Keeping Project Notes

So many knitters I know scribble highly abbreviated project notes on scraps of paper like old envelopes or on the edges of the pattern photocopy–or worse, on the pages of the actual book.

My question is, why?

Make the Project Again

Do you think you’ll never make another project from the pattern? You might make a size large this year, but what if next year you need to make a size medium? If you highlighted or scribbled on the original while you made the large, you’re just asking to accidentally use the size-large numbers while you’re making the medium.

Use the Same Pattern Stitch Again

Maybe you decided to make the bobble with only three stitches instead of the designed four.

Wouldn’t it be nice to capture that information?

Write Down How You Solved a Problem

You spent countless hours trying to understand some oddity in a pattern. Maybe you had to frog once or twice. But eventually you figured it out. (Good for you!)

Now, did you write down exactly what you did? Did you record how your understanding of the pattern differed from the pattern’s actual wording? Did you capture your hard-won knowledge of what you had to do to make the pattern work?

Even if you never make this exact project again, a future difficulty may trigger your memories of this project, so being able to read how you solved this project’s problem can help you solve that future project’s nit.

You Did Your Own Thing

Perhaps you didn’t like the neckline on a sweater, so you frogged it back and did something freestyle.

Did you record what you did? In a place where you can keep it forever?

After all, you might like to make your custom neckline again, whether next month or next year. But if you don’t write down what you did, you’ll have to go to the trouble of figuring it out all over again.

Keep a Notebook

I like three-ring binders, because I can add and reshuffle pages, which I can’t do with a spiral notebook.

What do I write down? EVERYTHING.

Preliminaries

I write down the yarn, the pattern source, who it’s for, what size I need to make, key measurements, and anything else. Sometimes I tape a 6″ piece of the yarn to the page.

Swatching

I write down what size needle I make my (first) swatch with, then write down my stitch and row gauges both before and after washing and blocking.

Your Working Gauge May Not Match Your Blocked Gauge!

If my swatch changes size substantially, I need to know how big it was before blocking, so that I

  • can check my gauge periodically while the item is still on the needles
  • choose to make the correct size in the first place based on the gauge it will be after it’s done and blocked
More Swatching

If I have to make additional swatches, I write down what size needle I went to and what the results were.

Work in Progress

Once I start knitting, I write down the row/round number after I finish every row/round. I primarily work in the round, so if I have to stop in the middle, I can tell at a glance which round I’m on: I just add one to the last number that’s written down. (I am too much of a klutz to use those doohickeys that go on the needle. I just know I’d turn the indicator accidentally while shoving my WIP into my bag as I dash out to knit night.)

If things seem to be going awry, I write down what’s happening. After I’ve figured out the problem, I write down the solution and pick back up with writing down row/round numbers again.

When I start a new ball of yarn, I circle the row/round number where the new ball started. Then I can estimate how much fabric is created from a single ball, which gives me a warm feeling when I realize I have plenty of yarn (we won’t talk about the sinking feeling that comes when there’s a chance I’ll run short).

When pieces get to be big enough to start measuring or trying them on, I record on paper my debate with myself.

Tried on the sleeve at 15 inches, but it seemed too short. Also, my pink sweater was 17 inches to the underarm, but that was a bit too long. I’ll try it on again at 15.5 inches, but 16 may be better.

If I have to pick up around the neck to do ribbing, I write down how many stitches I actually picked up. If the finished neck is not quite right, I have to know how many stitches there were so I can pick up either more or less for the second go.

Once the entire project is done, I do what the military calls an “after-action review.” I evaluate the yarn choice, the pattern, the size, the fit, the color, whatever. Then in the future I know to avoid like the plague that yarn, that sleeve style, that finishing technique, and so on.

Go Electronic

If you don’t want to keep paper, then do an electronic version, whether a simple file in your word processor or online in something like Ravelry.

But you have to be very disciplined to type stuff up as you go, instead of thinking, “Oh, I’ll just type it all up when I’m done.”

Uh-huh. Sure. None of us has ever just stuffed a project in the bag, then stuffed the bag into the back of the closet. Then when we find it three years later, we have no idea what it is, what pattern we were using, who it’s for…

The problem with not writing it down (or typing it up) immediately is that we forget all the small details. And the small details are what we’re going to need the most in the future.

Save yourself some future time and headaches by recording right now your brilliant fix for some problem, your ingenious diagnosis of a pattern error, and the common details that every project generates.

You might just prevent a future disaster.

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