More low tech

I am continuing to sort out issues that might help make lace shawls, scarves and garments that require a finite length of time in their actual knitting. Punchcard machines are friendlier than electronic ones in terms of picking up pattern after interruptions, and visual cues when correcting mistakes are easier to track and see. I design knits in a way similar to the way I cook. With several sources and ideas in front of me I pick, choose, and “go for it.”

My most recent blank punchcard purchase revealed that Taitexma (Brother clone company)  is now producing pre-numbered cards for machines printed in RED! Does not affect function, but is distracting to me visually. In the past it used to be the color red vs blue card blanks was another distinguishing factor between machine companies. Studio traditionally red, Brother blue (with pre punched lace cards being their exception).

The cost of cards has increased, and punching lace repeats at least for me is prone to errors. In a previous post I discussed my way of marking up cards to make the process easier. Now however, I was searching for a way of working out repeats on something equal in size to the punchcards that would allow for tracing holes, shifting pattern centers, be easily edited, and provide a size specific visual template when the final design is reached, thus avoiding lots of taped over holes and mistakes on the actual punchcards. This brought me  back to the drawing board, literally.

I have created a word document that prints to scale on my printer, converting it to PDF changed the aspect ratio, so I am sharing it in older.doc word format in case others may find it useful.  The center “picture” is 7.15 inches long, by 4.31 in width, can easily be tweaked if needed for the individual printer: numbered card

So many ways to add to my grey hair

I am trying to knit a shawl in the latest lace scarf pattern repeat. Using most of needle bed is making it necessary to take KH far off the end of the KM, ergo the bungie cord (which may keep extension rail from going out the window with the KM if I reach appropriate frustration level).

Knitting in black is great on aging eyeballs! My studio is my attic space, and as can be seen this punchcard machine is nestled at the moment in a very “neat” corner of it. I own 2 lace carriages for Bro punchcard machines, one is appropriate for this KM, the other for a later model. The usual mantra is not to exchange carriages between models without cautious evaluation, it is sometimes simply not workable. For lace, I found the “correct” carriage drops stitches easily, the “incorrect” one is harder to push, but drops far less often.

I mark the punchcard rows on which the arrow markings occur/ need to be placed by drawing across that row with a colored pencil; in addition to serving as a reminder for when the knit rows with the opposing carriage need to happen, this gives me reference points for the beginning of each transfer sequence for correcting mistakes when unraveling back to last knit row. Because this lace is much more labor intensive than that used in the previous shawls the plan is to knit in a border at its top rather than on rehung open stitches, one at a time, sideways (this can take several hours and a lot of patience).

More lace thoughts: lace repeats don’t necessarily have to begin on row 1 of any repeat.  Here I chose to begin on RC 33 of my card so as to “go” for complete diamond shapes centered on bottom and top. If the first knit row of the scarf/shawl is rehung at half of the desired finished length, a vertical mirror pivot for the lace pattern is created. When this is the plan, a contrasting thread may be placed where the 0 marking is on the needle tape, between the 2 needle ones (one of the brother oddities is the 2 needle one positions, R and L of 0) on the first row knit after the waste knitting; marking the needle tape with water soluble markers along easily identified repeat points can also assure proper placement on needle bed. When the knit is rehung for mirroring, the loop where the marker sits is placed on needle 1L, rehanging away from center, every needle will be “filled”. Those needle tape markings may spare the grief of missing any stitches after rehanging, before removing waste yarn. On the standard KM single width may max out at 18-20 inches. Steaming the edge that will be rehung helps make stitches more stable and visible prior to doing so. This is an image of a small border test with dropped stitches along the mirror point, and a 2 gate peg bind off

With half the shawl completed, the snugly around 2 gate pegs bind off ran completely away from me (slippery rayon and black = o goody!) and it took a couple of hours to rescue the piece and get back in pattern. The wavy border idea is now ditched in favor of not having a repeat of the above experience. My shawl will now have a far straighter top and bottom edge as a design feature.
Second half of shawl planned over the next couple of days. “Grecian formula” where are you?

To mesh or not, a bit on method

The following illustrate some of the process involved in planning out fabric akin to the one in the previous post. Black borders outline blocks of 6 stitches/rows,  reflect markings on blank Brother card. In option A: motif is planned and drawn. In this instance it is colored in in green (1), the area it covers will ultimately remain unpunched on card or blank on mylar.   Graph paper may be used to work this out, knit design software, or as in this case, an excel spreadsheet.  A grid is created  with every other square blacked out or colored in (2). Motif is super- imposed on grid (3). Repeat is expanded adding 2 blank rows above each design row (4). Rust squares represent punched holes in card or black squares in mylar.

Option A

Option B: the same motif is lengthened X3 (5). Lace mesh base is drawn out (6). Elongated motif is then superimposed on mesh (7). Electronic patterning on 910 allows for minimal drawing using all black squares, in turn making it necessary to color reverse for lace. Two separate motifs are used, method for programming such repeats is in 910 manual. However,  there are considerations for needle position and pattern selector placement for  this “shortcut” to work properly, the steps are described by Kathleen Kinder and others. I prefer to work with what I “see” in terms of punched holes or squares, this is the method used to develop my previous flower motif swatch. The short supply of mylars may also be a consideration in using them or not for such large, and perhaps limited use design repeats. If interface cables and software are available, other options abound.

Option B

Large scale mesh, breaking rules

Want such a mesh, without hand techniques or extra steps.
In both slip and tuck every space that has a hole, black square, etc. that brings a needle out to to D position (for some unfathomable reason Brother needle positions go A,B,D,E, poor C got skipped) will actually knit. In slip the non selected needles gets skipped, in tuck the non selected needles will hold a loop until that needle is returned to D position.  Side by side loops are troublesome in any stitch type. That aside, tuck can be employed to sequentially lay down loops in some patterns where the lace carriage ultimately moves to produce side by side empty needles. The usual caution with such fabrics: extension rails must be used. Yarn needs to be “friendly” enough to not break easily, and since stitches travel across a wider gap than in single eyelet lace, tension needs to be looser as well. Small changes can make a big difference, and so can patience. I am saving the failed attempts for future felting experiments.

In the fabric below the lace carriage is set for normal lace, the KH carriage to select pattern (KC) and both tuck buttons are depressed. Each carriage works in sequences of 4 rows throughout. For me this experiment will probably fall in the “now that I’ve done it, broken several rules and have one good result  I am over it” category.

Some observations: top bind off as seen in the swatch below, was tight for the fabric. To maximize width, bind off should be around at least 2 gate pegs, even 3 if needed. This allows for completing the task on the machine without adding more work and incorporating hand techniques. Same is worth considering in tuck fabric: the nature of tuck is to be short and fat, lace wants to open up, so this fabric definitely will want to spread. The top approximate 1/3 of the swatch images show use of the same white yarn, knit in  standard single needle mesh. The size difference in “holes” created with the tuck method is easily seen. The white is a 2/8 wool, the other a 16/2 mystery fiber I usually use as waste yarn. The punchcard itself follows as well.

Next on the to do list: “filet crochet” simulations in machine knitting.

knit side
purl side
large scale mesh

Look Ma, missing holes! A saga begins…

Transferring any one stitch to the adjacent needle will create a loop in that empty needle on the next pass of the knit carriage, and form that loop into a completed stitch on the second KH pass as it travels back to its original position. There are some constants in knit fabrics. For example, in lace if all transfers are made in one direction, particularly in meshes, the fabric biases. Great if you want a bias fabric, not so if the original plan was to produce a balanced one. The cure: to alternate direction of transfers sequentially, or in series. If done in series the result is a vertical zig zag with movement in edges of fabric to echo the bias direction in the knit.
If two adjacent needles (or more) are left empty, the first KH pass will create loops on those same needles. Without the knitter’s intervention and manipulation of at least some of those loops the space rather than creating holes, will be producing “ladders”. Ladder fabrics whether in combination with lace holes or not can be interesting, often involve hand techniques to make them more so, but the topic of the moment is transfer lace.
For knit stitches to form in/with the single second pass of the knit carriage, at least every other needle must have a loop or stitch on it. If two adjacent needles are are empty one of several ways to achieve a larger round hole is to knit the first row, drop off one of the 2 “loops” created, continue knitting; this technique will create a secondary smaller hole in fabric, it is a matter of preference as to whether this effect is acceptable.
To avoid a secondary “hole”, the method I prefer is to insert a one eyed transfer tool back to front through the dropped off yarn, twist 180 degrees either direction, forming an “e”, and rehang the twisted stitch on the empty needle, thus “casting” that stitch on. This technique is sometimes used for buttonholes (not the best for that purpose). It is one way to bring the familiar e wrap used at the beginning of some knits into the body of a swatch/ garment. As the second knit row is copleted the larger, “round” hole is now achieved.
In “automatic” slip small slits/holes appear where sequential rows of knitting occur, creating secondary patterns (seen in dolilies).
It is up to the knitter to decide which trade offs are acceptable ones. “Automating” functions adds to design time and sorting out modifications to repeats, but can speed up the final knitting process and facilitate accuracy when one transits from swatch to garment construction.
Lace cards can be planned to incorporate some larger holes, adding hand techniques to the mix.
And then there is the purposeful loss of holes, ie. in fine lace where yarn is not transferred to but rather shared with the adjacent needle, creating a textured look rather than a hole filled one, unless very thin yarn is in use.

So many machines…lace knitting

There are several brand KMs still around and in use, most are no longer being manufactured. Questions often come up on using one KM brand pattern card on another. Card readers inside the machine are below eye level, so exterior number/other markings on cards or mylars reflect that, providing the knitter with a visual cue as to where they “are” in the repeat. If machines pre select,  the needle selection may not bear any relationship to actual design row on the punched card or mylar as opposed to what one “sees”.  In addition to this variable in lace one often has 2 carriages in use. It is possible to develop cards etc. from lace hand knitting graphs, but there is enough “going on” so a good place where to start experimenting is with pre drawn ones. Lace preselection on any single row may have no obvious relationship to where the lace hole will ultimately end up.

Here are some random facts gathered from both sources and experience, they are applicable only if the knit carriage is set for plain knitting and no other function ie. slip or tuck is involved; plain knit rows do not advance the card reading mechanisms. In mixed structure fabrics the rules change.

the Brother and Toyota lace cards can be used on studio punchcard machines as long as they are patterns which have 2 blank rows after each transfer sequence

Brother and Toyota have u shaped arrows to identify when to knit with the knit carriage, both brands read cards 7 rows down

the first row on Brother is transferred from right to left, while on Toyota it is transferred from left to right; Brother and Toyota cards are interchangeable provided the card is mirrored vertically (or a simple cheat: use carriages on opposite sides of usual)

for Studio knitting find the row number of the U shaped arrow and circle the 2nd and 3d row below that row that number to identify rows in which carriage is changed/set to knit

Brother ends with 2 blank rows

Studio starts with 2 blank rows

on Studio begin brother card by locking card 4 rows before row 1, on row 3

Brother/Knitking lace carriage does not carry yarn, does not knit or trip the row counter; the stitches get transferred in the direction that the lace carriage is being pushed

Studio/Singer has a lace carriage available that transfers as it knits; on more complex laces one is sometimes instructed to set the carriage not to knit for a specified number of rows, the yarn may be removed, other adjustments are often required

though Studio and Brother lace cards are not directly interchangeable; aside from the numbering issue the transfer method is different, so a studio lace card “working” on brother or vice versa is a happy accident and likely to result in a “different” fabric

Brother information is applicable to its “new” clone, Taitexma

A few references :

Machine Knitting: the Technique of Lace by  Kathleen Kinder
Knitting Lace and A Machine Knitter’s guide to Creating Fabrics by Susanna Lewis
Machine Knitting: the Technique of Pattern Card Design by Denise Musk
John Allen’s Treasury of Machine Knitting Stitches
The Harmony Guide to Machine Knitting Stitches (their Colorful Guide to Machine Knitting Stitches does not include lace)
322 Machine Knitting Stitches (Sterling Publishing,1988)
Both Brother and Studio published punchcard volumes, now out of print.

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.

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.