Archive for the “machine knitting” Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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Picking a colour scheme for an open-concept house is difficult, and even more difficult when one tries to take into account the furniture, rugs, and artwork from previous houses. But things are starting to come together. We've painted underneath the chair rail in the dining room a deep teal, and the living room has always had quite a bit of burgundy. So when we went looking for yarn for our new couch blanket, it was good luck that we found this "Barcelona" yarn by Loops and Threads that shades from burgundy to teal and back again. I looked up the yarn on Ravelry and found this project, which instantly became the inspiration for my own blanket.

A large ball of red and teal "Barcelona" yarn. The brand is Loops and Threads.

I did a test swatch, figured out my gauge, did some math so that my squares would come out to actually be a square twelve inches, and started knitting. The machine makes it go amazingly fast, and before long I had nine squares finished. You can see some of that matching burgundy in the rug - yes, the machine currently *is* set up in the middle of my living room, because why not.

I began to get worried that I wouldn't have enough yarn; each ball was producing four squares, and I was pretty sure that I'd need thirty squares plus a border. I ordered more yarn, making use of the always-available 40% off coupons at the artsy-crafts store, figuring that I could always return any unused yarn once the blanket is done.

Nine blanket squares hanging from a bulky knitting machine.

At five by five squares Michael and I tried it on for size (in other words, snuggled up under it on the couch) but decided that it really did need to be six by five, so I put a final row on. I worked many of the ends in as I went along, and the rest will get worked into the border or woven in later. Here it is, still borderless, spread out on a full-size futon for scale:

A 6x5 blanket in striped squares of red and teal is displayed on a fullsize futon.

The edges of each square, being stockinette, are obnoxiously curly. I wanted to find a border that would look good with the blanket and also minimize that curl as much as possible. So I knit a test piece with two squares and tried at least half a dozen different edges and borders on it, feeling more and more like Goldilocks with each one: "This one is too wavy. This one is too short. This one is too curled up on the wrong side of the work."

I tried a crochet border, which did work to flatten the edges, but decided not to go with it for the picky reason of wanting to do the whole project on the machine. I tried a pie crust border, a worm edging, a spiraling edge, and finally a half-cable border that totally does the trick.

The corner of a blanket square swatch showing a cabled edging.

This test piece will go into the wash with the rest of my laundry to give me an idea of how the whole blanket will feel after being washed. It's supposedly a machine-washable and -dryable acrylic, so I'm pretty confident that it will come out just fine, but better to find out on my test swatch than on the real thing.

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My friend Dawn (hi Dawn!) had a knitting machine that was taking up too much space in her spare room, and I thought it might be a fun thing to try with my brother and his kids, who learned to knit last year. I handed it off to my brother, who took it home, cleaned it up and got it mostly running smoothly. It needed some parts, which I ordered; the machine came back to my house and Michael and I set it up. The most crucial part was a new sponge bar.

A new sponge bar compared to an old flattened one.

With that installed and one bent needle replaced, we set the machine up on the coffee table and looked through the instruction manual. It's... not very detailed. We had to look up some YouTube videos and other instructions.

The knitting machine on my coffee table, with my laptop behind it. The user manual is displayed on the laptop screen.

It took a few tries with casting on and playing with the tension to get it working well...

The carriage and needle bed.

But with some good ol' Red Heart yarn, we figured it out! (I think.)

The beginning of a swatch on the knitting machine, with the cast-on comb and weight hanging from the bottom.

A tension swatch in dark teal yarn.

There will definitely be more to come.

Closeup of the knitting machine's carriage.

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