Planning for Fiber Artists

This article, was originally a sub-section of last week's article on Fabric Art Journals. However, I ended up having a lot to say about that (go figure, seeing I'm not an fabric artist) and the thoughts about planning seemed to interfere with the goals of introducing you all to fabric art journals. Therefore, this week we'll take a look at how fabric and fiber artists plan their projects.

Now I know that if I don't write my long-term artistic projects down somewhere and keep them together in my Project Folder system, then when it comes time to "create" I get lost and spend more time looking for all the items I want to use rather than spending that precious free time making art. And that's just from a purely paper-artist standpoint. Fabric artists need to keep their projects in line. Is there an organizational methodology that could work for knitters? What does a knitter who always has a rotation of 3-4 projects going on at one time do to keep all their projects in line? Read on to find out more.

I asked caligatia, who's an avid knitter, about what she does and this is what she said:

For me, knitting projects start with an idea. What is it I want to make? Sometimes I'm inspired by a pattern or garment I see, but far more often I go looking for a pattern to match what I'm dreaming of. I frequently make up my own patterns, too, especially for sweaters. I take design elements from other patterns and stitch dictionaries and meld them together to create something new.

Once I have my idea, I go looking for a yarn that suits the project. And then it's time to sit down and do the math, if I'm not working from an existing pattern. I make swatches if necessary. I figure out the increases, decreases, stitch repeats. Math is one of my favorite parts of knitting design and appeals to my inner geek. It also balances nicely with the artistic side of knitting.

A lot of knitters I know can have multiple projects going at the same time. I can't do that. I prefer to stick to one project at a time, knitting from beginning to end without getting distracted by other patterns. I hand-write or print out my pattern and put it in the Circa notebook that goes everywhere with me, and I use Post-It flags to keep track of where I am.

I keep track of my yarn and spinning fiber stashes with an online database I wrote. I keep a copy on my Palm via AvantGo for when I'm in yarn stores and need the reference.

A few months ago, while going through user submitted forms, I saw an surge of fabric related forms in amongst the personal planning pages. It seems that many knitters/quilters/sewers also find the need to have forms that help them corral items and plan designs. In that regard, I want to share with you three forms I've found:

Sewing Tools Kit The Sewing Tools Kit was created by forum member catalbella. This 8 page kit, done in the hPDA format, gives you lots of forms to help complete your sewing projects. There's a Sewing Project form, a Shopping List,  Reference charts, and Sizing and machine setting charts. The most unique part of this kit are the "SWAP" forms. catalbella notes that these are for "sewing with a plan" and I presume, one would fill these forms out to go from having just your list of project items to a fully functional and sewn item.

Knitting Planner Form The Knitting Planner form, created by caligatia tracks all aspects of your knitting project; from the type of needles used to pattern name to yarn type. She says she created this form, because "I like to have records of the projects I've done, and this form can be used as a record of past projects as well as an idea sheet for future knitting. The back of the form is knitter's graph paper for charting color or stitch designs."

Stash Tracking Spreadsheet I have a friend who's a knitting fiend. She's made lots of things from gloves to sweaters to socks to turtles. I had her proof this article and she offered up this Stash Tracking Spreadsheet. And now I'm passing it onto you. This way, you can fill out this Excel spreadsheet with the details for your yarn and keep it under control (Yeah... I know for some that is tough to do! But this will help you do it in style.) The spreadsheet contains an example row so you can see how to use it.

Lime & Violet Project Cards This last form, while not directly a part of the site, is also a good, quick-planning project form for you fabric artists. Eliza Metz, one half of the powerhouse that is Lime & Violet, created these wonderful knitting project cards. There's space to give the projects a name, track the yarn specification and yardage, as well as any other notes you have regarding the project. These cards are small enough to fit into your wallet or pocket and can be used when you go shopping for your next project needs.

As you can see, no matter what art obsession you may have, there's always some sort of planning component to go into it. Do you knit, sew or quilt? I'd like to know what you do when you plan your projects. Do you have a methodology to keep your stash together? Feel free to post what you do to keep your projects on task and your stash organized in the comments below.

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Circa-fying patterns

I use Circa to carry my patterns around, too. I write each row of a knitting pattern on an index card, then Circa-fy the cards, with dividers marking sections that repeat. After I knit each row, I flip that card over to show the next one. If I need to repeat a section before moving on, I just flip back to the divider at the beginning of the section.

I do this for samplers, too, where each section is a different stitch pattern.

"I want to live in Theory. Everything works there."