Simple markers make seaming simple

This is handy and pays off big time as you seam sweaters and such. All those pieces of yarn that you cut when you’re working on the machine?–snip a bunch of them into ten to twelve inch lengths and keep them handy. Collect different colors so you always have a contrast marker. Then, next time you’re knitting something that will be seamed together, hang a piece on the end stitches every 20 or 40 rows; the number isn’t important, the consistency is. When you’re seaming pieces together, these markers eliminate any question as to whether you’re staying even. Very helpful when seaming Fair Isle because changing colors puts different tension on your stitches and makes them tricky to match up if they’re not marked.

Tips: Ribber Cast on Combs

The prevailing opinion is that you must never pull the ribber COC wire all the way out when hanging it between beds. I have always followed that advice … until now. I’ve been struggling to suspend a full-length COC on a mid gauge SK860 and SR860 when I have 120 sts in place. I freely admit that I begin my hat projects a little different than a lot of machine knitters. I like to crochet cast on on the main bed, knit a row, move stitches into a 2×2 rib configuration, then suspend the COC and large ribber weights. That method gives me the edge I prefer on hats. It also presents its own problems on hanging a COC. Finally, after several frustrating attempts recently, I pulled the wire all the way out and pushed the COC into place where it belonged. It was so much easier! The wire slipped into the holes without any difficulty and all the way through. I have a pretty heavy wire on my COC; it’s not a flimsy little wire. That could be part of the recipe for success also. So my advice to you today is to research a technique, but don’t be afraid to reach out for a new resolution.

Taming the Curly Cord on an Electronic Machine

Summer’s over; landscaping is done! Time to knit!

My electronic machines have “curly cords.” Those of you who have them will understand: on every pass of the carriage, the cord grabs the mast. The curls are just tight enough to hang up for a second. One, it’s annoying. Two, I’m worried the stress will eventually take a toll on the wire(s).

PVC to the rescue again. I found a piece in the basement, about a foot long, narrow diameter. I lifted the mast out of the hole, slipped the PVC tube onto the bottom of the mast, and reinserted the mast into its spot. Now, on every pass of the carriage, the curly cord comes into contact with the tube, and it just spins. No hang up. No distraction. No stress.

Pillows

Just photographed the finished pillows today. Here they are.

tessa_b

The first one is for T; hers has a rainbow behind the clouds because I knew she’d like the extra thought. Her name is in birdseye on the reverse side.


ella_b
The second one is for E. She saw the fancy letters in a book the other day, on my desk, and asked if I had the right letters to spell her name. She didn’t know I’d already picked out that style out for  her for something.

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 ravelry.com. 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.