Productivity hacks

I was out for a walk today when it occurred to me to write about how I’m getting some things done lately. I really have no idea what I was thinking about right before that idea.

Earlier this year I needed to add to my home office, a whole lot of stuff from the office of my part-time job. This is no doubt familiar to many of you. When I’m not making stuff out of yarn I’m a bookkeeper. So I moved equipment, paper files, hanging files cart, more paper and supplies into a corner of my fiber studio. I didn’t have the furniture to replicate my office and as I started getting into the rhythm of doing that work from home I realized that I relied an awful lot on visual prompts. The pile of invoices was a filing prompt. The pile of statements was a check printing prompt. And so on.

But I also didn’t want all that stuff out and in view, taking up space, when I wasn’t doing that job. I’ve figured out a system for stacking things in a small space that keeps them in order and still lets me see what work needs to be done.

Meanwhile, I’m managing production queues for hand knitting commissions, sock cranking, and weaving, along with a deep personal knitting queue.

When, you might wonder will she mention hacks? The key for me was realizing that I manage my work with visual cues. I’m a long time list-maker. If there’s a problem to solve or a situation to manage I will always say “we need a list”. I’ve tried the bullet journal. I want to love it, but it isn’t my best solution. What I do make liberal use of is:

  • Sticky notes
  • Reminders app
  • Colored pens, markers, & pencils (not productive, just because they’re fun)

Here’s some visuals

These are above my laptop, a quick reminder of things I need or want to do.

It’s pretty low-tech. But it works. That big sheet of paper is the back side of a wall calendar..

I used to worry that I wouldn’t remember to do the work if I couldn’t see it, but that was a lot of yarn that had to be out in the open. Now, new projects get a sticky note. I can easily rearrange them if I want to prioritize the queue

If there’s a hard deadline, especially if it’s a recurring task, I’ll set up a reminder. The. I don’t have to worry that if the thing isn’t right in my path on the day I’ll forget to do it.

If I have really big projects they might get sketched out in my journal, I do use it somewhat, but you can bet there will be a sticky note somewhere pointing me back at the journal page 🙂

Sweater math

I’m knitting a sweater whose pattern calls for short sleeves but I want 3/4 length sleeves. I’ve knit the back and part of one front, so I have a good idea of my actual row gauge. It was time for some calculations.

First step was to sketch out the sleeve according to the pattern.

I filled in the stitch counts and general instructions. This helped me visualize the shape of the sleeve. I’m not changing the sleeve cap, just the part below the armhole bind off. The pattern has me cast on 81 stitches and increase to 93 stitches at the widest point. I know that the width of the sleeve at my upper arm will be far too wide for just above my wrist so the next step is to figure out how many stitches I’ll want to cast on instead.

Using a very scientific method, I took the front panel and wrapped it’s bottom edge around my arm where I want my sleeve to end. I overlapped the edges to get the fit I wanted (slight positive ease) and pinched the overlap point. Then I counted how many stitches overlapped, subtracted that from the number I’d cast on and got an approximate stitch count for the cuff. The cuff edging wants an odd number of stitches so I adjusted my estimate accordingly.

Now I know my cast on, 43 stitches, and my widest part count, 93 stitches. Next I measured the sleeve of a favorite sweater to get my desired sleeve length.

That length is 16″. I subtracted 2″ to account for the cuff edging, where I won’t increase, and some straight knitting/fudge factor at the top in case my calculations or knitting are off.

Now to draw out my new sleeve.  I sketched the general shape and filled in the cast on stitch count, pre-armhole shaping stitch count and the length between those. Next step is to determine my increase rate.

I need to get from 43 stitches to 93 stitches in 14″.  That’s an increase of 50 stitches overall.  I’l increase one stitch at each edge so that means I need 25 increase rows in 14″. My row gauge is 9.5 rows/inch. 9.5 rows x 14″ = 133 rows which I’ll round to 134 so I’m always increasing on the same side of my work. If 134 were evenly divisible by 25 I’d be set but that comes out to 5.2 rows between decrease rows.

Rounding to an even number of rows greater and less than 5.2 I find that I’ll increase ever 4th row and every 6th row some number of times each. But how many of each?  I dug out some notes from a class on knitting math* I took years ago, plugged my numbers into that formula and found that I’ll increase 1 stitch each side every 4th row 8 times, then every 6th row 17 times.

The final step was to sketch in the placement of the lace motifs to make sure that they looked right on my new sleeve. If I’d ended up with a partial motif then I would have had to adjust the placement. Here’s the final sketch of the new sleeve.



Now all I have to do is knit!

* The class I took was Math for Knitters with Edie Eckman. You can find increase/decrease calculations as well as lots more knitting math in most knitting design books.

Holy Cow it’s September!

It’s Labor Day weekend and even though I have massive amounts of Heron Pond work to do, I’m taking it easy and working on a personal project. Here’s the back of my sweater, Daphne by Elsebeth Lavold, which I’m knitting in her silky wool. It’s a pattern that calls for short sleeves but I’m going to do 3/4 sleeves instead.

Daphne — sweater back

I’ve done the underarm shaping (bind off some stitches then decrease every other row for a bit) and now I’m knitting straight up to the shoulder.

Here’s a little tip I wish I knew when I was knitting my first sweaters.  The pattern will tell you to knit so many inches from the underarm bind off to reach the depth of the armhole. When you are knitting that first row where you bind off a number of stitches (7 in this case) place a removable stitch marker through a couple of stitches in that row PAST THE POINT where you will finish decreasing (see below). When it comes time to measure the armhole depth it is easy to place your sweater on a flat surface and measure straight up your knitting from your stitch marker.

Measuring accurately

You should have seen the contortions I went through trying to do this measurement into thin air (below.) I used rulers to try to extend out my lines, I eyeballed the row of stitches that represented the bind off row and guessed.  What I didn’t do is go out and buy this sewing table which would have helped a lot. Can you believe it?  As I’m typing this explanation I’m looking at my picture and realizing how useful the table’s grid would be.

A less accurate method

On the other hand, if you are a knitter like me, a “flat surface” is more likely to be the couch cushion next to you, or the coffee table with lots of stuff pushed aside to make room. I’m hardly ever going to get up and go to another room when I want a quick measurement.

So, one more day for some personal knitting then back into the fray.  I have lots of events coming up.  Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival is October 3&4. I’m at the Norwich Farmers Market on September 19 and October 17. The DCLSA Craft Fair at Dartmouth College is the Friday before Thanksgiving. Hope to see you at one or more or online if you aren’t local.

%d bloggers like this: