Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Designing: books and software resources

Yesterday, I went up to a local Catholic school and talked for a full 45-minutes (which was NOT enough time) about knitting and bending/breaking the "rules" and designing your own. I brought some of my "library" with me, but thought I'd do a full post about all the great resources out there for hand-knits design.

I didn't mention this in class ... but I should have. Software is not a necessity but a really great "nice to have".  I like that the software does much of the number-crunching/drudge type stuff so I have more time to knit -- always a good thing.  There is a company called Knitting Software which has some of the best, easiest to use, most versatile design software out there. Carole Wulster (and now her family, too) started this company back in 1990 ... a computer programmer and knitter, she created the first version of Sweater Wizard (now in Version 3)... than went on to create other software tools for knitters. I was blessed to be able to help beta-test some of these software programs over the years and have used them extensively in my own design work for the past 15 years or so. Here are all the software available to help knitters design so we can spend our time KNITTING!
  • Stitch and Motif Maker -- to chart textured or colored stitch patterns (some books STILL don't chart these and it is so much easier for us visual folks to see what the stitch should look like rather than trying to follow the words (or worse, abbreviations and symbols!) 
  • Sock Wizard -- to design socks that fit! You can input foot length, ankle diameter, leg length, whatever to get a sock pattern that really fits 
  • Knitting Math Wizard -- for quickly "doing the math" of placing even decreases or increases, getting the appropriate angle for sleeves, etc 
  • Print-a-Grid -- for printing out graph-paper blanks that is exactly what your gauge is -- the right sts and rows to the inch so you can really see what the pattern will look like (especially great when graphing intarsia or picture knitting) 
  • Swatch Wizard and Mitten Glove Wizard -- these are two new programs that I haven't used yet but look great. Swatch Wizard keeps a database of swatches so you can "remember" exactly what you got with which needles and which yarn; Mitten Wizard allows you to design mittens with directions "written" for 4 or 5 dpns, 2 or 1 circulars knitting!
Books -- Here are the books I really like for designing ...
Many of these books should be at the public library, so you can check them out (literally!) before buying.  The Fanderl books, although in German, have the stitch patterns charted so it doesn't matter if you read German or not!  There are many other great stitch-ionaries out there and Ethnic/folklore pattern books are great for inspiration.  I particularly like the new Interweave book by Marianne Isager, Inca Knits: Designs Inspired by South American Traditions, packed with beautiful designs inspired by the clothes, textiles and pottery of South America.

Other supplies you might like to have: 
  • sets of knitting needles in all different sizes; I've used this Boye set for more than 20years.  The Boye set is similar to the Denise Set or the Options Set from Knit Picks.
  • graph paper
  • calculator
The above should get any novice designer a great start ... post a comment or email me (bhwh.mary at if you have questions or would like other suggestions for books, materials, and yarn!

1 comment:

The Bookworm said...

Thank you very much for this, Mary. I'm just beginning to try my hand at tweaking, customising and (gasp!) designing, largely thanks to Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard. It really demystifies knitting from the top down and doing your own thing. I borrowed it from the library and think I will have to purchase it. Anything that can coax me out of my "must follow the pattern" safety zone has to be good!