Book Review: Dueling Diaries


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  Knitting Journal
By Char Loving
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Knit: A Personal Handbook
By Melanie Falick
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I've kept journals on and off since I was nine years old. Yet every time I've tried to start a journal about a specific activity (say, knitting), it inevitably ends up on the Shelf of Half-Empty Notebooks. Is my own lack of discipline to blame, or do I just need a little help from the journal itself?

Allow me to present two journals specifically marketed to knitters. The first was published several years ago, the second recently. Both journals share the same focus (knitting) and the same binding (concealed spiral behind a hard cover). But otherwise, they are dramatically different.

Char Loving's Knitting Journal
Unless you're an innately organized person, chances are you don't have a single reference for all the knitting projects you've done over the years. You may have written notes in the margin of the pattern, or even tucked them in the bindings of your favorite reference book for safekeeping, but that's about it. Imagine having one thick, dog-eared book in which every project is documented.

That's exactly what Char Loving set out to do in her Knitting Journal, published in 2003. The inside is unadorned black and white printing on thick matte vellum paper, perhaps not attractive for browsing but favorable conditions for writing.

Fill in the Blanks
The journal has 28 pages of pre-printed project sheets, one page per project. The project sheet has a field for the project start date, completion date, project name, intended recipient, pattern source, garment size, gauge, needle size, yarn information, and random notes. Depending on how prolific a knitter you are, the book could last you six months or a lifetime.

There are four more pages for photos, two pages for notes, and then an end page with a front and back pocket, an extremely basic needle inventory, a ruler, and a metric conversion chart.

In many ways, Char Loving's journal is more like a baby book than a journal journal. Follow the prompts on each page and presto, instant overview of your knitting life.

Shortcomings
For me, the most lacking element in this journal is space. My projects often take months to complete, and much can happen in life during that time.

Were I to keep notes on a project, I'd inevitably want to write not just about gauge and fiber content but about what was going on in my life while I was working on it. And two lines of space is simply not enough.

The needle inventory in the back lets you keep track of straight, circular, and double-pointed needles in sizes ranging from US 0 to 17, but it doesn't provide room for specific needle lengths in each size (circulars alone have 12 or more cord length options).

For me, I often have many, many projects going at once. This means that even if I do already have a pair of size 2 DPNs, they may be occupied with a project. So a needle inventory sheet is of limited or no value to me.

Noteworthy Features
On a positive note, I do appreciate the amount of room provided for labels and samples of all the yarns used in the project—something we often overlook until six years later when the garment is returned for repair and we can't recall which yarn we used.

The pre-cut slots for photos are also welcome. The journal pages alternate between horizontally and vertically oriented photograph slots, so just plan on taking several shots of your project in case you run out of one photo layout in the journal.

Melanie Falick's Knit: A Personal Handbook
Melanie Falick had a dramatically different vision for her journal. It has a smaller, far more portable format so you can make it your day-to-day knitterly companion, not just a place to record completed projects. The back-page binding holds an elastic band that you can use to keep the journal shut and all your inside tidbits intact.

Inside, you'll notice something else different: color! All four of the inside index pages were printed in full color on super-heavy, glossy paper that was folded such that each page is also a small pocket.

Under the Covers
The guts of the journal fall roughly into three sections: preprinted lists for you to fill out (including 16 spaces each for favorite yarn sources and favorite patterns), thick vellum paper with grids on one side and blank on the other for random jottings (I counted 57 sheets), and valuable lists of standard information knitters can always use, including yarn requirements, body measurements, and yarn weights. You also have the requisite needle inventory list, although with far more detail than Loving's journal. And there's even a pattern for a quick rolled-brim hat in case of a knitterly emergency.

The journal has so many varied items inside that it's the notebook equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. In the front, there's a small plastic pocket with a Ziploc-type closure. As mentioned above, the index pages all serve as miniature pockets. And in the back Falick added a knitting needle gauge (with holes cut in thick glossy paper stock) and a ruler for checking your gauge.

The fact that you get all these goodies for under $16 is a testament to the cost benefits of printing in China, which is where this book was created.

Short Life
Were there any drawbacks to Falick's journal? Only one of personal preference.

I like journals with lots of blank paper. For me, the more paper inside a journal, the greater creative freedom I have, and the longer the journal can accompany me in life.

In the case of Falick's journal, what happens when I use up those 57 sheets? Although the lists and notes are nice, the journal has otherwise ceased to be useful.

Are They Really Dueling?
In many ways these journals work well together. You can carry Falick's beautiful journal around with you to chart and track your journey, and when you're finished, proudly report the results in Loving's book.

Do you need either of these journals? Probably not. A nice blank journal with room for you to tuck extra slips of paper (favorite patterns and references of your own) will probably do just fine.

But if you like treating yourself to fun extras, both of these are lovely candidates.

With its beautiful colors, more contemporary look, and array of extras, I see Falick's journal as the most appropriate gift for the new knitter seeking a place to document his or her journey... even if it does end up on the Shelf of Half-Empty Notebooks!



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