Review: knitCompanion

Knitting may seem like a low-tech craft, but modern technology can help us enjoy it more. The knitCompanion app adds functionality to pdf patterns that the printed page can’t match.

I was given an app subscription in exchange for my review, but all opinions here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

Knit companion graphic

What Does knitCompanion Do?

knitCompanion is a powerful pattern tracking app for iOS and Android. It allows you to keep track of where you are in a written pattern with digital markers, counters and highlighters. It is especially helpful for following knitting charts. If you are used to using highlighter tape, magnet bars and/or tick marks to keep track of where you are in a pattern, knitCompanion will take their place.

What Patterns Work with knitCompanion?

Any pattern at all! If the pattern isn’t in pdf form, the knitCompanion website explains how to get it into the proper format.

From the app, you can link directly to patterns in your Ravelry library or Dropbox. You’ll need to set up the pdf in the app to get the full benefit of what it can do, but there are plenty of tutorials to show you how to set it up.

For my review, I chose to use a kCDesign. kCDesigns are patterns that are already formatted for use in knitCompanion. In that way, I avoided the setup and was able to get right to my knitting. (A note to my designer friends: You can transform your patterns into a kCDesign for no fee with Create2Thrive!)

Knitting with knitCompanion

Edie knitting in Provence
Knitting in Provence

Purchase and installation was a breeze on my iPhone. I loaded up a kCDesigns sock pattern just before a two-week trip abroad. I find sock knitting to be perfect vacation knitting, because it allows me to travel light but still have a project stuck in my backpack.

The sock pattern was written for four sizes. I chose the middle one and found to my delight that my chosen size was highlighted in yellow throughout the pattern — automagically! I loved that I could zoom in on the pattern to make the text easier to read during my red-eye flight, and that it kept track of where I had left off every time I hurriedly stowed my sock away.

Unfortunately for the purposes of testing the app, I quickly learned the lace stitch pattern. I’m so familiar with socks that I started working on auto-pilot and forgot to advance my markers. I forgot to follow the pattern for huge sections, and only went back to it when I reached a milestone, like the heel.

Knitting on the TGV

knitCompanion didn’t blink. I just advanced the pattern to the next section and kept going. My sock turned out fine, but vacation ended before I finished the second one. It’s waiting, halfway finished, until my next vacation.

Features

knitCompanion has more features than I can name here. Explore the website to see them all! The ones I found most intriguing were:

  • Highlighter-allows you to highlight anything on a page
  • Sliding row and stitch (column) markers on every page
  • Linked Counters- allow you keep track of several things at once, like neck and armhole shaping
  • Magic Markers-allow you to color code different types of stitches in a chart
  • Notes-allow you to make notes about anything, so you can write where you changed something
  • Video links-allow you to embed video links as how-to reminders

There are three levels of knitCompanion. kCBasics is free and offers basic features. Essentials adds additional tools, including the Notes and Highlighter features that I mentioned above. Setup + Essentials allows you to set up a pattern the way you want it, including cropping and combining charts. I didn’t even try that part, but it looks amazingly powerful and useful to a certain segment of knitters.

Pros & Cons

Pros & Cons

Let me start with the cons. There is a lot to learn, and you have to work a bit. You’ll spend quite a bit of time watching video tutorials and experimenting with the app to learn all the features. If you don’t like learning through videos, you’ll just have to deal with it.

I tend to be a read-my-knitting knitter rather than a read-my-pattern knitter. I learn the stitch pattern and understand the shaping, and only refer to the pattern now and again when I reach a milestone. I’m usually not following complex lace charts. I seldom use highlighting aids and I’m very good at reading my work to see where I am in the pattern. That made knitCompanion of limited use to me on the pattern I chose to follow as a test. I probably wouldn’t use the app for most of the types of knitting that I do.

One more tiny whine: I wish that it supported crochet charts as well as it does knit charts, but that’s not really a “con”. It’s called knitCompanion, after all.

Now to the pros, and there are many. This is a very powerful app that does many useful things. Let me repeat: Many. Useful. Things. Once you start delving into the features, you’ll see that it’s like having a very smart friend holding your hand along your knitting journey, and reminding you when you need to do something.

If you do lots of chart work — lace or cables especially — you’ll find knitCompanion an essential tool. I plan to try it on a complex cable next. I expect to be wow’d.

The support offered in the app, on the website, and through the support ticket system is phenomenal. It’s probably the best that I’ve ever seen for an app. Add to that the very active Facebook group of knitCompanion fans, and you have all the help you’d ever need in figuring out how to make knitCompanion work for you.

To learn more about knitCompanion, check out the website.

To learn about alternatives to traditional knitting charts, read Navigating Knit Stitches with Stitch Maps.

Join-As-You-Go Crochet with Flat Join

Two granny squares joined with flat join using join-as-you-go

Using a join-as-you-go method to join crochet motifs is a great way to save time and effort.

With join-as-you-go, you don’t have any seaming to do at the end of the project, because you have joined all your individual pieces as your work. The flat join method of join-as-you-go gives a particularly beautiful and smooth connection.

Flat joins can be worked into chain spaces or into the top of stitches. With granny squares, the joins are usually worked into the chain-spaces.

Follow these step-by-step instructions, or scroll down to the bottom of the post for a video explanation.

This post contains affiliate links which don’t cost you anything but may provide a small income to me. The yarn pictured is Red Heart Chic Sheep by Marly Bird.

Join-As-You-Go Granny Square

We’ll be joining a classic granny square that has chain-2 corners and chain-1 side spaces. My sample square has three rounds.

Begin by working the entire first square. Weave in the ends.

Crochet the second square, stopping before you work the last round.

Two granny squares: one complete and one incomplete

Begin working the last round of the second square, stopping when you get to the half-way point of a corner. In other words, stop after “3 dc in corner space, ch 1”.

Stitch diagram for joined grannies

Flat Join Join-As-You-Go

To work a flat join, draw up the loop on the hook until it is a bit longer than usual, then take the hook out of the loop. This is known as “dropping the loop”.

flat join, step 1: Insert hook from RS to WS into first square

Pick up the first square with the right side facing. Insert the hook from right side to wrong side (from front to back) through a corner chain-2 space.


flat join, step 2: Pick up dropped loop and pull it through

Pick up the dropped loop with your hook and draw it through to the right side of the first square.


Flat join, step 3: Continue on current square

Continue working on current square: ch 1, 3 dc in same space.


Completed joins

Continue working flat joins in the chain-1 spaces along this side, while working (3 dc, ch 1) in each ch-1 space of the current square. The last flat join will be in the chain-2 corner space.


Completing the Square

Once the squares are joined all along their sides, keep working along the remaining sides of the current square to complete the round.

Learn More About Join-As-You-Go

Join-as-you-go is such a time- and effort-saving technique! There’s a lot more to learn about this topic. If you want to make your crocheting life happier, check out my books and pattern page, as well as these resources:

Bluprint Craftsy Joining Crochet Motifs
Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs
Join As You Go Seamless Crochet Techniques

Fernandina Beach Bag Crochet Pattern

Fernandina Beach Bag
Fernandina Beach Bag Crochet Pattern

The Fernandina Beach Bag is a summer tote you can crochet yourself. Bright and breezy, it will carry your summer essentials in style.

A solid single crochet base worked in the round is topped by colorful mesh stripes. A bit of fringe adds whimsy­­—add more or less according to your taste.

This post contains affiliate links, which don’t cost you anything, but may provide a small income to me.

The Yarn

I used Universal Yarn Yashi, a 100% raffia tape. The raffia provides a bit of structure, but you may choose to line the bag with fabric, as well.

The bright colors are perfect for the summer, while the black hides any dirt on the handle and base of the bag.

The Pattern

It’s easy crochet: you’ll use single crochet, double crochet and slip stitch.. There are no seams at all; it’s entirely one piece. Crocheters just beyond the beginner level should find this bag within their ability.

Text instructions and stitch pattern chart are provided, as well as a couple of assembly diagrams to aid in understanding. American crochet terminology is used throughout. 

CTA Buy the Pattern

A Bonus

River Heights Shawl worn around shoulders

This bag pairs perfectly with my River Heights Shawl. Crochet both and wear the shawl over a little black dress for a perfect ensemble!

How to Wind Yarn with a Yarn Swift and Ball Winder

Yarn on winder

Skeins or hanks of yarn must be wound into balls before you can use them. The easiest way to wind a skein of yarn is to use a yarn swift and yarn winder. These tools help you wind the yarn into a center-pull ball that sits nice and flat while you work. Center-pull balls won’t jump down and roll around the floor as you work!

The following instructions assume you have both a swift and a winder. You don’t have to have both, but it does make things easier.

This post contains affiliate links, which may provide a small income to me but don’t cost you anything extra.

How to Use a Yarn Swift

A yarn swift holds the opened-out hank of yarn while you wind it. The yarn photographed below is Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock.

Stanwood Needlecraft Tabletop Amish Style Wooden Yarn Swift

Yarn swifts come in many different styles. Some clamp to a tabletop or counter; some sit on a table. They may be metal or wood. Some open and close like an umbrella, while others have pegs that can be adjusted for the diameter of your yarn hank.


umbrella swift
Umbrella Swift

Depending on the type of swift you have, begin by clamping your swift securely onto the tabletop or placing it on a sturdy surface. Make sure there is plenty of room for the swift to rotate without hitting anything. Remember that in the case of an umbrella swift, you’ll be opening it up to a wider diameter once the skein is in place.


Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock skein with label removed

If the yarn band is wrapped around the entire skein, pull it off and set it aside. If it is tied to the skein, leave it in place for the moment.


Hank of yarn opened out

Your yarn came in a gently twisted skein, with one end tucked inside the other. Untuck that end and allow the skein to untwist into a circle. There are two or more smaller pieces of yarn tied around the hank to keep the strands in place. Don’t cut these yet!

Place the circle of yarn onto the swift and adjust the swift to the desired diameter. The yarn should be held securely but not be stretched in any way.


cutting yarn ties

Now you can find the yarn ties that hold the skein. Carefully cut one of these ties next to the knot. Release the strand; it probably goes in a figure-8 around the hank. You may have uncovered one or both ends of the yarn skein or you may have simply discovered a shorter piece of yarn. Cut the remaining ties in the same manner. If the yarn label was tied to the skein, it should have been released and removed when you cut the ties.


At this point you should have found both ends of the yarn. Pull one end gently; it should start to unwind from the swift without much effort.

If you find that it is getting tangled and not unwinding smoothly, stop and make adjustments to the skein. See the video below for more explanation.

How to Use a Ball Winder

Yarn winders do the work of winding the yarn into a center-pull ball. They clamp onto the table surface and have a center spool that holds the yarn. You thread the yarn through one or more yarn guides that place the yarn in the right position to roll onto the spool. Most yarn winders are hand-cranked, allowing you to control the speed. There are, however, electric yarn winders on the market.

The brand of yarn winder pictured here is no longer made (as far as I can tell), but there are plenty of similar ones available. Check out the links below for options.

Secure the yarn winder onto the work surface. I’ve found that it’s best to leave about 18-24” [46-61 cm] between the yarn winder and the outer edge of the swift, if you have the space.

Thread the yarn end through the feeder eyes on the winder and insert it into the slot at the top of the spool. The exact path of the yarn may vary; check the instructions that came with your yarn winder for specifics.

yarn winder in use

Begin turning the handle of the yarn winder slowly. The yarn should begin to wrap around the spool. Place your finger on the yarn end for the first couple of rotations to make sure it stays in place. Once you see that the yarn is coming off the swift and onto the spool without a problem, you can increase the cranking speed. Don’t try to go as fast as you possibly can, but aim for a nice steady rhythm.  I like to place my hand between the swift and the winder and allow the yarn to run through my fingers. That way, I can stop winding if I feel a knot or unexpected slub in the yarn.


Yarn on winder

When all the yarn is off the swift, stop cranking. Place your thumbs on the top of the spool and use your other fingers to lift the yarn off the spool. The center of your yarn ball may collapse and close the hole where the spool was, but the yarn tail should still be visible.


Yarn cake

You are ready to use the yarn! Simply put your lovely new yarn cake on the table and pull the yarn tail from the center.

Watch the video to see me wind yarn using both the small winder pictured in this post and a jumbo winder.


Body Measurement Basics with Lindsey Stephens

Body Basics cover image

In order to design garments, you must know something about body measurements. Many new knit and crochet designers struggle with understanding body measurements, especially for body types that are different from their own.

This post contains affiliate links, which may provide a small income to be but don’t cost you anything extra.

My colleague Lindsey Stephens realized that this struggle is real, and has written Body Basics, an e-book to help designers understand more about body measurements. See what Lindsey has to say about Body Basics. And if you decide you want to buy it, use coupon code Edie1 for $1 off the purchase price.

What made you decide to write Body Basics?

I initially sat down to write a booklet on grading, or the process of changing one pattern in one size to multiple sizes. The more I thought about it, though, I realized that the reason so many people have difficulty with grading is because they’re missing a fundamental bit of knowledge. They don’t understand all the body measurements that come in to play when designing a garment.

If you understand the body measurements, and how to turn those body measurements into garment measurements, then not only will your designs look better and fit better, but you’ll have a much easier time when you do decide to tackle grading.

Who needs to read Body Basics?

Anyone who wants to design a garment to fit a human body. Especially if you want it to fit a specific human or specific measurements.

In your opinion, what is the #1 mistake that novice designers make when designing garments?

Cross back

Crossback and Armscye. Those are the two measurements that the majority of beginning designers don’t take into account. Many of them don’t even realize they exist. However, these measurements are critical to a good fit and to determining the silhouette of the garment.  

How will understanding the concepts in the book streamline the design process?

Armscye

This book isn’t about streamlining. It isn’t about doing things faster and quicker. It’s about doing a deep dive to gain the critical knowledge and understanding to do the job well. Once you have that understanding, then yes, you’ll find that not only the quality of your design work will be better but you will be able to do the design math more efficiently.

Why can’t I just design a garment in one size and let my tech editor calculate all the other sizes?

You totally can just hire a tech editor. And you will be better able to judge the tech editor’s quality of work if you know what they’re actually doing. I’m a big fan of doing something yourself at least a couple of times before you farm it out. It makes you a wiser and more knowledgeable buyer and employer.

I personally prefer to do my own grading and then have my tech editor double-check the pattern. Why? Because there are design decisions that have to be made as part of the grading process. Should the cable be the same for all sizes? Should the button band be wider for plus sizes? Is the goal to make the waist shaping happen in 4 distinct locations around the body or just evenly around? There are no right or wrong answers, but deciding these things is part of the process of design.

After I’ve read Body Basics, what should my next step be in learning more about design?

The next step after reading Body Basics is to design a garment based off the new information you’ve learned. That’s why every Body Basics purchase includes my free Schematics Templates pdf. This is an additional pdf of over 40 blank schematics. Use these as a launching point to start your new designs. (Don’t forget to use coupon code Edie1 to get $5 off the purchase price.)

About Lindsey

Lindsey Stephens is a near-fearless crafter with a passion for making things. She spends her time crafting 24/6 (no crafting on Shabbos*). Lindsey shares her crafting expertise with her followers, who love her signature wit and humor. Lindsey also works as a technical editor for crochet and knit patterns, as a website manager, and is a mom of two. Read about her latest intrepid crafting adventures on her blog.

*Shabbos, also known as Shabbat: The Jewish Sabbath observed from sundown Friday to nightfall Saturday

To learn more about designing for knit and crochet, check out my Knit & Crochet Design Resources.

Free Crochet Pattern: Endless Shamrocks Garland

What’s special about the Endless Shamrock Garland? Most crocheted shamrock garlands are made up of individual shamrock motifs. This means you have to weave in a lot of ends. But the Endless Shamrock Garland is made without having to cut the yarn!

Make it any length you want. When it’s as long as you please, just weave in two ends and you’re finished!

This post contains affiliate links.

Use the chart to help you understand stitch placement. The pattern uses American crochet terminology. You’ll find a video tutorial at the bottom of this post.

Materials

Worsted Weight yarn of your choice
Size H-8 / 5 mm crochet hook
OR use any yarn size/hook combination you choose

The long garland pictured on the wall was made with a green cable-spun yarn from my stash. The short garland was made with Chic Sheep by Marly Bird in color Polo.

Abbreviations and Special Stitches

ch: chain
dc: double crochet
slip st: slip stitch
tr: treble crochet

Crossover slip st: Insert hook into stitch indicated, pass chain over working yarn, yarn over and pull through all loops on hook to complete slip stitch.

Gauge

Each shamrock measures about 2″ / 5 cm wide x 2″ / 5 mm tall. Gauge isn’t crucial in this pattern.

Endless Shamrocks Garland stitch chart
Endless Shamrocks Garland Symbol Key

Garland Instructions

Ch 8.
Row 1: *Ch 8, crossover slip st in 4th ch from hook to form a ring, ch 4, (tr, dc, tr, ch 4, slip st) in ring, ch 5; rep from * for desired number of shamrocks, ch 8, turn.

Row 2: Slip st in back bump of 2nd ch from hook and in back bump of next 7 ch, *(tr, dc, tr, ch 4, slip st) in next ring, ch 5, slip st in back bump of 2nd ch from hook and in back bump of next 3 ch, slip st in same ring, ch 4, (tr, dc, tr) in same ring, skip 4 chs from previous row, slip st in back bump of next ch; rep from * across, ending slip st in back bump of last 7 ch. Fasten off.

https://youtu.be/7tdrIBhNhNc