Can a pillow have two fronts?

I’m making pillows for my granddaughters for Christmas–but don’t tell! Kind of a “celebrating 2012” heirloom, and I say heirloom only because I hope to make this a tradition. No pressure, though, okay? I have done labor-intensive knitting before on a manual machine, LK 150, with graphs and beading. Now I have DAK and an electronic machine. And results! After hours (read: days) of planning, many false starts getting DAK to talk to me, and a couple of test swatches, yesterday I was able to put it all together. The first pillow front fairly flew off my Singer 560. Under an hour, I’m sure, but it felt shorter. The beauty of the design is that one swatch determined the gauge for the fronts of both pillows and thus cut that work in half.

The second front–slightly different because gd #2 praised my hearth room pillow and asked for “one like that, only, you know, more me-ish”–was done this afternoon. The backs (can a pillow have two fronts?) are to come, which means more swatches, but now that I have the confidence built from projects going right, I look forward to moving forward. Even the looming deadline of the 25th is looking very possible. I will post pictures here, but don’t spoil the surprise.

I finally found some yarn

That sounds like a funny title for a knitter, doesn’t it? Or maybe it does to me because I’m a machine knitter. Machine knitters have stashes, so “finding” yarn isn’t all that difficult. Is it because we can get through projects quickly that we’re so afraid of being caught without? Following that same theory doesn’t explain why we have so many machines. Unless you have a motor, you can’t be pushing two carriages at once, much less four, which is what I have in my office-turned-knitting room.

Back to the drawing board–gladly!

Anyhow, I have a photo on my Design page that shows a shawl draped over a red tee. I started that shawl with one large skein of unknown yarn, off-white wrapped with a gold metallic thread, knowing I might not get the size I wanted. That’s exactly what happened. Fortunately when I reached the end of the skein, there was a tag that said Millor Metalico, so I finally knew what it was and could keep a look-out for more. No fiber content listed, though. It knitted up a little smaller than I wanted, and I did my best to extend that with blocking, but a gal can only do so much with what she has. It wasn’t what I had hoped for, but it would certainly do for a trip to Mexico. I beaded the bottom edge for added glitz and tossed it into my bag.

Fast-forward a year and a half. My “saved search” on eBay finally paid off! Someone listed Millor Metalico for sale, and it looked like the right color. But it’s wool and rayon?? I keep pretty good notes, but I honestly can’t find any that say whether I washed it. I’m thinking I did not or it probably would be much smaller. I sure won’t wash it in anything now but cold!

The yarn arrived. It matches!–to my eye, anyway. Now I have to come up with some kind of three-sided border that will deepen and lengthen the shawl while leaving the present beaded edge. I sewed those puppies on to stay! I’m thinking a different pattern entirely, so it looks intentional (which is sort of is), and if there is any color variation, that will looked planned as well. What do they call that? Oh yeah, design element.

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.

Free Machine Knit Patterns

I thought it was time to add some of my free machine knitting patterns to my blog, in addition to their home on So here goes . . .

Deceptively Simple Roll Brim Hat

Designed for standard gauge machines. The pattern isn’t Fair Isle; it is random, determined by the yarn. So simple!

Stars & Stripes Hat

Designed for mid gauge machines. The stars on the top are actually decorative buttons.

Deceptively Simple  Hat II  — designed for mid gauge machines

Roll brim option
Folded brim option
Nicely shaped top

Rainbow Hat with Cuff

Designed for double-bed standard
gauge machines; requires ribber.

Tri-Color Tuck Hat

Designed for double-bed standard gauge machines with punch card or electronic patterning.

Never throw anything away . . . or how to fix innards on a knitting machine

It’s time. I have this Studio 328 knitting machine that I got off freecycle. I’ve been using it for years. Everything on it works except the knit contour, and that really hasn’t been a problem–until I learned that knit contours are freakin’ fantastic. This is my only punchcard machine, and sometimes I just want to do simple punchcard stuff, not electronic patterning. It’s my baby. My first. And like all knitting machines, it came with an addiction to having more knitting machines. No joke. But that’s another story. Now that I’m using Garment Designer by Cochenille (excellent software) to make paper patterns that will work in any machine with a knit contour (a.k.a. knit radar), I want to use one of those patterns in this machine. Now.

Months ago I bought a repair manual for the 328 and 560, from Great Britain, on CD. You know, just in case. 🙂 I plug that baby into my computer and search through it on how to fix my knit contour. The row scale dial is frozen up on number 40; that’s the leftmost dial of the three dials on top. If all my patterns require 40 rows per 4″, I’m set, but I already know that’s not the case. I need that unfrozen. A quick test reveals that, even if I get it moving, I will have to recalibrate the whole thing. Suddenly it’s not sounding so fun. But I have already begun, so I keep going because there is one more option.

In my search for a perfect Singer 560 (electronic) a couple years ago, I acquired an extra 560 machine bed. With–ta da!–a built-in knit contour that isn’t getting used. Hmmm. Being the curious, inventive, adaptable person that I am, I wonder if I can swap the knit contour from the 560 into the 328.

The short answer is … yes! The long answer is, yes, but it isn’t a straight out swap. The 560 knit contour fits into the 328 body just fine, until I try to put on the cover panel. Hm, I see the row counter is mounted differently. A little experimentation, and I swap the original 328 row counter back into the 328, screwing it onto the knit contour without any difficulty. Now the cover panel fits, but the leftmost dial won’t turn easily, and it worked easily in the other machine. A little more experimentation and I discover a plastic pin on the underside of the panel cover that is fitting into the gears on the inside and preventing movement. I’m about to snap it off with pliers, when my husband wisely suggests sawing it off. Huh. That wouldn’t have occured to me in, oh, a million years. Thankfully he takes it, finds a tiny saw blade, and does the deed. Good thing, too, because this old plastic can be brittle. So I screw on the cover panel (minus one plastic pin), put everything back together, and voila!–my original machine with a frozen knit contour is now my baby with everything working.

I still have a leftover 560 machine bed for parts. Am I ever throwing it away? Hell no. I have, in the past, offered it online to people looking for parts. They never took me up on it. Thank you, whoever you are.


Hem roll? Not anymore!

Feb 2012 — Update: Hem roll? Not anymore! Part 3  ~~~~~

Machine knitters, you must try this. Really. I just took my sweater out of the dryer and removed the waste yarn to reveal an absolutely straight hem. I have now figured out WHY it works. Read on if you want to do away with pinning and steaming hems.

This time around, I knit the sweater, then went back to the 3″ of waste yarn on the bottom. With a double-eyed needle, I basted through the WY, first by the actual hem, then at the very bottom. Real quick; took almost no time. No pinning. No steaming. No waiting for one spot to dry before doing another.

I tossed the sweater into the washer and dryer. It’s an acrylic/nylon mix. After it was dry, I removed the waste yarn. My hem lies as straight as a ruler.

Why does this work? People have questioned this. So did I, which is why I kept testing the process. It is –still– simply a matter of steaming. We all know that we can steam our hems straight, right? Pin it flat; apply steam. It’s the same principal. I baste the hem straight through the waste yarn; a little curl at the bottom doesn’t matter, as it will be removed. It gets wet in the washer. It gets steamed –still in position– in the dryer. Voila! It lies straighter than I can get it with a steamer. It saves time. There is no danger of killing the fabric.

Happy knitting!

Dec 2011 Update: Hem roll? Not anymore! Part 2  ~~~~~

I took pictures this time of a knitted swatch, lace, standard gauge. It doesn’t take but a minute more to knit the beginning edge in this manner, and it’s easier to demonstrate, to measure for gauge later, and to block it so the lace opens up real nice.  I figured a picture is worth a thousand words. Mm, somebody else said that once, I think. So here you go. This swatch is right out of the washer and dryer:

gauge swatch
Right out of the dryer.

You’re thinking, Hem roll! Right? Yes, but it’s in the waste yarn, so follow me to the second picture, where I am removing the waste yarn:

The "roll" falls away with the waste yarn.

Look how that hem roll disappeared. It’s so much easier to measure for gauge, and when I go to block it, I won’t have to fight hem roll at the same time. This yarn sample is Millor Tepeyac, an acrylic / nylon blend.

Nov. 2011 ~~~~~~

Months ago, I machine knit some sleeves on a sweater from the shoulder down. I made them extra long, as I wasn’t quite sure what length I wanted. My yarn was 75% acrylic, 25% nylon. So I assembled the sweater, washed and dried it, tried it on, and discovered I needed to ravel about an inch. When I did that, the edge roll disappeared with the discarded yarn and did not come back!

Yesterday, my goal was to duplicate this wonderful, flat, no-roll edge. But I wanted it on the bottom of my sweater this time, and I didn’t want to knit it from the top down. Time to experiment, trying the waste yarn trick on the beginning edge. This yarn was 65% acrylic, 35% rayon. Standard gauge machine, lace pattern.

Here is what I did, step by step:

1. CO w/ CO rag.
2. K1R w/ ravel cord.
These first two steps can be skipped if you don’t have a CO rag; I do it to make the job go faster.
3. Ewrap ndls w/ waste yarn and K 15 Rs. This is a case of “more is better.”
4. K1R w/ crochet thread (using it like ravel cord, but this one will be cut before washing, and I didn’t want to cut my ravel cord).
5. Ewrap ndls w/ MY. This is the actual hemline.
6. Begin bottom edge of garment or swatch. I was doing a lace swatch.
7. K number of Rs desired and finish as normal.
8. Remove ravel cord and CO rag.
9. Cut crochet thread so it doesn’t tangle in the washer, but do not remove it or the WY.
10. Wash and dry as desired.
11. At this point, when I removed it from the dryer, the waste yarn rolled, but not all the way up to the beginning of the swatch. I probably could have removed it and had a flat edge right then, but the swatch was so wrinkled anyway, that I’d want to steam the final garment, so I pinned it to a board, steamed it, then let it dry.
12. As usual, steaming did not completely flatten the bind off edge; it left a hint of a roll. But when I removed the crochet thread and WY, the cast on edge was wonderfully, beautifully flat. No roll. Not even a hint of a rolled edge.


I won’t always use this edge, but for my next lace sweater, I didn’t want ribbing or a folded hem. This is the answer. I thought I’d share it here in case anyone else wants to try it on his or her next gauge swatch–I mean, what a perfect time to try it, right? Just a few extra waste yarn rows BEFORE your first CC row, so you don’t have to do a separate swatch to test it.

Pom-poms Made with Yarn Winder

Pom-poms Made with Yarn Winder
~ Something innovative by Beaded Pony Designs and Ginny Schweiss ~

You will need:
• yarn (skein, cone, or ball)
• 4-foot length of the same yarn, doubled
• ball winder
• several pencils, dowels, or hand-knitting needles as place holders – an even number
• long, sharp scissors for initial cut

Thread yarn on yarn winder according to its instructions. I use a Silver Reed SHW-3, but any ball winder should work.

Each turn of my yarn winder is 3 rotations, so 60 turns equals 180 wraps. Saves a lot of hand wrapping compared to the old “wrap yarn around cardboard” method.

Wrap the number of rotations you want, then cut the yarn. When I slide the yarn off the winder, I slide it straight off onto a bundle of four, fat hand-knitting needles. This keeps the ball open and gives me a way to tie the yarn into two equal halves. Take the doubled piece of yarn, slip it around the yarn ball, keeping half the needles (or dowels, or whatever) on one side, and half on the other. It’s important to tighten it very tightly. When I get it lined up in the middle, I remove a HK ndl from each side, giving me more room to tighten the yarn. Tie it off.

Open scissors and slip into one of the two halves of the pom-pom-to-be. If you can, slide the blade along the HK ndl to guide it. Get it all the way through so you can cut the whole side at once without the center closing up on you. Repeat on other side. Shake pom out. It will appear loose and limp. Don’t worry! As you shape it with scissors (I use the long ones but you might prefer a shorter pair for shaping), the shorter you go, the pom loses its limpness and firms up nicely.

This might take some trial and error to get the size pom you want. I use 70 wraps of Trenzado yarn (fingering weight, lighter than Bernat Baby yarns) to make a pom-pom for a teen/adult stocking hat. Do fewer wraps w/ thicker yarn.

How big will this be after I wash it??

Do you ever let your machine knit project rest, then look at it and think, “Oh, no, that can’t be right! It’s too long.” Or too short, wide, narrow. Then you remeasure your original swatch, and everything seems right mathematically, but you’re still looking at that sweater or whatever and shaking your head. Been there, done that!

I have developed a formula to reassure me that my knits are on track. When I look at the back of my granddaughter’s unfinished sweater and I can see it’s clearly too long and narrow, I used to get discouraged. I didn’t want to knit the front, let alone finish it. Not any more! Now all I have to do is fill in the fields, let the formula work, and I’m reassured that my gauge is correct, and it will come out perfect. What a relief!

I have saved it in Quatro Pro and Excel. You can download it here.