Thursday, December 18, 2008

The D-Word

Since I posted the info on my mitts yesterday, I thought I would talk about documenting your work. Do you bother? If you’re on Ravelry (if not, why not?), do you use your Project pages to keep your basic notes and to show others what you’ve done? Do you blog about your projects? Do you keep a hard copy printout of your notes? Include actual samples and swatches? Organize them all so you can find the information later?

I tend to do all of the above. Even though it can be somewhat time-consuming to keep up, I’ve found that documentation can save me a lot of trouble down the road. Say I want to make another similar item. I can go back and see what I did before, including what might have gone wrong or what I would change or improve. What yarn and equipment I used. Was it size 2.25 or 2.5 mm needles? Was that 2/8 cotton sett at 20 or 24 ends per inch? Which pattern and how did I modify it to fit? More information is always better than less.

Usually my notes start on a Ravelry project page. I enter the date I began the pattern and the yarn and needles so I have them when I write the project up for printout later. Each year I begin a new 3-ring binder to hold all the printouts. The advantage of having the info on Ravelry is that it is up there for others to see and gain inspiration. That inspiration has definitely worked for me in reverse! We see what folks have made and want to make one too. With all the information you input, others can make yarn substitutions and modifications much easier.

My Yearly Binder for 2008 is very fat! If I didn’t think I accomplished much, all I have to do is look at the number of pages I stuffed in it. I included the printouts of the patterns I used, plastic pocket pages with puffs of wool before and after dyeing, knitted swatches, samples of the yarn, yarn labels pasted in, charts and photos of FOs. Every project notes page includes the dates that I begun and finished, very similar to the way I post them on the blog and using information that I began on my Ravelry page. The blog post can have more information usually than what is on Ravelry. And it might reach a different audience. I can tag my blog post with a project in Ravelry so they are linked together. You can see that my three methods of documentation feed off each other and each one has a distinct purpose.

So have I always kept good notes? Nope. Way back in the day, I used to keep handwritten notes with swatches. Then I got a computer (and dot-matrix printer!) and kept better notes. But then I fell off the wagon and started just paperclipping a few things together and chucking them in a binder. No details. Soon I wasn’t even going that far. I missed having more information, particularly when I wanted to date an item (how old are my handwoven kitchen curtains anyway?) or find out what pattern I used. The big crisis came when I really felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything much because I couldn’t see everything I’d made all in one place. That was when I started again keeping better notes.

In the olden days, I would keep each craft’s notes separately: weaving, knitting, crochet, sewing etc. all had their own binders. With everything scattered around, it was harder to locate a project or to see progress. So when I started my project binders near the end of 2004, I included everything in one place in chronological order by completion date. This works much better for me. My notes are actually improving and including even more information. I don’t even have to hunt for the book or magazine or PDF or wherever the pattern came from because I include the “working” pattern with the notes.

The working pattern is a printout or scan of the original pattern. I might even chart it out if charts aren’t included or if they aren’t in a format that makes it easy for me to follow. (I use Knit Visualizer ver.2.1 for that. Some examples are in my last post.) I never work from the original book or magazine because I’d hate to damage or lose it. A printout in a page protector is much easier to use and carry around, plus you can make extra copies and write notes on it if necessary or highlight your size so you don’t get confused. I’m totally averse to marking up my books!

Unfortunately, though I’m pretty good at keeping notes after the fact, I still haven’t gotten into the daily working journal habit that I was trying to effect with that online class that I took in October and November with Sharon Boggon. Of course I didn’t really attempt to do the exercises yet! My Spectrum study group is going to start on it next month so hopefully that will spark something. It’s oriented more toward “art inspiration” though, which may or may not be useful to me and the way I work. We shall see.

I finished the Kaffe’s Pool socks for Nana and am winding balls for The Ninja’s birthday socks. I might have enough of the leftover Pool yarn to make a pair for Princess Pink too. Off to brave the snow and ice to get a few groceries. T-Man managed to drive to work today. Hopefully a few will make it to our Guild’s Christmas Party tonight. I’m making my potluck contribution and wrapping my gift and hoping that my ride will get here safely. She’s starting early and driving carefully. It’s not supposed to snow any more but it’s cold (for us anyway) at -6 C./21 F. and sunny. My winter pansies froze solid in their pots on my front door! I’m not going to look at what’s going on in the greenhouse. Whatever. It’s out of anyone’s control.

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