I joined the Knit Visualizer users group and got a nice email from the owner/programmer, Nancy. After I politely listed all the good and not-so-good things about the software, she was very responsive with some helpful suggestions. I even read all of the archived messages and learned a few tricks. I’m starting to feel much more comfortable with the software now and have ways to work around most of the limitations and quirks. I believe that this is the best program available for designing, modifying or proofing knitting stitch patterns. (Not that there are very many knit programs at all!) It isn’t meant for garment design, but could be used in a limited way for plotting the shaping of increases and decreases, perhaps as they relate to a pattern stitch or something similar. There are other programs available for garment design but they don’t really interest me. I’d rather do that part with my dressmaking skills, a tape measure and a calculator. It’s not like I plan to submit sweater designs for publication or anything where I need a multiple number of standard sizes.
On a different topic, I went through all my Knitter’s magazines (I have all 85 of them and that's the very first one: Fall 1984) looking for lace shawl patterns. There were quite a few but not as many as I had expected. I scanned in the ones I thought were interesting or that had good tutorials on construction. Of course I also found a few other things, including several articles on Latvian mittens to go with my collection of photos from the NATO conference. With the photos and the articles by Lizbeth Upitis, I have an almost infinite number of potential patterns to knit. Though I’m leaning towards using the techniques in socks instead.
While I was flipping pages I couldn’t help but notice a couple of interesting things. The page design and layout have improved mightily over 20-some years: more colour, better paper (it has yellowed up until the early 1990’s and after that it’s white), more interesting layouts, better photography. But the quality of the articles has definitely slipped, especially since Rick Mondragon took over from Nancy Thomas in Summer 2001. Did you know in the beginning they used to discuss spinning in every issue and how it relates to knitting? There were articles on knitting in history and in different countries and technical stuff like how to adjust sizes or design your own sweater. There weren’t as many patterns but many of them could still be comfortably worn today without looking out of place. There was a lot more “meat” — if not nearly as much “flash”. The photos are on lovely professional models now but you can’t see the whole garment as well. I don’t care if Alexis takes the pictures outside a mosque in Timbuktu or in a studio in front of a blank wall — I want to see the shape and colour and stitches, how it hangs (without pins or odd model angles) and how it fits a real person! I want it to be something that I would wear for more than one fashion season. Or I’m not going to waste my time knitting it. Particularly using my precious handspun yarn.
Sweater styles in Knitter’s have gone through some fascinating metamorphosis over the years. In the 1980’s they were mostly comfortably fitted: not too tight nor too loose but with a lot of drop-shoulders. The stitches and shapes weren’t usually too complicated. In the 1990’s sweaters got a lot more oversized but stitches got more interesting. Lots of colour patterning and texture stitches like cables. Yarns are still pretty basic. In the 2000’s things went haywire! There are cropped and shrunken styles and there are asymmetrical, deconstructed styles. There’s a blanket with sleeves. Not to mention yarns in exotic fibres, tapes, fuzzies and other novelties. Thick yarns and thin yarns and lots more variegated and handpainted yarns. More patterns for accessories such as socks, purses and hats. More patterns but somehow less that I would actually make and wear. Pretty pictures, but I miss the juicy technical stuff. Or maybe that’s just me?
I’ll be doing the same thing with my complete collection of Interweave Knits magazines next. They only go back to 1996, not 1984. Shouldn’t take me as long though I think it’s currently a far superior magazine. Or maybe I just like the styles better? Only the first Fall 1996 issue is yellowed so they must have changed paper to a better one right after that issue. More details later. I’m flipping pages.