Taking notes while you are preparing fiber and spinning for a project should be part of the process if you want to see how much a fleece yields, duplicate a yarn, or estimate the yardage for a piece. Eventually you can decide which details are important. At first, though, it is a good idea to record as much as possible.
Beginner spinners often ask how much fiber is needed for a particular garment. You can use millspun yarns and patterns to make an estimate, but the way you prepare and spin your fibers more aptly determines that amount. For example, if you normally spin worsted yarns, you may need twice as much fiber as someone who makes the same garment with a woolen yarn. If you knit, crochet, or weave firmly, you will also need more yarn. Some wools yield more than others once washed, so record keeping will help you remember what types of wool have high or low yields. By keeping good records for each project, you will soon have an idea of what you need. You will also know what your usual spinning habits are and can note something done differently rather than recording the same information on every project.
When beginning a project, it is also a good idea to have a written list of the information you should note. You can generate a template with all the important details on the computer and print out record sheets or just record everything in a computer file.
Whenever I start a project, I note some basic information so I can duplicate the yarn later if necessary. I recommend that beginning spinners note:
- Where and when you purchased the fiber, cost of the fiber plus postage/tax
- How much the fleece/fiber weighed
- Wheel or spindle spun on and at what ratio for singles and ply
- Yardage for each skein and total yardage
- The project yarn was used for, knitting details such as needle sizes, and how many yards used
To begin with, I purchased a spinning record notebook, recorded information, added fleece and yarn samples, and filled it up. After that, I recorded the information listed above in a spiral notebook which I still have. Now I keep the details with each fleece, bag of yarn, or finished project as appropriate.
I recommend that you use accurate measuring tools. For instance, my stretchy Corriedale sock yarn measured 550 yards on a niddy-noddy, but the yarn meter (a tool that measures yardage as you wind a skein or ball of yarn) showed it was actually 516 yards—enough to make a difference for a project.
Sometimes I sit down at my wheel and just want to play, with no predetermined outcome in mind, just freely spinning away. However, other times, I visualize a yarn and want to be able to re-create it or to remember how spinning that new and different kind of fiber felt. Taking notes and keeping records is an important part of tracking my spinning projects as well as helping me gauge my progress as a spinner.
Office supply and hardware stores have lots of useful options for helping me keep track of my stash, yarns and projects. I use three-ring binders with plastic sheet protectors and notebooks for samples and notes. Skeins can be labeled prior to washing by using waterproof colored pens to write on plastic tags. Plastic bags of all sizes are useful for keeping samples of dirty fleece from contaminating the clean wool or for keeping the different parts of a project grouped together. String tags are great for labeling finished skeins and projects with useful information. Photographs and computer files are another way I stay organized and keep records of my projects. This is very helpful when it comes to remembering what is in my stash. Also, I keep a computer file of educational spinning videos and eBooks that I’ve purchased.
As a newer spinner, I have been fortunate to take classes at my local wool festival, at fiber shops, and at Spin Off Autumn Retreat (SOAR). I find dedicating a notebook specifically to class notes helps me stay organized and able to find information and useful tips from my instructors. Using a self-adhesive tab for each class makes it easy to turn to each class’s note section quickly. I’ve also picked up record-keeping tips from the classes themselves since each instructor has different methods of organizing class samples. Anne Field gave out embroidery floss cards to use for counting wraps per inch and to wind small samples onto. Judith MacKenzie and Robin Russo provided cardstock with holes punched into it for small amounts of sample yarns or fibers from different breeds. There is always plenty of room on the cardstock to jot down notes about wheel setup and ratio and to adhere labels or breeder business cards.
I also believe it is important to journal and keep ideas and questions to explore in a special place. I like to sketch future project ideas and describe their qualities. I find that some of these ideas may never manifest into a finished object, but when I am stuck for an idea, looking through the journal helps get my creative energy flowing. I always carry a small journal with me because I never know when I will be inspired. My phone camera is also useful for recording sudden bursts of inspiration, interesting color combinations, and unusual textures.