This Is An Exciting Post About Planners & Notebooks


Holidays have come to an end, the school year has started and everyone is back to work down this end of the world. I rather like that we roll in to the new year after a long summer break. I feel enthusiastic and ready to tackle some new and exciting projects.

And, with new projects and a new year comes new planning and the thrill of new planners, notebooks and stationery. To say I'm a stationery lover might be something of an understatement. I've always adored notebooks, pens, fresh pages and new beginnings. They promise adventure, possibility and the vague hope that I might be suddenly re-invented and able to finally master the art of juggling a million balls while appearing (and feeling) as graceful as a ballerina.




I'm a very keen planner - not a crazy "schedule my whole life" sort of planner but a "get stuff done by breaking it down into manageable chunks" sort of planner. I haven't always been good at tackling big jobs without feeling completely daunted by them. I think it's something I learnt growing up but I think I learnt it pretty young. I vividly remember looking at our messy playroom as a young girl and wondering how on earth to tidy it. It felt totally overwhelming. But, my mother was something of an organiser herself and I learnt that everything did in fact have a place and if I just started, first by picking up the dolls and putting them in the dolls basket, then the books back to the bookcase and the cars into the car basket, eventually I'd start to see the yellow vinyl floor again and I'd feel hopeful that the end was in sight. I can't say I loved it but figuring out how to tackle a job, step by step, a bit at a time, is pretty jolly satisfying.

So, planning has stuck with me and my love of planners and notebooks and all things paper has grown.




I had a homegrown system for keeping track of what I was doing for Truly Myrtle last year - a squared soft-covered moleskin journal (the black one), a wall calendar with big squares and a clipboard of printed sheets that looked a lot like these ones. I was actually planning to buy this particular pad after seeing my friend Joanne using one but eventually the cost of getting it to me inspired me to make something like it on my computer and print out pages myself as I need them.

My system worked pretty well. I'd use my moleskine to keep notes of everything that came into my head; ideas for patterns and blog posts, notes from meetings, newsletter planning - everything. Then, at the start of the week (or the end of the one before) I'd make a note of all the things I wanted to tackle through the week and roughly plan out on my weekly sheets when I might get things done. I only let myself have three boxes a day so I didn't go nuts and create a jam-packed schedule that left no room to eat or brush my teeth. My monthly calendar was useful to see further out, count back weeks to work out when I need to get things started and have a more visual idea of how much time I had for things.

But, in about August last year I found myself falling into the trap of wanting to pretty up my system and consolidate everything into one place. For a while I resisted changing what was working. I saw the very fabulous looking Get To Work Book hit the shelves and didn't get one. I started hunting around for new planners, lusted after gorgeous leather notebooks, handmade notebooks and notebooks that claimed to transform the way you worked.

Eventually, I couldn't resist any more and after convincing myself that Truly Myrtle needed a planning makeover, bought myself a 2016 Get To Work Book and had it shipped to me at no small expense.




The book itself is sturdy, not terribly attractive but the quality is really great. I love that the pages are thick, I do love the ring binding although being a left hander this drives me completely nuts too because my hand drags all over the binding and I can't write on the right side while it's flat open. It's been really well thought out, the monthly review pages are useful, the column at the start of the week for three action items is useful and I love that it starts the week with Monday and the days are laid out vertically across the page. But, I'm really struggling with it.

At first, I had blank notebook phobia. It took a whole heap of nerve to start writing in it. (Silly isn't it? I have rather a collection of blank notebooks that I can't quite bring myself to write in yet ...) Once I started it was fine. I'm not a terribly tidy planner, I don't embellish my books or use stickers and washi tape to make things pretty. I use them like a workhorse and scribble and write and cross things out.  I do have pen preferences though - I like ball points or ink nibs. Nothing that smudges too badly (again, that left-handed thing).

My main frustrations are with the size - it's just feeling too small. Now, this is completely strange because it's larger than the A4 weekly spread that I was using before. But I'm wondering if it's because I'm aiming to do all my note taking, idea jotting and brainstorming in there too? Even though there are pages included for brainstorming and lists, there really isn't room for all of the things I want to write down.

I'm also finding it a bit cumbersome to find particular pages I'm after. I use the monthly calendar a lot to see where I am and how long I've got for things and although those are easy to find because they have tabs on the edges, I can't keep my weekly spread and my monthly calendar open at the same time and for some reason that's bugging me.

I'm kinda longing for my old familiar system again. Maybe it's still early days and I'm not so good with change?



Also, I've been feeling a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) on the whole bullet journal thing. I used my black moleskine a bit like a bullet journal last year. And hearing/seeing a whole bunch of people talking about bullet journals (including Joeli & Boho Berry) I'm itching to do that again.

I've also tried a couple of new things:

  • Yellow legal pads for jotting down ideas that won't fit into my planner - I got the idea from Abbey and they are really great. Cheap, easy to find and not at all precious so no worries about making a mess.
  • Evernote. I'm completely on the fence about this one. I was sceptical about how me and an online system would work and I'm still unsure. I'm using it for keeping notes about my newsletter ideas, plans for pattern releases and podcast interviews. It's pretty clever, I can use it on my computer and my phone and while I'm sure I'm not using it effectively, I actually have no desire to figure out how I should. I totally forget things are written in it. Maybe digital isn't for me?
  • A simple school squared maths book. For keeping notes about what patterns I'm working on, have planned and when I might get them done. I think this might be one too many notebooks now ...

Now I've written all this down, I'm actually laughing to myself. I wanted to change my system mostly because I wanted to consolidate my calendar, moleskine and weekly spread into one planner. Look how many books/programmes and bits of paper I'm using now?

I think I need to go back to the drawing board.

What do you do? Do you have a fabulous system for organising your projects and planning? I'd absolutely love to hear about it.









Truly Myrtle Podcast - Episode 18 : With Deb from Outlaw Yarn!




Hey everyone! Welcome to the very first podcast of 2016!

I had a ball chatting with Deb from Outlaw yarn about starting a yarn range, finding inspiration, possums and exciting things afoot for Outlaw. Enjoy!


How To Block A Crescent Shawl



Am I the only one obsessed with twirly ends on a well blocked crescent shawl? I discovered them last year after playing around with a lot of blocking and have fallen head over heels.

I see a lot of photos of shawls stretched out for blocking. Lots of you send them to me (thank you!), I spot them on Ravelry and there are plenty on Instagram too. I must confess to often wanting to reach into the photo and do a little rearranging so your shawl blocks out even better. A well blocked shawl is usually bigger, smoother, shows off the lace more clearly, drapes beautifully and is easier to wear.

Triangular shawls are fairly easy to block. The shape is obvious - the top edge lies straight and the body pulls outwards and down to a neat central point.

It's crescent shawls that seem to cause most of the confusion. Crescent shawls that start at the top centre with a couple of stitches look as if they want to sit with a lump in the centre of the top edge. It's difficult to see that in fact that lump can be curved right around so that the top edge ends up a neat "smile" shape with the ends of the shawl swooping up and sometimes nearly touching at the top.

I find wires are super helpful to get good smooth edges on shawls, no matter what the shape. And T pins are fantastic too. I know that you can substitute regular sewing pins but I think the T pins are a great investment if you're planning on knitting a few shawls. They're strong and will hold your shawl exactly where you want it.

I made a couple of tutorials last year to show you how I block shawls and I've included links to them below. If you're keen on twirly ends and shawls that drape beautifully, do take a look!




p.s. If I take a while to respond to your comments this week, don't panic. This post will be published when I'm on holiday. I thought it would be nice to keep the blog posts coming even while I'm not at my desk. We'll be back to normal in February :)


Designing - On The Needles Or On Paper?



I don't know what I thought designers did before I decided to try being one. In fact, I'm not sure I really know now. I mean, I think there must be as many ways to design a knitting pattern as there are designers. I certainly hear people talking about completely different methods of getting a design from their heads onto the paper.

Some designers talk about "designing on the needles". They try stitches as they go, experiment with shaping, construction and colour combinations and rip back over and over until they get what they're looking for. And then they write it down. Well, then they try to. The most common thing I hear from designers is that when they're designing "on the needles" they invariably make scribbled notes, later forgetting what on earth they've written and not remembering what they've done they have to reverse engineer their design to make sense of the illegible writing (or no writing at all) and numbers (or none at all). "Must make better notes" seems to be a common resolution. It seems fairly universal that we fail to remember specifics of what we've knitted once we've finished, no matter how obvious and easy it seems to us at the time.

Another type of designer plans, swatches and meticulously practices various parts of their design in advance. Writes the pattern and then picks up needles to knit the sample. And "boom" life is easy and they're done. I like that type of designer. I rather long to be that type of designer. Unfortunately, I fear I fall smack between the two types of designers I describe.

I start well, swatch, practice, knit ideas and try things out. Then, I sit down and write the bare bones of a pattern. Often I make charts and knit from those, adding the written instructions later. But, usually, a wee way into my knitting, when I start to see things coming together, I change my mind. I start designing "on the needles". And, it's slippery slope from there into the chaos of scanty notes.

It's easy to get caught up in the ideas and the yarn and the needles and totally forget to write it down. Or, almost worse, make tiny amendments to the existing pattern in front of me, in pencil that is barely legible and smudges easily. And, then make another note - draw an arrow to a blank space on the page and draw a big star in a circle (because that will surely mean I absolutely know that this is the right bit) and scribble something else. Sometimes, I forget completely to cross out the first (now wrong) amendment. Other times I change my mind yet again and with a quick p.t.o. turn the page and write something else that doesn't quite match up with what I had before ... and then the kids run in ... 

My efforts with my computer haven't been that much better. Sometimes I change my mind and decide that actually, what I had first was better. So I want to revert to the original but oh dear, I have rewritten and already saved the new version ...

One of my goals this year is to "make better notes." Hahaha ....

p.s. If it takes me a little while to respond to your comments don't panic. This post will reach you after I've headed off on holiday ... I thought it would be nice to keep my blog posts ticking along so I've written a couple of posts in advance. I'll be back soon!

Needles I Love


I first learnt about circular needles in 2010 at the yarn festival that changed my life. 

I was too nervous to ask anyone knitting with them what they were or where they got them and I was too swept away with all the beautiful yarn and wonderful designers to think of trying to buy some but afterwards my friend told me she had circular interchangeable needles and explained what they were all about. Of course, I needed to try them, immediately.




KNITPRO

My first set of circular needles were an interchangeable set from KnitPro. I went all in and bought a Deluxe set of rosewood wooden tips which included 3.5mm (US 4) through to 8mm (US 11) tips, and a range of cables. The wood appealed to me after a lifetime of metal and plastic needles and for a while I thought I was converted to wooden needles forever.

I loved my KnitPro's - they were such a pleasure to use. There was a little adjustment period while I got used to them but I quickly found I was able to knit so much faster! I'm not sure if I  actually used my long straight needles again? I certainly can't imagine using them now.

So, for a few years I thought I my KnitPro's were simply the best. And, they are pretty jolly good. I still enjoy them. Of course I've broken some of the smaller ones, either by sitting on them or knitting very vigorously ...  I've heard other people complain about them unscrewing or yarn getting caught between the needle tip and the cable and I've never had those problems with my wooden ones. I tighten them up firmly with their little T-pin and don't tend to come loose. I did try some metal tips later on and found that they were harder to tighten - they're a bit slippery. Perhaps some rubber gloves would do the trick? lol!

Eventually, I started to notice whispers about "other" needles ... and I found it increasingly difficult to resist getting some more.

I haven't actually been able to bring myself to buy another whole set of needles -  yet. I can't quite justify it given I already have so many. But I have bought individual needles here and  there to see which ones might be in the running for a big needle splurge some day.

ADDI

To be fair, I've only tried a couple of Addi needles - some fixed lace needles - the brass coloured ones with the red cable and some larger fixed metal ones with a gold cable. But I don't like them. The needle tips on the lace needles are fine, they're good and pointy in comparison to the rounded KnitPro tips but I'm not keen on how they darken when used and they smell so brassy to me, it's off-putting. The one thing that really drives me bonkers about Addi's are the cables. They are so kinky! My silver needles are almost unusable. Ok, so that might be a bit dramatic, they're just not good to use because the cable is so bent. Overall, they're super springy and want to leap back into loops. It drives me mad.

So, I'm not an Addi fan. I tried.




HIYA HIYA

I got two sets of fixed Hiya Hiya needles with metal tips after finding my KnitPro needles too rounded when knitting lace. I was on the hunt for pointy tips and found someone near me selling Hiya Hiya needles so I thought I'd give them a go. I love them.

Firstly (and rather ridiculously), they're so pretty. I love the silver needle and the pale blue cable. It looks so fresh and happy. They have a longer point at the tip than the Addi's and they slip into stitches so easily. While the cable is pretty good and doesn't zing back into a spiral my one gripe about them is that the cable has bent to a 90 degree angle where it joins the tip. I'm pretty sure that they didn't come that way and my quick scan of pictures on the internet didn't show any that looked bent so I can only assume that they've bent over time. It's not awful to knit with but it makes me wonder if one day I might end up with a needle in one hand and a bunch of stitches still on the cable in my lap.

CHIAOGOO

They are as gorgeous as they say. Truly.

Because they're so crazy expensive and I've only recently been able to buy them here in New Zealand, I only have three sets of Chiaogoo interchangeable metal tips and two cables. If I make that big splurge someday (and oh my goodness it would surely be $BIG!) it'd be for a set of Chiaogoo needles. I think they're that delicious to knit with.

Before I had the Chiaogoo's I wondered why people obsessed over pointy tips. It seemed almost sadistic and I wasn't sure I wanted to wield dangerously sharp needles as a form of relaxation? It seemed a bit over the top. But then I started knitting more lace patterns and found my wooden tips just didn't cut it. I needed to knit yarnovers, decreases and increases at a similar speed to my regular knitting and became a little cross with rounded tips that didn't find holes or stitch bars quickly and easily. I started to see the appeal of pointed tips, especially slippery metal pointed tips. Once I tried them, I was completely converted.

The Chiaogoo tip is the longest yet and it's fabulously pointy. At first I poked holes in my right index finger because I have a rather annoying habit of pushing my needle back with that finger after completing a stitch. I try hard not to do it but my pesky finger is desperate to leap to attention and push back. These days, I either manage to not push more often than I push, or  I've developed hardened skin on the end of my finger - whatever, I rarely have that problem unless I'm crazy knitting all day long.

The other thing I adore about the Chiaogoo's are the cables. The red cable looks reinforced, does not kink one little bit and has a spectacular texture to it that makes it seem sturdy and reliable. The joins are seamless and I never have a problem with stitches catching or getting stuck where the tip joins the cable.

I've heard people complain about the noise the Chiaogoo needles make. At first I didn't notice any noise but after listening for it I see what they must be talking about. It's a gentle "swish-swish" as the needles run over each other. Other needles make a noise too but I think the burnished finish on the Chiaogoo's make it slightly louder. I have to say, I actually enjoy the swish. It's pretty rhythmic and reminds me of background wave noise when you're staying near the beach.


So there you have it, my ideas on needles. I'm rather hoping we'll have a "Great Knitting Needle Debate now. I'd love to hear what you think. Do you have favourites? What should I try next? I'm all ears :)