Saturday, January 13, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
In order to maintain an untenable position, you have to be actively ignorant.--Stephen Colbert

Ignorance is no excuse--Marilyn Roberts

In the Knitting Multiverse, shit happens in a very public way, thanks to the Internet. I'm talking about the Blue Moon Fiber Arts banking fiasco. And if you're looking for specifics, lots of people have been writing about the whole mess.

Briefly, Blue Moon, a women-owned and operated business that sells beautiful yarn and does a sock-of-the-month deal that looks really nice, had its ability to accept credit cards negated by its bank for no particular reason other than the bank seemed to think that selling yarn wasn't a creditable business. Purchasers were refunded their money, even though they didn't want their orders canceled.

However, once again, the KnitDweebs have come out in droves to defend the sacred craft of knitting, rather than to discern what the real issue is: Women in business have to deal with gross discrimination. If you think knitting is being attacked, grow up and get over it. Who cares how nonknitters view knitting?

Don't knit socks and send them to Blue Moon or the bank or to whomever in protest. That's ludicrous and accomplishes nothing. Better to support Blue Moon by buying from them and paying for your purchase with a check that, yes, you have to put into an envelope and mail. With a stamp.

Charting a Course
In lieu of a blog entry, for the past two weeks, I've been charting up design ideas and playing around with some new concepts, in particular that Christmas Fair Isle pattern that I've had in my head. I use Knitting Software's Stitch Motif Maker (SMM) primarily, but I've found that it falls sadly short of my needs lately. So off I went to check out two other charting programs, Cochenille's Stitch Painter (SP), which I once owned when I had a Mac G4 and Knit Foundry's Knit Visualizer (KV), which Ted put me onto.

So, how do they all compare? Well, I broke down each program into color capability, general symbol capability, stitch symbol capability, value-added features and drawbacks. As far as user friendliness is concerned, I tested the Windows version of each, so you have the usual menus. If you are familiar with simple paint programs, you will have no problem navigating. Here's what I discovered.

Common denominators
All three programs allow you to configure a grid size. All three work on a palette system, which means you choose your color/stitch symbol from a window that displays available options. All three allow you to save or export your chart into a format other than the one the program generates.

Custom Color Capability
  • SMM--Basic colors are the default. The palette's custom colors are limited to a very small area.

  • SP--Default palette contains both solid and patterned colors, along with selected symbols. You can customize the colors.

  • KV--no color capability at this time; however, Knit Foundry will be releasing an upgrade soon that will include color.

Symbol Capability

  • SMM offers palettes of both knitting and unspecific symbols that can be used together with a color or alone. Using a symbol with a color is a two-step process that tends to be a bit time-consuming and clumsy.

  • SP--Palette can be customized with a large variety of symbols, including those used for beadwork, crochet, embroidery and other fiber crafts.

  • KV--Here is where this program shines. An extraordinary palette of knitting stitches, particularly a large assortment of cables that can be placed with one click. I could not display the extent of the palette's selections in one screenshot.

Value-Added Features

  • SMM doesn't have much. Arguably, its best extra feature is its ability to export to Paint, a program that comes with Windows.

  • SP has a range of extra features, which include a stencil function, handy for creating and copying large motifs, an importation feature that allows you to grid a photograph (more for needlepointers and machine knitters than for hand knitters), a palette merge function, color blending, Design-A-Knit export, and a bunch more that are fairly complex for the average user. Unfortunately, SP's demo is so limited that I can't show you a screenshot of these features. Why this is, I don't know, because all they needed to do was disable the Save As and Print functions to keep the program from being active, thus letting potential buyers really sample what they have. Stupid.

  • KV has something so unique that it's mindblowing: The Parser. What this feature does is allow the user to create a chart from typed directions. Whoa! Take a look at this:

You enter the text--the program allows you to select flat or cirular knitting and the number of stitches per row (great for those lace patterns where stitches disappear and reappear). Then you click the Add Row #X and...

Somehow I think I managed to reverse the symbols but you get the idea. And then, the final coup de grace is you get this when you print out:

Took me two screenshots to fit this all it. In the Preview Window, you will see not only the chart but the legend AND your written directions. You can then either export to .png (Portable Network Graphic) format, which is superior to .jpg, copy the whole thing to your clipboard, view the Print Preview or just print it.

SMM's palette can be clumsy to use and it's a bit limited. The cable symbols are a pain in the ass to use. Custom color selection is difficult, given the tiny area on the palette. Adding and deleting rows/stitches is a bit tiresome. The copy function is weird. In general, SMM has too many steps to accomplish a number of functions that should only take one click.

SP is almost too complex, in a way. The manual is a nightmare--this coming from a technical writer. They'll sell you "Cheat Sheets" that should be superfluous if the manual were better. And SP also relies on specialty plug-ins that must be purchased separately, like the Full Color Import module. Feh.

KV's biggest problem, and one that they are fixing (because I asked, since I wouldn't buy it unless it had color selection), is that of color capability. In order for this program to be truly useful to the knitter, it has to have that, no question.

The Final Word
No program can be all things to all people. So based on my little bit of research, I would say that if you need something easy to use that will create very basic, simple charts for your own use, Stitch Motif Maker is just right. If you're a power user and you do multiple fiber crafts, then SP is fine--they offer a Standard (color only, no symbols) and Gold version of the software, so you can dumb it down if you wish. Knit Visualization, with the addition of color functionality, is a professional-grade knitter's charting program. The high-quality graphics, the ease of charting and the incredible stitch symbol palette, along with the parsing, make this my choice.

SMM has good online help within the program. They also have a very good, readable manual in .pdf format, available if you click that link or downloadable from their site.

As mentioned before, SP's manual is too much and too confusing for the average user. And not downloadable from the site for free. Just some hints and tips.

KV's manual is exceptional. Clearly written by a software technical writer who is a knitter. You can download the manual and read it for yourself.

Read the manuals, visit the sites and see what you think. Doing this will help you make an informed decision as a consumer. Yes, there are other options--you can use Excel. I did a mini-tutorial on this last year. But if you want to do some serious charting, check out these applications.

And here are your costs:

Stitch Motif Maker V.3: USD$89.95
Stitch Painter Standard: USD$85.00
Stitch Painter Gold: USD$165.00
Knit Visualization: USD$135.00

So pick yer poison.

The Knitting Curmudgeon Circa. 1996
Gee, I didn't think anyone remembered the old KC web site that I ran from 1996 to around 2000 off of AOL's member site. Sarkamo was correct in the last entry's comments--I guess I've been doing this for more than five years now, with a brief two-year absence.

The old KC site was not a blog. Indeed, blogging didn't exist. Rather, it was a collection of my snarkiness in essay form, along with a free pattern. Back then, you coded your web pages so it wasn't something that I updated often. However, when I started blogging, some of my old readers found me again and that was very gratifying.

The Knitting Curmudgeon came into existence after a particularly heated flame-o-rama on the Knit List, wherein I did an Anti-Martha Stewart bit and got singed. But even then, there were KL readers who got my sense of humor and were supportive. I came up with the title because I had just given Jimmy the book with curmudgeon quotes, since he certainly was at least as curmudgeonly as I. I read the book and then realized that perhaps I fit the bill.

So yes, the Knitting Curmudgeon has been an entity since late 1996. And it's all mine. I take pride in being a pioneer in snottiness.

That does it for a rare and handy Saturday. The day's a-wasting and there's knitting (and laundry) to be done. And some spinning, too. Haven't done that in a while.

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