A while back I wanted to do some very simple charting to release a sock pattern. It turned out to be really difficult, mainly to the lack of cheap and reliable software. I’ve since already released the pattern, with written instructions only (that’s how easy the chart was by the way), and decided to scout the free or very cheap tool market out there. It turns out there’s a lot of free stuff out there. Unfortunately there’s no complete tool that does everything. They do a subset of things, with varying success.
This post isn’t nearly as much of rant as my post about Knitting Chart Maker was. That app really pissed me off. After writing the post, I tried doing something smart, and just grabbing a printscreen of my charts, which only worked in this particular case, because the amount of charting was very very little. Anyway, that only solved part of the problem. I couldn’t export the chart keys at all, and what good is a chart without key translation anyway? So I dropped the app entirely, wrote an angry, bad review and that’s that.
Here’s a list of some of the tools that I found that are useful in their own way. Most of them did not fit my specific use-case, but all of them are usable in one way or another, and I will most likely go back and use them if I ever find myself in need again.
Chart Minder is a web-based tool, that seems to really nail it, at first glance. It has many capabilities, and most importantly it looks like it has an active community and ongoing development. It can be connected to ravelry, and since it’s accessible from the web, it should be usable from anywhere.
Unfortunately some things are a bit too good to be true. It’s not really usable from my iPad. The styling and front-end of the application is completely broken when accessed from a touch-screen. So half of the form is missing or outside the screen. That’s a real shame. People developing websites today, should really have that in mind.
I tried using it from my laptop, which worked a bit better. If I’d had a different pattern to chart out, I probably would have been quite satisfied with the end-result. However, it proved impossible to create a cable pattern where the cable stretched across multiple stitches. There is the possibility of adding such a key, but it just doesn’t look right in the chart. So if such a simple pattern can’t be supported, I’m scared to invest any more time in doing anything more advanced.
I kept on bumping into this tool called KnitPro, while googling. It doesn’t fit my particular use-case, because it’s a tool for converting and image into a chart. I find that pretty nifty though. I might try it out if I ever want to knit something with colorwork or intarsia for my boys. I thought I’d list it here though, because I don’t want to forget the tool.
I found something on a blog called Orangellous. A type of form where you could submit your rows in written pattern and out comes a chart. For any type of larger chart this form would be a bit limited and slow-going. You have to either write the pattern out, or click the icons. However, you have the possibility of exporting your chart as a picture. You get a nice preview. And it’s the only tool I’ve found that actually worked. You can add custom stitches, and you also get the keys exported. Apart from it being a bit clunky to work with, it really does what it’s supposed to. I will most likely use this tool again. With some love, it’s own site, and some active development on the usability point, this could really become something.
Knitting Chart Maker is a tool from Tricksy Knitter. It’s free to use, but requires you to register on the site. At first glance it seems like an OK tool. Similar to Chart Minder. It only supports colorwork, however, and that’s not really what I needed this time.
That was about the stuff I could find that was virtually free. I can appreciate it being somewhat complicated to do a really fancy tool and release it for free. I do hope the expensive tools are better. At some point, if I find the investment worth it I might try one of them out. Until then it seems easier to go for the classic pen/paper/scanner approach or spreadsheet. Or just choose one of the tools that fit your specific use-case. Because amongst all these free tools, you can actually do most things.