To mesh or not to mesh 4

The following illustrate some of the processes 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 cards. In option A: the motif is planned and drawn. In this instance, it is colored in green (1), the area it covers will ultimately remain unpunched on the 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). The motif is superimposed on grid (3). Repeat is expanded adding 2 blank rows above each design row (4). Rust squares represent punched holes in the card or black squares in mylar.

Option A

Option B: the same motif is lengthened X3 (5). The lace mesh base is drawn out (6). The 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, the 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 get 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 a 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 the 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

3/19/18: While recently reviewing and recycling some ancient MK pubs I came across the card as published below. Directions required releasing the cam buttons for a single row to complete an all knit one after each of the tuck stitch sequences, then resetting cam buttons for tuck. Adding an all punched row in the card above, eliminates that step, making the process far quicker and less error-prone. Tuck works like slip stitch in terms of free passes and knitting: with both tuck buttons pushed in and all needles in B it allows for a free pass. With needles selected, the preselected needles (punched holes) will knit, while the non selected needles hold loops until they are selected by a punched hole again.

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 the direction of transfers sequentially, or in series. If done in series the result is a vertical zigzag with movement in edges of the 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 transferred 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 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 completed 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 doilies).
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 the 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.

Lace: from electronic repeat to punchcard

At about the time I began my recent lace obsession, and pre my trying to actually use excel instead of simply knowing it lived in my computer, a friend was trying to work on a lace repeat that was found online as part of Staceyjoy’s knitting stitch portfolio, now part of the site. As a result, the downloadable pdf below bears the name it does, includes my how/to suggestions for the journey from electronic single repeat to punchcard, and the resulting swatch. One additional tip: when working with copies it is good to mark tops and bottoms clearly, especially if combining pieces of patterns so as to avoid marking/punching and vertical mirroring mistakes.

redlipstick PDF

So many machines…lace punchcard 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 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 requently 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. I tried to respect copyrights. Since then many publications are now downloadable for free online, I later 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.
Slip setting in both cam buttons 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 each carriage pass advances the design repeat 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.
Back in 2002 exchanges with a fellow member of an Australian Yahoo Group, OzMKers led to her final edit of the punchcard repeat resulting in the half actual card shown below.
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 The doily 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. Whether joining by rehanging 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 it off the KM upon completion of the required segments becomes a personal choice.

Begin with the LC on the left, end needle selection set All transfers are in the same direction, to the right
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.


In reviewing the repeat on the punchcard in 2020, these were my observations as to the actions of the carriages. 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. 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 punchcard with the intention of eliminating extra knit rows at the very center, making the circumference at the closure of the doily smaller  If drawing on the back of mylar for use on the 910, either image may be drawn as is, but used with the number 1 pattern case “A” 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 end needle selection on the 910 LC for the pattern to work properly with the carriage in use In turn, this repeat as is was used in 2020 for a pattern test on my 930 for all transfers to the left  When downloading from computers, the software may require mirroring as well. There are other differences in the repeats and their use.
The preselection row is from right to left, using the knit carriage (KC). When the left side is reached, the KC is set to slip in both directions. The first knit design row is executed from left to right. Each carriage makes 2 passes, both advance the repeat one row with each one of their passes. 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 result is shown on the left below, after being reorganized to start 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 here are used for knit rows that are shaped by increases and decreases to alter the outside edge of the trim. The design resulting from the transfers also varies, and the transfers change the order of their direction as the outside edge does. In the “doilies” the number of needles in work remains constant, slip stitch becomes a substitute for holding, transfers are all in the same direction.

I am planning a subsequent post on converting automated lace edging charts for use to create circular “doilies”

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.

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.

The wonders of blocking

Blocking is one of those knitting preferences that can arouse strong pro/con arguments, and goes the range from casual to nearly compulsive with wires, pins, and assorted tools used to achieve desired results. My shawls continue to sell well: the photos below illustrate part of the process and 2 of the most recent in their family. All shaping and joining are achieved through the knitting process; the shawls are reversible, may be worn and draped in a  variety of ways.

before steaming and pressing

unblocked1

detail shot after steaming/pressing

blocked1

one way to wear, purl side facing out

shawl1