Doing it Double!

If your machine has a ribber, you probably don’t have a lot of use for a double latch tool. However, if you use a single bed machine, you’ll find a double latch tool can save you lots of time. Initially, it might feel a little clumsy to use, but, like anything else, once you get going a double latch tool is a wonderful thing to have!

Double latch tools make it much faster to re-form stitches for 1×1 or 2×2 rib, whether you want a ribbed band or just some columns or blocks of rib stitches in the body of a garment. The latch hooks need to be spaced for the gauge of your machine and they all work pretty much the same way.  Here are some tips for success:

First of all, Insert the tool at the bottom of the columns of stitches you plan to drop and then drop the stitches from the needles above, rather than dropping the stitches and then fishing around for the stitches. It is much safer and a lot less frustrating, but you also have greater control over how far down the stitches drop.

Keep plenty of downward tension on the ladder of stitches you are reforming so that the individual bars do not split as you work them.

Push the tool just far enough away from you to make sure the “old” stitches open the latches and slide back over them. Catch the next bars of the ladder in the hooks of the tool and pull just hard enough to make sure the old stitches are pulled over the latches to form the new stitches. If you look at the video carefully, you will see that the surrounding stitches move very little, which is how it should be. You don’t want to start distorting adjacent stitches.

When you work with a single latch tool, the last stitch is transferred from the tool to a needle on the bed by hooking the tool onto the needle. This isn’t possible (at least not easily!) when using a double latch tool. Instead, when you reach the top of the column, hold the tool above the edge of the bed and just poke the needles through the back of each stitch. Make sure you keep some tension on the tool so that the stitches are easier to see and easier for the needles to enter. Once you poke the needles through the back of the stitches, you can just remove the tool.

Back in the day (as they say), many knitting machines came with double latch tools, although they were usually standard gauge machines – both European and Japanese. The hooks projected straight out from the end of the handle. At www.guagliumi.com I have double latch tools for 2×2 rib for 4.5, 6.5 and 9 mm machines, tools for 1×1 rib for 6.5 and 9mm machines.  I designed these tools with the metal perpendicular to the wooden handle because I find the much easier to work with – I hope you do too!

 

 

Judith Duffy’s Cabled Edging

Talk about something I wish I had invented, but didn’t! I LOVE this edging/Bind Off/trim and have used it for all kinds of things over the years. With Judith Duffy’s kind permission, it appeared in Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters (page 183) and there was even a hand-knit version of it in Knitters’ Magazine to accompany the machine knit pattern I did for the gold sweater that appeared in the blog post of March 7, 2016 – and again here (below).

I first saw this edging when I was a contributing editor for Threads Magazine (in the earliest years of the magazine) and they were doing a feature article on fiber artist Judith Duffy’s work. They asked me to choose one of her textures to reproduce for the article and I spent some time figuring out machine knit directions for the cabled edging. Do you remember the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing garment that graced a back cover in those early years? It was a stunning piece by Duffy and unlike anything I have seen before or since, hand or machine knitted.

Notice the Duffy Edging on the ribs - great way to bind off ribbing for a change!
Notice the Duffy Edging on the ribs – great way to bind off ribbing for a change!

The gold sweater at left is a twisted stitch and latched up tuck stitch pattern (see previous blog 3/7/16), but take a close look at the edge of the ribbing. I started all the garment pieces on waste yarn and went back later to work the ribs. Instead of a conventional rib bind off, I worked the Duffy Cabled Edging to trim and bind off the ribs all at once.

 

 

 

Check out the pretty neckline with JDCE finish!
Check out the pretty neckline with JDCE finish!

Most of all, I think I have used it to bind off neckline stitches when shaping a neckline with short rows, preserving live stitches. On a standard gauge machine it produces a lovely, delicate neckline finish.

You can also use this edging to join two garment or afghan sections together by rehanging them on the machine with the wrong sides facing each other and then working the edging. As with the I-cord join (blog 4/8/16), make sure you always hang the pieces the same way as there is a right and wrong side to the way the edging joins the base fabric.

This Cabled Edging can be worked on live stitches or selvage edges, which makes it perfect for finishing afghans!
This Cabled Edging can be worked on live stitches or selvage edges, which makes it perfect for finishing afghans!

The method is quite simple. Hang the work on the machine with the right side (whatever that is) facing you – live stitches or selvage edges (whole stitches are best). All of the needles except the first 3 on the carriage side are in holding position and the carriage must be set to hold needles in HP. Knit 12 rows over the 3 working needles and then remove those stitches on a 3-prong tool and pass the tool under the adjacent 3 needles and re-hang the stitches on the 4th, 5th and 6th needles from the edge.Place the empty needles in NWP. Repeat till you either reach a corner or the end. If you want to turn a corner, add two more rows to the last two groups on each side to help make the corner so that it doesn’t flatten out. You’ll also find that you can’t easily hang the next side of an afghan until you get right to the corner. At that point, you might want to remove those last few stitches and re-hang them on the far right end of the bed to give you lots of needles to re-hang the next side.

I almost always work with 3 stitches and knit 12 rows for each spiral, but you can certainly work with more stitches if you have a tool to handle them. Twelve rows almost always works out right, but you might find that 10 or 14 are better so work the edging on your gauge swatch to find out before you begin. You might also find that you want to adjust your stitch size a bit smaller or larger – sampling always pays off.

As I said in the tutorial, the float that passes underneath the first 3 needles always gets hidden inside the spiral, but you can certainly opt to knit those needles back and eliminate the float if – for some unforeseen reason – it shows. Also, by way of variation, I have seen students work this trim in two colors, which is very cool. In that case, it might be best to knit back the float of at least one of the colors.

When you reach the end, you want the trim to end quickly and neatly. What I have always done is to knit half as many rows on the second to last group and then immediately reduce those 3 stitches to a single stitch. Move that single stitch to the last needle at left, knit 1 row over the last 3 needles and then reduce those stitches to a single stitch and pull the yarn tail through to secure.

I think there are all kinds of creative possibilities for this edging – I love the cabled effect and the fact that it also binds off stitches. Lately I have been playing with a cabled cord effect by e-wrapping, knitting 1 row over all needles and then working the JDCE. I think it still needs a little work and then I will share it with you! What other ways can you think to use this trim?

I-Cord Bind Off

I really think that ribbing is often over-used and not always appropriate for the garment in question. I understand that once people invest in a ribber, they want to make use of it, but ribbers are capable of much more interesting things than just bands at hip and cuff. And, surely there are edgings and bands more suitable to delicate lace knitting than an inch and a half of 1 x 1 ribbing. For me, the answer is often the I-Cord Bind Off.

This is a fabulous edging that can be worked on any machine (even simple ones like the LK-150) and it produces a beautiful, hand-crafted edge every time.

This is the edging I was working on in the tutorial. Isn't it a b beautiful way to finish all the edges?
This is the edging I was working on in the tutorial. Isn’t it a beautiful way to finish all the edges?

You are probably familiar with I-cord knitting, where you set the carriage to knit in one direction and slip in the other (doesn’t matter which is which). The yarn that floats across the back of the 3 (or 4) cord stitches when the carriage slips actually gets absorbed into the other stitches as you pull down on the knitting, forming a perfectly round cord. The float disappears and because its length is absorbed by the other stitches, it is usually a good idea to knit I-cord with a slightly smaller stitch size than you might use for stockinette so that the cord stitches are not big and sloppy.

The I-Cord Bind Off is worked exactly the same way except that all of the garment edge stitches (or the picked up selvage edge) are also on the machine, but in holding position. By transferring the nearest stitch from holding position to the adjacent working needle, one stitch is bound off as you work two passes (1 actual row) of the I-cord.

The cord seems to join the fabric more neatly if it is worked with the right side of the fabric facing you. If the purl side is the right side, you don’t need to do anything. If, However, the knit side is supposed to be the right side, scrap off  or use a garter bar and re-hang with the knit side facing you.

You do need to keep moving the 3 (or 4) I-cord stitches over closer to the needles in hold and although most people do this with every transfer, I often do it every two transfers as shown in the tutorial because it is faster.

When working the cord around corners, you might want to make a decrease and then 4 passes of the carriage (2 actual rows) for the last repeat on one edge and the first on the next. This will ensure that the corner doesn’t flatten out.

All the edges – and the shoulder tucks – of this simple cardigan are finished with I-cords. The pattern is one of the free downloads available at www.guagliumi.com.

To work an I-cord edging all around – including the cast-on edge – begin and end on waste yarn so that you can rehang live stitches, rather than a cast-on or bound-off edge. It will be neater and if the yarn is very soft or stretchy, you may also want to double a couple of stitches as you re-hang them to keep the work from spreading sideways.

When picking up side (selvage) edges, try to always pick up either a full stitch (my preference) or a half stitch (if you prefer) throughout. Also, just pick up 3 of every 4 stitches along the edge to make sure you don’t stretch and elongate the edge.

There are three rows of I-cord edging along the bottom and the front edges (where I have also included buttonholes) of this cardigan. For more information about this sweater, check the free downloads at my web site.

In addition to working a single cord around the edge of a garment, you can work multiple rows of I-cord by picking up and re-hanging the previous I-cord on the needles as I did in the photo at left.

This cardigan is one of the garment patterns from More Hand-Manipulated Stitches. It features a double I-cord application all around and...
This cardigan is one of the garment patterns from More Hand-Manipulated Stitches. It features a double I-cord application all around and…

 

 

 

I-cord is also a great way to seam garments (or afghans!) if you re-hang the two garment pieces with their wrong sides together as I did in the beige cardigan at left. Just make sure that both sleeves are rehung the same way because there is a definite right and wrong side to the way the cord adjoins the garment. That is, if you re-hang the first side with the back shoulder first and the front on top of it, make sure the second shoulder is re-hung the same way.

 

 

...shoulder seams joined with I-cord and....
…shoulder seams joined with I-cord and….
Bridged slits for I-cord ties.
Bridged slits for I-cord ties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are detailed directions for working this bind-off in both More Hand-Manipulated Stitches and Hand Knits by Machine

Streamlined Incs and Decs

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Latching Up Stitches

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

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

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

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

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