Up-Cycled Claw Weights

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Stretchy, Usable Latch Tool Cast On!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sinker Post/Gate Peg Bind-Offs

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

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

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

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

Transfer tool edge

Knit side of latch tool B/O

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purl side of latch tool B/O

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

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

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

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

Stitch Analysis

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

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

Click here Stitch Analysis for Charlene’s excellent info!

Enlarging Stitches – really HUGE stitches!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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!

 

Transferring Stitches from Bed to Bed

Arlo at 9 weeks. Sweet and mellow and a real love-muffin.

I’ve always promised people I wouldn’t waste newsletter space with stories/photos of my pets, but I am making this one exception. I wanted you to know why my postings might be a bit more sporadic for the next few months – I will be spending a lot of time out of my office, supervising Arlo, who joined our family a few days ago. In November we lost our old lab, Blue, and this little guy is just the cure we needed for a broken heart. I have a couple more videos already shot, but they need editing and tweaking and I will get to them as soon as Arlo can be trusted out of my sight for more than ten minutes!

Once you’ve knitted your perfect rib at the beginning of a garment, you might want to continue working single bed so you’ll need to transfer the stitches from the ribber to the main bed. The double-eyed bodkin that came with your ribber is a useful little tool for doing just that and once I have dug around in the bottom of my tool basket and found the elusive little thing, I sometimes use it for transferring particularly tight or un-stretchy stitches from the RB to the MB. Sometimes.

Most of the time, however, I am more likely to use a regular transfer tool as I show in this video. Depending on the yarn, I may use a single prong tool or I might opt for a multi-prong. Either way, I find it a whole lot faster and easier to manage than that tiny little bodkin.

One thing that I also do – and did not show you in the video because it blocked the camera’s view – is to bring the needles out to holding position first. Then I only need to hook on the transfer tool and push the needle back to get going. That speeds things up even more!

“Jaws”

I also didn’t bother to show you some other tools/accessories that can be used on standard gauge machines. The first is something people affectionately call “Jaws” – the shadow lace transfer tool. It works like a pair of multi-prong tools hinged together and as long as you don’t damage the spacing of the tool it works like a charm. There are probably some out there on the used market, but they are just for 4.5 mm standard gauge machines. The eyes on the prongs are not large enough to work on the 9 mm bulkies.

You might also come across a multi-prong tool with bent tips which looks like half of “Jaws” and is also meant for transferring stitches. I know I once had one and I just spent 20 minutes searching for it, which tells you that (1) I have never used it often enough to know where it is or (2) I never had one to begin with or have long since passed it on to somebody else.

Many of the standard gauge machines had ribber transfer carriages available. The Silver Reed version is called an RT1, Brother made the KA7100 and KA8300; Passap had the U70, U80 and U100. I have no idea what the differences are from model to model, but if you go on line you will find the manuals and some YouTube videos to help you find the right one.

At the risk of casting aspersions on any of these accessories, let me say that I had better luck using the Passap transfer carriages, which slide across the bed in one smooth motion, scooping up the stitches and depositing them on the back bed, than I ever did with the RT1. The little “needle” on the RT1 is easily sprung and once sprung will never work without dropping stitches and I have no idea if that part is still available. The RT1 operates a little differently in that you need to turn a crank and work stitch by stitch across the bed. I don’t have any personal experience with the Brother version so cannot comment on them.

With any of the rib transfer units I have used, they work best if you increase the stitch size on the last row that you knit so that the stitches are more easily managed. It is important to have some weight – not too much and not too little – and to work as smoothly as possible. In short, I find these accessories fussy and not all that dependable to use so wouldn’t add it to the list of must haves. The greatest risk with any of these units is dropping stitches – a few or many – and I have always felt it was faster to use a multi-prong transfer tool that leaves me in control. That said, if you do a lot of double bed work, it might be worth it to you to spend some time practicing and perfecting the use of a rib transfer carriage.

 

The Perfect Ribber Cast On

Over the years, there have been several books about double bed knitting and using a ribber. So I am not planning to re-write any of those! What I would like to do is share some of the ways that I use my second bed of needles to enhance the kind of work that I do and for some general purposes. Where possible, I plan to include video similar to the one included in this blog post.

As I said in earlier posts (5/16/16 for 1×1 rib and 6/14/16 for 2×2), I often start my projects on waste and go back later to knit the ribs, binding off with the hand sewn bind off. I do also, however, begin some projects with rib and when I do, this is the cast on method I always employ.

With the exception of Passap (and then, not always) double bed machines require the use of a cast on comb and weights for double bed work. The comb often distorts/stretches the edge of the cast on and can sometimes cause torn or irregular stitches when working with delicate yarns. Except for samples and gauge swatches, I never-ever-ever cast on with the main yarn. I always begin with waste yarn.

I knit the zigzag row with waste yarn, hang the comb and then knit 8-10 rows, using the stitch size I might use for knitting the actual rib for all of these rows. There is no need to start with smaller sizes or to finely tweak this rib because it will be removed later – make it easy on yourself. This waste rib will be the point of attachment for the comb, thus saving your main yarn from any stress or stretch or breaking.

After the waste, I work two circular rows with ravel cord. Years ago I purchased a couple of cones of nylon at a tag sale so I can be pretty free with how I use it. If you rely on the short pieces that came with your machine, you probably don’t want to tie knots in it. Instead, let it hang between the beds and weight it with a binder clip or clothespin. You can also use some strong crochet cotton for these two separating rows. Look for good contrast and a no-fuss fiber to assure easy removal and no tell- tale traces of colored fuzz.

After the circular rows, set both of the carriages to the smallest stitch size and knit 1 row across all needles. This is the zigzag row where you would normally hang the cast on comb – except that you don’t have to hang it because it is already in place! Now, raise the stitch size by 1 number (on my ribbers it is from “R” to “0”) to work the two circular rows. I know, I know – the manual says to do 3 circular rows and if you like the way that looks, go ahead and do three. I don’t like the look of a 3-row edge so I always do 2. OK, so why do the manuals (Japanese machines) say 3? They are hoping the extra row evens out the differences in stitch size between the two beds (see my last blog post about the set of the beds). Try it both ways to see which you prefer.

After the 2 (or 3) circular rows, raise the stitch size by one dot and set both carriages to knit in both directions. This first zigzag, cross-bed row may be tight so do yourself a favor and bring all the needles to holding position and set the carriages to knit them back. Continue raising the stitch size by just one dot every row until you reach the stitch size you want to use for the remainder of the rib and then continue kitting until you complete the required number of rows.

Why raise the stitch size so slowly? It contributes to a firmer edge that is more likely to hold its shape than one that immediately jumps to a larger stitch size. Control is the name of the game here!

This video shows 1×1 rib, but you can use the same method for 2×2 ribs as well. For wide ribs, I generally cast on as if to knit 1×1 rib and after I have knitted 1 or 2 rows across both beds with the main yarn, I transfer stitches for the wide rib arrangement and continue from there, raising the stitch size 1 dot each row. The 1×1 cast on edge adds stability to the wide ribs and looks pretty terrific too! Give it a try. In fact, I would suggest that you spend some time knitting a variety of ribs with this method so you get a good idea how it works and what you might want to tweak for your own machine or taste.

Next time, I’ll show you a couple of ways to transfer stitches between the beds!

Ribber 101

Many of you probably realize that what I love about machine knitting is single-bed hand-manipulations. I do (occasionally) use my ribbers and I should tell you that my first machines were the Passap and the Superba – both European double bed machines. So, although I don’t do a lot of double bed work, I am more then competent when it comes to working with two beds.

I have gotten a lot of requests to do some blogs and videos on double bed work, including a lot of requests for a Craftsy class. I don’t know if that will ever happen and my own view is that it would be about as exciting as watching paint dry. All the action takes place between the beds or by changing dials and levers. Not much to see. Add to that the differences between brands, the things that one brand does and another does not, all the ancient used machines still in use out there and it just doesn’t seem like a very easy or interesting class to produce. I could be wrong and I may end up eating my words some day.

That said, there are some things that I think are fairly universal from brand to brand and across the gauges so I have a number of ribber/double bed blog posts and videos I plan to share with you. I’m torn about the terms “ribber” vs. “double bed” because, although there are more similarities than not, they are two very different animals. I will probably use the terms interchangeably, but I want you to be aware of a few things before we start.

The fabric hangs equidistant from both beds on a true double bed machine.
The fabric hangs closer to the ribber bed than the main bed on a Japanese machine.

True double bed machines like Passap, Superba and (I think) Artisan machines feature “V” beds that are both (permanently) mounted at the same angle. Japanese machines with ribbers are not perfectly pitched “V” beds and the ribber, in fact, is at a steeper angle than the main bed. This causes the fabric to form closer to the ribber bed as shown in my diagram at left. This affects stitch size and, for example, stitch size 5 on both beds will differ slightly because of the angle of the beds and possibly enough to affect the gauge and the appearance of the fabric. In most instances – like ribs – you won’t even notice it. It is likely to show, however, in circular knitting for socks and other in-the-round projects.

On most Japanese machines, the ribbers come with a close knit bar that is inserted at the front of the main bed, behind the sinker posts/gate pegs to help adjust the stitch size of the main bed stitches. It may or may not solve the problem for you, but it is one more thing to be aware of.

Another difference between V-beds and machines with ribbers may be which bed is considered the main (patterning bed) and which bed is used for knitting plain stockinet after transferring the stitches from rib. You’ll need to rely on your manuals for that kind of information.

Most ribber carriages are what I call “dumb” – they do not have selection or patterning built into them. They usually do, however, have the capability to slip or tuck in one direction or both and some have the ability to select alternate needles.

Those controls are usually called “lili” buttons or levers because that is how the stitches are shown graphically (long, short, long, short). This is a useful feature for double bed tuck stitches and also for a variety of double jacquard backings. With plain knitting, it may help sticky yarns knit more easily.

On machines that have separate controls for each direction, remember that it is always the leading end of the carriage that determines what the needles do. The trailing end of the carriage is just along for the ride and doesn’t affect any of the needles until you reverse direction.

There is a definite advantage to having permanently mounted double beds because the beds are more likely to be properly aligned. Probably. With Japanese ribbers, you must pay special attention to aligning the beds when you tighten the ribber in place.

Full Needle Rib (FNR) uses all the needles on both beds with the beds in half pitch (HP).

The two beds can be in half-pitch or full-pitch, depending on which needles you are using. There is usually a little indicator on the left end of the bed (along with a racking/swing lever or knob). With half pitch, the needles from the two beds alternate their placement and you can use all of the needles on both beds for full needle rib (also called close rib).

With full pitch alignment, the needles are directly, perfectly opposite each other and you cannot use all of the needles at the same time because they will collide. Instead, full pitch

1 x 1 rib is work with the beds in Full Pitch (FP) because there is a non-working needle opposite each working needle.

is more suitable for 1×1 rib and similar arrangements. In either case, the needle diagrams supplied with your machine will elaborate on the pitch of the beds when giving directions for specific stitches. It is important to pay attention to pitch because you risk jamming the carriages or replacing a lot of needles.

2 x 2 rib knitted in FP requires non-working needles opposite working needles.,

In addition to changing the pitch of the beds, some models also allow you to change the spacing between the beds. This was one of the nicest features of the Superba, which allowed a slightly wider opening for thicker yarns.

2 x 2 rib worked in HP can be knitted with a slightly tighter stitch size because there is more zig-zagging to supply length to the stitches.

 

The spacing between the beds is a major contributor to stitch size when working double bed and it is the reason you can finally, safely, use those smallest stitch sizes on your dial. If you try to knit with stitch size 1 on most single bed machines, the carriage will be extremely difficult – maybe impossible – to move across the bed. If it does move, it will probably skip a lot of stitches. There just isn’t enough yarn going into each stitch to enable the needles to move forward and back as they must to form stitches.

When working double bed, however, the yarn that zig-zags across the beds is absorbed into the stitches as each row is formed and the fabric drops between the beds. Now, take it a step further: 1×1 rib is easier to knit on a small stitch size than is 2×2 or 3×3 rib. Why?

Having more stitches side by side eliminates the zig-zagging for those few needles and the stitches form more tightly. It gives birth to a simple rule for double bed work: The more adjacent needles there are on either bed, the larger the stitch size must be. So, as the needle spacing gets closer to that for stockinet, a larger stitch size is required. 4×4 rib is really like narrow blocks of stockinet on each bed so the stitch size required to knit it will probably be the same as that required to knit stockinet on one bed.

Next time, I’ll share a video of my favorite double bed cast-on method with you!

Cool Stuff from Vogue Knitting Live!

First I bought a Yarn Valet….

I had a blast this past weekend, teaching at Vogue Knitting Live in NYC for the fourth (or is it the fifth?) year. The classes were great and I loved meeting some of the students who knew me from Craftsy.

Once again, I spent some time cruising through the market place, resisting temptation as best I could. As always, however, I found some things that I just couldn’t resist.

First, I bought one of the yarn dispensers from Yarn Valet when I saw how perfectly it holds a wound ball or skein of yarn – and turns as the yarn is pulled from the outside of the ball. For a mere $16, how could I resist!

Then I ran into Dan Tracy ……….

A little further on, I ran into Dan Tracy Designs and found a beautifully made wooden version of a similar holder……what is a girl to do?! I wandered around the show for a few more aisles and then I wound my way back to Dan’s booth to buy myself a birthday present. After all, wood feels and looks so nice and these ball (or cone) holders are mounted on ball bearings so they turn so beautifully and with tax, it only set me back about $54. Happy birthday to me!

Don’t  get me wrong – there was a LOT OF YARN to look at and I did buy some silk wrapped paper yarn from Habu that I will show you once I knit with it. I’m just a sucker for great tools and stuff.

I didn’t buy any slipper soles from Joe’s Toes because I wasn’t sure what size I needed for some grandson feet, but once I knit their next round of slippers, I know where to go for nice thick felted innersoles and non-skid outer soles.

Somehow, sharing this info with you helps me justify my purchases. Heck, a girl can’t just teach, race to the train and head home – she’s got to indulge once in a while. Right?