A Hard Lesson About Row Counter Apps

Last night, I had a knitting crisis. We finished with dinner early, leaving me with a good hour-plus to work on Mom’s sweater.

I haven’t touched her sweater in over a week. My knitting has been mostly relegated to stockinette and garter stitch projects only, because much of my so-called spare time is now taken up by Nordic walking, strength training at the gym, and working with Eric on his chemistry homework. So, having an hour or so on a day when I wasn’t totally wiped out and had retained sufficient mental energy to follow a chart meant that I could make at least a little progress on the top-down cabled cardigan for Mom. I settled into my knitting chair, pulled out the chart and sweater, plugged in my iPhone, and pulled up the row counter app.

And then — nothing! The app refused to load or to do anything. I’d just updated to iOS 9, so I went to check to see if there was an update to the app that would make it play well with the new OS. Nope. I went to check the app store, and was disconcerted to find the app had been pulled from the store.

There I was, dead in the water. My hour-plus of knitting time was fast dwindling, as I was searching for some sort of fix, or at least an explanation. So, not only could I not access the app, I had no way to see the underlying data — my current row counts for the various parts of this project. I looked at my chart. I use highlighter tape to keep track of my rows, as well as the app, because the highlighter tape makes it easy to see where I am in a chart. I’d just finished the yoke, so I no longer had to keep track of sleeve and body increases, which was a good thing. If this snafu had happened during the yoke portion, I’d have a heck of a time reconstituting where I was.

At this point in the project, I’m working the fronts and back, and have a goodly number of rows to go before I have to start the gentle waist shaping. I can figure out pretty easily how many rows I have left to go before shaping. Before I did, though, I decided to check out Ravelry to see if others were having the same problem with this app.

On Ravelry, I discovered a thread on the app’s user group forum that indicated that, yes indeed, others are having the same problem, and that the developer was diligently working on a solution and plans to post an update to the software in the near future. Fine, as far as that goes. I have every expectation that in a week or so, we’ll get our update, and we can all use our spiffy app again. But will I?

I put aside Mom’s sweater, as I didn’t have the patience to reconstitute where I was in the pattern. Ay, that’s the problem, isn’t it? I never seem to have enough time to work on my projects, particularly those that require more thought that stockinette or garter stitch, so I need for things to go well when I do have the time and wherewithal to do so. I pulled out my garter-stitch shawl to knit and give this a think-through.

The reason I started using a row counter app in the first place was that I began a complicated Orenburg lace scarf some months ago. For that, I have to keep track of body repeats, border repeats, and pattern repeats within the body. I could have used my usual analog system of multiple row counters, coilless safety pins, and markings on the pattern. Instead, I bought an electronic counter which could keep track of three things at once. It made me nervous, though, because I found it too easy to erase the row counts on the counter. I sought a different solution, and tried out the app.

Eureka! I thought. The app was very customizable, stable, and it proved difficult to accidentally screw up my counts. So, when I started Mom’s sweater, it was a no-brainer to use the app for that, too.

Mom’s sweater calls for a top-down raglan construction, with five different cable charts in different parts of the pattern. An analog solution would require, at times, three row counters plus a system of coilless safety pins and pattern markings. It’s an ideal candidate for a row counter app. At least, when the row counter app is functional.

I realized that using a row counter app is a lot like entrusting your row counters to your kid or your second cousin or your next-door neighbor. The app’s functioning is controlled by at least three outside parties: the app developer, the owner of the phone’s operating software, and the app store. If those don’t play well, I have a situation not unlike leaving my row counters with the lady next door: She might be the nicest, most conscientious person in the world, but if I knock at her door to retrieve the counters and she doesn’t answer, I’m stuck. Why on Earth would I put myself in that situation?

So, tonight, I’m going to figure out where I am in the pattern. I’m pretty sure I don’t have enough row counters or safety pins in my stash room to accommodate this project, so I’ll run over to my LYS this weekend to buy more.

As for the Orenburg scarf-in-progress, I’m probably better off just waiting for the app update so that I can retrieve the data from my phone. Once I know where I am in that pattern, I’ll change over to an analog solution there, too.

The app was handy and slick and seductively easy. But this experience has taught me a hard lesson — my personal control over the row counter app is an illusion. If a developer takes it off an app store or the app no longer plays well with the latest OS, the result is just as if I’d given my row counters to my next-door neighbor for safekeeping. And what knitter in her right mind does that?


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Back to Autumn Knitting


Responsible Knitter took a deep breath and pulled Mom’s sweater out of the knitting basket, along with the long-neglected pattern. Knitter Id said nothing, but rolled her eyes.

“It’s been too long,” mourned Responsible Knitter. “We haven’t touched this since the basil went into the garden. Now, the basil is spent and the black-eyed Susans are past prime. It’s time to pull out the fall knitting.”

“Why so early?” argued Knitter Id. “We have months and months of cold weather ahead of us. Let’s make some cool mitts out of this fun sock-weight yarn!” Knitter Id lovingly fingered the skein of blue-green Mountain Colors Crazyfoot perched in the yarn bowl next to the knitting chair.

Responsible Knitter was stern. “You had your way with the project lineup all summer. You made socks and cowls and refused to listen to me about making at least a little progress on Mom’s sweater. Now, she’s expecting a sweater, and the yoke of it isn’t even finished yet! And don’t get me started about the colorwork mittens. Remember those? Once upon a time, you found them irresistible.” Responsible Knitter was rifling through the knitting basket, looking at neglected projects, which was making Knitter Id anxious.

“Oh. Right.” Knitter Id was sulking now. “The ones that will go with the forest green alpaca cowl we made. How was I to know that the thumb gusset would be so fiddly, and doesn’t everyone agree that it’s a pain to follow a colorwork chart when you’re on a summer road trip?”

“Well, we’ve managed to knit the first mitten and the cuff of the second, so we need to knuckle down and knit the second,” Responsible Knitter intoned. “Now, back to Mom’s sweater.” The sweater-in-progress consisted of a mostly-finished yoke. It had been in hibernation so long that Responsible Knitter — and certainly not the attention-span-challenged Knitter Id — had no idea what the various colored stitch markers meant. At one time, some colors reminded when to increase for body sections, some for sleeve sections, and some set off pattern motifs. But now, it was a mystery. “I’m going to have to re-read the pattern and figure out where we left off. I don’t think there’s much more to go before we can divide for the fronts and back.”

Knitter Id has no patience for parsing patterns. “Fine,” she said in a voice that would make any teenage girl who wasn’t getting her way feel proud. “You can at least let me put the thumb in the mitten we’ve been carrying around as a purse project. That’ll be easy, and then you can call the first mitten done. Won’t that make you feel accomplished and productive or whatever it is that motivates people like you?

Responsible Knitter sighed. “Deal. Tonight, I’ll re-read the pattern for Mom’s sweater. Tomorrow, we have to watch an all-day training webinar for work. We can do that at home. I’ll let you put the thumb in that mitten, and then we have to get cracking on Mom’s sweater.”

The next day, Knitter Id was happy to finish the mitten first thing in the morning.

Blooming Gale mitten 1

She even cast on the second mitten and was ribbing away, when Responsible Knitter pulled out Mom’s sweater. Responsible Knitter could hear Knitter Id grumbling under her breath. “A deal’s a deal,” said Responsible Knitter. Time to crank on Mom’s sweater.” Knitter Id gave Responsible Knitter the stinkeye and put away the mitten.

For the rest of the day, Responsible Knitter worked away on Mom’s sweater, finishing the yoke, dividing for the fronts and back, and even casting the sweater onto waste yarn to try it on for a sanity check. It checked out, and Responsible Knitter placed it back on the circular needle just in time for the webinar to end and wine-thirty to commence.


Jaylen Jacket yoke

“See?” Responsible Knitter told Knitter Id as she poured a glass of wine and took things out of the fridge to make dinner. “The worst of it is over. The rest will be pretty easy.”

“Except for the button bands,” countered Knitter Id.

“Okay,” Responsible Knitter said. “When it comes time for those, I’ll let you take a few breaks with the project of your choice.” Responsible Knitter turned to look at Knitter Id to gauge her response, but didn’t see her right away. Then, Responsible Knitter saw her in the study. Knitter Id was already on the computer, checking out yarn for a project to work on when she needed relief from the button bands.



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Summer Vacation

I didn’t set out to take the whole summer off writing blog posts. I figured that I’d write less often than I do during the cooler months, but I never thought that I’d stop altogether. Before I knew it, though, cherry season turned to peach season and is turning to apple season. Summer camps and summer jobs and summer road trips came and went in a pleasant, busy, blur, and now the busyness is everyone back in school and the rhythm of autumn is beginning. And with that rhythm, I’ll be able to write more often.

So, what’s kept me from writing all summer? Well, for one thing, there’s the summer food preservation effort. We had a decent cherry season, so I put up cherry pie filling, cherry jam, and cherry barbecue sauce. Fall fruit will start coming in next week, and I expect to be busy putting up apples and pears pretty soon.

Also, I’ve crammed in two more hobbies into my already busy life. I participated in the summer autocross season with my husband and older son. For the uninitiated, an autocross course is a twisty course set up with traffic cones in a large parking lot, and the object is to finish it as fast as you can without hitting too many cones, because there’s a time penalty for doing so. The guys live for it. I thought it was a lot of fun, too. It’s only six Saturdays per season, but that’s time away from doing other things, like knitting and writing about it.

I also decided to be more diligent with Nordic walking and going to the gym for strength training. Now, in my heart of hearts, I’d much rather spend that time ensconced in my knitting chair, knitting away. But taking that time to work on building muscle and maintaining aerobic fitness has really paid off. I’m no Olympic athlete, but I was able to hike with the family this summer without any issues, my blood pressure’s well within the normal range, and my back hurts less.

Of course, I’ve found time for some knitting. This summer, I knit socks for my niece:

Blackberry Jam finished

and my sister-in-law:


Cable Clock Socks

I made some bed socks for me:

Goose Hollow Socks


And also a mohair cowl:


Mohair Smoke Ring finished

And another cowl:


Garter Stitch Cowl

So, I have been knitting, just not writing about it. When I’m pressed for time, and I have a choice between knitting or writing about it, knitting always wins. I do plan to write more often this autumn. I’ve got my fall knitting on the needles, and I’ll have lots to say about it in the coming weeks.

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