Thursday, January 25, 2007

Never Enough Time

I don’t know where the days go but I sure have fun using them up! I downloaded the demo version of Knit Visualizer and installed it yesterday. Now I know what is disabled — the Save and Print functions. Makes sense if they want people to buy their software. Frustrate ’em no end and they will! I played with it quite a lot and today decided to bite. I just love immediate gratification! Pay by Paypal account, download the program, uninstall the demo, install the real thing and get right into it. 15 minutes tops from decision to function.

Now that I’ve had a chance to play with it and learn its quirks, I’m liking it lots. (Obviously!) I tried a rather complicated shaped edging from Martha Waterman (since that’s the book I was complaining that it didn’t have charts) with embossed leaves. This edging increases and decreases in width and has a bind-off section right before starting the repeat over again. Once you set up Knit Visualizer (hereafter known as KV) correctly for either flat or circular knitting, you don’t even have to think about reversing the wrong side row symbols. The program knows that in flat knitting you’re working a purl stitch on the wrong side but it looks like a knit stitch from the front and so on. The parsing of the typed-in row instructions went very well. Commas or spaces between the abbreviations are unnecessary so it makes typing easy. You have to occasionally change the author’s abbreviations to the more common version, such as Martha’s “dbl dcr” which I translated to “sl1 k2tog psso” and it was accepted. There is no symbol for cast-off or bind-off so I used a half-circle which is one of the colour symbols.

The only problem I really had was where the program automatically inserted the “no stitch” greyed areas. These are filling in the chart where the knitting bulges out and in as the edging increases and decreases in separate areas. Because the garter stitch heading is on the right, I wanted the blank areas split to maintain the leaf shape but the program inserted them on the right. It was relatively easy to go in and cut and paste rows over into their correct position but I wish there was a way to just drag the darn selections around! The finished chart doesn’t quite look like the actual knitted edging but it does give the general idea. Real knitted stitches bias and curve and no square representation can show that accurately. One thing I discovered is that there is an error in the pattern as written! It was obvious in the chart. Heh.

If you don’t want to use the parser, you can just go straight to the symbol selection and paint them into the chart anywhere you want. You can edit any chart, even one that was created with the parser, in order to refine or change your results. Copy, cut and paste all work handily to move things around. There’s even a Mirror function to flip a selection around horizontally or vertically. There is a large selection of chart symbols, including a rather extensive list of cables. The parser is not very good at rendering complex cables so you may need these to chart them instead.

There are several things you can do with your charts when they’re done. In the Chart Properties you can fill in the title, pattern source (so you can give credit where credit is due!) and any notes you like. When you go to print out your chart you can include a number of things if you want, such as title, notes, legend and instructions (not as you typed them in but as the parser renders them from the chart – too cool). You can edit much of the text, except for items in bold face, in the Print window. Very handy! If your chart and accompanying text takes up more than one page, it will tile onto as many as necessary. You can also adjust the scale in the Print Preview window which might enable you to save paper. As long as you don’t make it too small to read properly!

You can export the chart, including the extras that you want, as a PNG file. I thought that was an odd choice for a file format since PNGs aren’t as common as JPEGs but even though it could be a larger file, it’s “lossless”. Since KV works only in black and white (no colour, yet) it’s not a memory hog. Paint Shop Pro or other graphics editing programs can handle PNGs ok. You can also copy your chart to the Clipboard to be pasted into another file such as Word. Saved charts have the extension .KCT.

What would I like to see that isn’t in this program already? Not much. As I mentioned before, dragging a selection around might be handy. Maybe a few more symbols. There are so many different sets in use in different publications! Though the Legend really helps because you can re-define the exact meaning of a symbol. I did that with the symbol “M” which the program defines as a lifted increase. I made it into a “k in the front and back of the same stitch”. Colour might be nice for those who don’t have Pattern Maker Pro like I do. I prefer PM for colour charting especially because it has the ability to make proportional graphs (avoiding the distortions caused by knit stitches not being square) and it also can make a chart from a photograph or other graphic file. I think it will be a long time before KV can do anything close to that, if ever. However, this program is pretty close to perfecto as is.

Here’s the Leaf edging chart without all the accompanying text or I'd have to scale it down and you wouldn't be able to read it. I’ve given you all the clues to the symbols already except for the left-slanting decrease which is a “k2tog tbl” or you could use an SSK. You can work it from the chart now if you cast on 8 stitches and purl one row before starting:

I'm really very fond of leaves.

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