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.
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.