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!
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Finally! Spring has arrived in CT. No, wait! We didn’t get any spring, it jumped right into summer with a 90 degree day. Hard to believe we had the heat on just last week because it was so cold!
I still have some videos to edit (and more to shoot) but for now, thought I would share a couple of things with you.
First of all, I am thrilled to tell you that my first Craftsy class, “Machine Knitting: Essential Techniques” was just included in the first group of classes available on DVDs for those folks who don’t like streaming directly. If you go to the Craftsy site and click on the class, the DVD option comes up on the page that describes the class. There are currently 60 classes available on DVD with more to be added continuously. So far no special offers for people who already have the streaming, but I will be sure to let you know if there are any specials in the future. Right now, there are more than 6100 students in this class, which astounds me!
I had a great time teaching a two-day seminar at The Knitting Cottage in Waynesboro, PA this month. One of the knitters who attended the workshop produces pattern-holding clips that mount to the tension mast on most machines. They fit the mast on Brother, Toyota, Artisan and older model Silver Reed machines. The newer Silver electronics all use a much thicker mast so the clips will not fit those machines. The cost, including shipping, is $10 with additional masts in the same package costing $7. For questions, contact Lynn Jones at LT51990@yahoo.com.
Elena Luneva sent me links to more of her classes on You Tube and once again, they are terrific! I love that she is sharing with us and that machine knitting transcends international boundaries and differences.
“It may be better if You look part 5 as the first. Because in some ways this part is the summary of previous parts includes the details and my thoughts about the possibilities of this technology.
With best regards,
Arlo is entertaining himself and us nicely – chewing everything in sight and plunging into his little wading pool. Only Buster is less than amused as he has not been able to convince the puppy that cats are ferocious creatures to be avoided, not chewed. Hoping that this phase passes. Arlo was a mere 19 pounds when we brought him home at the end of March and now weighs in at about 45 pounds. The vet thinks we are just about half grown and judging from the feet we think he is right.
I’ll get back to editing and filming more of those video lessons, but if you know me at all, you know that right now the garden is sapping every spare moment……that and trying to prevent Arlo from nipping off every bud or blossom he sees.
All double bed machines – including flat beds with a ribber bed (RB) – are capable of racking. There is a lever or knob on the end of the front/ribber bed that is used to move the RB left or right by a specific number of positions. Your manual may refer to a “swing lever” or a “racking lever” – they are the same thing.
Although there are some racking stitches done with the beds in full pitch (P), most of the more elaborate patterns are done with the beds in half pitch (HP). As the ribber beds shifts position, it must do so in either P or HP as established at the first row.
Some machines retain the relative pitch of the beds with a single click of the racking lever/knob. Other machines – like the Silver Reed SR860 I use in this video – require two clicks to maintain pitch because each click is really only a half position, moving the bed to P, HP, P, HP, etc.
On most Silver Reed machines, the ribber bed is able to move 8 positions left or right and other machines are probably about the same. It is important to begin your work with the bed in the correct position so that you can move the required number of positions/clicks to knit your pattern. For example, if you need to move the bed four times to the right and then four times to the left, make sure you begin with the indicator right in the middle – not at either end.
You can rack all-over stitches like English rib, which gives the fabric an interesting sort of zigzag texture or you can bring selective needles to work at intervals across the ribber bed to create traveling knit stitches on a purl background. The possibilities are endless.
As the ribber bed moves one position every row or two, after a number of moves its needles are likely to have moved beyond the edges of the main bed knitting. In that case, you need to transfer stitches from the RB to the MB and create new stitches at the opposite end of the RB by bringing needles into working position. You can do this by simply bringing empty needles to working position so they cast on ad begin knitting or you can pick up the purl bar of an opposite stitch for a cleaner beginning.
With racked drop stitch, like all drop stitch knitting, you must begin with all the stitches on the main bed. Then, bring specific needles to working position on the RB and begin knitting and racking. As the RB needles are shifted beyond the edges of the main knitting, you can simply drop the stitches from those needles and put the empty needles in non-working position. At the opposite end of the bed, just bring empty needles into work to begin knitting.
Periodically, just separate the two carriages and run the RB carriage across the bed alone to drop the stitches from the RB needles. Remember, they can only run to the point where they were cast on and you began your work with all of the stitches on the MB. Those RB stitches were just an add-on.
Racked drop stitch form lacy and open designs on a solid stockinet background. Textured yarns tend to retain the open effects better than smooth ones, where the stitches are likely to “melt” into adjacent stitches.
Drive Lace is a slightly different drop stitch application. The work begins with all the stitches on the RB so that the punch card or electronics can select needles on the main bed. Then, with the aid of a handy little P-Carriage you drop the MB stitches, which creates larger, more elaborate open stitch designs. Because of the punch cards or electronics, the patterns are usually more varied than those worked with regular drop stitch.
When moved across the MB from right to left, the P-carriage pushes the needles forward from working position so that the stitches slide behind the latches of the needles. Then, when it slides back from left to right, the needles are returned to working position and the stitches drop. Pretty slick little gizmo!
If you do an internet search you might find directions for converting a P-carriage to work on a Brother bed. However, please be careful because you can damage your machine or, at the very least, sacrifice some needles if the conversion isn’t done right.
Beyond drop stitch and Drive Lace, I use my P-carriages more for working with sticky yarns or when I have several stitches on the needles, but I only use it from right to left to bring the needles forward so they knit more easily. More about that next time!
I’ve been busy these last few weeks. Spring has finally arrived here in CT, our new puppy, Arlo, keeps us on constant watch and I’ve been traveling for a couple of seminars. Had a great time with the guild in Minneapolis last month and the Knit Knack Shop this past weekend. Looking forward to the Knitting Cottage in PA in a couple of weeks.
In the meantime, there will be an organizational meeting for the formation of a guild here in the northeast on April 22nd and I am teaching a beginners’ sweater class the weekend of May 20-21. There was more info in my newsletter, but if you didn’t get a copy, just email me and I will provide full details.
From my earliest days, working on Passap and Superba, I came to love drop stitch because it opens up an entirely different set of stitches and possibilities on any double bed machine.
First of all, you need to wrap your mind around the idea that a stitch can only drop to the point where it was cast on. I think many of us have been blithely knitting away on a double bed set up when we realize our sleeve caught an extra needle and nudged it into working position. When you drop that extra stitch off its needle, it only runs back to the point where it was caught up and began knitting. And when the stitches that it formed are released, they create larger stitches in the fabric. That is the basis for drop stitch.
In the video that accompanies this posting, I have begun by showing that extra stitch starting to knit and then tried to extend the concept to some basic variations.
First of all, you need to make sure that the needle arrangements and/or bed alignment will not place working needles directly across from each other. You either need to work with a 1×1 needle arrangement (for example) or the beds must be in half pitch.
Secondly, stitch size is really important. If the stitch size is too large, the carriage will be harder to push; if too small you may not be able to knit required rows on just the main bed. In short, experiment and try several variations before you settle on the final stitch sizes for both beds. I usually find that the stitch size on the ribber bed is much smaller (maybe half) of the stitch size I use on the main bed.
Depending on the effect you are trying to achieve, you will find that some yarns are more suitable than others because they retain the open structure, while others seem to allow the openness to spread to adjacent stitches and melt into the background. Obviously, highly textured yarns like mohair will be more apt to retain an open fabric while slippery rayon or smooth cottons will not. That might be a factor if you are trying to create a pattern of open blocks contrasting with solid knit, but wouldn’t matter if you were working row after row of enlarged stitches or Condo Stitch. Again, experiment and play a bit before committing to a whole project.
The yarn also affects how often you should release the ribber stitches from their needles. I never wait until the end of a project to drop all the stitches. Instead, I usually move the ribber carriage (alone) across the bed at regular intervals – every 10 or 20 rows – and give a tug on the fabric to make sure everything releases cleanly. It also provides an opportunity to separate the beds and check things out.
Silver Reed ribber manuals have directions for “Drive Lace” which is a patterned version of drop stitch with the main knitting on the ribber bed and the main bed (MB) used to select needles by punch card or electronics. In that case, the MB needles are released with a special little carriage, which, in the interest of time and space, I will show you in another post.
In this video, I brought groups of 5 needles on the ribber bed into work for a number of rows and then released the stitches from their needles to form squarish open areas in the fabric. However, if you began with 1 needle and then every two rows added one on each side of it; then dropped one at each side until back to a single stitch, you could easily create diamonds.
The carriages were much easier to push across the beds when I brought every-other-needle (EON) to work on the ribber bed than they were with full needle rib (FNR), but in the final fabric it is hard to tell one needle arrangement from the other because of the way the excess length is absorbed into the main bed stitches. You could also allow just every 10th (for ex) needle to knit for a vertical pattern. The possibilities are endless.
The needle arrangement for condo stitch is FNR, but the ribber carriage knits in one direction and slips in the other, which means that the main bed stitch size must be suitable for stockinet, every other row-or slightly smaller than stockinet. I especially like the way this fabric looks on the purl side where you can plainly see huge rows alternating with much smaller rows. In hand knitting, this is accomplished by using two mismatched needles that differ greatly in size.
Apart from the decorative uses for drop stitch, it is great for producing rows (or groups) of huge stitches for various hand-manipulated stitches that require larger stitches than the carriage alone can produce. It is also the best way I know to knit stitches large enough for a loose, non-binding bind off!
I hope the video gets you thinking about drop stitch and that you have some fun playing with the possibilities. Next time, we’ll take a look at racked drop stitch.