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Computer programs for knitters

Liz Clouthier posted the following set of reviews of IBM-based knitting software to the big knitting listserv.

Here it is, finally :). Usual disclaimers apply... I've looked at 4 software packages (all IBM), three of which I actually used. I also started investigating Cochenille Studio's software but haven't seen any demos. Of the stuff I saw, Cochenille is the only one that has any Mac software. The knit software I've seen seems to fall into 2 categories:

  1. Programs that basically function as spreadsheets; i.e., plug in your gauge, pick your size and (preset) style, and it will calculate the number of stitches and shaping. These usually will let you make length adjustments and choose from a list of neck & arm shapings but have no capability for overlaying color/texture graphs. Sweater 101, Knitting Workshop (Jacqueline Fee) and the shareware program Knitware Sweater Design are of this type. These 3 are the ones I've used.
  2. Programs that are graphics-based which let you design your own shape and graphs (color/texture) then calculate directions. Knitking's DesignKnit software falls into this category. I have seen a demo of the DesignKnit -- it looks great, but the price ($250+) is more than I can afford. I think a combination of the Cochenille products would fill this bill too. So which type you want depends on what you want to do with it. People who like standard pattern styles and hate re-figuring patterns for different yarns or gauges might appreciate category #1. Those who want to experiment with the design process from the ground up want category #2.


Sweater 101, v.1.0 for MS-DOS: This is from Patternworks, based on Cheryl Brunette's Sweater 101 workshop book. The interface is fairly plain with no mouse support. It does have an icon for use in Windows. Portions of the book have been included as on-line help and can be printed. Once the gauge information is entered, the user chooses sleeve style (drop-shoulder, raglan, set-in) and size (kids thru adults) for a flat-knit sweater. No neckline options are given. There are places to enter 4 body measurements and one sleeve length, but these are *not* used to calculate the pattern, a fact which ought to be stated on the screen. Generic piece outlines are then displayed on the screen showing stitch & row info along with measurements which can be altered. Changes there are reflected in updated stitch & row info. The piece outlines are not drawn true to scale. The row-by-row instructions are chatty and geared to the novice knitter with explanations of basic techniques. The printed chart is taken from the on-screen display of piece outlines. No grid for color/texture design is offered. The pre-defined sizes seem appropriate - size for a woman's 36" chest gave a 38" finished measurement, and it is easy to alter the measurements of the pieces. It is a nice tool for automating the calculations of standard patterns in different gauges. A newer version was advertised to include v-necks and cardigans.

Jacqueline Fee's Sweater Workshop for Windows: Again from Patternworks, this is based on her book "Sweater Workshop". It concerns itself with raglans knitted in the round. Its standard Windows interface guides the user thru a linear process: choose shape (pullover,cardi) and neckline (7 choices include. hood & placket), etc. There are no pre-defined sizes, but bases its calculations on the desired finished chest measurement a la EZ. It adjusts instructions to accommodate pattern repeats to 24 sts but has no capability to add color/texture patterns. There are 4 choices of sleeve style (fitted thru fuller), and 6 raglan decrease methods. The on-line help comes in handy here for describing the methods and their best application. As each choice is made, a cute little sheep graphic appears on "the gauge page", where the results of the choices are shown. You can enter the yarn name for record keeping and can preview the written & graphic printouts. The written instructions are thorough but not too chatty, and check-off spots are given during shaping maneuvers. The graphics are generic sketches with current stitch & inch values displayed and space for notes.

Knitware Sweater Design ver. 1.10: This shareware program comes from Morningdew Consulting Services in British Columbia and is probably available on all sorts of on-line boards. It will produce written instructions for flat knitting by hand or machine. User chooses units (in/cm) and needle size (metric or US) or machine type and setting. The program then promotes record keeping with prompts for recipient, start date & finish date (horrors!), and specific yarn info. Once gauge is entered, the choice of size (kids,womens, mens), ease (skintight to oversize), style (pullover/cardi), length (4 options-waist to tunic), neck (crew, v, cowl/rolled), and sleeve style are given. Default measurements are displayed and can be altered. If you want to knit up a swatch of a whole ball of yarn, it will calculate how many balls you need for your project. Written instructions are concise and specific. I was pleased to see instructions for my Big Phil machine were available. For all it provides, I'd try this before buying Sweater 101.

DesignaKnit (demo): This program from Knitking (knitting machine company) claims to let you draw the shape of the pattern pieces (it also has pre-defined shapes), create a color stitch pattern design or import scanned images or clip art, view the finished product, download to a Knitking machine, or print written instructions and charts. The demo seemed to bear all this out - I wish I could afford it. I don't have a current price, but I think it's >$200.

Cochenille has a couple of products for charting and editing digitized images. They also offer a book on designing knits on a computer. If anyone has used it, I'd like to hear about it.

So there's my $0.02 worth - would anyone take up the challenge to provide a weaving software summary? I'm especially interested in low-cost options!

Happy WIP's!

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Emily Way,

Last updated November 27, 1994 (formatting changes made April 7, 1998)