Show Notes · Stuff You Should Know

Episode 10: Setting Yourself Up for Success

What do you need to do before you start working on your latest project? Today we’re talking about best practices to keep your crafts tidy, and are mainly focusing on knitting, crochet, and spinning.

The best way you can start any project is by picking a good pattern. Look for something well-written, easy to follow, and that produces the desired results. In the same way that you don’t want to fight against your tools and materials, it’s best to use a pattern that you won’t have to spend a large amount of time interpreting – or even rewriting. If you’re using Ravelry to look at patterns, you can look at the comments and completed projects to see if anyone had issues creating the item. Keep in mind that comments left on the pattern can be deleted by the designer, if they don’t like what the comment says. The pattern page also links to any forum posts where the pattern has been hyperlinked, which you can look at to see if there were any questions about the pattern.

If you’re working from a book or magazine, be sure to check with the publisher for any errata. You can usually find links to errata on the Ravelry pattern page, or on the publisher’s website. If you’re purchasing a PDF copy, be sure that you download the latest copy of the pattern.

Once you have your pattern, READ IT! If you’re working from a book or magazine, it’s a good idea to make a photocopy so that you can make notes on the pattern, or print your PDF. Highlight or circle all of your size numbers so that you don’t get them mixed up, and be sure to take note of instructions that happen “at the same time” or similar notation. [Note: I forgot to mention this in the podcast, but now is a good time to compare the measurements in the pattern to YOUR measurements, and write down where you’d like to make adjustments].

Make sure that you know what all of the symbols and abbreviations mean, and how to work those stitches. If you need to practice, you can incorporate that into your swatching. If there’s a colorwork chart and you don’t have a color printer, it’s a good idea to color in the boxes with markers or colored pencils.

Your swatch is a great place to practice! Yes, it makes sure that you have the correct number of stitches to the inch, but you can also use the swatch to practice new techniques, make sure that you like the way your cast on and bind off look, and see if you need to adjust anywhere.

Make sure that you have everything that you need to complete the project before you start. If you need to go yarn shopping, be sure to take your pattern with you, and know what size you’re making. The pattern should give an indication of how much yarn you’re going to need. If you’re going to use a different yarn than what the pattern calls for, I recommend looking for the recommended yarn on to make sure that you use something with similar properties as what the designer used. Sarah and I both tend to buy an extra skein of yarn for most projects. If budgets are tight, you can try to return an unused skein (it will usually need to be in the same condition that you bought it – i.e., not caked or knit with), or destash it on Ravelry.

Buy needles, hooks, stitch markers, buttons, and whatever else you need, as needed. I like to keep everything together in the project bag, so that I’m sure to have the buttons with me when I’m ready to sew them on. Be sure to factor needles, notions, and anything else that you might need into your budget for the project.

Swatch! Seriously, it helps so much! You want to know how your fabric is going to behave, what’s going to change when you wash it, and if anything funky is going on. [Note: Sarah would like me to mention that she does, in fact, know how to do math, and that 7×8=56, not 58]

Use some tools to help you keep your place in the pattern. We like to use check marks, tally marks, and cross things out as we use them. GoodReader is an excellent PDF reader that allows you to take notes, highlight texts, and do many other things. KnitCompanion is specifically designed for reading knitting patterns and has some excellent features for keeping your place. You can be as high tech or low tech as you want!

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