Knitters, Organize!

There are a lot of cool tools and gadgets for knitters these days. Most of the knitters I know have amassed a bit of a collection of very useful and handy tools. Interchangeable needle tips and cords, stitch markers, stitch holders, cable needles, DPN’s, single points, row counters, finishing needles, crochet hooks and the list goes on. And mostly, those tools end up in a bit of a mess in project bags, on the coffee table, night stand and goodness knows where else.

Guess what? Help is on its way!

I like to be organized. Mostly, I like to be organized because I’m kinda lazy. I’ve learned over the years that staying organized saves a lot of time and energy. I made myself a sewing tool-belt so that when I work, I have all my most important tools right at my fingertips. If not for that, (and sometimes even with that) I would be leaving my tools sitting wherever I happened to use them last. Before I made the tool-belt I wasted a ton of time trying to remember where and when I last used whatever tool it was that I needed next. Although from time to time, I still set my scissors down and forget to put them in my holster, for the most part it does keep me organized.

I can truly relate to having my knitting tools all over the place. I have a main knitting bag that I generally keep my most current projects in. I had tins and zipper pouches and baskets. I just found that I was constantly hunting for what I needed. I knew I owned what I was looking for but often simply couldn’t find it. (The nice thing about the tin was that I could keep my extra magnets for my pattern holder in the lid and I managed to not lose my darning needles by attaching them to that magnet.)

Thing is, I always have a number of projects on the go. They don’t all fit in one bag.

So that in itself can create a bit of a challenge. I really did try to keep everything together but this whole being human thing is just messy by nature. I don’t beat myself up too much about it any more. I try to take it in stride. However, as a small business owner, my down time is super-duper-ultra precious to me and in short supply. So when I want to sit down and knit, it irritates me if I can’t find what I need quickly and easily.

Last summer Stephanie Cookhouse of Cookhouse Wares in Calgary, Alberta, popped in my store. We chatted and she told me about this cool thing she makes. She makes organizers designed for creative people who have lots of do-dads that need a home all together. These sturdy felt binders have plastic ziplocky type pouches in them. She makes them in two sizes. I only brought in the larger size because I know myself and the small ones would be a tease for me. Immediately when she showed me the samples I knew this creative woman was on to something fantastic. They are attractive and oh so very practical.

So, I’ve been using mine for a few months now. It took me a little while to kind of get my groove with it. I took some photos to give you an idea. Mine is absolutely stuffed. I can close it, although in complete honesty, mostly I don’t bother trying to. Because I access it a lot for my tools that I use all the time with my knitting, it doesn’t really matter if it’s too full to close. I wanted to show just how much stuff I pack into this little book. It’s the size of a half size binder; the sort that takes a letter size page that’s cut in half.

Now granted, I’m sure that the way I use this organizer will evolve over time. Right now, I’m using one. As you can see in the photo it’s absolutely bulging with knitty awesomeness. I can imagine using two of them. A lot of my tools are currently in projects. When those projects are completed, (or scrapped as the case may be) I will need a place to store the needles where I can actually find them when I want to. So what I’m imagining is that I would have one for all of my interchangeable needles and cords. I don’t use a lot of DPN’s as I really love my circular needles, both interchangeable and fixed. So I can easily keep my DPN’s in the main organizer along with the important stuff that I use with most every project. That would include my tape measure, stitch markers, finishing needles, pencil, eraser, highlighter, scissors, stitch holders, cable needles and a few crochet hooks for the odd time when I need them. (My needle keepers are almost always in use on my projects) I imagine that the main one would be where I do most of my knitting but float wherever I take a project. The other one would likely stay with my stash. When I start a project I see myself grabbing whatever size needle tips I’ll need for the project and transfer those into the main organizer so they are handy when I’m ready for them. We’ll see how it goes.

I absolutely love this organizer.

I don’t know how I ever lived without it. With the help of some small ziploc bags and my Dymo LabelWriter printer, I feel like the size of the pouches is perfect to keep my knitting tools together and easy to sort through. I highly recommend this organizer! Congratulations, Stephanie Cookhouse, on a fantastic product!

Happy Organizing!

Projects: Keeping Track

I love being challenged to become a better knitter; it’s exciting and incredibly satisfying. One side effect of knitting challenging patterns is that suddenly it really matters that I am able to keep track of where I am in the pattern I’m working.

My life is very full and busy. This means that I often only knit for short amounts of time. I’ll sneak in 20 minutes here, an hour there, sometimes all I’ll manage is 10 minutes. Often I don’t finish a full pattern repeat, and occasionally I don’t even manage to complete the row or round I start. Some evenings I’m so exhausted by the time I sit down that I simply don’t have the energy to even work on a “vanilla” project. This means that it can be several days from when I left that mid-row project. And when I do pick it up, I don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what I did before I set it down.

These factors wreak havoc on my ability to keep track of where I am in a pattern. I have come up with a few useful tricks that help me to be know where I left off the last time I worked on my project.

1. Staying Organized

Sometimes the pattern requires that you have your “toolbox” handy.

  • Stitch markers,
  • measuring device,
  • pencil for marking up the pattern,
  • crochet hook for beading,
  • stitch holders
  • or cable needles

all may need to be close at hand for when you need them. I have a small clear zippered pouch that I use to keep all those little tools together. It’s small enough that I can easily tuck it in with my knitting when I need to be mobile. Keeping projects contained in their own project bag really helps too. The “toolbox” can easily be picked up and popped in with whatever project I want to work on.

2. Digital Pattern Management

These days, it’s very common to purchase patterns online to download as PDF files. As an avid Ravelry user, I make sure that I keep my digital patterns (whenever possible) in my Ravelry library. It means that I have access to them on my mobile devices as well as on my computer. I also make a point to download and save them onto my computer. Otherwise, heaven help me if I lose my print out.

I use a free app called “Knit Companion”. This app allows you to open up PDF files and save them as knitting projects. Once you have saved them, you can use the row markers and counters to help keep track of where you are. I really like this app. It’s easy to learn and great when you are on the go. The downside of this is that if you are trying to use it on your phone, the screen is so small that following large charts just isn’t practical. It’s not so bad on a tablet, mind you. If you only need to keep track of a small chart, it’s very handy (especially if you are traveling) because you are pretty certain to take your phone with you where you go.

I also use a free Android row-counter app called “Bee Counter”. You can set up a project and have multiple count sections. Each section allows you to make notes. When I am designing, I like to use this app along with some graph paper to keep track of any pattern work I’m doing.

3. Managing Paper Patterns

When I buy a book or a leaflet pattern, I like to photocopy the pages I need for my project so that I can scribble on them without ruining my original copy.  I have a pattern holder that fits letter size pages and keeps them in place with magnets. Whatever patterns I’m using go into the pattern holder. The only downside to this is that when I’m moving from place to place to knit, it can be a little cumbersome. The long magnets allow me to identify where I am in the pattern, or on a chart. Of course, when my cat comes along he makes it his mission to move my magnets just enough to make my place unclear.

4. Keeping Track of Pattern Repeats

Since my dear fluffy friend, Ricasso, insists on playing with my pattern holder, I have found it very important to add one more fail-safe to my system of keeping track. When I come to a section that requires repeats, I draw little charts in the margins of my patterns next to the relative instruction. Let’s say that I’m increasing for a thumb gusset on a pair of mittens and I have to do one increase row and 2 knit rows repeated a total of 5 times. I would make up a little chart that has 3 columns and 5 rows. At the top, I would put “I” for increase above the first column and a “K”  for knit above each of the other two columns. As I complete each round, I then put a check mark in the appropriate box so I know where I am. Until that round is complete, it doesn’t get checked. So if I stop mid-round, I can look at my little chart and I know just where I am. If I’m working a chart and it needs to be repeated multiple times, I will usually put a small check mark to the right of the row on the chart once I complete it. As I begin the chart again, I add check marks accordingly next to the previous ones. When I’m working a very complicated pattern I keep track of it on the paper pattern and in Bee Count and/or Knit Companion as well. Even with all of this, I still occasionally mess up the pattern. But usually this works well for me.

Being able to read the actual knitting is very important as well, but that is  a whole other blog post.

Happy Knitting