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To DAK or not to DAK–my four month pillow

Several months ago, a friend decided to sell my dream machine, a Silver Reed 860–electronic, mid gauge, ribber and lots of books included. I long knew I’d get one someday, when I got quicker at turning out clothing and could “justify” the expense. I didn’t want to put so much money into this creative endeavor that my machines would sit there like albatrosses, mocking me. It was a great deal; I couldn’t pass it up. Common sense made me tell her I needed to think about it overnight. My husband said, Why wait? You’re going to get it anyway. He was right. 🙂

There are several options for running the 860; hers was set up to use DAK software, and that came with the package as well. I had been using Garment Designer (GD) software for a while. I’d learned it, was good at it, and therefore not excited about needing to learn DAK–a program that is often described as having a steep learning curve. GD is a fantastic garment design program. DAK is both garment design and stitch design. I didn’t want to learn another way to shape garments, but I was eager to learn the stitch design portion. That didn’t seem quite so daunting a task, so I dived in to make a (shapeless) pillow. What better way to learn, right?

I selected five colors of yarn from my stash, Fair Isle for the front and slip stitch for the back. The yarn I selected, however, was more suited to a standard gauge machine than the 860. My Silver Reed 560, to be exact. I almost got distracted into putting the pattern on a mylar and proceeding with the project. Almost. It would be fast and easy, but I wouldn’t be learning DAK. So I stared at the 560. And I stared at the computer with DAK on it. And I thought, No, it couldn’t be. Could it? I pulled up the options in DAK, and sure enough, it would also power my 560! Awesome!

It took weeks–weeks!–to learn enough to perfect the Fair Isle design the way I wanted it. Life intervened for a while, then I got back to it and knit it. Life intervened some more. In the meantime, I had an idea for a coordinating I-cord trim, so I made that. Finally I seamed all the pieces together with a yarn needle and back stitch. The pillow looked really good, in spite of the fact that I had goofed on the seaming and couldn’t leave it that way. Unfortunately I’d stitched it to withstand a tornado and the only way to take it apart was to sacrifice the cord. I decided “simple and perfect” was better than “please don’t look inside to see how I put it together” or “it’s complicated and I’ll get back to it someday,” so I finished it without the trim.

The back is done in two pieces and buttons up, so the pillow form can be slipped out when the cover needs washing. Final seam was done with a crochet hook and chain stitch. That went faster than the back stitch method, with an additional benefit being that I could rip out any or all of it quickly if need be. I have several more pillows or pillow covers in mind, which is good, because I turned on DAK last night and discovered I’ve already forgotten too much. The next one better take four days, not four months.

As for learning the shaping portion of DAK, right now I have two standard gauge machines (one punchcard, one electronic) with built-in knit contours, a.k.a. knit radar or knit leader, plus a mid gauge LK-150 and a bulky LK-100 that work with a free-standing knit radar KR-7. Right now I’m content to design garments on GD, print out a paper pattern, and use one of those other machines.

The 860 is not standing unused. My granddaughters frequently request blankets for their stuffed animals. I’m thrilled they are interested in knitting! Now they can select yarn from my stash and knit a ribbed blanket in a couple hours. Ribbed is great; they get an instant blanket that doesn’t roll on the edges. I get it started and weave in the ends when they change colors, they do all the knitting, and I do the bind off. They are six and eight, and just barely. I also have used it to perfect the pattern for my Deceptively Simple Hat II, turning out a few for charity along the way. Scarves are next–they’ll go wonderfully fast, either patterned or ribbed. I can get several done before it turns cold. Then I will venture into the other side of DAK by shaping and knitting a vest.

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