I scribble things

This past winter I was working on a couple of different sweater projects that didn’t come from my own brain, which I love to do – because despite having practice at designing things it is always preferable to spend creative time with the results of other people’s creative brains at least some of the time. Also you get to make things, which is after all the reason to do anything creative if you ask me.

Anyhoo, both of the sweaters, Joist and Lempicka (which are I still haven’t quite finished, but I’ll just blow past that for the moment, lalalalaaaa) make good use of “at the same time” instructions for the sake of efficiency. Because when you have simultaneous armhole shaping decreases, neckline decreases, and cable pattern work all going on at once (as is the case with Joist, at the yoke), it becomes just too unwieldy to write that out row by row. The designer/publisher typically writes each piece of instructions on its own, tells you to work them “at the same time”, and then lets you figure out how to track that.

Joist notes

This, really, is the true essence of the difficulty level of “at the same time” instructions. Each individual piece – working a few decrease rounds to shape an armhole, for example – may not be very difficult on its own, but how you figure out simultaneous tracking for this is totally up to you. It’s not something that a pattern will typically do for you, and it’s a levelling-up experience for a lot of knitters. Ultimately, this is a moment where nobody else’s brain can replace yours. You can use row counter devices, make a visual schematic, find an old-school peg-board, whatever you want.

Personally, if it’s a more simple combination of steps, I tend to rely on a combination of visual reference of the pattern itself, and of the knitting work itself. (i.e. – being able to visually recognize what a decrease looks like, so I can count how many I’ve done). Otherwise, I scribble things. Above you can see my post-it note tacked to my Joist pattern notes, where I’m tracking (at the seamless yoke) armhole shaping decreases, sleeve-cap shaping decreases, and neckline decreases, and still need to be able to glance at the chart. So I made myself a post-it sized cheat sheet that I could keep right there. I use a combination of scribbled notes and ticky-boxes.

I’ve also come to realize that this is one of the things holding me back from fully committing to purchasing a tablet device (despite ooh-ing and aaaah-ing over them for several months now). I love being able to read patterns on PDFs, but haven’t yet learned how to replace the pen/ink/post-it-note scribbling that I do as a part of my knitting and designing processes. My brain still needs the scribbles, as it turns out. Can you scribble on a tablet? I look forward to discovering these things, now that we live in the future.

Happy knitting this fine Wednesday!




  1. Vicky Giffin · ·

    The answer to your questions is yes. The application is called “Knit Companion,” and it totally rocks. It is the reason I bought an iPad. I use it for everything from the simplest designs to complicated charts and shaping. The variable counters alone make it worth the small investment. Try it, you’ll like it!

  2. Vicky Giffin · ·

    p.s. There’s a Knit Companion group on Ravelry, too, if you just want to browse and see what people are doing with it. V

  3. Completely agree! Knit Companion eliminates the need for pen & paper, and it does so much more (especially if you knit from graphs).

  4. Claudia · ·

    Well, I do have an ipad and I did purchase Knit Companion…but I haven’t made the leap to really using it yet. I’m knitting a cardigan that uses two charts and I’m using my post-it note and pencil system. I think perhaps I should choose a simpler project to put into Knit Companion and practice with it a bit. It sounds like others have mastered it and like it. Good luck!

  5. I have an IPad, and couldn’t live without Goodreader. I’m sure it is similar it Knitcompanion. You can leave yourself Post-it notes, highlight rows (which is KEY when doing multiple charts for those Aran sweaters and the cables cross at all different times!), and even scribble! I am to the point now that I think twice before purchasing any pattern that isn’t downloadable to my IPad! Especially anything with cables……

  6. Scottie · ·

    Since I am a former student, I use my app Kno.com for downloading texbooks and pdfs.. I download the pdf and once open I am able to mark off my pattern just like paper. I use a smasung so knit companion is not up to date for andriod. Still waiting tho cus I love my tab 10. But whatever you can do with paper you can do on the tablet. Mark sizes, identify which rows will need the increases or decreases so you know when you come to that row to make it, highlight and move on. PlusmI’m doing my job here to save trees.

  7. Actually, Knit Companion goes WAY beyond Goodreader, with sophisticated counters that can keep track of multiple, simultaneous changes. It is specifically designed for knitting operations.
    See https://www.knitcompanion.com/
    And no, I don’t have a financial interest in this product, but it has revolutionized the way I knit.

  8. I use the safety pin-like markers in a series of 3 to keep track on the knitting. One on the first, then I leapfrog up with the three to mark the 2nd through 4th event. Then #2 goes to #5, etc. At a glance I can see if I’m close to doing the next inc/dec/cable/whatever.

    I use jknithdlite for charts, the highlighter line makes it so easy. I understand that Evernote is wonderful for marking up your PDFs.

  9. Personally, I like the scribble ‘on paper’ method. For me it’s the visual. And also, my scribbles have assumed diary like status. I often find a piece of paper that reads ‘dec neck’ and ‘dec arm’ with columns of Roman numerals and I can usually trace it back to the garment would you believe. And now they also have memories attached so I wouldn’t throw them out……….crazy but true. Jane

  10. What a fascinating post. It never occurred to me that coming up with tracking systems is so different for everyone and intrinsic to the craft (though no doubt it is!). I kind of like drawing pics and tables in a notebook. But off to check out Knit Companion.

  11. Michelle · ·

    I’m addicted to my iPad for practically everything but I still print out my patterns and then write all over the printed copies. I will take a look at knit companion though.

  12. Angela Hickman · ·

    I too am a scribbler. I use tick marks to keep track of rows and then give them flags (or feet, or both) to mark other things. I usually also work out which row number gets what, so I can keep track. I don’t know if that makes any sense written down, but on a Post-It stuck to my pattern, it’s totally clear (to me, anyway).

    I know you can edit pdfs on a tablet, but I’m not sure you just add on-going notes… I’d be pretty sold if you could, though, since if that Post-It disappears I’m in big trouble.

  13. Hazey reynolds · ·

    Goodreadervis amazing. I highlight the row I am working on, cross out completed rows, place post it type notes as needed, handwritten other notes, enlarge and minimize charrts as needed. Love it!

  14. I think all pdf applications for tablets allow the same functions. I use Adobe Reader to handle mine and i can insert comments, highlight, and even write on the pdf itself. with an affordable mini tablet pen you can also easily write them down as you would on paper! 🙂

  15. GoodReader lets you add things to a pdf such as notes & highlighting. Great app, but I will check out Knit Companion based on other comments 🙂

  16. I’m reading your blog post on my phone but when it comes to patterns I need paper copies and sticky notes. No electronic device will replace that for me.

  17. I specialize in digital information management, and after my “digital makes everything better!” phase, I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t, not always. Sometimes pen and paper is still the best technology.

  18. ladjm · ·

    I’m so glad that post-it notes are a big part of your knitting adventure too! I also use them in exactly the same way with boxes, circles, diamonds and triangles to show the different increases/decreases or pattern repeats! A number of times the note has fallen off (they don’t keep their sticky for long enough!) and I’ve had the entire family on the floor hunting beneath the sofa and chairs!!! Such fun in our house!!!!!!!!!!!!!! xxx

  19. […] at: https://crazyknittinglady.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/i-scribble-things/ This past winter I was working on a couple of different sweater projects that didn’t come […]

  20. I think I have a tablet but I print patterns out as it is just easier to carry along with my knitting. But if I did use pdfs I’d still probably draw out my at the same times, and stick the post it in my tablet case (it opens like a book) I need to make some kind of visual picture so I know where I am, and don’t get lost when I put the knitting down. Good to hear that lots of people have to do similar things to keep track 🙂

  21. Knit Companion is brilliant, but it’s iOS only for the moment. If you’re set on getting an Android, there are many PDF apps that let you scribble on things. I use Foxit, but might well be looking through this thread for more inspiration!

  22. There is also an ipad app called “notability”. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/notability/id360593530?mt=8

    I LOVE this app. I load PDF into it, even some that have charts…then I have the option to scribble and save my notes all over the pattern, highlight completed sections of the chart, etc etc. Best of both worlds! 🙂

  23. Deborah N · ·

    Goodreader on iPad all the way. Draw a line across the chart and move it down a row with your finger – no pencil to find. Easy to erase progress notes and keep editing note when finished and be ready for the next use. I have scanned patterns from books or magazines and saved as PDF. An added use for Goodreader is signing papers to email back to companies.

  24. LynnB · ·

    I have the technology, but absolutely reach for pen and paper, since I have not yet fully embraced the future that we are living in. 🙂
    I love your check box system! I generally just go with ticks; you know, four in a row and then crossed out with number 5. There have been patterns, however where each row gets its own identification and check mark. Very satisfying to be able to get past the tricky parts and put down the pencil—not sure that working from the ipad gives you the same sense of accomplishment.
    Don’t you just love the amount of discussion you’ve generated with this one? I think maybe the sunshine in the GTA is affecting me a little.
    Twitch, Twitch. GRIN!!

  25. somcdonn · ·

    As a reformed paper, post-it, check mark, magic tape, and copy machine enlargement user, when I found Knit Companion I happily left them all behind. If you haven’t tried it, you just don’t know what you’re missing!!

  26. I scribble too, even in books, which freaks out some knitters who feel it’s important to keep their books in pristine condition. I also add notes for future reference, because I’ve been known to knit a favourite pattern more than once. Sometimes old technology rocks. And I agree that there’s value in knitting other people’s patterns. FYI, I’m holding off on a tablet until my iPod Touch dies.

  27. Wow I feel like I have to do one of these programs…I have lost bits of paper before…so I usually write on my right hand..which really would be problematic in a sweater time frame..you know water and soap..it does seem to sink into my brain once I write it on my hand ! I really hate trying to learn to be tetchy…but I have come along way since..online bill pay started! 50 and lazy….

  28. bernice · ·

    I wonder if there is value in working our brains by figuring out the way to track the various things we have to do in a specific pattern on paper, rather than letting the app do the work. Perhaps process knitters like the paper and pencil method and people who just want to get it done like the digital version? I find that figuring out how to keep track helps me figure out just what is going on in the pattern. I haven’t tried any of these apps but am now very curious. I don’t always have my iPad with me so paper and pencil are pretty handy.

  29. So jealous of people who design!! I wish I could. I’m just not sure that I can!!!! I am definitely a paper and pen person. I need to tick off how many rows and where I’m at and I’ve tried the little click counters… just doesn’t work for me. 🙂

  30. twistedsticks · ·

    I too like to make notations and such. I usually end up printing out a pattern if it is very detailed so I have a hard copy. I don’t think the computer will ever totally replace pen and paper.

    I have a metal board and magnet that I use to follow along on the rows. Can’t do that with a computer!

  31. LizFM · ·

    The awesome thing about Knit Companion for those “at the same time” instructions, is after you take the time to set up the pattern (it took me a few hours to set up my first pieced cardigan, because I was learning *and* doing)….*The app itself tells you when to do all the decreases as you click through the rows*. It’s amazing. I still do a bit of ‘write stuff out by hand’ to double check that I’ve set the shaping counters correctly, and then ‘test click’ through them. But once you start knitting its *immeasurably* easier.

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