In Search of Crochet Charting Software, Part 2

In Search OfKnowledgeable 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”.

The Challenges

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? stitchworks-logo

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. Crochet Charts Screengrab 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.

Stitch Fiddle logoStitch Fiddle

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

StitchinCrochetPro graphicBackground & 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.

Granny Square for blog post(2)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.

Conclusions

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. For more on creating charts, read How to Draw Crochet Symbols using Adobe Illustrator. Want to see how I can help you learn more about creating crochet charts? Fill out this short questionnaire and we’ll get started.

In Search of Crochet Charting Software, Part 1

Granny Square for blog post(2)Question: What software do you use to draw crochet symbol diagrams?

I’m asked this about once a week, and more often than once a day at fiber events.

My Answer: Adobe Illustrator

The reaction to this response is almost always a sigh, a shake of the head, and a quick retreat with shoulders slumped. (Even if the question was posed online, I can hear the sigh and feel the disappointment.)

Why the universal sorrow? Because drafting crochet charts is not (yet) as straightforward as typing in a set of text instructions and having a program spit out a lovely finished chart. Instead, you have to understand crochet diagrams and the construction of the crochet fabric, as well as have the skills to draw the chart using a vector-based drawing program like Adobe Illustrator, which is pricy to purchase, or the free, open source Inkscape. It takes practice, and the learning curve can be steep.

Even among those who do have the requisite skills, their approach to drawing a crochet diagram varies, even when they are using the same software. Having studied this matter for some time now, I have even come to recognize certain telltale “signatures” that hint at which illustrator drew the diagrams for a particular publication.

I asked some of these folks to share examples of their work. What follows are variations of granny square-style motifs. They aren’t all the same motif, but they do offer a glimpse into the ways that individual diagram drafters put their own stamp on their work. Unless otherwise noted, all of these diagrams were drawn using Adobe Illustrator.

Karen Manthey_Granny SquareYou might recognize Karen Manthey’s work. Karen is a prolific tech editor and illustrator who works behind the scenes on many of the publications you are familiar with. Here’s an example of a classic granny square from Karen, with alternating black and blue rounds.

My granny square (shown above) looks a lot like Karen’s.

 

 

 

 

Lindsey Stephens Granny Square

Lindsey Stephens, designer and tech editor, presents a black-and-grey diagram. She can be found at www.poetryinyarn.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robyn Chachula_Granny Square DiagramRobyn Chachula, author of Vintage Modern CrochetBlueprint Crochet and other best-sellers, draws in AutoCad Lt then moves the drawing into Illustrator to create jpgs as needed. She’s a trained architect, so she uses the drawing program she knows best.

 

 

 

 

 

Joan Beebe_Granny squareJoan Beebe provides another classic granny. Look her up at ssknits.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Voth Granny SquareCharles Voth offers this variation on a granny square. He can be found at www.CharlesVothDesigns.ca.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Granny Square_Alla KovalAlla Koval draws diagrams for all of her designs. You can find her patterns at mylittlecitygirl.com.

But back to the original dilemma. Is there a software program that helps the ordinary crocheter draw stitch diagrams? In my next post, I’ll share a bit more on the subject.

Meanwhile, if you are drawing your own crochet diagrams, pipe up in the comments section and let me know how you are doing it!

For more on creating charts, read In Search of Crochet Charting Software, Part 2, and How to Draw Crochet Symbols using Adobe Illustrator.

 

Want to see how I can help you learn more about creating crochet charts? Fill out this short questionnaire and we’ll get started.

Skewing Grannies

Not a punk rock band, but a Thing that Happens.

Think of the classic granny square. For four or five rounds, it lies nice and squareish like this pastel square.

But if you keep going for round after round, it may start to look a bit like this blue blanket (which is a rectangle, not a square, but you get the idea).

This is a beautiful blanket but wouldn’t it be even better if it didn’t tilt on its axis? The skewing happens because each stitch sits slightly off center from the stitches above it, and the more rounds you work, the more exaggerated the effect becomes. Luckily there’s a solution.

Every few rounds replace the typical (3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc) granny square corner shown on the left with a (2 dc, ch 2, 4 dc) corner shown on the right.

It won’t be noticeable in the overall design but should re-align the sides. Try it and let me know how it works for you.

Thanks to Raveler nursekimknits for providing such a great example of a Skewing Granny and for reminding me that this is a common problem. Got other problems that need solutions? Leave a comment below.