Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Keeping Track

You've selected a pattern and yarn for your next project . . . now what?  Keeping track of your work as you go is a useful habit to develop.  But, there's no denying that many of us are "seat-of-the-pants" creators, and planning and writing down "stuff" hampers our creativity and takes the joy out of the process of crochet or knitting.  I love to get my hook or needles and get that luscious yarn wrapped around my fingers and flowing through my hands. The feeling is right up there with a chocolate high.

For years, I sailed along with a small notebook or pad of paper by my side, making tally-marks after completing a row or checking off a row on a graph. I survived by looking at my work to determine where I left off in my last session or by counting rows completed.  My projects were primarily home decor or purses; items which required little shaping and were not expected to fit a body or fit to another piece. 

Eventually, I began to take on more complex projects, such as the Mosaic Diamonds Rug, the Adirondack Socks and the Honeycomb Socks.  For these types of projects, my notes were useful for making sure that I worked the same number of rounds on the cuff or foot on sock 2 that I did on sock 1. I made the Day to Evening Shrug in the May 2009 issue of Crochet! magazine, and my notes became more involved because I tracked the number of stitches that I should have after each increase or decrease row, as well as tracking the number of rows on the fronts and back. This project was worked with a 4-row repeating pattern, so I also needed to know which row I'd worked last.

 Basically, I used my notes to keep track of where I'd been so I could go to the same place on another piece.

And I was happy.  I was well-adjusted.  I was successful.

And then I began to knit more often.  Knitting did not come as easy to me as crochet.  I felt all fumbles with TWO needles and all those live stitches (but that is a post for another day).

The projects that I knitted were garments, so each piece had to fit together with more pieces.  In addition, I was not as quick to decipher the knitting language of patterns. Counting the number of rows worked was and is still harder for me with knitting than crochet.  Confusion and frustration were in abundance.

Quite by accident, I discovered the value of what I call Planning Your Project. I had decided to make a top for a second time and my notes were all ajumble. I sat down with a spiral notebook and began to put the pattern instructions into bullet form for each section of the garment.  Essentially, I built a road-map for where I needed to go.  The cool thing is that this road-map also served as my tool to keep track of where I'd been.

I see you nodding your head in agreement, but I can tell by the look in your eyes that you don't see the value in this Planning thing. 

Planning removed much of the confusion and frustration for me because I made myself really read the pattern or pattern section before I started stitching.  Like an athelete, I could visualize each section before I started it.  If there was a part I didn't get, I knew up front.  This saved me time because I could work out the kinks before I started stitching or stitch along merrily until I got to point X when I knew I needed some help. It also saved me time in ripping out work that was incorrect.  My stitching time was pleasurable again because I could really just stitch and not worry.

Planning also saved me lots of headaches on a cardigan I did this year.  I had knit the back and fronts and was ready to work on the sleeves.  As I plotted out my rows and decreases, I noted that the stitch counts were not matching those printed in the pattern.  Finally, it dawned on me that there might be an error in the written instructions, so I signed into Ravelry and found that others had had the same problem.

On another day, I'll talk about when I track and how I track. 

Thanks for reading!

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