Sunday, February 28, 2010

How Close Can You Go?

The Knitter's version of Limbo:
One sock knit on the machine, using Trekking XXL, but not a perfect fit yet. The scale reads 46grams (from a 100gr ball).
The remaining yarn (scale was zero'ed with an empty roll on it). It reads 48grams (yes, for some reason that does not add up to 100gr).
You know how swatches can lie? The scale can too sometimes. I would have totally not been surprised if I had started the second sock and managed to run out a few rows from the end! But, I had to rip the sock anyway as the fit was not perfect, and since it takes only about 2 hours to knit a sock (if all goes well, LOL), I wasn't going to put up with an imperfect sock. Especially since they'd already been knit once imperfectly and were sitting in the UFO drawer for two years, LOL.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


In January, Lucy said she was going to be invited to a classmate's bowling party. She wanted me to make something as a gift. The girl had an owl hat and really liked owls, so Lucy thought some owl mittens would be good. I wasn't actually going to start until I got a 'real' invitation, but I did the research and got ready, just in case. I knew the owl 'cable' was really popular so I figured I could figure something out, but a search on Ravelry revealed "Have a Hoot Mittens". They used slightly larger yarn, so it was fairly easy to get them the right size, considering how much I have used Patons Decor to make kid's mittens. Nonetheless, I still had plenty of issues making these. Won't bore you with those though. Used 4mm needles and 33sts for the start of the hand--one extra on the palm (not in the thumb increases), and one on either side of the back of the hand. Made them two at a time on one circular. That's both a bonus and a pain.

They need some strong blocking, and a 'better' wool would work better, but at the time, I couldn't find a superwash 100% wool (I've always wondered if superwash wool holds the blocking like non-superwash wool). I wish the Patons Decor had a higher wool content.
We spent a long time at Michaels' looking for owl eyes. I thought we'd find eyes for making stuffed animals there, but no. We were too tired to bother with FabricLand, so while watching the Olympic opening ceremony, I stitched the eyes with floss. Oh, I hate doing that! As we were driving home, Lucy saw "Hooter's" and the owls on the signs. She suggested we go there to find owl eyes! LOL!!!!!
The little girl and her mother love them and the mom says she has all kinds of yarn around the house but doesn't know how to knit or crochet and they might like to learn. Maybe the school needs a knitting club?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"To Save Time..."

C'mon now, everybody, finish it with me:

"....Take time to check the gauge".

The baby sweater I made on the ribber recently was a great example of why doing a gauge swatch can be very helpful. Then, there are times when "close enough" is good enough. There are times too, when a swatch can lie. And then there are times when swatching really pays off.

I'm working on a project, and the pattern gauge was 29st/35 rows for 4". I got a decent fabric with 28st/30 rows. Now, 28 to 29 sts...that doesn't sound like much, does it? But, hypothesize...that's one stitch too big for every 4". On a 40" sweater, I would be 10 sts too big. Those 10sts, in my gauge, add up to 1 1/2". Depending on the fit and design of the sweater, that could be huge. The row gauge is funnier. The difference between 30 and 35 sounds big, but at the inch level, it's 8.75 vs 10 rows per inch. That's just 1.25 rows per inch difference. Not much? Over a 25" sweater, that's like, 34 rows difference.

I thought at first I'd make a smaller size. But my gauge is not proportionally different than the pattern. So, I pretty much had to re-write the pattern, which wasn't too bad because there are really good schematics. But more work than I wanted to do, especially while I had a sinus infection.

However, when I've pinned out each piece to steam it, they are EXACTLY the size they should be!

Now, I just hope the measurements I was given are accurate!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Little More

I wanted to thank everyone, here and in the Ravelry Machine Knitting group and the Yahoo Knitting Machines group, for the encouragement with exploring my ribber! Despite things like, taking 20 minutes to cast on for the second sock, it has been fun.
I also wanted to add that you can see the info and origins of the yarn for the baby sweater if you click on 2008 then August 2008. I had used it for a tuck st baby blanket on the LK150 (pattern in an old KnitWords) and thought the Fisherman's Rib would be a nice option for a sort of matching sweater. I followed Diana's pattern for the smallest size, and, um, it turned out a fair bit smaller. I think it took about 200gr and I still have 180grams of that original skein. Enough for a plain little sweater, or could I try little pants?
And, I just wanted to also add, that those socks, although full of imperfections, are very cozy and soft after being washed. For so long the loose ply and "Sportivo" name had me fooled, but they turned into great socks.

I decided to try another pair of socks, with 2x2 rib for the leg. Found the instructions in my manual, and there was an ambiguity about the tension. Took a guess, tried casting on. Well, first I tried a swatch and had problems casting on, then I tried the sock (different yarn) and had trouble. Ended up casting on both socks by doing the zigzag row by hand.
Flew through the ribbing (although I wasn't sure how to set up the end needles so that when I sew it, it would stay in pattern).

Then I got to where you transfer 1/2 the sts to the ribber bed and 1/2 the sts to the mainbed. In 1x1 ribbing, it's "every other needle" (EON) on both beds, so they just transfer to the empty needles. There are two versions of 2x2 ribbing, and I did the first one, that does xxoxxoxxo on both beds (o being an empty needle). So, you end up having extra sts. In 1x1 rib, you cast on 34 sts on each side of 0 (middle) on both beds, but because you're using EON, you end up with 68sts in total. This time, I pulled out 68sts on both beds, then put every 3rd needle back out of work on both beds. Anyone see where this is heading? There's extra sts that need to get doubled up, and the ribbing ended up with something like 80-odd sts.

At first I thought I was doomed. But it's really odd. Although it's made as a 2x2 rib, it's spaced differently than if you did it by hand. Remember that a purl st is just the back side of a knit st? I really don't know how the machine does it in this configuration, LOL. The ribbing turned out perfect. If I had pulled out 68st in total then the ribbing would have been too small.
I got the sts re-arranged and continued on down the sock. I added a few extra rows this time, and did a 'wedge' toe with decreases like handknitting.It's Lana Grossa Meillenweit "Arizona". Same tension as the first pair of socks, but I used 66 st. They're much greener/olive than these pictures.
I started the needle set up differently for each pair--after I had done the first one, I didn't think I had set it up right for seaming well. But, in the end, they pretty much looked the same once seamed, although inside, one is flatter. I also noticed that I should write things down. I think, for the first sock, I did 60 rows ribbing instead of 50, then I did 10 rounds tubular before the heel. For the second sock, I did 50 rows, which I didn't realize, but then I did 20 rounds before the heel. I realized that, and thought I'd rip back a few rounds, but after or two...I gave up and decided they'd just be different.
So, in actuality, they are almost the same length after all. Whatever. I also decreased the heel down to only 12st instead of 14 and that helped the fit.
Also, with the toe, when I handknit, I do the dec. on every other row until 1/2 the sts are gone, then I do every row. Well, I forgot that and when I took it off the machine, there was a l-o-n-g toe. I tried it on and it didn't look too bad, but was a little short. Of course I had made both before I tried it on. Trying to get those little sts back on the double beds...must try hard to not have to do that again!!
I washed them today and they softened up, but they're not a 'fluffy' sock yarn. They are a better fit overall, but I think the next pair will have a heel flap! I know it can be done! However, my printer is out of ink and I don't want to write the pattern by hand, LOL!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


In the handknitting world, there is a term called "Frogging". It's when you rip something out (take apart your knitting). As you pull the yarn, you chant "Rip it, Rip it" which sounds like "Ribbit" or.... a frog.

In machine knitting, there is a wonderful contraption built for some machines, called "a ribber". Not to be confused with frogging. LOL.

I wanted to get my standard gauge machine out again, the Singer 327 Memo-matic. And since I needed some help to maneuver it, I figured I might as well get the ribber set up too! It's been almost three years!
This is the two 'beds' set up. The beige (ribber) carriage on the lower (ribber) bed connects into that notch on the silver trapezoid piece (ribber arm).

As I've mentioned before, knitting machines are great at knitting stockinette stitch (and punchcard/electronics can do basic patterning), but all stitches are worked in the same direction....the machine is basically 'purling' and it can't switch between purling and knitting. You get stockinette fabric in handknitting by knitting one row, purling one row, but really, a purl stitch is just a knit stitch worked from the backside, and a knitting machine always works through the backside, so the purl side is always facing you, but you end up with stockinette.

And stockinette fabric curls along each side. Normally, you'd add an edging--garter stitch, seed stitch, or ribbing which is the stretchy material on sweater cuffs, mittens, socks, etc.

The ribber, because it faces the opposite direction, shows the other (knit) side of the stitch while you work. When you alternate between needles of each bed, you get ribbing--because a purl st looks like a knit st on the other side. So, this contraption lets you knit one stitch on the ribber, then one stitch on the mainbed, back to ribber, etc. Or you can set it up for other ribbing patterns such as 2x2 rib (knit two on mainbed, knit 2 on ribber bed).

We managed to muddle through the manual. They are typically written in Japanese, and then translated to English. There's some pictures, and some drawings. We did pretty good, but for some reason, the ribber arm does not look like the one in the book (the ribber arm connects the main bed carriage with the ribber bed carriage). There are several ribbers that can be used with this machine, and I seem to have the SRP20 which I think is one of the oldest.

There are extra metal 'wings' inside the slot where you thread the yarn through.

This piece was left over. We can't find it mentioned anywhere in the book. A few pieces were missing--accessory pieces that I can buy online, but it's a nuisance.

This is my first piece! I should have known not to use this yarn as it gave me headaches with just the mainbed when I first started, LOL.
Everyone says to make a scarf as a first project. Well, I started to swatch (test knit) some yarn and knew that I couldn't make a scarf because it's too boring, LOL. Then, a wonderful knitting machine guru, Diana, suggested I make a fisherman ribbed sweater she has posted on her blog, with great videos. There's no shaping, each piece is a rectangle. And it takes DK yarn which I have a lot of (remember the giant skeins I bought at Spinrite in August?).
This is the front. Or the back. Whatever, they're the same.

I had a problem with some needles not working right, you can see along the lower edge where the row (it's actually a column of sts but the sweater is sideways) is smaller/tighter.

Wow, this one is in sunlight, but that's not how it looks at all. You can see a little patch of bad knitting near the right edge, where the yarn tail is.

The sleeves. I had some issues with remembering to change the tension settings with the ribbing on the right. You can see the interesting effect of the yarn. It's a tuck one st, purl one st. The tuck st means it doesn't knit on one row, then the next row you knit the 'float' with the st. So, in a multicoloured yarn, it really breaks up the pattern, and also results in a different colour showing in the recessed purl sts. This above picture shows how the two sides are different--the left one is the 'back' side, the right one is the 'public' side which shows the tucked knit stitches.
It's all knitted, but not seamed up yet. I know how to do that, LOL, it can wait.

I've been pouring over my meager collection of machine knitting magazines, searching for the next project. After I had last packed up the Singer 327 it seemed every project I wanted to make needed it. Now, it seems all those projects don't actually need the ribber. Or are too advanced. But I found one hat pattern that I could have done without the ribber, but the ribber really makes it easier. Supposedly.
I had looked at the hat pattern quite a bit, but I didn't actually read it all before starting. There was some important info in the little pre-amble box that I kinda missed.
The pattern is badly written, so I won't bother telling you want (extinct) magazine it was from. Basically, with a DK yarn, at the left edge, cast on 40 st on main bed (I used 45 to get some extra slouch). *Knit 2 rows. Decrease with a 2 prong tool at the left edge and inc one by pulling out one needle on the right. This keeps the row count the same. Repeat from * Do 6 rows of the DK yarn (I think it was T7) and then switch to a 2/24 yarn for 6 rows, doing the inc/dec every two rows. Start and end with waste yarn. Wrap the unused yarn around end needle to carry it up the one edge.This shows the alternating bands from the knit side. The earlier picture from the purl side, is actually the right side. The thicker purl bands poof out while the thinner bands retract. The pattern showed it in one colour, but I had to get creative. I used a boo boo yarn ($5, superwash Merino!) from The Sweet Sheep that I had gotten in Kitchener when I got the ones I wrote about before.
The directions for picking up along one edge for the ribbing were a little confusing. And it was hard to do without the proper tool. If you want the pattern info, email me. This could also be handknit. There was an obvious error in the pattern too. I had a hard time casting off the ribbing, but watched another of Diana's videos so I'll be all set the next time. I had one 'lazy' needle that tucked when it should have knit. That's what made the vertical line in the ribbing. The pattern said 30 rows of ribbing, but it looks a lot longer than in the pattern. There was no gauge or sizes given, so perhaps my row tension is off.
As with most hats, it looks dorky on me. The pink yarn is so soft though! I think I'll add it the donation pile for the handknitter's group--they donate chemo caps.

After working the ribbing, you have to pick up to make that little solid bit in the middle of the top to close it off. Again, there was a numerical error, and the instructions were poorly written.

My next goal, and one I didn't actually think I'd try so soon, was socks! I've knitted socks on the flatbed machine, both by latching up the ribbing (OMG, never again) and by handknitting the ribbing (acceptable). However, there is still one or two foot seams which can be done in several ways. I really don't notice the seams when I wear them (I used a "Bickford Seam" which is very flat). However, although the double-bed machine knits ribbing flat (so it needs to be seamed still), it can knit the rest of the sock circularly--no seam!!!
The mainbed carriage knits across those sts while the attached ribber carriage slips across (doesn't disturb) the ribber bed. Then, going back the other way, it's the reverse. I've looked at double bed sock patterns before, but not having tried it--or even having the machine set up--I didn't really understand how much work there still is. Some sections are knitted flat (the short row heel) and you change back and forth between the combined carriage, and the mainbed carriage/fabric presser. It's like changing presser feet on the sewing machine when going from zigzag to straight.
I had some issues, some things I messed up or I"m not happy with yet. But here's the details:
Gedifra "Fasion Trend Sportivo" (because of it's loose ply and "sport" name, I had thought it was a sportweight yarn for a long time, but it's a 28st/38rows 2.5mm-3mm sock yarn). I used T5/5 for the cuffs, and T7/8 for the circular part for the first sock, then T6**/7** for the second. There were 50 ribbed rows, 20 rounds before the heel, shortrow down to 14st and out, then 40 rounds for the foot, toe is also shortrowed to 14sts. On the second sock, I forgot to do a dec at each end of each bed after shortrowing the toe before going for the last circular round and there was quite a lump when I grafted it. I could have also used a couple more rows on the second sock to compensate for the tighter tension.
I've got lots of sock yarn that is patterned and will look fine done as plain socks. I might do the ribbing by hand so that I have a portable project to take places (esp. since I can do two at once on one circular needle) and so I don't have the seam. We'll see. They're just so quick and easy on the machine. I don't normally like shortrow heels, but by not taking the ribbing all the way down to the heel, it seemed to help. I haven't worn them yet--I went to put them on for my daily walk, and noticed that I missed a ribbing st when I transferred sts to the mainbed, and it had started to ladder up!!