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!!

Reduce Your Finishing Time!!

I really love finishing and handwork, but I don’t like what I call “stupid finishing” where I could have saved myself the work right from the start. So, whenever I can, I weave in my yarn ends as I go. Because I use mostly hand knitting yarns that do not come on big cones, I often have have a lot of ends so this is a huge time saver!

When I reach the end of one ball of yarn, I push a group of 8-10 needles (or more if my hand catches them) out to Holding Position and weave the yarn end over and under the shafts of the needles, close to the bed. 8-10 needles usually translates to about 2″ in the fabric and that is more than enough to secure the ends. I re-thread the carriage from the new ball or another color and then I let the needles knit back to Working Position with the next pass of the carriage. Then, before knitting the second row of the new color/strand, I weave it in the same way.

Depending on how thick the yarn is, I sometimes end one yarn and begin the next at the same time. Then, when the work is off the machine I just clip the yarn close and I am done. Pretty slick, huh?! Altho the photo below left shows me cutting the yarn while the fabric is still on the machine, I seldom do that unless there are a lot of ends hanging down and tangling because it is just too easy to cut a live stitch. Trust me, I know from experience!

Although this method is usually invisible on the knit side of the fabric, there are times when you cannot weave in the ends as you knit. First of all, it won’t work if you plan to use the purl side as the right side of your garment because the weaving always shows on the purl side. Too bad because I usually prefer striped fabrics on the purl side. You also cannot rely on this if you are knitting patterned stitches because pulling needles to Holding Position over-rides the pattern cam settings and interrupts the pattern. You can use this technique with intarsia where there are always too many ends to finish later. In that case, you need to nudge the needles back to Upper Work Position after you weave the end through the shafts. Make sure the needles’ latches are open and ready to work the next row.

I’m happy to report that I have finally finished all the knitting and all of the initial directions for The Book That Will Not End and THE END is in sight!!! I still have some editing and rewriting to do and not all of the charts are done for the last section, but I’m confident that the end IS in sight! I am really pleased with the way this book is shaping up, although I am a bit worried that it is running long which translates into increased printing costs and a higher price tag. Getting the page count down is Job One for me right now. There are about 300 swatches with charts and directions so it is going to require some tight editing and probably more abbreviations that I usually like to use. I know none of us is interested in a smaller font size!

After all the knitting – the experiments and the re-dos and the final swatches – I can tell you that my SK860 is grubby and in need of a deep, deep cleaning. The kind where I need to remove the bed from the case to get at the inside of the machine. I think that process may make a useful post for an upcoming blog! If it continues to be cold and snowy here in Connecticut, I’ll probably have more than enough time to clean the machine and finish the book. Looks like 2018 is off to a great start!

I couldn’t resist showing you how Arlo spends his winter mornings looking for bird and SQUIRRELS!!!! from a comfy chair in the sunroom. This is what a year old lab looks like – all 85 pounds of him. Still a thief and a mischief maker, but he has stolen my heart. Mr. Blue would have loved him too…..and wondered why Arlo is allowed on a chair he could never sit in!

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!

 

 

 

Buttonhole Sandwich Band – Delicious!

This buttonhole band has been around forever and is still a winner! The method of attaching the band can be applied to any sandwich band – plain, picot, patterned. The chained effect is on the inside of the garment (if you follow my directions) and a sort of back-stitched effect shows on the knit side, just as they would appear if the band had been applied on a linking machine.

The width of the band is up to you, but I recommend always including a technique that will produce a sharp crease on the fold. In this video, I used two turns with the garter bar, but you might do as well with one row on size 10 or a row of picots. If you have a double bed machine, you can knit the band in rib, ending it with some circular rows to sandwich the fabric between.

When applying a band like this to cut-and-sew necklines, you should serge or zigzag the cut neckline edge to make sure nothing drops down and runs later. Also, there should always be some “meat” inside the sandwich. That is, a couple of rows of knitting or, as I did, two stitches from the edge. Otherwise, the band is barely attached to the garment and tends to turn up (or down). I would never attach a band like this to live stitches with no bulk inside the band or it looks flimsy. Take my word for it ….. I know from experience!

When working a neckband with this method, you should be able to join one shoulder seam first and apply the band to the entire neckline. With V-necks, you might need to apply the band in two pieces that overlap the center front.

There is a free Tips and Techniques (Bands That Bind) on my web site that goes into a bit more detail and I recommend that you download it to help you the first few times.

Remember that the beginning and ending buttonholes are usually spaced just a few stitches from either end of the fabric, but that the remaining buttonholes will have larger spaces between them. There are always more spaces to account for than buttonholes. There are several magic formula calculators on line that are very helpful in spacing out the buttonholes.

I have used this method of attaching bands to front, lower and neckline edges and I have also used it to add trim and to finish hand woven fabric. Enjoy!

If you live in the Northeast, try to join us for the spring meeting of the Northeast Machine Knitters’ Guild – we had a great meeting on Saturday at Webs in Northampton, Massachusetts. Check out the Facebook page and follow along: https://www.facebook.com/groups/535504566785989/

(PS – I filmed this video at the end of raspberry season when I had some free time – apologies for the arm scratches!)

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.

Machine Knitting to Dye For

One of Nancy’s colorful garments where the dyed yarn is used as the contrast color in Fair Isle.

My friend, Nancy Roberts, is the owner of Machine Knitting to Dye For in Berkeley, California. She is a knitter, spinner, weaver and dyer who has taught at local and national knitting, weaving and spinning conferences and whose articles have been published in Knitwords, Spin-Off, and Handwoven. As she will explain in this guest blog, she came to machine knitting via an unconventional path. Nancy’s work is an explosion of color!

How I Started “Machine Knitting to Dye For”   

A guest blog by Nancy Roberts

I never had any intention of using a knitting machine to make finished pieces. I was strictly a hand knitter and I bought my first machine—an LK-150–solely as a tool for dyeing. I was inspired by a vague memory I had of an article by Rebekah Younger that I had read in Threads magazine (No. 59, June/July 1995, pg. 68). Ms. Younger had machine knitted undyed yarn and then painted it with dye in stripes of graduated colors. She then unraveled the yarn and re-knitted it to create an hombre effect on her knitted garments. I was intrigued, but did not own a knitting machine at that time. Nearly 10 years later in 2004, I set out to try the concept on my own, and by then, I no longer had the article for guidance. It was a great gateway into machine knitting because a dropped stitch was inconsequential as I’d be unraveling my knitted fabric in the end. I knit small swatches, painted them in stripes, unraveled the yarn, and reknit two colorways in Fair Isle patterns. The more I played with the technique, the more obsessed I became. At one point, I became so impatient to see the fruits of my play that I got out my hairdryer to dry the freshly dyed swatches faster. I convinced myself that if a blow dryer was good enough for my hair, it was good enough for sheep’s hair.

A gorgeous woven dyed silk scarf

I showed my finished machine knitted and dyed work at spinning, weaving and hand knitting retreats and conferences I attended. Folks wanted to learn more about what I was doing and I was asked to teach the method I had developed. However, if I was going to teach, I needed machines. That’s how I became a Silver Reed dealer and my business, Machine Knitting to Dye For, was born. I’d take basic LK-150 machines to my classes and hope that students would be intrigued enough by the dyeing technique or machine knitting—or both—and buy the machine at the end of the workshop.

It didn’t take long before I could see the infinite possibilities machine knitting, apart from my initial use as a mere tool for dyeing.   I was a convert and I became a missionary for machine knitting. Along my journey, I found machine knitting guilds. Teaching for those groups was a breeze: they already knew how to machine knit the “blanks” for dyeing and I didn’t need to “schlep” or ship machines to teach a class. As a side benefit of working with experienced machine knitters, I got to learn more about our shared craft.

Self-Striping Socks

Fair Isle socks with self-striping contrast color.

 For those initial classes, I needed to come up with a project that was accessible to the novice machine knitter and could be knitted and dyed in a one or two-day class. Self-striping socks were the rage, so I worked out an easy pattern for socks blanks that could be re-knit by hand or by machine. I employed “marker” rows to isolate areas for dyeing distinct color stripes. I had three variations of marker rows which had the byproduct of teaching novice machine knitters about some of the machine’s capabilities. The easiest way to create a marker row is to increase the stitch size/tension by several numbers. This works fine, unless your main tension is at the upper end of the dial. In that case, I recommend an every other needle tuck stitch row to mark the beginning or end of a painted stripe. My third method is to use a couple of rows of a contrast yarn without cutting the main yarn so that the main yarn remains a continuous strand when you ravel it later. For very distinct colored stripes where one stripe’s color doesn’t merge into the next, I knit more than two rows of the contrast yarn to create a wider dye barrier between the rows of main yarn.

Socks with distinct stripes created by knitting wider marker rows to keep the dyes separate.

Sock Blank Pattern

 Click here for a Sock Blank Pattern for fingering weight yarn (approx. 2000 yards/lb) on a standard gauge machine. I use an undyed sock yarn that’s 75% superwash wool and 25% nylon. The pattern includes marker rows to separate dye stripes and sections of the finished sock: foot, heel and instep, and cuff. Choose whichever method of marker rows you like: wider gauge, 1X1 tuck stitch or two or more rows of a contrast yarn. You can work the pattern from the top (foot) to bottom (cuff) or bottom to top, depending on which section you want to start with on your finished sock. In other words, if you want to start knitting the actual sock at the cuff, start the blank at the foot so that cuff section will be the ready to unravel.

Instructions for Dyeing Blanks

I have instructional booklets for dyeing sock and hat blanks available on my website. The booklets include complete step-by-step dyeing instructions with photos and a pattern for handknitting the self-striping socks or hats. They also include information on dye suppliers.

 

 

 

 

 

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!