my journal and me

Do you use a bullet journal? I do – somewhat obsessively. I am not in the least ‘organised’ (in the way that word is generally understood anyway), and have never used a journal for organisational purposes (that role is fulfilled by the scrap of paper beside my desk that is repeatedly scrawled on, discarded, and replaced). Rather, I use my journal to record design ideas, keep records of my knitting projects, and jot down thoughts which might eventually turn into a book or essay. Over the past few years I have developed an affinity (verging on infatuation) with a particular type of beautifully-produced threadbound journal with a lightly dotted 5mm grid, made by the wonderful German company Leuchtturm (the name means “lighthouse”).

Now, there are many things to read about journaling, and I have read a lot. But I’ve not found all that much I’ve read about the “art of journaling” to be particularly relevant to me (the world’s least tidy and organised person) or to the particular way I use my journal, as the writer, designer and knitter that I am.

I am not a maker of lists, or a tracker of habits. I cannot draw. I am not, nor have ever been remotely ‘neat’. My handwriting is an unholy scrawl. The idea of having a beautiful hand is deliciously, deeply appealing to me (not least because I know what it is like to read ‘bad’ eighteenth-century handwriting). A while ago, I thought I might have a go at calligraphy, but gave up after a couple of days. Developing nice lettering hadn’t happened when I was six or seven and it wasn’t going to happen now. So my handwriting remains tricky for others to decipher . . . but what does that matter if I can read it? Because my journal is a space just for me.

The pages of my journal are not ‘precious’. They are not works of art, nor are they meant to be (although I very much enjoy the process of decorating them with coloured pencils, tape and stickers). Rather, they are places where the things I make begin to happen. These pages are the starting points of my creative process.

I have a lot of ideas and I need somewhere to keep them. I need to explore my ideas, watch how they develop, trace their progress, and tick them off, when a project is eventually completed.

You can see from my shonky sketches of the garment that became St Catherines that I am in no sense an artist. Who cares? I knew just what I was on about when I began to start my knitting, and the design ended up pretty much how I described and drew it in my journal.

I can’t draw – as I said – so unless a design is shaped unusually (like St Catherines) I use Fashionary panels for recording design ideas. These perforated sheets have a faint outline of a figure, upon which I sketch an outfit. When I have produced something which pleases me, I tear off the panel, enjoy sticking it into my journal with some jolly washi tape, and then write some notes about it. My way of working is to generally think of a finished look before I begin.

Sometimes the finished look is not how things turn out. Here’s my journal page for Doocot, which I’d pictured styling with a pair of crazy green cord crops. . . but found when I finished the sweater that it actually looked much better layered over dresses . . . which is how I styled it, in the end.

That said, sometimes my initial drawing looks exactly like how the garment ends up being worn. Like Pabaigh, for example. Here’s the sketch in my journal:

And here’s how I wore the garment all last summer.

I love the lightly dotted grid for many reasons. You can scrawl over a page happily without the dots intruding, but they also allow you to divide the page in many ways – into sections, lined areas, or squares. The squares are particularly useful for a knitter. I often spend a happy meditative hour or two with my journal, drawing and colouring a chart. Here are the charts that became this year’s North Star snood design . . .

You’ll find lots of stencilled lettering in my journal, for which I confess I have a deep fondness. Stencilled letters are so bold! So quick! So shouty! And there’s no need to force one’s hand to neatness when the stencil does it for you.

I keep a handy alphabet stencil in the expandable pocket at the back of my journal, together with a few other fun bits and bobs (these big dotted stickers with splashes and washes of colour are a current favourite)

I was particularly happy when I found a wee yarn-ball stencil, which I immediately put to use creating a pleasing “shade card” record of every coloured pencil in my set. So satisfying!

There really is only one type of journal for me – Leuchtturm – and towards the beginning of this year I wondered if we might be able to work with this company, to produce our own. Tom approached Leuchtturm and spoke to them about what we needed; I created a chart (which I’ve been using in several contexts) and asked Tom to use it to make a logo.

Tom then worked carefully with Leuchtturm to produce our journal, to our exact specifications. They are a great company to collaborate with – quality really is at the heart of everything they do.

Drawing on my own experience as a knitter and designer, I wanted to make our Leuchtturm journal as useful as possible for others.

Our Leuchtturm journal features a lightly-rendered 5mm dot-grid layout (great for notes or charts), expandable back pocket (great for stencils or stickers), two different grosgrain ribbon page markers and a table of contents (both great for finding where you are), a sturdy elastic enclosure band (so you can stuff your journal chock full of ideas) . . .

And the whole thing is completed by the design that Tom and I created.

As well as being what’s embossed on our journal, Knitting Season is also the name of our new (forthcoming) club. Unlike our last two clubs (which have explored an area of Scotland through designs and words) this club is all about the idea of making, and exploring process and creativity (in a completely relaxed, unpressurised way).

My journal is integral to my own exploratory creative process – as the extraordinarily messy, completely disorganised, vaguely chaotic, ideas-led, and strangely productive person I happen to be. Everyone is different. There are no rules about how you knit, how you make and create, how you use (or do not use) a journal. (For a very different and very beautiful approach to journaling, see this post by my friend Felix). I think that sometimes knitters of all abilities can be pushed into a lack of confidence – or worse, stymied into inaction – by the pressure and expectation of doing the right thing. The key concept of the Knitting Season club is using your making, your knitting, to do your thing rather than what you might (erroneously) feel to be the right thing.

If you like the look of the journal, you’ll be able to buy it on its own, or bundled together with a subscription to the Knitting Season Club. I’ll say a little more about the club tomorrow, but you might like to know that both the journal and club subscriptions will go on sale at 5pm (GMT) this Friday (December 7th). Mark it in your diaries (or if you are me, on an untidy scrap of paper).

And if you’d like to know more about our beautiful Leuchtturm journal, here are a few useful specs.

Knitting Season Leuchtturm1917 Journal

*dot grid layout
*251 numbered pages
*Table of contents
*Expandable back pocket
*2 grosgrain ribbon page markers
*Elastic enclosure band
*Thread bound book (sturdy binding; opens flat)
*80g/sqm acid free paper
*145 x 210mm (A5)
*Embossed front and back covers
*Knitting Season chart design by Kate
*Knitting Season logo and journal product design by by Tom