“How many skeins do I need for a sweater?” The project may vary, but the question doesn’t.
When faced with a new yarn and a vague idea of what it wants to become, we need a ballpark estimate of how much yarn we should buy. Would that be one skein, or two, or a dozen? The bigger the project and the more expensive the yarn, the greater our need for a reasonably reliable answer.
If you don’t believe me, just ask this woman.
Pull Out Your Phone
If only you could just pull out your phone, enter the yarn’s gauge and the kind of project you want to knit, and quickly see how much yarn you’d need?
You already can. The Knit Handy app, based on Ann Budd’s genius numbers in her Knitter’s Handy Book of series, has been available since late 2011. Its function is simple but effective, giving most garment types in a range of sizes, and calculating for gauges in one-inch increments, from 3 to 7 stitches per inch.
Time passes, technology evolves, and the basic styles and silhouettes we knit evolve too. All of which have set the stage for a new app that launched this week from knitwear designer Hannah Fettig and her programmer husband Abe.
Called StashBot, the app is currently available for iOS devices and can be purchased through the App Store for $4.99.
Under the Hood
The first thing you’ll notice with StashBot is the interface. There’s no “welcome” screen, no initial navigation is required. Open the app and you’re immediately in the guts of it. The engine’s running and ready.
At the top of the screen you’ll see a band of possible garments, each elegantly illustrated with simple, appealing graphics and explanatory text beneath. Your choices? Vest/shrug, cropped 3/4-sleeve sweater, average-length sweater, long sweater/tunic, hat, mittens, scarf/shawl/infinity cowl, and, last but not least, socks.
You don’t navigate this app by clicking or tapping and waiting for the screen to reload. Instead, simply slide the band to the right or to the left until you find the garment you desire. As each garment passes the red vertical notch in the center of the screen, your phone makes a satisfying “click” sound. It’s mesmerizing to watch the icons slide to and fro.
Once you’ve found the type of garment your yarn wants to become, you can move down to the next band and choose size. Here, the language varies depending on the project. For example, hats call for a head circumference, sweaters for a chest circumference, and socks for foot length.
Many measurements have explanatory text to help you understand its context. For example, you can see that a six-inch sock is suitable for a toddler, while a 21-inch chest circumference would suit a size 2—both infinitely helpful when knitting gifts for someone you can’t easily measure.
The size ranges are generous. Sweaters run from 16 inches in chest circumference (for a three-month-old baby) up to 62 inches. Even hats scale from baby to XL adult.
Once you reach your desired size, it’s time for gauge. Here’s the biggest bonus: You’re given gauge in quarter-inch increments, starting from 3 stitches per inch and running all the way up to 8. That should cover most projects except for the superbulky and the superfine.
Prefer metrics? Click the red “inch” on the “Stitches per inch” label and presto, everything switches seamlessly to 10cm.
The Law of Averages
No, these numbers aren’t absolute, nor are they infinitely customizable. In the StashBot Guide, Hannah is clear that these are to be considered averages. Obviously, if you want to add textured stitches to your garment, you’ll need more yarn. If you want your hat extra slouchy, you’ll need more yarn. Want to turn that pullover into a turtleneck? More yarn. But the app gives you that essential ballpark in which you can begin.
I found myself playing with the app just for the fun of it, sliding the bars back and forth to hear the clicks and watch the numbers change. It has the look and feel of an old counting tool, yet with instant, seamless elegance and functionality.
StashBot is that perfect combination of grace, functionality, and ease-of-use. Behind the pretty face, though, an intelligent engine delivers numbers you can trust. Unless you’re a math genius with all the charts in your mind, this is the best $5 you’ll ever spend on a knitting app.
Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus. Currently priced at $4.99.