Knowledgeable crochet illustrators can create professional-looking crochet charts using vector graphics editors, as I showed in a previous post. But what about the other 99.9% of the crochet population? Are there viable alternatives that allows the average crocheter to create stitch charts? Yes and no, but mostly “not yet”.
Software development is a very time-consuming and complex task. It takes both in-depth knowledge of the underlying computer architecture and programming, as well as a clear understanding of end-user needs (what crochet designers need the program to do). It helps to have a great user interface to make it easy and accessible for all. Getting all these resources together takes both time AND money.
Knitting is a very binary (knits/purls) and grid-based fiber art, making it fairly easy to chart. In crochet, one stitch doesn’t always go into the next stitch in a tidy, grid-based fashion**. If it did, and if all the stitches were the same height and didn’t bend and lean, crochet stitches would be easier to diagram. Instead, crochet can be very organic, changing directions and stitch heights, bending and curving in many different ways. This offers a particular challenge to the software developer who is trying to create a program that works for all crochet stitch patterns. And don’t even think of looking for a program that automatically translates written instructions to diagrams. That’s a pipe dream at this point!
**I am specifically excluding filet and color-graphing charts from this discussion, as they are absolutely straightforwardly grid-based.
So what’s the state of crochet software today?
Crochet Charts from Stitch Works Software
Background & Support: Crochet Charts from Stitch Works Software is a program that has been around for a few years. I worked a bit with developer Brian Milco in the very early stages of development. He was very responsive to suggestions, and he was working hard to figure out what crocheters need in order to create useful software. He got a pretty good start, but he stopped being able to work on it, and made it open source in September 2015 under the GPL v3 license.
What “open source” means for the average user of this project is that the Version 1.2 is now free and available for download for Windows and Mac. While the website says “Mac and Linux Versions will be available shortly”, I found the following links which should work for Windows and Mac:
[Links removed for security reasons; I was told that it’s better to share the site where I found the links. That’s on Ravelry; read the first message in this thread. Sorry for the inconvenience.]
Because the open source community for this project is small and immature, the average user will find that technical support and updating is very sporadic. There is a Ravelry group for the software, as well as a downloadable manual. Join the Ravelry group for more information about the current status of the program, and for ongoing support.
What “open source” means for the programming-savvy crocheter is that you can help improve the program by working on the code.
Functionality: The program allows freeform placement of stitches, grouping, wedge lines for round charts, numerous export options (pdf, svg, jpg, png, tiff, bmp), scalable stitches, alternating row colors and other features. You can add numbers to rows/rounds, and create a stitch key. It includes 109 stitches and symbols and allows for a customizable stitch library. It will work for simple patterns worked in the round and back-and-forth in rows, and some crochet designers will find it adequate for their needs. In my opinion, it doesn’t (yet) have the features needed to be a robust choice for the professional crochet designer.
Background & Support: Sander de Bruijne, a software developer, and his crocheting girlfriend Janetta Broersma, are working on a new web-app called Stitch Fiddle. It covers knitting, cross stitching, and most importantly, freeform crochet charts. I spent about an hour talking with Sander and Janetta about the program and offering suggestions for improvement. Sander told me that the first few months after its introduction, sign-ups to the site were so overwhelming that he quit his day job to work full-time on Stitch Fiddle. As of early July, more than 100 people were signing up each day.
He tells me now has the back-end set up so that it can handle the number of users, and he is working to improve the front-end experience (what we seen on the screen). He’ll be ready to start adding additional features once that is done. They are committed to making Stitch Fiddle work, and I know we wish them success, as that will benefit all of us!
There is a Ravelry Stitch Fiddle group, which is worth following to learn about the latest updates.
Functionality: At the moment, the program is very basic. It does allow freeform placement of stitches and multiple layers, although it does not yet allow for grouping or multiple colors. I found the lack of alignments, guides and keyboard shortcuts a particular challenge. At current count it has 21 symbols, those specifically listed by the Craft Yarn Council. I don’t believe it is possible to add custom symbols at this point.
A couple of important feature that will be added are the ability to select multiple symbols and group them, so they can be moved, copied or rotated together, and the ability to choose rotation center and rotate symbols around that point. It’s too early to make a judgement on this app; only time will tell if added features and user experience improve enough to be truly useful.
StitchinCrochet and StitchinCrochet Pro
Background & Support: StitchinCrochet and StitchinCrochet Pro are fonts developed by Adriana Hernandez (adriprints.blogspot.com). Various licenses are available, including desktop and web applications. Costs range from $3 to $6.
Functionality: These are fonts, not software programs, and they work just like any other font you would purchase and download. You’ll have to use a software program of some sort to place and manipulate the images. The developer wrote a blog post back in 2010 about how to use the font with Adobe Illustrator, and those who know how to use Illustrator will find it quite helpful. It’s not a bad place to start, if you aren’t comfortable creating your own symbols.
Vector Graphics Editors
So we return to the vector graphics editors, like Adobe Illustrator and the open-source Inkscape. These types of programs have the ability to do absolutely everything you need to do to create the most complex charts imaginable, but they require a lot of time and energy (and money, in the case of Adobe products) to learn.
In short, the charting resources available to crochet designers are limited. They offer hope but have a long way to go to be functional to the average designer. If you know of additional resources, let us all know about them in the comments below.
In a future post, I’ll offer a short tutorial on creating a stitch diagram using Adobe Illustrator.