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!

Yoke Sweaters

I’ve had a number of requests lately for a pattern for yoked sweaters. They were huge back in the 80’s and maybe they are coming back! Joyce Schneider wrote a couple of excellent pattern books for standard and chunky gauge machines back then and if you see a used copy of one of those, I’d suggest you grab it!

Just be aware that sweaters in the 70’s and 80’s were closer fitting with less ease so you might want to knit a size larger. Check the schematics for the finished measurements.

When I got the first request earlier this year, I dug through my old files and found this pattern Yokeswtr.  I think I wrote it when I worked for Singer. I know it was a long time ago judging by (1) the way I wrote the pattern (too many words!), (2) the fact that it doesn’t include a mid-gauge version (always my preference) and (3) Heirloom yarn has not been available for decades and, most notably, (4) I had to cross out an old address and phone number on the top! Have not lived in Cheshire for a long time now!

I have to apologize for the fact that the stitch pattern is not with the knitting directions, but any small, repeating patterns will work for a yoke. If you opt for a larger pattern, make sure it will fit the width of the yoke and not suffer by the decreases.

Heirloom 2/8 wool is no longer available, but JaggerSpun Main Line 2/8 would be a perfect substitute and the colors are gorgeous. There are probably some acrylics of equal size, but I seldom use acrylics and have no idea which ones. I suggest contacting Charlene Shafer at The Knit Knack Shop because if anyone knows, Charlene will! She may also have a yoke pattern book of her own or some of the old Joyce Schneider books available.

For a few minutes I toyed with the idea of re-writing the pattern and then I came to my senses and decided that what most people need is the method, rather than a specific pattern. I hope this is helpful information for you to have……it helped me on my quest to clean out the file cabinet and keep this stuff in circulation! Have a joyous Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza or whatever you decide to celebrate this year. I might celebrate them all – including Festivus! I’m already hoping for a happy, healthy and safe New Year in 2018.

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.

Chinese Knots

Chinese Knot Stitch

Chinese Knot Stitch is still one of my favorite stitches. It was one of the first hand-manipulated stitches (HMS) that I developed and it represents a fusion of my years as a hand weaver and my introduction to the knitting machine. It is shown in black and white on page 110 of Hand-Manipulated Stitches and in color on page 25 of More HMS. There are also stitch charts in those texts.

Much like cables, the stitches change places, but in this case they weave through each other, rather than crossing. As you can see in the first video (above), I pair a 2-prong transfer tool with a latch tool, rather than using two 2-prong tools.

The two right-most stitches are removed on the transfer tool and then the latch tool weaves through them, over and under, to catch the stitch on the third needle. That stitch is released from its needle and pulled through the other two. Then it is placed on the first needle at the right.

Next, weave the latch tool through the two stitches again, but go over (or in front of) the stitch you passed behind the last time and then pull the 4th stitch through and placer it on the second needle.

Finally, return the two stitches from the transfer tool to the remaining two empty needles at left.

Depending on the yarn and the stitch size, you might be able to pull all of this off without having to change the size of the stitches. My experience has been that when the stitches are too small, the effect is more of an ugly little knot on the surface of the fabric, rather than a decorative knot, which is what we are after.

In the video, I enlarged the stitches by knitting them all the way back to the rail, which might be a bit of over-kill. Chances are you could just enlarge them a bit by increasing the stitch size on the carriage (see video below – a real Blast from the Past! -to do this) or by manually knitting the needles half way back to the rail. You will need to experiment on your swatch.

If, however, you only knit needles part way back to the rail, you need to push them out to holding position (HP) before moving the carriage so that their butts do not knock/jam the carriage. When needles are knitted back flush to the rail, make sure they do not inch forward and, if they do, just push them to HP.

Theoretically, non-working position (NWP) can also be used as a holding position, but it will depend on your machine, the yarn, whether you knit them back carefully, the weather, your height and weight and your political beliefs. In short – there are no guarantees so go slowly!

Over the next few months, I plan to do many blogs highlighting the stitches and techniques from all of my books and many (if not most) of them rely on the use of Bridging. It is my Go-To technique. This new video demonstrates how Bridging is used to manually enlarge stitches, while the video below, which was released to promote my first book, focuses mainly on Bridging with the stitch dial to affect stitch size.

Bridging is essential to much of what I do on the machine so as I share various techniques with you in future blogs, return to these videos for clarification when I do not specifically call out the Bridging steps involved in those techniques.

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!

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.