Revisiting drop / release stitch lace 1

Hand knitters may be familiar with drop stitch patterns where the yarn is wrapped multiple times around the knitting needle, followed by knit stitch(es). On the next row, when the wrap is reached, the extra wraps are dropped off the needle, and the remaining single loop is knit in the regular manner. On the knitting machine this technique is called drive and mesh lace, release stitch or summer fair isle by Passap, and drop stitch lace in some of the pattern books. Drive lace typically has lines of patterning where loops are formed between rows of all knit stitches. The main fabric, usually stockinette, is knitted and produced by either bed. Selected needles knit pattern stitches on the other bed for one or more rows, then are dropped from those needles, unraveling back to their starting point, creating the larger, open stitches. Sometimes a distinction is made between terms used, in drive lace the bulk of the punchcard is left blank, there are far fewer marks than in drive lace. In mesh lace the balance of holes to punched or blank areas is 50/50 or more punched areas than blanks, often the “holes” or black squares are side by side. Drive lace marks out the shape of the pattern, mesh forms the background. Blank rows across the width of the repeat allows the knitting of plain rows between dropped stitch including ones, separating the the series of holes, or stabilizing the fabric.

Both types of mesh may be combined in the same fabric, with dropping planned on same rows. The diamond on the left represents drive lace, the one on the right a mesh version. On the right, solid “lines” echo the shape. Repeat is suitable for punchcard, but may be altered to suit for both cards and electronics.

revised with fewer single dots, solid lines in ground

The fabric may be created both as a hand technique or using automated patterning. In sources that show loops being formed on the ribber, stitches are released by uncoupling the ribber carriages and moving the it across the knitting and then back to its original spot, thus dropping the stitches. In studio machines the P carriage may be used to drop stitches, see previous posts on modifying one for use on Brother KM.

The tension setting on the patterning bed affects the loop size and its tension is frequently one to three numbers looser than the all knit bed tension. In Brother machines the ribber knits at a tighter gauge than main bed, so take that into consideration and adjust it when knitting all knit rows on every needle on the ribber, where the tension may need to be loosened one or more numbers than when knitting same yarn in stocking stitch on the main bed. Matching tensions numbers on both beds may provide enough of a difference in stitch size for loop formation. The difference in gauge between the beds also merits calculating adjustments when knitting in circular or U format.

Releasing stitches may happen after every pattern row, after groups of pattern rows (such as bubbles or check patterns), or even at times when knitting is completed. With groups of pattern rows I have had better results with more frequent stitch release. Two types of mesh can be created. “Stockinette” mesh has an equal number of rows on both beds. The result is enlarged “stocking” stitches  along with narrower, single bed ones on any one row. Half Milano mesh has a horizontal ridge on the purl side with 2 rows knit on the all knit fabric bed, to every one row on the patterning bed. One of the rows has the patterning bed slip every needle, with the ribber only knitting, the second row forms the combination size stitches as discussed previously. In patterning in Brother KMs this would need to have such rows added to the programmed design. The fabric is a bit more “stable”. Passap offers multiple techniques for dropping stitches, often referred to as summer fair isle and using 2 colors per row. Different looks are achieved by changing built in technique number, as well as when using a stitch ditcher on every row knit, as opposed to using “empty” passes of locks to drop the stitches.

Previous posts on topic: http://alessandrina.com/2012/09/24/working-out-the-kinks-in-my-drop-stitch-lace-saga/
http://alessandrina.com/2013/10/16/drop-stitch-lace-2-colors-per-row-passap-km/
http://alessandrina.com/2013/10/19/drop-stitch-lace-2-colors-per-row-japanese-machines/
http://alessandrina.com/2015/06/14/geometric-shapes-in-drop-stitch-lace-brother-km/
knitting patterns with no blank knit rows between loop formation http://alessandrina.com/2015/06/16/geometric-shapes-in-drop-stitch-lace-2-brother-km/
http://alessandrina.com/2015/06/18/geometric-shapes-in-drop-stitch-lace-3-end-release/

stitch dropping tools
http://alessandrina.com/2012/09/21/knit-bubbles-and-stitch-ditchersdumpers/
http://alessandrina.com/2015/06/10/brother-kms-pile-knitting-ribbed-stitch-dropping-tools/

anther related fabric: http://alessandrina.com/2017/10/18/revisiting-knit-bubbles-brother-km/

using ribber cast on comb for an open cast on single (either) bed http://alessandrina.com/2017/02/14/ribber-cast-on-comb-open-stitch-single-bed-cast-on/

Working with positive and negative space variations: the repeat is suitable for any machine, my sample is executed on Brother KM. Since alternate, all blank rows have no needle selection, before knitting that row (ribber only will knit), dropping stitches knit on the main bed on the previous row will not alter pattern

using any method you prefer, set up knitting so all stitches are on the ribber. If you prefer to set up complete repeats prior to watching, “air knitting” prior to ribber set up or using position option on the main bed if that is available, will help achieve that  set knit carriage to KC II (used when patterning does not occur on every needle across needle bed), both part buttons pushed in for free pass to opposite side of km, no knitting occurs but first row of pattern knitting is selected. Ribber is set to N<–> throughoutas the carriages now move to opposite side, selected needles on the main bed pick up loops, non selected needles stay empty. Ribber knits every stitch using a ribber cast on comb, stitch “dumper”, or other tool, move needles holding stitches forward to drop loops, and return empty needles to work position (B)as carriages move to opposite side, needles are selected for next row of knit stitches to be knit on main bed carriages now move to opposite side, loops are picked up on selected needles all needles are now not selected,  above stitches/ loops are dropped, needles are returned to B position before the next carriages’ passcarriages move to opposite side, selecting pattern needlescarriages move to opposite side, picking up loops

before carriages move again, drop stitches formed. Watch loops after they are dropped, if tugging on knit is not enough to pull them out of way of needles returning to patterning, take a tool or something like a credit card. Slide it from one side to the other between the beds, thus keeping loops clear away from main bed 

In summary; assuming one is starting on right side of machine COR
step 1.  <-carriages select needles that will form loops
step 2.  ->carriages knit picking up loops
step 3.  drop loops just formed, returning all empty needles to B position
step 4+   repeat 1-3 for entire length of piece

My sample was knit in a slightly fuzzy wool. Smooth, thinner yarns result in longer stitches whose patterns get read more easily. Because wool has “memory” the vertical edges tend to roll to purl side, and return to rolling even after heavy pressing and steaming. There are a couple of spots where no long stitch was created due to markings on mylar not being dark enough.

Other things to consider: this fabric widens when blocked, so cast on, bind off, and beginning and ending edges need to accommodate that. This particular design creates a fairly balanced fabric. In many drop stitch fabrics, it is recommended that edges contain stitches dropped in pattern in order to maintain vertical length at edges. To achieve that, first and last needles on both sides should be on the main bed. That said, having an all knit border (stitches knitting only on ribber, no dropped stitches) may work well in your pattern, or pull edges in too tightly when compared to the all over motif released repeats. Testing on your swatch can be achieved easily by simply taking some needles on the main bed out of work on one side, thus creating the “all knit border”. The latter can happen by accident if not all needles are returned to B position properly after dropping stitches.

It is possible to produce drop stitch on the bulky machine, or depending on the yarn, knitting with heavier yarn on EON on the standard machine. The resulting “patterns” happen with varying the number of rows used to knit in each color, which has not been addressed in previous posts. I prefer to use patterning on the top bed to select needles, but this pattern may also be knit as a hand technique, using the ribber to produce the loops that will be dropped. This page from the ribber techniques book reviews the baseline process and settings

purl side shown first for each segment, followed by its knit

Changing fiber content affects scale of resulting patterns and dropped stitches, the yellow is a wool rayon, less than ⅔ in width than the purple cotton variation

If using punchcard machines, factory issue punch cards provided with the KM  may be usedPlaiting is also possible, but depending on color choice the pattern may become muddied

A slip stitch edge may be planned to keep edges of items such as scarves from rolling

consider top and bottom edgings that include the technique (illustrated in previous post)Adding complexity: dropped stitches may be combined with other stitch types, shown here in combination with tuck stitch on the main bed, dropped loops created on ribber

An alternative way to produce this fabric on Brother is to use the knit carriage with no yarn to do the “stitch ditching”. The basic design programmed into any brother machine, electronic or punchcard will need to be altered. The intended design in my sample is a 4 X 4 square, colors represent what would be punched holes, black squares, or pixels. Simple block patterns such as these may be released upon completion of each “square” series, in this case, after 4 row segments.  

Two rows are added at the top of each “square”, one repeating the motif width, the next completely free of any markings

Rows 5 and 6, 11 and 12 are not part of the original repeat. The 5th design row provides needle selection, traveling from right to left. When the carriage passes  in turn from left to right with no yarn, those preselected needles will drop while preselecting a blank design row (6) that allows the carriage to return to left hand side. As it moves back to left, the carriage will preselect the first row of the design. With COL yarn is picked up in order to knit the next set of dropped stitches. A color change may be made while the carriage is on the left.

Begin with all stitches transferred and in work on the ribber only. Every needle will be in work on both beds for the remaining fabric. Ribber half pitch lever is on H. With COR set change knob to KC, preselecting from right to left for first row to be knit after pushing in in both part buttons. This allows the KC to travel to left without forming any loops or stitches, but preselecting first row of pattern. Change color if using more that one color, knit 4 rows. “color 3 (or 2) can be an empty feeder. Change to color “empty” so yarn(s) in use are held until picked up again and there is no yarn in the ribber’s sinker plate yarn feeder. There are 2 options for dropping stitches. One is to disengage the KC from ribber, it will be picked up again as you move into the color changer to pick up yarn once more. The other is to keep the carriages paired, set the ribber to slip for 2 rows, then back to knit as you return to the color changer, pick up yarn again, and continue to knit. If row count is important ie in making a garment, the row counter gets turned off for the 2 rows when stitches are dropped, remember to turn it back on when knitting the next 4 pattern rows. I personally find this fussier and more error prone than other methods I have described. My swatch is knit in acrylic thin yarns, and lightly steamed, so bubbles have flattened out considerably. The fabric is a relative to that shown in the ribber techniques book page 23 , created by picking loops up on the ribber combined with racking.

This is my ayab repeat, this time executed by configuring the knitting to begin on  the last pattern row 16 for that first preselection row from left to right instead of altering the repeat itself


Lace patterns may be used for drop stitch following a similar “no yarn” method. Program the pattern in the usual manner. Set change knob to KC II cancelling end needle selection, the knit carriage to slip <– –> and continue knitting until all needles are in B position. At that point disconnect main bed and ribber carriages, unthread the yarn or have it held for you in yarn changer.  Set the main carriage to knit, move across needles in B, dropping them since no yarn is in use.  Bring the disconnected carriage across the knitting again, reconnect to the ribber carriage and rethread. Set KC to slip again, repeating the process. As an alternative for dropping stitches,  leave KC set to slip, push all needles out to hold. With no yarn in feeder any loops will be dropped.  Make the the 2 passes with KC only as described, reconnect carriages, rethread, and continue until no needles are selected again.

Tuck cards may also be used. Plain knit rows between series of tucked rows make for an easy to identify spot for dropping stitches. Since in such cards you are working with punched holes or black squares, the empty knit only carriage may be taken across with no yarn, dropping the complete, all knit row. It is not necessary to change the knit carriage setting from tuck to slip to do so. Tuck is an alternative option for a free pass as well, and realizing that helps avoid errors in patterning by missing resetting the cam buttons between the two functions.