Knitting with 2 carriages

Recently there has been a lot of press about a particular personality using 2 carriages in her knitting. This is not a new idea. Some points to ponder: if color changing is required there many ways to deal with it, beginning with doing it manually and devising a yarn holder of sorts to slip into the space where the needle retainer bar sits. Then there are color changers, an absolute necessity in double bed work for DBJ. Not all machine models have changers that will work on both beds, Brother happens to be one that does not. Though Passap Autocolor will change colors automatically, the Brother single bed one is operated by one’s fingers pushing buttons, is a bit fussy, and it is really good not to hit an empty holder and go across with “no yarn”, since the object is usually not to have knitting fall off and onto floor.
Extra KH carriages are a bigger expense than color changers. Many production knitters have back ups for their machine models. It is obviously best if both carriages are same model year. Sometimes sequential model ones may be used, and all that may be required is a sinker plate adjustment, other times the carriages are incompatible with the new knitting beds though changes may appear to be small ones to the eye.
Unless I specify otherwise, my comments usually pertain to Brother KMs.
Aside from the fact that punchcard models have no power source, the pattern rotation is also different and that needs to be taken into consideration when punching holes in the card. Electronic machines advance a design row for each carriage pass on each side. Punchcard models do not.
In knitting stripes the second carriage may house a thinner or thicker yarn, same yarn at different tension, or hold the alternate color for frequent color changes.  It may also be used with different cam settings than the other ie one for fair isle, the other for weaving or tuck, etc.
If combining stitch types a clear understanding of how punchcard holes and mylar or computer interface “squares” relate to needle selection and fabric formation is helpful, and boils down to planning selection for needles one actually wants knitting. Patterning sequences must happen so each carriage makes an even number of passes, and returns home to its “side” for “automatic” use. Lace extension rails must be used and the alternate carriage be off the needle bed to avoid belt breakage.

The image below is a lo tech “color changer” marketed decades ago. Old credit cards can be used for a DIY version.

Doilies: Lace meets hold and goes round

There is an excellent online resource for the Bond Machine. Techniques are applicable to other KM models for those who enjoy hand techniques. The round lace tablecloth series provides a number of “doily” charts. Here is a working graph for a Brother electronic  910 “inspired” by them. The stitch width total which forms the radius of the circle reflects the 60 max width on the mylar. Slip setting in both cam buttons is used on the KH for automatic shaping: end needle selection is cancelled. It is critical that carriages be off the machine and on the lace extension rails while the alternate carriage is in use as they both engage the timing belt, and the latter can be broken if pulled in opposing directions at same time. If drawing  on the back of mylar, image below may be drawn as is, and number 1 pattern case “A” reverse lever to up position. Repeat design principles are shared in creating edgings, ruffles, and more.

One of the critical differences when using 2 carriages to select patterns, is that with the electronics on machines such as the 910 each carriage pass advances the design repeat one row. With Brother punchcards the first pass of the second carriage does not as it makes its first “trip” from the opposite side. Back in 02 exchanges with a fellow member of an Australian Yahoo Group, OzMKers, led to her final edit of the punchcard repeat resulting in the following (half actual card shown).

Blocking boards: making your own

I have pretty much religiously avoided blocking in my knitting career until I entered my present lace obsession. I traditionally wash, steam, or press depending on finished item, but blocking wires and pins had been completely out of my repertoire. Lace however, does require formal blocking. One discovery: not all blocking wires are equal. Sometimes ends are not sharpened in manufacture, snagging can result.

Blocking boards can be expensive. They come in a range of styles as well, including  carpentry versions. Homasote or plywood with layers of padding, etc. work if steaming and pressing are a necessity. Such contraptions can be cumbersome, and heavy.

Portability and storage can be a big consideration in small studio space. With this in mind some DIY options if boards are to be used for pinning and drying only are as follows. One is purchasing interlocking floor mat pieces, the kind sometimes seen in children’s playrooms. They can handle being stuck with pins,  keep moisture from passing to the surface beneath, and best of all, they can be moved around like puzzle pieces to create the size you need for the piece you’re blocking. Discount outlet pricing is much less than that for online kits, and squares can be shifted around to alter shape as needed. Another is yoga mats. They have similar properties to tiles. I was able to find one at a discount retailer that is 47 X 95 inches, nearly 3/8 inches thick for all of $16.00. One side is “gridded” with bumps, the reverse is smooth. Add a large enough piece of gingham check fabric in desired scale on top, and one has a large blocking surface that can be easily moved, rolled up and stored when not in use. Bumps are not a factor in affecting knit surfaces in these instances.

A limited production item

This shawl has a rhythmic, simplified lace repeat allowing for consideration in making it as a limited edition production item. It begins and ends on live stitches, which in turn are joined in seam as you knit fashion as border is created. The transfers in the border regularly switch directions creating a reverse bias that in turn may be blocked into pointed edges.

A “figlet” moment

When I taught, I felt the need to come up with a “clean’ expletive for moments that simply required one, mine was “figlet”. With nearly 60 inches of shawl knit, this “magically” happened.

I now have about 120 + rows of carriage transfers and knitting to undo to get back to a place I can hopefully repair/continue from. Am trying to convince myself it will be a meditative undertaking. Happiness is not doing this type of knitting for a day job: double figlet!

Lace crankiness: some tips

The lace pattern used in the last shawl is now re worked to eliminate hand transfers required every other pair of knit rows. A second shawl using the new version is in progress.
Some random tips after the journey so far come to mind.
KM: Brother 910 with mylar sheets:
For marking the mylar the Mirado Black Warrior HB2 pencil used on its reverse side produces good results for reader scanning.
It is helpful to have oiled, clean carriages: Hoppe’s elite gun oil (no silicone) rather than sewing machine or brother oils is safe for plastics, for use on Passap beds, and is the only thing I now use on my machines.
Dropped stitches can abound, checking gate pegs, needle latches and their condition can help prevent some of them. Familiarizing oneself with yarn and visually checking after each transfer row may actually save time in the long run.
I have had moments where I felt like Penelope udoing her work 24/7. If rows of stitching need to be unravelled it is easier to undo transfers before the unravelling, and repeats sometimes are corrected more easily if taken back to the beginning of transfer sequence.
The lace carriage must be taken beyond needle selection marks at either end of the machine prior to any “correction” to prevent selection errors.
If more than one lace pattern is on the mylar sheet the lace column or an alternate can be marked with colored pencils with different color assigned to each pattern repeat.