What IS a P-Carriage?!

This short video should give you an idea how to use the P-Carriage that comes with all Silver Reed ribbers. The manuals always describe using the device for double bed Drive Lace and pile knitting. I have to tell you that I cannot remember the last time I did either of those techniques – probably when I worked for Studio and was responsible for training dealers!

Drive Lace is a detailed drop stitch lace method worked by using the needle selection (punch cards or electronic) on the main bed to select needles for the drop stitch pattern, while the main knitting is secure on the ribber bed. The P-Carriage is used to drop the  MB stitches every two rows, after the needles have been selected and knitted. So, although you are working with 2 beds, the technique produces a single bed fabric – not ribbed.

Pile Knitting also produces a single bed fabric knitted on the ribber bed. In this case, the ribber bed knits both a ground yarn and a pile yarn every row, while the main bed knits only the pile yarn on needles selected by the punch card or the electronics. The P-Carriage releases the loops every two rows.

If either of these methods sounds appealing, I have to refer you back to your manuals because it has been far too long and I use the P-Carriage for something else altogether.

Let me begin by saying that the “hardest” thing any carriage has to do is to push needles from working position (WP) forward in their slots so that the old stitches slide back behind the latches and new yarn is deposited in the hook of each needle. After that, it is fairly “easy” for the carriage to guide the needles back in their slots so that the old stitches slide over the closed latches and form new stitches. The trailing end of the carriage just shoots the needles out, lined up back in WP.

With very tight stitches, non-stretchy yarn, crossed or twisted (or otherwise-manipulated) stitches, it can be difficult for the carriage to push all the needles forward so that they knit cleanly and easily. This is where I rely on the P-Carriage to help.

The P-Carriage is hardly a carriage!  There are no knobs or levers to manage and the pathway underneath is a fixed pathway – there are no movable cams – that moves needles between WP and upper-working position (UWP).

When the P-Carriage moves right to left across the bed, the needle butts in WP enter the pathway (on the left), travel upwards so the old stitches slide behind their latches and then exit the unit in UWP.

When the P-Carriage moves from right to left, all needles in WP are channeled into the pathway where they are pushed forward in their slots so that their stitches slide over and open the latches. They exit the pathway aligned in UWP. The “hard” part has been done.

 

 

When the P-Carriage moves left to right, the needles in UWP enter the unit on the right, travel through the pathway and exit on the left WP, having dropped their stitches.

When the P-Carriage is moved back from left to right, it drops the stitches – which is what you do with Drive Lace or Pile Knitting. – as the needles are returned to WP.

I started using the P-Carriage years ago to facilitate many of the hand-manipulations that I do. I simply slide it across the bed from right to left and then knit 1 row with the main carriage. It adds another step to the knitting, but I really find it is worthwhile.

When working twisted stitches or cables, etc. I may only need to use the P-Carriage every so many rows, but for sticky yarns that won’t knit cleanly, I may use it prior to every pass of the carriage.

There is a similar device, a D-slider, available for some Brother machines, but I am not familiar with the unit and cannot tell you which machines it fits. You’ll have to do a little research. The Silver Reed P-Carriages do not fit other machines because the width (front to back) of the beds differs and it is important for the unit to sit securely on the back rail and slide smoothly across the front edge of the bed.

That said, this blog offers directions for converting the Silver Reed P-Carriage for use on the Brother. The unit itself is inexpensive enough that it might be worth experimenting with!

 

Racked Drop Stitch

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!

Double Bed Drop Stitch

Drop Stitch

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.

Purl side of Condo Stitch

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.