The making of i-cords

Making narrow tubular cords has also been referred to as spool knitting, corking, French knitting, or tomboy knitting. When using a knitting machine the standard for knitting cords is to operate the carriage so that it knits in one direction, slips in the opposite. Using the e wrap method cast on 3or 4 stitches. Push in the part button on the same side the knit carriage is on ie. if it is on right, push in right part button. Stitches will knit from right to left, slip from left to right creating a float. Since the float is added yarn when knitting is pulled to set it, the gauge on the few stitches will be altered, so it is usually recommended that tension be tightened 1-2 numbers lower than garment tension. The float issue becomes problematic if cording is required that is wider than 4 stitches. Switching to tubular knitting using the ribber will produce tubes of any desired width.
In Japanese machines, the ribber knits tighter than the main bed, if gauge matters a starting point is to loosen ribber tension by approximately 2 numbers. Larger cords tend to flatten, so if a round tube is desired stuffing may be required in the form of cording, plastic tubing that may be joined using appropriate caps from hardware or even pet supply stores, and a range of wires if the intent is to create sculptural forms.
One exception to tightening the tension when knitting cords is when/if they are joined to knit edges in the seam as you knit method.
Addressing the float issue in single bed knitting:
with five stitches the floats could be latched up creating a rib stitch. This same operation in tighter or smaller cords may make them swirl.
If a flatter cord will serve the purpose, an alternative is to have the center stitch knitting on the slip rows. One may accomplish this by hand-selecting needles or using a card. This will seal the tube in the center or periodically across the knit. The punchcard may be locked on any single row with the appropriate holes punched, and the position planned on the needle bed for knitting. The carriage will knit all stitches in one direction, slip/skip all but the stitches where needles are selected in the opposite. Floats may become design elements in some instances; if sewing onto another piece or hanging onto the knit as it progresses they serve as guidelines for doing so. If they are to be applied vertically to a garment, create a ladder to mark your sewing line.
If you are a gadget collector “hand Knitting cord machines” may make them up to 6 stitches in width with the ease of cranking a handle and with a bit of planning wire beaded tubes may be produced on them as well. Some examples are from Bond, Prym, Wyr for knitting metal mesh, and eons ago some companies including Passap and Singer offered their own automatic cord knitters as well.
A recently published hand-knitting book has many ideas for applied i_cords that could also be used on the machine. For speed and simplicity, sometimes flat strips of knitting may be substituted for cords in some designs.
Cords or strips may be used to create mock cables, add color interest, applied as trims, or to the bodies of sweaters or sweater edges. They may be braided, twisted, macraméd, etc.
Some published and online resources on the subject:
Erica Patberg article in Knitter’s Magazine #104, Fall 2011. She can be found on Ravelry. Cords and strips may be used as trims. Long ago versions were published by teachers in the seminar circuits, one may be found at 1. Ginger Luters is well known to hand knitters for her books such as her “Module Magic”. Apparently, she also has published a book on trims, now available on DVD online that from cover photo appears to include some suited for this topic.

A page that gives a bit of history and illustrations of spool knitters for crafts/ hand knitting may be found at Hub Pages, and on “circular knitting machines” at How to get what you want.
The Wyr knitter is very hard to find. I have knit 32 gauge wire on other knitters with success, so that particular model is not necessary for wire cords as seen in this piece of mine A curly cord version may be found at Techknitting. More ideas and a knitter at Bond America. And lastly, something to make with those Barbie Knitters.

Illustrated how-tos from Brother knitting techniques book and from a Studio publication:

A few i-cords and more to try

The top illustration below creates what some demonstrators back in the day would refer to as a heart cable trim. The width of the strips of knit may vary, and the size of the holes need to be accommodated to suit the subsequent threading. The second illustration set results in a more traditional “pretend” cable. I-cord could be used for the second sample. Narrow strips of knitting will curl in, however, and in many instances may be substituted for true i-cords. Because each pass of the carriage knits a row as opposed to slipping alternate rows, the knitting is twice as fast. In the instance below a series of holes are created for threading cording (or other chosen material)

The following illustrates the threading option with a single length of the cording, which will need to be secured at each end with some stitching. Separate colors could be used on alternate sides for more color variation, and other threading sequences as well

some publications with inspiration photos

its online relative

from foreign blog

part of another image

from MonTricot Magazine #26, 2011

from Mon Tricot magazine

A hand knitting book with many ideas for cord and strip use that could easily be adapted for machine knitting

A commercial foreign knit incorporating cables and woven cords link no longer active in 2019

A new use for waste yarn

This photo was actually taken last April. Part of my studio is in my unfinished attic, explaining the foil ceiling and boxes. It oh so truly helps to look UP from your knitting once in a while! I had just begun my lace experiments, things had been going so well in terms of avoiding dropped stitches I was mesmerized by the needle bed and my intact fabric…

Using punchcards to track small cables in pattern (1)

Symbols in knitting have evolved considerably through the years since the day when all instructions were longhand and it was abbreviations used that would need de-coding. This is true of cables as well.
I came across a magazine graph that led me to explore its conversions from hand to machine.
In the BW original graph cable stitches are represented by solid lines and dashed lines, and stitches are moved in the direction of the upward slant.
The “needles” with the solid lines will be moved first, and the dashed lines will follow to replace/fill the empty needles.
The repeat below is 64 rows high, so if a card is used it would need to be created in two pieces, the last row on the graph is not part of the repeat itself.
As is seen in knit alphabets, however, punchcard patterns are mirrored vertically when the design is executed.
That needs to be kept in mind if punched holes are used to track the cable repeats, particularly in complex arans.
Assuming mirroring is required to match movements in the hand-knit original graph, colored cells representing punched holes in the first colored card repeat are also mirrored. Using the card
green color blocks :
the left half of the crossed stitches are moved first, taken off on the tool, held to the side
the right half of the crossed stitches follow and are placed on the empty needles on the left
the first held stitches in turn are then placed on needles now empty needles on the right
magenta color blocks :
the right half of the crossed stitches are moved first, taken off on the tool, held to the side
the left half of the crossed stitches follow and are placed on the empty needles on the right
the first-held stitches in turn are then placed on needles now empty on the left
The markings on the punchcard machine’s needle tape correspond to needle selection for 24 stitch repeat, and that can be used as a guide, needles selected are intended to move toward the center at the bottom of each half repeat, and away from it in the top half, creating the diamonds.
If electronics are used and the repeats are other than 24 stitches wide, the needle tape may be marked with a water-soluble pen or removable color tape strips may be placed between the needles that are first and last in each repeat.
The initial imagined diamond shape is tiled in width.   The start of a possible chevron shape  Those 3X3 cables are likely not easy to knit, especially after only one all-knit row. One alternative would be removing the crossing, disregarding the 6-needle preselection, thus adding another knit row between any 2X2 crossings.  In writing a 2022 post on using Numbers and Gimp for charting cables and revisiting this post I realized there was an alignment error at the top of the punchcard repeat used to knit the earlier associated swatch. The image below now has the problem area in the card marked.
A circle also marks the spot where operator error occurred with some twists made in the wrong direction,  The amended, now rendered 72 rows tall card: 2024: The result of further editing, a table representing the direction of the stitch brought forward in each crossing, while the magenta numbered cells indicate spots where the crossings begin to reverse direction. All crossings are now planned 1X1. The top 2 rows from the above chart have been shifted down to the bottom to create a point at the start of the diamond shapes, and the resulting repeat is tiled to check alignment and possibly ready for printing a guide.  The associated 24X72 PNG and markings in 6 stitch blocks for punchcard users The proof of concept swatch:
Such techniques may be used in isolated portions of garments instead of all over.
A “simplified” interpretation of a similar knit pattern is seen below. Related posts:
Using punchcards to track cables and twists in pattern 2 
Using punchcards (3) or electronics to track small cables in pattern

 

Some “real” cables on KM

2/8 wool

slippery rayon: fabric flattens with pressing and remains that way

a couple of twist samples: wool/rayon blend

Fair Isle, any punchcard locked on a single row of every other stitch selection: there were whole books of HK patterns based on this idea, sequence of moving stitches can create a variety of secondary patterns. On the KM fair isle is essentially a slip stitch, short and skinny, tension needs to be loosened considerably to try this, stitches in cables cannot be brought out to “hold” position to ease knitting off on the next row, as this will affect the color pattern. Larger crossings are possible, but more difficult

another FI and cable variant: mistakes are probably from needles that were out just a bit too far and knit in the alternate color

a blast from the past: knit on my metal no punchcard bulky (first KM) and ribber more than 2 decades ago. Ribs at waist and armholes are hand knit twisted rib

Pretend/ mock cables 1: i-cords, holding

I have literally hundreds of machine-knit swatches from the days I taught in a design school program. I periodically revisit them and since cables and their look-alike relatives have recently caught my attention I thought I would share photos of some of the samples in the next few posts.
They are not necessarily resolved fabrics, some of them are the result of random demo efforts/ stitch play.
In any discipline over decades, one cannot help but become aware of how materials and styles cycle, and this is oh so true in fashion and certainly in knitting. For a while more than a decade ago knit i_cord yardage/ tubular yarn was marketed by several manufacturers, and it is now making its reappearance.
One way to create pretend cables in varied color combinations is to apply purchased yarn, or machine knit cording/ tubular knit to the purl facing the knitter side as the piece progresses. The application may be done in an organized manner, using a punch card to select needles on which the yarn will be hung, or more random, even with wide knit strips in contrasting colors.With tubular knit cord in addition to hooking up, anchoring may require some stitching, “seaming as you knit” at planned intervals would make the joins “invisible ” Strips using holding techniques or stitches hooked onto the knit to create texture, in turn, joined in the “seam as you knit method”Cording may also be inserted into single stitch lace “holes”or larger holes created through holding techniquesKnit i-cords, ribbon, twisted cording, etc. may also be threaded/woven through holes created at cable crossing as a way to add color and dimension to standard cables, mimicking their movement on the fabric. A recent foreign magazine cover including a variant of the above technique

A simple braided cable (and card)

When creating braided cables one may punch cards to aid in the accuracy of twists. Once the principle is established as well as some basic rules, it becomes easier to work with variations of patterns based on simpler ideas.

Ladders may be used for marking repeat edges as well as for contributing to pattern interest, or for latching up on reverse thus creating “purl stitches” aside cables. They are one of many things guided by personal preference/ taste.

All over cables narrow fabric considerably, looser tension than for stocking stitch in the same yarn is a must.

A place to start experimenting with in terms of row spacing is to cross stitches a minimum of every number of rows equal to the number of stitches crossed, ie. 4 stitch cables every four rows, six stitch cables every 6 rows. Usually, for crossings involving more than 6 stitches, extra yarn will be needed for the additional stitches to move far enough across the metal bed to complete the cable and knit off properly on the following row.

Preselection allows one to pre-plan exactly where repeats occur on the needle bed. If the repeat does not center either side of 0 when a card or other form of input is used, removable colored tape or water-soluble markers may be used to mark the needle tape between the first and last needle of each repeat. This is not needed if the repeat itself coincides with 24 stitch markings on the tape itself, as in the sample below. I actually use punchcard needle tapes on my electronic machines as well for consistency of markings.

A simple braided cable may be created by working with alternating twists on six stitches.

In the image below:

screenshot_15

Program repeat, as usual, set to advance normally, KCII if there are needles OOW.

KC carriage remains set for plain knitting throughout

1. when needles are selected take center stitches off first on a 2 prong tool, hold to front and side

2. remove stitches from selected needles on a second tool, place them on the center needles

3. place the held center stitches on the needles now empty

Many cables may be translated into a punchcard or programmed pattern. It takes a bit of time to sort out the necessary “rules” and attention to detail while knitting is still required, but the process is overall quicker and more accurate.

Passap knitters can perform similar functions, except it is the pushers that are pre-selected for the next row of knit, not the needles themselves. Tech 129 with color reverse will bring up pushers to correspond to  Brother markings. The machine remains set to N throughout, sets of stitches outside the area of cables may easily be transferred to the opposing bed for a ribbed version of the fabric. It is necessary to sort out where patterning occurs on the needle bed, non involved pushers on the front bed should be placed completely out of work.

A confession

I have to admit I can and do hand knit but now operate in life is short mode, and have decreased patience for projects that require a huge time commitment (relatively speaking) to complete. At a knitting seminar in the early 90s a demonstrator (who happened to be male) used to tour with a sweater he had “completed on the machine”  that had more than 3,000 (yes, thousand) cables in it: complex twists inside larger diamonds in turn formed by cables. IMO such a garment would be faster done by hand. One of the advantages in hand knitting is that errors are more easily seen since one has the opportunity to observe what happens on the knit side closer to the event. The fixed spacing on the machines that twists must travel can be a challenge in forming fabrics, particularly in all over patterns.

One possible solution is to combine machine and hand knit panels. Hand knit center arans may be joined to plain side and sleeves knit in stocking stitch on the KM (also a solution when larger sizes are required), and stitch patterns may be used in isolated areas or selectively rather than all over the garment. Patterning shifts in the knit/purl ground in garter stitch patterns may produce knit and purl “illusions” of shapes otherwise created by moving stitches in cables.

I have recently been playing with this crossing idea. The original intent was to try it out in an all over pattern in a brick repeat, and only one row of knit in between transfer rows. With yarn at maximum tension, after the first round of transfers the second round of them became impossible to perform. Am still at the drawing board, but the idea may well simply end with a 2 inch patch as opposed to anything larger. Wonder if Barbie is in the market for a lapghan?

Follow up: the new working repeat with 2 rows of knit between cable crossings

a test on standard KM: the ladders were a “surprise”, a by product of the distance the stitches were moved

the same fabric with ladder “floats” being hung on adjacent needles to diminish ladders and produce holes

the stocking stitch fabric top and bottom of this last swatch is considerably wider than its cabled portion, a possible consideration for trims or insertions based on this idea; “you can’t always get what you want” but sometimes one can still quite work with what one gets.

Holding and “cables”

Susan Guagliumi has written 3 books on hand techniques on the knitting machine

her first classic

her previously most recent

published November 2014

Unknown

On her website, some of her articles and Studio KM publications are available for free download. Included are ones discussing a horizontal cable, two-color electronic cable. 11/12/15 Please note: the site now requires subscription and login, links, as posted here as they are, will fail to connect.

In creating large-scale cables in the past tension changes, supplemental threads, and other ways to compensate for moving a larger number of stitches on a metal bed (things start to get hairy when crosses become larger than 4X4) have been discussed. An interesting, clear, possible solution to produce textures or macro cables such as in this piece

may be found in her books and may be viewed in her youtube video. Handknit interpretations that also add lace to the mix may be found in Shirley Paden‘s portfolio photos of garments, she is the author of

 

Using punchcards to track cables and twists in pattern 2

This post was originally written intended for punchcard machines only, with the passage of time electronic pattern tracking, samples and associated repeats were shared.
Links to some later posts including cable manipulation and patterning
2023/05/30/a-return-to-plaiting-and-double-bed-hand-transfers/
2021/03/11/slip-stitch-patterns-with-hand-transferred-stitches-double-bed/
2021/02/01/slip-stitch-patterns-with-hand-transferred-stitches/
2021/05/09/double-bed-embossed-patterns/
2012/01/19/using-punchcards-to-track-small-cables-in-pattern-1/ 

2011: Cables seem to be in vogue once again in myriad permutations. They pose some interesting issues when created in machine knitting. Interweave Knits Winter 2011 published an article on “Cables 101” that includes a way to color code and graph cable crossings. “Back in the day” of regular, worldwide machine knitting seminars, several authors provided collections of machine-knit cables including George Le Warre at Passap universities (copyrighted, George presently in England).

Simple crossings are a good place to begin and produce texture. If one is not interested in freeform but rather constant, recurring patterns it is possible to use punchcards to produce visual cues when stitch twists and crossings are to occur. This is not an option in Studio Machines, easy on Brother because of the fact that needles pre-select, and Passap pushers may be used for a similar set of clues with a bit more fiddling.

When color-coding information for referencing as one knits, it is possible to be generous with symbols or edit down to bare elements. For example, one way to approach a schematic follows below, where knit stitches are illustrated as well as cable crossings. Red indicates stitches moved to the front, and the green indicates those traveling to the back in each cable set. In hand knitting, vertical or horizontal bars would represent knit and purl stitches. Since these are identical in this HK graph, they could all be eliminated

A

B the isolated repeat

The choice then remains whether or not to revert the crossings to match the HK pattern. One way to do that is simply to reverse positions for colors. The mantra becomes “red moves first, green moves second and over red”.

With all machines, if the knit carriage is left set for normal knit, even if the patterning option is engaged (KCI or KCII if there are any needles out of work) needles will be selected, but the fabric produced is stocking stitch. The usual considerations are in order: the number viewed on the card outside the machine corresponds to the design row being read by the reader, but the punchcard holes in view are not necessarily the same as the design row selected. Because one is producing the cables on the purl side of the knit, if hand knitting charts are used the cables themselves will be mirrored. In many instances, this may not matter, but if one is using the twists for representational crosses ie. in trees, owls, diamonds, and other geometric shapes, it is a good idea to scan the repeat, mirror the image vertically, and then begin translating it into machine knit interpretations. Relatively easy with simple scanning and printing software (ie. the flip horizontal function in Preview, a bit harder by hand.

When I can I color code my cards: ie. with lace I draw a line across the card when I reach each knit row sequence with a color pencil. This provides me with an easy-to-follow visual cue as to when the rows must occur, and also facilitates returning to the previous selection sequence when mistakes in patterning occur.

Some basics: with a punchcard, there is no row length limitation, but repeats are limited to 24 or a factor thereof. In this particular use wherever needles are selected, one has a visual reminder to move those needles in the desired direction.

I used the cards below to illustrate the idea in my intro to knitting classes. When needle selection occurs in the first, remove the selected stitches off the machine with a 3 prong tool in each desired location, then insert a second 3 prong tool back through the front of those same stitches, in turn removing from the initial tool used. Rotate the twice transferred stitches 180 degrees consistently either clockwise or counter-clockwise throughout, and return them to their original position on the needle bed. The result is a consistently textured fabric with no counting stitches or rows between repeats.

a swatch using it

This card begins to address regular cable crossings, mine was punched in repeat the full 60 rows. Color may be assigned to help with opposing twists’ directions ie. to left (pink) or to right (green) when the corresponding color bar appears just above the card reader.