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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tutorial: Using the Brother Cartridge and Cartridge Utility

How to use the Brother Cartridge and Cartridge Utility

A step-by-step description of the process of creating a pattern file on your computer, transferring it onto the Brother Cartridge, and loading it into memory on a Brother electronic knitting machine.
Brother electronic knitting machines came with patterns already loaded into the machine, but also with ways to input patterns. One of those ways was through the use of a physical Cartridge which fit into the console of the knitting machine and could be used to both save patterns from the knitting machine, and to import new patterns into the knitting machine. These cartridges could also be used with the PPD system which connected with a television set, before personal computers were common. This was an improvement over the manual input process, but is quite primitive by modern standards.

A third-party company, IBB electronic engineering, offers a Brother stitch pattern cartridge for knitting machines. This device fits into electronic knitting machines that took the original pattern cartridge, but also can be connected with a computer through a USB port. Interacting with the Brother Cartridge requires the Cartridge Utility software.
The Brother Cartridge has a very basic memory, and uses its own file format. The Cartridge Utility program is used to transfer graphics files into this file format, and then to transfer the file format to and from the Brother Cartridge.
Using the Brother Cartridge and the Cartridge Utility is a two-stage process. One step is to create (or unpack) the simple file in the format (*.BPM = Brother Pattern Memory)  that will fit on the Cartridge. The other step is to transfer this simple file to (or from) the computer and the Cartridge.
Yes, it is arcane and awkward. That's how computing used to be in the day. :) 
I work with an MS Windows computer using Windows 10; I have no experience with using a Macintosh computer to run this.

Overview of the steps
  1. Obtain a suitable pattern in a suitable format
  2. Use the Cartridge utility to add the pattern to a BPM file (Brother pattern memory)
  3. Use the Cartridge utility to write the BPM file onto the physical Brother Cartridge over a USB cable.
  4. Take the Brother Cartridge to the Brother electronic knitting machine and transfer the pattern(s) into the memory of the electronic knitting machine.

Step 1. Obtain a suitable pattern in a suitable format

Knitting machines use bitmaps - either 0 or 1 (white versus black). The pattern needs to be some kind of bitmap. Each pixel represents a stitch on the knitting machine. The width of the pattern should be less than the width of your knitting machine - but the knitting machine will repeat it for you, so it can be much smaller.

The Cartridge Utility can add the following file types:

*.PAT DesignaKnit PAT file
*.BPT Brother PaTtern file
*.CST CompuStrick CST file
*.CUT Creation CUT file
*.PCX System 90 PCX file
*.STC Stitch Painter file
*.SBR Stitch Painter Brush file
*.DAT PC10 DAT file
Most of these files are proprietary file formats from commercial software. For example, if you own DesignaKnit, you can use it to make a *.PAT file, and then the Cartridge Utility will allow you to upload it into your knitting machine.

You may also have a *.PAT file provided with a pattern that you could use. 

With Adobe Photoshop, I was able to save an image file as a *.PCX file.

Or you could use a free graphics program, such as GIMP, to create and save a pattern file. GIMP is not for the faint of heart, but it is free. 

Let's say that we have our file, call it: mypattern.pcx

Step 2. Use the Cartridge utility to add the pattern to a BPM file (Brother pattern memory) 


You can do this step without the Brother Cartridge unit connected. The BPM file will be stored on your computer. 

Run the Cartridge Utility program. Here's the opening screen on mine:

I click on the No Port button, because I don't have the device connected and I just want to make a file.

The only choice I have next is 4. Edit. The first three options require me to have the Brother Cartridge connected. When I click on it (or type 4), I get this screen:

In the next screen, I can either open an existing BPM file, or create a new one. I am going to create a new file, MyPattern.BPM. I click on New, and am prompted first to choose which Mode I want.

You can see that you have a choice of 7 different Brother electronic knitting machine models. Yes, different formats for different machines is arcane and awkward. That's the way computing used to be in the old days.

I have a KH-965i, so I will choose number 5. Here's the next screen:

You can see that the file name is Untitled.bpm and the Mode is KH-965. In the centre, there is a list with only one entry, Page 1.

Again, this is arcane and awkward. But that's the way computing used to be in the old days.

Now click on Page 1, and click the Edit button on the top right. Here's what my screen looks like now:

Again, my file name and mode are there as before. The screen says that I have 95% of the space available. The other 5% must already be taken up with file details.

Now I can either Browse, or Add. Browse gives me a way to look at pattern files on my computer, so that I can find the one I want without having to use another program.

I have a file I made on my computer, called checkers.pcx. Using Browse within the Cartridge Utility, it looks like this:

Now I am going to go back to the previous screen, and add it. I click on the Add button, and get this screen:

901  10 x 10 @ 0600, 0014
This is the Index (901) and the pattern information (10 x 10 - 10 pixels by 10 pixels), as well as the memory location. You don't need to know anything about the memory location (it's arcane .... ), but you do want to know what the pattern number is, and it helps to know how big it is.

If I wanted to, I could add additional patterns into the same BPM file, and they would be listed as 902, 903, etc.

The amount of storage space differs by type of knitting machine. It is limited. That's the way computers used to be. (should I patent this phrase, I wonder)

Now I can close the file, and then I want to save it onto my computer. I click on Save As, find the directory where I want to save the file, and type the new file name at the bottom where it says File Name. Here's a screenshot:

I Save the file MyPattern.BPM

On the next screen, click on the Exit button, and we are back to the opening User Interface screen, ready to move on to the next step.

Step 3. Use the Cartridge utility to write the BPM file onto the physical Brother Cartridge over a USB cable. 

In this step, we are going to take the MyPattern.BPM file from the computer's hard drive and move it onto the Brother Cartridge. For this step, you need to use the cable that came with the Brother Cartridge to connect it to a USB port on your computer. Once you have done this, the User Interface will now allow all of the options, not just the Edit option.

We click on 2. Write to write the file that we just created onto the Brother Cartridge.

This takes a long time, far longer than seems reasonable for the size of the file. But that's the way computing used to be. Wait until the computer is finished.

Now you are finished at the computer. You can disconnect the Brother Cartridge from the USB port on your computer, and take it with you to your knitting machine.

Step 4. Take the Brother Cartridge to the Brother electronic knitting machine and transfer the pattern(s) into the memory of the electronic knitting machine.

For this step, you can consult your knitting machine manual. I am cutting this short in the interest of getting it out sooner rather than later.  Good luck!

Friday, May 13, 2016

An Example of Converting PDF grid to a BMP file

Yesterday I posted a blog about converting a grid pattern into a bitmap, for use with, e.g., SuperbaKnit software. Today I am going to go through the same thing with examples, using a file that I made up.

To use this tutorial you will need:

  • A computer with Adobe Acrobat Reader and GIMP installed. I work on a Windows machine, so Mac users may need to do some translation. Having said that, both free software packages are available on Macs as well.
  • This PDF file with the patterns in it.

The pdf file has two pages with two different types of grids. The first page has dots; the second has filled squares. Each grid square represents one stitch, and is made up of many pixels wide and tall; we want to produce a bit map file with one pixel per stitch.

Here is a step-by-step process:

Open the file in Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Let's start with Pattern 1. From the menu, we choose Edit > Take a Snapshot
Using the mouse, drag and drop a rectangle around the grid you want to convert (Figure 1). For this example, I've selected a larger section of the page, so you can see the cropping later.
Figure 1. Screen shot of PDF in Adobe Acrobat Reader, showing the SnapShot region in blue

Now the image that you have selected (the part in blue) is saved in the computer Clipboard, and you can use it in other programs.

Open GIMP.
From the menu, choose File > Create > From Clipboard
You should see a copy of the part of the PDF that you just selected now in GIMP. (Figure 2)

Figure 2. Screenshot showing image now in GIMP

We want to crop the image to only show the grid.
From the menu, select Tools > Transform Tools > Crop
Your cursor will now look like a little scalpel, with a cross-hair pattern. Line the cross-hair up with the corner of the grid, and select the part of the image you want to keep. When you let go, you can see where the cropped area is, and you can adjust it if you like. When you are satisfied, press ENTER, and the cropped region will be left.

Figure 3. Selection of the grid within GIMP, ready to crop

Now the greyed-out regions in Figure 3 are removed, leaving only the grid (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Screenshot showing the cropped area selected.

The next step is to change the way that the image is stored. By default, the image will be in a colour (RGB) format, with many, many colours. We want to end up with a black and white image, with only two colours (black and white). 
From the menu choose Image > Mode > Indexed
A box will pop up. Choose the line that says "Use black and white (1-bit) palette", in the middle of the box, then click on the CONVERT button at the bottom.

The changes will be comparatively minor: the edges of the circles in the image may look a bit less smooth, and you may notice some irregularities in the lines.

In the next step, we will be shrinking the image down. In my case, the image is 362 x 224. Counting the squares in the grid, we want a 12 x 8 bitmap file.

From the menu, choose Image > Scale Image. For Width, type in 12, then hit tab. In my case, I get a value for Height of 7. This isn't going to give us the right pattern. 

To the right of the boxes for Width and Height there is something that looks like a chain link. When the chain is closed, Width and Height are changed proportionately. If you click on that, it will open, allowing you to choose values that are not scaled in exactly the same way.

With the chain open, I can type in 12 for width and 8 for height. When I click on Scale, the image is rescaled to be 12 pixels wide by 8 pixels high. 

Figure 5. Image Scaling box in GIMP. Click to open the chain to the right of  Width / Height,
then type in the sizes you need.

Typing + will zoom in so you can see the new file. Each black or white square is actually a single pixel.

Figure 6. The new re-scaled file is 12 pixels wide and 8 pixels high. You will need to zoom in to see it.

Finally, we need to save the file as a BMP file, which involves Exporting it. 
From the menu, choose File > Export > 

Figure 7. Export menu, to save the file as a BMP file. You need to pick a Folder, give the file a name, and choose a file type.

Now you have completed the conversion, and your BMP file is ready to bring into SuperbaKnit.

So, this is how you can take a graphed chart such as the one above here and turn it into a bitmap file with one pixel per square, as on the right.

You can do the same thing for the other two patterns on page 1 of this PDF. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

How to take an image of a grid from a PDF and convert it into a bitmap using free software

I recently intalled the SuperbaKnit interface on my Superba S-48. The SuperbaKnit software can work with bitmap files. I've figured out how to take an image of a grid with a pattern in it and convert it into a bitmap file.

I am working in Windows XP, using Adobe Reader XI and GIMP 2.8.16

Here is a step by step guide:

1. Download and install the free software.
Adobe Acrobat Reader from
GIMP from

2. Open the PDF in Adobe Reader. Find the grid in the PDF that you want to copy.

3. From the menu, choose Edit > Take a SnapShot

4. Using your mouse, draw a rectangle around the grid you want. When you let the mouse button go, a snapshot of the selected region is copied into the clipboard.

5. Open GIMP. From the menu, choose File > Create > From Clipboard

6. You should have a new file open with the selected area from the PDF in it.

7. CROP the image so that only the grid is visible.
From the menu, choose Tools > Transform Tools > Crop
Place your mouse at one corner of the grid, click and drag to select the entire grid. Let go. You can adjust the crop lines by moving to the centre of any of the lines and dragging.
When you are satisfied with the region you have selected to crop, hit ENTER, and the image will be cropped.

** Sometimes the original image needs to be rotated so that it is square on the page. From the menu, choose Layers > Transform > Arbitrary Rotation
I find that usually my rotations have been between 0.1 and 0.5 degrees, but play around until you have the grid as close to vertical as you can manage.
You probably need to crop again after you have rotated.

8. Now set the Mode of the image to be black and white.
From the menu, choose Image > Mode > Indexed  and choose "use black-and-white palette (1 bit)"
Click Convert.
Now your image is a bitmap, with each pixel either white or black

9. Finally, scale your image so that there is one pixel per grid cell.
From the menu, choose Image > Scale Image
Type in the grid dimension in width, and when you move out of that cell, height will be set. Check that the height matches the number of cells in your grid.
I have found that sometimes I get the right numbers if I set height.
If you still don't have the right size, go back and crop the image a bit more.

10. Now that you have a bitmap that corresponds to the grid, you need to save it.
From the menu, choose File > Export
At the top of the screen, you can set the Folder where the image will be placed, and the name of the file.
At the bottom left, there is a plus sign next to "Select File Type". Click the +, and scroll down to Windows BMP image. Click the Export button.

Now you have a bitmap that corresponds to the grid image in your pdf file.

I hope these instructions help.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Manual - Knitking Automatic Knitting Machine

I have scanned two manuals for the KnitKing Automatic knitting machine. This machine is part of the Knittax family of knitting machines, and includes a wheel mechanism for automatically selecting needles. The manual is dated 1965.

Instruction and Pattern Book

Ribbing Attachment Manual