A tale of 2 donuts

Gauge swatches are often the bane of many a machine knitter, as are math calculations. I have recently come across several instructions for hand knit donuts, embellished in a variety of ways, and was curious about turning the knit sideways in order to create a machine knit version. Yes, there are formulas for creating such shapes, but once in a while “winging it” on small projects may provide an easily achieved, workable result.

I began with the formula: 30 stitches in width, divided by 3 = 10; 5 stitches used to create held, narrowed bands at both sides, the 20 remaining stitches knitting throughout the length of the piece, for 20 wedges/ repeats.

The method: cast on with waste yarn over 30 stitches, knit one row in “donut”  yarn; set the machine for hold; bring 3 needles opposite the carriage into hold, knit to the opposite side, repeat two times: bring 2 needles opposite the carriage into hold, knit to the opposite side, repeat two times; bring 5 needles into work opposite the carriage, knit across to the other side, repeat twice. At this point, all stitches will have been knit, begin sequence over again. This chart reflects 3 repeats, 30 stitches by 6 rows. Knitting begins on the left, and holding stitches begin with carriage on the right:DONUTS

A single repeat may be programmed into an electronic machine, knit with the carriage set to slip throughout, and with end-needle selection canceled (covered in previous posts).

When I taught courses in machine knitting, the first “garment” made after several weeks of swatching and learning the various stitches, was a “baby hat with earflaps”, with the proviso that the same directions had to be used by everyone in the class for stitches and rows, but each student was free to select yarn and stitch type. This often became the first lesson in the importance of gauge, with results varying in size from mini doll size “hats” to gigantic ones. For my donut versions, I used the same directions. The striped one is produced with a random sock yarn that gave my machine fits at tension 8, and produced a very tight fabric; the yellow is from a good quality 2/8 wool at the same tension, resulting in a much looser knit, and a much larger final product. I was casual about seaming the 2 open ends of seaming the knit together on the machine by simply using a latch tool bind off, an invisible seam could be created by grafting with Kitchener stitch. I did a bit of stuffing as I went along in seaming the lengthwise portion of the piece in the second donut, as opposed to leaving a smaller opening in the first, making the process easier, and I paid more attention to seaming of the side “tube” stitches. Once again, it is obvious that changing the material may change the size of the final product significantly, making those tension square calculations important for any predictable results in sizing.




Brother KMs: punchcards and their use

I have recently become involved in a year-long project at UMass Lowell will share details as they develop. Most of my blog posts are written for those who already have a basic knowledge of techniques. Since I may soon be involved in teaching basics to non-knitters, I am in the process of getting some informational notes together and thought I would share them here as well. The information is the Brother brand specific.

The punchcard reader sits on the far right of the knitting machine; it actually reads 7 rows below row visible at eye level on the machine exterior, establishing a numerical relationship between motif repeat design rows and those viewed


cards may be purchased pre-punched (1), as individual 24X60 blanks, or in continuous rolls (2); a card punch (3) is used to punch holes card_suppliesrows: for any card to roll in a continuous pattern vertically (rows), cards are joined to form a roll. A minimum of 36 punched rows is required. Snaps are used to join the beginning and end of a single card or multiple cards sequentially. There are excellent, free downloads now for pattern books including designs for all varieties of MK fabrics. It is possible to have the machine knit rows in double-length ‘automatically’, it is the only built-in possible alteration of the pattern. Masking or cello tape is a temporary solution to testing repeat variants or to repair errors (both sides of card), otherwise re punching of the whole card is required for any changes

stitches: the maximum repeat width (stitches) is 24, 24 squares, one line on the card. On Brother KMs the repeat is centered with 12 stitches on either side of the center “0” marking (2). The needle position indicator is marked in thick and thin lines (1), each representing one whole design row repeat in width. If one wishes to shift motifs on the knit piece, invisibly join designs, etc., the only alternative is to determine the width and needle locations required and then to shift the knitting position on the bed by repeat or its segments.

needle tape

motifs must fit together within the 24 stitch limit, so individually they must be factors of that number: 1,2,3,4,6,8,12,24 (height calculations must have a minimum of 36 rows punched, so different math is involved there as well)

anatomy of a card: all squares are punched top and bottom for 2 rows each. They are not part of the design, overlap the first and last pairs of rows respectively when snaps are in place, so the design motif remains continuous

any image will be reversed on the knit side, of note in planning lettering or motifs where direction matters. With the change knob set to KC or SM punched holes in the card will preselect needles to B position, unpunched holes will leave them in the B position. A 24 stitch repeat with needle selection for row 1 (card is from a set supplied by Brother with machine purchases).


the extra markings on the needle tape are water-soluble ink marks from one of my projects to help track techniques.

working with motifs in networks with 24 stitch limit: checkerboard is formed with the isolated motif, original measures 8 stitches by 16 rows; repeats in charts below are outlined in green, colored squares correspond to holes punched in card

checkerboardadding simple patterns adding shapestaggering horizontally for brick repeat (now too wide for the card) horizontal staggerstaggering vertically for half drop repeat, (row adjustment)vertical staggercheckerboard begun with an 8 stitch repeat straighthalf drop: repeat begins to change in width half dropbrick bricktriangle triangleadded larger repeat variationsvariation 1

variation 2

variation 4

Electronic machines are able to use punchcard designs as well. Only one pattern repeat needs to be programmed. Factors of available maximum width in stitch repeats depending on machine brand:

24: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12   30: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 15   40:1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 20  60: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30

More to ponder: knit stitches are not square, they are rectangular, so representational knits, no matter the size, require some mathematical adjustments to retain their aspect ratio. An interesting illustration for this is seen in attempts to knit a circle.
Common ratios for knitting are 4:5, 2:3 (height to width) with stitches being usually wider than tall.
Gauge is the stitch to row ratio that allows one to calculate height and width for finished knit pieces, it is the basis for creating and shaping the items which in turn may then be assembled into garments or size-specific end products.
The Diophantine equation (referred to in knitting as the “magic formula”) may be used to calculate increases, decreases, and shaping. There are many excellent how-tos and calculators to aid in the process. The old Brother accessory calcuknit and its emulator took some of the “work” out of the process, were later replaced by similar functions in consoles or software.Sometimes charting out the shapes based on such calculations was referred to as “ragu charting”.