Popcorns 101

Popcorns: 2-stitch at the bottom and 5-stitch at top.

I’ve had a long “love affair” with popcorns because, for me, that is where the whole concept of bridging began. Once I learned how to make a popcorn with a separate strand of yarn, I was on a quest to eliminate all the ends and strings across the back of the fabric. For the first installment of this popcorn series, I’ve produced a 7+ minute video that shows the basics of knitting popcorns because not everybody is an experienced knitter and the rest of us can always use a review.

We’ll  look at 2-stitch and 3-stitch popcorns and the bridged method for forming each. In the next episodes we’ll explore 3 and 5-stitch versions that require “borrowing needles” to produce perfectly round popcorns/bobbles and then some interesting variations that grew out of these methods.

For 2-stitch popcorns, which are the fastest and simplest to produce, I find that 5 rows produces the roundest shape. More than 5 rows tends to produce little tabs or loops – not popcorns. Keep in mind that when bridging, the first row of each popcorn is worked as part of the bridging from one popcorn to the next. In fact, the 5th and last row of one popcorn knits across the bridge to the next popcorn and knits the first row of that one. There will be no ends to deal with later on and no extra finishing.

All of the popcorn methods require you to provide tension on the stitches that are in working position because, as the rows build up, the stitches are apt to lift off the needles and drop. You can provide enough tension by pinching the base of the stitches with your fingers, poking a transfer tool through the fabric or hanging a narrow weight. I find that when I rely on finger tensioning, I am most prone to dropping the stitches off the needles as I work so I usually rely on a transfer tool or one of the modified weights I showed in the blog post, “Up-Cycled Claw Weights”, November 13,2017.

Popcorns worked with 40 rows create knitted-on ties.

In the example at left, two adjacent popcorns were knitted for 40 rows, creating large loops that make perfect knitted-on ties for a jacket or trim for a garment. There is a jacket pattern in More Hand-Manipulated Stitches that features these ties.

Machine knit popcorns sit on the surface of the fabric and when you tug the finished fabric lengthwise to align the stitches, it doesn’t affect the popcorns at all. You’ll need to use a tool or your fingers to tug each one into shape and, once done, they will retain their shape going forward.

Loopity Lou Hat Detail

I stumbled upon the 2-tool method that I show in the video for lifting the popcorns after years of poking around trying to find the first row of stitches. Popcorns fall into the category of Lifted Stitches and appear on pages 134-140 of Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters and also on pages 37-39 of More HMS. The pattern for the Loopity Lou Hat pictured in the detail photo at left is available as a free download on my web site and also appeared in More HMS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peek-A-Boo Purple Pullover

While I was working on Open Spaces: Machine Knit Eyelets, Ladders and Slits, I actually found a little time here and there to get some real knitting done. I fell in love with this effect when I was writing the chapter about slits and knitted all the pieces for this sweater (and half of another one!) at a knitting retreat I attended with members of the San Francisco Machine Knitting Guild in the early spring. I packed up my yarn, borrowed an LK-150 and spent two wonderful days knitting dawn to dusk , visiting with other knitters and discussing clothes, wine and everything under the sun while we worked. The weekend was perfect and complete with hummingbirds and delicious meals at the Sonoma Orchid Inn. I could get used to that life!

I’ve added a pattern for this sweater to the Free Stuff on my website. Be sure to use the link you were sent when you registered for the newsletter to bring you right to the downloads page – it is the only way to get there!

The pattern includes all the stitch and schematic charts and basic knitting directions. You can knit this fabric by using bridging and bridge bars, holding position to knit each side separately or intarsia to work both sides at the same time. Without re-writing the whole chapter on slits, I’ve tried to give enough direction to help you knit your own sweater. I recommend that you try a sample first to get used to the method and immodestly suggest that you check out the chapter on Slits if you need more guidance and specific information. You’ll discover lots more great ideas in all three chapters!

 

 

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.

The Very First HMS Video

I decided it would be fun for the first post on this new blog to start with a clip from the video that was produced to accompany the book, Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters back in 1990. I have to say that it is kind of strange seeing myself as a 30-something on the screen and then facing 60-something me in the mirror! Enjoy this younger version because the videos I have planned for future posts will certainly feature a more mature version of Susan!