In February 2007 I briefly touched on the topics of knitting Lace Weight Mohair and Hand Transferred Lace Stitches from the perspective of a Superba Knitting Machine. This was titled the "Mohair Love Affair". I received many requests asking me to expand on the details of this topic and basic knitting techniques. Request granted.
I have structured this post so that you can see the process I use when beginning a new project, with a focus on knitting Hand Transferred Lace. Stocking Stitch has it's uses but why not introduce a decorative stitch that is created by doing simple decreases within our Stocking Stitch fabric which create eyelets? That's all Lace really is.
It is very challenging to put into words what we do so naturally with our hands. I was very undecided with how to structure all this information but in the end I felt that this was an opportunity to share with you how I plan and begin knitting a new garment or accessory. How several techniques flow into the next, how one step - or misstep - can affect your knitting further along. I know what it is like to sit at your machine, frustrated because it just won't cooperate and we know in the end it us - the knitter - who is not doing something right. But how to know which step I overlooked? What does a Superba Knitting Machine prefer me to do? How the hell do I get this thing to work?!?!
Experienced machine knitters already know what I am about to show you but for the new or returning knitter, this is for you. This post is targeted to knitters of your skill level. Many knitters experience frustration due to lack of information regarding basic machine knitting techniques and feel isolated with no teachers or instructors to explain the why and the how. Well I'm about to show and explain the Why and the How of knitting a Hand Transferred Lace Gauge Swatch.
The techniques shown in this post are suitable for all skill levels to use and on any model of Superba Double Bed Knitting Machine. Please read and consider what I am showing you and then try it out on your machine at home. There is plenty of information for you to read beyond Lace Stitches and Gauge Swatches. These techniques are suitable for many styles and weights of yarn so please don't think that just because I am knitting with Mohair that you cannot apply them to other yarns. You can. You have my permission! You can also apply the various techniques to other types of knitting machine stitches.
This particular project provides me the opportunity to share with you the following information and machine knitting techniques for owners of Superba, White, Singer and Phildar fixed double bed knitting machines, including...
Inspiration & Yarn Choices
Lace Stitch Patterns
Yarn Winder Basics
Determining The Best Stitch Size
Provisional Cast On Technique
Transfer Carriage Basics
Hand Transferred Lace Technique
Knitting With Tricky Fibres
Repairing Dropped Stitches
Crochet Cast Off Technique Using Waste Yarn
Washing & Blocking of Knits
There are many knitting techniques and varying opinions as to the "best" way to approach machine knitting. I am sharing with you those methods I depend upon and that serve me well. To each his/her own. I hope you find this information helpful and I appreciate your feedback. You may email me with your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Toronto, Ontario CANADA
Now let's get down to the subject at hand....
Inspiration & Yarn Choices.
I love the touch and look of Lace Weight Mohair. I work with this yarn on a daily basis at Village Yarns as it is a popular quality of hand knitting yarn for garments and accessories, especially for patterns involving Lace Stitches as it shows stitch definition very well. This fine yarn is surprisingly strong being spun with either a Nylon or Silk core. The colour range is exceptional and it knits up so light and airy while being incredibly soft. It's light weight contributes to the incredible yardage in each 25g ball. On average 225 yards. This is not the harsh and scratchy Mohair of days gone by. (Of course some people will never be able to wear or work with this long hair fibre due to the "fluff" factor which get's in their nasal passages or if they are hyper allergic to goat hair.)
One winter day back in January I was organizing the Mohair Yarn section at Village Yarns and my thoughts turned to my niece Meghann who had recently given birth to a daughter. The idea came to me that I would knit her a Christening Gown as a present. I had a little girls Empire Waist Coat pattern already charted at home and I started imagining how this would look modified with a longer and fuller "skirt" section to make it look like a traditional baptismal garment worn by babies.
In my mind, the colour would be white with pearl buttons and silk ribbon for accents and an intricate Lace Stitch technique. I imagined a lace stitch pattern that would provide visual interest and cause the hemline to scallop or form points. No simple eyelets and definitely not Feather & Fan! Too pedestrian. Maybe a Silk fabric for the bodice of the coat. The yarn would be Silk to match. Silk and - Mohair! Bingo! A perfect choice for what I had in mind and I was right in front of it. I had been wanting to knit something with this quality of mohair yarn on my Superba for ages but I hadn't known what...until now. With my yarn choice made I purchased a ball of Madil "Kid Seta", a beautiful blend of Kid Mohair and Silk and went home that night to review my knitting library for an appropriate Lace Stitch Pattern and begin swatching.
Lace Stitch Patterns.
As a knitting teacher I do my fair share of lace knitting at work but rarely do I knit complete garments in this technique. There are thousands of stitch patterns and techniques to choose from and only so many hours in the day, so one has to think carefully about what you will commit yourself to in terms of projects.
At the time I began knitting the Christening Gown on my Superba I started this hand knit lace project from the Holiday 2006 issue of Vogue Knitting. I love Vogue Knitting. They always have great garment designs combined with gorgeous stitch techniques. I had been drooling over this Tie Front Cardigan pattern for months and finally succumbed to the temptation. The garment is designed by knit artist Shirley Paden who is an extremely talented and technically brilliant knitter and pattern writer.
The Stitch pattern is called "Frosted Flowers" and features a nice balance of paired decreases and eyelets. This is an example of what I like in lace stitches. The knitting shown has not been blocked yet so the yarn overs or "eyelets" are not full open but you get the idea.
Notice with the Frosted Flowers stitch pattern that there are rows of purl stitches that run like ridges horizontally through the fabric. I love that in lace. I love how the paired decreases are clustered together and the eyelets are grouped together. I am not the biggest fan of all-over lace stitch patterns with lots of eyelets. My preference is for something that produces a more substantial fabric. So I went in search of one with similar elements.
Ribbon Knits is a Japanese Hand Knitting publication that I purchased on ebay a few years ago. I remembered that Ribbon Knits had many interesting lace stitches that might translate well on my Superba.
As far as the style of lace stitch pattern I was interested in, I knew that I wanted the structure of the stitch pattern to stand out. I wanted a stitch pattern with strong vertical and horizontal lines and lots of stitch transfers to make the fabric undulate. If you line up your decreases row after row in Lace knitting, the horizontal edges of the fabric will angle away, producing scallops or chevrons, depending on the stitch repeat.
I did NOT want a soft, all-over design. Knitting with this fine Mohair there would be enough drape happening as it was. Also, as I had chosen White to knit with I did not want to go to all the effort of transferring the stitches only to have the pattern dissappear against a white background. My memory served me well as I rediscovered this Chevron Lace Stitch.
Japanese knitting publications are a personal favourite of mine. The Japanese have the best layout and technical information for both hand and machine knitters with beautiful stitch patterns and finishing techniques.
Knowledge of the Japanese language is not neccessary as these publications use standard knitting stitch symbols and provide excellent diagrams of how to perform the required techniques on a knitting machine.
Now don't be dismayed by looking at the Stitch Chart for the Chevron Lace pattern which is below. I will take you through the "How To" step by step later in this lesson. What I want you to do is to look at the structure of the stitch pattern and see what it was that first appealled to me. Do you see it? All the stitch symbols line up! Furthermore, the same pattern is repeated vertically as well as horizontally. To me this means that this will be easy to memorize and very easy to execute as I will be transferring the same group of stitches over and over.
The Chevron Stitch Pattern has a repeat of 14 stitches x 18 rows.
Why Transfer By Hand?I am well aware that there are automatic lace transfer carriages produced by Japanese manufacturers including Silver Reed (brand names Singer, Studio, Knitmaster) and Brother (Jones, KnitKing). I have one. It won't work without crying tears of frustration every other row as the 4.5mm gauge or needle space is too fine for this kind of yarn. The hairs of the yarn will catch on the sinker posts (even with waxing) and the transfers will not happen consistently.
These transfer carriages are only available on the fine and ultra fine gauge machines anyways. What does one do on a chunky or bulky knitting machine? What does one do if you want to introduce rows of contrasting purl stitches, cables or rib stitches to the fabric? You do it by hand.
To achieve the style of lace stitch that I prefer, one has to do multiple passes of an automatic lace carriage before knitting any actual rows. So transferring by hand is just as fast to me. As I said, I hand knit. Everyday. Transferring stitches on a machine by hand is easy. Straightforward. Not time consuming at all. Especially on a Superba.
You will find your Superba has the ability to handle a tricky fibre like Mohair with such finesse, due in part to a slightly larger needle gauge and the shape of the flow combs. The ease of using the Transfer Carriage accessory to move large numbers of stitches back and forth between needle beds allows a Superba to produce gorgeous stitch patterns that are usually only done by hand knitting. The carriages on these machines are so light and easy to move back and forth that all this movement does not turn into a strenuous workout. We can quickly lower and raise the Front Bed to check on our work and repair any stitches that do happen to drop off the needles. I will show you how to do this later in the lesson.
An Overview of Lace Stitch Patterns.
For those of you unfamiliar with Lace Stitches, this stitch technique is formed within a Stocking Stitch fabric. For Superba Knitting Machines, we generally knit Stocking Stitch on the Back Needle Bed or BB.
Basic Lace Stitches.
Basic Lace Stitches.
Lace Stitches are comprised of "Eyelets" or holes that we purposely form within the fabric. This most basic form of Lace is achieved by hand transferring a single stitch from one needle to an adjacent needle ...which in itself is a decrease....
Place a single prong Transfer Tool over the hook of a needle.
Pull the Transfer Tool and needle toward you so the latch opens and the stitch slides behind the latch. Now slide the Transfer Tool away from you towards the machine. The stitch will slide onto the transfer tool and you will lift the tool up at a slight angle so the stitch does not slip off.
Move the Transfer Tool over one stitch to the left. Line the eye of the Transfer Tool up with the next needle you wish to transfer to.
Bring the Transfer Tool towards the needle and position the eye over and onto the hook of the adjacent needle.
Position your finger under the transfer tool along the Flow Combs and tip the transfer tool upwards.
The stitch slides onto the needle and rests on the hook. You have just performed a single transfer or a right leaning decrease resulting in the beginning formation of any eyelet.
Once we have transferred the single stitches we must complete this row by making sure that the empty needle is back in Working Position No.1 as it must resume forming stitches. Use you ruler or needle pusher to do this.
With the needle back in working position we complete Row 1 by moving our carriage from right to left. The empty needles will pick up a strand of yarn over (YO) the hook and the needles surrounding these will knit their stitches as usual.
The row following this transfer row is a plain row of knitting. Many Lace Stitch patterns alternate a Transfer Row with a Plain Row with no transferring of stitches. So we knit back across all stitches from left to Right.
The needles with a Yarn Over will complete the formation of a new stitch and the surrounding needles will knit as usual.
Two rows have been completed (Row 1: Transfer/Knit Row 2: Knit) and an "Eyelet" is formed within the Stocking Stitch fabric.
You can transfer just one stitch or multiple stitches in a single row. In the photo below you can see four empty needles which are the reuslt of four single transfers or decreases.
Bring the empty needles to position no.1 and then knit 2 rows.
Four eyelets are formed as a result.
Remember that the number of "plain" knitting rows between Transfer Rows depends on your particular Stitch Pattern.
Practical Application: This is the way machine knitters permanently mark their Gauge Swatches with the Stitch Size number they are using for a particular yarn and stitch combination.
You form one eyelet on the right half of your swatch for every whole number, as shown in the Basic Stocking Stitch Gauge swatch below. There are 10 eyelets below which means I used Stitch Size 10 to knit this swatch. If I was at setting 9.5 then I would transfer nine eyelts on the right half of my work and a single eyelet on the left. This would read as Stitch Size 9.5.
This swatch is marked as Stitch Size 4.
Also, this is the transfer method used to make a "Picot Edge Hem" on page 52 of the Basic Instruction Book.
Working these single transfer eyelets is fine and they look nice combined in vertical colums or small floret clusters but to my taste they look rather bland. I prefer something with more surface interest, something with a bit more WOW! - especially if I am making the effort to work all the transfers by hand. That would be Decorative Lace.
Decorative Lace Stitches.
Decorative Lace Stitches are produced by working one or two decreases and transferring multiple stitches at a time, often towards a central point in the stitch repeat. These are referred to as Paired Decreases:
Instead of transferring single stitches we use a multi-prong transfer tool to transfer several stitches at once. In addition to the decrease taking place it is the shifting of this large number of stitches that will cause our fabric to dramatically bias or flow in the direction of the transfer.
As with all lace, we must decrease one stitch in order to form an eyelet in our knitting. The difference this time is that the "decrease" is happening six stitches away from where the "eyelet" is formed.
To make the transfer effect even more pronounced, we can select a central needle and continually transfer stitches onto this from both its left and right sides. In this case we transfer six stitches from the left and right sides of a central needle.
This central needle will be knitting three stitches together every second row as we continue to transfer stitches towards this centre point. This constant transferring from both directions creates strong diagonal lines in our fabric.
This results in the centre needle having a very pronounced vertical line that flows through our fabric and this action balances out the diagonal or bias effect that would happen if we transferred only in one direction row after row. The result is a stunning lace fabric with a pronounced Chevron point to the cast on edge.
Point of View: This is why I do not like the "Racked" Lace technique that Superba knitting machines can produce using the Garter Lace Carriage. All the transfers travel only left to right and therefore the resulting fabric will bias or slope on an angle. I do not like the resulting fabric. It looks nothing like traditional hand knit Lace Stitches.
Combining TechniquesTo make the surface texture even more interesting, this transfer and decreasing of stitches laterally can then be combined with rows of Purl Stitches which produce a noticeable ridge or contrasting horizontal line against the Stocking Stitch fabric.
This is achieved by transferring stitches to the Front Needle Bed with our Transfer Carriage, working two rows in Stocking Stitch and then transferring the stitches to the Back Bed and resuming our lace stitch pattern. The resulting Lace fabric is far more intricate and detailed than what can be achieved by single transfers.
Having decided on this stitch pattern for the Cristening Gown I then transformed my yarn from a hand knitting ball to a Machine Knitting Mini Cone so I could knit with it. Let me show you how.
Yarn Winder Basics & Mini Cones Of Yarn.I am including this "how to" information as some knitters do not realize that you must rewind a ball of hand knitting yarn into what is commonly known as a "Centre Pull Ball" or a "Cake". Cake? Yes, they look like little cakes of yarn. But why rewind a ball of yarn?
Once rewound the yarn can be drawn from the centre of the new ball and it will flow smoothly. This is especially important for us as our knitting machines will draw the yarn at a very fast rate and if the yarn does not flow smooth and even then this can result in dropped or skipped stitches. Also your carriage will be labouring to knit a row due to the lack of flow.
Pictured below is the familair cone + collar that comes as part of the wool winder with our Superba knitting machines. I do not like these and do not recommend their use. Why? There are no yarn guides on this cone winder and you must use your hands to slide the yarn back and forth across the cone. The tension on the yarn as you wind is hard to maintain and therefore the resulting yarn is uneven and most importantly it will pull off the cone is great clumps and tangle like crazy. Be forwarned.
I have three yarn winders, including the Royal brand shown at the very top, which I love and also the Jumbo version for larger amounts of yarn. Then there is the Silver Reed Yarn Winder I'm using in this photo demo. This model has a spring loaded arm with rollers that apply pressure on the yarn as it is wound keeping it uniform in size and tension. As you wind yarn, the width of the ball will expand and the feeding arm moves with it. This is great for tricky fibres like silks and rayons that are slippery and don't want to behave.
A ball winder is also handy for that coned yarn you bought at such a great deal only to find that it's way too thin for your machine. You can wind off yarn as many times as you like, doubling and tripling the thickness.
Mini Cones Of Yarn.
Now I take this winding process one step further. I don't like "Centre Pull" balls because once the yarn comes off the wool winder it will compress towards the centre and the first 10-20 rows of your knitting will be very tight due to the extra pressure. I always have to pull several lengths of yarn from the centre of the ball then knit a few rows and then stop and pull some more and what a waste of time. This is my preferred method which allows for the yarn to be drawn off from the outside rather the inside, just like coned yarn
If I am winding White or another light coloured yarn, I take a dusting cloth a clean the winder. This is so you don't end up with a line of black lint from the last yarn you wound in the middle of your knitting.
Next I take a leftover paper towel tube and cut it the height of the "cone" on the winder. Toilet paper tubes are the perfect height.
I cut the tube in half...
and slip it over the winder cone.
Overlap the paper tube as snug as possible and tape it several times in place.
Your winder is ready to go.
Next, take your ball of hand knitting yarn, remove any labels and insert your fingers into the centre of the ball and find the yarn tail tucked somewhere inside. Take your time as you don't want to make any knots. Do not wind from the outside of the ball. Once again, the yarn will not flow freely and will be a pain to wind.
Now thread your winder as per it's instructions. This model I thread right to left, beginning with the wire eyelet guide, across the roller and then towards the cone.
Holding the roller away from the cone, I wrap the yarn counter clockwise around the cone a few times.
Now release the roller and it will press up against the cone.
Lay the yarn across the rollers and then take up the slack on the yarn infront of the wire guide. Note how I am holding the yarn between my fingers in this photo. As you begin winding you want to apply just the slightest amount of tension using your fingers so that the yarn will wind consistently and not produce a ball of yarn that is too loose and slopy. Also, you will feel for any knots or snags in the yarn so that you may fix them at this point and not knit them into your garment. Remember - No Knots In Knitting!
Have your ball of hand knitting yarn directly in front of the winder and do not wind too fast, especially when working with Mohair or you can have a knotted mess in no time fast.
As the size of the orginal ball of yarn diminishes in size, keep an eye on it so it doesn't suddenly bunch up on you.
When you approach the end of this ball, stop winding and insert your hand into the centre of the ball and fold your fingers over the strands and grip these lightly.
Resume winding slowly and let the strands unwind through your fingers. This will prevent these last few metres of yarn from tangling.
The yarn will run out and you are done winding.
Remove the new ball from the winder by pulling on the paper tube - not the yarn.
Voila! Your yarn is now ready for the knitting machine.
Point of View: You will notice that I did not use any kind of wax on my yarn. I said it before and I'll say it again. I do not wax my yarns. Many yarns are either spun in oil or have a light wax layer applied at the mill in the finishing stages that comes out with washing. It depends on the fibre and the mill. I've already tested this yarn so I know at the time of writing this that it is not necessary. I just don't like coating these beautiful fibres with additional layers of a petrol chemical that can clump and may or may not wash out. If it won't knit on my machine the way it is, it will on two needles by hand.
Bouvier Break! This is my view of Zoe all the time as she lays on the floor. She moves from the bedroom to my feet, back and forth. Mainly she lays quietly at my side, just out of my way as I pace back and forth. Quite comical.
The Gauge Swatch: Your Most Important Tool.
A word on Gauge Swatches for a moment.
There are many views and opinions on how to knit garments. It is natural that each knitter will develope their own personal preferences and methods when "creating" a garment on their knitting machine. Very often this happens the hard way when garments do not turn out exactly as planned. We all make poor choices in yarn, inappropriate stitch techniques and knit inaccurate Gauge Swatches which throw all the calculations off course. I've been there and done that many times and I am honest enough to admit it. There are no "perfect" knitters.
If anything, we all suffer from impatience. We love to play around and explore our machines abilities. We find it easy to sit at our machines with a new yarn and sample to our hearts content. "But how on earth do I get from this sampling stage to a finished project?" I am asked this question frequently. The answer is your Gauge Swatch.
The Gauge Swatch or Tension Swatch is your most important tool. Period.
It is through this that we plan all other stages of our knitting. It is this piece of fabric that will determine how many stitches to cast on, how many rows to knit, how many stitches to decrease and at what ratio. Use it to plan and practice every aspect of knitting and finishing your project.
Ask yourself a few questions when you are insprired and enthusiastic about starting a new project- a Cardigan for example:
~ Is the stitch technique I've chosen something I think I can knit this whole garment in? Be practical and honest.
~ Is the resulting tension appropriate for this style of garment? Is the tension too loose? Too tight? What is the cross-wise stretch like? Should I care?
~ What Cast On Method will I use for the Hems of the body and sleeves?
~ Will the Cardigan have ribbing? What kind of ribbing? If so, what is the stitch size I use? How does this compare to the stitch technique I'm using for the body and sleeves?
~ What decrease technique should I use? Should I perform the decreases 1, 3 or 6 stitches in from the edge?
~ I've never knit or attached a Button/Zipper Band on the Front of a Cardigan before? How do I do this? What is the best ratio of stitches to rows that I should follow for this gauge of knitting?
~ I've never made buttonholes before, how's that done?
~ My husband is tall and I know I'll need atleast 400 stitches to go up and down the fronts and around the neck. My needle bed is only 180 stitches wide. What now?
~ How do I insert pockets?
The answer to these and any questions you come up with is solved by practicing and trying it out using your Gauge Swatch. If you never picked up stitches along the fronts and neckline of a Cardigan before, well don't practice on your finished garment. Use your Gauge Swatch before you knit the garment. Know ahead of time what to do.
After you have washed and blocked your Gauge Swatch, pretend that this is the front of your Cardigan and practice picking up stitches. Then knit the band in the stitch of your choice and now practice inserting buttonholes and binding off. Look at your knitting and examine your work. Give it a light shot of steam to get everything to relax. Is the bind off edge too loose and wavy? That's the fist thing you'll notice and anyone else looking at it. What's the edge like where you picked up stitches? Does this looked puckered or gathered? How's the spacing of the buttonholes? Are they even and balanced? Do you see where I'm going with this? Plan. Practice. Then knit the Project.
A Superba Knitting Machine produces wonderful knit fabrics but you are responsible for the finishing. Don't attempt something for the first time on your finished knitting, practice on your tension swatch. Know ahead of time what to do and what to avoid. Enough said, let's move on and thread our machine.
Threading Your Superba aka
Threading The Yarn Guide.
Shown on page 16 in your Basic Instruction Book.
Threading The Yarn Guide.
Shown on page 16 in your Basic Instruction Book.
You will need two yarns for the Provisional Cast On I will show you in Part 2. The Main Yarn - in this case the Mohair (pictured on the right) and some Waste Yarn (the cone of yarn pictured below on the right) that I know will knit to a similar tension as the Mohair.
Take your Main Yarn, in this case Lace Weight Mohair which has been wound into a mini cone....
and thread it through the feeding guide on the right side...
Using two hands and holding the yarn vertical, slip it into the slot just behind the two discs and then pull it towards you between the discs. You should hear or feel the yarn click into place.
Now bring the yarn forward towards and under the shaped metal guide...
and now thread it through the plastic disc on the Yarn Take Up Wire. The yarn should feed from back to front towards you.
Now thead the yarn into the next guide below this disc on the frame...
and clip it to the Yarn Mast for now.
Repeat these steps by threading the left side of the Tension Unit the Waste Yarn (WY) which we will use for the Provisional Cast On Method I will show you when we get to knitting the Gauge Swatch.
Waste Yarn (WY) is used to establish stitches and a length of knitting on our machine before we do a finished Closed Cast On technique.
Later on we will remove it and throw it away. I used a crappy coned yarn of no value that I thought would knit on the same Stitch Size as the Mohair. No worries if it's thinner. Thread this through the Left Yarn Guide.
The default setting I use for most yarns is no.5. If I'm not familiar with a yarn then I set it at no.5 to start and then go up or down from there. This generally provides enough tension on the yarn as it feeds through the unit but not so much that it inhibits the flow.
For this Lace Weight Mohair though, it was sliding through the metal discs too quickly and so loops were forming at the edge of my fabric on my initial test-knit. Why? The take-up wire did not have enough tension on it to take up the slack on the yarn at the beginning of a row set at No. 5.
So setting no. 2 worked just fine with no more loops forming.
Tip: To keep the Mohair free from lint and dust that will collect on your machine table or stand, I place the tube of the Mohair onto an empty Coned Yarn cone. This raises it off the table and also helps to stabilize it.
Determining The Best Stitch Size
With the knitting machine threaded we now take time to determine what Stitch Size setting I'm going to use for this particular yarn. Remember, this is not the Gauge Swatch we are knitting. Not yet. We have just threaded the machine, it's a new yarn and we have no idea how this yarn knits up nor what the resulting fabric looks or feels like. So we need to experiment with various Stitch Size settings to compare and determine which size of stitch to use when knitting the main body of the Christening Gown. Once decided we will knit the Gauge Swatch.
There is no magic formula for determining which Stitch Size setting you should use on your knitting machine. Personal preferences vary and this stage is all about experimenting. You have to be in the frame of mind where you are focusing on what the finished project is going to look AND feel like. Does the fabric you are about to knit need a lot of drape and be fluid or should it be firm and hard wearing. Only you can decide this.
Being an experienced knitter in general, I know that this particular fibre - Mohair - requires a larger Stitch Size setting than you would normally use for a yarn of this thickness. This is one case where appearances are deceiving.
Due to all of the loose strands of hair that stand away from the spun core of this yarn, Mohair needs an extra large stitch size to allow these hairs to "bloom" or expand. If they are compressed into a samll stitch size the hairs will interlock and become matted. The resulting knit fabric will not be soft and fluid as it wants to be. So I know to start off at around Stitch Size 8. What does one do if you have no experience or insight into a new yarn? Read on.
Most new machine knitters set their Stitch Size setting way too tight. Remember that the Stitch Size dial is numbered from Setting #1: the shortest stitch length thru Setting #12: the longest stitch length.
If the size of stitch formed is so tight that the latch hook of your needles cannot be pushed forward nor pulled back through the previous row to form new stitches, then that's an indicator that you've set the tension setting too low.
If you cannot pass the carriage across your selected needles with relative ease and you find yourself banging your hand against the carriage handle to get it to move - THEN STOP! Obviously something is wrong! And of course it's the machines fault right?! God forbid the operator is doing something incorrect.
CAUTION! You can damage the cams underneath your carriage that the needles are travelling through if you force the carriage across needles that do not want to move. Please release the carriage, move it to the side and remove any stitches on your needles. Time to pause and give some thought as to what it is YOU are doing wrong.
I understand the frustration knitters can have getting the machine to Cast On the first row or work the first few rows of knitting. If you are experiencing problems, keep these factors in mind for both Single and Double Bed knitting- they happen to the best of us!
~ You probably cast on sooo tight that the carriage cannot push nor pull the needles through these foundation stitches.
~ You are using a yarn way too heavy to be knitting at Stitch Size 1! Or 5. Or 8 for that matter. This model of knitting machine is not a chunky or bulky knitter. Respect it's limits.
~ You have too many weights suspended on the Cast On Comb. These are pulling down on the comb with such force they are preventing the needles from moving freely. Have a look at the photos below regarding the how stitches are formed over the Cast On Comb.
Give your Superba a fighting chance by starting between Stitch Size 5 & 7 and then adjust accordingly. If you are using a superfine coned yarn and stitches will not form at size 5, then yes, reduce the size but keep this in mind: just because you bought a cone of fine yarn does not mean it will knit up to an appropriate thickness on your knitting machine. You may have bought thread. Many machine knitters get sucked into buying inappropriate weights of superfine cone yarn only to realize that they would have to triple or quadruple the thickness to actually knit something they could wear.
Visit Anglelika Burles' website for the best explanation of yarn weights for machine knitters and thank you Angelika for permission to link to your site.
Have a look at the photo above and below. These show both perspectives of the first row being knit over the Cast On Comb when knitting an "Open Cast On". Now, not only does the machine need a Stitch Size long enough to go over the Cast On Comb but it must also accomodate the Flow Combs which seperate the needles, go over the needle hook and then come forward again to be repeated across the width of your knitting.
After the first row, if the needles are resting on or touching the wire of the Cast On Comb in any way, then your Stitch Size is too tight. This distorts the edge of your knitting. It is a tug-of-war between the Cast-On-Comb and the needles. As shown below, there should be an even formation to the stitches AND the size of the stitches formed should allow some space between needle and comb wire.This distortion and stretching of the stitches along the Cast On Comb edge is the reason that I NEVER - NEVER - NEVER use this edge on a finished garment or project. I NEVER cast on with my main yarn directly over the cast on comb and begin knitting. I never use a racked cast on technique. The edge will always be distorted and sloppy.
For sampling the yarn that is one thing. We will use the "Open Cast On" method I am about to show you. In Part 2 of this topic I will show you the "Provisional Cast-On" Method which I always use for finished garments.
When Casting On: A Superba does not require any weights to be suspended from the Comb until after the cast on procedure is complete.
Got that? The weight of the Cast On Comb itself provides enough tension for the stitches to form properly. This applies to both single and double bed stitches.
That is why our machines only come with 1 Large and 3 Medium weights. It is the edge stitches that one should be concerned with and are most likely to skip stitches. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule but for Stocking Stitch and Full Needle Rib and other ribs you should not have to add any weights until having knit a few rows. So go easy on the amount of weights you use. Only by experimenting and experience will you learn what amounts to use. I will provide guidelines for this stitch technique as we proceed through this project.
Stitch Size GuidelinesWhen knitting for the first time with a yarn I am unfamiliar with I start off at Stitch Size 5 if there is no other indicator and then adjust the Stitch Size setting up or down from there depending on the results of the first row or two. Remember that there is a limit to how thick a yarn you may knit on these 5mm Gauge knitting machines on every needle.
Some hand knitting yarns manufactured in Europe will include machine knitting information on the ball band. You can see such a symbol represented by a knitting machine at the very bottom of the Madil Kid Seta label.
This close up shows the recommended Crochet Hook, Knitting Needle and Machine Knitting sizes. Below the knitting machine symbol at the very bottom is the number eight (8). This is the recommended Stitch Size setting. You are allowed to vary from this. Permission granted. And I will as you shall see.
The Open Cast On Technique for Single Bed Stitches
To test this new yarn I will cast on 40 stitches in total using the 'Open Cast-On" technique shown on page 30 of the Basic Instruction Book. This creates open or live stitches and is used to quickly establish stitches on the machine and is not itended for the edge of sweater or other project.
On the Back Bed I bring 40 stitches or needles 20L - 0 - 20R to Working Position no.1.
I set my Stitch Size Dial to setting #5.
Set the NRB's or Needle Return Buttons to Neutral and depress the "V" key to knit Stocking Stitch.
Lower the Front Bed (FB) to it's lowest position by pushing the Bed Position Levers at both ends of the Front Bed toward the centre of the machine, twice. Once lowers it half way, twice fully.
I move the Front Carriage to the far right of my needle bed or you can remove it from the Front Bed altogether. I'm only knitting 40 stitches in total so it's not in the way.
I take my Main Yarn - in this case the Lace Weight Mohair - and thread it through the carraige yarn guide...
and then feed the yarn between the open needle beds...
and clip it to the yarn clip on the machine clamp.
I then raise the Front Bed back up to Normal Position no.1.
I take my samllest Cast On Comb...with the wire inserted!...
centre it over my needles so I can see which needles to position it between so that it is balanced... in this case needles 25L and 25R...
and insert under and up between the needle beds...
Raise the comb between the front and back beds and line it up so each end is at or as close to needle no.25 left and right. Now shift it so that the teeth of the Cast On Comb line up with the Flow Combs on the Back Needle Bed. The machine needles have to pass through the teeth and under the wire along it's top. Don't raise the comb too high or the needles will collide with the metal base.
Hold the Comb in position with your left hand and pass the carriage across the needles SLOWLY knitting your first row.
Observe and you will see the needles being pushed forward by the carriage ahead of the yarn...
Note how the needles come forward through the Brushes on the carriage. These help ensure that the latches open flat to receive the yarn...
the needles are briefly held in this position so that the yarn may be layed in the open latches and in front of the Cast On Comb/Flow Combs...
The Stitch Size setting will determine how far back the carriage pulls on the yarn to make Stitch Size 5, 8 or whatever you set it at. Then they are returned to position no.1...
Voila! The first row of your Open Cast On complete!
Now knit another 4 rows for a total of 5 then stop. Lower the Front Bed to examine your knitting.
Notice I have not added any weights yet? The stitches are uniform, not snagging but a wee bit small for my liking.
So I increase my Stitch Size to setting no.8...
raise the front bed back up...
and now, because I am lengthening the stitch size I will add one Medium weight to the Cast On Comb...and unclip the yarn from under the machine so it does not inhibit the comb from descending evenly...
and knit to row 11....
I stop, lower the Front bed and examine the difference in Stitch Size... quite the contrast eh? That's Canadian for No? Now this stitch size is not bad but I want to keep going so I increase the Stitch Size to 9...
to be able to tell the difference between Stitch Size settings I will make a single eyelet in my fabric on the right edge by transferring one stitch.
Now knit eight rows at SS9...
Mark an eyelet...
Increase to Stitch Size 10 aka SS10...
and work (knit) eight more rows ...
I felt that was enough rows to compare Stitch Sizes so I break my yarn and clip it to my Tension Mast...unthread the carriage and push the strands between the lowered needle beds....
remove the weight and while holding on to the Cast On comb...
I pass the empty carriage across my needles and drop all my stitches...
which releases the fabric...
Remove the Comb wire...
Roll the swatch into a tube...
and give it a sharp tug or two lengthwise to assist the stitches into snapping back into shape.
Now unroll the swatch and examine the various stitch sizes. You can see I did try a few transfers at Stitch Size 10 but overall it is simply the size and feel of the stitches at this setting that made my mind up for me. I felt that setting no.10 created a large enough stitch to handle the transferring I am about to put it through and allow for the Mohair fibres to bloom. I will let the actual Gauge Swatch determine if the Stitch Size needs to be tightened or not.
This subject continues with Part 2 - The Gauge Swatch, Provisional Cast-On/Off & Transfer Carriage Basics.
Blocking of Lace follows that.
Toronto, Ontario CANADA