Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A big fact lecture on organization

Have I ever told you guys that my mom is a professional organizer?  Yup.  My mother is that mother.  The one who walks around at any given time with 5 lists in her (impeccably organized) purse.  The kind of mother who labels all the photos in her photo albums so that she knows when each one was taken.  The one who knows where everything in her condo is located.  If I call her up and ask her if she knows whether or not she still has that small pink angel tree ornament that my great grandfather gave me for my first Christmas, she can say with 100% certainty that yes, she does still have it - it's in the clear plastic bin in her storage locker that also contains the tree skirt and the manger (which is in its own labelled cardboard box, each piece carefully wrapped in tissue paper), but not the one that has the glass ball ornaments.  My mother labels all of her spice jars in her perfect little neat-and-tidy handwriting.

Why yes, it is very annoying, thanks for asking.

Annoying, but handy.  Having lived with her for 19 years, I picked up a few things by osmosis.  And I'm going to share one of those things with you.  You lucky lucky people.

I'm going to show you my knitting journal.  Or rather, the notebook that I drag everywhere that contains, among many other things, very important notes on most of the major knitting projects I have ever undertaken.  I'm showing you this not because it is a perfect example of how you should document your knitting (the word "perfection" is not a word I use in regards to anything I do...ever - you could say I am an "imperfectionist", in fact).  Rather, I am showing this to you in the hopes that it may help you in coming up with your own "perfect" system.  Plus, it's kind of like snooping through your host's bookcase when you go over for a dinner party.  Please tell me you do that, too.  Anyone?

Ok, moving on.  Here's where I'm going to start my tour:

 This is my painted wooden Ikea drawer organizer.  I took photos of townhouses in Montreal (that's "mun-tree-AWL" for all English-speaking folks residing outside Canada, not "MAWN-tree-awl) and used them as inspiration when I painted this in 1999.  The top-right drawer contains knitting goodies:

Every single band band (I don't bother keeping multiples) from every major project I've undertaken in the past 4 years is in this box, most with notes scribbled on them, so I can tell what I used them for.  The swatches for all those projects can all be found in my yarn stash box, with leftover bits of yarn and such.  Except, I've got a couple of swatches here for some reason.

By the way, this is what happens when you own a dog.  Dogs do this sort of thing all the time and then poop all over your apartment while you're at work.  If you are interested in getting a dog, you must embrace the chaos or else your dog-owning days shall be numbered.

The second and most important stop in my tour is my Moleskine notebook.  I don't keep the ball bands in the notebook because there are too many and the spine started getting a little strained when I tried.  I used to use a large, hard-covered notebook with blank pages, but it proved to be way too big.  So, this is what I use now:

First page: standard body measurements for women.  Go here to have your mind blown with information overload.

If you're going to start using a book to jot down your knitting notes (and I strongly recommend that you do, otherwise why would I bother showing you this, duh?), it's really important that your notebook not be too "precious".  Honestly, this notebook has been everywhere with me.  There are grocery shopping lists in this book.  I let my husband doodle in it.  I've stapled business cards into it.  It's not just my knitting book, it's my pre-iPod Touch junk drawer.  That's the only way I can stick to the notebook resolution.  I can not carry 3 books around.  Geez, I have a hard time remembering to bring this one.  

I have designs for magazine racks in here.  I have notes from when we were negotiating our mortgage.

There are doodles in here.  Design ideas for stuffed animals and toy monsters for a friend's toddler.

Notes from a design conference (totally mindblowingly awesome, btw).

Here's where we get to some actual knitting:

The page on the right contains some ideas for quilt blocks, but the page on the left contains my notes for the ribbing in a baby tunic I designed.  I knew I had a certain number of stitches in the yoke and needed to lay out the cables and ribs properly.  You see why the grid pages come in handy?

Blog notes alongside notes on the last pair of mitts I knit for my husband.  The ball band for the tunic I'm working on right now (it will graduate to the drawer when I'm done that project).

Some cable patterns for my next pullover sweater.  These were done while I was sitting in bed with a cold and perusing a stitch dictionary.

VERY GOOD IDEA ALERT:  I was contemplating knitting a Hybrid Sweater for my husband and though I have Elizabeth Zimmermann's book (Knitting without Tears), I wanted to walk myself through her pattern and write it out in my own words, using my own gauge.  That project was reconsidered, as I came to the conclusion that my husband needs a wool sweater like he needs a hole in the head.  Someday, those notes might come in handy, though.  You just never know.

Some sketches and notes for an incarnation of a sweater that got frogged about half-way in.  Doodles, isn't it a little frightening how similar this sketch looks to your own sketches for Hibernate?

Good thing I dated that page, so I could safely say that I did not copy you.  Phew.

So, that's what I have in the notebook.  I carry it with me when I'm travelling and it stays in a safe place when I'm home.  It has saved me much aggravation and I hope that seeing it will demystify the concept of a knitting journal for those of you who don't have one and help you take the next step. 

I want to show you one last thing before we go:

If you're new to knitting and you're taking on a new project that you've never attempted, please do yourself a favour and make a photocopy of it.  You're allowed to make a copy for your own use - you will not be infringing copyright, I swear it.  Take that photocopy and mark it up.  Circle the notes pertaining to the size you are making.  Cross out instructions that will not apply to you.  Add notes to the margins.  Write down what size needles you are using.  If you switch needles, note the reason on your pattern.   Jot down the recipient's body measurements right there, so you don't have to hunt them down mid-way through the pattern when you get confused about which size you're supposed to be knitting.  If you've based the size on measurements taken from an existing garment, write that garment's measurements down.  Tuck the pattern into your journal and take it with you.  When you're done with it, staple it in.

In short, I write everything down.  I make lists.  I keep everything together.  I don't throw my ball bands or swatches away.  Heck, I could take photos of my projects and paste them in, if I were so inclined (that's actually where I use Ravelry instead of my notebook).  I could tape or staple a little length of my yarn into my book.

{Just don't do what I tried for years to do: remember all these minute details without notes.  I don't think it's possible and you'll just make yourself cry if you attempt it.  Better to spend a few $$ and get yourself a cute little notebook instead.  You have my permission to go to your local bookstore/stationary and get one tomorrow.  When your spouse questions your expenditure, tell him/her to take it up with me.  I'll set 'em straight.}

So, what about you?  Do you have a craft or knitting journal?  Any cool tips for me?  Come on, I know you do!  Give 'em up!


  1. I currently use a three-ring binder that holds my patterns, with a pocket folder inside for my yarn tags. Most of my notes are on the patterns themselves, but you have to understand that I have yet to knit something like a sweater that would require more than a few scribbles. I believe that a notebook is in order - and if my husband complains about a $5 purchase - well, he hasn't been paying attention to the cost of my Malabrigo addiction.

    Pretty sure I have no tips for you - I can file like nobody's business, but it looks like you are equally blessed in the need to have a system other than Pile of Stuff.

  2. HA! "and if my husband complains about a $5 purchase - well, he hasn't been paying attention to the cost of my Malabrigo addiction." Snort. I hadn't thought of that.

    I wouldn't be so sure about the "system other than a Pile of Stuff". Notice how I didn't show you photos of my entire craft space? Ahem. The Pile. She is big. Perhaps it is time for me to also implement the 3-ring binder approach for all those leftover bits and bobs...

  3. WOH! You're my hero, man. I consider myself pretty organized but I'm nowhere near you. Don't keep ball bands or swatches, at least after project is done and recorded. I rely on Ravelry to keep track of what yarn and needles I used for most of my stuff, but have a BIG sketchbook for design related notes. And another at work which I sometimes rip out of and combine into the master one at home.

    I love your monster sketches! And I really should get some grid notebooks. Great idea!

  4. AMAZING! I told everyone at knitting group about your helpfulness and tip to write all over the pattern, etc.. I did actually make a binder for storing patterns I have yet to make. I need a notebook for works in progress though for sure! And I think I just need to staple the pattern in. I always seem to lose it. Case in point, I need to rebuy the pattern for the Juliet sweater so I can finish the last few repeats of lace. It's nowhere to be found, including in my email and computer files. Totally puzzling. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Oh - meant to clarify - "I don't keep ball bands...". And I love your painted set of drawers.

  6. Great, another notebook I can purchase! Picking the "perfect" notebook is a frequent, evening-filling exercise at my local bookstore. I love keeping track of stuff and thus have a mini-library of notebooks. I'm actually a bit confused right now why I don't have a knitting notebook. There's Ravelry, and then there's a wild collection of loose papers that need sorting. Perhaps it's time to get organized.

  7. Chris: thanks lady! You love my drawers and I love everything you do, so we're even.

    Wollgut: Howdy stranger! Welcome back to the land of the living! So, you wish you could live at the bookstore/stationary place, too? Notebooks are my other-other obsession. Moleskine can inherit all my money, if there's any left after my donation to Koigu.