Monday, February 22, 2016

Knitting with an iPad: Numbers Template

I am a digital native. This may seem surprising since I was born in 1967. But I am the child of an electrical engineer who was an early adopter. Since he was buying computers early and often there was always some lesser machine rolling off the bottom of the stack for me. In 1983 I was the only kid in my high school with a computer. I was the copy editor of my high school yearbook. When all the other high schools were typing their copy on triplicate forms with typewriters, I figured out how to feed the forms through my daisy wheel printer and wrote the whole yearbook in a word processor.

This is to say I think in computer. When I want to take notes I reach for my iPad or phone. It never even occurs to me to reach for a pencil and paper. When I started knitting I kept notes in the aptly named Notes app. (Notes is especially good since the iOS 9 update because you can take pictures right in the middle of your note taking.) When I realized I was obsessed with knitting I started researching databases. I loved Filemaker Pro when I was an engineering consultant. The power of a database is compelling to me. I wanted the ability to design records with different kinds of data fields. But Filemaker Pro is way too expensive for me. I ended up buying an iPad app called Boximize. (It doesn't have a counterpoint for the Mac, which is a drawback. It also deletes everything you just typed into it if you callously go to another app. It's like the olden days when you had to actually hit Save. Only there is no Save in the app. You have to back out of what you're doing with Done. I keep thinking they'll fix their autosave in a future update.) I will discuss Boximize as a knitting app in another post.

What I want to talk about today is Numbers, the spreadsheet that comes standard on all iPads and Macs. While a database is what I need for all the assorted information about each design, like the yarn and needles I used, final size and weight, photos of critical parts of the process to refer to later, a spreadsheet is what I want for the actual pattern. Especially a spreadsheet on iCloud that syncs automatically between my computer and my iPad.

I often download a PDF of a pattern online, select all the text, and paste it into Numbers. Then I edit it into row-by-row instructions. I may duplicate the pattern into multiple sheets and delete the stitch count for all but one size. Once I have all this organized on my computer I can go anywhere with my knitting and use my iPad as a checklist. I can add notes on a row-by-row basis in the spreadsheet on my iPad. If I use the same pattern again I add a column and make a separate set of notes for the next time I make it. Then eventually I may duplicate it to a new sheet, change the version number and revise the whole pattern if I come up with a better way of doing it. You can do all this directly on your iPad but it's kind of frustrating. I clicked all around on it and couldn't figure out how to save a file as a template. But you can do it on your Mac and save it to the iPad to use it.

Here is my standard Numbers template for a knitting pattern, as seen in a screen shot of my iPad.

Here's how to create this knitting pattern template for Numbers on your Mac.

  1. Open Numbers by clicking the bar graph in the Dock or find it in the Applications Folder in Finder.
  2. File: NewChoose a Template should come up. I started with Basic Checklist. Click that choice and then Choose in the bottom right of the box.
  3. Change the default words. I changed CHECKLIST to NAME, and the Checklist in the tab I changed to Version. Double click on the word to highlight it and type over it
  4. I changed Date to Instructions and Task to Notes
  5. I duplicated the checklist column because I kept forgetting if I checked it before or after knitting the row. If I have a box to check for both I know where I am when I pick it up again. If they are both checked I stopped at the end of the row. To duplicate a column select the letter at the top. Copy it (command C), select the C column and right click (two finger tap on track pad, control click for one button mouse) Select Add Column Before. Paste into the new column.
  6. Select Column D now and add another column before it for the stitch count.
  7. Resize your columns. You can select all of them and hover over the line between letters until the cursor has two arrows sticking out. Double click. This makes them all very small. Now stretch out Instructions and Notes to fill the window the way you like it. Select the column and hover over the line to get the cursor to change to two arrows. Click and drag to size.
  8. Add more rows to your spreadsheet by grabbing the = at the bottom and dragging it down.
  9. Now you can save this as a template to use next time. From the File menu select Save as Template. You'll get a dialog box asking Create a custom Numbers template? You can add this spreadsheet to the Template Chooser, or save it to your computer. Select Add to Template Chooser. (The Template Chooser is what you saw when you created a New File. A thumbnail of the spreadsheet you just created will appear in a box with a place for you to type a name for it. I named mine Knitting Pattern. If you right click it you can rename it or delete it.)
How to get this on your iPad? Save the file as Knitting Pattern. Open Numbers on your iPad. (If it's not there go download it from the App Store.) When you see the list of spreadsheets you'll see your Knitting Pattern file. Select it. You'll get a dialog box asking Add to Template Chooser? You'll be able to use this template to create new Numbers spreadsheets. Click Add. Now your creation is available on your iPad too.

Now when you go to File: New you can select My Templates and see your empty pattern. Or just scroll down and it's at the end of all the stock ones. If you download a PDF of a knitting pattern or see one on a blog you'd like to try you can select the text, copy it, go to your new file made with your template, select the top cell in the Instructions column, and paste. Try it with the numbered list above. It will put each paragraph in a cell of the spreadsheet. Now you can make your own notes for each step, delete sizes you aren't using, type the stitch count into its own column, and more. Whenever a pattern says Rows (17-28) or something like that I carefully expand that to the right number of rows to check off.

For patterns on double pointed needles I often add columns to keep track of how many stitches are on each needle. Or if I have a hat with a lot of markers I'll track stitches between markers in another column. If I am designing a hat and want to see if the number of stitches are going to come out I use formulas to calculate the stitch count for me. Spreadsheets are so handy!

Here's an example of a spreadsheet I worked on today while I was making a duck. This is an example of how sloppy you can be if you want. Just because it's a spreadsheet doesn't mean you have to make it feel like work. I am not really OCD about the checkboxes or stitch count when I'm making it up as I go. Precise row counts and stitch counts are more important when I'm doing a second of something, like a foot, to be sure they match. (Feet go from row 80 to 113, not seen in this example.) I try to jot down just enough that if I like how it turns out I can do it again, filling out the instructions to be more clear. The duck was way too hard. I'm not going to try to make this into a reproducible pattern. 

Also that yarn from the fabric store had such a strong smell it gave me a migraine for the two days it took me to make this duck. You'd think I would learn.