If you haven’t come across it before, Stitchmastery is a handy pattern and chart creating software which is built to help you design your own knitting patterns. It offers seemingly limitless possibilities for chart creation. Find out more at www.stitchmastery.com.
Whatever your reason for investing in charting software, learning the basics is essential, as these programs don’t always follow the logic of the software you might use in an office!
Here, I’m going to look at Stitchmastery, for a few reasons. First, it’s one of the most popular programs, and is easy to obtain – you just download it. Second, because it is a paid-for program it’s worth knowing more about before you spend any money! Lastly, I want to talk about Stitchmastery because it has quite a few quirks, and it took me a while to get used to these – but once I did, I realised that it was an extremely powerful tool. Cathy Scott, the software developer who created Stitchmastery, is not paying me to say this, but it is my favourite charting program!
Other programs, such as Stitch Fiddle, Chart Minder and Knit Pro, are also available. If you’re not sure which to use, download the free demonstration first. Stitchmastery has a limited demo option to try before you buy.
This masterclass is split into two parts:
- Part 1: Getting started – learn the ropes
- Part 2: Build on the basics to develop custom knitting charts
Part 1: Getting started
First I’m going to show you how to set up a chart. All this information is available in a lot more detail in the Stitchmastery manual, but if you’re not the kind of person who likes to read manuals (I know I’m not) then these are the basic steps you need to follow. It may seem overly simple to explain this bit, but Stitchmastery (SM) doesn’t always ‘think’ like a typical desktop application, so it’s worth knowing these details before you begin.
How to create a chart in Stitchmastery
First click the white panel for a new diagram.
You’ll get the following to fill out.
Give your file a name, and make sure it’s in the right location on your computer – SM sometimes defaults to an unexpected file location.
Give your individual chart a title as well.
Choose whether you want column numbers at the top or bottom, or both.
Fill in the numbers for the rows and columns boxes and choose circular, flat or mosaic. SM can’t go over a maximum chart height of 999 rows and 999 columns.
Remember to untick the ‘First row is a RS row’ if you’re starting on a WS row.
You can go back and change everything except the file name later when you’re editing the chart.
When you’re done you should have something like this…
Click ‘Finish’ when you’ve filled everything in, and your first chart will be prepared and pop up on screen.
Your screen will now look like this…
The bottom right box shows the line-by-line pattern text automatically generated as you create your chart. This is really helpful, as it allows you to check that what you’re creating on the chart is what you intend.
The bottom left box shows an outline version of the whole chart. You can select to show either a mini version of the chart, which can be useful if you’re zoomed in on a small section of a large chart, or a ‘text’ outline.
If you’re creating a pattern from scratch, it’s very useful to have the text outline showing in this bottom left box, as this flags up potential errors in the pattern for you by marking rows with errors in red.
To show the text outline, click on the box highlighted in blue below, which is top right of the ‘Outline’ box.
Once you’ve clicked this symbol, this is what your text outline will look like.
You can click on the arrow to the left of the chart name to see the chart broken down row by row.
If there’s something wrong with your chart, you’ll see a red dot here like this…
We’ll come back to this later.
Filling in your chart
You’ve already set up your chart with 15 rows and 15 columns.
To the right of your screen is a Palette box, which contains all the symbols for stitches that are available to you. If you can’t see this, click the arrow on the top right of your screen which points left. It looks like this…
Your palette will then pop up and looks like this….
Click on one of the lines to open that section of the palette…
Click on your chosen stitch and then move your cursor over to your chart and add it to the chart where you want it. In this case we’re using purl stitch to make a ribbed border.
Note that the chart will automatically generate the key for the stitch you’ve added. We will look at how to convert the key to a different style and adjust the text formatting later.
When you want to reuse this stitch, select the white arrow cursor from the top of your window, then click on the symbol in the key – you don’t need to go back to the palette.
Looking at our 2×2 rib, we can see that it isn’t fitting properly into 15 stitches, so we need to add or cut stitches if we want it to fit.
This might seem fairly obvious for this stitch pattern, with this number of stitches, but for a big lace shawl it can be harder to spot in advance that there’s going to be a problem. Being able to visualise it like this is very helpful.
Adding extra stitches / rows
To add extra columns (stitches) to your chart, first select a column next to where you want to add new columns (left or right).
Select a column by clicking on the stitch number at the bottom/top of it.
It’ll look like this…
Click on ‘Insert’ on the top bar and scroll down to ‘Insert Columns’.
You’ll get a sub-menu which offers you the choice of placing columns to the left or right. In this case we’ll insert the column to the left.
Your chart should now have an extra column.
If you want to copy a section of a chart and add it as extra columns, first select your columns as before. To select more than one column click on the number above/below the first column to select it, hold shift and then click on the last column you want to select.
It will look like this…
Then hit Ctrl+C/Cmd+C to copy the columns.
Go to the insert menu as before and this time click on ‘Insert Copied Columns’ and select whether you want to place them left or right.
Adding rows/copied rows works in exactly the same way as described above.
Stitchmastery is particularly useful when writing or checking complex charts, which is why many lace designers use it.
Because it generates text line by line as you make your chart, and checks the chart simultaneously, it makes it easier to find solutions to problems and remove any guesswork. If you’re working from a pattern and you think it might have a mistake in it, you can do a basic check by turning it into a Stitchmastery chart.
If the software thinks you’ve made an error it will show this with a red dot next to the Chart name in the Outline section (bottom left).
Click on this little arrow to expand the section and see where the problems are.
You can then expand each individual line if you need to as well, but remember this information is also in the text panel (bottom right).
As you address the problems in the chart, the red dots will disappear.
What the program can’t do, sadly, is tell you how to fix the issue. That’s where your human brain comes in! This is my favourite tool in Stitchmastery, though, and it’s just so clever. I wish I’d known how to use it when I was learning how to be a technical editor all those years ago!
Part 2: Now level up your skills with these extra features
In the second section of this masterclass we’ll look at how to add borders and repeats, work in sections to save time, and improve your formatting.
While Stitchmastery offers seemingly limitless possibilities for chart creation, it can be a little tricky to work out how the program ‘thinks’; it’s not always like a typical desktop program.
If you’re the kind of person who’s happy to read manuals, much of the information you need to use Stitchmastery easily is available in its manual, which is available to download. However, not everyone likes manuals, or has the time to read them! Here we break down some of the most important and useful tools, that you’re likely to use most frequently.
How to add borders
In the sample rib pattern we’ve been looking, at the chart doesn’t need to be as big as it is, as the same 4 stitch pattern is repeated across the columns. If you want to create a condensed chart, with a border to indicate the repeat, this is very easy to do.
First, delete the columns you don’t need. To do this, select them as before and hit the red cross in the top bar to get rid of them, or just press ‘Delete’ on your keyboard.
Now, select the remaining stitch columns you want to put into the repeat. If you just want to add a border onto the stitches, but don’t need to generate text to match your instructions, then select the stitches as follows.
First, click on the white arrow in the top bar. Then click the top left/right stitch you want to select, hold shift and select the bottom stitch diagonally opposite. Note that you can also use the Ctrl key to select individual stitches, rather than a whole row/ column:
Once you’ve selected your stitches, click on ‘Border’ in the top bar and choose ‘Place Border on Selected Stitches’. If you want a box all the way around, choose ‘All Sides. For right and left lines only choose ‘East and West only’, for top and bottom lines only, choose ‘North and South only’. You’ll get this now…
To amend the description for the border you have a couple of options.
If you just want to change the name, click on the text twice. You can now give the border a better name.
If you want to change the thickness or colour of the border line as well, or perhaps change whether you have a border on all sides, click on the red border box in the key, then go to Border in the top bar and select ‘Edit Border properties’…
Here you can change the name of the border in the key, which side(s) the border sits on, the thickness and colour of the line and so on.
Generally I increase the line size to 3 or 4 pt if it’s to be printed, as 2 pts is a bit thin,
Click OK and these properties will be applied to your border. You can change them any time you like.
To use the same border on another section of the chart, or extend the border to neighbouring stitches/ rows
Select the relevant stitches with the white arrow as before and go to Border>Add Existing Border on Selected Stitches>#name of border.
If you need to make a border with an irregular shape, the easiest option is to make a rectangular border and then remove individual stitches from the border as above to get this…
If you need to add partial borders, or very unusual shapes, you can select the stitches as before and use Border>Add Existing Border on Selected Stitches>#name of border.
Alternatively, you can add single lines by selecting the relevant stitch and then adding a border on one side only. This is fiddly and generates extra work (see TIP below) so making a rectangle and then removing stitches to get the irregular shape is my preferred option.
Adding a border in Stitchmastery is not the same as adding a repeat. This is important to remember. Adding a border in Stitchmastery gives you a visual aid, but it doesn’t tell the text generator anything.
Let’s start without a border as it’s easier to explain.
To select stitches to put them into a repeat, you MUST do it differently from when you’re making a border. First, select the marquee symbol in the toolbar – this looks like a box with dashes all the way around it to to the far right of the white arrow. This will give you a cursor that looks like a large plus sign.
Now, drag it around the stitches you want to put into your repeat. You must include the OUTER edges of any squares you want to select within the marquee.
Once your stitches are selected go to Repeat>Place Stitches in Selection into a Repeat.
You’ll get this…
Click on the drop down menu to the right of Repeat Type to select how your repeat will appear in the text automatically generated by the chart.
To add a number of repeats click the ‘add qualifier to repeat’ box and then choose ‘qualifier type’ from the drop down menu.
Give the number of repeats and click OK. Now you have a chart with a repeat in it, and this repeat will be reflected in the generated text like this.
This will get flagged as an error in the Outline text section, so the best way to get around this is to add the remaining rows into the repeat, without a border.
Adding repeats without a border
Adding repeats without a border can get confusing, especially if you have a few different repeat sections, so again, I tend to do this last.
To add a repeat without a border, select the new stitches with the marquee tool as before, and add repeats, but don’t select the ‘add a border’ option.
Now you won’t show any errors and will have the same number of stitches throughout the chart. I’ve added a blue border for now to remind me that the repeat is there.
To edit a repeat section, use the marquee tool to select the stitches as before. You’ll see that the selection now looks different, with an outline with small circles along the lines around the selected repeats. If you’re not sure where your repeats are, select the whole chart with the marquee tool, and use these circled lines to find your repeat.
Then click Repeat > Edit Repeats to amend the repeat. This is a useful tool if you want to double check the number of repeats given for a stitch count is correct.
Working in sections
One of my favourite things about Stitchmastery is that you can copy and paste sections of the chart to extend it, and this will then be reflected in the generated text.
To copy stitches to paste elsewhere in the chart, use the white cursor to select them.
To copy a whole column or row click on the number at either end of it.
If you want something to be symmetrical (e.g. decreases either side of centre on a lace shawl, copy the relevant columns of stitches, insert them where you want them, then select them with the white cursor – shown as grey here.
Then click on the blue/green triangles in the toolbar to flip them on the horizontal or vertical axis.
You’ll get this…
Note that the program has automatically generated the k2tog/p2tog stitch just by you flipping the ssk/p2tog tbl stitches.
Adding new charts
To insert a new chart into the same file use Insert>Insert Chart and then proceed as before.
If you want to copy a chart, click on the gap between where the stitch and row numbers meet at one of the corners and it will select the whole chart.
Use Cmd+C/ Ctrl+C and then move your cursor to an empty space – it doesn’t matter where, and click on that space.
Then hit Cmd+C/ Ctrl+C to paste the chart, which will automatically appear to the right of the last chart you created.
Leave any text formatting until you’ve finished working on your chart as otherwise, every time you add a new symbol it’ll come up in the default style, unless you’ve already changed your default font in the style sheet.
To format text click on the T in the top toolbar and then choose from the formatting options. A lot of fonts merge into each other on the stitch columns so you may want to reduce their size.
To remove a number from the stitch column click on the number and then select Edit>Hide Row/Column ID. You can select more than one column at a time to make this quicker. In this example I’ve removed all but the number 5 as a reference point for the stitch counts.
When you’re happy with the look of your chart, save the Stitchmastery format by choosing File>Save.
To save the Stitchmastery file into different formats, click the Camera icon in the toolbar and choose the format you want from the drop-down menus. To export the text, click the clipboard to the left of the camera icon and follow the instructions. You can also select and paste the text on screen or click the box on the top right of the text generator box, bottom right.
Stitchmastery has a lot of quirks and it’s impossible to cover them all here! As you go along you’ll discover new things, but below are a few of the main ones I’ve found.
There is a very helpful group on Ravelry.com if you get stuck on something specific: bit.ly/SMravelry
- Stitchmastery can’t automatically recognise colours in its generated text unless you create a custom stitch for that colour. If you want to use, say K2A, K3B, you’ll have to input this text manually into your pattern or create a custom stitch.
- Repeat counts bug If you want to add different repeat counts for different sizes, Stitchmastery can create them, but there seems to be a bug in the programme. The number of repeats you add will show in your outline text (bottom left) but not in your output text (bottom right). So you can use this function to check whether the repeat works in different sizes, but you’ll need to input the text manually into your final pattern. To add different numbers of repeats, when filling in the ‘qualifying text’ box for a repeat, add ‘1,2,3,4’ (for example) to get your multiple repeats. Note that there should be no gaps between numbers.
3. For more complex changes, such as style sheets, custom stitches or output text formatting, it is worth reading that section of the manual, as there are too many steps involved to outline them succinctly here! Alternatively, ask a question in the Ravelry group, as the members are very helpful.
4. When you create a stylesheet, with custom stitches, or visual style on it, other Stitchmastery users can’t access it automatically. To share a stitch library with another Stitchmastery user you need to save it into a shared workspace, such as a computer network or drive you can both access. You can then you can import it between users. Find detailed instructions on how to do this on page 61 of the Stitchmastery user manual, which is available to download at http://bit.ly/SMmanual.