Saturday, February 7, 2015

Newest TKGA Master Machine Knitter Level 1

I submitted my package for level 1 Master Machine Knitter, and yesterday I received it back.  I am thrilled to report that I passed and  I did not have to re-submit anything!  The judge, Uyvonne Bigham, sent along a personal note that mentioned some of our mutual acquaintances in Missouri and Grand Rapids.

She was so nice, and very complimentary on the evaluation.  Succeeding on this project really makes me feel motivated to start knitting more.  There is nothing like positive feedback to build you up and make you happy and ready to change the world.

She even took the time to knit a swatch to illustrate the one criticism she had of my work, which was that I was not hanging the marker stitches for some of my swatches properly.  (I did not mention to her that on one of my swatches I actually FORGOT to hang the stitch markers and so I inserted them after the fact. So, now I am telling the world!)

Here is the hat I submitted:

I'm working on designing a sweater in Garment Designer using a similar yarn that I had spun by Zeilingers from same fleeces, it is DK yarn weight and I am using the bulky machine at tension 5.  I knitted a swatch for it and did not make it so neat and tidy as the work I did for submission, since I am making the swatch simply for measuring the gauge.
All three sections of this swatch are 40 stitches by 40 rows. First is stockinette, and  I am using the 1x1 punchcard on tuck stitch for the 2nd and 3rd sections.  The middle section is using the tuck stitch at normal setting,  and the section on the right was made using the same punchcard at a double-high setting. I can get more width from the fabric on this setting, even though the fabric is bulkier.
Notice on these swatches,  instead of hanging a stitch marker, I left a needle out of work, as I learned when I first started machine knitting. 
When designing for a  plus-size person, you must remember that it takes a little more design effort to plan ahead for having the garment sections fit on the available needles of the machine.    There are several ways to accomplish this, and one is to use tuck stitch or slip stitch or a woven design to make the fabric using standard 4 pieces of a sweater, front and back plus 2 sleeves.  All of these techniques result in a larger gauge, with  fewer stitches per inch in the resulting fabric.  This means that you can achieve a wider fabric with fewer needles.
Another way to accomplish the end goal of have a garment that fits, is to make more garment pieces. One example is making a cardigan with seam in the back (4 body pieces plus two sleeves) or  using a centered or underarm panel to obtain more width. (6 body pieces plus two sleeves)  
Using a fairisle, cable, or other decorative technique to make the additional panel stand out means that the resulting gauge will be different for the panel. In this case, the seaming using mattress stitch will not be quite so easy as if you were to have the same number of stitches on each panel. 
The more pattern pieces, the more sewing together must be done.  Sometimes I use a sew-as-you go technique to join the pieces together as they are knitted.  A linker or sewing machine may also be used.  
Additional techniques can be used to create a larger garment.  Turning the garment sideways when knitting is often successful for plus sizes because the number of rows is not limited. 

Elizabeth Zimmerman, although a hand-knitter, published a mitered design called "Surprise Jacket" that was translated for machine knitting by Susanna Lewis and published in the short-lived but visually stunning MacKnit magazine.  I think there is also a similar  "origami" jacket in one of the books on my shelf - Is it Kathleen Kinder's book or Susanna Lewis?   Time to do some research, I guess. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Conquering my fears

I was having trouble moving the carriage on one of the KH 930s yesterday while trying to make lace for the first time since 1994.

 So I first checked the carriage, and there was some yarn wrapped around the brushes.  Removed it.  Decided to replace the brushes with the extras I had purchased for this purpose.  When I removed the brushes to replace them, I found additional yarn wrapped in a tight little circle around the spindle.  Replaced the brushes.  Checked the rotation - one of the brushes would not move easily. 

I just knew I had replaced everything just the way I found it, so I was confused.  I went into a Zen-like trance of observation and noticed that one of the little wheels (daisy-like piece of plastic) was concave, and the other was convex.  I don't remember removing that wheel, but OK, flipped the one on the side where the brush did not move easily, and replaced the brush again.  Now the brush is moving easily.

Replaced the carriage on the bed of the machine and observed I was still having trouble moving the carriage when patterning.  I once again entered into the trance.  I realized that the belt was buckling when I tried to move it manually by inserting a tool into a slot in the belt.

I replaced the carriage and had a moment of panic when I realized the machine did not pattern now.  What did I do? I powered off the machine and pulled the plug, waited 5 seconds, and plugged back in. (I had no specific reason to believe this would work, except that sometimes my computer needs this treatment...)

Thinking perhaps there was some issue with the needles, I removed the sponge bar.  Pulled every needle to hold position and replaced it.  Then replaced the sponge bar.  No change.

My husband, who always likes to take things apart and put things back together, suggested that perhaps I needed to remove the cover. 

I didn't want to do it, but I wanted the machine to work again, so I did it.  First the right side, then realized I would need to remove the left side as well to get an unobstructed view.  After both sides were removed there was one more cover that needed to come off in order to see the mechanism.  He said that the black plastic encoder wheel was turning fine but the spindle was not.  Either a bearing has failed or maybe it just needs lubrication, he said.  So I added some of the machine oil at the point below and at the other end.

After replacing and reassembling everything, I worked the carriage back and forth, with much improved operation.  The machine is about 30 years old, and that has never needed lubrication until now.   I wonder what else needs to be cleaned and lubricated?

Stash inventory

I decided I would be more productive knitting if I knew where my yarns were and what I had, instead of spending time searching for the right yarn for each project.

I had several plastic bins with coned yarn under the basement stairs.  Plastic to keep any unexpected floording out, and under the stairs to keep the yarn away from light sources to prevent fading.  In order to find a particular cone of yarn, I had to move each bin, take the lid off, look inside, and then if the yarn was not in that bin, move the bin again to allow me to look in the next bin.  Even though the bins are translucent plastic, I find that I am not always able to determine what is inside by looking through the lid, especially if the lid is covered by another bin.

I found a great shelf unit on - it has the right size between shelves to allow the plastic bins to slide in.  Each shelf unit holds 8 bins. 

I did not realize until I started this project that, with recent acquisitions,  I now had more than 24 bins (some with fabric, not all yarn) until I started stacking the bins on the three shelving units. No wonder I was having trouble finding the yarn I wanted!  For the present, I am going to limit myself to 24 bins for yarn. I won't buy any more yarn until I use some of the yarn I already have, to make space.

Fabric will have to  be addressed at a later date.

I labeled each bin with a 2-digit code - a letter to indicate which shelving unit, and a number between 1-8  to indicate which spot the bin occupies on the shelving unit.

Next, I started the inventory.  The first night I tackled two bins.  For each cone of yarn, I take a picture and upload to Ravelry's "stash" tool.  Ravelry has fields for yarn colorway and color category, weight, name, manufacturer, date purchased, dye lot, cost, and a field for text entry of comments.  Easy, because each bin had about 5 cones.  Last night I completed the third bin. 

I found some yarn in last night's bin that will be suitable for my final project for TKGA's Knitting Machine Master's program, Level 1.  My primary mission is accomplished!  But I still want to continue the inventory project.

I think I now can appreciate the acronym STABLE - STash Acccumulation Beyond Life Expectancy.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Seed Stitch versus Moss Stitch

It has come to my attention that there is confusion about these two stitches.

It seems that some people understand Seed Stitch to be the same as Moss stitch.  Other people think that Moss stitch is a different stitch than seed stitch.

The ones who think Seed stitch and Moss stitch are the same, seem to have learned how to knit from British knitting instructors, or perhaps American knitting instructors who learned from British knitting instructors.  Or perhaps American machine knitters who learned from British books about machine knitting.

Here is the straight scoop:

Seed stitch aka moss stitch aka pearl stitch aka British Moss stitch aka single moss stitch aka single seed stitch

Worked over even number of stitches
Row 1: *K1, P1*, repeat to end


Row 2 and every other row: same as row 1.

Moss stitch aka American Moss Stitch aka Irish Moss stitch aka double seed stitch aka double moss stitch

Worked over even number of stitches
Row 1: *K1, P1*, repeat to end
Row 2: *P1, K1*, repeat to end
Row 3: same as row 2
Row 4: same as row 1

Repeat for desired number of rows.


When in doubt, look at the picture of the finished product or a chart!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Life lessons contemplated while knitting swatches in the basement

1.  Light is good.  More light is better.  Even though it was mid-afternoon, it is a little dark in the basement workroom.  Moving a light closer to the knitting machine made it much easier to pick up dropped stitches, count, and just generally knit easier.

2.  Read the directions all the way through before starting. They don't always give you the steps in the correct order, and sometimes they leave things out.  If you notice these issues before you begin, you can note the additional information on the pattern to remind you as they come up.  For some of the swatches, I found it a good idea to calculate what the expected row counter would be when I arrived at that point.  Finding a difference in actual versus expected row counter led me to quickly detect a mistake.

3.  If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? Leaving a loop at the edge of the work would cost me more time later in weaving both ends in.  Far better to just unknit the row, move the row counter back, and re-knit correctly.  When the yarn mast tension is loose for whatever reason (previous unknitting?) I find it is helpful to support the yarn being fed into the machine until the carriage reaches the edge of the knitting and the first stitch is knit to avoid these loops.

4. Check your work before committing. Before you knit that row, check that all the needles have loops on them, and that the loop is in the hook, or else the needle is in hold position and and will be knitted back.  Make sure the yarn feeder is closed if you have opened it.  Make sure you have passed the turn mark when setting up the first pattern row. Make sure the selector lamp says "Ready".  Did you reset the row counter after unknitting that row?  Do you need to go back and change the pattern stitch row number, or reset the needles from A to B?

5. If you make a mistake, it can be fixed. You are going to make mistakes.  No problem.  Forgive yourself and move on.  Just undo the bad stuff and redo it better.

6. The sooner you find and fix a mistake, the easier it is to fix.  Picking up a dropped stitch 1 row down is much easier than finding and fixing a dropped stitch 26 rows down.  Be aware of how the knitting is expected to look, and how it actually looks.  If you are getting hung up on gateposts, you may not see it for several rows.  Stop for a second after each row and see if your knitting is hung up on gateposts.

7.  If you make too many mistakes, stop and start again tomorrow.  There are days when it just does not make sense to go home from work, eat dinner, and try to knit.  Sometimes a brain-dead evening of watching TV is called for.

8.  A little tension is good.  Too much tension is bad. Just like in real life, a little bit of stress keeps you on-deadline and on-target, but too much stress inhibits your performance, if the tension mast is too tight (or the yarn skein being fed gets caught on itself or on clutter around the knitting machine, like the teeth of the extra cast-on comb) you will not be able to knit.  It will be difficult to move the carriage and the stitches at the edge of the knitting will be too tight.  Symptoms of too-loose mast tension are that the yarn loops at the edge of the knitting, or when weaving, the weaving yarn gets caught in the gatepost. Check that the space between the antenna and the post is about the span of your fully extended hand from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your little finger (6-10 inches.)

9.  Make sure you have enough materials before you begin the project. At the end of my last swatch, I had 5 feet of yarn left.  Lucky me! For the last 20 rows I had been worrying about how to splice in another color of the Vanna's Choice yarn that I had only 1 skein of, the skein that was being used up. I had been contemplating a trip to JoAnn's to get another skein to finish 3 or 4 rows, but I  was lucky.   Before you make the swatch it is pretty hard to guesstimate how much yarn you will need, but after you have a good swatch it is pretty easy to calculate the yarn used in the swatch, and the projected square inches of the finished project.  Do the math!

10.  If you have to force it, something is wrong.  Stop and find out what is wrong before pushing on.  Just like real life, things can get out of adjustment in your knitting machine.  If you can't push the carriage across the bed, disengage it and remove it. Step by step, determine what piece of the machine is causing the problem.  Is it the carriage? Is it the yarn feeder? Is it the sinker plate assembly? Ask a lot of questions, and test the results.

11.  Maintain your tools in good condition.  Don't live with a broken or damaged tool. I have a transfer tool that has a split in the metal at the tip. Every time I pick it and try to use it, I get a "split" stitch. I need to throw this tool away. It's not marked so it looks like the rest of the tools.   Before you start a project, especially if it has been some time, check the condition of the sponge bar.  Don't wait until you are fighting with your knitting before you check. 

12.  Put the tools away in the same place each time, then you will be able to find them next time you want to use them.  If they are always in the same place, when you want them, they will be there.

13.  Practice makes things easier, if not perfect. Consistency is key.  If I always cast on resulting on carriage on right, then row counting is easier - if the carriage is on right, the row counter needs to be an even number every two rows.  If sometimes I cast on leaving carriage on left, then from that point on, every two rows results on COL.  That could be OK in some exceptional circumstances, but I think if you engineer your patterns to always have COR at the end of each instruction you are much better off. 

14.  There is no one right way to do things.  It is good to research different techniques, but there is nothing wrong with "unventing" (like Elizabeth Zimmerman) new techniques.   Now that we have Google, it is easy to  find there are multiple ways to perform the desired result.  I will use the one that is most familiar and "easy" to me, sometimes; and sometimes I will try a new method. I'll try it out on a limited basis (a swatch?) and see if it works as expected. Marcia Hauser reminds us that we are the master of the machine, it is up to us to make the machine work to do what we want it to do.  The machine doesn't make the rules.

15.  Give yourself some slack.  Quite literally this means that if the yarn is not feeding smoothly from the cone, ball or skein, you cannot knit. Applied to life issues, chances are good that nobody else in the whole world cares as passionately about the issue as you do.   You made a mistake 50 rows ago? Is there a way to fix it without unknitting and re-knitting 50 rows?

Friday, June 20, 2014


I knitted, blocked, tagged, and wove in the ends on five swatches last week.  As I was measuring the gauge to compare them to a reference swatch of stockinette, I realized that on two of them, I had inadvertently forgotten to reset the row counter when changing to main yarn after knitting the first ten rows.  So I was ten rows short on both of them.

I considered unknitting the last 10 rows and re-hanging the swatches on the needles to finish, but then I thought about the complexities of figuring out exactly where in the stitch pattern I had left off and what the next row should be set for.  So I just decided to do them over.

I was able to  knit them fairly quickly!  This was not the first do-over, see my post on the fairisle swatch.  So I am getting a lot of practice making gauge swatches.

On another note, I received some marketing materials for a class called "Dressing Your Truth" by Carol Tuttle.  The marketing was very slick, she sends an email a day for at least 8 days.  It promises to teach you ways of establishing your personal "style" based on your energy type. You get to determine your own energy type after she explains all the personality characteristics that belong to each group.   This also seems to put you into a color grouping that appears to be seasonal. 

Based on my energy type of Earth, I am now questioning the "season" I thought I belonged to all my life (Autumn).  I have a lot of autumn colors in my stash.  Am I going to dump it all and go buy new yarn?  Sounds like it might be fun!  I am going to "get my colors done" soon, just for confirmation. .

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sharp tool!

My KH-864 carriage must have been damaged in transit (or maybe while packing it) last time I took it out for a demonstration.  When I was running the needles across the bed, they made a "clacking" sound when needles were in upper working position.  If I put the needles in hold, the carriage would not pass in one direction only.   Or maybe I got some yarn caught and pulled something out of place.

Fearing a large repair bill and a long wait time, I decided to see if it was something I could figure out myself.  The KH-864 is a punchcard machine, so there are no electronics to damage, everything is mechanical.

I took the sinker plate assembly off, and the carriage worked beautifully without it.  No interference with any of the needles. 

Just to be sure, I took the needles out of hold (I can learn, even at my advanced age!) and pulled out the sponge bar.  I would say that I need a new sponge bar but I do not think that is the source of my problem.

Since I had just done a plating swatch on the KH-930 upstairs, I had recent experience with removing the yarn feeder assembly.  So after an aimless wandering around the basement looking for a screwdriver, I finally found the ribber spanner from the KH-230 in a tool box.  I removed the yarn feeder assembly and reinstalled the sinker plate assembly.  The problem was not with the yarn feeder assembly, it stayed with the re-assembled carriage.  Removing the sinker plate again, and spying up inside the mechanism, I saw that a piece of spring steel seemed to hang down a little more on one side than the other.  Using the handle of my Jolie Unicorn, I was successfully able to bend it back up into the normal place. 

Voila! the carriage now runs smoothly in both directions.

The TGKA project took a large chunk out of my weekend.  I got swatches 5-10 done and started #11 with the KH-864.  

I decided to use some of the yarn from my newly acquired, inherited stash.  There were a couple of cones of shiny mercerized pastel cotton.  I tried a few times to make it work, but the stitches kept jumping off the needles.  My guess is these two cones will have to be knitted on the bulky or at least the mid-gauge. 

Next I found an unlabeled cone that might be a hard wool, probably purchased for a warp yarn, from my weaving friend, the lady in Columbus who sold me the loom bench. 

It was kind of hard to use also.  Again the Jolie Unicorn came in handy,
because even though the fibers of the wool wanted to felt together for this hand-manipulated swatch, the pointed tip of the tool was very helpful to get into the middle of the stich and pry it back open again.  If you see any of these tools offered for sale, be sure to get one for yourself.  I have one in the "bulky" size and one in standard gauge.