Up-Cycled Claw Weights

Some of the claw weights in my stash date back decades and I have straightened teeth until I felt an Orthodontist! Recently I decided to “remodel” some of the really mangled claws into something useful.

As most of you know, I do a lot of hand-manipulated stitches and right now I am nearing the end (YEA!!!!) of my fourth book. The trickiest places to tension are under working needles when most of the stitches are in holding position. Claw weights are often to wide to position under the working needles – and weights on the stitches that are  in holding position are worthless.

So many of the things I do require tensioning just a few stitches and I often just pinch individual stitches with my fingers to keep them down. Sometimes I use a transfer tool, poked through the fabric, to tug down on the stitches.

Both of these options demand one of my two hands, which can be limiting when it comes to the actual manipulations. I thought to myself  “A narrow weight would be a nice thing to have.”

They used to make some 2-toothed claw weights that were perfect for tight spots like that. They may still be made and available, for all I know, but I didn’t have time for a shopping trip, real or virtual.

I looked through my weights, found a couple on their last legs (er, teeth) and brought them down to the workbench in the cellar where I attacked them with some metal shears. I clipped off the upper corners and the mangled teeth they held. Then I used a metal file to smooth the sharp edges, followed by some emery cloth to make sure they were smooth and safe to use. After all, I don’t want to cut myself or the yarn! The end result is some perfect, narrow 2-toothed claw weights and I am feeling pretty smug right now that I was able to savage and up-cycle those old claws. Maybe now I will go shopping!

 

 

 

Buttonhole Sandwich Band – Delicious!

This buttonhole band has been around forever and is still a winner! The method of attaching the band can be applied to any sandwich band – plain, picot, patterned. The chained effect is on the inside of the garment (if you follow my directions) and a sort of back-stitched effect shows on the knit side, just as they would appear if the band had been applied on a linking machine.

The width of the band is up to you, but I recommend always including a technique that will produce a sharp crease on the fold. In this video, I used two turns with the garter bar, but you might do as well with one row on size 10 or a row of picots. If you have a double bed machine, you can knit the band in rib, ending it with some circular rows to sandwich the fabric between.

When applying a band like this to cut-and-sew necklines, you should serge or zigzag the cut neckline edge to make sure nothing drops down and runs later. Also, there should always be some “meat” inside the sandwich. That is, a couple of rows of knitting or, as I did, two stitches from the edge. Otherwise, the band is barely attached to the garment and tends to turn up (or down). I would never attach a band like this to live stitches with no bulk inside the band or it looks flimsy. Take my word for it ….. I know from experience!

When working a neckband with this method, you should be able to join one shoulder seam first and apply the band to the entire neckline. With V-necks, you might need to apply the band in two pieces that overlap the center front.

There is a free Tips and Techniques (Bands That Bind) on my web site that goes into a bit more detail and I recommend that you download it to help you the first few times.

Remember that the beginning and ending buttonholes are usually spaced just a few stitches from either end of the fabric, but that the remaining buttonholes will have larger spaces between them. There are always more spaces to account for than buttonholes. There are several magic formula calculators on line that are very helpful in spacing out the buttonholes.

I have used this method of attaching bands to front, lower and neckline edges and I have also used it to add trim and to finish hand woven fabric. Enjoy!

If you live in the Northeast, try to join us for the spring meeting of the Northeast Machine Knitters’ Guild – we had a great meeting on Saturday at Webs in Northampton, Massachusetts. Check out the Facebook page and follow along: https://www.facebook.com/groups/535504566785989/

(PS – I filmed this video at the end of raspberry season when I had some free time – apologies for the arm scratches!)

Stretchy, Usable Latch Tool Cast On!

No matter how hard you try to keep it loose, the latch tool cast on is often too tight to be practical. I came up with a simple solution that enables you to make the edge as loose and stretchy as you want by working around a gauge.

In this video, I used a #4 hand knitting needle, but you can use a larger needle or a dowel instead. Although it is tempting to make the chaining really loose, try not to go overboard with your new-found power!

Once I produced a better cast on edge, I realized that I could also use the same technique to open up the rows of decorative chaining I work on the knit side of the fabric. You can work decorative chaining with different colors and textures and you can work several rows together at the lower edge to produce a nice band.

Each row of decorative chaining is followed by a row of knitting  and if you want to produce a band, simply *free pass the carriage to the opposite side of the bed, work the chaining and then rethread the carriage and knit 1 row**. Repeat from * to **.

Think about picking up and rehanging a row of decorative chaining across the needles to work more elaborate trims or effects after the basic fabric is complete. You can also work crochet trims through them.

I hope you find this little tip as useful as I did! Enjoy!

On another note, January will be here before we know it and I will, once again, be teaching for Vogue Knitting Livein NYC. 
Hope to see some of you there!

Sinker Post/Gate Peg Bind-Offs

When I was in Australia a few years ago, students told me that this is referred to as “the American bind-off”. I’ve always just thought of it as the sinker post bind off!

Silver Reed calls them sinker posts – Brother manuals refer to gate pegs. All they are is metal dividers between the needles that help the stitches form and can be used to advantage when binding off.

With the transfer tool bind-off, the stitches are transferred from needle to needle behind the sinker posts/gate pegs, while the free yarn stays in front of the posts/pegs to knit each new stitch by hand.

With the latch tool bind-off, the yarn stays behind the posts/pegs and the latch tool in front of them. The tool hooks onto a new stitch in front of the posts/pegs and after the yarn is fed into the hook of the tool behind the posts/peg, the old stitch slides off over the new one.

Transfer tool edge

Knit side of latch tool B/O

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purl side of latch tool B/O

On machines that have neither sinker posts nor gate pegs, you can achieve the same thing by bringing the adjacent, empty needle back to holding position and passing the yarn around it. Right after you empty a needle, bring it out to holding position so the yarn can wrap around it. Where you are done, all the needles will be in holding position with yarn wrapped over each shaft.

Whether you catch the yarn around posts/pegs or an empty needle, you can simply lift those loops off the machine without fear of dropping anything because those are not stitches. The stitches have been secured by the bind off. Those loops just serve to space the bound off stitches.

What is the advantage of working this way? First of all, the knitting is fully supported while you work – right up to the last few stitches. This means that the knitting doesn’t stretch or mis-shape as it hangs from fewer and fewer stitches. It also means you can leave weights on the machine, which ultimately means the stitches are less apt to split as you manipulate them with the tools.

Secondly, the posts/pegs/empty needles assure you that the stitches cannot tighten up and form a stingy, tight edge. This will help retain as much stretch as possible. It also means that each stitch will be the same size.

Chinese Knots

Chinese Knot Stitch

Chinese Knot Stitch is still one of my favorite stitches. It was one of the first hand-manipulated stitches (HMS) that I developed and it represents a fusion of my years as a hand weaver and my introduction to the knitting machine. It is shown in black and white on page 110 of Hand-Manipulated Stitches and in color on page 25 of More HMS. There are also stitch charts in those texts.

Much like cables, the stitches change places, but in this case they weave through each other, rather than crossing. As you can see in the first video (above), I pair a 2-prong transfer tool with a latch tool, rather than using two 2-prong tools.

The two right-most stitches are removed on the transfer tool and then the latch tool weaves through them, over and under, to catch the stitch on the third needle. That stitch is released from its needle and pulled through the other two. Then it is placed on the first needle at the right.

Next, weave the latch tool through the two stitches again, but go over (or in front of) the stitch you passed behind the last time and then pull the 4th stitch through and placer it on the second needle.

Finally, return the two stitches from the transfer tool to the remaining two empty needles at left.

Depending on the yarn and the stitch size, you might be able to pull all of this off without having to change the size of the stitches. My experience has been that when the stitches are too small, the effect is more of an ugly little knot on the surface of the fabric, rather than a decorative knot, which is what we are after.

In the video, I enlarged the stitches by knitting them all the way back to the rail, which might be a bit of over-kill. Chances are you could just enlarge them a bit by increasing the stitch size on the carriage (see video below – a real Blast from the Past! -to do this) or by manually knitting the needles half way back to the rail. You will need to experiment on your swatch.

If, however, you only knit needles part way back to the rail, you need to push them out to holding position (HP) before moving the carriage so that their butts do not knock/jam the carriage. When needles are knitted back flush to the rail, make sure they do not inch forward and, if they do, just push them to HP.

Theoretically, non-working position (NWP) can also be used as a holding position, but it will depend on your machine, the yarn, whether you knit them back carefully, the weather, your height and weight and your political beliefs. In short – there are no guarantees so go slowly!

Over the next few months, I plan to do many blogs highlighting the stitches and techniques from all of my books and many (if not most) of them rely on the use of Bridging. It is my Go-To technique. This new video demonstrates how Bridging is used to manually enlarge stitches, while the video below, which was released to promote my first book, focuses mainly on Bridging with the stitch dial to affect stitch size.

Bridging is essential to much of what I do on the machine so as I share various techniques with you in future blogs, return to these videos for clarification when I do not specifically call out the Bridging steps involved in those techniques.

Stitch Analysis

This guest blog was written by my old friend, Charlene Shafer. Many of you know Charlene from her dozens and dozens of books and patterns and The Knit Knack Shop, which she and her husband, Harold (superb repairman!), have run for about 35 years. They also hold one of THE best seminars in the country every year in the spring so get on the mailing list!

I promise you, I am not abandoning this blog, but am still recovering from some fairly extensive back surgery last month. I’m doing great – just tired and still on the mend and planning to be back at work by the end of the summer! In the meantime, I am grateful for talented friends like Charlene (and Nancy Roberts last time) stepping in to help keep these pages filled.

Click here Stitch Analysis for Charlene’s excellent info!

Machine Knitting to Dye For

One of Nancy’s colorful garments where the dyed yarn is used as the contrast color in Fair Isle.

My friend, Nancy Roberts, is the owner of Machine Knitting to Dye For in Berkeley, California. She is a knitter, spinner, weaver and dyer who has taught at local and national knitting, weaving and spinning conferences and whose articles have been published in Knitwords, Spin-Off, and Handwoven. As she will explain in this guest blog, she came to machine knitting via an unconventional path. Nancy’s work is an explosion of color!

How I Started “Machine Knitting to Dye For”   

A guest blog by Nancy Roberts

I never had any intention of using a knitting machine to make finished pieces. I was strictly a hand knitter and I bought my first machine—an LK-150–solely as a tool for dyeing. I was inspired by a vague memory I had of an article by Rebekah Younger that I had read in Threads magazine (No. 59, June/July 1995, pg. 68). Ms. Younger had machine knitted undyed yarn and then painted it with dye in stripes of graduated colors. She then unraveled the yarn and re-knitted it to create an hombre effect on her knitted garments. I was intrigued, but did not own a knitting machine at that time. Nearly 10 years later in 2004, I set out to try the concept on my own, and by then, I no longer had the article for guidance. It was a great gateway into machine knitting because a dropped stitch was inconsequential as I’d be unraveling my knitted fabric in the end. I knit small swatches, painted them in stripes, unraveled the yarn, and reknit two colorways in Fair Isle patterns. The more I played with the technique, the more obsessed I became. At one point, I became so impatient to see the fruits of my play that I got out my hairdryer to dry the freshly dyed swatches faster. I convinced myself that if a blow dryer was good enough for my hair, it was good enough for sheep’s hair.

A gorgeous woven dyed silk scarf

I showed my finished machine knitted and dyed work at spinning, weaving and hand knitting retreats and conferences I attended. Folks wanted to learn more about what I was doing and I was asked to teach the method I had developed. However, if I was going to teach, I needed machines. That’s how I became a Silver Reed dealer and my business, Machine Knitting to Dye For, was born. I’d take basic LK-150 machines to my classes and hope that students would be intrigued enough by the dyeing technique or machine knitting—or both—and buy the machine at the end of the workshop.

It didn’t take long before I could see the infinite possibilities machine knitting, apart from my initial use as a mere tool for dyeing.   I was a convert and I became a missionary for machine knitting. Along my journey, I found machine knitting guilds. Teaching for those groups was a breeze: they already knew how to machine knit the “blanks” for dyeing and I didn’t need to “schlep” or ship machines to teach a class. As a side benefit of working with experienced machine knitters, I got to learn more about our shared craft.

Self-Striping Socks

Fair Isle socks with self-striping contrast color.

 For those initial classes, I needed to come up with a project that was accessible to the novice machine knitter and could be knitted and dyed in a one or two-day class. Self-striping socks were the rage, so I worked out an easy pattern for socks blanks that could be re-knit by hand or by machine. I employed “marker” rows to isolate areas for dyeing distinct color stripes. I had three variations of marker rows which had the byproduct of teaching novice machine knitters about some of the machine’s capabilities. The easiest way to create a marker row is to increase the stitch size/tension by several numbers. This works fine, unless your main tension is at the upper end of the dial. In that case, I recommend an every other needle tuck stitch row to mark the beginning or end of a painted stripe. My third method is to use a couple of rows of a contrast yarn without cutting the main yarn so that the main yarn remains a continuous strand when you ravel it later. For very distinct colored stripes where one stripe’s color doesn’t merge into the next, I knit more than two rows of the contrast yarn to create a wider dye barrier between the rows of main yarn.

Socks with distinct stripes created by knitting wider marker rows to keep the dyes separate.

Sock Blank Pattern

 Click here for a Sock Blank Pattern for fingering weight yarn (approx. 2000 yards/lb) on a standard gauge machine. I use an undyed sock yarn that’s 75% superwash wool and 25% nylon. The pattern includes marker rows to separate dye stripes and sections of the finished sock: foot, heel and instep, and cuff. Choose whichever method of marker rows you like: wider gauge, 1X1 tuck stitch or two or more rows of a contrast yarn. You can work the pattern from the top (foot) to bottom (cuff) or bottom to top, depending on which section you want to start with on your finished sock. In other words, if you want to start knitting the actual sock at the cuff, start the blank at the foot so that cuff section will be the ready to unravel.

Instructions for Dyeing Blanks

I have instructional booklets for dyeing sock and hat blanks available on my website. The booklets include complete step-by-step dyeing instructions with photos and a pattern for handknitting the self-striping socks or hats. They also include information on dye suppliers.

 

 

 

 

 

Another Free Pattern

Modeled by Carol Scott, this top is one-size fits most. Both the knit and the purl side of the fabric are interesting – its your choice which to use for the right side.

I’m still plugging away on book #4 (Hand-Manipulated Stitches, Exploring Open Spaces) and although there are no sweater patterns in the book itself, I just posted the third free pattern (based on the techniques in the book) on the web site.

The first pattern was called “Swirling Eyelets” and the second “3D Eyelets and Nops”. Both of those were inspired by the first section of the book, which deals with extreme eyelets.

The third Open Space pattern is called “Slit Topper” and is indicative of the kinds of things I am including in the section on Slits. Eventually I will get some Ladder inspired sweaters done as well.

Frankly, I’m having a lot of fun playing with the “what if” and “I wonder if I could…” approach to some of these experiments in open fabrics, but I am getting restless to start making some sweaters. Hopefully the fall will afford me a bit more time. I think I say that every season, but the end is in sight and eventually I will have the time to do some garment knitting. I hope!

As often as I can, I weave in ends as I work, but for this garment, I should have waited until it was done and worked them in by hand. It turned out I like the purl side of the fabric even more than I do the knit side. The woven-in ends showed just enough to negate the possibility of using the purl side as right side and they were clipped too close to start re-working them in. Live and learn. I did include some photos of the purl side of the fabric in the pattern so you can see the difference. I think that the way the fabric curls towards the purl side adds an interesting bit of texture to the overall fabric. My advice would be to wait on the ends until you decide which side you like best for the right side.

In the meantime, enjoy this new pattern! You can access all the free downloads by signing up for the newsletter on my web site. Just save the confirmation email with the link that will bring you directly to the list of free downloads – you cannot directly access that page from anywhere on the web site.

Enlarging Stitches – really HUGE stitches!

I usually rely on Bridging (or double bed drop stitch) to create enlarged stitches across a row – either increasing the stitch size or hand-knitting specific needles back to non-working position. I covered Bridging in my first book and dedicated the entire second book to the subject. I think it is the most important thing to know for opening up the possibilities on any machine!

I demonstrated Bridging in the video that Taunton Press produced to accompany Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters and posted the section on Bridging on my YouTube channel (Susan Guagliumi). If you have my Hand Manipulated Stitches Craftsy class, I explain it there as well.

I have to say that I got a chuckle out of watching the YouTube version the other day when I got to the part where I definitively say “these are the largest stitches you can form on a single bed machine”. Ha! It was just 1989 and although I knew full well that double bed drop stitch would allow me to form enormous stitches, I really hadn’t yet begun experimenting with other options for single bed knitting.

In some earlier posts, I presented some YouTube videos by a Russian knitter named Elena Luneva. She uses a similar method to produce enlarged stitches and loops and I recommend you taking a good look at her work as well.  The more tricks you have at your disposal, the less likely you are to be frustrated by the :limitations” of the machine!

Instead of just hand knitting the needles back to non-working position, I eventually figured out that I could pass the yarn around a gauge of some sort before hand knitting each needle back to the rail. The larger the gauge, the larger the stitches I can form. You have the option of wrapping the yarn around your gauge and then knitting each needle back to working position – or all the way to non-work. You could also wrap the yarn around the gauge twice for each stitch.

In this video, I have used a size 13 wooden knitting needle and a standard desk rules as gauges. There are all kinds of things you can use for a gauge and the size of the gauge also helps determine the size stitches you can make.

You will find that the first few wraps and needles knitted back are awkward to manage. You can use a paper clip or an elastic band to help stabilize the gauge if you want to – I usually find that they get in my way so I struggle through the first few (as I did on the video) until the first few stitches help to stabilize the gauge and make it easier to hold onto.

You will find that the stitches drop more easily and evenly if you have a well-weighted comb inserted in the lower edge of the fabric. Also, try to always wrap the yarn around the gauge the same way each time so none of the final stitches is twisted or crossed.

Believe me, I would not advocate working an entire garment like this, but for occasional rows of a special texture, this method is worth trying. For knitters who work on single bed machines and cannot rely on double bed drop stitch, this method opens up all kinds of possibilities!

 

Single Bed Drop Stitch

My last couple of postings were about Drop Stitch, which is typically worked on a double bed machine. Not all of us, however, have two beds to work with so this short clip shows you how to work drop stitch on a single bed machine. This is a great way to cross cables without strain or to quickly create enlarged stitches for a variety of effects.

What I do first is to temporarily “borrow” a couple needles by transferring their stitches to adjacent needles. The empty needles remain in working position where they cast on in with the next pass of the carriage. When that cast on loop is dropped, it is longer than a simple ladder (yarn passing in front of a non-working needle) would be and provides the extra give you need.

Next, cross the cables and then return the stitches to the borrowed needles and finally, hand knit the needles that were in hold and the stitches just returned to their needles. I never just leave a ladder next to cables because (a) it really doesn’t provide all that much extra give and (2) when the fabric is removed from the machine, the edges of the cable often “spread” into the ladder’s space. I just don’t think it looks very good. Give this method a try and I think you will agree!

One last note, you can also re-form the stitches that you remove and then return to the borrowed needles if you want to include a purl stitch along each side of your cables.