All content ©Patrick Madden/Superba Knitting™. Please do not copy images, text and do not link to this site for use on any online private sale, auction or classified ad like eBay, Kijiji, Craigslist or eBay Classifieds. Other knitting and general interest blogs and websites are welcome to link to Superba Knitting for the purpose of information sharing. Thank you for respecting this ~ Patrick.

Friday

Weight Distribution & Adjusting The Cast On Comb For Home Knitting Machines.





Greetings!


I receive emails regularly asking for advice about what to do when the Weights and Cast On Comb for a home Knitting Machine reach the floor and how to prevent edge stitches from dropping when working certain Stitch Techniques.


I thought I would devote some time in this post to talking about the use and distribution of Cast On Combs + Weights on a home knitting machine and their effect of the knitted fabric you create once you start knitting.




The knitting machines shown here are the Superba, Singer, White and Phildar brands made in France but the information and techniques shown here are applicable to all brands of home Knitting Machine, including Passap. 




The subject of adjusting the Weights and Cast On Comb is something that contributes to the steep learning curve of machine knitting.


What you will read are vague instructions to "Insert the comb, hang the weights and continue knitting...."

Well hold on a moment! There's a bit more to the process than that oversimplification. 
This is especially true when it comes to shaping garments and also when working with specific yarns and certain fibres and certain knitting machine stitch techniques.




Also, you may have bought your machine at an auction or private sale and be unaware that it requires a Cast On Comb and Weights to operate. The seller may not have included all these Standard Accessories with your knitting machine. 


Let me start with a quick review of the basic set of Cast On Combs, Weights and Edge Weights that should have been included with your Superba, Singer, White or Phildar Double Bed Knitting Machine and how they are used.





Note: If you have a Single Bed model of Superba, Singer, White or Phildar, such as the S9 Hobby Model or a Singer 400 Memo II or White 1402, these single bed knitting machines require a Cast On Comb and Weights to operate as well. 





Cast On Combs & Weights:
To begin knitting on a Superba, Singer, White or Phildar brand home knitting machine, we use metal Cast On Combs that come with our machines to establish the initial row of stitches on our needles.
  



Cast On Combs are used for the formation of both Single Bed Stitches like Stocking Stitch:




and for Double Bed Stitches such as K2-P2 Ribbing:


Superba Cast On Combs come in various widths to accomodate various amounts of stitches, up to a maximum of 180, which is the full width of the needle bed.




Your machine should have come with atleast three sizes of Cast On Combs:
• 50 Stitch Comb.
• 100 Stitch Comb.
• 180 Stitch Comb. (full width of needle bed)
• 1 x Large Weight + 3 Medium Weights.
• 2 x Claw Weights.
• There was also an optional 150 Stitch Comb.




Once the initial row of stitches is formed around the teeth of the Cast On Comb, we suspend one or more of the Weights that come with our machine from the Comb to help in the formation of new stitches and to draw the fabric down and away from the machine as we work.

The most common size you will use are the Medium Weights. 3 Medium Weights should have come with your machine. 



Now the subject of weights for home knitting machines conjures a lot of discussion as learning the subtleties of Weight Distribution for your particular machine takes some time.

It depends on the yarn you have chosen to knit with, the stitch technique and then the size of stitch you have set the Carriage to create.

All home knitting machines, regardless of brand, gauge, whether they are made in France, Japan or Switzerland are all subject to the contraction of the stitches as they are formed and descend from the machine. 

The Hourglass Effect.
The Knit fabric coming off the needles on your knitting machine wants to contract in shape as the "tension" placed on the edge stitches by the comb and weights is reduced. I call this the "Hourglass Effect".





The Hourglass Effect happens with all stitch techniques, regardless of whether they are worked on a single bed of needles or a double bed stitch technique. 


This happens with all fibres and to all stitch techniques you will work on your knitting machine. To varying degrees of course - but it happens none the less. 


And this happens on all brands of home knitting machine - even on the Passap Knitting Machines.

Have a look at some examples of the Hourglass Effect from from various projects I worked on my Superba Double Bed Knitting Machine. 



Just because we have the long Cast On Comb hanging from the bottom of our work does not mean this has any effect or provides any kind of "tension" what so ever along the edges of your knitting.

First I have a black Silk and Mohair yarn worked on both needle beds in a Knit 2 ~ Purl 2 stitch technique. My hand is showing where the Hourglass Effect is taking place. 





You can see the difference in the width of the fabric in the middle compared to the bottom along the Cast On Comb, where I started knitting, and at the top towards the machine needle bed.



Next I worked a fine Cotton/Nylon cone yarn, what a hand knitter would classify as a Lace Weight Yarn . . .




 in a 2x2 rib double bed stitch technique . . .





and the resulting Hourglass Effect as the knit fabric descends off the needles. . .





Theses photos show how extreme the Houglass Effect can get with some yarn/stitch combinations. 


Once again, please note the difference in width of the stitches on the Cast On Comb at the bottom and the stitches still on the machine needles. Pretty extreme.



Let's review what is happening to your fabric as you knit on a Knitting machine:

The stitches in the centre
(No. 1) of your work are linked to one another and the tension on these stitches created by the Cast On Comb and Weights is distributed consistently to neighboring stitches across the width of the fabric in all directions. Easy enough.




But the edge stitches (No. 2) are not linked to another stitch on one side. It is this lack of tension along one edge that causes the fabric to contract. The stitches get all limp as they are no longer under any tension. This is the Hourglass Effect.


This will begin to happen immediately after knitting your first row or two after Casting On stitches. It is this lack of tension on the edge stitches which may cause these stitches to not form properly or be dropped from the needles altogether.




To minimize the chance of this happening, in machine knitting we use Edge Weights.



Edge Weights for Machine Knitting.
Bold



Your Superba Double Bed Knitting Machine comes with two rectangular edge weights and they will look like one of these two styles shown below:

  • Plastic Coated Metal Edge Weights with long plastic teeth to grip the knit fabric.

  • or they will be Solid Metal Edge Weights with short metal teeth to grip the knit fabric.

Superba Edge weights can be used for both Single Bed and Double Bed stitch techniques. 





For Single Bed Stitches like Stocking Stitch, Tuck, Slip, Fair Isle or Weave Effect, you will lower the Front Needle Bed and attach the Superba Edge Weights directly to the edges of your knitting, just below the Flow Combs and Needles. . .





You will then raise the Front Bed back up to Working Position and resume knitting.






As you knit you are advised to move the Edge Weights up on a regular basis, every 20 rows or so. This depends on the yarn and stitch technique you are using. This helps the edge stitches form consistently and evenly.

On a Superba it just takes a moment to lower the Front Bed, move up the Edge Weights, raise the front bed again and resume knitting. 



These machines are very light weight compared to other home knitting machines.





To recap: Once you begin knitting, even with the use of these Edge Weights, the Hourglass Effect will take effect. Use of these Edge Weights helps to minimize the chance of skipped or dropped stitches along the edges of your knitting.



Note: On a Superba Double Bed Knitting Machine, when working wide pieces across the full width of the machine bed, pay attention to the Racking Lever mechanism on the left end of your machine and the Front Bed Guide on the right end frame, both outlined in Red below.



Due to the compact design of these knitting machines, the space under and between the needle beds gets a bit tight towards the edges. So you must pay attention and check with your hand that both the Cast On Comb and any Edge Weights you are using in these areas do not get caught on either side of the machine when knitting.



Personal Opinion: I have found that the teeth on the Superba Edge Weights that are completely metal are a bit short for my liking and do not always grip the knit fabric as firmly as I would prefer. They can easily fall off, especially on knit fabrics that are denser or when using thicker yarns. So watch your toes when working with these!




Also, when using the Superba Edge Weights I have found that when working with finer yarns, these edge weights are sometimes too heavy and will stretch and distort the edge of the knit fabric.




Being the heretic that I am, and having more than one brand of home knitting machine in my collection, I have resorted to using Edge Weights from my Japanese Silver Reed knitting machines. These work in the same way, only are smaller is size and lighter in weight. It's all about options!


To some of you reading this post it may seem like the obvious thing to do. But I receive many email inquiries from knitters seeking permission to do this. It's as if they feel the Knitting Police will descend upon them and confiscate their yarn and knitting machine if they cross over to the dark side and use accessories from other brands of home knitting machines. Nonsense! Permission granted. I do it all the time!




In these photos I am using the small Claw Weights from a Silver Reed knitting machine while working a Single Bed Tuck Stitch on my Superba S48 model knitting machine.





FYI: The stitch pattern is A7 from a series of automatic built-in stitches. 




These are based on a 1x1 needle selection and create pretty, light, knit fabrics. 




Initially the Cast On Comb and Weights perform splendid, exerting just enough tension across the width of knitting.





As I worked more and more rows I knew to stop and inspect my work. When I lowered the Front Bed I could see the Hourglass Effect happening with this yarn and stitch. It always does with most stitches ~ so I hung a Claw Weight along the edge stitches on both side to minimize the chance of stitches skipping or dropping along the edges.





Using the Edge Weights ensures the edge stitches will tuck and knit properly according to the stitch pattern.










As the knitting progresses and the fabric lengthens, one stops at regular intervals and moves the edge weights up.


TIP: I constantly stop to run my finger tips along the face of the knit fabric. Your fingers will be able to feel if there is enough tension on the fabric and when to adjust your weights.


Claw Weights work great for all thicknesses of yarn and stitch techniques. This is due to the length and shape of the metal teeth. Below I am using these Edge Weights for Stocking Stitch technique, worked on the Back Needle Bed and the yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca.





Edge Weights & Garter Stitch:
In these next photos I am using these Claw Weights for working Garter Stitch with Berroco Ultra Alpaca.





Garter Stitch on a Superba Double Bed Knitting Machine is achieved by working a row of knitting on one the front needle bed, then using the Superba Garter Transfer Carriage to quickly move all those stitches to the opposite needle bed, then you work one row of knitting on that bed and then continue, transferring the stitches back and forth between the front and back needle beds.






To achieve success with this accessory requires a fair amount of practice, as one of the crucial points to getting the Transfer Carriage to work is the correct weight distribution for the yarn you are using, including the use of Edge Weights.




I will tell you upfront that this can be challenging when you first learn to use this accessory but it does a marvelous job when you figure out how much or little Weight to use. 



TIP: Do not practice this technique with fine coned yarn. It's meant to be worked with 4Ply Fingering or Sock Yarn and heavier. 








The Garter Transfer Carriage is a real time saver as the only other recourse is to transfer the stitches, one by one using a Double Eye Transfer Tool or work this on two knitting needles by hand.





Optional Accessories To Invest In:
As a machine knitter you will develop a preference for certain tools and accessories. You will have your favourites. Some accessories are better suited to particular yarns and stitches. Some accessories are from other brands of knitting machines.








I thought I would share with you some additional favourite accessories I use that come from other brands of home knitting machines. These accessories are widely available from knitting machine retailers and make your knitting go smoother.


Note: In North America, Sew Knit 'N Serge in Toronto, Ontario sells a huge selection of  knitting machine accessories. For all makes, all models. I encourage you to visit their store one day. It's a machine knitter's paradise!


Contact Peter and Hersey Smith at www.sewknit.ca.



I like to use various "Single Bed Cast On Combs", "Hanger Combs" and smaller "Edge Weights" that came from other brands of knitting machines I own. I know, shocking isn't it! 

Why do I use these extra tools from different machines? Because they work!


I have learned from my personal knitting experience that these additional accessories - which are widely available - make the knitting process go smoothly and are well suited for ensuring that the stitches on my machine are formed evenly and consistently. Especially Edge Stitches.


Note: This isn't a concern every time you knit on your machine, but it does happen. So I would like to show you the tools I use to minimize Dropped Stitches and stretching your knit fabric.






Hanger Combs:
For Double Bed Stitches like 1x1 Rib, 2x2 Rib, Full Needle Rib, Jacquard or Tuck Rib fabrics, I like to use the Hanger Combs and the small size weights from my Silver Reed model SRP-50 Ribber instead of the Superba edge weights.


I find these Hanger Combs to provide better weight distribution along the edge of my knitting for Double Bed fabrics.

Below is the set that came with my Brother KH-260 Chunky Knitting Machine. The shape is slightly different, the metal slightly thicker but they work just fine on the Superba. These are also widely available as parts from various knitting machine retailers and on eBay.






I generally begin using Hanger Combs after knitting about 10 rows and I move them up consistently every 10-20 rows. This depends on the knitting I'm doing, the yarn and the stitch technique but I never knit without them. I used these for all sections of the Franklin Cardigan.


To use you these, bring the Hanger Comb up between the needle beds and then over and along the edge stitches on each end of the machine.



Then suspend a small weight from the end.
Slowly work the next row of knitting over the Hanger Combs and continue along.


Some close-up shots of the Hanger Combs in action as I decreased the Raglan Shaping for the Franklin Cardigan back section. . . .





I worked the decreases, knit the required number of rows between, worked some more decreases, stopped to feel the tension on the fabric and moved these Hanger Combs and Weights up at regular intervals. Once you begin to use them you will develop a rhythm for moving them and will come to depend on them for helping to make your machine knitting go smoothly.




Hanger Combs for Full Needle Rib:
Another popular double bed knitting stitch is Full Needle Rib. This is where you have all needles on both needle beds selected to knit and the Flow Combs on your Superba set to the "Alternate" setting so the needles on each bed do not collide, but slide between one another.

Full Needle Rib is in essence a very dense Knit 1 ~ Purl 1 stitch technique and is generally meant to be worked with finer thicknesses of yarn. This is also the same needle formation when working Double Bed Jacquard.





I always use these Hanger Combs when working Full Needle Rib stitches. They ensure that the Hourglass Effect will not impede the formation of stitches. Have a look.


With this project
the Full Needle Rib stitch is worked beginning with several rows of Waste Yarn knitting, 1 round of Ravel Cord and then I Cast On over this using two strands of the Main Yarn. You can see from this and the following photo the Hourglass Effect happening.



Tip: A quick and easy test to check the consistency of the Weight distribution across your knitting is to put your hand up between the needle beds and run your fingers against the knit fabric that is descending from the machine needles. Your fingers will instantly identify any areas which need more Weights. I do this constantly while knitting.



For this particular sample I wrote down that I worked about 56 rows before needing to add Hanger Combs and a Small Silver Reed Weight, as shown below.






When attaching and moving up the Hanger Combs, I leave the small weights on. These small combs are easy to remove from the knit fabric.





When you lay the comb wire across your stitches, just take care not to move your Knitting Machine Carriages too quickly across the Hanger Comb as it sits on your stitches. You don't want to take the chance that one may raise up and jam your Carriage.



Just as with the 2x2 Rib stitch, you bring the Hanger Comb up between both needle beds, lay it fully across your edge stitches, and continue knitting.






If I was working Double Bed Jacquard stitch technique, I would add these on the second row of my work and move them up every 10 rows of knitting.

Triangle Combs:
In tandem with the Hanger Combs, I like using Triangle Combs which are sold from knitting machine retailers in sets of three.






Triangle Combs are great for maintaining weight along the edges of fabric regardless of the stitch technique . . .





Triangle Combs work very well when you decrease the number of stitches you are working with down to a narrow number of needles, like I did when working the Raglan Shaping on the cardigan fronts and sleeves.


In these photos below I am working the Collar section of a coat. The Collar is worked up and out of the shoulder line on this front section, to be sewn along the back neck after joining the shoulders.





I have just bound off all the shoulder stitches and therefore have reduced the number of working needles from around 70 to about 35. So rather than reinserting a Cast On Comb through this smaller number of stitches, I use a Triangle comb and hang one Medium Superba Weight from this. I then continue knitting in Full Needle Rib the length of the Collar.



With the Collar complete, I transferred all the Front Bed Stitches to the Back Bed in preparation to Cast Off (remove) these stitches from the needle bed. The Triangle Comb holds everything in place and does not distort my knit fabric in the process.






The Triangle Combs are so handy for any stitch technique. I find them invaluable for working with my Superba Garter Transfer Carriage accessory. They help keep a consistent weight over a wider number of stitches, especially along the edges of your knit fabric.




Triangle Combs are easily positioned anywhere as you need them as you can see in this photo when I was working a block stitch in contrasting Knit and Purl stitches, worked using the Superba Garter Transfer Carriage.



The last optional accessory I want to show you is a Brother Single Bed knitting machineCast On Comb. 



Brother Knitting Machine Single Bed Cast On Comb 



For use on a Superba?!? Why???


Probably My 2nd Most Asked Question . . .


What To Do When The Superba Cast On Comb Reaches The Floor?
When you begin knitting, the Superba Cast On Comb will descend between the needle beds, bringing your knit fabric down with it as more rows are worked.




If you are working longer pieces of knitting the weights will start to touch down on the floor and all of a sudden there is no more tension on your stitches! Uh-oh?!?! What do you do now???










Well, you can remove your Superba Cast-On Comb from the starting edge of your knitting and  re-insert it through the stitches on in the needle hooks. But this is not always easy to do as you may chance pushing stitches off the needles in the process. Or, the stitches may be too dense for you to force the teeth of the Cast-On Comb between the needles. You can pierce the fabric with the comb but it is my opinion that this causes more harm than good, as those Cast-On Comb teeth can distort and ruin your knit fabric if your not careful.


My preferred method requires the additional purchase of a set of Brother Single Bed Cast On Combs . 


I use these for both Single and Double Bed Stitches. 





Brother
Cast On Combs were sold with Brother Single Bed model knitting machines.


The next obvious question will be "Where Do I Buy One?"


FYI: I have a Brother KH-260 knitting machine,  so I use the Cast On Combs from this model. 


In North America, Sew Knit 'N Serge in Toronto, Ontario sells these Brother Single Bed Cast On Combs as well as a huge selection of other knitting machine accessories. Contact Peter and Hersey Smith at www.sewknit.ca.


Knitting Machine Cast On Combs at Sew Knit 'N Serge in Toronto.
I have also bought additional Brother Cast On Combs from a great knitting machine dealer on ebay Canada named BrassAnchorI've been dealing with Sherri for years and she gives great service. Contact Sherri directly for information on availability.


Brother Cast On Combs come in about five various widths. Short, medium and you can connect to 100 stitch combs to fit across the entire needle bed.




These Single Bed Cast-On Combs have metal teeth that protrude like little fingers and grip the knit fabric. Perfect for our needs


Tip: Be cautious handling these as it's easy to snag your knitting with the sharp teeth. These should be kept out of reach of children and pets.





Here is how I attach them to the knit fabric.





1. Choose the appropriate width of comb to use for your knitting as you want this to grip the full width of your fabric for consistent results. . .




I then line the bottom white metal strip of the comb up with the edge of my table, which I can usually see through the knit fabric. If not, just feel for the table edge with your fingers. This helps to ensure that you attach the comb  level and parallel to the floor.




2. Once I have the new comb lined up I tip it forward slightly then run my hand along the teeth to help push them into the knit fabric and grip . . .

3. Hold your hand under Centre "0" on the graduated scale and tug down on the new comb to create tension and ensure the comb is attached to the knit fabric . . . .




4. Then, one by one and starting with the weight at the centre of your knitting, move the medium weights up to this new comb . . .





For the Franklin Cardigan project, three Superba medium weights are sufficient to work the back and front sections . . .





5. Before you resume knitting, verify that the knit fabric above this new Comb is under tension consistently all the way across your knitting. 


You don't want any gaps or pockets of loose stitches where the teeth of the comb attach to the fabric, otherwise you may get drop stitches when you start knitting. 


Tip: I run my fingers back and forth just above the teeth of the comb as shown below.Your fingers will tell you instantly if there are areas of the knit fabric not under tension. You can then tug down on the fabric below these loose sections and re-attach the fabric to the comb.  


This is easy and quick to do. 





6. Once the new comb is in place and balanced you can then remove the Superba Cast On Comb from the bottom of your knit fabric. . .





Note: Always replace the wire in the Cast On Comb and put it where it will not drop or be stepped on. You can see my comb below is pretty beat up and it's frustrating not to have the wire slide in smoothly - but it still works.




Once the old comb is removed you will immediately see the knit fabric raise up from the floor ~ and you'll get an idea of just how much stretch the weights were putting on your knitting. Of course with elastic fibres like Merino Wool, they will retain their shape and knit to the correct length with no worries.



As my knitting continues to lengthen, I just add an additional Brother Comb, repeating the same process as above. Be cautious though when removing these combs with their protruding "teeth" as they can easily snag a ply of yarn and cause an unexpected bought of profanity.





These next photos are of the Plaited Jacquard technique exclusive to Superba Knitting Machines. I was knitting some yardage with left over yarn and you can see how you can use the Brother Cast On Comb and these Triangle Combs in tandem.







Preventing Unnecessary Stretch:
As a rule I no longer let my knitting get so long as shown in some of the previous photos. I admit to getting carried away with my knitting sometimes and forgetting to move my weights up, but never to these extremes - and certainly not to the floor. Not anymore. Why?
S-T-R-E-T-C-H.





I don't like to stretch my knitting out too much as it descends from the machine. Letting the knit fabric with Weights attached reach the floor only increases the risk of the fabric stretching out of shape, especially with fibres that have a lot of drape like Silk, Rayon and Alpaca and Acrylics.




These photos feature a Knit 2 ~ Purl 2 Ribbed stitch technique I worked using a hand-dyed Mohair/Silk yarn. The yarn is "Kid Silk 2Ply" by Fleece Artists of Nova Scotia. This yarn is classified as a "Double Knitting" or "DK" weight of hand knitting yarn. If you were to knit with this by hand you would be using about a 4mm or US#6 knitting needle.



This next photo shows my hand behind the knit fabric as it is on the machine. See how open the fabric is? The knitting is stretched both vertically and horizontally. This is what we do to our beautiful fibres when working on a home knitting machine. We distort and stretch the heck out of them.



The following photo shows the "after" shot of this same 2x2 ribbed fabric in it's relaxed form, removed from the machine. You can't see my fingers through the fabric. The stitches in combination with the fibre content of the yarn really contract.



The sheen you are seeing in the photo is the Silk content reflecting the light. Silk fibres love to really s-t-r-e-t-c-h! As this yarn is 50% Mohair, the Mohair fibre helps minimize the stretch factor of the Silk. But one has to be cautious as to the amount of weights used and the length of time they are hanging on the knit fabric.

I knit two garments in a row, using this exact same yarn. The first garment came out perfect. The second garment was 4" longer when I removed the knitting from the machine. What happened? Stretch


I left the second garment on the machine with the weights far longer than the first model. The combination of the Silk fibre content and the Weights stretched the fabric that much. Lesson learned.

Another common question . . .



Leaving Knitting Overnight On Your Superba Knitting Machine:
When I still have a project on my knitting machine and I wish to leave it overnight or come back to it later in the day, I do the following so I don't stretch out my knit fabric:


1. I make a note of where I am in the pattern I am using, and I note the row and Carriage settings.


2. Use your Needle Selector and bring all working needles on each bed to Holding Position no.3 . . . .



On a Superba this is the highest position on the needle bed, with the butts of the needles up against the Upper Slide Rail as shown in these photos. . .





3. With all needles on both beds in Holding Position you can safely remove all your weights, edge weights and the Cast On Comb from your knitting. . . .




This will prevent any unnecessary stretching of the knit fabric while you are away from your machine.


4. If your knit fabric is especially long, or delicate for that matter you can raise it up onto a stool or chair to prevent further drag by the weight of the knitting.








5. When you are ready to resume your knitting, you will re-hang your Weights, thread the Carriage and return the needles by hand to Working Position no.1 using a transfer tool for stitches using Electronic Needle Selection.




Or by setting the Needle Return Buttons set to the lower position for manual stitch techniques like I did with this 2x2 rib stitch.




Tip: Don't forget to stop and give your knitting  machine a little oil between making garment sections. Some yarns, acrylics and Alpaca especially, shed a lot of lint. Remembers to clean off any broken down gunk in the slide rails and on the needles with an old t-shirt.






I hope you found the information presented here useful and informative.

Take care for now and happy knitting!

Kind Regards.

Patrick Madden
www.superbaknitting.com
Toronto, Ontario CANADA
©2004-2010

5 comments:

H said...

Thank you so much for this. Weighting can be a pain in the bottom, and this is so clear and well-presented I am feeling a lot more confident about starting off some new double bed work on my Memo II.
So very glad you are back in the saddle, and thank you for helping me, via this blog, to not throw my Singer in the bin!

Lise said...

I must pull my Superba back out of storage - you are an inspiration. I LOVE that sweater. And Miko *would* be proud of your purple collection :)

Emmy said...

Thank you for this info! Very thorough.

She Rat said...

Great post, now I know why I'm dropping edge stitches every now and then. Thanks!

Andi said...

You are a LIFE SAVER! I have been SO frustrated with the lack of information with my ancient Brother. But this post is wonderful, clear and very helpful. Thank you!