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 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 backups for their machine models. It is obviously best if both carriages are the 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 a 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 is 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

This post was written originally in 2011, in one of my lace “phases”, with test swatches knit on a 910 using a mylar sheet or on my 892E Andare Brother punchcard machine. Early on many of the posts were used to record what I had made, sometimes providing the repeats, but not usually step by step instructions. The shares were intended for anyone with previous experience who might want to create their own version of such fabrics. Now in 2020, my swatches are usually knit with download cables img2track on a 930 or less frequently on a 910 using ayab, via an iMac. In revisiting those early posts I sometimes find myself wondering about the content and how their fabrics were achieved. At the time, as now, I tried to respect copyrights. Since then many machine knitting publications are now downloadable for free online and I began to include information from them, and when possible, links to the source.

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.
The slip setting in both directions is used on the KH for automatic shaping, end needle selection is canceled. 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. The latter can be broken if pulled in opposing directions at the same time.
Comparing a pattern on 2 machines: one of the critical differences when using 2 carriages to select patterns, is that on electronic machines such as the 910 or later models, with each carriage pass the design repeat advances one row. With Brother punchcards, the first pass of the second carriage does not advance the card as it makes its first “trip” from the opposite side, the previous preselection and function are repeated.
When operating the lace carriage on a punchcard machine, one of the critical differences is that the preselection row from left to right made with the lace carriage is performed with the punchcard not locked as usual, but rather, set to advance normally. From:  Any circular knit that is shaped with sideways holding segments will need to be seamed when completed. Taking that into account, at least one row is knit with “doily” yarn from left to right after several rows are knit in waste-yarn before the transfers to create open stitches are begun. It is a personal choice and preference whether upon completion of the required number of segments to join by rehanging open stitches and binding off on the machine or grafting (the method I prefer) with the work off the machine after several rows of waste yarn and dropping the work off the KM.
When 2 carriages are selecting needles from opposite sides, the “rule” as provided in the manual is broken, the card starts in the locked position on one side, is released when it reaches the opposite one, as is standard in knitting other stitch types. In this chart, patterning begins with the locked reader and the LC used for the initial preselection row Beginmomg with the LC on the left, the end needle selection is canceled. The two positions in LCs for both punchcard and electronic KMsBack in 2002 exchanges with a fellow member of an Australian Yahoo Group, OzMKers, led to her final edit of this half punchcard repeat for the test doily. All transfers are in the same direction, to the right
A 24 stitch sample, knit in cotton yarn. The center of the circle needs to be managed as opposed to simply gathering it in order to keep the finished shape flat. It is possible for the lace carriage to transfer while at the same time preselecting every needle to be knit by the next pass of the knit carriage from the opposite side. An expanded view of part of the repeat:  In order to get the repeat working properly, I found I needed to edit out one of the punched holes at the start of each repeat, revised card  The original and the amended start of each segment are shown below, I skipped the extra knit rows numbered 21-23 on the original punchcard with the intention of eliminating extra knit rows at the very center, making the circumference at the closure of the doily smaller. I prefer to start with knit rows, in which case the first preselection row would take place from the right. Note that lace transfer marks are directly on top of the solid lines representing knit stitches     If drawing on the back of mylar for use on the 910, either image may be drawn as is, with the number 1 pattern case “A” selector reverse lever to up position.
Repeat design principles are shared in creating edgings, ruffles, and more.
The amended 24 stitch repeat with all transfers to the right knit on the 930 after a few rows misstart. The download is automatically mirrored. The end needle cancellation setting on the 910 LC for the pattern to work properly with the carriage in use. In turn, this repeat as given was used in 2020 for a pattern test on my 930 for all transfers to the left. Note: here the knit stitch black pixels are followed by a blank row, and the transfer marks occur on design row 3, directly below the next series of all black pixels Depending on the machine model, the .png for the repeat may, in turn, need to be mirrored horizontally.
The preselection row for my test swatch is from right to left, using the knit carriage (KC). All black pixels will preselect needles. When the left side is reached, the KC is set to slip in both directions and will knit all preselected needles on its way back to the right. Subsequently, the slip setting will be performing the function of bringing stitches in and out of hold opposite the carriage. Each carriage pass advances the repeat one row. The lace carriage preselects for transfers from left to right, transfers to left, and preselects for the next knit row as it returns to the left and onto its rail. A 40 stitch adaptation from the Bond site to try A 60 stitch repeat also inspired by the Bond post knit on the 910 using a mylar. Gauge still matters, more than the recommended 16 sections to form a full circle would be required using this particular yarn  In the post on lace edgings automated with slip stitch on Brother machines written in 2020, I shared a modified version of a punchcard published by Susanna Lewis in “A Machine Knitter’s Guide to Creating Fabrics” (1981), the ultimate resource for punchcard knitting for knitters with any amount of experience. The chart on p 223 was modified by me since I like to start my lace edgings on the widest number of stitches in the pattern. The punchcard repeat on the left below is shown after being reorganized to start with a knit row on the full 24 stitch width. On the right, rows of black pixels are added, for a version of the full repeat to be used on electronic machines. The slip stitches are substitutes for manual holding techniques, used to knit rows that are in turn form increases and decreases to alter the outside edge of the trim. The lace pattern resulting from the transfers changes along with their direction as the outside edge does. This image is for the desired effect on the purl side of the fabric. Again, depending on the electronic model or the download program, it may in turn need to be mirrored. Subsequent posts on knit edgings:
Lace edgings on Brother machines- automated with slip stitch
Lace edgings on Brother machines- automated with slip stitch 2
From automated lace edging pattern to doilies and ruffles 

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 the 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 the 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 the 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 the 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.