Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My beautiful, expensive Mulberry agenda

Here's another obsession: notebooks. All office supply-type stuff, really, but notebooks in particular. Variously called agendas, diaries, organizers, journals. I haven't bought any expensive ones for a long time, but I have several, in different sizes--a big Franklin-Covey desk size in soft cream-colored leather, another Franklin-Covey one, a smaller size (Junior?) in red leather, a small black leather zippered FC pocket size, and a gorgeous blue leather Mulberry. Lately, though, I've been trying to keep everything paperless. When I look at a catalog like Levenger's, I admire the merchandise, but tell myself that I don't need it, it's too expensive, and I move on. It's fairly easy for me to resist buying something that's over $100. It's the little things that I find hard to walk by.

Over the weekend I dreamed about the Mulberry agenda. I've had it for a long time. When I used to travel for work, I would sometimes seek out stationery stores, but in this case I think I bought it at a discount store like T. J. Maxx or Marshall's (back in the day when they were actually two different stores and didn't carry exactly the same stuff). I know that at some point I ordered a calendar refill and some blank paper; I threw away the used calendar pages, apparently, but the remaining flyleaf is dated 1999, so I bought it sometime prior to that. I have no idea how much I paid for it, but I would guess something like $25-30. I don't think I would have paid more than that, although I had a lot more disposable income during that period of time.

So I dug it out on Sunday and looked through it, and then went looking online to see if I could find any refills.

The pages are cream colored, printed in red. They have (of course, as Bob would say) stopped offering those refills. Mulberry no longer makes a page-a-day organizer refill (they only have a weekly one), and they don't make the cream-colored paper at all, only white with black. And it's pretty expensive--$14 for 25 sheets of lined paper. That seems excessive, but the binders are extremely expensive as well, ranging from about $500 up to $1500. Mine is very similar to one that retails for $600. So whatever I paid for it, it was definitely worth it.

Of course (again) other brands of refills like Filofax, Franklin-Covey or Quo Vadis, don't fit. The pages are kind of an odd size, being more square than most agenda pages, and the holes are spaced differently than, for instance, Filofax pages. As I went through a bunch of notebook blogs (you knew those existed, right?) looking for Mulberry info, there was a lot of discussion about how it was obvious that Mulberry was no longer producing the range of refills that used to be available, and discussions about what to do in order to keep using these incredibly expensive notebooks. There was even a graphic that someone had made showing the hole configuration of Mulberry paper compared to Filofax, and an even more extensive comparison of the various paper sizes of different brands.

One of the suggestions was to download and print templates, but that didn't really appeal to me. Part of the pleasure of writing in an agenda--for me, at least--is writing on nice paper, and copy paper doesn't really cut it.

Then I thought, well, I could buy some nice paper and have it cut and punched somewhere like Office Max or Kinko's, and I may still end up doing that. For now, I accidentally discovered that the Franklin-Covey "pocket" size refills are punched in the same configuration as the Mulberry refills. The pages are quite a bit narrower, though, so I'm not sure how that will work out. I did go ahead and order a set of monthly calendar pages and a pack of refill paper from FC; they were having a sale, and I got both of those things for under $10, with free shipping, so it won't hurt to try. I also tried cutting and punching some paper on my own using some nice Levenger Circa dot grid paper, which is still an option.

In any event, I've really been enjoying setting up the notebook and using it. There are a lot of people listed in the contacts section that I don't even remember at all, and a lot of people have moved or changed phone numbers. But the phone number section consists of tabbed pages that fit into thin plastic sleeves, so difficult to change/replace. I think I'll leave them for now.

The notebook is leather, with a lizard grain (or it could actually be lizard, although it's pretty uniform). The color is blue, with a slight green tint. There are full length pockets in the front and back, with a slip pocket and three card slots in front, and a zipper pocket and a pen loop in back. I've got a photo of me and Bob, some stamps and return address labels in clear plastic pockets, and I had a couple of Franklin-Covey page dividers, so I'm using those, too.

It's a little cobbled-together, but I kind of like that. It makes it easier to punch various paper oddments and put them in, and make it more personalized, and it looks (and is) well used and loved. Anyway, for now at least, I'm loving it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Knit Buddy

I am in love with Vogue Knitting's Knit Buddy app. I have used other knitting apps in the past, but I think the last one I really got into was one for my Palm, so that one's been gone awhile. I haven't found an iPhone app that I like as much as this one.

There are a lot of components, but the three main ones are:
  • Yarn stash & yarn detail
  • Needle and hook inventory
  • Project list & project detail
For each yarn that you have in your stash, you can fill out all the details--weight, fiber content (including blends), color number/name, dye lot, number of skeins, and yards and grams per skein. There is also a "notes" field, and a place where you can add a photo of the yarn. I have sometimes grabbed photos off the web, but you can also take your own photos. The needle inventory screen allows you to enter any number of needles, specifying whether they are straight, double pointed or circular, the length, and the material that they are made from. One thing that it doesn't have that I would like is the ability to add a number in case you have multiple occurrences of the same needle, especially for sock needles and steel crochet hooks. I probably have about 87 sets of Size 1 Brittany Birch needles . . . The next section is the project section. For each project, you can save whether it is a Work in Progress (WIP), in your queue, or a finished object. When you choose the needles that you are using, the app marks them in the needle inventory as used (shows them highlighted in yellow), so if you are checking to see if you have the particular needles you need for a project, you can also see if they are in use. Selecting a yarn from your stash doesn't seem to do anything to the yarn inventory, which is fine. There is a free-text notes section where you can add any particular notes about that project, i.e., who it is for, what size you made, and any notes you may want to make about the project. I have also used this field to enter a text version of the pattern. It isn't really made for that, and it formats it kind of oddly, but it is possible to use it that way. I save all of my patterns in the Evernote app anyway, so they are always available to me on my iPhone or iPad wherever I am, but I like having them in Knit Buddy as well. Within the Pattens screen you can set counters. These can be named whatever you like, and you can choose whether pressing on the + or - makes a sound or not. I kind of like the sound feedback. Once you are finished with a counter you can delete it, but you can also have multiple counters going at the same time. I don't think there is any limit to the number of counters you can have, but I have only used two at one time. The functionality of the app is pretty close to the information that can be entered in your notebook at Ravelry. They don't sync, of course, but it would be really great if they could! Maybe someday.

The Knit Buddy app also includes a place to catalog knitting books, a "stitchionary" with cable, colorwork, and other patterns, a "how-to" section for knitting and crocheting, terms and abbreviations, and a tool for substituting yarn. The app was really well thought out, and unlike some, I'm guessing that they had actual knitters use it for awhile and give feedback. I.e., it is actually useful for a real knitter, not what a non-knitting programmer might guess that a knitter would need and use.

I understand from comments in the App Store that at one time this app synced over multiple devices so you could have it on both your iPhone and iPad, but only have to enter information in one place, but that functionality was removed in a recent update. I need it on my phone the most since that is what I always have with me, but it would be nice to be able to enter information on the iPad and have it sync between them. I wonder if that's something they may add back into the app, given all of the negative comments, but I don't know the reason they removed it in the first place.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Obsessions, I haz them

I have a few obsessions. They come and go; right now my knitting obsession is in the forefront. It never really goes away completely, but it had been dormant for awhile. I'm not sure what prompted the resurgence this time; it may have been seeing that Vera Bradley bag that would be just perfect for a knitting bag for small projects . . . It works that way sometimes. Something seemingly unrelated will set it off, and I'm back to stashing sock yarn, carrying my knitting with me everywhere, and saving scores of patterns to knit "someday."

I got a "Knitting Daily" email a couple of weeks ago advertising a new book, "5 Favorite Knitting Patterns for Babies and Kids." One of the patterns illustrated was Stephanie Japel's "Whirligig Shrug." I wasn't especially excited about the other patterns, but I definitely wanted that one, so I went on a hunt and found that I could buy a PDF download of that pattern only on Ravelry. So I bought it, downloaded it, went to Joann for cheap yarn, and started knitting it. I love the pattern. It's knit in one piece from the top down; I'm almost finished with the back, just a few more rows of seed stitch, then I will finish the sleeves.

I was showing the pattern to someone at work, and she said, "can you do that?" I said, "Sure." I'm not really afraid of anything as long as there is a pattern. Some things I don't particularly want to do, like lace, but I can. This shrug has raglan increases for shaping, a little cable, and a drapey seed stitch peplum. My plan is to make one for my 5 year old niece Abby, the tiniest size for her doll, and two for the new babies in the family, Avery and Addison. I figure if the one I'm making now is too large for Abby, she can grow into it, and if it's too small, Avery can grow into it, and I'll make another one for Abby. Win-win.

I'm not crazy about the apple green yarn, but it was the best color I could find at Joann in DK weight superwash. I've already ordered yarn for the two others . . . okay, four. Lavender, dusty rose, light teal, and denim blue. Obsessed.