Archive for the “machine knitting” Category

Inspired by Sockmatician's Sanquhar Scarf, but unwilling to do that much double-knitting with sock yarn, I decided to design something similar to knit on the machine. I began by using Excel as graph paper to fill in squares, which is probably not how its developers ever imagined a spreadsheet application would be used, but it works!

Then Michael helped by writing a magic spell - er, I mean, a program - that would convert the Excel spreadsheet to a bitmap, with one pixel per cell. I loaded that bitmap into the knitting machine software, transferred the pattern to the machine, and 700 or so rows later, voila! a scarf! (At least, in theory. I may have messed it up a few times and had to start over.)

The Sanquhar scarf in progress, with the wrong side showing.

I'm including my initials into the "cuff," as was traditional for mittens. I'll put them on the other end of the scarf too!

The Sanquhar scarf in progress, showing the front side.

With machine knitting, it's often easier to begin again than to try to correct errors:

Behind the knitting machine, two re-raveled balls of yarn sit and wait for another attempt.

I finished the first side of the scarf and 5/7ths of the second side, which has the colours reversed in order to mimic the double knitting look, and... ran out of yarn. So I've ordered more, and as soon as it arrives, I can finish the last 200 or so rows and then seam the two sides together. The floats will then be safely sandwiched between layers so they can't snag on anything, and the finished scarf should be thick and squishy and warm! And because it's knit from sock yarn, it will also be machine-washable.

Comments No Comments »

"So where do you keep your knitting machine?"

Well, there's this adorable little nook in the loft, between the stairs and the sliding door that leads out to the terrace. It's just big enough for the machine on its table, two bookcases, and me. This picture is from when Puppies was still in progress:

A small nook with a knitting machine, two bookcases, and a sliding glass door covered by a curtain. A stairwell is visible to the left. There is a half-wall between the stairs and the back of the knitting machine's table.

Here's a shot from a slightly different angle so you can see where the stairs are in relation to everything else. I only have the round table next to the machine because I was using the extension rails, and wanted to make sure no one accidentally walked into the one that's sticking out. It's hard to see in dim light, and the switches are on the wall next to the sliding door. Usually the table lives under the light switches, though.

A view of the knitting machine corner that shows the stairs, the half-wall behind the knitting machine table, two bookcases against the wall, and a sliding glass door covered by a curtain.

Having the shelves right next to me while I work is perfect, as I have a spot to keep all the little bits and pieces that accumulate with machine knitting: weights, transfer tools, cones of waste yarn, and so on. Plus there's room for the machine boxes and ribber across the top of the bookcases.

The table is actually a four-foot workbench that I got on sale for under $200. I love how sturdy it is! It doesn't wiggle back and forth at all while I'm knitting. On the other hand, it does take two people to move the table or adjust its height... but that seems like a small issue now that Michael's living here too.

So I guess the real question is: now that Puppies is done, what should my next machine-knitting project be? I have a dozen ideas, of course, but nothing's fully fleshed out yet. Socks? In the round, or flat? Armwarmers? Learning double bed jacquard? A shawl? More colourwork design? A sweater?!

And, of course, with what yarn?

Comments No Comments »

I've wanted to knit Puppies since I got the knitting machine. Last year I bought four cones of laceweight yarn for it, and promised myself that I wouldn't buy any more yarn until I'd knit the thing. So... I knit the thing.

First, I made a swatch and attempted to felt it (not entirely, just a little bit) in the washing machine. I have a front-loader, which makes it a little more tricky, but it seemed to work just fine! There's still some stitch definition, but all the floats are stuck down, which is exactly what I was trying to achieve.

A swatch of the Puppies pattern in purple-gray and white. It looks like damask wallpaper.

And then I got started knitting it on the machine.

The Puppies wrap in progress, hanging from a flatbed knitting machine, with weights hooked into the fabric. The purl side of the fabric is showing.

The wrap is knitted in three sections - first the two outside strips, and then the centre strip connects them as it's knit up. I knit strip one, and then failed to properly upload strip three to the machine... so I knit strip one twice. (Sigh.) After some time and troubleshooting, I figured it out, and knit strip three, followed by the centre piece. Each of the sides took just under an hour, including the time to upload the pattern into the machine... and the centre took more like four or five hours, because of having to hook the sides up as I went. Michael helped me arrange the side strips so that I wouldn't be hooking them up backwards or upside-down or anything silly like that - I am awful at the mental gymnastics of rotating pieces around in my head to get them aligned properly!

The two outer strips of the Puppies wrap with a yardstick for scale. They are much longer than the yardstick.

All three strips of the Puppies wrap, together and laid out on the floor. It is more than a yard wide and probable about two yards long.

Here's a closeup of a "puppy" (I think it looks more like a horse, but hey) with the fabric folded over to show the floats as well:

The Puppies wrap folded over at the bottom so that the front and back sides are visible in the same picture.

And then, with much trepidation, I tossed it into the washing machine. For the most part it fulled nicely... but there are some places that look a little holey, and I'm worried about those. I might try to spot-felt them, as well as the parts of the seam that just didn't quite felt enough. That'll be done by hand in a basin, rather than in the washing machine again.

The Puppies wrap, felted and laid out to dry on towels. It's now slightly less than a yard wide.

A closeup of one of the holes in the wrap. It's not very big, but it is obvious..

Here you can see that part of the seam felted together just fine (circled in green) but part of it really didn't (circled in orange):

Properly and improperly felted areas of the seam connecting two of the strips of knitting.

I'm not super-happy with the results of this project, but it was definitely a Learning Experience with capital letters! I've gotten a bunch of advice on how I can better felt the thing next time, if there is a next time, including a method to keep the edges from rolling up and sticking to each other in the wash (ugh, I had to unroll/unstick them all, and bent back a fingernail in the process) and how to keep the edges from ruffling. I have a bit of the yarn left... which I might use held doubled to make some colourwork armwarmers. We shall see!

Comments No Comments »

With my scrappy leftovers hat finished, the only other project I have on the needles is a sock which is just slightly too complicated for knit night and football games. So, I thought to myself, what should I knit? Then my sworn-sister made a Sockhead Slouch Hat... and there it was. My next hat. A stockinette slouchy hat in sock yarn will take approximately zero mental effort and approximately forever to finish - what could be more perfect for knit nights?

The bare beginnings of a hat on 16" circular needles, with an entire ball of multi-coloured sock yarn above it, sit on a teal desktop.

I have two balls of Trekking XXL in this rainbow colourway, but despite being the same dye lot, they look totally different. This one seems to be mostly marled; the other has the colours in each ply matching up more closely. This would have driven me crazy for socks, but for a hat I'll just use one ball of yarn and it won't matter at all!

The Trekking is finer than the "standard" sock yarn called for in the pattern, so I'm using size 2 (2.75mm) instead of 2.5 (3.00mm) needles, and I've cast on for the 152 stitch size based on my gauge math (8 stitches per inch x 21.5 inches around my head x 0.9 for snugness = 154.8) - I'm told the hat is stretchy and large, but at worst if it's too big for me then it becomes someone else's hat.

There's a matching cowl pattern for the hat, which I plan to knit on the machine using the more solid variant of the yarn. It will be a good excuse use of the ribber, with which I haven't yet fully acquainted myself. The machine can either knit ribbing or in the round, but since the cowl has only a bit of ribbing at the top and bottom, it won't take much to seam that up the side. And I won't mind if the hat and cowl aren't exactly matching in their stripes or colour progression, either.

Comments 1 Comment »

Northern Virginia is starting to open up again, and I guess that means I might have to leave the house... so out came the sewing machine, and I made a couple of masks for Michael and me. The fabric is leftovers from the curtains we made when we first bought the house! I used this tutorial and found it pretty easy to follow. First I made Michael's mask, then adjusted the pattern to better fit my face, and made one for myself.

Pirate models a mask sewn from a cute flowery fabric.

The mask would fit even better with a nose wire, so I went in search of pipe cleaners in my big box of art supplies. I didn't find any, but I did find this vintage knitting nancy in a bag of mixed threads, along with a small booklet on how to knit. It suggests holding the right needle as one would hold a pencil, which seems very awkward to me - I wonder how many people failed to learn from these instructions!

A vintage white cord-knitting device with six small nails on top and a bit of cord emerging from the bottom sits next to vintage "how to knit" instructions.

And... grandma has received her long-distance surprise hug! It fits her perfectly (I mean, it's a blanket/wrap, of course it does, but still--)

Pirate's grandma models her new teal and brown wrap.

Comments Comments Off on In Which the Pirate Finds Something Old.

It came up in conversation with my mom that my grandma is cold all the time. So I decided to crank out a wrap on the machine, using yarn that I already had in my stash, and send her a surprise bit of warmth in the mail. The first attempt was less than successful, but the second attempt worked out just fine!

A teal and brown knit wrap displayed on a purple bedspread.

For this wrap, I used Loops & Threads Impeccable in the "Tropical Storm" colourway (originally purchased to crochet a blanket, but... no). I cast on 110 stitches, which is the full width of the machine, and knit for about 400 rows, putting a hem at the top and bottom. For the sides, to try to prevent curling, I did a three-stitch bias border - moving stitches 2, 3, and 4 out to needles 1, 2, and 3, and then picking up a stitch for the now-empty needle 4. It helped, but not really enough. I think for something this wide, a more significant border might be required. Ultimately I crocheted it down with slip stitches to make kind of a rolled hem up the sides, and I think that looks rather nice. It doesn't completely eliminate the curl, but it helps.

Closeup of the detail of the edge seam of a teal and brown knit wrap.

I have a bunch of this yarn in my stash, but it seemed like none of it was the same dye lot, so I didn't bother trying to match up the colour progressions. Some of the plances where I changed skeins are kind of jarring to the way the argyle was playing out, but I think it will be just fine. I'm going to fold this up as small as possible, wedge it into a flat rate box, and mail it off. Hopefully this will help Grandma stay warm - at the very least, I'm sure she'll think of it like wearing a hug from me. :)

A teal and brown knit wrap draped artfully on an oversized, overstuffed chair.

Comments Comments Off on In Which the Pirate Wraps It Up.

Before last week's vacation, I decided that I wanted to make a new scarf on the machine (since there was no way I was going to get new mittens finished in time) using Loops & Threads "Woolike" yarn from Michaels that I bought as practice yarn for the machine. It's a light fingering weight, mostly acrylic yarn with a soft feel to it, and it's quite inexpensive - $2.99 for 678 yards, but with the ubiquitous 40% off coupons, it comes out to $1.80 a ball.

First, I spent some time using Excel as graph paper (tedious, but sometimes I have a lot of down time at work) charting out the design for the border and main body of the scarf. This is what I came up with, though it got tweaked a little before I started - partly to adjust the stitch count for the width of scarf I wanted, and partly because it's more convenient to have even numbers of solid-coloured rows to avoid breaking the contrast colour yarn.

A screen capture of a fair isle knitting chart, done in Excel

Then, I had to figure out how to get this chart into Designaknit, which isn't exactly the most intuitive or user-friendly program. With that accomplished, I then figured out how to load the pattern into the machine, and began to knit.

It wasn't long before things went sideways. I didn't quite get the contrast yarn into the carriage properly, and dropped a whole bunch of stitches as a result. After some time trying to rescue the piece, I decided that it would be easier to just start over... so I did.

The end of the scarf, with solid blue lines separating a small snowflake border from the main body snowflake pattern.

The second attempt went a lot better. Not that I didn't make mistakes! The major one was that I forgot to keep an eye on my yarn supply as it fed up through the mast, and at one point a big chunk of yarn barf got hung up in the tensioner and I produced one super-tight row. I successfully unraveled it and then didn't get the machine set properly, so my next row was the wrong one in the pattern... which I didn't realize for another ten rows.

It takes 2.5 minutes to knit a 28 row pattern repeat across 150 needles. It takes an hour to unravel ten rows of colourwork.

Anyway, that was the worst of it, and I made the rest of the scarf with little further problem. I brought it on vacation with me, optimistically thinking that the seaming wouldn't take the whole week... but it did, and I sewed the last bit of it up on the morning that we left for home. For the seaming, I used a small crochet hook to line up the motifs on each side, and then made an attempt at doing mattress stitch.

Seaming the long side of the scarf

As a test piece goes, I'm quite happy with this scarf. I've worn it twice now, and it's incredibly squishy, soft, and comfortable - and warm! I have no idea how well the yarn will wear or how quickly it will get fuzzy and pulled, but since it took a few evenings to make and under $6 in cost, I don't mind if it does. My seaming skills could certainly use some improvement, and I already know how I would change the design and making-up for the next time... because there will definitely be a next time!

A long scarf with traditional snowflake motifs in navy blue and gray colours.

Comments Comments Off on In Which the Pirate Makes a Scarf.

After the complete failure in every way of my attempt at tuck lace, I decided to go back to fair isle and make... something. A wrap? a scarf? A very large swatch? Whatever. I picked out some of the coned cotton that Dawn gave me and cast on, and before I knew it, I had 300+ rows of error-free (if a little loose) knitting.

Holding up the right side of a purple and white piece of knitting in front of the machine, which has the work hanging from the needles with the wrong side facing the camera.

It didn't take long for me to decide that this cotton is too heavy to be a good scarf, this piece isn't wide enough to make a comfy wrap, and therefore I should put buttonholes in the second hem and make it into a pillow cover. So I guess I'm going to learn to make buttonholes! Mom has a multi-generational button box, and I bet I can find something quirky and cute to use. The real trick is going to be deciding which ones, I'm sure.

My new machine didn't come with an instruction manual (I knew that before I bought it.) The book's available as a scanned pdf online, but I was getting frustrated at trying to flip back and forth between pages, so I bought a used copy and I can already tell that it will be helpful. I also found a pdf version of a book called "Brother Knitting Techniques," which is currently open to a set of pages with instructions on how to make buttonholes several different ways.

The difference in complexity between the KH230 carriage and the KH940 carriage is pretty significant:

The underside of two knitting machine carriages, one significantly more complex than the other.

Comments Comments Off on In Which the Pirate Has More Success.

So... I got it into my head that I wanted a newer knitting machine - one of the standard gauge ones with bells, whistles, and electronic innards that can be connected to a computer. By "newer," I don't mean anything like "new," because the model I was looking for was made in the late 80s/early 90s. These nearly 30-year-old machines are still cranking right along. It's pretty amazing to see what some people have done with them: check out img2track and this awe-inspiring star tapestry!

After a good deal of research and looking on eBay and Etsy, I found a Brother KH-940 (well, a KnitKing Compuknit IV, which is exactly the same thing with a different label) for a good price and bought it. Of course, getting something for a good deal often means getting something that needs a little fixing up, and that's pretty much what happened.

When I got the machine, it was covered in fine brown fuzzy bits, and the case took a little damage in shipping, but the electronics tested out just fine. The needles were clean and the sponge bar new (whew) but the centre buttons on the carriage were immobile - which is a pretty common issue, as the grease hardens with age, and that was a fine excuse to go shopping and get some more appropriate cleaners and lubricants than what I had in my garage already. It took me about a week of evenings to get it all cleaned up and knitting smoothly.

A view of the control panel and needlebed of the KH940.

Then, of course, I had to make some swatches. First I tried fair isle, and it was like magic. The carriage holds both yarns at once and automatically knits colour A onto some needles, colour B onto others. There are a bunch of patterns pre-programmed into the machine, so I picked number 40 at semi-random and made up this small swatch using leftover sock yarn.

A navy and white fair isle swatch with a pattern of diagonal lines surrounding vertical bars.

Then I wanted to try two-colour tuck stitch, and quickly found that it's much more of a pain in the neck as the knitter has to manually swap yarns every other row to make this work. Some people invest in a second carriage to make it easier, and I can't say I blame them. Here's pattern 302 in the same sock yarn:

A 1960s mod looking tuck stitch swatch in navy and white.

So third, I decided to try a one-colour tuck lace with some of the coned cotton that I have, and when I accidentally dropped the whole piece off the needles I decided that I liked the pattern well enough to attempt a wrap/shawl sort of thing with it. Whooooboy, this was the cursed piece of knitting. Not that there was anything wrong with the yarn or with the machine; everything was entirely user error.

A pale pink swatch of tuck lace, with vertical "ribs" of dropped stitches surrounding wavy lace columns.

How do I mess thee up? Let me count the ways...

By forgetting a yarnover so that the drop-stitch columns don't unravel into the hem (as seen above, if you look closely)
By forgetting to push in the tuck buttons when beginning the pattern
By forgetting that I turned the machine off, and moving the carriage across the needles anyway
By unraveling the resulting badly-formed row... and then resetting the computer to the wrong row number
By the yarn snapping, when I finally get going again

There is a definite learning curve, here...

A pale pink piece of knitting hangs from the needlebed of a knitting machine... with the yarn snapped, and several needles empty as a result.

Comments Comments Off on In Which the Pirate Acquires Another Knitting Machine.

My test swatch came out of the laundry looking just as nice as when it went in, so I applied the cable border to the whole blanket, wove in the ends, and did a small celebratory dance before arranging it on the couch for a photoshoot. It's squishy and warm and I couldn't be happier with it! I used 8.5 of the eleven balls of yarn that I bought, and I'm planning to return the last two to the store rather than make any coordinating accessories.

A red and teal blanket with a cabled edge is artfully arranged on a black leather couch.

On Wednesday I met up with friends for knit night at the bookstore, and someone was just *giving away* yarn and books. With some arm-twisting, she convinced me to take some. I came home with a German stitch dictionary, two balls of Supersocke, and one skein of Silkie Socks that Rock. Now, to decide what to make with them...

Two balls of self-striping pink and black sock yarn.

A skein of "Silkie Socks that Rock" yarn in the "Walking on the Wild Tide" colorway - handpainted, variegated tan, blue, green, brown and shocking pink.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments Comments Off on In Which the Pirate Finishes a Blanket and Acquires Yarn.