Brother KMs: punchcards and their use

I have recently become involved in a year long project at UMass Lowell, will share details as they develop. Most of my blog posts are written for those who already have a basic knowledge of techniques. Since I may soon be involved in teaching basics to non knitters, I am in the process of getting some informational notes together, and thought I would share them here as well. The information is Brother brand specific.

The punchcard reader sits on the far right of the knitting machine; it actually reads 7 rows below row visible at eye level on machine exterior, establishing a numerical relationship between motif repeat design rows and those viewed

reader

cards may be purchased pre punched (1), as individual 24X60 blanks, or in continuous rolls (2); a card punch (3) is used to punch holes card_suppliesrows: for any card to roll in a continuous pattern vertically (rows), cards are joined to form a roll. A minimum of 36 punched rows are required. Snaps are used to join the beginning and end of a single card, or multiple cards sequentially. There are excellent, free downloads now for pattern books including designs for all varieties of mk fabrics. It is possible to have the machine knit rows in double length ‘automatically’, it is the only built in possible alteration of pattern. Masking or cello tape is a temporary solution to testing repeat variants or to repair errors (both sides of card), otherwise re punching of the whole card is required for any changes

stitches: the maximum repeat width (stitches) is 24, 24 squares on the card. On Brother KMs the repeat is centered with 12 stitches on either side of the center “0” marking (2). The needle position indicator is marked in thick and thin lines (1), each representing one whole design row repeat in width. If one wishes to shift motifs on the knit piece, invisibly join designs, etc., the only alternative is to determine the width and needle locations required, and then to shift the knitting position on the bed by repeat or its segments.

needle tape

motifs must fit together within the 24 stitch limit, so individually they must be factors of that number: 1,2,3,4,6,8,12,24 (height calculations must have a minimum of 36 rows punched, so a different math is involved there as well)

anatomy of a card: all squares are punched top and bottom for 2 rows each. They are not part of the design, overlap the first and last pairs of rows respectively when snaps are in place, so the design motif remains continuous

any image will be reversed on the knit side, of note in planning lettering or motifs where direction matters; punched holes in the card will preselect needles to B position, unpunched holes will leave them in B position. A 24 stitch repeat with needle selection for row 1 (card is from a set supplied by Brother with machine purchases)

anatomy

the extra markings on the needle tape are water soluble ink marks from one of my projects to help track techniques.

Carpet or pile stitch knitting on Passap and Brother KMs 2

Trial swatches do not necessarily require a permanent edge. A main bed cast on with all open stitches is familiar to knitters accustomed to using a single bed Brother cast on comb. A quick version of the same type of cast on is also doable when both beds are in use, and the goal is to knit all stitches only on one bed or the other. The broken toe cast on for rib is so called because if comb and weights are hung in the wrong location on the needle bed, when stitches on the opposite bed are dropped, so will the comb be along with weights, heading for your feet. If the ribber is going to be the bed doing the knitting that anchors dropped stitches or pile in Brother kms, please note: prongs of ribber comb line up directly in front of main bed needles (blue arrow) and to each side of the loops on ribber bed needles (red arrow). The ribber comb wires will anchor down loops on needle bed where plain knit rows will be formed. As mentioned above, this method will result in stitches all being open, does not produce a permanent edge, is suitable for quick swatching or for waste yarn at the bottom of weighted fabric. It is possible to perform this cast on with ribber comb with wire already inserted in both brands, but the broken toe method is potentially less hazardous to needle health.brokent_toe_arrowsAnalyzing what is required to move between km brands with the goal of achieving 2 color or isolated pile motifs: in Passap with the back bed set to FX, one arrow key, EON pusher/ needle selection changes every 2 rows. In Brother this may be achieved on the main bed by pushing in one tuck button and programming a repeat.  The alternate, adjacent cam button, left in its normal position, will knit every stitch when knitting direction is reversed regardless of whether any needle selection is happening. On the ribber lili buttons may be used for alternate needle selection. Its levers determine whether tucking or slipping, in one direction or both, occur. The number of stitches on the ribber must be even. An easy visual check is to check markings on needle tape, which consist of what I refer to as dashes and blanks. For an even number begin with one, end with the other.  Passap will automatically revert to the alternate pusher for patterning on the subsequent 2 rows. In using lilis this is not an automatic function, and some handwork is required to obtain the same effect by changing first needle selection every third row as seen in this post.

If the ribber is chosen as the loop making bed, selection there needs to be manual for any pattern other than across whole rows. In my swatch, to knit across all needles the ribber carriage is set to slip in one direction, knit in the other. The all knit rows in pile knitting need to follow the ones with tuck loops on the opposite bed.  Extra needles are on main bed, which creates the fabric backing. The ribber carriage can be disengaged and used to drop stitches after all knit row on the main bed.

In the actual knitting, if plain one color pile with plain color backing is the goal, some rules may be broken. The thickest, most stable pile is achieved when the yarn anchoring the loops is as dense as possible. If the goal is to knit every stitch across each row to create loops and in turn drop them, one is in fact working an every needle rib. This makes it possible to create tuck loops on either bed creating the backing across the whole row, because in fact there are stitches on each side of the tuck loop on the opposing bed anchoring it in place. Normally when 2 or more needles tuck side by side, rather than the stitch formation usually seen in tuck, the loops do not get anchored, drop off, and create a float like those seen in slip stitch patterns.

In my first sample, the fabric is cast on the main bed, the loops are formed on the ribber. The carriages are set for main bed to tuck traveling to right, knitting to left. The ribber is set to slip to left, knit to right. The ribber is used to drop the stitches, simply by disengaging it from the main bed, and running it across from one side to the other. Dropping stitches occurs (on either bed) after all stitches have been slipped there for one row (no needle selection if patterning). Starting side for my swatches was on the left of the machine. It is helpful to have a ruler or tool to help push loops down between the beds after dropping each row of loops, and also to occasionally drop the ribber in order to check whether any loops may be caught on gate pegs.

In this swatch I had some problems (blue arrow) on the right side related to changes in tension while determining what might be the best. Section 1 has every needle tucking on the main bed. Section (2) begins to try to emulate the Passap pusher selection using an EON 2 row tuck repeat on the main bed, resulting in things going awol and loose, even at tightest tension possible on the main bed. Any time patterning is used on the main bed, end needle selection is cancelled (KCII). The tuck repeat2 row tuck

the settings (here lili buttons are not in use1X1 card MBno lili2

ribber loops2To create every needle loops for pile on the main bed: CO is on ribber. With settings on image below left (no lili buttons in use), the ribber tucks loops on every needle traveling to right, knit all stitches moving to left. Moving to the right the main bed knits on every needle, slips whole row moving to left, giving the opportunity to drop stitches off. With settings on below right, lili buttons are in use, and the ribber now produces an EON needle selection, every row. Left alone the selection is what would be seen using the 1X1 card on the main bed, its repeat 1X1tuckloops on MBThe yellow yarn is a 2/8 good quality wool knit at 4.2 on main bed, 3.2 on ribber. Switching to a rayon twist of similar thickness created instant havoc. The dark grey was a mill end, tighter twist 2/8 wool. Red arrows show what happens when loops are caught up on gate pegs and not immediately noticed. The green arrow indicates longer loops that can happen when knit stitch on either side on the opposite bed do not knit off properly. The result is a dense wool fabric, so the tendency to roll at top and bottom of each piece toward the “knit” side of the fabric needs to be considered at top and bottom edges of finished pieces.

knit with no lili buttons in usemain bed loops2

In 2 color knitting, or creating isolated motifs whether on one color or striped ground, anchoring loops by tucking on every needle is no longer possible, making reverting to EON needle selection on ribber a necessity. The results are dramatically different. These swatches were made using lili buttons or hand selection on ribber, loops on main bed. If things don’t work in one color, they will not in 2, so one color, every needle pile is a place to start evaluating the results

1X1 lili selection left me with “where are the loops?”white_lili

In bottom section here I tried 1X1 hand selection for 2 consecutive rows,  the narrow band in center back was back to 1X1 to separate areas using lilis, at the top I used lili buttons and brought an extra needle into work on ribber before traveling to right every third row (making needles in work on ribber an odd number), returning it to out of work before knitting back to right. Dropping stitches every 4 rows makes tracking the sequence easier. The resulting pile is far more “subtle” than samples worked with every needle tucking on the bed creating the backingyelllow-lili_500

So far I still have had no luck with getting anything that does not look like a variant of drop stitch lace when attempting patterns separated for 2 color knitting, either in embossed one color, or in striped 2 color versions.

Carpet or pile stitch knitting on Passap and Brother KMs 1

Pile, carpet, or loop stitch are terms used for a raised relief fabric made on KMs using both beds, with or without programmed patterning motifs on either bed. Two color patterns are sometimes also called “punch pile”. Depending on machine brand and on thickness of yarn, loops may be formed every row or every other, varying the pile density. Beds are always at half pitch, the same setting used for every needle rib. The “needle rule” is disregarded. First and last needle are always on the non patterning bed, to anchor down any loops close to the edge of the fabric. In machines with automatic end needle selection, the function is cancelled. Some yarns and designs will even tolerate loops being dropped at the end of knitting. Sometimes dropping them every few rows will work. If any yarn splitting or fussy knitting off because of fiber content occurs, then dropping stitches may be needed after every row of loops formed. If using multiple colors of yarn on either of these 2 brands, having them equal gauge/weight is helpful.

The Passap knitting machines as well as the Brother, did not have a built in yarn feeder to facilitate knitting this fabric such as that possible in the Studio brand. Particularly with the advent of the E6000 Passap model, for a while there was keen interest in how to produce similar fabrics. Susanna Lewis was among the first to describe knitting pile across multiple brands, whether punchcard models, or, later, electronics.

The fabric loops are created with one pass of the carriage, the next row of knitting is intended to anchor down those loops, and with no needle or pusher selection, no stitches knit on the patterning bed. This fact gives one the opportunity to drop loops without disturbing pattern selection. Some of my drop stitch lace previous blog posts discuss designing such fabrics. Color separations are required. The E 6000 console performs many of these automatically, one simply has to plug in the appropriate “technique” number. The default DBJ separation made by the console in Brother electronics may not be used because blank rows for no needle selection need to be added in order to attempt the long loop or stitch fabrics. This in turn requires the knitter to do the work. Design rows are expanded

  • Graph        Motif        Color
  • Row 1        Row 1       Color 1
  • Row 2        Row 1       Color 2
  • a blank row is inserted  on top of each of the separated rows, so for each 2 color design row, there will now be 4 charted rows

The E 6000 has some built in technique choice options for knitting and automatically adding blank rows in charts where needed. This allows for the locks, empty of any yarn, to travel from and then back to the color changer achieving stitch dropping. My preference is to work with stitch dropping tools instead of the extra rows “knit” without yarn. Also, if the goal is to work between KM brands, keeping the separations more compact is practical, particularly if one plans to use the end chart with a punchcard or a mylar sheet for programming.

I had tried some pile fabrics on the E 6000 in the past, found the knitting a bit loose for my liking, but by lightly felting (wool yarn) the result, I had a stable, attractive fabric that could easily be cut and sewn in combination with other knit companion DBJ fabrics. Another option in wearables to add stability may be an iron on knit interfacing used on areas of pile knit. This time I pushed the back bed tension as much as physically possible with the yarn used, and was happier with the result. The only problem I encountered was in thinking I could knit a few extra rows on the back bed only before dropping the knit off the machine for inspection. The old adage still applies: if more than a row or 2 are to be knit across all stitches on any single machine bed, each yarn has an optimum tension required for stitches to form properly. Pushing limits will lead to problems. I had a lovely lock jam. For wide ribs the same principle applies: the more stitches on either bed, the closer tension on that bed to what number would apply to single bed stocking stitch on that bed.

CARPET STITCH KNITTING ON PASSAP E-6000 with release stitch tool. Use any 2 color fairisle pattern from the pattern book that accompanies the machine. Both Passap manuals are now available for free download online. I randomly chose # 1407 for my test. Start with all stitches on the back bed. If you have done ribbing, transfer front bed stitches to back. For test swatches, if open stitches do not matter, it is possible to do a quick single bed cast on on the Passap in a couple of ways, the “broken toe” cast on will work across brands. Have an extra needle and pusher each side on back bed when setting up work for patterning. Back bed tension as tight as possible, front bed 1 – 1.5 tension numbers looser than back bed. As always test small swatch before committing to a larger one.

One color carpet stitch:  Technique 256. Black strippers are recommended. I rarely if ever use black, go for orange first, sometimes combining with one blue or switching to 2 blues if the fabric calls for it. Ignore console instructions. Back bed is set to FX  left arrow key <–, not BX as instructed. Do not use the AX setting by mistake. FX will tuck right to left, knit left to right (toward the color changer, which in Passap sits on the right side rather than on the left as in Brother machines). Knit rows help anchor loops. Back bed pushers are in 1 up, 1 down set up. Using one arrow key means the same selection is repeated for 2 rows before the switch is made to the adjacent pusher and the corresponding needle.  The front bed is set to LX (slip) throughout. Racking handle is down (setting for every needle rib).  Two rows are knit, then the front bed stitches are dropped (Passap knitting beds are in reverse position to Japanese machines set up with their ribbers). If loops are long they may need to be pushed between the beds before knitting the next row. Passap machines have pushers for this purpose, in Brother rulers or any number of tools may be used for the same purpose.

Two color carpet stitch:  Technique 185, black (or other) strippers, 184 may also be used, its graphic gives the added reminder for EO pusher set up on back bed. Back bed setting is the same as for the one color pattern, Front bed knits in LX throughout. In theory stitches may be dropped every 4 rows. Some yarns may split and catch the alternate color requiring dropping after each color is used, others will tolerate much less frequent dropping. It is all an experiment to start with.

Again: the back bed tension must be as tight as possible, the front bed at least 1.5 tension numbers higher until tests determine what is best for the yarn being used. Multiple strands of some thinner yarn may also be worth a shot. Weights are needed on the knitting, no matter what brand machine is in use.

One color trial: back tension too loose, note change in texture after tightening back lock tension; the loops are formed on the purl side

passap front 1col

passap back 1col

the 2 color version, with adjusted tension on back bed

Passap front2col

note vertical stripes in backing
passap back 2col

At the end of knitting pile, add anchoring rows of knit on back bed only (tension may need to be changed after a couple of rows), proceed as preferred.

embossed one color pile (black 2/8 wool)

Passap black pile

Previous posts with info on accessories useful for dropping stitches and loops 1, 2, 3.

Geometric shapes in drop stitch lace 3, end release

I began to think about color separations again, in reference to pile knitting, and returned to the chart used in the circular shape in the #1 blog post in this thread. While studying it, it occurred to me that the fabric might be created by releasing the stitches at the end of the knitting. Brother  punchcard books (now downloadable for free online), at the back usually had a page with “lace like patterns by KR” illustrating some of the possibilities in what I have been referring to as drop stitch lace. Once again, all stitches are transferred to the non patterning bed. Selected needles whether by hand or by the machine, are in this instance, not released until the very top of the piece is reached. In long pieces of this type of lace, I find dropping stitches at regular intervals rather then waiting until the end helps things run smoothly, and gives one the episodic opportunity to evaluate proper stitch formation, to move up weights, etc. I found in my first swatch my inexpensive grey wool was really sticky and kept trying to knit with the white after the color was changed, explaining the mess on the left of the purl side image. Also, it pays to have some weight on, or at least to keep an eye on, the color changer side. As yarn colors are carried up (every 2 rows) between color changes, if they are not long enough they will pull in the fabric on that side. If the end product is to be gathered at one end i.e. in a skirt, that could be an asset, but not so if the intent is to have it lie flat.

The pattern is programmed beginning on a row with black squares in it, ends on a blank row. Selection row in this instance is done from right to left (toward the color changer), the next color is picked up, and the process repeats every 2 rows. At the desired height I like to have the ribber knit the last row on only its needles, before the stitches on main bed are dropped across the width of the knit. Tugging on the comb and weights will speed things up. The fabric grows significantly in length, so watch where those weights are headed.

my first try, purl side500_991

knit side500_994

Along with changing the “nasty” grey yarn in the next swatch, I moved the knit further away from the color changer, and things went very smoothly. If where the repeat is placed in the knit matters however, then the needle bed would need to be programmable as well to change the center needle position

500_992

500_993

the illusion knit inspired method of charting and working the released stitches does not work for this technique, the result is simply very large, striped, single color per 2 rows, loose stitches500_995

Geometric shapes in drop stitch lace 2, Brother KM

Occasionally I do play with hand knitting and charting for it. A couple of years ago I wrote on the topic of  illusion / shadow knitting. The repeat is 24 stitches wide, so it is suitable for use on punchcard machines as well.

a chart from that blog posttry_drop_stitch

the resulting hand knit, on purl side
IMG_0823

While working out the circle in the previous post it occurred to me that the results were quite similar to shadow knits, where depending on the angle from which the fabric is viewed, images begin to appear in the striped fabric. The above chart is missing those all blank rows that result in no needle selection. The solution for using this type of color separation for drop stitch on the machine is to use double length. Other KM settings  remain the same as in the previous post. The first selection row is from left to right. The big difference is that once again, there will be the same needle selection on the next row. With some needles in B and some in D, a slider or pusher will not move across the needle bed. In the past I tried to drop stitches selectively on the main bed with rulers or whatever was handy. Now, instead, I found pushing the whole row back to B, allowed me to use my new tool to move back and forth across the needle bed, making faster work of the process, and returning needles in position for the next main bed row to be selected on the first pass, knit on the second. The swatch was casually steamed

knit side 500_987

purl side, viewed as it would appear in a sideways knit 500_988

Without the “tool”, all stitches can be brought to E and back to B with a ruler, piece of garter bar, ribber cast on comb, or other handy toy. Dropping stitches is done while carriages are on the right, they return to the left knitting only on the ribber. In the previous post, the ribber only knit first, both beds knit on the second row, and stitches were in turn dropped with carriages and yarn on the color changer side (L), after no needle pre selection across the main bed.

Geometric shapes in drop stitch lace 1, Brother KM

These pattern repeats may become quite large, and are suitable for designing and downloading with software. Testing repeats in a small section to start with, insures methods and accuracy when planning the larger ones. Here I would prefer a wider, brick repeat, however, I am working with a mylar on a 910 so in this test I settled for a vertical repeat, the result shown below. The pattern reminds me of shadow knits.

knit side500_986

purl side500flipped

purl side, as it would appear in a sideways knit500

charting things outcircle drop stitch

As it stands, the repeat is 32 stitches wide, 32 rows high. The colored 3 row segments on right, if collapsed would result in an all black row, with no overlap. Colors are changed every 2 rows unless the repeat is designed differently. Care is needed on the color changer side, making certain both colors are not picked up together as the color is changed, resulting in the ribber knitting both yarns together. KCII is used, canceling needle selection. An extra needle is put into work at each end on the main bed. This fabric widens considerably, so casting on and binding off need special consideration. Before pattern knitting starts, all stitches must be on ribber bed alone, with needles in work, but empty, on main bed.

I chose to knit my swatch with first row selection from left to right. The KC is set to slip <—>, the ribber N<—>N throughout. This knits all stitches on the ribber, selects needles for main bed stitches to be knit on the next row. On RC 2, selected stitches will knit, while preselection for the next row will place all main bed needles in B position as the carriage moves to left, leaving them ready to get “dropped”. Use your tool of choice to drop stitches and return them to B position once again.  Color is changed, and sequence repeats.

Previous blog posts on topic: 2 colors per row, Japanese machines, on the Passap, an edging, stitch dropping tools, and occasional bits of info in other threads, ie. on drop stitch “bubbles”.

Brother KMs “pile knitting”/ ribbed stitch dropping tools

I am pondering returning to some drop stitch lace experiments on my Brother KM, have blogged previously on drop stitch lace, and some of the tools that can help speed up the technique. Studio has marketed a “pile knitting” accessory usable for this purpose, still being manufactured. A recent web search revealed its cost is presently in the range of approximately 13 to 20 dollars per unit. As is, the tool does not work on the brother machine. One of the critical differences between brands is in the shape of the rear rail. Brother kms in addition have an elevated metal piece at center of km, behind the rear rail and in front of the belt, as seen below in 2 of their different models, that hinders smooth movement by a tool across the length of the space it rests on.extra metalIssues with using the tool as manufactured: its back “rail” (1) is taller than the front (2), keeping the unit from sitting flat on the Brother bed, and also striking the metal rectangle pictured above. The front parts (3) and (4) do not align properly with the metal bed, and further interfere with use. studio p carriage:presser

Some sliding of the tool along the Brother metal bed, comparing the placement for areas within which the needles need to move, led to my altering the carriage by trimming the rear rail (1). Initially I used a hand held electric sander, followed by a nail file to “even” things out rather than making any effort to cut the plastic.

In my revision (1) is now shorter than (2), rather than taller, and flush with the top of the curved ridges between both.

cut_offmm

full altered_500

the Brother Bulky 260 “D slider” was supplied with bulky kms1So far I have tried out the altered Studio tool out on solid color knitting with hand needle selection. All knitting needs to be on ribber if the main bed is going to make stitches for pile, drop/ long stitch (aka mesh in some references) lace. For a test: with both KC buttons selected to slip, hand select needles for long stitches, put out to holding and knit across all needles. Selected stitches only will have caught loops on the main bed, all stitches knit on the ribber. Using the tool now that needles are back in B on the main bed, passing it from Right to Left brings all needles out to D, traveling back from Left to Right with it realigns them in B, dropping them. B is the needle position for needle selection on rows with no punched holes, black squares or pixels, when programmed patterning is used on the machine.

Instructions in the studio manual showing it in use, with all parts in place. A reminder: Studio needle positions are A, B, C, D, while Brother skipped the third letter of the alphabet, using A, B, D, E on its beds.studio directions

A block lace pattern on KM 3 (punchcard, LC, HT)

This is the original lace working repeat as seen in previous post. It needs to be reduced in repeat width, with segments then moved to accommodate the required changes in height as well

original repeatgetting things down to 12 sts repeat width, eliminating sts and rows: easy task with software and virtual “graph paper”minus rowsthe segments, collaged together; black squares now to become  punched holesrepeat_cardmarking out borders to suit mylar or brand of blank punchcard makes placing the markings for transfers accurately easier ie.

every 5 squares every5                           every 6 squares                           every6

chart with actions of lace carriage included, the 14 stitch by 24 rows electronic repeat now reduced to a 12 stitch by 16 row repeat; see previous post for symbols keyLCactiona brief test of the resulting fabric: blue circles highlight a couple of the intersecting spots where the punchcard produced lace fabric looks different from the electronic version, because of its shortened and narrowed repeats marked

A block lace pattern on KM 2 (electronic LC, HT)

Sometimes I begin by analyzing the moves on large print paper to get a sense of the direction for the required transfer moves. This pattern is fairly straightforward, single moves to the right or to the left. What makes it different is what I have referred to as the knit side “chain” in the previous post. To achieve this, sets of stitches are transferred, doubled up, and moved back to the original position to create the proper eyelet placement.

Tension may have to be adjusted to accommodate the double travel of stitches. If it is just a tad off and occasional stitches sit on a closed latch, that may not be noticed, and runs in lace are no fun. Edge stitches get fussy as the knitting grows, edge weights moved up at regular intervals can help with that problem. Where 2 stitches need to move to their right or left, I have chosen to do so by hand rather than relying on the lace carriage to move them onto the single needle, and in turn back onto the center one of the group of 3.  My initial notes on paper:PAPER SKETCHAssigning colors for transfer, charting in excel: green to left, pink to right, checking where markings need to be for full KM repeat:FULL REPEAT

Expanding the repeat, adding 2 blank rows between pairs of transfers with the intent to white out square for “wrong” transfer rows places transfers to right on wrong chart rowwrong

all markings, shifted to proper locationfull mylar

symbols used: black squares = mylar markingschart symbols

The lace carriage begins on left as usual, makes 4 passes before each 2 rows knit. The first sequence hand transfer occurs on row 2 of the 4 LC passes. The second sequence hand transfer on row 1 of 4 passes. After the 3 onto one hand transfer, be certain all 3 needles line up in B position before the lace carriage makes its transfers as well.

the resulting fabric’s knit side 500_954

purl side 500_955