Streamlined Incs and Decs

Even though I really, truly love hand manipulated stitches, I don’t like taking longer than necessary to get things done and usually find myself thinking of ways to streamline various motions so I get a better “economy of motion” out of them.

I can assure you I am not the only one who works full fashioned increases and decreases as I’ve shown in the video, but I thought it was worth showing for all the new knitters out there who are working on their own and don’t have many opportunities to watch experienced knitters work at a machine. If you are an experienced knitter and find yourself thinking “I know this stuff already”, bear with me and take pity on the newbies!

Full fashioned increases will look exactly the same on the knit side whether you work them with a 2-prong tool and then pick up the purl bar to fill the empty needle – or you work them as I do with a 3-prong tool. In this case, it isn’t about the way things look. Rather,the smoothest, fastest way of dispensing with those increases as you work your way up a sleeve.

This edge was shaped with standard full fashioned decreases, using a 3-prong tool
This edge was shaped with standard full fashioned decreases, using a 3-prong tool

The decrease that I show on the video is an important one to understand and not the way full fashioned decreases are shown in any knitting machine manual I’ve ever seen. They usually just show a 1-step decrease where 3 stitches are removed and shifted one needle to the left (or right) to make the decrease.

 

 

 

This edge was shaped with 2-step decreases, using a 3-prong tool
This edge was shaped with 2-step decreases, using a 3-prong tool

The 2-step decrease always maintains the same stitch on the front of the fabric which creates a strong decrease line along the edge of the fabric. If this 2-step method is also used when making transfers for lace designs, for example, it produces a totally different effect on the knit side of the fabric than does a 1-step decrease. This one-versus-two step decrease is the main thing that defines machine knitted lace and accounts for the difference between hand and machine knitted lace patterns.

Lace carriages always do a 1-step decrease because they are not generally capable of transferring two stitches at the same time, as they would need to do for a 2 step decrease. And, quite frankly, the hand knit equivalent of a 2-step decrease is very common in hand knitting patterns. You can, however, work 2-step decreases into hand-manipulated lace (and other transfer) patterns.

Compare the two photos above. The decreases on both samples were worked with a 3-prong tool. You should notice right away that the 2-step decreases formed a sharp line along the edge of the fabric, while the standard method produced a sort of “feathered” line. Also, there are just 2 stitches between the standard decs and the edge of the  fabric; there are 3 stitches between the 2-step decs and the edge of the fabric. This would account for the decreases being spaced a little further from, say, a raglan seam.

 

The Every-Other-Needle Tool

The every-other-needle or EON tool is one of my favorites. In addition to transferring stitches for row after row of eyelets, you can also use it to knit baby basket weave – a twisted stitch pattern made up of lots of 1×1 crossed or twisted stitches. If you own a copy of Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters (HMS, which really doesn’t stand for Her Majesty’s Stitches even tho I may have said differently from time to time….) there is a discussion of baby basket weave that starts on page 93.

EON eyelet grid
EON eyelet grid

To knit an all-over eyelet pattern like the one at left, you could transfer all the alternate stitches individually, but it would take a very, very long time to complete a sweater. With the EON tool, you can transfer 8 stitches at a time and the work goes fairly fast (in terms of hand manipulations). One thing to keep in mind for an all-over grid like this, you should transfer alternate sets of stitches each time. Otherwise, if you always transfer the same set of stitches, the eyelets will form in columns.

The way I keep track of which set of stitches to use is pretty simple. I choose the first needle on the right of zero the first time – and all the alternate needles – and I transfer those stitches to the adjacent needles at right. After knitting two rows, I make sure the next selection in includes the first needle at the left of zero and I transfer those stitches to the left. If you lose track, you should be able to tell what you did last by looking at the way the stitches slant.

Apart from looking neat and even, alternating the direction of the transfers will guard against the fabric biasing, as it might if all the transfers were made the same way. Why chance it?

Alternating needles and the direction of the twists creates a woven effect
Alternating needles and the direction of the twists creates a woven effect

I use the same system of selecting needles to knit baby basket weave. The stitches are twisted (or, in this case, shifted) every two rows and the direction of the twists and the needles selected alternates each time. By choosing alternate needles/stitches each time, it effectively takes care of the “splitting pairs” needed to create woven and braided cable effects. Splitting pairs, coupled with alternating the direction of the crossing/twisting is what gives this fabric the woven effect. The same two rules also apply when crossing cables of any width: splitting pairs and alternating the direction of the crosses will create woven or braided effects.

If stitches 1 and 2 cross 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 cross 7 and 8 the first time, the next time you cross cables, 3 and 4 will cross 5 and 6. That is what is meant by splitting pairs. And, in this example, stitches 1-2 and 7-8 would not be used at all in the second row of crosses.

babybasketgridBecause so many adjacent stitches are crossing, you must enlarge the stitch size by at least one full number from where the yarn usually knits a comfortable stockinette. Otherwise, the stitches will be very tight and difficult to cross (i.e. dropped and broken stitches) and the fabric will have even less give than it does – which isn’t a lot. This is a very firm, stable fabric.

EON tools for 6.5mm and 9mm machines are available at www.guagliumi.com. For standard gauge machines, you can use an adjustable 7-prong tool. If you own a Passap or Superba, Passap used to make an adjustable (5 mm) transfer tool that is well worth having if you can find one. You can pull the prongs out of the holder and re-set them in whatever order you want. Do I ever wish those were available in all gauges!

 

(By the way – I really DO plan to post more often than I have been doing lately, but I have been busier than I can describe getting ready to teach a very special class in Denver next month……)

Sponge Bars

Lately I have done more machine repairs than in all the years I’ve been knitting. The equipment is getting older (aren’t we all?) and plastic and sponge don’t do too well with age and dryness. In January I replaced the entire sinker plate – the base part of the bed in my 860 because I kept feeling needles knock in the exact same spot. That was a major repair that required taking apart the entire machine. Thank goodness for numbered egg cartons and digital cameras to get it all back together with no parts left over!

In the last month I have replaced the handles on both my SK860 and my SK840 machines. They just crumbled in my hands. So, I’ve been doing an inventory of what parts I think might need replacing anytime soon and started ordering them in.

Those of us using Silver Reed products are lucky -as most of the machines are still being made and the parts are available. If you have  a machine that is long out of production, keep an eye out for a machine you can strip for parts when the time comes – as it will. The very best machines for parts are the ones that lived in a box under somebody’s bed where light and air couldn’t age them!

The part that still has some bounce in it is the part that sat under the end of the bed. The rest was flat as a pancake.
The part that still has some bounce in it is the part that sat under the end of the bed. The rest was flat as a pancake.

Last year, I was gifted a Brother Bulky and one of the first things I did was to replace the sponge bar. A bad sponge bar can cause all kinds of problems from needles that won’t stay in hold or be too sloppy to make easy transfers or cables to needles that balk at passing through the pathways under the carriage and cause knocking and jamming. It isn’t just the needles that get damaged – the inner workings of the machines take a hit as well.

This past week I changed the sponge in my LK-150. I was working on some samples for a special project (more on that soon!) and realized I was having to really fuss to make a simple 3-prong transfer. The old sponge looks like refrigerator gasket and I had to peel it out of the trough!

old sponge was compressed and flat - probably a refrigerator gasket. Who knows why!
old sponge was compressed and flat – probably a refrigerator gasket. Who knows why!
All the needles out of the bed and new sponge laid in the trough.
All the needles out of the bed and new sponge laid in the trough.

 

 

Needles back in the bed and everything ready to rock ad roll!
Needles back in the bed and everything ready to rock ad roll!

In order to change a sponge on theLK-150 you need to remove all the needles (yes), lay in the new sponge and then replace the needles one by one. Definitely worth the trouble! The machine has been purring ever since. While I was ordering the new sponge, I also ordered an extra base for both the row counter and the tension mast so I could move them to either side of the bed. Being able to move the row counter around makes it so much easier to keep track of rows when dividing necklines and having an extra tension mast is never a bad idea.

For parts, I always recommend Needle-tek in Washington State. Their web site isn’t great, but you can check them out at www.needle-tek.com or just call and ask for what you need from Bea and Jerry Carriere. Their phone is 360-892-2304. If they don’t have what you need, I’m not sure who does!

Rotini Twisted Stitches

3-Stitch Rotini Twists

IMG_0237These twisted stitches are less suitable for traveling stitch patterns, but it is possible to twist 3 stitches with a pair of tools. Instead of twisting every two rows, however you should only twist every 4-6 rows so the stitches have time to recover. These twisted stitches look like columns of swirled cables – or rotini macaroni! (They are shown at the end of the 3/4/16 post video.)

twistsandtuckssweater_64 copyThe gold sweater at left was worked with rotini twists, outlined by latched up tuck stitches (see previous blogs) and finished with the Judith Duffy Cabled trim (another favorite). The sweater appeared in issue #34 of Knitter’s Magazine (Spring 1994) with machine knit directions. You might be able to find a back issue of the magazine and I am hoping to re-knit the sweater one of these days (with a current yarn) and will make that pattern available as a freebie on the web site – once I find a little more free time!

In the meantime, I have included a PDF chart for the twist/tuck pattern that you can download. The original twisted the stitches every 3 rows, but I think it looks better every 4. Try it both ways and decide for yourself.

As for the tuck stitches, you can reform them at the end of every repeat or use a ribber. Because the pattern shifts from one repeat to the next, the ribber may not be much faster than latching by hand and you may find (as do I ) that the ribber gets in the way. Have fun!

rotinichart

Twisted Stitches

Twisted Stitches have always been one of my (many) favorite hand manipulations on a knitting machine. There is a whole chapter in Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters devoted to twisted stitches as they are one of the basic ways to manipulate stitches.

By hand or machine, classic twisted stitch patterns are created by twisting pairs of stitches every two rows. The end result looks a lot like 1×1 cables, but twisted stitches are much faster and more fluid to produce. The machine knit version, by the way, looks exactly like the hand knit and you can follow hand knit charts at the machine. Take a look at the book Charted Knitting Designs by the great Barbara Walker. It has a huge chapter on twisted stitches so you will never run short of inspiration.

 

IMG_0239The method is pretty simple as I’ve illustrated in the video on this post. You use a pair of 2-prong transfer tools, removing the stitches on the first tool and then inserting the second tool from above. Remove the first tool, rotate the tool holding the stitches to the right or left and replace the stitches on the same two needles. (They will, of course, be on each other’s needle due to the twisting.) The  diamonds I knitted on the video are pictured at right.

When working vertical columns of twisted stitches, it doesn’t mater whether you twist the tool to the right or to the left as long as you are consistent throughout the garment. However, if you want the stitches to “travel” across the knitting – which is where twisted stitches really show off – the direction that you twist is very important. If the stitches are supposed to be traveling towards the right (as the fabric faces you on the machine), you should twist the tool to the right. When traveling left, twist to the left.

The effect is sharp and clear on the knit side of the fabric and although you can faintly make out the pattern on the purl side (sort of a ghost image) it really doesn’t show or have much character. In fact, if the pattern looks great on the purl side, you have twisted in the wrong direction as the knit side will only bear a trace of the twisting.

“Traveling” is how I describe the way the twists seem to progress across the fabric. This is accomplished by making each twist with one stitch from the previous pair and one new stitch.

I love working diamond shaped grids with twisted stitches because once I establish the first pairs of twists in the very first row. I don’t need to consult the chart again. Set up for a diamond grid by twisting pairs of stitches with an even number of stitches between them. As the stitches travel towards each other you will come to a place where you will twist the last stitch from each previously pair together. After that, they will split and travel in the opposite direction.

bluetwistedsts

 

 

 

The blue sweater at left appeared in an early issue of Studio Design Magazine and the directions are available in the Free Stuff on my web site (www.guagliumi.com).  It features popcorns in the middle of each diamond and a trim at the lower edges of the garment and top of the sleeves (as an insert) that is worked with a garter bar. I think that today I would make the sweater a little more oversized and ditch the ¾ sleeves. After all, fashion changes and this was done in 1993.

pinktwistedstitches_53 copy

The pink sweater is a much more elaborate twisted stitch pattern. There are parallel trails of stitches that seem to weave through each other where they intersect. I’m sorry to say I have no idea what ever happened to the pattern for this one, but the chart and photo below should give you a pretty good idea of how those interlacements work and could be applied to any garment.

Notice how the trails of stitches seem to interweave where they cross. You can leave the centers of the diamonds plain, but sometimes they just beg for a cable or a popcorn to jazz them up!
Notice how the trails of stitches seem to interweave where they cross. You can leave the centers of the diamonds plain, but sometimes they just beg for a cable or a popcorn to jazz them up!
The arrows indicate the direction twist the tool. Notice the areas shaded blue - this is where the interlacement occurs.
The arrows indicate the direction to twist the tool. Notice the areas shaded blue – this is where the interlacement occurs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latching Up Stitches

This is the first of a series of short “How-To” lessons I plan to post here on the blog. While the information is old hat to a lot of you, there are so many new knitters out there (working on used machines all by themselves) that I figured I would start with some basics and then get progressively more involved and creative as time rolls on.

I think the important thing for new knitters to know about handling the latch tool is that slower, smoother motions ultimately end up being a lot faster than having to re-do the same thing over and over. Speed comes with experience so don’t rush it!

When I latch up a stitch, I concentrate on making sure that the old stitch slides smoothly over the latch to open it before I catch the next ladder bar in the open hook. Then just pull back enough for the old stitch to close the latch and slide over it. The fabric itself should hardly move – let the tool do the work.

When reforming stitches from the purl side, I always insert my tool into the bottom stitch in the column then release the stitch from its needle and let the stitch drop back to the tool. Dropping first means you would have to poke around to insert the tool through the stitch and sometimes that isn’t as easy as it looks. Doing it first is much safer and a whole lot easier.

I really love the way a tuck stitch looks along side cables and in addition to looking a bit more open than a reformed knit stitch (purl on the other side), tuck has the added advantage of returning a little width to the fabric. Lots of cables can cause a fabric to become narrower so using a tuck at each side of a cable actually returns that width to the fabric. With very large sizes, it could mean the difference between having enough needles – or not – to knit your garment!