One book to rule them all

I hate 3 hole binders. full stop. For decades I would use them for different projects and get frustrated with their limitations. Don’t misunderstand me, a standardized multipurpose temporary binder was an ingenious invention and has contributed to advancing civilization to where it is now. they are plentiful, cheap and insanely adaptable to whatever your project happens to be. But they are bulky, aren’t portable, and the weight of they content is constantly putting stress on the very slim material holding it together. That being said, these days I only use 1″ wide binders when I need them, right now only recipes, printed patterns and sewing machine manuals are thus bound.

Let me introduce you to my friend the Laboratory Notebook ( also called Computation Notebook, Engineers Notebook or Scientific Notebook) Used in many disciplines these are permanently bound (read SEWN), quad ruled with numbered pages. Unless you need something specialized for your job, most of the varieties available have a brown or reddish cardstock cover, green or buff pages, and contain 152 pages (76 leaves). They run between 10 and 20 USD and made with a pretty high quality standard across the board. But beyond all that, they are infinitely modifiable, easily portable and virtually indestructible.

I have been using the same Project Book since 2005 and because of foolish inconsistencies, I am only NOW moving into a second and now a third volume. My first book is a mishmash of everything I have ever designed, constructed, built or sewn: buildings, boxes, bags, toys, animal hammocks, bicycle trailers etc… The book’s bound format forces me to add details, paste in images, add samples of fabric directly to the pages dedicated to that project.

The First book still has a lot of blank pages in it, mostly because I write in pencil and I went in and erased a LOT of things I never should have entered… in 2009 I wasted 15 pages designing a website. Writing in GOOD sharp pencil allows me to correct and reclaim pages. So far, I have only torn out ONE page and that was gibberish written in Ink. If I was clever I would have just pasted another entry right over it. I used to design my project right into the book, but now I use black speckled Quad ruled notebooks to work out the project and then transfer the finished design into the Project notebook. Sometimes I tear the page out of the interim design book and paste it right into the ‘BIG’ project book.

I started new books this year for my Sewing and Knitting projects. Until now the the Knitting was spread out in several different Moleskine and Quad ruled books AND a 3 ring pocket binder for printed patterns. I liked the smaller format because it fit in my knitting bag, but found the pages were too small and too few. After deciding to bring all Knitting together into one Lab Notebook, I discovered I had images of projects I NEVER documented and at least one sock pattern written up, that I don’t recall ever making,

NOTE: Remember to date the project pages, mine are obviously not in sequential order, and sometimes I forget when I made something, so I have to get the date off the image file details in the computer. When I started knitting I would sometimes forget to write the needle size, now I circle it to be sure.

The First thing I do with a new Notebook is to add a diagonal card stock pocket taped into the back for any rulers or templates I want to store. In the front I add another pocket, for ‘on deck’ clippings that will be pasted in eventually; manila folders work well for this.

I use a lot of glue sticks, either Uhu or Photo, and never tape or staple. (staples wiggle and tear the page, and tape causes layering problems with the glue stick) For fabric, I use a needle and thread to sew it to the page. (things can paste right over the stitches on the reverse) Sometimes I just glue the side of the clipping so that things can overlap. Dedicating one or two pages per project gives me plenty of room to add in everything about the project.

If the project has a small pattern or template, I include that too. I cut it from cardstock and then add it to the notebook using a daub of poster putty, so that it can be reused and stored in the book. Patterns made of tissue can be included by adding an envelope between the pages with a paper hinge. The sewn binding has a LOT of give so many things can be glued in without a problem.

I want to add a lot more color images of my projects to the pages, but I don’t have access to a color printer. I have a ton of photos for each project stored in my computer, so I only need to print a couple of representational images. I am using MS Windows internal functions to give me pages I can print at Fedex Office for low money. ( 65 cents for one color page, with either several images on it.)

In Windows File Folder, Select All the images I want to print, Right Click PRINT, and select either 2, 4 or 9 on a page, UNCLICK the Fit to Frame, change the printer to Microsoft Print to PDF, then name it something like PRINT ME. This has made my most recent notebooks a lot more colorful and fun.

I also use Windows multiple page printing to reduce the size of clippings and patterns so that everything fits onto the pages, if it’s crowded I just overlap, like a child’s Lift the Flap book.

Yes, I am basically using scrapbooking techniques to document my projects. Having the pages permanently attached seems like a limitation, but it freed me up to be a lot more creative, especially in the kinds of things I include and the way they are displayed. I am more likely to paste the original patterns and designs, along side my results.

For me using these notebooks is more like creating an actual book.. They are easy to drag around from wherever I am working, and slide them into my knitting bag. The more they get used the more wonderful to the touch they become. It encourages me to document things as part of the creative process and not it slide by and become another task to be avoided.

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