Tuesday, 21 May 2013

User-friendly front-end for Brother 950i

At Maker Faire (UK) 2013 in Newcastle, I had a stand set up with a Brother 950i knitting machine, a scanner, a laptop, and a large pile of paper, chunky markers and pens. Visitors to the show could draw a picture, then scan it in to the laptop, convert it in to a knitting pattern, that I then knit on the machine.
To speed up the process, I wrote a little desktop app that loaded the latest image from the scanner, converted the image, then loaded the disk emulator with the output disk image. If you would like to have a play, then please do. It is a work in progress and makes some assumptions.

You can read more, and download the software, at Front-end for Brother patterns.

Screenshot from Scanner to Knitting Machine software

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Maker Faire (UK) 2013

After a 1 year hiatus, April 2013 saw the return of Maker Faire to Newcastle (UK). After experiencing a very successful Mini Maker Faire in Brighton last autumn, and as I had finally got everything working on my knitting machine to be able to scan pictures in then knit them, I thought it was worth the 320 mile slog up to Newcastle to experience Maker Faire in all it's glory.

Stand 11: Bitmap Machine Knitting
6 of us headed up, and given how busy we were on the stand, I am so very glad it was not just me and the other half! There were 300 stands and over 10,000 visitors over the weekend. I was stunned by the turnout. As well as my parents making the trip especially to see what craziness their little one was up to this time, I was also very pleased to bump in to old friends I hadn't seen since Mini Maker Faire, and various machine knitting enthusiasts who I have chatted to on-line over the last few years. Fabulous to put faces to the names. I also met new people who I am looking forward to chatting to on-line over the next year.

The stall I ran was Stand 11: Bitmap Machine Knitting. Not the most creative name for the stand, and possibly the use of the word 'bitmap' was confusing a lot of non-technical people. I will have to think of a better name for my next Mini Maker Faire application. The concept was: Draw it, scan it, knit it. I had my Brother 950i set-up with a laptop and a scanner. Visitors could draw a picture, then I would scan it in and knit them a 60 stitch by 80 row sample using the 2-colour Fairisle technique. I lost track during the show of how many samples I knit, and I forgot to take photos of all those I made. However, I did have the scanned images saved (which I have put on my website) and I count 30 visitor images, and 2 of my own (bitmap machine knitting sign, and toilet sign as the blanket hanging up at the back of the stand covered the toilet sign on the wall behind). Given the show was open for 15 hours in total over the weekend, that is an average of 1 image every 30 minutes, or, 160 stitches per minute! No wonder I was exhausted after the show!
Drawn Bitmap Machine Knitting

Knitted Bitmap Machine Knitting

Lots of people said it was the noise of the knitting machine that drew them to the stand. The most common phrase said was "my Gran used to have one of those". Sadly only half a dozen visitors actually had machines themselves, and of those only 2 still use them. Hopefully I inspired the others to dust their machines off and give it another go. I was interested to hear that several Fab Labs and Maker Spaces had knitting machines that had been donated to them, but didn't know what to do with them. I have their business cards and hope to help get these machines up and running for Makers to be able to play with.

Mine was not the only knitting machine stand at the show. We were in the crafty zone along with sewing machines making bunting, a quilting stand, several jewellery stands and a stand making books. Next to us were Knitic (who have replaced the internal boards in a 930 for an Arduino) and Roboknit (a life-size mannequin robot that makes circular scarfs on a rotating knitting loom).
Knitic stand at Maker Faire UK
Roboknit stand at Maker Faire UK