Stitch Analysis

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

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

Click here Stitch Analysis for Charlene’s excellent info!

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.

 

Some New Russian You Tube Videos

Last week I got an email from a Russian machine knitter named Elena Luneva, asking if I would take a look at her You Tube videos and share them here on the blog. I think they are terrific! She has had the text translated into English on-screen titles and although I would love to have heard that rich Russian accent speaking English, the titles are probably easier for most of us to manage.

If you go to Elena’s You Tube page, make sure you click “Like” so that you are the first to know about any new classes she adds.

In the first class, Principles of Knitting Terry Cloth, Elena uses a ribber comb to work a hand-manipulated, purl-side looped fabric on a single bed.  

The following class, Knitted Baby Cap with PomPom from Terry Fabric, has patterns to use the looped fabric.

Her third class, The Principles of Formation of Elongated Loops, is about creating giant stitches and ideas for using them.My kind of fun!

Elena’s fourth class, Woven Insert,  features a truly unique way of weaving ladders right on the machine. I found this one particularly interesting because I am currently/still working on a chapter about ladders for TBTWNE (The Book That Will Not End) and can honestly say it never occurred to me to do what she does here. Truly innovative!

With all of the US/Russia controversy in the news these days, I really like the  fact that knitters all,  ultimately, speak the same language! Thanks for sharing, Elena!

Beautiful Student Work!

The transfers this sweater were made with a 2-prong tool to accommodate a less stretchy yarn. I love the wide stockinet cuff on the sleeves.

As a teacher, nothing makes me happier than seeing students explore and use the ideas and techniques I share on this blog. Mijung Jay took one of my classes at Vogue Knitting 3 or 4 years ago. However, the beginners’ class was full so she signed up for one of the other classes, content to learn whatever she could – even though she had never worked on a machine before!

In the few years since then, she has blossomed into a fearless knitter, willing to try anything new. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when she sent me these two photographs today. She was clearly inspired by the 3-D Nops and Eyelets that I explained in my blog post on 1/4/17  and went to town with it!

Work in progress! These transfers were made with a 3-prong tool as I described in my blog post on 1/4/17.

The blue sweater was worked as I described with 3 stitch transfers, but because the pink yarn had less stretch, she opted for a 2 stitch version instead. I especially like the way she used stockinet for the lower portion of the sleeves and the rolled stockinet neckline. Great work, Mijung!

Has anyone else tried this technique? Send along some photos to share with the rest of us!

3D Eyelets and Nops

I’m really excited to share this sweater pattern with you! It is one of the garments I have been working on as I sample and knit my way through the content for my fourth machine knitting book: Hand-Manipulated Stitches: Eyelets, Ladders and Slits (Exploring Open Spaces). I’m aiming for a release this spring, but life always gets in the way so I won’t make any guarantees quite yet. You’ll be among the first to know once I set a date! I hope the scale of this pattern gives you an idea what I am up to with this new book – the open spaces I am working with are contemporary and bold – not prissy grandma lace! (No offense intended to grandma or anyone who has a grandma. Heck – I AM a grandma!)

The full, detailed pattern for this green merino wool sweater is on my web site with all the other free downloads so I won’t include the chart or other particulars here on the blog. However, because the transfers I used for this stitch pattern are a little unusual, I thought the video would be helpful.

In the video I use a handy needle Magic Needle Selector Wand for the SK 860 (mid gauge – 6.5mm) from Knitting Any Way. They are available for machines with 6.5, 7 and 8 mm needle spacing and only cost $34. There used to be a great adjustable needle selector available for Passap with 5 mm spacing but I’m afraid I don’t know of one for Japanese standard (4.5mm) or bulky (9mm) spacing. If anyone out there does, please let me know! I’ve seen people make needle pushers out of heavy cardboard for special projects and I’m tempted to think this is something that could easily be 3-D printed…….

My pattern is written for a luscious merino wool from Silk City that I started out using right off the cone on the standard gauge machine and, although the swatch was gorgeous, I realized it would take forever to finish a whole sweater. So – I used the yarn doubled on the SK-860.It would be great for the LK-150 as well. You can adapt this stitch design to any yarn on any machine as long as you do a gauge swatch first. There is just no escaping those gauge swatches!

The transfers I used for this design are triple transfers where 3 stitches are transferred from the left and 3 from the right onto the same three center needles – each of those needles end up holding 3 stitches. The tension on the transferred stitches is what forces the “nops” to pop out on the knit side of the fabric. The eyelets are 3-stitch eyelets so the whole scale of this lace is way beyond more common lace stitches!

Because the stitch chart shows the repeats centered from zero on the bed, you can just repeat the transfers all the way to the edges of the fabric, which makes it pretty straightforward to keep track of the placement and easy to use this pattern on any number of stitches. Just remember that you need to make either a whole or an exact half transfer and may have a number of plain stitches at the edges for lack of a enough stitches for a repeat. You’ll see what I mean once you start to swatch and try the technique.

In order to keep track of this pattern so that the eyelets formed their neat little zig-zag in the background, I made a chart that listed row numbers and indicated which transfers to make when. I checked the chart every time I picked up my 3-prong transfer tool because it took a whole lot less time to do that than it would to rip out an entire row of incorrect transfers!

I hope you like this pattern and that I have whetted your appetite for the new book!