Wednesday, 17 October 2012

In The Tool Box: The Workbook

It occurs to me that I never talk about process, I tend to ignore it in favour of posting about finished things. I'm trying to remedy this with a series of posts about the tools I use to go about my favourite crafts, in my kitchen or in my garden. First up is the thing that has saved my crafting life while I've been exhausted from work: the workbook.
the pencil case that accompanies all my knitting
Workbooks first hit my radar with Issue 6 of Entangled in Stella Lange's article Now Where Was I? I knew they existed before then but that was the first time I'd seen the process of workbooking laid out. I've been obligated to compete workbooks for courses before but my instruction was really nothing more than 'record your experiences', or 'journal' and sometimes I just want more precise instructions in my life. Even if I then turn around and break them.
totally stuffed full of silly bits and bobs 

What persuaded me to the practicality of workbooking though was the idea that workbooks simplify life, not add another thing to the to do list. In Stella Lange's words:
I don't have to think about my materials, or my tools, or the methods I have decided. I have all that noted down, ready to access... "I'm good to go"
 I knew that what was holding me back from knitting and sewing was that initial step. What was my plan? What needed to be done? Where am I now? If I could answer that question I could get straight to work. Spend more time doing and less time thinking. I do still think - thinking is what fills the pages of my workbook - but now I only need to do the thinking once. It's hard (yet not impossible!) to forget something when it's all written out.
Pens: tools of the trade
So on 8th August (according to my work book) I went to Paperchase with a £20 note and a bunch of stuff that would make writing in it a joy. I came home with my little orange note book, a pencil case to contain it and all sorts of fun stuff to go in it. First on my list was pens, one black, one purple and the pink was later acquired from my floor. Fine line with a chubby base, even my hand writing doesn't look too bad.
Sticky Arrows and Highlighters with faces.
Next I needed to mark what I was writing. Panda highlighters to highlight sections (as bellow) to show where my stitch markers are. Arrows with faces to show me which part of my instructions or my chart is making me sad, happy, shocked, tearful or whatever emotion winking represents. They are coming into their own right now as I knit a lace edged shawlette. If I can only knit half a row before needing to put it down I just move the marker and I'm able to pick it up again with only a few seconds stress about where I am.
Colours and faces mark where I am
Planning for new projects is whole new levels of fun now I'm sketching out and testing out colour combos in my workbook. One idea germinating right now is a version of this Two-Tone Ribbed Shrug in some of my own plant dyed yarns.
Bright colours!
The dying process has already taken three days but each process has been documented in the book so I don't get lost and so I can repeat it at a later date. More importantly I've had my sketched out and coloured in picture to refer to when the process is starting to look a little too long and I need a jolt of inspiration.
This is what we're aiming for!
I've dyed the contrast yarn already and a small sample of that went in the workbook with notes about the dye process. The yarn from my shawl is also in there along with it's tag. As well as being a good record of my knitting it's also a good reminder of how to wash my finished piece.
Stick it in, then I don't have to write as much!
The yarn is attached with tape, the tags with a pritt stick. Glue of choice for astronauts and school children alike. I got mine in a set of rainbow colours.
Seriously, if I have the choice of a silly colour I'm going for it
That is all for stationary but as I carry this around with my knitting I tucked a few other supplies in their for emergencies  Stitch markers, tape measure and the like. Scissors too. Things you always wish you had. Although none of them, it turns out have proven to be more useful at averting disaster than my workbook.
And your more traditional knitting tools
Okay so that is a good amount of stuffed into one small case but is it really worth it? After all I have a blog and an Ravelry account to keep notes. The problem is that isn't how I use my blog or my Ravelry account. I'm not going to make a note about some silly mistake I've made that effects the rest of my project  I'm not even going to mention I've started knitting something that might not get done. That would be mortifying.
Private record keeping is practical record keeping 
I'm incredible conscious that other people can see and read what I put online. I'm not a fan of admitting my mistakes, not when I don't have anything clever to say about them. But in my workbook I'm free to be my dyslexic, messy self. I'm presenting a more truthful image, which turns out to be a more useful image. The results speak for themselves. I'm a better knitter now.

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