Racked Drop Stitch

All double bed machines – including flat beds with a ribber bed (RB) – are capable of racking. There is a lever or knob on the end of the front/ribber bed that is used to move the RB left or right by a specific number of positions. Your manual may refer to a “swing lever” or a “racking lever” – they are the same thing.

Although there are some racking stitches done with the beds in full pitch (P), most of the more elaborate patterns are done with the beds in half pitch (HP). As the ribber beds shifts position, it must do so in either P or HP as established at the first row.

Some machines retain the relative pitch of the beds with a single click of the racking lever/knob. Other machines – like the Silver Reed SR860 I use in this video – require two clicks to maintain pitch because each click is really only a half position, moving the bed to P, HP, P, HP, etc.

On most Silver Reed machines, the ribber bed is able to move 8 positions left or right and other machines are probably about the same. It is important to begin your work with the bed in the correct position so that you can move the required number of positions/clicks to knit your pattern. For example, if you need to move the bed four times to the right and then four times to the left, make sure you begin with the indicator right in the middle – not at either end.

You can rack all-over stitches like English rib, which gives the fabric an interesting sort of zigzag texture or you can bring selective needles to work at intervals across the ribber bed to create traveling knit stitches on a purl background. The possibilities are endless.

As the ribber bed moves one position every row or two, after a number of moves its needles are likely to have moved beyond the edges of the main bed knitting. In that case, you need to transfer stitches from the RB to the MB and create new stitches at the opposite end of the RB by bringing needles into working position. You can do this by simply bringing empty needles to working position so they cast on ad begin knitting or you can pick up the purl bar of an opposite stitch for a cleaner beginning.

With racked drop stitch, like all drop stitch knitting, you must begin with all the stitches on the main bed. Then, bring specific needles to working position on the RB and begin knitting and racking. As the RB needles are shifted beyond the edges of the main knitting, you can simply drop the stitches from those needles and put the empty needles in non-working position. At the opposite end of the bed, just bring empty needles into work to begin knitting.

Periodically, just separate the two carriages and run the RB carriage across the bed alone to drop the stitches from the RB needles. Remember, they can only run to the point where they were cast on and you began your work with all of the stitches on the MB. Those RB stitches were just an add-on.

Racked drop stitch form lacy and open designs on a solid stockinet background. Textured yarns tend to retain the open effects better than smooth ones, where the stitches are likely to “melt” into adjacent stitches.

Drive Lace is a slightly different drop stitch application. The work begins with all the stitches on the RB so that the punch card or electronics can select needles on the main bed. Then, with the aid of a handy little P-Carriage you drop the MB stitches, which creates larger, more elaborate open stitch designs. Because of the punch cards or electronics, the patterns are usually more varied than those worked with regular drop stitch.

When moved across the MB from right to left, the P-carriage pushes the needles forward from working position so that the stitches slide behind the latches of the needles. Then, when it slides back from left to right, the needles are returned to working position and the stitches drop. Pretty slick little gizmo!

If you do an internet search you might find directions for converting a P-carriage to work on a Brother bed. However, please be careful because you can damage your machine or, at the very least, sacrifice some needles if the conversion isn’t done right.

Beyond drop stitch and Drive Lace, I use my P-carriages more for working with sticky yarns or when I have several stitches on the needles, but I only use it from right to left to bring the needles forward so they knit more easily. More about that next time!

Double Bed Drop Stitch

Drop Stitch

I’ve been busy these last few weeks. Spring has finally arrived here in CT, our new puppy, Arlo, keeps us on constant watch and I’ve been traveling for a couple of seminars. Had a great time with the guild in Minneapolis last month and the Knit Knack Shop this past weekend. Looking forward to the Knitting Cottage in PA in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, there will be an organizational meeting for the formation of a guild here in the northeast on April 22nd and I am teaching a beginners’ sweater class the weekend of May 20-21. There was more info in my newsletter, but if you didn’t get a copy, just email me and I will provide full details.

From my earliest days, working on Passap and Superba, I came to love drop stitch because it opens up an entirely different set of stitches and possibilities on any double bed machine.

First of all, you need to wrap your mind around the idea that a stitch can only drop to the point where it was cast on. I think many of us have been blithely knitting away on a double bed set up when we realize our sleeve caught an extra needle and nudged it into working position. When you drop that extra stitch off its needle, it only runs back to the point where it was caught up and began knitting. And when the stitches that it formed are released, they create larger stitches in the fabric. That is the basis for drop stitch.

In the video that accompanies this posting, I have begun by showing that extra stitch starting to knit and then tried to extend the concept to some basic variations.

First of all, you need to make sure that the needle arrangements and/or bed alignment will not place working needles directly across from each other. You either need to work with a 1×1 needle arrangement (for example) or the beds must be in half pitch.

Secondly, stitch size is really important. If the stitch size is too large, the carriage will be harder to push; if too small you may not be able to knit required rows on just the main bed. In short, experiment and try several variations before you settle on the final stitch sizes for both beds. I usually find that the stitch size on the ribber bed is much smaller (maybe half) of the stitch size I use on the main bed.

Depending on the effect you are trying to achieve, you will find that some yarns are more suitable than others because they retain the open structure, while others seem to allow the openness to spread to adjacent stitches and melt into the background. Obviously, highly textured yarns like mohair will be more apt to retain an open fabric while slippery rayon or smooth cottons will not. That might be a factor if you are trying to create a pattern of open blocks contrasting with solid knit, but wouldn’t matter if you were working row after row of enlarged stitches or Condo Stitch. Again, experiment and play a bit before committing to a whole project.

The yarn also affects how often you should release the ribber stitches from their needles. I never wait until the end of a project to drop all the stitches. Instead, I usually move the ribber carriage (alone) across the bed at regular intervals – every 10 or 20 rows – and give a tug on the fabric to make sure everything releases cleanly. It also provides an opportunity to separate the beds and check things out.

Silver Reed ribber manuals have directions for “Drive Lace” which is a patterned version of drop stitch with the main knitting on the ribber bed and the main bed (MB) used to select needles by punch card or electronics. In that case, the MB needles are released with a special little carriage, which, in the interest of time and space, I will show you in another post.

In this video, I brought groups of 5 needles on the ribber bed into work for a number of rows and then released the stitches from their needles to form squarish open areas in the fabric. However, if you began with 1 needle and then every two rows added one on each side of it; then dropped one at each side until back to a single stitch, you could easily create diamonds.

The carriages were much easier to push across the beds when I brought every-other-needle (EON) to work on the ribber bed than they were with full needle rib (FNR), but in the final fabric it is hard to tell one needle arrangement from the other because of the way the excess length is absorbed into the main bed stitches. You could also allow just every 10th (for ex) needle to knit for a vertical pattern. The possibilities are endless.

Purl side of Condo Stitch

The needle arrangement for condo stitch is FNR, but the ribber carriage knits in one direction and slips in the other, which means that the main bed stitch size must be suitable for stockinet, every other row-or slightly smaller than stockinet. I especially like the way this fabric looks on the purl side where you can plainly see huge rows alternating with much smaller rows. In hand knitting, this is accomplished by using two mismatched needles that differ greatly in size.

Apart from the decorative uses for drop stitch, it is great for producing rows (or groups) of huge stitches for various hand-manipulated stitches that require larger stitches than the carriage alone can produce. It is also the best way I know to knit stitches large enough for a loose, non-binding bind off!

I hope the video gets you thinking about drop stitch and that you have some fun playing with the possibilities. Next time, we’ll take a look at racked drop stitch.

 

Transferring Stitches from Bed to Bed

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

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

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

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

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

“Jaws”

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Perfect Ribber Cast On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ribber 101

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Hand Sewn Bind Off for 2 x 2 Rib

A few weeks ago (5/16/16) I posted a blog about a hand sewn bind off for 1 x 1 ribbing and figured I would follow up with the 2 x 2 version while it is all fresh in my mind! Most of the 1 x 1 information is relevant to the 2 x 2 bind off as well so you might want to re-read the earlier blog before you try the 2 x 2 method.

Key to this bind off is a very specific way of scrapping off all the rib stitches. This bind off is suitable for ribs worked by latching up or with a ribber.

Transfer all the ribber stitches to the main bed. Set the carriage for slip. On my Silver Reed 860 I just switch the cam lever to Slip and put the side levers back so the carriage will slip all needles in working position. I set both of the Russel Levers on (II) so that they knit needles that are in holding position.

Bring all of the ribber stitches (the knit stitches as they face you) to holding position and knit 1 row with ravel cord. The needles in HP should have knitted and those in WP slipped. Now set the cam lever to stockinette and knit 1 row across all the needles. Change to waste yarn and knit about 10 rows and then drop the work from the machine.

Press the waste knitting (NOT the ribs) so it does not curl and then fold it back so the stitches present themselves in two neat and distinct rows. The stitches in each row will be paired with a two stitch gap between each pair – the gap is accounted for by the pairs of stitches in the opposite row.

The important thing to remember here is that each stitch is worked twice. You always insert the needle into a previously worked stitch and out through a new stitch, regardless of which row of stitches you are working on. So, in the old and out the new is the rule.

In addition, when working on the lower row of stitches (left in my video), the needle always enters up through an old stitch (left to right) and down through a new one (right to left).

When working the upper row of stitches (right in the video), the needle always enters down through the old stitch and up through the new one. In the video the needles enters the old stitch from right to left and up through the new stitch from left to right.

The yarn passes over the edge as you alternate from side to side and sometimes the two stitches are immediately adjacent to each other; other times they are further apart. In either case, only tug the yarn enough to prevent any loose loops, but not so tightly that it binds the edge and prevents it from stretching.

As with the 1 x 1 bind off, this edge almost exactly matches the circular cast on edge and is a goods place to thread through some elastic to remind cotton or linen edges where to return to. The elastic won’t correct a bad rib, but it will act as a memory for a good one so that it always contracts nicely.

I always shape my necklines with short rows and retain as many live stitches as I possibly can. Then I join one shoulder seam, rehang the entire neck edge and knit my ribs. I end with the ravel cord and waste knitting I described earlier and then I drop the work from the machine. I usually join the second shoulder before I work the hand sewn bind off because I can work the bind off continuously across the seam to disguise its beginning or end.

These hand sewn bind offs are well worth the effort because they look better and they stretch and return to shape better than any other method I have tried.

 

Hand Sewn Bind Off for 1 X 1 Rib: The Gourmet Bind Off!

IMG_0087
This hand sewn bind off is my method of choice for binding off 1 x 1 ribbing. It exactly matches the circular cast on edge, holds its shape and never binds. What’s not to like?

Hand knitters often struggle with this method for binding off because they usually work it directly off their hand knitting needles. When worked off properly knitted scrap knitting, it couldn’t be easier to do. In fact, even when I hand knit a ribbed neckband, I transfer the stitches from the hand needles to the machine and scrap off as I will describe below. It makes all the difference.

First of all, the stitches need to present as two separate rows of stitches that you can think of as upper and lower rows. This is the factor that makes it easier to see what you are doing and enables you to distinguish which stitch to work and how. The work is scrapped off in a way that creates those two visual rows for you.

This bind off is worked the same for latched up ribbing as it is for double bed ribs. Let’s assume you have worked your ribbing on a double bed machine. End with the carriage on the right. Transfer all the ribber stitches to the main bed, pulling each needle out to Holding Position (HP) as you deposit the stitches. Cut the yarn, leaving a tail about 3 times the width of the knitting. Drop the ribber bed out of the way and, if necessary, switch to the single bed arm/sinker plate.

Set the carriage to Slip all needles in Working Position (WP) and to knit needles back from HP. The stitch size should be set for stockinette. You can use ravel cord for the first two rows or, for practice, just knit with waste yarn that contrasts well with the rib. Knit 1 row. The needles in WP should have slipped; the needles in HP should have knitted. For the example in the video, I knitted a second row with ravel cord and then switched to waste yarn.

Set the carriage to knit in both directions. Knit 8-10 rows of waste, cut the yarn and then drop the work from the machine. I usually press the waste yarn (not the rib) to assure that it lies flat and is less likely to ravel.

Please refer to the video included in this post for the visuals to accompany these directions. The numbers below also appear in the video as I work each step. Thread the main yarn tail through a blunt yarn needle and hold the work as shown in the video, beginning on the right edge. You should be able to clearly distinguish between an upper and a lower row of stitches held by the pink ravel cord. For most of the video, I held the fabric flat to avoid confusion, but it is actually easier to work the stitches with the waste knitting folded back – the two rows of stitches pop right up. Make sure you stitch through the actual stitches – not the ravel cord stitches.

1. Insert the needle down through the first stitch in the top row and then down through the first stitch in the bottom row. Pull the yarn through the stitches, pulling just snuggly enough to eliminate any excess length, but do not tighten the stitches.

2. Insert the needle back down through the first (upper) stitch and then up through the next upper stitch (down and up). Pull the yarn through the stitches just enough to eliminate excess length – not too snuggly. [The same goes for all following stitching whether or not I keep saying it].

3. Now, insert the needle up through the bottom row stitch you worked before and down through the next bottom row stitch (up and then down). It is important to notice how the yarn passed over the work when I switched from working the upper row to the lower row. That is actually what forms the edge itself.

4. Pass the yarn over the work and insert the needle down through the last stitch you worked on the upper row and then up through a new stitch (down and then up).

Each stitch is worked – twice – first as the second (new) stitch in each sequence and then as the “old stitch” in the next sequence. This is essential. Also, notice that whenever you work the upper row of stitches, the needle always enters down the old stitch and up through the new stitch. When working the lower row of stitches, the needle passes up through the old stitch and down through the new one. So, the upper row of stitches end with an “up” stitches and the lower row ends with a “down” stitch. This alternation, to, is essential.

5. This is the next bottom row sequence so the needle works up and then down. Continue to alternately work a pair (1 old and 1 new) of upper row stitches with a pair of lower row stitches until you reach the left edge of the fabric. You might be able to work both stitches with a single needle motion or it might be necessary to fully insert the needle through the first stitch and then through the second. It usually depends on the size of the stitches.

6. When you reach the left edge, work the last upper row stitch and then insert the needle up through the last lower row stitch and down through the last upper row stitch to end.

Pull out the ravel cord – or ravel the rows of waste knitting and behold your perfect edge! I usually run a thin knitting needle or blocking wire through the edge and give a strong tug to help set the stitches. You could also thread a yarn needle with some ravel cord, thread it through then pull against it to set the stitches. You will notice that the bind off tends to roll to one side, the side that faced you as you worked. Therefore, it is a good idea to always work with the wrong side of the sweater facing you.

This bind off can be worked from left to right just as easily if you are left handed or your yarn ended on the left side to begin with. For neckbands, I usually join one shoulder seam, work the entire neckband, scrapping it off as I described above and then I join the second shoulder seam. When I work the bind off, I try to make the ending stitches as blend as smoothly as possible with the beginning stitches so the edge is continuous and smooth.

This method – and lots of other great techniques are shown with excellent illustrations in The Guide to Knitting Techniques, a paperback book from Silver Reed that is still available. The book sells for $36 and you can purchase it from The Knit Knack Shop.

This book was originally one of a hard-bound set. The other book deals with specific knitting directions for the garment patterns that came with the charting attachment that used to be built into the machines (or available as an accessory). I don’t think the garment book has been available for a very long time and, although the knitting directions might be helpful for a novice, they are very specific to the old patterns – which have very little ease and even less style. If you happen upon an inexpensive copy, don’t pass it up, but don’t pay a lot of money for it either!

 

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Backstitched Bind Off

I love using a backstitched bind off to finish sweaters for children because it allows the neckline to stretch easily over their heads and then the edge returns to shape. This is important because I almost always knit my neckline ribs by picking up the short-rowed neckline and then work the rib from there. This means that the bind off needs to be especially stretchy and this method is much easier to control than any of the other bind offs you could choose. I use this for adult sweaters too – but especially for kids.

The backstitched bind off allows the fabric to stretch - and then return to shape.
The backstitched bind off allows the fabric to stretch – and then return to shape.

To make sure the edge is kid-friendly, I follow the ribbing with 8-10 rows of stockinette (usually 1 stitch size smaller than regular stockinette), leaving a tail about 2-3 times the width of the piece to use for the backstitched bind off. The stockinette rolls and hides the bind off completely.The fabric will roll towards the machine so work this edge with the wrong side of the garment facing you.

The backstitched bind off looks a lot like an e-wrap cast on so you might want to pair the two in a garment. You could also start the lower edge on waste and go back later to work the rib and rolled stockinette. Check out the two series of children’s sweaters that I did for Family Circle Easy Knitting to see how these edges look in a garment. All of those patterns are now available as free downloads on my web site, www.guagliumi.com.

You can work this bind off directly from the needles, in hold or working position, or you can scrap off and work it later if you prefer. Pull the yarn through each stitch just enough to eliminate any sloppy loops – no tighter and you won’t have any problems controlling the stretchiness.

Remember that each stitch is worked twice – first from back to front and lastly from front to back.

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