Entering a New Era

A person can take only so much frustration before something has to give. I’ve done amazing things with my old charting software, including developing a chart for this beast:

(This is a photo of a vintage wool rug stitched in Portugal. I spent many months charting the design stitch by stitch from close-up photos and am stitching it on 20 ct black Aida because I am a glutton for punishment.)

But doing so involved a lot of hair pulling, and the design had to be broken into multiple subcharts, because I was limited to 100 colors and 500 stitches in either direction.

My little wildflowers haven’t used anything like 100 colors (though I am definitely experiencing “color creep”–more on that in a future post), and I would be able to fit a number of them side by side in a combined project, but how often have I complained here that my charting program didn’t handle such-and-such color well? Or bemoaned the fact that none of the new DMC colors released in recent years was available? Trying to keep the symbols for various colors the same from chart to chart has also been an issue. Other gripes include the fact that removing backstitch from the chart is a royal PITA (the “undo” feature does not take them out–one has to “unsew” them in the same order as they went in or else delete that area of the chart entirely), the “undo” feature does not undo just the last operation and no other, and that there is no good way to manage cutting and pasting to assemble small designs into a larger whole if the designs need to overlap. Etc., etc.

Contrary to popular belief, I can, when strongly motivated, let go my terrier nature and embrace change. I looked into a number of other charting software options, both free and not free, downloadable or online. The only one I found that could deal with all of the new DMC colors was WinStitch. I downloaded a “test drive” version and stayed up into the wee hours putting it through its paces. I was impressed enough that I bought it.

Note: This isn’t a paid review. This is just me being tickled to find something that I think is going to do what I need it to do. Every time I’ve had a question, I have either found the answer in the extensive included pdf manual, or had a lightning fast reply from the developers (they’re in the U.K., so my night owl charting sessions are during work hours for them, which helps!)

I haven’t used all of the features yet, not by a long shot, but here’s what I like so far:

  • Includes every color DMC makes and a host of other floss brands, specialty fibers
  • Has a “remove backstitch from this area” function
  • Allows 235 colors per design
  • Allows a 999 x 999 stitch area
  • Allows cut-and-paste in layers, with the ability to decide which layer goes in front of which, and the background/unstitched layer in each layer is transparent. It functions a lot like Photoshop in this regard.
  • Lets you throw out all the unused colors in the palette so that the display and printed symbol key include only the colors actually used. This is MUCH better than trying to find your symbols out of an array of 100.
  • Allows you to order the colors in the palette and key any way you choose–by color number, by color families, by number of stitches per color, etc.
  • Lets you save palettes as a preferred sets of colors. Poof! I can make a palette that includes the standard shades I’m using for foliage and flower colors, in the same way that Gerda had her precise, limited set of Danish Flower Thread colors.
  • If your computer doesn’t render the display of a floss color to your liking, it includes the ability to fiddle with the display until it suits you!
  • If you want to print your chart and floss key with symbols and color, it gives you the option to change the color the symbol is printed in if there is poor contrast between the floss color and the symbol or the symbol and the paper you’re printing on.
  • Allows you to show any color you like as the fabric color, rather than offering a choice of about a dozen shades.
  • Lets you specify what color the grid lines in the program are.
  • Deals with partial stitches well, including the trick Gerda used of specifying a cross stitch that goes over one thread in one direction and two in another when stitching over two threads.
  • Keeps a timed backup of your chart in case something happens.

So far the only problems I’ve run into have been due to my impatience. The “move” function takes a minute to give you the green crosshairs that will let you position something accurately. I kept bunging things up trying to move a design too soon. It’s also possible to lock up the program if you slam the resize button up and down too quickly. Both of these may have more to do with my computer and the fact that I’ve usually got multiple web pages open and music streaming at the same time than they do with the program.

Switching software is going to make life easier going forward, even though it will mean re-charting the designs I’ve already done. (This shouldn’t be too bad, since I’ll be working from legible charts and not my itty bitty graph paper squares and wiggly hand-drawn lines). When it comes time to start making large designs with combinations of the individual plants I’ve charted, the layers function is going to be critical. I’m sure Gerda had to do all of her big assemblages by hand. She’d have loved the ability to work on a computer to turn her drawings and hand-plotted graphs into neat charts ready for printing.

What plant finally tipped me over the edge? Find out in my next post!