Think Knitting and Coding Are Different Worlds? Think Again.

In addition to teaching at Coding Events and volunteering in the tech community, Metova developer Karen Fletcher as also a talented knitter. We sat down with her to learn about this, ask about parallels between coding and knitting and more.

 

OK, let’s get right down to it. Do you hate on crocheters?

I definitely do not hate crocheters, haha! I’ve tried it myself, but only in super sterile conditions: when it’s completely silent and I say each step of making the stitch as I work it. Knitting and crocheting are so similar, at its core both are just sticks and string, but they have different strengths.

 

When did you start knitting?

I started knitting when I was about 12, my mom taught me, and I made a little blue backpack with gold straps. I basically didn’t touch it again until I started college and saw a hat pattern that I really wanted to make. I found a local yarn store near the university, bought supplies and relearned how to cast on, and a few weeks later started working there part time! Since then it’s been my biggest creative outlet and stress relief mechanism.

 

Are knitting patterns in any way like coding? (Are there any parallels?)

Knitting is absolutely like coding and software development! The same way a computer performs actions based on an algorithm, knitters perform actions based on a pattern. In this case, the knitter is the computer. The pattern is a precise set of steps that have to be performed in order to achieve the desired outcome, a scarf, a sweater, a hat. Bugs or typos in the pattern can cause the project to fail (though usually less dramatically than in code), and force knitters to find a creative hack. The two core stitches of knitting, knits and purls, are like 1s and 0s that make up all computer programs at their core. I’ve read articles and watched TED talks by folks who have used knitting as a way to teach an introduction to coding.

 

Knitting and software development are really similar, and there’s great intersections of knitting with technology, like the spies in WW2 that knit secret codes into their garments, and the Apollo Guidance Computer where “the software had to be woven into the core rope memory, women in factories put the software together by looping wires through a core and around a core to represent the 1’s and 0’s of computer programs.” (https://gizmodo.com/the-computer-for-the-apollo-program-used-rope-memory-wo-5932207)

 

What type of yarn or material do you like to work with?

I prefer to knit with a light weight, hand-dyed yarn (what’s known as “fingering weight” in the industry). I use slightly larger needles than recommended to get a nice drapey fabric that still has good structure. My favorite right now is a brand called La Bien Aimee from Paris, their colors are so rich and so unique, and the yarn base is fantastic quality for sweaters and big blanked scarves (my favorite thing to make).

 

What are some of your favorite creations?

Picking a favorite creation feels like picking a favorite child haha! A few years ago I made “Game of Thrones” themed hats for my friends, and needle felted the animal crest, I crocheted a monster from “Where the Wild Things Are” for a friend’s new baby (“Where the Wild Things Are Carol (Moishe) Amigurumi” by Allison Hoffman), I knit socks for the groomsmen and clutches for the bridesmaids at my wedding (“Hold Tight” pattern by Wool and the Gang). The one I reach for most often is a big blanket scarf I made with La Bien Aimee Merino Singles, and the colors remind me of how the city of Paris looked and felt when I visited a few years ago (“Dotted Rays” pattern by Stephen West).

 

Do think there is any place for technology (mobile apps, etc) in knitting – or, maybe it’s best to allow this to be a “tech-free” sanctuary?

There’s definitely a place for technology in knitting! Ravelry is a huge website that not only collates patterns and yarn brands, but lets users connect with each other, share projects linked to patterns and yarn used along with any modification details, and get inspiration and advice! Ravelry notedly doesn’t have it’s own app, but many developers have created their own using Ravelry’s API. There’s also a lot of apps for help with pattern making and keeping track of where a knitter is in a pattern, like row counters. Instagram is also a great place to see what’s trending in the fiber community, connect with designers, and show off your latest WIP (work in progress) or FO (finished object), or commiserate over a pile of UFOs (unfinished objects).