Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Can AI help me learn to knit?

Artificial intelligence or 'AI', for many of us, is the stuff of science fiction books and movies. For our children and grandchildren, it is a current reality.

Browsing social media I had joined a group called ‘Beginners Knitting’, it’s a large group of people made up of mainly US and UK knitting enthusiasts and is exactly as you would expect. People asking lots of questions about getting started with knitting and showing pictures of mistakes and WIPS they are looking for feedback on.

One member then posted that free patterns were now easy to find as they had asked ‘ChatGPT’ and had got a simple kntting pattern, that to them as a beginner seemed to be working very well...

Mansplaining alert, apologies if you all know this, but I will assume some have no idea what 'ChatGPT' is,  so I will quickly run through the basics

ChatGPT is an application created in California by a research lab called ‘OpenAI’ and recently bought by Microsoft. (for billions of dollars)

It is a type of artificial intelligence called a 'large language model' accessible via the OpenAI website and you can ask it almost any question.

The idea is that it will respond to the question by ‘generating’ an answer in a natural human-like voice, conversational and seemingly very intelligent. To oversimplify how it works then the model has been exposed to vast amounts of data, and ‘learns’ how this data is related. It can then generate a response based on logical interpretation and thus it can seem to ‘understand’ what it is being asked.

It is amazing and I recommend trying it as it’s a lot of fun.

So the question is can I ask ChatGPT to give me a knitting pattern and will it be any good? Well judge for yourself. The following is word for word what I typed in to the ChatGPT website and the response is a cut and paste of exactly what I got back.


Create me knitting pattern for a striped scarf in chunky wool.


Creating a striped scarf using chunky wool is a fantastic project, especially for those chilly days. Chunky wool knits up quickly, making it a satisfying project for knitters of all levels. Here's a simple pattern to get you started:

### Materials Needed:
- Chunky weight yarn in two or more colors (Color A, Color B, etc.). You'll need approximately 100g of each color, depending on the length and width you desire for your scarf.
- Knitting needles suitable for chunky wool, usually around 8mm (UK 0, US 11).
- Tapestry needle for weaving in ends.

### Gauge:
- Gauge is not crucial for a scarf as it is for garments, but as a guideline, you might get about 10-14 stitches and 16-20 rows to 10 cm (4 inches) in stockinette stitch with chunky wool and 8mm needles.

### Scarf Dimensions:
- A typical scarf might be about 20 cm (8 inches) wide and 180 cm (70 inches) long, but you can adjust this based on your preference.

### Pattern Instructions:

1. **Cast On:**
- With Color A, cast on 20 stitches (or the number of stitches for your desired width) using the long-tail cast-on method or your preferred method.

2. **Knitting the Scarf:**
- **Row 1:** Knit all stitches.
- **Row 2:** Purl all stitches.
- Repeat these two rows to create a stockinette stitch pattern.
- To add stripes, switch colors every 10 rows or at your preferred interval. To minimize ends to weave in, you can carry the yarn up the side of the scarf when you change colors.

3. **Adding Stripes:**
- After completing your desired number of rows in Color A, switch to Color B at the beginning of the next knit row.
- Continue with the stockinette stitch pattern, knitting on the right side and purling on the wrong side.
- Alternate between Color A and Color B every 10 rows, or adjust the stripe width to your liking.

4. **Finishing the Scarf:**
- Continue knitting until the scarf reaches your desired length.
- Bind off loosely in knit on the right side to maintain a stretchy edge.
- Weave in all loose ends with a tapestry needle.

### Customization Tips:
- Feel free to experiment with more colors or different stripe patterns. For example, you could use a sequence like two rows of Color A, two rows of Color B, and so on.
- Adding a fringe or tassels at the ends can give your scarf a stylish finish. Cut strands of yarn twice the length of your desired fringe, fold them in half, and use a crochet hook to pull the loop through the scarf's edge, then thread the ends through the loop and tighten.
- For a reversible scarf with no wrong side, consider using a rib stitch (e.g., 2x2 rib) or a garter stitch (knit every row) instead of stockinette.

Chunky wool scarves are cozy and quick to knit, making them perfect for gifts or a speedy addition to your winter wardrobe. Enjoy your knitting!

Quite cool wouldn’t you say? I think it is a great example of what this tool can do and that is (at the moment) to assist rather than replace.  What it has given me is a great start but I could just as easily gone to Ravelry or searched online and got a nice picture and more detailed instructions.

Another question might be, how did it know how to knit a scarf? where did it get the information?

This is controversial side of ChatGPT and how it creates images and these creative, human like instructions.
ChatGPT refers to the data it is exposed to as ‘training data’  It scans huge amounts of source material and generates a 'logical' and most likely output related to your ask, merging all the common threads of your ask based on 

When you request ChatGPT generates a set of instructions such as a knitting pattern, or even produce a picture ( a fascinating thing to do) it is taking existing information and finding the common parts and themes of this work to generate its own version.

It’s a complex area to assess how original this output is. Arguably, the image you are seeing is a melding of existing artwork. Or if it produces a knitting pattern then is it just a concatenation of existing patterns.  

This has led many people to complain that these systems are'stealing' art work and things such as patterns to generate its own version. To date no artist or designer has been asked 'permission' if there work can be used.  The AI companies are quite opaque about it, possibly because they are using such vast quantities of information that it would be difficult to say whose work the AI is copying ( if even 'copy' is the right term.)  

It is to me, fascinating and has potential to be incredibly useful. I have lots of reservations but it is such a complex subject that will hold back my criticiscm and focus on the positive aspects. 

I asked for an image with the following request. One of my favorite films is the Ridley Scott 1982 film 'Bladerunner'.  As famous for its set design and costumes as for the story.  The film is a detective story set in the future about androids who are almost indistinguishable from humans.

The system  I used is also provided by ChatGPT and is called 'Dall-E' and works with simple text prompts to produce images.


Bladerunner black women's knitted jumper


The jumper I visualised in my mind was a lace weight so I changed the wording:


bladerunner womens lace weight knitted jumper in black



Persionally I love it and I spent a long time making lots of weird and wonderful pictures, you may notice that the images I used for the blogs are often AI generated.  For those I use another AI tool by the graphics company Adobe called Adobe Firefly.

If i now want to create a knitting pattern for the specific jumper that the AI has created then that is where we hit the limitations of the AI.  I cannot ask the system just to generate a pattern of that image, that is a complex ask with lots of subjective variables.  However in designing my own pattern I could ask for the start of a basic jumper design.

I went back to ChatGPT and asked the following: (notice in the ChatGPT response it told me this was a simplified pattern)


can you create me a knitting pattern for a womens jumper in dk weight yarn?

Chat GPT:

Creating a knitting pattern for a women's jumper in DK (Double Knitting) weight yarn can be a rewarding project. Here's a basic outline to get you started, Stephen. Remember, this is a simplified guide, and you might need to adjust it based on the specific measurements and design preferences.

### Materials Needed:
- DK weight yarn: The amount will vary based on the size of the jumper, but typically 4-6 balls (50g each) might be a good starting point for a medium-sized jumper.
- Knitting needles: Size 4mm (UK 8, US 6) and 3.5mm (UK 10, US 4) for ribbing (cuffs, hem, and neckline).
- Stitch markers, tapestry needle, and scissors.

### Gauge:
- It's essential to knit a gauge swatch first. A typical gauge for DK yarn is about 22 stitches and 30 rows to 10 cm (4 inches) in stockinette stitch on 4mm needles.

### Basic Jumper Construction:
1. **Back and Front Panels:**
- Cast on enough stitches for the desired width of the jumper (use your gauge to calculate this; for example, if the desired chest width is 50 cm, you need to cast on 50 cm / 10 cm * 22 stitches = 110 stitches).
- Start with 2x2 rib (knit 2, purl 2) for the hem using smaller needles for about 5-8 cm.
- Switch to larger needles and continue in stockinette stitch (knit right side, purl wrong side) until the piece measures the desired length from the hem to the underarms.
- Begin armhole shaping by binding off stitches at the beginning of the next two rows, then decrease at each end every other row until you reach the desired shoulder width.
- For the front panel, repeat the same steps but add neckline shaping by binding off the center stitches when you're about 5-8 cm from the final length, then decrease at each neck edge every other row.

2. **Sleeves:**
- Cast on stitches for the desired width of the sleeve at the cuff (use your gauge to calculate this).
- Start with 2x2 rib for the cuff for about 5-8 cm using smaller needles.
- Switch to larger needles and increase stitches gradually on both sides to shape the sleeve until you reach the desired length and upper arm width.
- Bind off all stitches.

3. **Neckline:**
- Pick up stitches around the neckline using smaller needles.
- Knit 2x2 rib for about 2-4 cm.
- Bind off all stitches loosely.

4. **Finishing:**
- Sew the shoulder seams together.
- Set in the sleeves and sew the side and sleeve seams.
- Weave in all loose ends.

### Customization Tips:
- Add patterns or colorwork to personalize your jumper. Cable, lace, or fair isle designs can add a unique touch.
- Consider the fit you want (e.g., fitted, oversized) and adjust the number of stitches accordingly.
- Sleeve length and style can also be customized to your preference (e.g., long sleeves, 3/4 sleeves, balloon sleeves).

This is a basic guideline, and I recommend checking out detailed patterns or knitting books for more intricate designs or if you're new to knitting garments. Each knitter's tension is different, so it's crucial to knit a gauge swatch to ensure your finished jumper fits well. Enjoy your knitting project!

I think this is a great start for any beginner designer and provides a framework to start thinking about how to design and knit your own jumper. But I dont think at the moment it magically replaces a designer. In fact these types of outputs necessitate human checking and revision and lots of additional details and of course test knitters to check the patterns work.

There are many concerns over using AI and I am not sure we are entirely heading in the right direction, but I do strongly believe in technolougy as an enabler for all and should be open to all.  The only way to do that is to start using it and asking questions, its this way we can make sure the AI does what we need it to do. which is to help and open up opportunities.

A small but lovely point to end on is the more I use AI the more I see how amazing human arts and crafts are.  I for one then remain optimistic for the future.

Let me know what you think.

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