I’ve got enough patterns now on tap that I should start thinking of how the follow on to The New Carolingian Modelbook should be composed. It’s been notional for a long time, with the tentative name of Ensamplio Atlantaea in honor of the other SCA region that took me in during my self-imposed absence from Carolingia.

Aside from having no publisher for this one, the biggest impediment is that I haven’t figured out how best to graph the patterns for publication. At this moment, I’m still bound to paper and pencil. The graphs in TNCM were made using my late, lamented Macintosh computers (a II and a IIcx); and Aldus Superpaint drawing/drafting software. We shifted over to the PC world long ago in response to the strain of keeping two parallel suites of hardware and software functional, and in response to the PC-centric nature of employment in this house.

To date, I’ve not found Windows based general graphics software that does as good a job for charting as the vintage-1990 stuff I used for my first book.

I’m still looking. I have an interim solution using MS Visio. It’s cumbersome, and time-consuming compared to my Superpaint method. In Superpaint I was able to establish a bitmap based graph as a separate field, then paint on lines set up with voids to correspond (in negative) with the dots of my background. So instead of painstakingly noting each individual stitch, I could run a length of stitches in one stroke and have those stitches neatly separated by voids to mark the length of each. For example, instead of a solid line four units long, I was able to paint a line that looked like it was broken up into four exact stitch length units, and do it on vertical, horizontal and diagonal planes. But in Visio I can’t do that. The best I can do is create several blocks, each with a line segment corresponding to a stitch (one side, two parallel side, two sides meeting at one corner, one diagonal, two diagonals, one diagonal and one side, etc.); then stack and rotate my blocks into my finished pattern. Although this method works well enough for block unit patterns it is excruciatingly slow for line unit designs, and compared to my old method is too tedious to use for a whole book.

So it’s back to exploring the world of commercially available charting software. There are several programs created expressly for needleworkers. However they’re not aimed at my needs, they’re all targeted at multicolor tapestry style cross stitchers, who are interested in styles that look more like needlepainting (creating multi-color pictures with stitch units corresponding roughly to the pixels in a raster display image) than in the linear and mostly monochrome styles I prefer.

To date I’ve looked at several programs including:

  • Cross Stitch Professional, DPSoftware
  • PC Stitch 9, M&R Technologies
  • PatternMaker for Cross Stitch, HobbyWare
  • Easy Cross, Fulford Software Solutions
  • KG Chart LE for Cross Stitch, iktsoft

Mind you – remember I’m not looking at the features that most of the world wants in these cross stitch packages, notably the ability to turn JPGs or photos into cross stitch graphs, fidelity to a dizzying array of potential thread/color choices, or final output targeted at publishing complete patterns (with thread consumption and stitch symbol charts). I want something that will graph out double running stitch in a manner that enables stitchers to clearly discern the number of units in a long run, that allows easy selection/inversion/mirroring of pattern subunits or areas, and that otherwise eases production and use of of high complexity charts for double running or other similar linear stitching styles.

In mainstream graphics programs, I’ve been playing with Visio (described here) and Open Office Draw. I’m thinking of exploring the world of contemporary raster based Windows graphics programs next, but there has to be a better solution.

I’ll post detailed observations of these programs this week. Stay tuned. And if you have any suggestions for other Windows-based software that might suit my purpose, please let me know.

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