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 🙂

Avoiding burnout

Scarf production has been in full swing for a few weeks now. I’m weaving for a new show (for me), Craft Vermont, which is the weekend before Thanksgiving. I have just a few patterns that I weave regularly, one being this huck.

Huck in hand-dyed alpaca silk

I switch up the materials between alpaca silk and tencel. I shift from variegated (as above) to solids with funky accents.

Orchid tencel with fringed accent yarn

But underneath it all, it’s the exact same weaving pattern. I have the counts memorized. I know how many threads to wind for the warp. I can practically thread the heddles in my sleep. And my feet know how to treadle the pattern repeat.

And suddenly I was bored. No color or texture change was enough. I avoided eye contact with the loom. It holds a warp for 3 scarves in the huck pattern. I wasn’t going to throw away the materials, so I started bargaining with myself.

Just weave those three scarves. They’ll go quickly and then you can do something else. I’ve got two of the three done and it is true that the third will go quickly. Meantime I’ve gotten out the Merino/Tencel yarns and I’m planning the next scarves.

The yarn is soft and yummy with a slight sheen from the tencel. I’ll use it to weave some heftier warm scarves using a Pebble Twill pattern that I really like. Here’s an in-progress shot of one I did a while ago.

Lilac on black pebble twill Merino Tencel scarf

I still work towards my inventory building goal, but I get a change of scenery in the process. I’m looking forward to watching the subtle patterns emerge.

Mark your calendar to visit Craft Vermont at the Sheraton Burlington, VT November 18-20. Or shop online where the store is always open.

They call it work for a reason

I love what I do. But I don’t always love what I do, if you know what I mean. It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting on the couch drinking coffee, pondering this week’s blog post and knitting a scarf for a client. I don’t knit a lot of scarves for myself, mainly because they’re usually pretty boring to knit. I have one lace scarf that I knit, really pretty yarn in shades of light pinks and purples and a memorizable pattern. I think it took me 4 years to knit that scarf. Mainly because I made it vacation knitting and only worked on it on trips. I’m pretty sure that scarf went to Mexico and Turks & Caicos as well as many locations stateside. Even spreading out the knitting like that I couldn’t wait for that scarf to be done.

But I can’t really use that method with projects for clients. It’s a beautiful scarf, the yarn is lovely and once I got the hang of the pattern (same thing every right side row, wrong side is slip 1, purl back) I just had in front of me hours of knitting. The deadline is still a ways out, but if I let that drive my priorities then that scarf will sit, unfinished, for far too long. And I’ll feel guilty if I work on anything else.

Trellis lace scarf in progress
Trellis lace scarf in progress

Well, I did swatch for the next commission, and start knitting some hats but those detours don’t really count. I won’t start the sweater until the scarf is done, I just needed to know if I have to buy needles, so I can jump right into it. And the hats take a different mindset. Really easy stockinette in the round so I can work on those when I’m too tired for the lace pattern.

I just finished getting the next dish towel warp on the loom. 8 yards, about 20″ wide on the loom, 483 ends to thread, in brown cotton. Yep, 483 strands of brown, excuse me, Dark Cocoa, cotton yarn. What on earth was I THINKING? Well, I know what I was thinking. I was looking at the shelves of cones of cotton yarn and thinking what the heck am I going to do with over 1000 grams of brown cotton? I guess I should try to make it into dish towels so I can stop looking at it. It really seemed like a good idea at the time. (And no, I didn’t buy the yarn, it was free. You know how that works.) The plan is waffle weave, so I can use up more of the brown in the weft. But the threading will work for twill as well so I can see changing the tie-up and adding some color in there for some of the towels.

World's most boring towel warp?
World’s most boring towel warp?

While I’m weaving I’ll be working out the marketing plan for brown towels. Mud room? Kid’s bathroom? Through-hiker?

Suggestions, for that or for more interesting blog topics are welcome, just leave a comment!


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