Which knitting app for the iPad is best?

For the last several months, I have been using the JKnit app on the iPad to help me keep track of my knitting progress. Jknit isn’t just a counter. It allows the user to enter line by line instructions so that the user only sees the exact directions for the row that is being knitted as the counter is changed. It has been my constant companion as I’ve worked on the eternal Eternal Knot blanket. It didn’t matter if I stopped working on the project for weeks at a time. When I started working on it again, it “remembered” where I was in the project and what I needed to do next.

It’s certainly not a bad app. As I said, I’ve used it and depended on it. They’ve added a web interface so that patterns can be set up at a conventional computer rather than tap-tap-tapping at a touch screen. For me, it wasn’t that hard to figure out.

I never thought about how usable JKnit was until I introduced my friend Wendy to JKnit. To say that she seemed a little mystified is likely an understatement.

JKnit relies on a series of forms to allow the user to re-define the pattern into small, discrete pieces. There is a problem with that. I never really thought about it, but as a programmer, I’ve been trained to break big problems down into small black boxes. I’ve learned how to make things less concrete and fit them into more generic structures.

Not everyone has that skill though. For some, it really IS a bit much to ask them to break down a pattern and figure out whether a row with some increases scattered at seemingly random intervals is “increase left”, “increase right”, “increase evenly”, or the ever-reliable (and often over-used) “other”. It’s even more of a stretch to ask them to do that without introducing an error into the mix.

The other issue is that it has no charting capability. If you’re not a big fan of charts, it’s not a big deal. If you love charts with all of your heart, it’s a deal-breaker.

I’ve also tried Goodreader quite a bit. It’s a generic PDF reader that allows “mark-ups”. For me, “mark-ups” means a translucent line that allows me to mark where I am in the pattern. Think of it as a straight-edge on a conventional piece of paper.

My very favorite feature of Goodreader is that I can connect it to the Ravelry pattern library. If I’ve added a pattern to my Ravelry library (either through purchase or access to a free pattern), I can easily download the pattern from Ravelry and store it on my iPad even when there is no WiFi available. It has been a gift because I can keep multiple patterns ready “just in case”.

On the down-side, there’s no row counter. If I have to repeat the same section several times, the only way to keep track of the iterations is if I use another counter.

Today, I started playing with KnitCompanion. It provides the ability to read a PDF as well as row counters. The set-up of projects is far more intuitive than JKnit. The user can break a PDF down into portions with just a few finger flicks. Up to four counters are available, so that you can say, “I’m on row 4 of the 5th repeat.” That will come in very handy! There’s even a place to store a stitch key (another feature that JKnit lacks). I set up the Flapjack Frogs pattern that I’m working on up in about 5 minutes and was back to knitting!

2011-09-01 KnitCompanion

Is KnitCompanion perfect? Nope. If you are working on a chart, there’s a nice straight edge to help keep your place, but not if you’re working on a conventional text pattern. There’s also no Ravelry connection. So to get a pattern from Ravelry, one must use GoodReader to access the pattern and then use a command within Goodreader to open the pattern in KnitCompanion. (Alternatively, you can load the pattern when sync-ing the iPad.)

The other HUGE downside of KnitCompanion is the price… 16 bucks!

Yep… I said that right. Sixteen bucks!

That’s a big pricetag, especially when compared with Goodreader, which can be used for all kinds of PDFs, and JKnit.

However, I started to think about the price in terms of some of my other knitting tools. I have one pair of needles that I bought for about $30. They are one size (4) with a specific cable length (24″). I’m not going to use them for ever project, but they’re beautiful and comfortable. The quality exceeds those of the needles that I typically use. If one good pair of needles that I can’t use on every project is worth $30 to me, why wouldn’t an app that I can conceivably use with every project be work $16?

I went ahead and bought the full version for $16. I just so happened to have an iTunes gift card for $20. I can think of no better use for a gift card than on an item that I wouldn’t otherwise buy because of the price!

So which app is “best”? Unfortunately, as with many things in life, it depends. I’m still not done with rigorous testing with any of them. However, I suspect that it will depend on what one is doing.

For my part, I think that I will continue to use all of them. Which I choose to use will depend on the case and my mood.

4 thoughts on “Which knitting app for the iPad is best?

  1. Lynn

    Thank you, Grace. Even though I don’t own an iPad or need this technology, it was a pleasure to read your analysis and insights. (I have to laugh at myself, because my knit-geek-ness is akin to my love for cookbooks, when I only seriously cook in months that I need the extra warmth which the oven provides.)

  2. Marknitz

    Insightful comments. You might want to update your post to reflect v1.5 which supports written instructions.

  3. Kara Rosales

    I downloaded Goodreads to start with, and accidentally got the iPhone version instead of the iPad! Oops!

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