Some thoughts about work processes

Over the years, I’ve built up a procedure for making my stitch patterns that’s as efficient as I think I can manage. I have not gotten around to trying to learn to write the kind of program that would do more of it automatically, but I have learned how to take advantage of the software I use to cut down on repetitive work.

In the process, I’ve also planned a set of backup methods in case any one piece of hardware or software I’m using becomes unavailable to me for whatever reason. I had reason to be grateful to my past self for doing this when our desktop computer failed this past weekend.

(We run regular backups in our house, so I haven’t lost any work. If you haven’t done backups in a while, might I suggest it?)

I’m not going to go into details about it all because describing it will take longer than I want to spend on this blog post. But I can talk about the particular set of substitutions I made this week, and maybe it will be useful to you in thinking about how you could make similar plans, if you like.

Usual chart and instruction generation

For instance, I make most of my published charts in knitting chart software. I use StitchMastery for this. I draw the chart, and then I export the written instructions and the charts.

I edit the written instructions twice: once so I can plug them into Stitch Maps and once so they’re in the format I want for my blog.

I have a template set up for use with my blog posts for the part that’s not written knitting instructions.

But this week, I couldn’t use StitchMastery because I don’t have a working computer. How did I make a chart that looks pretty much the same as a StitchMastery chart, and written instructions too?

Backup process

I might not have access to a desktop computer, but I do most of my other work on my iPad, both text editing and graphics work.

A while back, I made a template in a vector art app on my tablet (I currently use Affinity Designer) that has a blank chart and a key with all the chart symbols I use on a regular basis. I used a PDF exported from StitchMastery as the basis for this. I edit that blank chart as needed. Building the chart in an app like this is slower for me, and it doesn’t check my stitch counts the way StitchMastery does. I have to go back and double check my work to make sure I didn’t paste an extra yarnover in the wrong spot or something.

Then I write the text instructions myself, and let me just say that I’m prone to making errors when I do this by hand. However, even when I don’t have StitchMastery to check my stitch counts, I can use Stitch Maps as a reality check on that front. The nice thing there is that when I plug my text into Stitch Maps, it generates a Stitch Map that I can check against the chart I drew to confirm I used the right stitches in my text. And since I want to make a Stitch Map for each of my stitch patterns anyway, this doesn’t add much extra time to the whole process.

I was fretting a bit about the written instructions for the charted design this time, because I hadn’t set up a backup process for checking them before, and Stitch Maps doesn’t do colorwork. But I suddenly realized that I could write up the charted design as a knit/purl pattern, plug that into Stitch-Maps to check that I’d written the numbers correctly, and then do find and replace in a text editor to turn it into stranded knitting instructions.

Important side note: I don’t have my blog posts tech edited. In an ideal world I would, but because my income is small, I don’t. However, when I publish patterns for sale, I do hire a trained tech editor. You might think that the software I describe above would eliminate the need for tech editing, but I can tell you that it still leaves plenty of room for confusion and mistakes, especially in a longer pattern.

I have a copy of my blog post templates available on both my tablet and the desktop computer. If those weren’t available, I could copy the text from a previous blog post and edit it.

So, it’s slower, but having set up this backup process ahead of time made it possible to the last couple of hours’ work for publishing Cicada lace and the Cicada charted design in a bit more than a day, with no real panic or stress. And I would guess that if I hadn’t told you I used different software from usual to make the charts and written instructions? You would never have noticed.

This is all software I use anyway, but I also keep my eye out for software that would be appropriate replacements if any of my regular apps stops working.