Clean Carriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

My Clean Machine!

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Next remove the 2 case screws behind the handle.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remove the top screw at each end of the case.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latchtool B/O Around the Needles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hand-Manipulated Stitches: Exploring Open Spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latchtool B/O Around the Needles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hand-Manipulated Stitches: Exploring Open Spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!