you go to a knit-in where everybody had the same bright idea for knitting needle storage.

Rough and Ready
I always carry a core set of needles with me on the off chance I get assaulted by a gorgeous skein of yarn. Lately these needles have been housed in a beautiful needle case made of imported silk fabric. After only a few months of heavy use, however, this case has already begun to snag and fray. Such is the price of beauty.

While these fishing-gear binder bags may not have the subtle beauty of silk—in fact they'd look more at home with the jumper cables and tools in the back of my car—I know they will withstand the ravages of time far more gracefully. And there's no denying that these binder bags introduce a high degree of organization and portability to tools that are otherwise difficult to store, manage, and transport.

The decision to forego glorious fabrics and textures in favor of a tough, rugged, and durable bag is a highly personal one. Some may rejoice at the prospect of using a rugged fishing bag for something so decidedly different. And others might shudder and go running for the comfort of their Vera Bradley bags.

You'll need to make this decision for yourself. As for me, I'm ready to reign in my rowdy needles once and for all.

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