Thursday, September 30, 2010

Keep good records

I'm guessing there are other people out there like me. I have (too many) projects that are partially completed but finishing them now will take a lot more effort because I didn't take good notes. At the time I either didn't think it was important or thought I would remember the details. Yeah, right.

The other day I was going through a stack of traced off patterns and some sewn up muslins, and I had to toss a lot of them because at the time I made them I didn't bother to note the pattern number, size and changes I might have made. Granted, most of these were early projects, and over time I've become much more conscientious of the need to write down all those details when I trace off a pattern. At the time I may think it's unnecessary because I plan to trace off the pattern, make a muslin if needed, and sew the garment up - all within a reasonable amount of time. But in reality I might trace the pattern and then get distracted by a different pattern and shift my attention to it. Or I'll make the muslin and get discouraged at the fit issues and, well, there you go. Months or years later the tissues and muslins are useless, and the initial work is wasted.

I also have a few UFOs that are in the process of construction. Of course I never thought I wouldn't finish those items in a timely manner and didn't think it necessary to note what needle I used, what thread I used, or even take the effort to keep all the pieces and notions together. I admit that reconstructing all this info is partly why I don't finish those projects.

It's even more crucial with my knitting projects that I take good notes. I use a nice Moleskine notebook for this purpose.

Squared Notebook - Pocket

My book is bound at the short edge but for some reason I couldn't find that version on the Moleskine website. I like the Moleskine book because it has a nice, hard cover so it won't get bent up when I toss it in my knitting bag. I record info for current projects, as well as instructions for things like Kitchener stitch, short row toes, sock heels, and variations of cast on/off. The gridded paper is great for recording charted instructions, and there's a little pocket in the back that's useful for storing stray slips of paper. My version doesn't have a bookmark ribbon so I use the elastic strap to mark the page I need. But the absolute best thing this notebook has done for me is help get my knitting back to me. I once left my small knitting bag, containing a sock project, on a Jet Blue airplane. Fortunately a flight attendant found it and looked inside the bag and saw that it was something I'd want to get back. She was able to contact me right away because I'd recorded my name and cell phone on the inside page of my Moleskine book. I never take my knitting anywhere without that book now!

I've found over the years that it's important to record the following things for a knitting project:
  • needle size - that's an obvious one but if you didn't and you borrow the needles for something else, you'll wish you'd recorded it
  • garment size - if I photocopied the instructions I usually circle the size I'm making but I've also lost my photocopy. And sometimes I don't or can't make a photo copy.
  • changes to the pattern - if they're short, like how many stitches I cast on for the first sock or sleeve, I include them here. More complicated stuff gets noted on the photocopied instructions. 
  • cast on method - I finished a sock I'd started after it had sat for many months and when it came time to start the second sock I wasn't sure what cast-on I'd used. Not a big deal but it could make a difference in how the socks wear.
  • again with socks, the type of heel or toe - there are many variations and some are pretty similar.
  • start/end date 
  • pattern name and source - just in case you lose those photo copied instructions! 
  • name of yarn and dye lot - I'll usually record the name of the yarn but haven't ever recorded the dye lot, but I suppose if you lose the ball band and need more yarn it would be helpful to have this info.
  • stitch pattern instructions - if they're short enough I record the stitch pattern instructions. Sometimes it's handier to have the book open instead of my photocopied instructions. I've found that after I while I memorize the stitch pattern but if I've not worked on the project in a while having the instructions jogs my memory.
  • swatch gauge info - you may only get as far as the swatch for a new project and it's helpful to have the needle size and the gauge you got when you eventually come back to it.
I do have a notebook for sewing projects but for me it seems to not really equate to the way I use the notebook for knitting. Though perhaps I should revisit it when I get back into the sewing room.

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