Thursday, October 23

New venture

I've realised I love making socks (and other items) but have no more wardrobe space for them- in fact, everytime I open my sock drawer, they try to make a bid for freedom. So I'm going to start selling some things on Etsy. Please take a look at my shop - there's not a lot of stock up there yet, because I haven't had chance to load it all up, but watch this space!

Current mood: excited

Friday, October 17


For those of you who don't know, I try and attend Manor House Machine Knitters when I can. They meet near Leicester town centre, and it's a 45 minute jaunt up the M1 for me, but it's one of the only clubs in my area that I can attend, working full time. At the end of the year (it only runs term time) we have a party and we make suggestions for talks we'd like to see next year. I offered to do a talk on weaving, so they took me up on the offer. So I've been getting the looms ready for the last six weeks - no time like the present when you work - and the talk went pretty well. Still got the stonking head cold, although now I'm mostly at the tickly, annoying coughing fit stage. Luckily, the coughing held off!

The thing is, I struggle with this. I love sharing information with people. I love passing on my knowledge, and seeing that "lightbulb" moment in someone else's eyes. But I really, really hate giving presentations. Always have done, always will. I guess that's normal. A good friend recently asked me why I volunteer for such things. "You can say no!" she said. Yes, I know that. But if nobody stands up and does these things, who will? If you risk nothing, you win nothing and you learn nothing. Someone has to pass on information. One of the ladies said she never does demos because of stage-fright - and she has a wealth of information she could pass on. It's always the same people doing committee jobs in these sorts of organisations, too, and it's a shame. We all have the potential to stretch ourselves, if we would only just try.

What did I learn last night? That there was nothing to be scared of, really. Next time I need to make notes about the activities I've planned for afterwards, because I didn't really demonstrate the 8 shaft loom, it being between me and the audience, and I forgot to mention I'd brought loads of books for them to look at. We had plenty of time waiting for the judging to take place. Last night was the annual MK/HK competition - I came 3rd in the miscellaneous category. Yay!

So - challenge yourself today. If you don't, who will?

Current mood: relieved

Wednesday, October 15

Yarn Cafe Open Day

The head cold is fading somewhat, now it's mostly uncontrollable fits of coughing. I managed to preserve my voice enough to attend the Yarn Cafe Open day, where I had a stand promoting the Guild of Machine Knitters.

Had quite a lot of interest, including 3 children who thought it was the greatest fun to see how quickly it knitted. I took a large folder of swatches. The photos were taken when it calmed down a bit, it was really manic most of the time! We didn't knit anything, just messed about with the patterns, but the kids were delighted to take home the pieces. Hoping I enticed a few more people to the dark side!




Yes, I forgot to pack a tablecloth. The blue picnic rug lives in my car. One chap really admired it - but it wasn't for sale (I bought it at the national wool museum in Wales). I think I could have sold some of the garments too, although if I factored in time as well as yarn I expect they'b baulk at the price.

Sunday I went down to Ally Pally with H. I must be the only person who can go down to the UK's biggest yarn/crafts show, and only come back with two shirts and a hair comb. The yarns were lovely but I'm really trying to cut down. No, really. It's bad for my wallet. Started a sock on the train, with yarn which may have been a present last xmas. Or even the year before! I have lost track.

Yesterday I made another attempt at a red jumper (having unpicked the last one). This jumper is determined to be a pain - I programmed a skulls border, and stopped the pattern a row too early on the back. I was using partial rows to shape the shoulders, but forgot to knit a final "smoothing off" row (I forgot four times!), so dropped a stitch when joining the shoulder and had to rehang it. So far I have a front, back and neck (neckline needs casting off by hand). Hoping there's enough yarn for long sleeves.

Tomorrow is the weaving talk in Leicester. I'm as nervous as a cornered nun. Wish me luck!

Current mood: nervous

Friday, October 10

I've got the lurgy...

Came down with a sore throat and stinking head cold this week, which has rather curtailed my activities. You know I'm ill when I don't even want to knit! The voice seems to have returned a bit, which is good because demonstrating a knitting machine (tomorrow afternoon) in silence is not easy - I can sign the deaf alphabet but that will be a bit too longwinded methinks! And not much use if nobody else can read it. 

Current mood: sick

Monday, October 6

Things afoot...

This is happening right now...


...and this (if you squint, you might detect upside-down hearts just woven)...


...and this, which is so addictive I might have to start another one.


But the less said about this disaster of a jumper, the better (hence its being thrown in a corner)...


Wednesday, October 1

The art of knitweave, or how to ignore the manual

When I got my "first" machine, a Brother KH836, there was no manual, and no punchcards. Luckily, a kind lady on rec.crafts.machknit (yes, we're talking the old Usenet days here) offered to make a copy of hers for a contribution towards postage. She did a great job, but I either couldn't read, or misunderstood, the directions for knitweave. I kept getting fairisle for some reason.

I don't remember where I was, or who showed me how to knitweave, but they demonstrated the old-fashioned "laying in" method used by earlier machines which often did not come with tension masts. I've always done it like this ever since. In fact, I really struggled to get knitweave to work on the SK840 as you can't "lay in" a yarn on a machine that doesn't preselect needles.

The Brother manual tells you to thread the weaving yarn through the mast, and swap it from one side of the sinker plate to the other on every single row. Very tedious, not to mention you have to move the carriage further past the knitting in order to release the weaving yarn, thus making it more likely you'll get loops on the side of your knitting. Threading it through the mast works fine for smooth 4 plys, but if you want to use something nubbly or thick, it will jam in the tension discs. There's been some discussion about this on Ravelry, so I thought I'd do a sketch showing how the "laying in" method works.


For the handknitters, knitweave is laying a yarn over or under the working yarn on the purl side, in such a way that it gets caught by the working yarn. The weaving yarn is not knitted itself. You can use a simple pattern (eg card 1, which is 0101 and 1010 repeated forever), or you can use a card which makes long floats and then hook them up.

Here's a picture of a shopping bag I made back in 2008. Apologies for the poor quality picture, it was taken with my old Treo.

Knitweave bag side 2

Close-up of a knitweave top I made BB (Before Blogging):

Picture 035

In other news, the big lace project is finally off the machine, after a false dawn when I failed to notice a whole 30 rows of the pattern, and is awaiting grafting and steaming.

Oh, and Wikispaces is closing down free wiki hosting, including the machine knitting wiki I created with fellow Ravellers, unless I can prove it's used exclusively for higher education. It's a website, for Pete's sake, how can I prove who visits it? Shame on you, Wikispaces.

Monday, September 29

Swatching about

I often demonstrate my knitting machine in places where folks won't be familiar with its capabilities, and I realised a book of swatches would be good. I don't often keep the garments I make, as they go to charity, so I don't always have samples of particular techniques. The lace workshop last week got me started - I mounted all of the samples on paper, with labels. I dug out a few more samples of other things I've had pinned up for ages in the knitting room. So saturday I decided to fill in the gaps, which meant carefully removing the current lace project from the machine. I had great fun trying out some patterns from Stitchworld. I've never tried thread lace before (a kind of fairisle where a fine yarn is knitted in some places, and both the fine and main yarn is knitted elsewhere). I've never done intarsia using that machine, nor plating, nor plated tuck. I also ironed out some bugs with my colour changers. Turns out you are supposed to make an adjustment to the KRC if you are going to use it on the machine when the ribber is engaged - and yes, it's in the manual, I just never spotted it before. Also, my KHC does not like the tuck brushes. You are supposed to add tuck brushes - but doing this just picks up massive loops of yarn which get snarled around the brushes and leave you with the carriage jammed in the middle of the bed. So I tried leaving them off - and it works just fine. So sometimes you can't just slavishly follow the manual!

Also sometimes you need to start a pattern from the opposite end of the bed to where you'd think - it doesn't help that sometimes this is at the back of the manual, and I have both punchcard and electronic brothers where it's not always the same. I'm going to work up some simple "cheat sheets" for both machines, and if they are any good I'll share them here. A lot easier than wading through the manual.

No pictures of the swatches yet, because I haven't taken any. I will try and take some tonight and modify the post.

Yesterday I went to the Big Textile show, and within moments was making a Morsbag - what a great idea! I had never even heard of them. It really made me want to dig my sewing machine out again, too. Lots of lovely arty stuff to look at, and excellent cake in the cafe. Thanks to C for taking me along, it was a fun day!

Oh, and turns out my blog only made a noise to me, some kind of malware on this computer. After a quick clean up of Chrome, it seems to be fixed now.