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.

 

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!

Streamlined Incs and Decs

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

The Every-Other-Needle Tool

The every-other-needle or EON tool is one of my favorites. In addition to transferring stitches for row after row of eyelets, you can also use it to knit baby basket weave – a twisted stitch pattern made up of lots of 1×1 crossed or twisted stitches. If you own a copy of Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters (HMS, which really doesn’t stand for Her Majesty’s Stitches even tho I may have said differently from time to time….) there is a discussion of baby basket weave that starts on page 93.

EON eyelet grid
EON eyelet grid

To knit an all-over eyelet pattern like the one at left, you could transfer all the alternate stitches individually, but it would take a very, very long time to complete a sweater. With the EON tool, you can transfer 8 stitches at a time and the work goes fairly fast (in terms of hand manipulations). One thing to keep in mind for an all-over grid like this, you should transfer alternate sets of stitches each time. Otherwise, if you always transfer the same set of stitches, the eyelets will form in columns.

The way I keep track of which set of stitches to use is pretty simple. I choose the first needle on the right of zero the first time – and all the alternate needles – and I transfer those stitches to the adjacent needles at right. After knitting two rows, I make sure the next selection in includes the first needle at the left of zero and I transfer those stitches to the left. If you lose track, you should be able to tell what you did last by looking at the way the stitches slant.

Apart from looking neat and even, alternating the direction of the transfers will guard against the fabric biasing, as it might if all the transfers were made the same way. Why chance it?

Alternating needles and the direction of the twists creates a woven effect
Alternating needles and the direction of the twists creates a woven effect

I use the same system of selecting needles to knit baby basket weave. The stitches are twisted (or, in this case, shifted) every two rows and the direction of the twists and the needles selected alternates each time. By choosing alternate needles/stitches each time, it effectively takes care of the “splitting pairs” needed to create woven and braided cable effects. Splitting pairs, coupled with alternating the direction of the crossing/twisting is what gives this fabric the woven effect. The same two rules also apply when crossing cables of any width: splitting pairs and alternating the direction of the crosses will create woven or braided effects.

If stitches 1 and 2 cross 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 cross 7 and 8 the first time, the next time you cross cables, 3 and 4 will cross 5 and 6. That is what is meant by splitting pairs. And, in this example, stitches 1-2 and 7-8 would not be used at all in the second row of crosses.

babybasketgridBecause so many adjacent stitches are crossing, you must enlarge the stitch size by at least one full number from where the yarn usually knits a comfortable stockinette. Otherwise, the stitches will be very tight and difficult to cross (i.e. dropped and broken stitches) and the fabric will have even less give than it does – which isn’t a lot. This is a very firm, stable fabric.

EON tools for 6.5mm and 9mm machines are available at www.guagliumi.com. For standard gauge machines, you can use an adjustable 7-prong tool. If you own a Passap or Superba, Passap used to make an adjustable (5 mm) transfer tool that is well worth having if you can find one. You can pull the prongs out of the holder and re-set them in whatever order you want. Do I ever wish those were available in all gauges!

 

(By the way – I really DO plan to post more often than I have been doing lately, but I have been busier than I can describe getting ready to teach a very special class in Denver next month……)