Wednesday, May 25


Having had a bit of a play with the overlocker this weekend, I remembered it was doing a slightly funny stitch, in that one of the loopers was only occasionally making the full depth of the 4 thread safety stitch. My overlocker is a Singer Ultralock U234, an older model I bought second-hand some years ago. I did a smashing two-day course with Erica Thomson at Metropolitan (deffo worth taking that course if you suffer from overlock fright!) and I seem to remember on day two it started playing up and I ended up unthreading one of its two needles just so I could continue to take part. I can't remember now, of course, exactly what the fault was - it's been a while (8 years, in fact)!

Anyroad, checking back on the blog, it looks like I thought I'd fixed it in 2009, but clearly I hadn't. So last night I bit the bullet - unthreaded the lot and cleaned all the fluff out. According to the Simplicity book I'm currently reading, which has a section on overlockers, I should really clean it out every time I use it. Oops. I got it threaded, and did a test sew using the manual's settings. Tweaked one of the loopers and - hey presto! A perfectly overlocked edge, with the loops perfectly intersecting on the edge. No more fraying fuzzy edges for me. As luck would have it, it was a scrap of the plaid fabric too so now I know it's correctly adjusted for the next attempt at that skirt. Mine seems to work best at 4-3-3-2 in case anyone else has this model. I'd say the fabric is a medium-weight.

Last night I also made a start on a stashbusting T-top with some leftover James C Brett Marble DK - have made a note of the tensions used on Ravelry in case I forget before I get to knit the other two pieces. Also managed a nordic walk in Flecknoe and dinner, so feeling very accomplished!

My only minor current annoyance (asides from the RSI and continued forced abstinence from all things knit, crochet etc) is that the diary's pretty full for the next week or so and I'm not sure when I can get back to my crafting. Ah well! Such is life! :)

Current mood:  energetic

Sunday, May 22

Kind of FO: plaid skirt

I cut this skirt out ages ago - probably 6 years ago (I had to read back through the blog to check!). Thought I'd carefully matched the stripes (wrong!) and was pretty sure size 22 was going to be too big. But I dug out the pieces at the weekend, and realised that as I probably had enough material to make another one, I should treat this one as a practice. So on Saturday, that's exactly what I did!



What I learnt:

  • Match the plaid next time, dummy!
  • Be more careful matching seams - I foolishly overlocked it first, thus removing the all-important matching notch - oops! Hence a strange fold at the base of the zip as I tried to match the waistband line
  • When doing stitch in the ditch, check the underside - I didn't manage to cover up all the unfinished hems in the waistband
  • Probably should have cleared the dining table of condiments and paperwork first - too keen!
  • Stitch in the ditch is cool!
  • How to use my zipper foot and how to move the machine's needle (it's elsewhere in the manual and not cross-referenced)
  • Test the overlocker on scrap material and maybe take one needle out seeing as with both needles and loopers it's still doing a funny skip every so often. Perhaps needs cleaning and rethreading. 
  • I cheated on the hem and sewed it on the machine - I decided I wouldn't bother hand-stitching it when it was obvious how oversized the whole thing was. 
  • Very pleased with the sides of the zip and the belt-loops and the back vent
  • The tablet takes shocking pictures, sorry about that! :S
Having googled the overlocker online (I temporarily mislaid its manual), it seems the Singer U234 isn't very keen on having its tensions changed much. Good job I only bought it second-hand, I'd be annoyed otherwise as overlockers and tension changes go hand in hand for different techniques!

If you know anyone who wants a UK size 18 skirt with mistakes in, let me know! The only annoying thing now is that I don't have much free time in the next fortnight to cut the next one.

Current mood: ridiculously keen to make another one!

Sunday, May 15

Magic cables, faux cables and the PM10 punching machine

Well, this month's meeting of the Needles of Steel (Warks) MK club went ok, all things considered. I declared last month, in a somewhat rash manner, that I would demonstrate magic cables. So last week I had a quick hunt in various places and discovered that the only actual magic cable pattern I have is for the Passap (and the technique is different, it uses racking). Two copies of the same one, too!? As luck would have it, someone must have brought a pattern to the Manor House club a while back, and I sneakily photographed most of one page of it with my smartphone. So that was all I had to work with. That, and a photo I found on Pinterest.

Magic cables is a technique by Ricki Mundstock - where you make faux cable effects by knitting with a tuck stitch card and manually hanging tucks on particular needles to produce the magic cable effect. The website disappeared sometime after June 2014 so is only available here via the wayback machine. I think the patterns probably show up on Ebay from time to time. I think the pattern I used may have been from the Children's Collection, but it's a guess as I only had a picture of one page.

So the technique is a tuck one,  a card that is mostly holes - a perfect job for the PM10 punching machine, seen here on the left.


Now, this is a great little machine - a cross between a punch and a typewriter, it will punch or skip (via that orange knob) a row of holes fairly quickly. So that's a pro. The con is that it doesn't have the safety pilot pin that comes with the hand-held punch, so can quite easily punch a hole off-centre - and if you're near the end of the card, expect some drunken punching before you realise it's dropped off the cogs that hold the card in place. So I had to finish up with the hand punch anyway. Another con is that these machines are quite heavy and rather expensive.

Anyroad, I finally got the card done - with a few repairs, because I made a few mistakes - and started to try and knit the pattern. Bearing in mind I was working from a photograph of a pattern, I thought I'd read that the left hang-up was an 8 row repeat, and the right hang-up a 6 row repeat - it didn't work, it was confusing, and I ended up watching the needles on the card and letting IT tell me when to hang up the stitches, and then marking that with an arrow on the card. You have a three-row tuck that happens on one side, and then when another needle is back at B position for two rows, you hang that tuck onto it. Having blown up the photo today, the instructions are kind of correct - I was reading the 6 as an 8 - but you can't do a left hang AND a right hang every 6 rows (as the pattern states), it's either one or the other, not both. This technique works great on knitting machines that pre-select the needles to B and D for you (ie Brother and Toyota machines). For other machines, you'll have to learn to look for which needle to hang the tuck on. It'll have three loops on it.

The result - a panel of ordinary tucks in the centre, and a faux braided cable either side:

Whilst we were on the subject of faux cables, I demonstrated something Bob showed us at Manor House last month - a sewn cable. You knit stocking stitch with some needles out of work:

1111111.1111.1111.1111111 where 1 is a needle in work, and . is out of work.

and then using two ends of the same thread, sew from the left gutter (the out of work needle column) to the centre gutter, come out again about 4 rows higher on the right gutter and sew into the centre gutter again, repeat all the way up. Tighten the yarn and you get this:


You can see the thread at the bottom.

I got all of my yarn out of the knitting room, and invited my members to buy anything that took their fancy - this is what was left, which is now cluttering up the garage, much to the Cog's chagrin:


The destash would have gone much better if (a) I didn't have a major penchant for loud, space-dyed acrylic, and fancy yarns, that nobody else wants and (b) my Rav stash inventory was actually correct.

And in the interests of completeness, this is my final parked hand-knit project, a glittery shawl for the woman (me) who never wears shawls. Nope, the RSI or whatever it is has shown no improvement, so the cross-stitch is romping along at the moment.


Current mood: indescribable - having discovered what I have and haven't got in my actual stash, do I knit it up or offer it for sale online? Hmmm....

Wednesday, May 11

Parked: baby blanket


This is another parked project - I added the top row of pink, and this is as far as I get before the tingling sets in. Got appointment for an EGM (where they send an electrical current down my arm and identify where the fault is) next month. In the meantime, I'm supposed to rest my hands. Ha. I'm thinking maybe I should use this time as an opportunity to turn my mind to dressmaking instead. At least it's not repetitive.

Current mood: lethargic

Monday, May 9

Auctions and sales

That's the thing about knitting machines. You say you'll take a look at one for someone, and then another one comes along. A bit like buses! :)

Got some MK items to get rid of in the next few weeks, please check out my auctions here.

Also, this is currently in my garage:


Knitmaster 360k 4.5mm knitting machine, lace carriage, SRP50 ribber, AW1 weaving arm, RT1 rib transfer carriage, wool winder with broken hat, card punch in box, pack of plain and punched cards, manual, all in large wheeled bench box. Machine needs a clean and a new sponge bar, the accessory lid hinge is broken (small parts stored elsewhere) but is in otherwise good condition - one feeler is missing from a patterning drum, I am hopefully getting that in the post soon. Offers around £100 for the lot - this is a complete starter kit for anyone interested in machine knitting, and Knitmaster are still in business as Silver so you can get spares and repairs. Can deliver in the Midlands area for a consideration towards my fuel costs.

And this is currently in my neighbour's garage:


Knitmaster ES302 knitting machine, a vintage 4.5mm knitting machine, manual patterning only. Open to offers on this one!

More pictures of items I have for sale (some are currently listed on Ravelry but I'm open to offers) here. Thanks for looking!

Current mood: lethargic - yeah, Eddie's still bouncing around the bedroom at night a lot, thanks to the light mornings... grrr...

Thursday, May 5

The art of lace on a knitting machine

I was asked to give a talk on lace in a machine knitting context at short notice last week, and had to think of something to talk about that hadn't been done before, as they are all old hands at machine knitting and I'm actually the new kid on the block. So I thought I'd talk about some of the different kinds of lace that can be created on a knitting machine. These are my notes - I'm sure there are further variations (today's Knit it Now has "lifted lace"). Just shows you that these machines are far more versatile than people think. 
  • Two types of automated lace – two carriage or one carriage systems ie Brother/Toyota versus Silver/Knitmaster 
  • Some machines can't do lace at all so do not have a lace carriage. This is due to inflexible needles (eg older machines, mid-gauge and bulky machines), or plastic bed machines (e.g. passap) – but there are other ways to achieve a lacy look e.g.
    • Needles OOW (aka NOOW (new) lace, with thanks to Tony Bennett!)
    • Hand manipulation on one or both beds
    • Use of thick and thin yarns (punch/thread lace)
    • Creating “sacrificial” stitches and then dropping them
    • Holding position with NOOW
    • Also, a combination of two techniques is possible on the two carriage systems, e.g. lace + knitweave etc.
  • Think about using lifelines if you've done a lot of work (double this if you're using the ribber bed). Far less hassle to add in a lifeline than to try and fix a dropped stitch. 
  • Think about yarn choice - automatic lace is better with a slightly stretchy yarn so linen and cotton aren't an easy choice for the beginner
  • Think about weights - lace sometimes needs lots of weight, and if you have "woolly weights" (magnetic) lace is perfect for that, no pesky claws pulling on your knitting.
  • 90 deg rule - according to some manuals you're best to have the work hanging at 90 degrees from the main bed, so draped over the out of work ribber (cover it with a pillowcase or something similar). Some machines work just fine with the knitting hanging straight down, though - so don't forget to sample and check your machine's preference. 
I came up with a chart (see below) about what's possible on what machines, I'm not quite sure it's 100% correct though, so feel free to comment. 

I've added some pictures at the bottom of some samples I have. I don't have all of them sampled as yet. The shadow lace ones were actually done in college. I do have a sample of biasing lace but it's too small to show the actual effect. Ellen Turner made lots of zigzag strips of it and then sewed one of them into a circle, and then more around it, and made a lovely tablecloth with them. Alas, I don't seem to have a picture of it - must have been before I had a digital camera. 

Lace types

Hand-manipulated lace

  • Needle out lace - decreases and needles taken out of work and put back in again - creates long floats, so do not use where floats will be an issue. Thanks to Bill King for this one!
  • “Twisted bar” lace - adding an empty needle in twists the bars between out of work needles - this was something Iris Bishop figured out. 
  • Cables and lace - as above, with cabling added
  • “Squiggle” lace - use holding position over groups of needles in work, and knit back and forth over two groups, gradually working across the bed and back again. 

Lace without a lace carriage

  • Tuck lace - needles out of work and tucking on the main bed - cancel end needle selection if your machine has it. 

    Lace with a lace carriage

    • Plain lace
    • Lace motifs - using cams or programming to isolate parts of the pattern
    • Fashion lace - moving stitches over in several passes so that the columns of stitches appear to bend
    • “Fine” lace (Brother only) - transfers the selected stitch so as to share it between its original needle and its neighbour; produces a textured effect
    • “Biasing” lace - continually transferring in the same direction over every other needle forces the material to bias
    • Lace and knitweave - you can mix rows of knitweave and lace
    • Lace and tuck
    • Lace and fair-isle
    • “Two needle out” lace - a variation on plain lace, you can actually have two needles out of work for a while to create a mesh effect - with thanks to Beryl Jarvis who discovered this. 
    • Thread lace aka punch lace - a variation on fairisle, this is achieved with thick and thin yarns instead. Some areas both yarns are knitted, and some areas only the thin yarn is used.

      Double-bed “lace”

      • Drive lace (all needles knit every row on RB, patterning Ns on MB released to form holes - hand-knit equivalent of double-wrapping certain stitches and dropping them on the next row
      • Mesh knitting – as above, but this time the holes / bigger stitches dominate
      • Shadow lace using jaws or transfer carriage - transferring stitches between beds to make holes
      • Double-bed hand manipulated lace - using the ribber to create ribbed sections mixed with lace
      • “Summer fair-isle” - stitches are created and dropped at the end of knitting the piece (a Passap technique). 
      • Double bed tuck lace - needles out of work, both beds tucking in opposite directions. 
      • Double bed tuck lace with racking - as above, with racking added.

      Click on this to embiggen - I gave up trying to make Blogger post a sensible table...

      Needle-out lace

      Twisted bar lace

      Cables and lace

      Squiggle lace

      Tuck lace examples

      Plain lace

      Lace motifs

      Fashion lace

      Fine lace

      Lace and knitweave - the weaving yarn very kindly fills in the holes for an interesting two-colour effect. I need to knit a bigger sample of this I think! 

      "Two needle out" lace

      Thread lace

      Drive lace

      Mesh knitting

      Shadow lace

      Double-bed hand-manipulated lace in progress

      Double-bed tuck lace

      Tuesday, May 3

      FO (mostly): T-time


      This is a T-time sweater from an old Kangamoo knits pattern. It'll go to the charity pile if I can figure out a way to tame those curling edges without having to resort to crochet. Doctor's appointment tomorrow, so I will know more about whether my "resting" is likely to be curing me. So far I don't think so! :(

      Eddie managed to photo-bomb this, if you look at the very top of the photo. That's his tail!

      Spent Sunday preparing a lace talk for thursday night's meeting, and most of yesterday morning trying to replace both inner tubes on my bike. Front refused to inflate, and had to wait until himself came home - after two hours, my patience was at an end and I was in danger of throwing something. Reassembly by the Cog fixed it. Thwarted by inanimate technology! Bah! But at least I can cross it off my to-do list. Now all I need is for it to stop raining so I can use it (no mudguards).

      Current mood: energetic