Knitting continues

I have been working on a series of tuck reversible chenille scarves. Color changing occurs every 2 rows. I do use 2 carriages. IMO the brother 2 color single bed changer was one of the worst designed accessories ever. The chenille is cranky, knitting is slow, and one is looking at the back of the knit so pattern is not immediately obvious to the eye. These are a few colorways

thinking I had the knitting down, got to # 12 scarf, realized I needed to knit 10 more rows after canceling needle selection, “corrected” for row count, finished knitting the pattern, completed the edging and realized the “corrected” rows were off and that this whole scarf has a mystery repeat. Here is an image of the front of the piece after unraveling edging and back to a row ready for rehanging next to a previously knit “how it should look”

it is an interesting variation of the pattern repeat, but without fiddling with starting rows, I have no clear idea how to duplicate it should I want to. Knitting rooms seem to have days when they are full of goblins.

I have some issues with my back and right arm, was looking for an easier way to manage the knitting of these things and the reach required to get the carriages off the beds while knitting with the opposing one, and had forgotten about this particular “stand”. A few years ago I broke my right shoulder, and as I began to regain use of the arm I went looking for an adjustable height, stable KM “stand”. A friend found this for me. It is what I can only be described as an ancient, asylum quality hospital bedside stand. It is probably at least part iron since magnets stick to its metal parts, very heavy, has a huge adjustable height range, and does not budge during knitting in spite of the fact it is on wheels, while it is easily moved when one wants to do so. It was “free” as well, an added bonus.

When knitting fabrics single bed I do not work with the ribber engaged, have no idea if the added weight would be an issue or if the clearance is adequate for attaching it to the “stand”, but using the ribber clamps with the main bed at an angle seems to make crankier fabrics easier to knit. The  crank for raising/lowering the height easily stores lace extension rails.

A kitchen timer is handy to get an accurate gauge as to how long the items actually take to knit from beginning to completion in helping set retail prices for new items, and kitchen scales to weigh cones before and after (grams or ounces) aid not just to gauge cost of materials, but also to be certain that yarn quantity is adequate to finish the piece.

In static season some of the problems with yarn management or electronic KM pattern shifts can be resolved by both having a grounding wire, and using a humidifier. One such model may be seen in the lower left of the photo, is very inexpensive, designed for use in nurseries, on the noisy side, but requires no special care other than occasionally cleaning out the water container, and uses tap water.

Canned air can help remove fiber dust during knitting so it does not become part of the finished piece when using a brush or small vacuum is impractical, it is best not to use it in places where the fuzz is likely to get blown into springs and electronic parts however.

Paper towel holders can serve as yarn cone holders for ones that tip over easily, and the extra straight arm they sometimes have in models similar to the one below can help hold upright yarn wound on tubes of various sizes, an alternative to the usual horizontal ways of managing such.

Craft ribbon holders can serve same purpose if one wants to feed tubes horizontally in addition to the old super low tech tricks of HK needles poked through a variety of holders with caps to help secure them in place


Knit bubbles and “stitch ditchers/dumpers”

I encountered a photo of a commercial sweater not too long ago while knit surfing the web

and a bubble blanket available at Nordstrom’s during 2012

I had already been considering laces other than transfer for yarns that have been too crotchety to knit in that particular technique, and my Passap has been knitting idol for far too long.  The fabric above seems to alter between purl and knit sequences that would would require transferring all stitches to opposite bed for every other pattern sequence: out of my range of patience and time. The number of fabrics involving “lace” produced using the ribber involves a series of names with sometimes variations simply being specific to the technique performed on a particular brand, though possible on all.On the list: drive lace, pick rib, summer fair isle, drop stitch lace, etc. The above commercially produced knits seemed to be good candidates for drop stitch lace.

Since I recently posted on knitting long loops/stitches single bed, it seems natural to follow up that post as well with creating long stitches using the ribber, and using automatic patterning as well. The following photo is familiar to most Brother users:

In this instance the fabric is produced as a hand technique, requiring racking and row counting. The process is easier if all stitches are transferred to ribber in Japanese KMs or back bed on Passap, and long stitches are then created by selected stitches knitting on the opposing bed, and in turn being dropped. Punching a card, drawing on a mylar, or downloading to machines makes it possible to do so in pattern much more easily.

Punchcard books have several useable examples for such patterns. Two methods of release are used. One is end release, where the pattern is knit until the piece is completed, and stitches are dropped then. This works in friendly yarns and continuous repeats uninterrupted by rows of stocking stitch. If the design is interrupted, then regular dropping of stitches whether at the end of the repeat or intermittently throughout is either required or preferable, depending on the design.

As for dropping those loops that will form the long stitches, one can do so “manually” with improvised tools. For more “automatic” dropping of stitches using knit carriage in Brother patterning, one may punch a card or draw a mylar with a method akin to color separation that will allow for  a pass of the KH carriage across the knit with no yarn in feeder, “color 2” is actually “no yarn/empty”, while establishing the proper needle selection on its return. Studio selects and knits in same row, so needle selection disruption is not an issue, and in Passap techniques are built into the console that allow for “free/no yarn” passes. Both instances involve extra “knit” rows per item. As another alternative tools may be used that help the stitch ditching process. Studio had their P carriage, and Brother their own “D slider” for the bulky KM.

Studio/ Bro Bulky viewed from front

Studio/ Bro Bulky viewed from back

Passap’s need was anwered by an Australian woman: Faye Butcher,  who developed the item shown below. Such tools were often discussed in seminars and publications of the time, in conjunction with pile or “carpet” knitting, so “P” for such knitting in Studio, and “carpet stitch tool” for Passap, seen below

front view

rear view

in use on front rail

If patterning for long stitches occurs on the front bed, the Passap tool sits on rail where you see it in photo, it will release all stitches from needles in its path. Often directions for using it recommend its use  for 2 passes with locks on right. Passap preselects pushers for the next row of knitting as Brother preselects needles, pushers are below the rail, so in theory they should be unaffected by passes of its travels. Once things are up, going, and “working” I have found it possible to align the tool as seen in photo ahead of the next lock pass, so on right of lock from left to right, to its left from right to left, a bit of pressure will keep it in its place, and stitches are released each pass of the lock. This may result in having to operate the lock with one hand. There is also an optimum speed: if movement is not smooth and regular and needles are jostled, pusher selection may be altered in response, thus resulting in a patterning “mistake” on the next row. Challenging yarns may make this method impossible.

Some samples follow: the yarn used was acrylic, I attempted to press it on swatch completion, and this flattened the fabric considerably. Of note: the disparity in width between the stockinette portions of the swatches, and the dropped stitch segments

too open

a bit closer, much more so before steaming

a “mistake” that may lead to a future accessory, with some revising and planning

I am using Stitch Painter to plot out my repeats, exporting files as .cut files, using win crea to import cuts and download to console with a cable purchased from England. I replaced an ill tower dell with a 64 bit dell laptop half its age, and am now running windows XP instead of 98! My leaps into the present technologies/software are made using apple products. Technique 129 will work, color may need to be reversed using the alter loop, or within wincrea depending on how the pattern is drawn in the original graph, but that is a topic for another day (see april 2011 post: a bit on Passap for some information on Tech129). Back lock on N throughout, front lock on LX (slip/part on main bed for Japanese KMs). Single bed slip and tuck stitches may also produce “bubbles” of a different quality.

Coincidentally the 10th anniversary issue of Knitty has just been released, arriving in my virtual mailbox this am. There are 2 patterns in the issue that may be of interest, one is tin roof, the other employs ribbed/bobble/bubble for hand knitters. Another hand knit version by Kieran Foley may be found here

Using Studio mylar sheets on brother KMs 1

Factory “drawn” Studio mylar sheets ie for 560 model KMs will work on the Brother 910 with some adjustments. Just as when using punchcards, the card reader drum as well as the mylar  scanner “see” a different row as row 1 than the alternate brand KM.

The image below is a quick scan of positions of black/white squares on Studio mylar with a superimposed, unmarked one for Brother.

The holes for movement of the mylar occur in just about nearly the same location. First issue at hand is to draw a set line in the proper position for brother  pattern reading (traces of pencil line on the red studio mylar may be seen underneath the blue brother markings). Some machines are fussier than others with set position, and I found drawing the line by placing the denser studio card over the brother one on a light_box surface made that very easy.

The second issue is that as can be seen above, the first design row on Brother is actually 3 rows below that on Studio, so when programming the repeat 3 rows should be added to the first row of studio repeat, and 3 also added to its top. For example in the studio mylar #1 segment below

#4 pattern in Studio programming would begin on row 11, end on row 14, to program same in Brother beginning row is 14, ending row is 17; stitch locations remain unchanged, but a reminder: Brother sheet is marked in 5X5 blocks of squares, Studio in 6X5.

Hand drawn studio mylars when using the pencil appropriate for them will not read, so sheets need to be marked with any tools you have used for doing so in brother markings in the past. One oddity I encountered is that with the drawn repeat below I had no needle selection until I programmed rows beginning above row 5, using rows # 9-12 as top and bottom of the repeat, not an issue with the factory mylar. I used sharpie to draw the first pair of squares (has never worked for me), number 2 pencil on the reverse of the sheet for the second (my preferred method), and template marking pencil on the mylar front for the third. Drawing with the latter over hand drawn studio mylars enabled those markings in turn to be read by my 910. One problem with the template pencils is that small pieces of the coating they produce may shed with use.

The issue with bottom rows not reading did not repeat when I used a different blank mylar sheet and drew the identical repeat, nor did it occur with factory drawn. Sometimes there are no explanations…

Plarn/tarn/ tarn my way

When I first shared plarn information here, I was under the impression the term applied to anything cut into strips and in turn used as “yarn” in knitting or crochet. Now however, it appears the term “tarn” is in use when t shirts or fabric are used. There are many ways to create tarn easily found online, including youtube videos by several authors, and even commercially dyed and prepared skeins/balls for purchase. Since I machine knit, I am interested in producing “tarn” that may knit on the bulky KM, which results in limitations that do not apply if one is to knit it by hand or crochet, where needle and hook sizes are far less limiting.
In my sewing stash of “rulers” I had one product by June Tailor which since my purchase appears to have evolved. Its closest cousin by the same manufacturer  is the shape-cut-ruler. It is a convenient cutting guide which I have also used on felted wool to produce even slits for later manipulation such as chaining.In this case, I began by cutting off the sleeves and upper body from armholes to neck, resulting in a tube, which in turn I pressed and folded in half, leaving a single fold edge for later cuts to produce the continuous strip.

Below the ruler is positioned over T shirt tube folded almost in half in this case, with single fold border at top for later continuous cutting into tarn yardage

this is a better view of upper edge; rotary cutter moves within slits, inverted “teardrops” at top serve as stops for cutter, leaving an even, upper border intact, I tend to use rotary cutter moving from bottom up; this is not a hard and fast rule and may be adjusted to suit your preference

follow cutting guides through slits across the piece; a sharp blade helps considerably; when finished with the first pass, move ruler along each cut line, and make a second pass with the cutter to eliminate any areas skipped on first pass and thus uncut, while applying even pressure on ruler; this is quicker and neater than using scissors; in turn, release the strip and lift away  from the ruler, move ruler one strip over ( I am right handed, so moving from right to left), repeat process across fabric width

one T shirt down!

here I like to use a long curtain rod, broom handle, or anything else on hand and slip the slitted but partially intact tube onto it

here is the above rod, perched with ends resting between my kitchen table and the opposing countertop. The black marking line indicates location of first border cut from right towards left, and cutting (with scissors) continues in same movement across the width of the fabric

time to make a ball! beginning in this case with “yarn end” on right, “milk” about an arm’s length of strip (as you pull on fabric it narrows and curls inward), and begin winding the result into a ball. As you move across the supporting rod the ball will have to be moved over and under it at regular intervals to keep fabric flowing easily. I did so at the end of each loop circumference, that was easier for me than lifting the right end of my rod to free the “yarn”. The result:

the “yarn” superimposed on the ruler for an idea of the change in fabric width after pulling/stretching

samples will follow…

A couple of tips

I  knit on multiple brand knitting machines, and my production knitting of most items is sporadic now. As I completed large series of any of the items I sought ways to make knitting faster and less error prone after any long hiatus or distractions. My spider shawls involve holding with needles OOW across nearly the whole needle bed, with other items only patterning in sections of needle bed. At one point I acquired multiple needle tapes, actually use the punchcard tape on my 910 as well since I do not usually use position green/yellow for patterning. One way to save time is to cut pieces of colored removable tape or dots, and place these on the needle tape under single or multiple needles on the machine, and have the color correspond to a function. For example, if 5 in work, 3 out of work tape may be placed under each set of 3 for visual cue; if part of the needle bed needs to be with every other needle in work, those areas may be marked off with tape marking the beginning and end of that area. In the latter case, I mark between pattern needle changes. Marked tapes are easily removed/saved for future use.

At present 2 complete 910s and one without carriage for spare parts (the latter was a donation) live with me. One of them has been temperamental since it took a flying leap off a table, and had its off on switch repaired by yours truly. In a moment of pretending as though I have a knitting business again, I found the latter randomly mis selecting needles, and when I tried to use my usually dependent one, there was less mis patterning, but enough to be a problem when knitting the shawl border which consists of thousands of rows. I cleaned the KM, swapped carriages, checked mylar markings, all to no avail. I was using a sponge bar that seemed in good condition, but there was some play in the needles. When I replaced the bar with a brand new one that eliminated any play all mis patterning stopped.

Aran knits: a new thread

Cables seem to be in vogue once again in myriad permutations. They pose some interesting issues when created in machine knitting. Interweave Knits Winter 2011 published an article on “Cables 101” that includes a way to color code and graph cable crossings. Some complex variants for those who like KM hand techniques may be found at Knit, not Knit , their courses here. “Back in the day” of regular, world wide machine knitting seminars several authors provided collections of machine knit cables including George Le Warre at Passap universities (copyrighted, George presently in England).

Simple crossings are a good place to begin and produce texture. If one is not interested in freeform but rather constant, recurring patterns it is possible to use punchcards to produce visual cues when stitch twists and crossings are to occur. This is not an option in Studio Machines, easy on Brother because of the fact that needles pre select, and Passap pushers may be used for a similar set of clues with a bit more fiddling.

When color coding information for referencing as one works, it is possible to be generous with symbols or edit down to bare elements. For example, one way to approach a schematic follows below, where knit stitches are illustrated as well as cable crossings. Red indicates stitches moved to the front, and the green indicates those traveling to back in each cable set. In hand knitting vertical or horizontal bars would represent knit and purl stitches. Since these are identical in this HK graph, they could all be eliminated


B the isolated repeat

The choice then remains whether or not to revert the crossings to match the HK pattern. One way to do that is simply to reverse positions for colors. The mantra becomes “red moves first, green moves second and over red”.

With all machines if the knit carriage is left set for normal knit, even if the patterning option is engaged (KCI or KCII if there are any needles out of work) needles will be selected, but the fabric produced is stocking stitch. The usual considerations are in order: the number viewed on the card outside the machine corresponds to the design row being read by the reader, but the punchcard holes in view are not necessarily the same as the design row selected. Because one is producing the cables on the purl side of the knit, if hand knitting charts are used the cables themselves will be  mirrored. In many instances this may not matter, but if one is using the twists for representational crosses ie. in trees, owls, diamonds and other geometric shapes, it is a good idea to scan the repeat, mirror the image vertically, and then begin translating it into machine knit interpretations. Relatively easy with simple scanning and printing software (ie. the flip horizontal function in Preview, a bit harder by hand.

When I can I color code my cards: ie. with lace I draw a line across the card when I reach each knit row sequence with color pencil. This provides me with an easy to follow visual cue as to when the rows must occur, and also facilitates returning to previous selection sequence when mistakes in patterning occur.

Some basics: with a punchcard there is no row length limitation, but repeats are limited to 24 or a factor thereof. In this particular use wherever needles are selected, one has a visual reminder to move those needles in the desired direction.

I used the cards below to illustrate the idea in my intro to knitting classes. When needle selection occurs in the first, remove the selected stitches off the machine with a 3 prong tool in each desired location, then insert a second 3 prong tool back through front of those same stitches, in turn removing from the initial tool used. Rotate the  twice transferred stitches 180 degrees consistently either clockwise or counter-clock wise throughout, and return them to their original position on the needle bed. The result is a consistently textured fabric with no counting stitches or rows between repeats.

a swatch using it

This card begins to address regular cable crossings, mine was punched in repeat the full 60 rows. A color may be assigned to help with opposing twists’ directions ie. to left (pink) or to right (green) when the corresponding color bar appears just above the card reader.

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 to mesh 4

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