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Superba Knitting: A Lace & Mohair Love Affair

The view in the photo below is of Village Yarns, a yarn shop in Toronto where I used to work. This store carried the most wonderful selection of hand knitting yarns, many of them very suitable to knitting on a Superba Knitting Machine. Mohair yarns were one of these.

Karen Dinner, the owner of Village Yarns, stocked all weights and varieties of Mohair including the lovely Lace Weight varieties from yarn companies such as Madil, Rowan, SR Kertzer, Filatura di Crosa and hand dyed Mohair from Fleece Artist, Hand Maiden, Prism and Alchemy Yarns of Transformation.

I am very partial to mohair as a fibre and Lace Weight Mohair in particular. The light, soft, lustrous, gossamer qualities of finely spun Mohair are dyed in an endless colour range and truly a feast for the senses. Many varieties, including Madil Kid Seta, Rowan Kid Silk Haze and Alchemy Haiku were blended with silk for a divine hand when knit.

No one comes close in my opinion to Laura Bryant, Creative Director and master dyer at Prism Yarn in Florida. Laura's colours are a treat for the senses. Prism Gossamer lace weight Mohair above in Mohave and below in Arroyo colourways.

Wraps, sweaters, shawls, blankets, and gloves are just some of the possibilities when knitting with this weight of yarn and there are hundreds of wonderful garment patterns available, especially from Rowan and Prism.

As the owner of a Superba, Singer, White or Phildar brand knitting machine made in France, we have knitting machines which knit these fibres with exceptional ease.

It has been my experience that Mohair knit on Japanese knitting machines snags very easily on the Sinker Posts (what we refer to as "Flow Combs" on a Superba) and one has to frequently check that yarn is not caught on these posts that separate each needle, or the machine will drop or skip stitches. This is not to say this doesn't happen whilst knitting mohair on a Superba, but not nearly as often. The shape and angle of the Flow Combs results in less "hairs" getting caught and wrapped over the combs on a Superba.

Please save me the suggestion of waxing my mohair before using it or putting it in the freezer. Forget it. I never wax my yarns. Never will. You can tsk tsk all you want but I've seen the results and, well - yuck. I have not spent the money I have on gorgeous yarns in fabulous colours, many of them hand dyed, to then take them home and coat them with a petrol chemical that may or may not wash out. If it won't knit up on the machine as is then it will on two hand knitting needles. Luckily for me a Superba handles Mohair like a dream.

I first began with the idea to Needle Felt some Kid Mohair roving onto a swatch of kid mohair knit in simple Stocking Stitch technique.

I used a skein of Rowan Kid Silk Haze Mohair for the Stocking Stitch base and needle felted over this using Fleece Artist Kid Mohair sliver. This is for a needle case I am making for my Addi Turbo hand knitting needles.


In these photos I am working with Madil "Kid Seta" lace weight mohair.

The machine I am using is my White model 1502 (same as a Superba S47, Singer Memo II/Singer 600) and the stitch technique is hand transferred lace. The lace technique section is being worked on the Back Needle Bed in the Stocking Stitch setting.

This style of Lace is the same as achieved in hand knitting. A "Yarn Over" is paired with a decrease in the same row, creating this style of lace fabric. This is not just simple eyelets.

This Gauge Swatch was for a shawl I knit as part of a christening outfit. The lace pattern is a repeat of 14 stitches by 18 rows. The stitch pattern is formed by working 16 rows on the Back Bed (BB) and then all stitches are transferred to the Front Bed (FB), then two rows of plain knitting are done, then all stitches are transferred to the Back Bed (BB) and the stitch pattern repeats with all transfers being done by hand using a Superba six-prong transfer tool.

Below is the Garter Transfer Carriage I used to transfer stitches from the Back Needle Bed to the Front Bed to create the contrasting rows of Purl Stitch.

Note: You could also use the standard Transfer Carriage as all needles are transferred between needle beds, not just selected stitches.

When knitting a Lace Weight Mohair on a Superba Knitting Machine I offer the following suggestions:

1. Always wind the Mohair into a Mini Cone using a Yarn Winder and push this down onto an empty cone.
Note: Click on the highlighted text to take you to my post showing you how.

This keeps the mohair off the table surface and away from lint and dirt. Especially when knitting white, like I am.

2. Constantly dust the machine and table whilst knitting to remove dirt and be careful of getting oil from the needles and needle beds on your hands. I am transferring a lot of stitches so I wear an apron to wipe my hands on. I have tried wearing gloves but I can't stand them.

3. Always cast on using Waste Yarn and a Ravel Cord to begin. This is how I knit practically everything.

Begin with an "Open Cast-On" technique and work at least 10 rows of waste yarn. Unthread your carriage and work one row with a Ravel Cord. Then work a "Closed Cast-On" technique, such as the "e-Wrap Cast-On" over this row of Ravel Cord.

4. As for Stitch Size, set the tension nice and loose please. Mohair needs room for the loose hairs to expand and fluff out. If the stitch size is too tight, it will end up felting and looking like a wet Bouvier I know. Not very appealing and such a waste of a gorgeous fibre.

This Lace Weight Mohair I am knitting on Stitch Size #10.

5. Ease off on your weights. I have a 172 stitches cast on and I am knitting this using two medium weights with the machine knitting just fine. As shown in the photo below, I added a third medium weight in the centre of the comb when it came time to transfer stitches using the Garter Lace Carriage. With this kind of knitting, dropped stitches are disastrous if they run. I remove the third weight when I resume knitting and transferring on the Back Bed (BB).

6. No fast knitting with this particular technique. Occasionally the hairs will curl around needles or a flow comb (the metal teeth separating the channels the needles sit in as pictured below) but most important, notice with this transferred lace technique how the fabric is starting to undulate? You can see it along the contrast line formed by the blue Ravel Cord.

7. As you begin transferring stitches, the needles which have 3 stitches on them (in hand knitting this would read SL1, K2tog, PSSO) will cause the fabric to push downwards along this continuous line of decreases. The resulting empty needles (Yarn Over or YO) will actually raise the stitch pattern upwards. This causes the undulating you see.

The other result is that there is very little "tension" on these needles from the weights or comb as compared to their neighbouring stitches. So do pay attention to the rows completed one at a time.

The amazing thing for me as I worked this technique was how effortlessly my Superba/White knitting machine handles this technique. The machine just zips along!

8. When using the 6-prong transfer tool go slow at first to get used to picking up and moving that many stitches at a time.

TIP: You might find it helpful to hold your needle pusher against the needle butts to hold them in place as you transfer the stitches onto their new needles.

9. As a safety measure to ensure the stitches will knit after transferring, I push all my working needles to position 3, set my Needle Return Buttons down and knit. The needles will knit back into working position 1.

TIP: Hand knitters will run a thread (known as a safety line) through a row of stitches that have plain knitting so that in the event something awful happens like dropped stitches, the stitches will only run to this safety line and no further. This way you won't have to re-knit the whole piece if you drop a stitch and need to unravel your fabric. The "lifeline" will stop any unraveling at this row.

10. As with all fabrics when knitting the full width of the bed, mind the Racking Lever located between the front and back bed on the left side. When you begin knitting, ensure your Cast On Comb does not catch on this and get stuck. Otherwise the comb will stop pulling on your fabric and the machine may start skipping stitches.

I continued the topic of Knitting With Lace Weight Mohair in more detail beginning with this post.

Take care and I hope you found the information presented informative.

Patrick Madden.
Toronto, Ontario CANADA