Machine knitting cables: single bed 2

Using two beds is the obvious means of creating a purl ground in combination with your cables, it will be addressed in later posts. If you are trying to cable more than 4 stitches on the main bed, using the ribber to provide extra yarn for the cross over may solve problems in accomplishing the twist. The ribber needs to be set at half pitch the row before the cables. Needles on the ribber are kept out of work until that row, pushed up to work position, and the row is knit. The loops formed on those needles are then dropped off, the ribber needles are put out of work, and the cables are crossed. The main bed knits until the next row before the cable crossings are once again due. I have recently begun to use water-soluble markers to mark needles positions on metal beds clearly for help in keeping track of locations for specific manipulations.

An illustration of 2 (or more) possible places to pick up extra yarn for a 6 stitch cable crossxtra_yarn

An alternative solution: reverse the beds, with the ribber doing the knitting. A card may then be drawn to select needles for picking up those extra loops, now on the main bed. The knit carriage is set to slip throughout. Punched holes (or programmed pixels in downloads, black squares in mylars) will preselect in Brother KMs, not only keeping the needle selection error free, but also tracking rows knit between cable crosses being made. Brother ribbers tend to knit more tightly than main beds, so tensions will require adjustment as well. With a bit of planning ahead and doing some “air” knitting, all needles not involved in picking up the extra yarn may be noted and placed out of work. Only the needles for selection will remain in work, thus making it easier drop the loops formed on them during knitting.



Some cables to try, hand knit

The first repeat below is for a vertical cable panel 24 stitches wide, 12 rows high (2 repeats shown); within the repeat, odd rows are all knit, even rows are all purl. Colors are indicative of cable crossings.

Borders in swatch, or area in between multiple vertical panels, may be worked as 1. purl on even numbered rows, knit on odd numbered rows to create a purl ground behind the cables on the “right side”, or 2. knit every row for garter stitch in same areas.

Abbreviations : RS: right side, WS: wrong side. CF and CB indicate where the cable needle (CN) is held during the process.

CF: CN to front | LC: Left Cross, cable leans toward left

CB: CN to back | RC: Right Cross, cable leans toward right

Dotted borders in chart outline columns 3 stitches wide; all cables in sample are 3X3 crosses.

An alternative way to picture things: numbers on left of chart below indicate row numbers; on the right they indicate number of stitches knit before crossing cable stitches begins on that row

the hand knit swatch

IMG_1656Adding a purl stitch ground: a shortened chart using Aire River Design font, odd rows only shown



using color in Excel, showing every row


screenshot_03Avisualizing multiple repeats

in repeat

a very quick, hand knit test swatch, knit with needles a bit too large for yarn used


another possible charted in Excel, multiple repeats shown


If patterns are for publication in specific venues, conventions in symbols may or should have to be observed. To keep track of personal projects we often differ in what format or shorthand makes the most sense to us. If the like of the above result appeals to you, I am sharing a workbook with pertaining puzzle pieces. I find working at 200% magnification is the easiest for me, that may be easily changed to suit.


PS: My working palette in the original document was as seen in the images above. You may find some of the colors will be different in your download, depending on your computer. I have read on other sites in the past that the color change can be an issue in excel knit charting downloads. The image below reflects such a change. It is a quick capture of part of the chart when I tested the download myself. The large color blocks are the ones affected, and may be easily changed to match the cable crossing colors.

color change

A bit on ribbers: Japanese KMs, alignment, and symbols

Before approaching using ribbers in relationship to cables I thought I would mention a bit on alignment. Online sources reviewing the topic with downloadable PDFs: Brother bulky , Brother standard . Studio machines’ how to may be found on youtube video by Roberta Rose Kelley. Before making any adjustments check that the clamps that hold the ribber in place are flush with the table and securely clamped; that the screws in the setting plate are not loose, and that they are installed at the same depth.

Make any adjustments based on needles at each end. Ribbers tend to bow in the center with wear and age. To check how needles in both beds line up in relationship to each other: with the racking lever on 5, the pitch lever on P, pull forward at least 10 needles on each end of both the main bed and the ribber, they should line up point to point. If any of the needles do not touch or line up, loosen the 2 screws to the left end of the ribber just a bit, tap the end of the ribber with your hand just enough to the right or left to line up needle positions. Recheck the alignment on several spots across both beds, tighten screws, check again.

To check the height of the ribber: pitch lever on H, bring it to full up position (Brother has 2 up positions) and bring forward at least 10 needles at each end of the main bed. Use spacers ie. a credit card, or claw weight hangers that came with ribber as measuring aides; they should slip easily between main bed needles and ribber gate pegs, the recommended distance between the back of the KR needles and the KH gate pegs is 0-0.6 mm.

The online PDF has additional photographs of the nut that needs to be loosened in order to change the height. To loosen it, the ribber needs to be brought to its down position. Use the spacer tool, start with a quarter turn to begin with, (lefty loosey, righty tighty) . Lift the ribber into place. By moving the thin metal lever (adjuster plate) up and down the height may be adjusted, one side at a time. Bring the ribber down to tighten bolt, up again for a final check.

Lastly, with main bed needles out of work bring groups of ribber needles out to E. A single claw weight should slip behind the ribber needles and in front of the main bed gate pegs. Repeat adjustments if needed so the space between the beds is as equal as possible. The space between the bottom of the main bed and the top of the ribber gate pegs should be between 1.1 and 1.7 mm.

To adjust the distance between the 2 beds: bring at least 10 needles out at each end of the ribber. Use the spanner to loosen the thumbscrews, and a screwdriver to loosen the flat clamps. My own ribber actually bows in the center toward the knit bed, so its ends need to be further away than any recommended mm. As adjustments are being made, and the thumbscrew is tightened, the setting plate may actually slide toward the main bed, narrowing the gap. To prevent that from happening I had to use a metal spacer between the stopper and the main bed. After adjustments are satisfactory, return to needles to A position, drop the ribber, and tighten the flat clamps.

Yarn thickness and needle arrangements may also require some tweaking of height and other adjustments. Listening for changes in machine sounds as the fabric is knit, and visual checks over time are a great help in avoiding problems.

Knitting symbols used for the ribbing attachment show what the stitches would look like on the “wrong” side of the knit. In Brother system, KR refers to ribber bed, KH  to the knit one: typical illustration of symbols as found in Brother punchcard pattern and technique books:

rib set up



A swatch experiment

A while ago the image of a sweater attributed to Armani  caught my attention in Pinterest, and I became obsessed with creating a variant.


Lace is actually an interesting 3D fabric until it is blocked and made to lie flat. I went the lace route to work out my “scales”. The swatch I created below is hand knit, could be reproduced as a machine knit hand technique with the aid of multiple transfer tools. I would recommend a yarn with “memory”, such as wool. The bottom of 3 sets of “shells” were knit on #  7 needles, and the remainder on #5. I found I preferred to control the lean of knit together stitches on the knit side, but did not deem it necessary on the purl.

the knit side


and purl side!


my working notes  (Excel) showing multiple repeats


symbols used symbolsa printable PDF  scales_all_info

A mini-me version knit on 4.5 mm. machine, using the same yarn as in hand knit sample above, at tension 10+. Repeats are worked out around 2 center needles, on which stitches are doubled as transfers are made. When the the pairs of doubled up stitches are reached with loops on either side of them after the last transfer/knit one row in sequence, knit one additional row across all stitches before reversing direction of transfers. That row is represented in green in the chart below. Symbols used are minimal since the same side of the knit is in constant view (incomplete full pattern repeat)


knit side


purl side


Visualizing knit cables in color_ Excel

In the past I have suggested methods for working in Excel, and provided links to excellent material shared by others online. Of late I became interested in using the program to produce simple color graphics for cable illustrations. It is helpful to have prior experience in using Excel for knit charting. This is not intended as a complete tutorial. I am providing a document for experimentation. I would suggest copying and pasting the individual shapes to a different part of the document before playing with color changes, resizing, etc. This may be done within the chart in progress, or separately, and then copying /pasting or moving the final result into place.

The resulting charts may be used in both hand and machine knitting. My illustrations here are intended for machine knits, so they do not combine purls and knits on their ground. Images represent single side view: as they would appear on the knit side facing hand knitters, or the purl side facing the machine knitter. Stitch, row marking, and text may be added as wanted.

Chosen from the view menu, the object palette allows selection of built in available shapes. Once a shape is drawn into the workbook, the formatting palette allows access to image size, rotation (including flipping both vertically and horizontally, and alignment (moving front to back and reverse).


Color fill – unless standard colors are chosen, there will be issues matching colors combined when using with bucket fill from toolbar to add color to cell(s)



formatting options: fill


shape border: line, color (or not)


one of the ways to access size, rotation, aspect ratio


sample results


an in progress document for experimentation: blog_color_cables. Adjust zoom to personal preference for either viewing or working, grab portions of working screen for images of sections of workbook to save, or save as, and explore PDF options.

Machine knitting cables: single bed, 1

In hand knitting complex crosses are often worked on the same, knit side of the fabric, making them a bit easier to visualize and track. Knit and purl combinations in surfaces on either side abound. In machine knitting, one is always facing the purl side. If one is attempting to duplicate a hand knit pattern and the direction of the cables is important in the motif created, crosses in the machine knit need to be reversed as seen in an illustration from an earlier post


Common representations take into consideration purl side is always facing the machine knitter for single bed crosses:


Crossings of more than 3 over 3 stitches become difficult on home knitting machines unless special techniques are brought into play. Methods and suggestions vary, depending on source. The least satisfactory one is to knit the whole row prior to the cable crossings at a looser tension. If there is plain knitting between crossings, the change in stitch size across that particular work may be quite noticeable. “All over” cabled fabric will be obviously narrower than plain knit, a feature that may be used in garment “shaping” to draw in resulting fabric in selective areas on plain knit grounds. Generally a looser tension will be required than when using the same yarn in plain knitting.

To start testing the best number of rows knit between crosses, it is a good idea to begin with at least the same number of rows as the total number of stitches involved in the cross ie. 4 rows for a 2 X 2 cable, 6 for a 3 X 3.

Ladders created by leaving needles OOW may be used as markers for vertical rows of cables. They may in turn be left as created or latched up in segments or at the end of knitting to create purl (or other) stitches on both sides of the cables on the  fabric’s knit side. An alternative method for latching up illustrated below, produces tuck stitches in ladder spaces


Working the knit on the single bed, extra yarn for a bit more “give” may  be created by dropping one stitch on either side of the 2 groups to be crossed. The dropped stitches may be latched up after each cross and will appear as purl stitches on the knit side, or left unraveled for open vertical space on cable sides. Bringing needles with crossed stitches all the way forward out to “holding” position helps them knit off more easily and to visually check if indeed all stitches have been placed on the alternate group of needles.

A: crossing stitches, B: latching up the ladder

cross and latch 2

Sometimes the cable configuration may be changed for a similar look to render crossings easier ie. using a 5 stitch cable crossing 2 and 3 stitches respectively,  may be substituted for a 6 stitch one. Larger number crosses may be broken down into smaller groups ie in this 9 stitch cable modification. The chart below is for hand knitting, created in Intwined, with their accompanying directions. Not all publications or software approach HK and symbols and charts in the same manner, requiring varying degrees of study and interpretation in how to either follow or adapt them.

intwined combo

Creating longer stitches to facilitate moving them for cable crosses may be done on any one row by using additional strands of yarn and knitting involved stitches back to A position, creating elongated stitches. If slightly shorter lengths are needed, a cardboard or other spacer may be placed against the rear rail to keep loops even size while pulling yarn back. In the “old” days of MK seminars, a favorite such spacer was made from cutting segments of extra (narrow) strips from window venetian blinds. Bringing needles back into  work requires a bit of care and at least a claw weight, to keep long stitches formed from bouncing off the needles. The larger cross can then be executed and made easier if one has adjustable 7 prong tools. After the cross the larger stitch size may be adjusted slightly by pulling  cautiously on the long end of the yarn. The Brother knitting techniques book is available for free download on more than one site, here is one option. It is a very good resource apart from any standard manuals. Creating the longer stitches is described and seen in the illustration below, found on pp 68-69 of the book. Also shown there: how to carry up the yarn rather than cutting it after each cross,  thus avoiding extra ends that later require weaving in


Larger groups of stitches may be cabled by using holding to shape each section, then removing each of them off the respective needle groups, and crossing them as wanted.

As an experiment: for single, long  crossing strip, I found 7 stitches to be pretty much my maximum manageable width, with tension adjustments. The number was chosen with the intent of using two 7 prong transfer tools to hold and move the stitch groups.

The process: working over a group of 14 stitches  for 7 X 7 cross.

COR: Set your carriage for holding. I had a needle out of work on either side to make tracking easier.

On the side opposite the carriage bring all beyond the 14 cable sts to hold, knit one row.

Now pull all the needles out to work except for those involved in cable. Knit 3 rows across the 14 stitches.

Bring 7  stitches opposite the carriage to hold. Knit an odd number of rows on them (7 in my sample). Yarn will be resting on top of some of the needles that have been in hold, watch that it remains free as you move stitches.

Cross the long strip with the group of 7 stitches towards the front of the fabric, the rest toward its back / the purl side facing you.

Bring cable group’s 14 stitches an the remaining on the side opposite the carriage into work, knit one row, there will still be stitches being held on carriage side.

All stitches in work: knit desired even number of rows, ending with carriage on the same side as at the start of the process, and repeat process for crossings to continue in same the same direction.

Each cable group may also be knit in individual strip forms and then crossed. At least one of the group pairs needs to be knit with a separate strand of yarn. Some experimentation on number of rows knit, etc., and attention paid not trapping the yarn in the wrong place when crosses are made is required. Both methods are fiddly, but manageable after repeats are sorted out. My sample is knit in acrylic, which flattens considerably with steaming . On the left are crosses made with single long strip, on the right, for illustration purposes, the red represents a second strand of yarn that I was able to keep continuous.


To work cables with 2 separate strands of additional yarn, work each cross segment separately, then remove it on waste yarn, dropping it off the needles. Rehang each strip in desired location, crossing as required in pattern. Cut yarn ends may be woven in as plain knit rows between crosses are formed if piece is one color. The experimental swatch below is from one of my much earlier posts on topic. Though my examples here align in straight vertical manner, this method allows for placement anywhere on the knit, in desired spacing, repeat, and cross formation.


Large safety pins, hand knitting stitch holders, and thin circular needles may be used as alternative tools to remove any strips of knitting and in turn used to ease those stitches onto their new needle placement.

Using yarns that are not fragile or easily broken when tension is applied, and that have some amount of “give” at all, such wool as opposed to cotton, also render the process a bit more friendly. Yarns with “memory” such as wool will also retain dimensional qualities and spring back after any blocking.  There are no single best ways to achieve any specific machine knit fabrics; personal preferences and adjustments evolve with experience.

Please enter “cables” as a search topic on left to visit my previously published related posts.




Website changes

I may be changing web host and am experimenting with themes in my recently updated version of WordPress. This particular one renders content more easily viewable in portable devices, where sidebars are now available by toggling screens. Please excuse any inconvenience while issues are being sorted out, look for more frequent posts and changes in the new year.

More on charting, foreign symbols, and cables

This topic has come up as part of previous posts. I recently reviewed links, and thought I would re-group them a bit differently here, adding some new:

pixelated lettering

letters in knit stitches

care labels

more on cables

I have been trying to navigate Mac Numbers again, but in playing at my own latest charting with software after the Yosemite update, I find I am drifting back to using Excel once more as my primary “graph paper”. Charts published in foreign languages and magazines, and particularly those in Russian (where the same symbols appear to have different functions depending on the publisher) provide challenges in translating for using charts provided in hand or machine knitting.

Some sources from/for different countries that may help with interpretations:

I began a spreadsheet that includes a few of their alternative symbols, and some cable configurations working with shapes available within excel for charting them. Here is my editable WIP excel document with the start of the process, a possible DIY start , will update in future

foreign symbols2_share  2/1/15

Anna Burda magazine symbols PDF:  ab2  2/1/15

Knit charting in Mac Yosemite; visualizing knit cables

Some previous blog posts on topic

in reviewing the 2011 post I found that the knitting chart maker by Jacquie no longer works in Yosemite due to Java plugins conflicts

Updating to Yosemite has provided some interesting issues for me. The first was Safari pretty much becoming unusable. It took a Mac expert and a chunk of his time to resolve the issue. There are still hiccups in other apps. I thought I would revisit some of the methods I have mentioned as usable in knit charting on Mac via a bit of discussion on cables and visualizing them.

Intwined began having issues in Macs with any custom built stitch libraries in mid year 2013. The last update offered and installed September 2013 has continued to have some functionality issues in later Mac OS versions (Mavericks, and now Yosemite), stripped of any custom stitches built previously, not allowing for their addition. It has become only an occasional go to for me now. Charts  created in the program are easily recognizable.

Inkscape (recommended for creating icons for use in Intwined, a free vector program) will require a  XQuartz update for Yosemite. Their previous release allowed for its use in Mavericks. is an open source, free charting software with built in stitch libraries that may meet many of your charting needs in any OS version

Excel behaves as in the past (my version:Office 08)

Mac Number has once again deleted some familiar menu options, added new ones.

and some of my accumulated knit symbols from other font sources continue to work on the mac, but are unsupported if using the iPad version of the program, where they appear as the original  keyboard strokes, rather than the assigned symbols

GIMP 2.8.4 (2.8.8 did not), HyperDither, appear functional as in past.

Tracking and visualizing custom cables outside the parameters of built in libraries or fonts/symbols in alternative software, using Numbers 3.5: one of the problems that can be encountered in charting cables is that programs with built in stitch libraries may not provide for cable crossings specific to your pattern. The charts below have not been proofed executable in a swatch at this point in time, are simply a way of exploring drawing methods, my working notes from some quick experiments, not a step by step tutorial. I have no way of confirming results in previous versions of the software or OS.

available “shapes”

To make them editable, click on shape, go to format menu, highlight shapes and lines-> make editable. Click on shape and in turn on format symbol below in the image below, and windows become available for style and arrangement choices

The knit and purl symbols on the left of my first chart utilizing line with arrow shapes are standard ones. The right side uses a dot for purl stitches instead of a line, and that began to make the whole more readable to me. One drawback is “shapes” do not seem to respond to any copy and paste demands and I had to draw each individually. I preferred to place them outside my chart. Guidelines then appear to suit for easy re sizing and the resulting edit may then be dragged and dropped into appropriate location in chart, readjusted as/if needed. Color palettes for drawing appear limited to the built in shades; toggling between available colors may be accessed by clicking on the dots below the pen tool in the first illustration above.  In the chart, purple lines indicate stitches brought forward, yellow the stitches brought to back when working the cables. The number 10 in the left hand column should be a one.

Cleaning up lines and adding color if needed may be done in Photoshop or GIMP; this makes forward stitches a bit clearer

bucket fill provides an added way to follow movement of stitches

Utilizing the pen tool in shapes menu to draw custom cable crosses and filling them using the option within the numbers program  moves toward an all color chart_ far quicker than using lines and bucket fills. The red segment indicates knit stitches traveling in back for the cable cross

A lot of information is available on creating reversible cable fabrics using ribbed configurations. I thought I would play with knit/ purl blocks rather than vertical rib lines. The initial chart was begun in Intwined, bucket filled in Photoshop to extend colors within cable crosses. The red border outlines the pattern repeat. Alternate right side rows are shown; all wrong side rows are worked as the stitches appear (knit stitches are knit, and purl stitches are purled). Here the cell colors happen to be reversed from their use in the above, the yellow is used for knit stitches, the green the purls. I opted to indicate knit stitches by color only, no symbol.

This is the resulting swatch, in a random acrylic yarn, with varying numbers of rows in between cable crossings my plan is to create a scarf in significantly thicker alpaca yarn, a strictly HK fabric. Photo shows both sides of fabric.