More slip stitch experiments

Slip stitch fabrics are capable of creating interesting textures. When blocks of stitches are slipped, the floats that may appear on the purl side are considered problematic by some knitters. One solution is to work using mosaic and maze “floatless FI” designs. This was addressed in previous posts, including color separation methods for planning them, and a variety of knit swatches.   The images below have often appeared in knitting boards on Pinterest, I am returning to the slipstitch design thread.

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missoni combo

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lyst combo

I decided to plan a “square” shape to sort out the technique; it could easily adapted to a diamond one. By necessity, larger repeats need to be executed on an electronic machine whether via mylar or download program. The plan is to change colors by any means available, usually every 2 or every 4 rows, requiring a motif repeat that totals an even number of rows. In hand knitting garter stitches can become part of the resulting texture, but they are impractical here. Often commercial knits are produced on machines that can automate many more functions and textures per row. The Missoni sweater is a fine knit, and on a detailed examination, reveals lace eyelets in the some of the stripes in addition to plain knit and slipped stitches. Not impossible to do on a standard KM “home” electronic, but simplest way to add lace eyelets would be via hand transfers.

my starting chart

repeat start

 checking that that repeats line up

multiple repeats

possible mylar repeats

mylar repeats

I drew the top repeat above onto mylar for use on a 910. The sample swatch was knit using 2 carriages (and lace extension rails). I selected R 1 from right to left, with the carriage that was to remain on that side, and began knitting with the second carriage, placed on the right, holding the alternate color. There are a few ways to achieve the pre selection row, depending on the choice of start to the fabric, and whether a color changer as opposed to a second carriage is in use.  Contrasting colors help see and understand stitch formation. For the bottom of the swatch I used double length as well as color reverse, with color (carriage) changes every 4 rows. The top of the swatch is knit with color changes every 2 rows. Slip stitch is short and thin. Since there are more stitches slipped on the bottom of the swatch, the fabric is pulled in in those areas, making the knit on either side “bubble” in a way that the top of the swatch, does not, and resulting shapes no longer appear as straight lines horizontally.

striped slip ksidepurl side

striped slip p side

The single width blocks that form the stitch pattern are usable for tuck knitting as well. Whether the motif may be elongated on standard machines depends on yarn thickness used. Tuck stitch fabric tends to be short and fat, so the finished knit piece will be wider than the slip stitch version.

Taking this shape to a punchcard requires editing, and results are quite different. One sample idea, moving stitch groups around to fit a 24 stitch repeat:

punchcard repeatAll the white squares would need to be punched to form knit stitches, the yellow left unpunched, to form the slipped ones, the look of the fabric would be very different.

Previous blog posts on related topics: tuck and slip color striping , block stitch color separations 

As for creating “solid” block shapes: an initial repeat is charted below, 16 W X 24 H. Black blocks are drawn on mylar or downloaded, color reverse is used, no elongation. Knitting starts with base rows knit in the color that will form the “block” on the knit side of the finished fabric

block shape

the knit side

block_front

and the purl, note floats as wide as the “block”

block_back

Block slip stitch separations

“Pinning” has become part of my daily routine. This image was pinned by someone else, and brought back memories of my block stitch scarves, along with the temptation for working out a new repeat, similar to that seen in the top of this jacket credited to Forquet.

Following are some ideas for developing designs for these fabrics, the basic principles work for both punchcard and electronics. Using the motif in a punchcard will make the striping surrounding it fixed, and involves a lot of punching holes. On a mylar or in a download the width of the ground behind the shape can be easily changed, and only the non selecting, “empty ” squares need be drawn or entered into a program that is capable of color reverse. One needs to be mindful of the size of the overall repeat when faced with so much “blank space”.

Until one sorts out what happens with the stitches, where the colors are placed during knitting, it is a good idea to start with a simple shape. I use excel as my “graph” paper when I want to easily play with color on a grid. Below is a simple motif as a design start, beside it an expanded graph leaving every other row blank. Some books suggest erasing on horizontal EOR stripes, I prefer the visual cues in the method below. The yellow marks the rows on which the motif will be created.

There are a number of ways to go on from this point. Layering the repeat on a colored ground can give a sense of the resulting shape, help plan the type of overall pattern repeat, and ensure that enough rows are allowed to travel to and from the color changer. For sampling I prefer to work on an electronic machine, using the elongation feature and color reverse to minimize drawing in lots of black squares. The grid on the left shows the above split motif layered over a striped ground. In the center grid, the motif separation color becomes white/ blank, color one (yellow) is different than on left simply to allow the white to become more visible. I use 2 carriages as opposed to the color changer when knitting these fabrics, so the L and R row markings help ensure that indeed there are enough rows in the repeat for both carriages to travel to and from each side, with stripes lining up where required. The blank squares represent slipped stitches, and they normally are left blank whether, in a card, mylar, or program, all other colored squares are knit stitches, corresponding to punched holes, black squares on mylar. On the far right is all that is required to be filled in with a mylar sheet or program capable of lengthening X2 and color reverse. The marks are actually the same as the expanded motif first shown above. For a punchcard, the same motif on the far right could be drawn this way centered, and every other square surrounding the now black lines would need to become a punched hole.

Looking at the graph: color 2 will slip in locations where needles are not selected (white squares). The stitches on non selected needles get longer in the front of the fabric, the alternate color floats behind them. The next color change will knit the held stitches off, so the motif color in the above design will actually be “green” in the final fabric. Because the colors on either side of the motif are actually knitting every stitch and every row, there will be some distortion in striping around the motif, and potentially even some “bubbling” in those areas

The next choice becomes sorting out how far apart to place motifs from each other, and in what distribution on the resulting fabric. Both are subject to personal preference and taste. Below is only one of many such possible layouts

if elongation is not possible or to be avoided, then the option below shows a possible repeat, including a “punchcard” 24 stitch version. Where color reverse is not an option, all but the white squares must be marked/ programmed, and in the case of a punchcard, all but the white squares would need to be punched

It is also possible to offset/ shift the color of motifs themselves so they would alternate colors between the 2 striping colors as well

The following chart illustrates the idea: the magenta stripes are not part of the repeat, they are markers to show where the slip stitches for the alternate color need to occur in the repeats

As for the motif that started this thread: below is the test swatch so far, obviously in a different gauge and repeat, but in the same spirit. An issue is the long float on the back/purl side spanning 8 stitches. If the goal is to produce an unlined item, this could pose a problem in wearing it. Hooking up the floats may be too time-consuming in production, an added stitch in the non-motif color (see marked dots) on either side of the central bar may solve the problem, but alter the design. There is lots more to consider and play with (yarn colors in these swatches are chosen for throw-away tests, not any type of final item) .

more swatches, repeats old and new

The final, new scarf fabric: knit on Passap, every needle rib, Tencel and “Nomi Lee”.

The top and bottom edging to be worked out; the fabric is soft, drapes well, and has no side curl.

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Mosaics and mazes: machine knits_ from design to pattern

Maze patterns have long vertical and horizontal lines broken by regular gaps and the pattern lines change course from the vertical to horizontal, and vice versa. Maze cards can be identified by completely punched sections, some alternating with every other square marked for two rows, usually geometrically shaped. Areas of stocking stitch produce horizontal colored stripes, and alternating pattern stitches that slip or tuck cause the vertical stripes, which are sometimes pulled nearly diagonal by the influence of tuck or slip. The fabric will be unbalanced because the number of needles slipping or tucking will not be the same on every row. Odd rows form 2 color horizontal stripes, even rows vertical stripes, with color changes occurring every 2 rows.

Mosaics have a brick arrangement (tessellae), with clear perimeters and cores, and stepped diagonals (frets) that are partially formed bricks, their positive and negative spaces are created by the use of contrasting colors. The stripe sequence is not as obvious. The punchcard looks even less like the original design.

In single bed work, the reverse of the fabric will show the original design in the texture of its slip or tuck stitches. There usually will be no floats longer than one or two stitches.

The knit side may look like a fair isle but the back lacks the usual long floats, hence the name “float-less fair isle”

The row gauge is compressed. Tuck fabrics are short and fat, slip ones tend to be short and thin. Some patterns elongate in washing. The tension used is usually one number higher or more than that used for stocking stitch for slip patterns to reduce their narrowing, tuck patterns may also have to be adjusted to suit. Smooth yarns in contrasting colors are the easiest to establish and test the pattern, then the choices can be far more personal.

Designing your own: traditional “rules”

  1. if scale matters consider that the height of 2 rows may equal the width of one stitch
  2. start small, let each square on your graph whether on graph paper, in a design program or spreadsheet/vector program cell equal one stitch, each line on the graph represents 2 rows of knitting, when knitting the pattern double-length specific to KM may be used. The unfilled squares represent the lighter color/color1, the colored squares represent the dark/color2
  3. no more than one stitch to tuck, two to slip at a time
  4. row 1 and all odd-numbered rows (most stitches knit) can have any number of squares marked, the slipped (tuck, or slip/part tuck in alternating directions) are represented by blank grids (no more than 2 side by side for slip, single for tuck), they are generally knit in the lighter color/color1
  5. even-numbered rows must have single squares marked, they are generally knit in the darker color/color 2, there should be no more than 2 “light squares”/ unpunched holes side by side, the slipped (tuck or part/slip tuck in alternating directions) are represented by marked grids
  6. vertical lines must begin and end on odd-numbered rows
  7. vertical lines must always consist of an odd number of rows in total
  8. the finished design must be an even number of rows to allow for traveling back and forth to the color changer for picking up and carrying the subsequent color
  9. if the design is not to be elongated check to see that every light square to be worked in the dark color is present in the row below, that every dark square in the row to be worked in the light color is also present in the row below

Susanna’s chapter on mosaics has information on fabrics where “rules” get broken. Changing the order of the colors or introducing a third color may yield pleasant surprises. Knitting is started on a non-patterning row with first-row selection toward the color changer in Japanese machines. If you have a machine that preselects needles: color must always change when the needle selection changes. Four movements of the carriage are required to produce two rows of knitting.

One approach with a design that breaks rules:

masking alternate rows and “separating them”: odd rows knitting in color 1

dark squares get punched out/ drawn, light ones tuck or slip depending on cam settings

color 2 knitting even rows:

light squares are punched out/drawn and will knit, dark squares ones tuck or slip depending on cam settings

colored areas below are those to be punched overall

I used Excel to eliminate yellow fill on odd rows, darker fill on even. Many articles on this subject date back to graph paper, pencil, and eraser days. Quick color fills including empty make the process quicker with software. Still finding the image above confusing, it may be easier to decide what to draw on the card/mylar if all areas to be punched are dark, blank squares can then be more easily identified and marked, punching everything else or coloring them in and using color reverse if your machine has that ability. In the image below the lighter color is replaced by a darker one

the resulting card, which needs to be elongated X2

The swatches were knit using both the slip and tuck settings (also breaking the usual rule). Some of the tuck rows have a bit of color scrambling likely due to the amount of side by side tuck loops in the repeat not knitting off properly in those spots

slip stitch front

the back

tuck front shows the repeating trouble spots

tuck back

point grids for developing designs are of 2 types

in turn, the pattern may be drawn over them

staggered units may require some cleanup and “erasing”, as represented by pink squares

when the shape is what one desires, color separation follows as for the design at beginning of the post

Susanna Lewis at one time did publish a technique that could be entered in the E6000 that essentially did the separation; wincrea does not presently download techniques, there are other programs that can, and/or a combination of card reader sheet and computer download may be used, but that is for another day.

Mosaics and mazes from “FI” “universal” patterns

Many punchcards that obey the usual restrictions for tuck, in particular, may be used to create “random” mazes and mosaics, with color changes happening every two rows. Test swatches will show differences in surface texture, patterning, width, and height of the knit. It is useful to use clearly contrasting colors to study how the structure of the fabric is affected by different techniques. This test series explores the quality of the stitches created, along with using different knit carriage cam settings, although this repeat does not produce designs typical of either mosaics or mazes.
The swatches were knit during a class demo, for easy visibility, not as studies for finished garments or accessories. They were produced on Brother punchcard KM, using a single bed color changer. Electronic KMs advance a row for each pass of the carriage regardless of its beginning position/side. As noted in later blog post shares, such fabrics are produced more quickly and easily if an electronic is available with  2 compatible carriages for use.
Yet another single color variation, missing here, would be to use opposing buttons for tuck/slip.
The first preselection row is toward the color changer.  The FI pattern front with a bit of bleed-through where floats were hung up on the purl side

tuck 1 color slip 1 color  tuck 2 colors slip 2 colors  last but not least, slip stitch adding a third color front, still changing colors every 2 rows

This is a factory punchcard design, a smaller repeat. The repeat enlarged and punched for use in the pictured samples

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.