Marco Polo Hats Revisited!

In 1993, Studio by White published Simply Sensational, a collection of patterns for the LK-150. All of the educators contributed their ideas when it came time to write the pattern for the Marco Polo Hats. That summer, at Camp Tuckanitslip, we held a contest for the best hats and were delighted that so many of our customers took us up on the offer and entered the contest. I have just posted the pattern on the Free Stuff page of my web site. You can access that page by clicking on the link you were sent when you registered for my newsletter.

This hat is a great learning project for  beginning knitters because it utilizes so many techniques, but experienced knitters will have fun embellishing and altering the pattern to suit their personal style. It is never too early to start knitting for holiday gifting and hopefully this pattern will give some of you the confidence to try something new. I’d love to see photos of whatever you come up with!

The pattern offers two alternatives to the short rowed earflaps and you could, of course, eliminate the flaps altogether or add bodacious ruffles like the version worn by Tara, the little girl in the photo. (I should mention that Tara showed up as our model in almost every issue of Studio Design Magazine and later graced the covers of my hand knitting pattern books  Twelve Sweaters One Way: Cuff-to-Cuff and later Saddle Shoulders. As time marches on, she is now the mother of two beautiful little children herself!)

The brim can be smaller than our versions and you can embellish it or not. The ties can be replaced with wider, scarf-like pieces and the yarns you choose can be as wild and crazy or as subdued as you choose. Have fun and express your true inner self!

 

 

 

 

Stripes and Slits Sweater Pattern

I’ve just added another free pattern to the web site. Stripes and Slits is an over-sized pullover in two sizes, perfect for wearing over leggings. The horizontal slits are explained in detail on page 221 of Open Spaces: Machine Knit Eyelets, Ladders and Slits so the pattern does not give detailed directions for the horizontal slits.

I originally planned to knit this sweater when I attended a knitting retreat with some friends from the San Francisco Machine Knitters Guild. I worked out an interesting variation of a Fibonacci stripe and thought it would be perfect to use up some odd skeins I had of Cascade “Sierra”. Unfortunately this wool/cotton blend is no longer being made, but I had three different yellows and some navy and white I wanted to use up and thought I had enough. I willed it to be true….

Long story short – I did get the front of the sweater knitted at the retreat and then realized that I had figured on my total yardage and not considered the individual colors. I didn’t have enough for the back and sleeves. So, I packed up the Sierra and moved on to the purple yarn I had brought with me for a second project – I gave you that pattern last month.

Once I got home, I started looking on Ravelry for one more skein of each of the yellows.Then I felt guilty asking people to bust up their stashes for a single skein so I ended up with 3 more of each yellow. I finished the sweater last week and can tell you (1) there is a slight difference in the row gauge between the LK I used in California and mine at home. Most of the length difference came out in the wash. Most of it. I should have re-gauged for the California machine, but didn’t. (2) I have plenty of all three yellows left over and am resisting the temptation to knit another stripe project for now. If any of you run short, let me know!

Some of you may have run into problems in my web site a month ago. The shopping cart kept dumping sales, showing nothing in the cart when you got to checkout. I apologize for the difficulties! We had just added the SSL  protection to the web site. SSL is the guaranteed security feature that all sites will soon either have or show a notice that they are not secure. There was a glitch deep in the code and it took days to fix it. Couldn’t have happened at a worse time with a new book and a new tool. Never fails, huh?

And, while I’m correcting glitches, the book review for Open Spaces that appeared in the new (early fall) issue of Vogue Knitting was written by someone who, for whatever reason, thinks I did all of the fabrics on a Passap and mentioned it in the review. None of the swatches was done on a Passap though some of them certainly could gave been. The book is far more generic and not focused on any single machine. Hope that didn’t confuse any of you who have not yet ordered your very own copies of this gorgeous book!

We finally caught a break in the heat wave and have had an absolutely glorious weekend. I know the humidity will return – it always does here in Connecticut – but for now, I have spent 3 delicious days digging in the garden – mostly weeding – and it will probably be weeks before I can get my nails video clean again! Hope you are enjoying the summer weather and that all your days are sunny and dry!

 

 

Peek-A-Boo Purple Pullover

While I was working on Open Spaces: Machine Knit Eyelets, Ladders and Slits, I actually found a little time here and there to get some real knitting done. I fell in love with this effect when I was writing the chapter about slits and knitted all the pieces for this sweater (and half of another one!) at a knitting retreat I attended with members of the San Francisco Machine Knitting Guild in the early spring. I packed up my yarn, borrowed an LK-150 and spent two wonderful days knitting dawn to dusk , visiting with other knitters and discussing clothes, wine and everything under the sun while we worked. The weekend was perfect and complete with hummingbirds and delicious meals at the Sonoma Orchid Inn. I could get used to that life!

I’ve added a pattern for this sweater to the Free Stuff on my website. Be sure to use the link you were sent when you registered for the newsletter to bring you right to the downloads page – it is the only way to get there!

The pattern includes all the stitch and schematic charts and basic knitting directions. You can knit this fabric by using bridging and bridge bars, holding position to knit each side separately or intarsia to work both sides at the same time. Without re-writing the whole chapter on slits, I’ve tried to give enough direction to help you knit your own sweater. I recommend that you try a sample first to get used to the method and immodestly suggest that you check out the chapter on Slits if you need more guidance and specific information. You’ll discover lots more great ideas in all three chapters!

 

 

Open Spaces: Machine Knit Eyelets, Ladders and Slits

So much news this month – my head is spinning!

After more than four years experimenting, continually asking myself  “what if I…..?” and then following that path to the next great discovery (and a few disappointing disasters), The Book That Would Not End is finally done!

Following the required introduction, there are lengthy chapters on eyelets, ladders and slits – open spaces that are very different from your grannie’s lace of old! Many of these examples will produce gorgeous garments, but be forewarned that some of them absolutely must be worn over a camisole if you want to avoid being arrested!

The book is 225 pages and contains more than 300 swatch photos and charts as well as a number of inspirational garments by some of my favorite designers. You’ll notice that this book is a larger format than my previous three. Increasing the size from 8 x 10” to 8.5 x 11” saved about 40 pages, which translates into lower costs for us all. I guess I’ll just have to get used to the way they all look on the shelf together, with the new one a bit taller and wider.

 

 

You can download the free pattern for this slit topper on my web site.

There are already several free sweater designs based on material from this book available on my web site and I plan to add a couple more so do check the Free Stuff for practical applications of these techniques.

As with the previous three titles, the new book is available from www.guagliumi.com with free shipping or you can order from Amazon.com. It goes without saying that when you order directly from me, I enjoy a slightly higher profit than I do when you purchase through Amazon, which will probably survive nicely either way. Whether you order directly from me or through Amazon, please know that I sincerely appreciate your purchase and hope that you enjoy the new book and find it full of useful ideas for your knitting. I think it is a beauty, but I am probably a little prejudiced…..kind of like asking a mother what she thinks of her new baby.

While I’m on the topic of new additions, I want to introduce the newest specialty tool on my web site! This 4/5-prong transfer tool is for 6.5 mm mid-gauge machines like the Silver Reed SK160, SK860 and LK150 or LK140.

These individually crafted and smoothly finished wooden tools are available exclusively on www.guagliumi.com and they feel so much nicer in your hand than a hunk of plastic!

You can use either end (4 or 5-prong) to move groups of stitches for traveling stitch designs or to create wide full-fashioned decreases along a raglan slant (for example). If you move 10 stitches every time you need to decrease, you’ll have enough stitches to allow an edge stitch, a plain (or reformed) stitch along each side of a 3×3 cable and the decrease. It’s a lot faster to move five stitches twice than it is working with a 3-prong tool! With a pair of these tools and a bit of bridging, you can cross 4 or 5 stitch cables.

The individual, 4-prong and 5-prong tools are still available (and cost $18 each), but if you don’t have those (or only have one of each), this combination tool is considerably more affordable at $26. Click here to order yours!

Last, but never least, I have just finished a pattern for sewing a fabulous padded carrying case for the LK-150 or similar machines. With shoulder straps and pockets for everything, this case is much lighter weight and easier to carry that the gun cases I see people using. Besides, I know I would be arrested carrying a gun case into Grand Central Station in NYC and I plan to show my FIT students an LK-150 this fall.

The final pattern is the result of 5 prototypes, which were expensive to produce in terms of both time and materials. I really hope you enjoy this copyrighted pattern so much and find it so worth the $6 price that you encourage your friends to purchase their own.  Don’t forget, there are already lots of freebies at www.guagliumi.com when you sign up for the newsletter.

 

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Clean Carriage

Clean and freshly oiled! I couldn’t resist saving some of the little felted rings I found around the brushes on the carriage arm (sinker plate to Brother people).

Last time I posted a series of photos to show you how I do a deep cleaning on my (Silver Reed) machine beds. This time I thought I would share some photos of how I clean my carriages. I opted not to take the carriage apart because it is a lot trickier than the beds and there are so many more small parts! Remember that the photos will enlarge if you click on them.

The first thing I do is give the underside of the carriage a good blow with some canned air. Please note (1) that I hold the carriage sideways so I blow the fuzz out instead of into the carriage and that (2) I do this over a waste basket so I don’t have little greasy dust bunnies all over my floor! This will only remove the loose fluff, not the greasy stuff jamming things up.

The yellow tool is pointing to the wire that connects the magnets (X). The while plastic edge (Y) is supposed to glide along the front edge of the bed. If it is gunky, it binds and makes the carriage action heavy.

Next I start removing any fuzz I can catch with an old tweezer. Pay special attention (on Silver electronics) to the wire at the front of the carriage that connects two little magnets that should slide back and forth freely. These magnets tell the electronics (EC1 or DAK) that you have finished knitting a row and changed direction. If they are gunned up, the pattern could skip a row or repeat one. After you remove any fuzz, use Q-tips or a paper towel to wipe out old grease.

The pipe at the back of the carriage glides along the rail of the machine. Silver pipes are round, Brother squarish, but they both need to be cleaned out. I sometimes add some fresh oil to homogenize the old oil and then wipe it all out.

 

The rollers at each end of the pipe help make the carriage slide smoothly. They should be oiled every time you use the machine as the oil passes through a slot in the pipe to the rail below.

The new style Silver machines have rollers at the end of the pipe (and at the front of the carriage – see the above photo) that need to be free moving and clean.

 

 

 

 

The block on the back of each end of the carriage reads the point cams on the back rail of the machine and need to be kept lint and oil free. I just use a Q-tip to do this. The machines come with “special” anti-static swabs and you can buy them at most electronic stores, but I have to confess that I use the drug store variety to clean my machines.

I use an old cosmetic bush to remove any lint lurking underneath and between the cams. I sometimes also fold a paper towels and run it through the pathways. Either way, when you do this make sure you move the cam lever on the top of the carriage to each setting as it will change the alignment of the cams and make it easier to get every corner cleaned. This is also a good time to watch what happens underneath the carriage. All carriages are a mirror image underneath (left and right sides) so that when you move the cam lever, both sides should do the same thing (if everything else on your particular carriage is in the neutral position). If a cam doesn’t move, it may not be damaged – just gunky and in need of a good cleaning. I use denatured alcohol sparingly because I do not want to dry out the metal, but a little dab will do ya!

Silver machines have Russel Levers (and I still don’t know who Russel was or what he did to get a part named after him!), while Brother machines use an N-H lever. The N-H lever controls both sides of the carriage at the same time and activates a cam at each edge. The Russel levers are unique to each side and operate independently of each other and only the lever on the leading edge of the carriage controls what happens to the needles in holding position (HP). That is, needles either stay in HP or return to work. Take a look at the photo above left. It shows the Russel Lever set to (I) so that it pulls close to the base plate of the carriage, which opens up the channel at the front edge of the carriage so the needle butts pass right through and stay in HP.

Now look at the second photo and you will see that with the Russel lever set (II) the lever has sprung out from the base where it will bump into the needle butts and push them back from HP to WP. Again, it is the leading lever that controls what happens; the trailing lever has no effect until the carriage reverses direction. In all cases, the N-H or Russel levers only affect needles in HP. If there are no needles in HP, their settings don’t matter. Clean ’em up!

Once the carriage is clean, you should re-oil the striking edges of the cams. Keep in mind that the base plate of the carriage (the place all of the cams attach to) should never make contact with the needle butts, which is why you were instructed not to press down on the carriage when you move it across the bed – it just makes it harder to move. So, don’t waste oil on the base plate. Just oil the side edges – the striking edges – of the cams that the needle butts are supposed to glide against. You can use an oil applicator (this one is Ballistol oil – most machines come with a brush bottle of oil) or an oily rag or paper towel.Give the cams a good drink.

Next, give the pipe a good oiling. Remember, from the machine’s point of view, you really can’t over oil. This does not, however, include using so much oil that you come up covered with it every time you get near the machine, oil dripping onto fabric or needle hooks. That would be overkill.

Now give the cover of the carriage a nice wiping down with a damp, soaped cloth and set it aside while you work on the carriage arm/sinker plate. I’m still working on the same SK860 I’ve had since the early 90’s. In fact, it was one of the first machines brought into the country. My carriage looks nice and white because I replaced the cover a couple of years ago. Good thing to keep in mind if you are selling or buying a used machine. A little cosmetic work can make a huge difference.

The arm (or sinker plate on a Brother) keeps the fabric back against the bed as the needles move forward and back. The brushes and wheels that do this must be free spinning and not bogged down with fuzz and crud. The various magnets only serve to keep the latches of the needles open when they need to be and apart from transferring grease to your fabric if they are really dirty, don’t really enter into this. The two ends of the arm are mirror images of each other. So – do NOT remover everything at once. If you leave the matching wheel in place you have a point of reference when you become confused about which way a piece should be replaced. I always only remove one wheel or brush at a time.

Because the brushes on the arm are “the first line of defense”, they often end up with yarn wrapped around their shafts which, in turn, causes problems casting on and knitting. You’ll need to remove and clean the brushes more often that you will need to do a full cleaning. Best advice: be very careful not to over-tighten or strip any of the screws. Use the metric screw drivers I mentioned last time.

The configuration of brushes and wheels changes from machine to machine so don’t be alarmed if this looks different than your machine. They all do the same thing. Promise.

I have removed one of the grey rubber wheels and when turned over you can see that both sides are different -which is why I told you to do one at a time. There is no guessing how it goes back.

 

 

 

Next I would remove the second grey wheel and then each of the black ones (individually). The brushes at each end of the arm are notorious for getting tangled in carriage mishaps. Note the nice little felted wad I removed from underneath this brush! More than enough to make the carriage drag and prevent the brush from turning, which helps create more carriage jams which add more yarn around the brushes. For beginners, most of the problems stem from either the tension mast or these brushes. For beginners, many of their problems stem from either the tension mast/threading or these pesky brushes and wheels. Clogged up brushes and wheels will cause carriage jamming, which, in turn often adds more yarn to the brushes.

Left lever is down so the brush is up (inactive). The right lever is up so the brush is down (active).

Next I remove each of the weaving brushes. More felted crud. I’ve also included a photo showing one brush down and the other up. Beginners have trouble keeping this straight because directions often say to put the weaving brushes down. Logic would indicate that the levers go down, but that is not the case. Levers are pushed down to raise the brushes; flipped up to lower them.

Even if your machine is a different model, this tutorial should give you some idea what to look for and where to clean. Just remember to re-oil the carriage when you are done cleaning so it purrs like a kitten!

 

 

My Clean Machine!

Once everything is clean, you’re ready to re-assemble the machine. At this point, I opted for a glass of wine. Your choice of red or white.

Open Spaces: Exploring Eyelets, Ladders and Slits is done and out for proofing and my SK860 was as dirty as a machine could possibly be. I decided to give it a good cleaning this week – and to take pictures so I could share the info with you. If you click on each picture they enlarge, which makes it even easier to see details. Remember, I am not a certified repair person so take no responsibility for your errors – just trying to help here because dealers are so  few and far between these days. That is the price we all pay for those great used buys on eBay….

This will be a long post! Couple of things you need to know before you start:

1 You don’t have to be a mechanic to do this, but plan on spending several hours and be ready to get dirty.
2 I number the compartments in an egg carton and I keep a pad of paper next to me where I write down everything I do. The numbers on the list coordinate with the numbers on the egg carton. If there are no screws or parts to remove, I leave the compartment in the egg carton empty, but I still write down what I did as a numbered step.
3 I always take cell phone photos while I work (though I used a good SLR for these shots) and make a note on my pad when I do so. You can never have enough evidence/notes/photos to guide you. Remember that what comes apart needs to go back together again with no extra parts left over.
4 My SK860 is a Silver Reed machine. Years back I took apart a number of machines with the wonderful Dave Bratz to guide me – I still hear his voice when I do this. However, I have never taken a Brother machine apart and have no idea how to do so – please do not use this as a guide for a Brother machine! They have a timing belt built into the bed that requires more knowledge than I have on the matter. Also, if you have a Silver punchcard machine you will need to remove the knobs on the top of the card reader in order to get the case off. I don’t have a punchcard here to double check, but there may also be a couple more screws – just use your head and take notes and photos.
5 You will need the following tools: metric screw drivers in 2 sizes. Studio used to sell a pair of screw drivers for the machines. You can check with Needle-Tek to see if they are still available. They may also be able to tell you what metric size to buy locally and they sell oil and parts and sponge bars and such. A magnet is handy for picking up small screws. Canned air helps clean the fuzz out of the bed, but be aware that this is greasy fuzz and will stain your clothes and furnishings! Rags, paper towels, denatured alcohol, knitting machine oil. I am not a fan of silicone because I am skeptical that I can clean off old residue as easily. Maybe a hand held vacuum. An old towel to lay the machine on. Small nut wrench and/or small pliers.
6 This is a great time to replace worn or broken parts so do not put the machine back together with damaged pieces. You can wait a week for new ones to arrive.
7 Lock the cat/dog out of the room while you work. Ready?

First, remove the 2 handle screws and put them in the #1 compartment of your egg carton. Write it down as step #1 on your list.

 

 

 

 

 

Next remove the 2 case screws behind the handle.

 

 

 

 

Remove the tiny screw in each of the latches. I’m not sure you really have to, but I did just in case they hold anything else. The latches stay attached to the case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remove 1 screw at the back on each end of the case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remove the top screw at each end of the case.

 

 

 

 

 

Turn the machine over and remove the 8 screws on the bottom of the case.

 

 

 

 

 

Turn the machine back over and remove the 2 flat screws at each end of the bed.

 

 

 

 

 

Then remove the 2 screws at each end that attach the ribber holder plates to the machine.

 

 

 

 

Its a good idea to mark which is left or right as mine were slightly different. Also note how they fit into the opening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slide the end caps off the machine. Just for the record, this is the part that is often damaged when shipping machines so look for damage if you bought a used machine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are 3 square nuts embedded inside each end cap and they MUST remain in place. I use a small piece of masking tape under each one to make sure they do. Without the tape, this is a pesky thing to line up later on so do it now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slide the bed out of the case. Note the position of the rubber pads so you know how to replace them later. Take them out and set aside. Start wiping up dust and crud about now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remove the 6 screws that hold the needle bed bracer/case mount in place. Again, note which way it lies for later. Are you taking enough pictures?

 

 

 

 

 

Remove the 4 screws holding each of the needle bed bracers/clamp mounts in place. Before you do, use a magic marker to mark their exact placement as this is a part that has some adjustment to it. You definitely want them even when you replace them or you will have trouble getting your ribber adjusted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep breath. Turn the machine over and remove the 11 screws holding the straight edge of the needle stopper plate in place. Then remove the 3 screws along the other edge. Keep them separate just to be sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you remove the needle stopper plate (previous step), it reveals the leaf spring. Take a minute to see how it is positioned so that each tine of the spring lies on top of a needle slot and the tines face the back of the bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lift off the leaf spring and behold a lot of crud! Greasy crud! Also take a minute to inspect the leaf spring for damage – which happens when you badly jam a carriage. This is a part you should replace if it is damaged. Do something else until the part is ordered and received. You’ve come too far to start skimping!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crud. Felted greasy crud. All the colors I used in the new book!

 

 

 

 

 

I knew just where to look on the sinker plate for these bad guys. Every time my carriage passed this point I felt a knock. I was able to GENTLY press these prongs back into line. Whew!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remove the number strip and all of the needles. I could have done this sooner and made things easier to handle, but I thought they might give the photos some perspective and reference. If you bother to read all of this before your begin, do yourself a favor and remove them sooner. More crud. Good time to check the sponge bar for replacing and before removing the needles, push them all forward and check for bent needles – you probably stuck them in the end of the bed when you needed replacements. Time to order some nice straight new ones!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remove the 15 nuts and tiny bolts along the front edge of the machine. I find it easiest to do by sliding the machine just over the edge the table. Chances are that if you found any lose screws in the machine this where they came from. You’re welcome! The sinker posts are snapped into the edge of the bed in pairs and may or may not stay in place when you finish unscrewing all of the tiny, hard to hold not nuts/bolts. Remember the magnet I suggested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sinker posts did not stay in place, which gave me a chance to wipe them down and look for bent ones. Lift the bed off the sinker plate. This is as far as you need to strip the machine to do a good thorough cleaning – get started! You might want to use some denatured alcohol to wipe things down, including the needles. You’ll be amazed how grubby everything is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once everything is clean, you’re ready to re-assemble the machine. At this point, I opted for a glass of wine. Your choice of red or white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reinsert the sinker posts into the edge of the sinker plate. I’ll bet you didn’t know that the posts are in pairs like this, which makes it so easy to replace damaged posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place the bed on top of the sinker plate with the sinker posts pointing up. Replace the 15 nuts/bolts along the front edge by inserting and tightening the one on each end first to secure things and then do the rest of them in between. Make sure none of the sinker posts is dislodged in the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before replacing the leaf spring, wipe it down with oil because the needles slide against this piece when you knit and without oil, the machine will bind and you could damage the leaf spring. Make sure it is positioned with the tines pointing to the back of the bed and each tine over a needle slot. A good leaf spring is essential to correct needle action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Replace the needle stopper by screwing in the 11 screws on one edge and 3 on the other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Replace the needle bed bracer/case mount and the clamp braces at each side of it.

 

 

 

 

 

We’re almost done! Slide the machine back into the case. Replace the end caps, paying special attention to the square nuts I mentioned earlier – you were warned! Screw the end caps in place and then replace the ribber mounts in each end. Replace the case screws on the top, back and underside. Then replace the screws in the latches, handle and  under handle. Replace the number strip (did you order a nice clean new one?) and the needles.

At this point the machine reminds me of my teeth after a dental cleaning – when I swear I will never eat again so I can savor the squeaky clean. Forget it – the machine needs oil and you will probably need to oil heavily for the first few times you use it to get the machine purring again. So, put some oil on a rag and liberally  oil the rail and the needle butts so they do not dry out.

At this point, I usually give the carriage a good cleaning and next time I will show you how I do that.  We will not, however, be taking carriages apart!

Keep in mind that it is never a good idea to over-tighten screws because they can chew away at the threads/hole they are supposed to secure and you also run the risk of stripping the slot at the top for next time. If you need replacement parts for Studio – and some Brother as well – contact Jerry at Needle-Tek. If you now have a better appreciation for what goes into a good cleaning and would prefer to pay someone else to do it, contact Harold Shafer at The Knit Knack Shop.

I can guarantee you that if you do clean your own machine, you will gain greater understanding of how the machine works and find it easier to diagnose problems that occur from time to time. Like I said, I knew from the way the carriage always knocked at the same place that I needed to get a look at my sinker plate. And I learned about re-oiling the leaf spring from the one time I did not and the needle action was heavy and hard.

If you do a Google search for “knitting machine parts catalogues” you will find many of them on line. If not, it would be worth paying for one so you have the right name and part numbers for future reference.

I hope some of you find this helpful and at least informative. It isn’t difficult to do, but you do need to work slowly and have patience; take notes and photos. Let me know how it goes!

Latchtool B/O Around the Needles

I almost titled this blog “LK150 Bind Off” because that is the machine I usually work it on. A few blogs back I showed you a latch tool B/O around the sinker posts (gate pegs), but hobby machines like the LK150 and the European machines (Passap and Superba) do not have sinker posts. They have what are called “flow combs” to divide the needles and help shape the stitches.

(You’re probably asking why I used a machine that does have sinker posts to demonstrate a technique I am recommending for a machine that does not.  Very observant of you! The truth is that right now my studio is a wreck and I just didn’t have room to set up another machine. See details that follow!)

So, instead of catching the yarn around the posts as you bind off, you need to return empty needles to working position and catch the yarn around them. Begin with all the needles in holding position and use the thumb of your left hand (assuming you are a righty – otherwise reverse everything) to manipulate the butts of the needles.

Hook the latch tool onto a needle, move it back so that the stitch slides over the closed latch and onto the tool and then immediately return the emptied needle to HP with the tool to the left of it and the free yarn to the right of it. Catch the free yarn in the hook of the tool and pull it through to knit the 2 stitches on the tool into a single stitch and then just repeat across the bed. The loops around the needles support the weight of the work and also help you create an even edge. When you’re done, simply lift the loops off the machine…..or leave them on and begin knitting again as my student, Sissel Berntsen, did in Norway. You’ll be surprised at some of the effects you can create!

Just a side note here, I found this method really clumsy to do on a machine with sinker posts and can guarantee it will be easier on an LK 150 or other machine with flow combs!

So, why did I use the SK860 for the video and why is my studio such a wreck?? I have just finished all of the knitting, charts and writing for the BTWNE (the book that will not end) and am officially renaming it the book that WOULD not end because it is done. WHEW! The layout is nearly complete and copies are going out to the proofers in the next couple of weeks. I expect to have it available for the rest of you in April and will send out a newsletter through the web site – and post something here when it is.

Although TBTWNE is my tongue in cheek title for this very large book  – there are over 300 charts and swatch photographs! – the real title is:

Hand-Manipulated Stitches: Exploring Open Spaces

For once, I did not do the photography (with the exception of a few process shots) and turned the job over to a professional. I think you will be pleased with the clarity. I have also increased the size of the pages from 8 x 10″ to 8.5 x 11″ because I found that the production costs were the same for both sizes and I could save about 30 pages by doing this. That translates into lower costs for all of us, which is always a good thing!

I need a couple of weeks to get my life back, to label and store the samples so they are in order for upcoming seminars and such, to spend some time with my husband and “the puppy” (85 pounds now!) and to finally get back into the garden! Then I plan to do two very specific videos for the blog (hopefully before my hands have that “garden” look….). First of all, my LK150 needs a new sponge, which I have ordered and have ready to go. Many people have asked for help in changing the sponges on their LKs so that will be next up.

After that I am going to do a D E E E E P cleaning of my SK860. The bed is just plain cruddy after all the samples and prep that went into this book. I plan to remove the machine from its case and take it down far enough to get all the dust and debris out of the way. Scary stuff, but we’ll do it together!

Tentatively, in the fall I will be working with the photographer who shot all of the stills for the new book to produce a series of video lessons that will go cover to cover. The lessons will be available for a fee through Vimeo or one of the other video services. I’ll continue producing short, generally instructive videos for this blog, but this new project will entail hours of instruction and the only way I can afford the production costs is to offer them for sale at a reasonable (I promise!) cost. If it proves to be popular, I may also produce a series for some of my other books or combination of techniques from those books. There have also been requests for some project classes……

Just reaching the end of this book project – nearly 4 years in the making! – I’m not really able to make any promises yet on availability or cost for the lessons, but I wanted you to know these video lessons are in the works/thought process/planning stages. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Almost through the winter, which wasn’t too bad, but I am chafing at the bit to get back into the garden!!

Latchtool B/O Around the Needles

I almost titled this blog “LK150 Bind Off” because that is the machine I usually work it on. A few blogs back I showed you a latch tool B/O around the sinker posts (gate pegs), but hobby machines like the LK150 and the European machines (Passap and Superba) do not have sinker posts. They have what are called “flow combs” to divide the needles and help shape the stitches.

(You’re probably asking why I used a machine that does have sinker posts to demonstrate a technique I am recommending for a machine that does not.  Very observant of you! The truth is that right now my studio is a wreck and I just didn’t have room to set up another machine. See details that follow!)

So, instead of catching the yarn around the posts as you bind off, you need to return empty needles to working position and catch the yarn around them. Begin with all the needles in holding position and use the thumb of your left hand (assuming you are a righty – otherwise reverse everything) to manipulate the butts of the needles.

Hook the latch tool onto a needle, move it back so that the stitch slides over the closed latch and onto the tool and then immediately return the emptied needle to HP with the tool to the left of it and the free yarn to the right of it. Catch the free yarn in the hook of the tool and pull it through to knit the 2 stitches on the tool into a single stitch and then just repeat across the bed. The loops around the needles support the weight of the work and also help you create an even edge. When you’re done, simply lift the loops off the machine…..or leave them on and begin knitting again as my student, Sissel Berntsen, did in Norway. You’ll be surprised at some of the effects you can create!

Just a side note here, I found this method really clumsy to do on a machine with sinker posts and can guarantee it will be easier on an LK 150 or other machine with flow combs!

So, why did I use the SK860 for the video and why is my studio such a wreck?? I have just finished all of the knitting, charts and writing for the BTWNE (the book that will not end) and am officially renaming it the book that WOULD not end because it is done. WHEW! The layout is nearly complete and copies are going out to the proofers in the next couple of weeks. I expect to have it available for the rest of you in April and will send out a newsletter through the web site – and post something here when it is.

Although TBTWNE is my tongue in cheek title for this very large book  – there are over 300 charts and swatch photographs! – the real title is:

Hand-Manipulated Stitches: Exploring Open Spaces

For once, I did not do the photography (with the exception of a few process shots) and turned the job over to a professional. I think you will be pleased with the clarity. I have also increased the size of the pages from 8 x 10″ to 8.5 x 11″ because I found that the production costs were the same for both sizes and I could save about 30 pages by doing this. That translates into lower costs for all of us, which is always a good thing!

I need a couple of weeks to get my life back, to label and store the samples so they are in order for upcoming seminars and such, to spend some time with my husband and “the puppy” (85 pounds now!) and to finally get back into the garden! Then I plan to do two very specific videos for the blog (hopefully before my hands have that “garden” look….). First of all, my LK150 needs a new sponge, which I have ordered and have ready to go. Many people have asked for help in changing the sponges on their LKs so that will be next up.

After that I am going to do a D E E E E P cleaning of my SK860. The bed is just plain cruddy after all the samples and prep that went into this book. I plan to remove the machine from its case and take it down far enough to get all the dust and debris out of the way. Scary stuff, but we’ll do it together!

Tentatively, in the fall I will be working with the photographer who shot all of the stills for the new book to produce a series of video lessons that will go cover to cover. The lessons will be available for a fee through Vimeo or one of the other video services. I’ll continue producing short, generally instructive videos for this blog, but this new project will entail hours of instruction and the only way I can afford the production costs is to offer them for sale at a reasonable (I promise!) cost. If it proves to be popular, I may also produce a series for some of my other books or combination of techniques from those books. There have also been requests for some project classes……

Just reaching the end of this book project – nearly 4 years in the making! – I’m not really able to make any promises yet on availability or cost for the lessons, but I wanted you to know these video lessons are in the works/thought process/planning stages. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Almost through the winter, which wasn’t too bad, but I am chafing at the bit to get back into the garden!!

Reduce Your Finishing Time!!

I really love finishing and handwork, but I don’t like what I call “stupid finishing” where I could have saved myself the work right from the start. So, whenever I can, I weave in my yarn ends as I go. Because I use mostly hand knitting yarns that do not come on big cones, I often have have a lot of ends so this is a huge time saver!

When I reach the end of one ball of yarn, I push a group of 8-10 needles (or more if my hand catches them) out to Holding Position and weave the yarn end over and under the shafts of the needles, close to the bed. 8-10 needles usually translates to about 2″ in the fabric and that is more than enough to secure the ends. I re-thread the carriage from the new ball or another color and then I let the needles knit back to Working Position with the next pass of the carriage. Then, before knitting the second row of the new color/strand, I weave it in the same way.

Depending on how thick the yarn is, I sometimes end one yarn and begin the next at the same time. Then, when the work is off the machine I just clip the yarn close and I am done. Pretty slick, huh?! Altho the photo below left shows me cutting the yarn while the fabric is still on the machine, I seldom do that unless there are a lot of ends hanging down and tangling because it is just too easy to cut a live stitch. Trust me, I know from experience!

Although this method is usually invisible on the knit side of the fabric, there are times when you cannot weave in the ends as you knit. First of all, it won’t work if you plan to use the purl side as the right side of your garment because the weaving always shows on the purl side. Too bad because I usually prefer striped fabrics on the purl side. You also cannot rely on this if you are knitting patterned stitches because pulling needles to Holding Position over-rides the pattern cam settings and interrupts the pattern. You can use this technique with intarsia where there are always too many ends to finish later. In that case, you need to nudge the needles back to Upper Work Position after you weave the end through the shafts. Make sure the needles’ latches are open and ready to work the next row.

I’m happy to report that I have finally finished all the knitting and all of the initial directions for The Book That Will Not End and THE END is in sight!!! I still have some editing and rewriting to do and not all of the charts are done for the last section, but I’m confident that the end IS in sight! I am really pleased with the way this book is shaping up, although I am a bit worried that it is running long which translates into increased printing costs and a higher price tag. Getting the page count down is Job One for me right now. There are about 300 swatches with charts and directions so it is going to require some tight editing and probably more abbreviations that I usually like to use. I know none of us is interested in a smaller font size!

After all the knitting – the experiments and the re-dos and the final swatches – I can tell you that my SK860 is grubby and in need of a deep, deep cleaning. The kind where I need to remove the bed from the case to get at the inside of the machine. I think that process may make a useful post for an upcoming blog! If it continues to be cold and snowy here in Connecticut, I’ll probably have more than enough time to clean the machine and finish the book. Looks like 2018 is off to a great start!

I couldn’t resist showing you how Arlo spends his winter mornings looking for bird and SQUIRRELS!!!! from a comfy chair in the sunroom. This is what a year old lab looks like – all 85 pounds of him. Still a thief and a mischief maker, but he has stolen my heart. Mr. Blue would have loved him too…..and wondered why Arlo is allowed on a chair he could never sit in!

Yoke Sweaters

I’ve had a number of requests lately for a pattern for yoked sweaters. They were huge back in the 80’s and maybe they are coming back! Joyce Schneider wrote a couple of excellent pattern books for standard and chunky gauge machines back then and if you see a used copy of one of those, I’d suggest you grab it!

Just be aware that sweaters in the 70’s and 80’s were closer fitting with less ease so you might want to knit a size larger. Check the schematics for the finished measurements.

When I got the first request earlier this year, I dug through my old files and found this pattern Yokeswtr.  I think I wrote it when I worked for Singer. I know it was a long time ago judging by (1) the way I wrote the pattern (too many words!), (2) the fact that it doesn’t include a mid-gauge version (always my preference) and (3) Heirloom yarn has not been available for decades and, most notably, (4) I had to cross out an old address and phone number on the top! Have not lived in Cheshire for a long time now!

I have to apologize for the fact that the stitch pattern is not with the knitting directions, but any small, repeating patterns will work for a yoke. If you opt for a larger pattern, make sure it will fit the width of the yoke and not suffer by the decreases.

Heirloom 2/8 wool is no longer available, but JaggerSpun Main Line 2/8 would be a perfect substitute and the colors are gorgeous. There are probably some acrylics of equal size, but I seldom use acrylics and have no idea which ones. I suggest contacting Charlene Shafer at The Knit Knack Shop because if anyone knows, Charlene will! She may also have a yoke pattern book of her own or some of the old Joyce Schneider books available.

For a few minutes I toyed with the idea of re-writing the pattern and then I came to my senses and decided that what most people need is the method, rather than a specific pattern. I hope this is helpful information for you to have……it helped me on my quest to clean out the file cabinet and keep this stuff in circulation! Have a joyous Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza or whatever you decide to celebrate this year. I might celebrate them all – including Festivus! I’m already hoping for a happy, healthy and safe New Year in 2018.