There comes a time in every knitter's life when she deviates from a published pattern or makes her own pattern up outright. When this happens, you're going to want a place to keep notes, sketches, swatches, measurements and other information should you ever want to recreate the project or share your idea with someone else.
Knitters have found lots of different ways to organize their thoughts and project notes, from random pieces of paper to online networks and blogs. Different ways of organization can be successful for different people, but the key is to have some kind of mechanism for keeping track of what's going on with your knitting. Here are some of your options.
The Knitting Journal
Probably the most basic method of keeping track of project notes and patterns is to have a basic knitting journal. This can be a spiral notebook, loose pages kept in a three-ring binder, or a blank unlined book with plenty of room for sketching.
Pros: Starting this kind of journal is inexpensive. It's very portable, easy to use, and can contain as much or as little information as you need.
Cons: It is difficult to include swatches in a bound book, and if you have a journal with lines it may impede your ability to sketch designs.
A slightly more formal and organized version of the knitting journal can be called a knitting scrapbook. This will include not only your notes for a project but also the yarn ball band, a swatch of the yarn or a piece of leftover yarn, maybe even a picture of the finished project.
A great way to do a knitting scrapbook is to write your notes on a plain piece of paper, attach any three-dimensional pieces and slide the whole thing in a plastic page protector. Or use an actual scrapbook.
Pros: This is the best looking, most well organized way to go about collecting your knitting notes. You can feel good about showing it to other knitters and you'll always know exactly where any information you need is.
Cons: This setup will cost you more in materials and time than using a plain notebook. You also have to be pretty well-organized to keep all your stuff together and to regularly update your scrapbook when needed.
A "swatch book" can be used in collaboration with a project book, or it can just be a way to keep track of swatches you have made for projects or of different pattern stitches.
To make your own swatch book, buy a bunch of sandwich sized (or larger, depending on the size of your swatches) zip-top bags. Put one swatch in each bag, and include an index card in each bag that explains what yarn was used, what size needles, how many stitches, what the stitch pattern was, or whatever other information you think is relevant.
Store the bags of swatches in a plastic storage box, or use a large metal ring to hook the bags together. Then you'll always have inspiration at your fingertips.
Pros: Easy to use, inexpensive materials, can build on easily, good for visual and tactile people.
Cons: Not very portable, you need to be pretty organized to keep your swatches all in one place, an index card might not provide enough room to write the pattern information, but can be used in conjunction with a journal or electronic record keeping.
Knitting Blog or Online Journal
It seems like just about everyone has some kind of blog or online knitting journal. It's a lot of fun to see what other people are working on, and keeping up with your blog can be a good way to keep track of the changes you made to projects or to share your original patterns with others.
You can even have a private blog or journal if you don't want to share all of this information with the world, but having people read about and comment on your designs is a big part of the fun.
Pros: Electronic storage is easy to search, and you can include photos, notes and other information that becomes almost impossible to lose. Setting up a blog can be free, and if you've already got a digital camera you're ready to go.
Cons: Computers aren't always portable. You have to remember to update when you make a new project, and to make a copy of your blog or journal should you ever decide to change providers or stop blogging.
The newest way for knitters to keep track of their projects, their stash, their needles and what other people are doing out in the wide world of knitting is Ravelry, a social networking site for the fiber friendly.
The site lets you post information on the patterns you are knitting, the yarn you're using or stashing, your knitting needle inventory and more. Plus you can find out who else is knitting similar projects, join groups of like-minded knitters, and revel in the community. It's great for whiling away the hours while listening to knitting podcasts.
Pros: A fun community with lots of great tools for knitters and crocheters to keep records for themselves and share with others. It's free to use and completely addicting.
Cons: As of this writing, Ravelry is still in beta and a limited number of people are being invited to join. Waiting for your invite is murder. And when you get it, you may never get around to posting your own stuff because you're too busy seeing what everyone else is doing.