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A picture of Naomi Parkhurst

Naomi Parkhurst

Knitting designer

in designer, knitting, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi, I'm Naomi Parkhurst. I'm trained as a librarian, but these days I'm a knitting designer. I love doing lots of other fiber arts for fun, as well as knitting and reading.

I design two kinds of patterns for knitters: first, patterns for things like shawls and hats, and second, what are called stitch patterns, which are arrangements of knitted stitches that can be used as design elements in larger knitting projects like shawls and hats and other things. I mostly design these as lace. Many of my stitch patterns are posted on my blog.

There are two basic ways to provide patterns for hand knitters: written instructions that are very much like a computer program, and charts based on the fact that knitting stitches form a kind of grid. I prefer to provide both kinds of instructions for almost all my patterns; sometimes it's not technically feasible to provide more than one for a given design.

Most of my stitch patterns are based on turning words into numbers, charting those numbers on a grid in various ways, and then turning the results into knitting stitches.

What hardware do you use?

I share an iMac running Big Sur with my family, which I primarily use for things I can't do on my iPad, or which benefit from a bigger screen. Most of my work is done on an iPad Air (3rd generation) using an old Apple Bluetooth keyboard and a Pencil. I use a clamp mount to hold my iPad at a good angle while sitting in a Poang armchair with footrest, with my keyboard in my lap, a cat on my ankles, and a cup of tea on the table next to me.

For photos, I use a combination of an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, my iPhone X, and sometimes my iPad.

Non-electronic design tools include graph paper notebooks and knitting needles. I'll grab any graph paper I can find, but most often use Decomposition Books, the ones with grid pages. My current favorites for circular knitting needles are HiyaHiyas, because the cables don't curl up while I'm knitting. For double-pointed needles, I mostly don't care, but prefer wood or bamboo needles to metal ones, though I'm also fond of addi FlexiFlips as a replacement for regular double-pointed needles.

And what software?

For my encoded words, I start by encoding the words as numbers using Knittr, an app on GitHub created by Amy Gleixner, inspired by my methods. Then I turn the numbers into black and white square emoji using a script in BBEdit on iMac or find-and-replace searches in Textastic on iPad, arrange the results into rectangles of different sizes with mirror symmetry in Graphic, and then scribble knitting chart symbols on the final chosen rectangle in a PDF using PDF Expert while I knit the lace to go with the rough draft chart. This is a pretty idiosyncratic process, but it's an idiosyncratic kind of knitting design, so there's no single tool that does the whole thing.

For rough draft design work, I sometimes draw in my graph paper noteworks before knitting, and sometimes take notes in the notebook while designing on the needles.

I make my final knitting charts in StitchMastery, software that creates knitting charts, checks to make sure the stitch counts work from row to row, and that exports written instructions. I edit the charts in Affinity Designer. I edit the written instructions in BBEdit or Textastic to make them fit my personal stylesheet and add HTML formatting before posting the final results on my blog or putting them into a design to be published.

My knitting patterns for finished objects are written in Pages. I'm working on a book in Scrivener. I write blog posts in Wordpress. I keep random notes in the Notes app on my iPad.

I use a hodgepodge of graphics apps for everything else. On iPad: Procreate, Graphic, Pixlr, Brushstroke, and Affinity Designer. On iMac: GraphicConverter, Affinity Designer, and Affinity Photo.

I sometimes use Astropad to let me use my iPad as a graphics tablet when working on the iMac.

What would be your dream setup?

I would love to have a full-featured knitting chart app on my iPad that's like the StitchMastery knitting chart software, but with the added ability to create custom knitting chart symbols based on vector art. While I'm dreaming, I'd really love it if that same app did all the automatable aspects of my word-to-knitting-stitch-pattern encoding process: that is, I'd love to plug in a word and have it use my encoding techniques to give me a large set of rectangles made of black and white squares with mirror symmetry in both directions that I could then add knitting chart symbols to. Even a second app to turn words into those encoded rectangles would be great.

I'd also love a chaise longue with a built-in tablet holder that would center my iPad in front of me instead of slightly to one side. A built-in lap desk for the keyboard or my notebook would also be fantastic.

Otherwise, I can't really think of any improvements on my current knitting design setup, which I think is a pretty great situation.