Knitting with “unusual” fibers/ elastic 1

Decades ago UKI used to offer 92 colors in a 3M elastic, and for some time lots of folks were experimenting with using it as the second color in fair isle. A company now defunct called Impresario used to even sell pattern books for garments using the technique, with the no stretch ground yarns creating ruffled details in cuffs and sleeves. One of my students during that time made a whole collection where the elastic was used in shaping segments of pieces and even in a whole dress. Since pleating, folds, blisters, bubbles have been intermittent themes in my blog posts the elastic and “unusual” fiber use seems to be a natural follow up in my swatch knitting experiments.
Early published designs can be found using elastic in patterning. Thread lace was an early feature in Silver Reed machines, so if that is a fabric that is attractive, downloading Studio specific punchcard books or those for their electronic designs is well worth it and provides a wealth of inspiration for the related knits. The knitting technique is often referred to as punch lace in early pubsIf a clear color contrast is desired, FI is the better option. One such source: The above patterns are decoded for use on Brother electronics in a subsequent post

In an earlier post on “pretend cables” I shared a demo swatch from my teaching days (shown sideways) that became the springboard for the mentioned student collection
and its accompanying punchcard repeat:UKI is no longer available. I recently acquired some Yeoman elastomeric nylon-lycra yarn. The latter is supplied on 1450 yards per pound cones in 23 colors.
There were several things to be sorted out for the elastic to feed smoothly. The first was to separate it into more than one cone with the intent of using at least 2 strands since one did not seem to work predictably. After trying a variety of trial methods including bypassing the tension dial in the yarn mast, ultimately the best results were obtained by threading the elastic as any other yarn but taping the metal disks spaced apart in the assembly thus reducing the pressure and upper tension on the elastic as it advanced through the mast for knitting.
The normal threading

Here the white yarn shows position beneath the pin and scotch tape in place to adjust the amount of pressure exerted on the elastic. As a matter of routine, even if the goal is to knit the fibers double bed, it is always best to make certain one gets familiar with yarn feeding, tensions, changes when larger widths of knitting are attempted, etc. on the single bed. The first tests were knit using the fair isle and thread lace settings single bed. Though I am using  img2track to download to a 930, I do not have a 930 carriage (910 ones do not have a thread lace option), so I worked the swatches using a punchcard model carriage. The repeats used were planned to include borders on each side to ensure those stitches would knit in the second, B feeder color in fair isle (black squares, punched holes), or together in white squares (unpunched holes) in thread lace. Fair Isle produces a double set of floats on the purl side. Thread lace produces a single set of floats (in this case the elastic), the white border is not visible in the repeat below, it is the same as the above fabric, with colors reversed. I prefer the single float backing. In addition, for these fabrics the elastic is placed in the A feeder, the yarn in BI found the standard sinker plate kept having issues with the thread lace option, getting needles caught up in it as it attempted to move across the bed. The sinker plate that was provided with the punchcard machine was actually different, and when I switched to using it I had no further problems. Arrows point to differences, I have long since replaced all brushes with wheels on all my sinker plates. Be aware when purchasing any of them that the bulky KM ones are slightly larger. A second thread lace variation:
The multiple folds and creases, as opposed to smooth blister in all the above, are very interesting to me.
There are many scientific papers being written on 3D knitting that explore pleating achieved by using knit and purl combinations which to some degree could be emulated on home knitting machines equipped with a G carriage. Other work explores properties achieved by using elastics in the mix, they can be found by searching for “axometric knits”.

Many interesting pleating effects may be achieved by using knit and purl combinations. Unless one has a mechanical aid such as a Gcarriage transferring between beds can be tedious and hard to do correctly for lengthy pieces of knitting. I illustrated one sample in the post I decided to now test a similar block structure using the thread lace setting, first with a large check and then a far smaller oneThe spots, where the elastic and yarn knit together, are compressed, so the results are quite different than what might be expected from studying the chart A quick, imperfect sample using a fine cotton and a single strand of the elastic, each with its own upper tension disk adjustments.a close-up of the elastic and cotton, though they are knitting stocking stitch together, the cotton does not have the same stretch factor, so the loop formation as viewed on the purl side is different  What of knitting on a double bed? An axometric shape, a tentative repeat worked out and in turn elongated X2 and tiled to check alignment. The original repeat is composed of an odd number of rows in height. Usually, double bed knitting relying on color changes or automatic DBJ KRC separations require an even number of rows in the motif. The first sample was executed using single-ply cotton and elastic yarns respectively, fed through separate upper tension disks but knit together as a single color. The swatch is 72 stitches in width but measures only 14.5 mm (5.7 inches) in width, producing a gauge of nearly 13 stitches for inch, not achievable when knitting with standard fibers on a standard 4.5 mm machine. The pattern is subtle, more visible on the knit side, hard to tell there are pockets in the knit. The cotton is space-dyed, and as true when using such yarns, that causes some confusion in immediately identifying a clear pattern. The ruffled effect is simply from a plain knit start and color-changing stripes to test tension and knittability on the planned needle width. Machine settings: opposite part buttons,  no liliHere the same pattern was executed on the same number of stitches with the white wool used above, but the elastic was plied with a 2/24 acrylic yarn and knit as DBJ with the blue, stretchy combination creating the solid color backing a comparison in scale My future intent is to try for some of the 3D shapes obtained with racking, but prior to that, I tested the yarn and tensions on some simple every needle rib racked patterns. Because of the movement required across the metal bed for racking to occur, I chose to continue using the same wool as above, rather than thin cotton likely to break from the stress of those movements. A plating feeder would do a better job of distributing the colors, which here become muddied as seen any time 2 contrasting colors are knit together and are used as “one strand”. Racking every 2 rows (swatch bottom) will stress the yarn less than every one row (swatch top). The knitting was fairly easy at tension 4 and 3 respectively. Both carriages were set to knit in both directions. The weighted rib on the machine measured 16 inches, 10 when off it and relaxed. The width nearly doubles when fully stretched. I was curious to try a pattern previously tested in an all woolThe stitches were quite compressed, the color mixing makes the shapes harder to trace, the fabric measures nearly double in width when fully stretched in width, the needle arrangement is more visible at that point.The needle arrangement was changed. The finished swatch measured 24 inches when weighted and on the machine, approximately 18 inches when off and relaxed. The maximum width was expanded from 4 to 12 inches The “pleating” arrangement is noticeable in this view Working with a similar arrangement I decided to try having patterning on the top bed, with the aim to tuck on the single needles in work in the repeat (bottom line of black squares). Not all ideas are an immediate success. Wanting to see the effect on the single-ply wool I began with that at the tension that appeared to be required for knitting it along with the elastic and stitches were far too loose.I had more success and a bit better definition of the fabric by knitting with both strands together from the bottom up. In an effort to attempt to have better color distribution I used the plating feeder and had some issues with stitches not knitting off properly. The result was not significantly different than that obtained by simply feeding both yarns together. When using plating feeders both on the single and the double beds one of the yarns may have a tendency to jump out, to prevent that from happening here is one “hack”.The tuck stitches do help with the definition of the shapes, as do the dropped stitches, a fact worth keeping in mind with a return to pleats and their formation, but likely in another post. Likely the last test in this series, I attempted a version of dragon scales at first using a yarn I knew would be too thin for the effect alone, then added the elastic. The combined yarns did not tolerate tuck and racking combined, so I then used slip stitch <– –>. The yarn alone sample was too loose and thus nearly flat and when the elastic was added the resulting knit became compressed and lost any semblance of 3DThe same yarn as above, also knit in tuck setting, showing the difference in size and dimension between slip setting on left, tuck on right As with any knitting, keeping an eye on what your yarn is doing still matters. Such as this will lead to a series of circumstances that may bring your project to a far earlier end than planned ;-(
A very last effort at attempting the scales with elastic and wool knit at a far looser tension that in previous tests, ended when elastic broke as a result of above, IMO an unremarkable fabric For more swatches and information see post on knitting with elastic 2 

Tuck stitch meets thread lace repeats and vice versa

A recent share in the Facebook machine knitting group led to this blog post by its author <>

The inspiration fabric led to ideas for recreating it on a punchcard machine, and my own trip down that rabbit hole led me to think about the relationship between tuck stitch designs and thread lace ones.

Not all Brother knitting machine models were equipped with the capacity for thread lace. The 260 bulky happened to be one of those models, which were manufactured with 2 MC buttons seen in this illustration

Studio manuals refer to the fabric as punch lace. Early pattern books including ones for electronic machines provide a large range of pattern repeats for such fabrics and can be design sources for other knit stitches if one understands the structure being created. A quick “hack” to help keep the B position yarn from jumping out during knitting, taken during a different experiment In tuck stitch, the unpunched areas, white squares, or pixels represent loops created on non-selected needles, punched holes / black squares, or pixels represent knit stitches. In punch/ thread lace those white areas knit both thick and thin yarns together, while in punched holes/black square or pixel areas the thin yarn knits on the stocking stitch side of the fabric, with the thicker yarn floating behind it. Depending on fiber content, gauge, etc. the illusion of eyelets can be created. This is half of a Brother punchcard repeat, suitable for thread lace, reworked for knitting the design in tuck stitch. That is, in turn, doubled in length to allow for color or yarn value changes occurring every 2 rows. The resulting swatch is tested first in 2 colors to prove the repeat, then using clear serger thread as one of the 2 “colors” for a very different effect than blends that of both fabrics.

Looking at design sources for possible redesigns for the alternate knit fabric: published punch lace cards

published tuck stitch cards DIY a place to start is with simple color reverse punch lace to tuck test. Not suitable are any areas with lots of side by side white squares. In the bow solid lines those could be modified, most of the repeats in the colored swatch segments of the published charts are unsuitable.

Once the chosen repeat is isolated, the punchcard can be further edited for electronic knitting. Tuck to punch lace: any of these would be worth a test, some results may be very subtle.From punchcard repeat to electronic: strong black and white images that have punched holes represented as dots may be the hardest to process quickly in Gimp. It is best to isolate the single repeat. Some clean up of the gridded image may be required. Test the latter by tiling it. Color reverse the single it if that is the original goal, using the built-in function in electronics or punching black squares in cards.

Not to be forgotten: the easy variations for visualizing results with a few clicks of a mouse,

and an added source for both stitch types are slip stitch patterns in suitable configurations

A previous post on editing repeats such as the above using Gimp, and one on superimposing shapes onto a mesh ground that may be the springboard for superimposing self-drawn shapes on tuck or thread lace suitable backgrounds Lastly, an earlier post on thread lace on Brother machines


Unconventional uses for punchcards 2: thread lace cards for “filet” mesh

Mock filet crochet machine knit lace has surfaced in a Ravelry blog of late. The sample in question was made by Tanya Cunningham, using a hacked knitting machine and software to download the repeat. Sometimes punchcard machines or early electronic users feel left out of creating particular fabrics. If one can settle for working with simpler and far smaller repeats however, one can achieve interesting results on that scale.  Several years ago I wrote a series of posts on lace meshes and lace patterns inspired by filet crochet, this link will take you to them. There also has been a thread lace Ravelry “thread”, and today’s avoidance of housework led me to think about pre-drawn thread lace patterns to create filet mesh.

What to look for a first experiment (Brother machines only): large unpunched areas creating motifs, with no side by side punched holes, and no more than 2 consecutive punched rows. Some samples are provided in-stock cards that come with machine purchase. One such

The lace carriage (LC) selects on the first pass, transfers on the second. It advances the card with each pass of the carriage if it is operated consistently from the same side. If 2 knit carriages (KC) set to select needles for any technique are in use in punchcard machines, as one is put to rest and the other one begins to move from the opposite side, the card does not advance on the first pass, so selection for the previous row is repeated one more time. If all lace transfers are made in the same direction the resulting fabric will bias. For balanced lace fabrics, the direction of the transfers needs to be reversed, whether in alternating series of rows or with every other set of transfers. In a situation such as this, the LC makes one set of transfers operating from the left, with the next set of transfers operating from the right. For the correct setup, the first-row selection with the card locked is made on the row just below the one marked #1 (in this instance that would be row #40), then the card is set to advance as usual. If the first selection row is made with the card set to below the #1 line, the card needs to be already joined with snaps into a drum or the card reader will be selecting the all punched row which is normally part of the overlap that sits over the last 2 rows of the pattern repeat.

I began with my LC on the left for transfers to the left and alternately placed it on the right after knit row(s) for transfers to the right. A “simple” lace is produced with only one row knit between transfers, a more complex lace if 2 rows are knit between them. The LC moves left to right, transfers back to left. If the knit carriage is used for one pass only, it stays on left. The LC is now taken off the machine and moved to the right, used for 2 rows, and will be removed from bed to ready it for its return to the left side. The KC follows with one pass from left to right. The LC is returned to left and operated for 2 rows, starting the sequence over again. The LC is always moving toward the KC to select, and away from it to transfer.

Brother knitters are used to knitting 2 rows after lace transfers. It can be done with this card as well. The problem here is that when knitting for 2 rows, the knit carriage consistently returns to the same side so that when transfers need to be made from its starting side with the LC, the KC needs to come off the machine until after transfers are made. There is a lot more juggling of carriages and keeping track of what needs to be where. The elongation that occurs with 2 rows knit after each set of transfers, and the differences in the appearance in the yarn forming the eyelets (single/magenta arrow vs crossed/glow green arrow strands) for the respective methods are shown below.

another Brother card, more possibilities

The above shows long vertical lines of transfers are possible in design motifs (punched holes). Adding shapes to all over mesh may require some editing along edges where the shapes meet the mesh. Varying size swatches are recommended before committing to any large piece. As always punched errors may be taped over. Red squares in the image below reflect holes missing in the card if the goal is a smoother circular shape. When this technique is used, selection, transfers, and knitting occur in each single, completed row of the design.

note differences in circle sides
an amended, wider repeat 

The slight bias zig zag at the top of the swatch results from a missing reverse direction transfer before continuing with plain knitting and binding off. Ultimately whether the final fabric is worth the effort in making it is a personal choice. Sometimes small swatches work like a dream, and when large pieces are produced, problems multiply or the result is disappointing. In the past, I have also tried to use thread lace inspired patterns for drop stitch lace (ribber fabric), but have found the result far more subtle than expected. As always yarn and color choice make a significant difference. The yarn used in these samples is a 2/15 wool blend, knit at tension 6.

BTW: Studio pattern books have multiple sections of published 24 stitch thread lace patterns. Not all Brother machines have the capacity for knitting this type of fabric, so not all of their publications include “suitable patterns”. If one understands what punched holes vs unpunched do, some of the Brother weaving and “pick rib” (perhaps another post’s topic) can be used as-is or adapted.

previous blog notes on thread lace


Thread Lace on Brother KM

Thread lace has also been called punch lace over the years. The “lace holes” are formed by knitting a fine thread with a significantly thicker yarn as the “second color”. When the fine yarn knits (B), a larger stitch in it alone is formed, with the thicker yarn floating behind it. The thicker yarn goes in Brother’s A feeder, the thinner in B.  As in FI patterning, the unpunched holes/ blank squares/ no pixels knit yarn in feeder A, punched holes/ black squares/ pixels are knit in B feeder yarn. In this instance, however, both yarns knit the unselected needles, corresponding to blanks in the card or blank squares/ unmarked pixels. Tension may need to be adjusted due to this fact.

Test swatches for tolerance to pressing/ steaming to make certain final garment will bear blocking and cleaning. I had a sweater front finished using an industry “clear” thread, thankfully tried to iron it before finishing the piece, and discovered a lovely melting quality to the clear “thread”. In theory, clear serger thread should be safe to use, there are 2 easily available manufacturers. YLI brand (nylon) is stocked at most chain stores that carry sewing supplies.  One “light / clear” is “whiter” than others; there is a “smoke” version as well, sold on cones. Both produce a bit of a sheen on the surface of the knit fabric. Sulky (polyester) clear is sold on spools, is superior for sewing pieces together, zippers, etc with no “sharp” when the cut ends poking at the skin, but at a different price point and quantity.

This was my garment’s test swatch, the black is a wool rayon yarn.


The fabric is much quicker to produce than traditional transfer lace. Cards can easily be drawn by filling in solid shapes over a mesh ie repeat seen in the 1X1 card. Double length may produce an interesting fabric as well.  End needle selection needs to be canceled. If end needles are selected because of the pattern repeat, push those needles back to B position manually before knitting the next row. The latter step ensures that both yarns will knit together. Either side may be used as the “public side”, depending on personal preference. The thread lace option is also available in the 260 bulky machines. Here a very thin acrylic was used as the “thin” at the start of the swatch, monofilament for the remainder (bulky KM)

img_3851once again, with monofilament as color 2 img_3852

Taking it to a garment (standard KM): color 1 = wool/rayon blend, color 2 = sewing thread. Note the difference in color where there is no needle selection for pattern, and how one color is more prominent on one side than the other. Sometimes the latter may be used to advantage when the goal is a plaited fabric, but no plaiting feeder is available. Simply program in a blank row, and position threads using thread lace setting to produce the knit.



I knit on a 910 electronic, with no option for such fabrics built into the knit carriage. I was able, however, to modify and use my punchcard carriage with the intent of producing yet another “unconventional”, ribbed fabric.

Added tips: the tension dial usually ends to be a bit tighter than stocking stitch. The fabric produced is also thinner and shorter than stocking stitch, as is fair isle.  The finished fabric tends to elongate when blocked.

The setting may be used instead of plating. A plated, solid fabric is produced by non-selected needles. The thread lace thread tends to appear on the knit side, as opposed to the plating yarn, which appears on the purl side. The color mix may appear less even than in traditional plating. Simply lock the card or needle selection on an all “blank” row.

If the “lace” thread is too thick or too contrasting in color, the eyelet pattern may be lost. Simple geometric shapes are best. Some knit weaving patterns may also work well. In terms of altering the repeats using the buttons on the electronic models, double length or sometimes double wide as well as vertical mirroring may produce interesting results. Sewing or serger threads may serve as the thin yarn and match yarn color well if that is desired.

On the select/memorize row both yarns are fed into the same feeder (A) as the thick yarn, and the “lace” yarn is then removed and placed in the second feeder (B).

An option for drawing your own patterns: shapes can be superimposed on mesh designs as described in “filet crochet” posts, with no elongation of the motif. Punchcard machine owners may use tape over sections of card number 2, or card 1 which in turn gives the option of testing the design elongation X 2 for both eyelets and motif as well. The tape may be moved to suit, and once the pattern is satisfactory, the final pattern design card may be punched.

Both Brother and Studio offer the cards in their standard  punchcard assortment with the purchase of respective machines

A later blog post on the topic with additional information on yarn placement, settings, and more: 2019/02/25/tuck-stitch-meets-thread-lace-repeats-and-vice-versa/


Thread lace and punchcard knit carriage use on Brother 910_2

A short while ago there was a Ravelry thread discussing reversible, double bed knits. I recalled a demo from eons ago I saw at a machine knitting seminar and decided to explore my memories and share. The result approaches a “reversible” fabric, with imperfect results depending on yarns used and other factors. There is a group of knitters that are presently experimenting with “glitch knits”, where the intent is to purposely create patterns with what some people might consider “mistakes” as purposeful parts of the design. For one example see a video of the technique. The “imperfections” in the fabric below may be seen as a positive by some. It is not the result of any aberrations in the programmed pattern, but rather as a result of the way the threads get pulled through each other as the carriage moves across each row knit.

My samples were knit using equal weight yarns. The fabric may be better served by using different weights, approaching the usual recommendation for plaiting. See the manufacturer’s directions for plaiting feeder use.

Cancel end needle selection on your knit carriage. Cast on is for full needle rib with both yarns in place. Hang comb. Knit 2 circular rows followed by one more all knit row. Change to rib tension that has been tested for yarn combination if your cast on was tighter than it. Several rows may be knit for a “solid” color edging.

When the first pattern row is selected, one need not set the KC carriage to slip. N is king in Brother, regardless of pattern/ needle selection as long as no cam buttons or levers are pushed in/ selected, everything knits, whether single or double bed. After the first row of the pattern is preselected on the main bed, use a tool to push in both buttons as seen below, and proceed in the pattern. Even though end needle selection has been canceled, if the end needles on the main bed are selected, they need to be pushed back to B position or those stitches will be dropped

my punchcard carriage set up on one of my 910s

when testing motifs it is always good to begin with a simple pattern, making needle pre-selection easy to view and check. I began with “checkers”. They can be viewed at the bottom of the image below with machine set for double length, at top as drawn on the mylar; most such fabrics are well served by double-length on any machine, electronic machines could easily vary the repeat size or color reverse at the flip of a button, using lili buttons on ribber may add to the mix of results as well.
screenshot_22a familiar stock Brother punchcard, knit on my 892, double-lengthscreenshot_23 Facebook friend and member of the machine knitting group there has published a version of the instructions in Italian

Review of the use of plaiting feeder from Brother ribber manual 


Thread lace and punchcard knit carriage use on Brother 910_1

Yes, the 910 has no thread lace setting. I happen to also own a punchcard machine model # 892E (no idea why Brother chose to add the E to a punchcard model name). I remembered eons ago reading about someone on an Australian list actually getting a punchcard model carriage to work on an electronic machine. It is good to beware that not all carriages may be interchanged between different models, especially if the latter were manufactured several years apart.

The magnet on the back of the electronic carriage is what trips the reader in the 910. With the 892 and 910 carriages side by side, I marked the approximate spot I wished the magnet to be. It is presently in place with cellophane tape for my tests. I believe it to be a “rare earth magnet”, 12 mm in diameter, part of a jewelry piece from days gone by, with a deep attraction to all KM metal parts.

spot39the first location was too high, the pattern did not read properly place40what turned out to be a much better spot  better placea random mylar repeat mylar45the resulting fabric, on both purl and knit sides both sides

I used two cotton yarns, with a slight difference in weight. With the exception of when knitting transfer lace, the first instinct may be to use the color reverse option when the mylar repeats show lots of “white squares”. However, in this type of fabric blank squares knit both yarns; black squares or punched holes knit only the thinner yarn, while the heavier one floats behind it. The KC tension used needs to accommodate both yarns easily knitting together. When only the thin yarn knits on selected needles, the stitches formed will actually be larger in size than those where both yarns knit together, giving the “illusion” of holes.

This fabric was also at times referred to as punch lace. It is only possible in Brother machines that have 2 cam buttons in the center position, both center buttons under the MC/L mark are depressed. The punched holes/ black squares in mylar select needles that will knit in the fine yarn only. If you are using a very fine yarn for the second yarn, you may have to wrap it twice around the dial on the mast tension unit to control its feeding. Better edges are produced by canceling end needle selection or manually pushing any selected end needles back to B. If KCII is an option on later electronic models, some of the work is done for you. End needle selection may also happen as part of the design repeat, so in those instances, unless you are happy with the thin yarn only knitting on the very edge of the fabric, those needles need pushing back to B by hand as well.

selected needle

end needle camsset camsBTW: end needle selection must also be canceled whenever patterning with needles out of work is used, or needles on both sides of out of work ones will produce knit stitches regardless of programmed pattern.

If a contrasting color is used as the thin yarn in the B feeder, the results may be seen below. Note: the colors appear reversed to their position in feeders, so A (thick) color is seen more on the purl side, the B (thin) is more evident on the knit side of the fabric. The top of the swatch shows the result when blank rows are programmed into the reader. Sometimes this setting is used as an alternative to replacing the standard A/B feeder with the machine’s plating feeder (if available for your model km). Reversing yarn position can produce some interesting stripes

combo colornot all A/B yarn feeders are created equal 
sinker plates

I have always found the extra B gate on left more a nuisance than a necessity, particularly if the B yarn needs frequent changing.

Another unconventional use for this setting to produce “pretend cables”


It is possible to knit thread lace with the plaiting feeder in place on the single bed as well. The effect approaches glitched versions of the pattern, Stitchworld #407. This is a quick hack to keep the front yarn from slipping out of the yarn feeder The blue and white yarns are equal in weight, the orange replaced it and  is thinner