The making of the cords

Making the sometimes fondly referred to as idiot cords has also been referred to as spool knitting, corking, French knitting or tomboy knitting. When using a knitting machine the the standard for knitting cords is to operate the carriage so that it knits in one direction, slips in the opposite. Using the e wrap method cast on 3or 4 stitches. Push in the part button on the same side the knit carriage is on ie. if it is on right, push in right part button. Stitches will knit from right to left, slip from left to right creating a float. Since the float is added yarn when knitting is pulled to set it, the gauge on the few stitches will be altered, so it is usually recommended that tension be tightened 1-2 numbers lower than garment tension. The float issue becomes problematic if cording is required that is wider than 4 stitches. Switching to tubular knitting using the ribber will produce tubes of any desired width.
In Japanese machines the ribber knits tighter than main bed, if gauge matters a starting point is to loosen ribber tension by approximately 2 numbers. Larger cords tend to flatten, so if a round tube is desired stuffing may be required in the form of cording, plastic tubing that may be joined using appropriate caps from hardware or even pet supply stores, and a range of wires if the intent is to create sculptural forms.
One exception to tightening the tension when knitting cords is when/if if they are joined to knit edges in the seam as you knit method.
Addressing the float issue in single bed knitting:
with five stitches the floats could be latched up creating a rib stitch. This same operation in tighter or smaller cords may make them swirl.
If a flatter cord will serve the purpose, an alternative is to have the center stitch knitting on the slip rows. One may accomplish this by hand selecting needles or using a card. This will seal the tube in the center or periodically across the knit. The punchcard may be locked on any single row with the appropriate holes punched, and the position planned on the needle bed for knitting. The carriage will knit all stitches in one direction, slip/skip all but the stitches where needles are selected in the opposite. Floats may become design elements in some instances; if sewing onto another piece or hanging onto the knit as it progresses they serve as guidelines for doing so. If they are to be applied vertically to a garment, create a ladder to mark your sewing line.
If you are a gadget collector “hand Knitting cord machines” may make them up to 6 stitches in width with the ease of cranking a handle and with a bit of planning wire beaded tubes may be produced on them as well. Some examples are from Bond, Prym, Wyr for knitting metal mesh, and eons ago some companies including Passap and Singer offered their own automatic cord knitters as well.
A recently published hand-knitting book has many ideas for applied i_cords that could also be used on the machine.

For speed and simplicity, sometimes flat strips of knitting may be substituted for cords in some designs.
Cords or strips may be used to create mock cables, add color interest, as trims, or in the bodies of sweaters or sweater edges. They may be braided, twisted, macraméd etc.
Some published and online resources on subject:
Erica Patberg article in Knitter’s Magazine #104, Fall 2011. She can be found on ravelry. Cords and strips may be used as trims. Long ago versions were published by teachers in the seminar circuits, one may may be found at 1. Ginger Luters is well known to hand knitters for her books such as her “Module Magic”. Apparently she also has published a book on trims,now available on DVD online that from cover photo appears to include some suited for this topic.

A page that gives a bit of history and illustrations of spool knitters for crafts/ hand knitting may be found at Hub Pages, and on “circular knitting machines” at How to get what you want.

The Wyr knitter is very hard to find. I have knit 32 gauge wire on other knitters with success, so that particulat model is not necessary for wire cords as seen in this piece of mine

A curly cord version may be found at Techknitting. More ideas and a knitter at Bond America. And lastly, something to make with those Barbie Knitters.

A few to try

The top illustration below creates what some demonstrators back in the day would refer to as a heart cable trim. The width of the strips of knit may vary, and the size of the holes need to be  accommodated to suit the subsequent threading. The second illustration set results in a more traditional “pretend” cable. I-cord could be used for the second sample. Narrow strips of knitting will curl in however, and in many instances may be substituted for true i-cords. Because each pass of the carriage knits a row as opposed to slipping alternate rows, the knitting is twice as fast. In the instance below a series of holes are created for threading cording (or other chosen material)

The following illustrates threading option with a single length of the cording, which will need to be secured at each end with some stitching. Separate colors could be used on alternate sides for more color variation, and other threading sequences as well

some publications with inspiration photos

its online relative

from foreign blog

part of another image

from MonTricot Magazine #26, 2011

from Mon Tricot magazine

A Susan Guagliumi article on the topic, available at her site.

A hand knitting book with many ideas for cord and strip use that could easily be adapted for machine knitting

A commercial foreign knit incorporating cables and woven cords.

From above site:

A new use for waste yarn

This photo was actually taken last April. Part of my studio is in my unfinished attic, explaining the foil ceiling and boxes. It oh so truly helps to look UP from your knitting once in a while! I had just begun my lace experiments, things had been going so well in terms of avoiding dropped stitches I was mesmerized by the needle bed and my intact fabric…

From HK to MK

Symbols in knitting have evolved considerably through the years since the day when all instructions were long hand and it was abbreviations used that would need de-coding. This is true of cables and lace as well. I came across a magazine graph that led me to explore and think about conversions from hand to machine. This is a pdf of some of my notes in the process dia_cables_card and a photo of the resulting swatch.

In punching and then using the card to knit the sample I initially completely forgot the fact that images are reversed horizontally when a punchcard is used. The fabric is labor intensive. One alternative if the look is liked is to use such techniques in isolated portions of garments as opposed to all over. A “simplified” interpretation of a similar knit pattern may be seen below

Some “real” cables on KM

2/8 wool

slippery rayon: fabric flattens with pressing and remains that way

a couple of twist samples: wool/rayon blend

Fair Isle, any punchcard locked on a single row of every other stitch selection: there were whole books of HK patterns based on this idea, sequence of moving stitches can create a variety of secondary patterns. On the KM fair isle is essentially a slip stitch, short and skinny, tension needs to be loosened considerably to try this, stitches in cables cannot be brought out to “hold” position to ease knitting off on the next row, as this will affect the color pattern. Larger crossings are possible, but more difficult

another FI and cable variant: mistakes are probably from needles that were out just a bit too far and knit in the alternate color

a blast from the past: knit on my metal no punchcard bulky (first KM) and ribber more than 2 decades ago. Ribs at waist and armholes are hand knit twisted rib

Pretend cables 1

I have literally hundreds of machine knit swatches from the days I taught in a design school program. I periodically revisit them and since cables and their look alike relatives have recently caught my attention I thought I would share photos of some of the samples in the next few posts.

They are not necessarily resolved fabrics, some of them are the result of random demo efforts/ stitch play.

In any discipline over decades one cannot help but become aware of how materials and  styles cycle, and this is oh so true in fashion and certainly in knitting. For a while more than a decade ago knit i_cord yardage/ tubular yarn was marketed by several manufacturers, and it is now making its reappearance.

One way to create pretend cables in varied color combinations is to apply purchased yarn, or machine knit cording/ tubular knit to the purl facing the knitter side as the piece progresses. The application may be done in an organized manner, using a punch card to select needles on which the yarn will be hung, or more random, even with wide knit strips in contrasting colors

purchased yarn

with tubular knit cord in addition to hooking up, anchoring may require some stitching

strips of contrasting color hooked onto the knit in the seam as you knit method

cording may also be inserted into single stitch lace “holes”

or larger holes created through holding techniques

Knit i-cords, ribbon, twisted cording etc. may also be  threaded/woven through holes created at cable crossing as a way to add color and dimension to standard cables, mimicking their movement on the fabric. A recent foreign magazine cover including a variant of the above technique

A simple braided cable (and card)

When creating braided cables one may punch cards to aid in accuracy of twists. Once the principle is established as well as some basic rules, it becomes easier to work with variations of patterns based on the simpler ideas.

Ladders may be used for marking repeat edges as well as for contributing to pattern interest, or for latching up on reverse thus creating “purl stitches” aside cables. They are one of many things guided by personal preference/ taste.

All over cables narrow fabric considerably, looser tension than for stocking stitch in the same yarn is a must.

A place to start experimenting with in terms of row spacing is to cross stitches a minimum of every number of rows equal to the number of stitches crossed, ie. 4 stitch cables every four rows, six stitch cables every 6 rows. Usually for crossings involving more than 6 stitches extra yarn will be needed for the additional stitches to move far enough across the metal bed to complete the cable and knit off properly on the following row.

Preselection allows one to pre plan exactly where repeats occur on the needle bed. If repeat does not center either side of 0 when a card or other form of input is used, removable colored tape or water soluble markers may be used to mark the needle tape between the first and last needle of each repeat. This is not needed if the repeat itself coincides with 24 stitch markings on tape itself, as in the sample below. I actually use punchcard needle tapes on my electronic machines as well for consistency of markings.

A simple braided cable may be created by working with alternating twists on six stitches.

In the image below:


Program repeat as usual, set to advance normally, KCII if there are needles OOW.

KC carriage remains set for plain knitting throughout

1. when needles are selected take center stitches off first on a 2 prong tool, hold to front and side

2. remove stitches from selected needles on a second tool, place them on the center needles

3. place the held center stitches on the needles now empty

Many cables may be  translated to a punchcard or programmed pattern. It takes a bit of time to sort out the necessary “rules” and attention to detail while knitting is still required, but the process is overall quicker and more accurate.

Passap knitters can perform similar functions, except it is the pushers that are pre-selected for the next row of knit, not the needles themselves. Tech 129, color reverse will bring up pushers to correspond to markings, machine remains set to N throughout, sets of stitches outside the area of cables may easily be transferred to opposing bed for a ribbed version of the fabric. It is necessary to sort out where patterning occurs on the needle bed, non involved pushers on the front bed should be placed completely out of work.