The advance copy of my new book arrived today, and I’ve shared some previews here
Seamless machine knit socks
This was taken at Traditions in the Making, a Heritage Craft event at Stanmer Park, Brighton. With lots of volunteers from local community textile group Woolly Umbrella, alongside the CSM there were demonstrations of flax processing, lace making, weaving, inkle looms, wool fibre preparation (hand and drum carding), embroidery and wool and flax spinning.
The CSM is an Imperia with an 84 slot cylinder and gm here I am knitting a sock in traditional 3ply sock wool; no nylon. This was the nearest we could get that was most like the wool probably used originally on the machine. Although I have knitted on it with hand spun I felt that demonstrating required enough concentration without the worry of irregular yarn!
In a brave, but foolish, moment I decided to try a toe-up sock at one point. It wasn’t too bad at all, and I am quite pleased with the result.
Proofreading ‘Single and Double Bed Machine Knitting; the Designer’s Guide’
I am now part way through proofreading my latest book. It’s a lot knottier checking double bed as well as single bed instructions!
The book covers, without stating the obvious, single and double bed machine knitting techniques and design. Brother, Silver reed/Knitmaster are the main machines, but Passap machines are also included in some sections.
Step by step instructions are illustrated as well as explained in the text and at the end of each chapter there is a Design Studio exploring how to develop the techniques discussed in the first part of the chapter.
It’s got to be done before Christmas, so early mornings and late nights are the order of the day. I’m baking mince pies when taking a rest from the screen.
If you enjoyed Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting, or are looking for the definitive book on machine knitting I think to will want this book. You will be able to pre-order soon so keep an eye out.
‘Single and Double Bed Machine Knitting’; The Designer’s Guide‘ will be published in Spring 2023. Yippee.
Top-down knitting resumed
Back problems have meant I need to avoid computers and knitting machines for a while, so I wanted a hand knit project to work on. Digging around on shelves, ( I can’t get at my stash boxes at the moment) I found a bag of knitting I had forgotten about. Inside was the first few rows of a top-down sweater. I remembered how long it took to work out the pattern, (yes I did it myself) and how carefully I chose the yarn. The notes with the pattern are dated 2013, which says volumes about my engagement with larger hand knit projects!
Luckily the moth had stayed away, thanks to ziploc bags, and I haven’t used the balance of the yarn for something else. This seemed a perfect opportunity to get on with my long-lost dream jumper.
I knitted a top-down jumper last winter with good results. Although it has dropped quite considerably due to the stitch I used, do is more a dress than a number. I like the method because you can check the shoulder fit, which is so important, and adjust it before embarking on the larger areas. Monte Stanley wrote about top-down knitting and as I am interested in integral knitting, I find the technique intriguing
I had obviously found fault with the stored knitting because there is an separate neck and shoulder be sample threaded into waste yarn in the bag. On reflection I seem to remember it was discarded because of the shaping finish rather than size. I will unravel it if I need the yarn later on, but at the moment it is useful for reference.
It’s knitted in DK alpaca/wool/silk blend yarn on a very pretty warm stone colour.
I’m using a 4mm circular needle from the KnitPro convertible system. These are very versatile so am using these for this project where they are separate ‘tubes’ to work on. Being able to change the length of the cable means it’s easy to work narrower sleeves as well as the larger circumference of the body.
The design is a raglan sleeve, generous fit jumper with cable panels running up front and back. Shaping is worked fully fashioned along the raglan ‘seam’ lines using lifted left and right increases. My initial sample was not fully fashioned, and clearly the fully fashioning makes a much nicer finish.
I’ve just finished one sleeve, (stocking stitch) with fully fashioned decreases along the underarm ‘seam’, and the fit seems good so far.
Working out the pattern was quite complicated even though I used Designaknit for the basic silhouette. It was easy enough to invert the shapes, but then I had to combine them in-the-round. Some maths later I had a picture in my head, and the numbers to match it on paper. I worked out the positioning of the cable panels manually because it was important to have plain stocking stitch for the raglan shaping.
If I get the next sleeve done I might even got to finish the cable front and back before 2025!
Update : OK, it’s now the end of December and I have completed both sleeves and am part way down the body. So far I’ve used one bag of yarn, (500g) and anticipate using another 200g, making the jumper quite heavy!
The body is slightly flared, just enough so that it’s not a straight tube shape. The increases are worked down where the side seam would be, and at the outer edge of the outer cables every 11th row.
Update January 2022
The jumper is now complete! First blocking fine, now test-wearing before sewing in the ends. Then I shall wash so that it matches the revision swatch and the stitches even out a bit more. Something I noticed whilst knitting was that although this is a lovely yarn it has a tendency to leave fine fibres on the needle so the stitches catch. At first I unpicked and reknitted some stitches, thinking I had miss-knitted the stitches and it took me a while to realise what was happening. Gentle tugging releases the fibres and opened the stitches, but from the tension swatch I can see that washing will even the knit out.
The neckband is a single rib with a rolled edge. The neck band was picked it up into the neckline so is integrally knitted which has a tendency to stretch on top-down sweaters. In the past I have sewn take along the back neck to stabilise the neckline, but Roxanne Richardson on her YouTube channel suggests making a line of crochet slip stitch along the back neck instead. She also suggests using this solution along raglan seams.
Because it’s knitted top down, seamless I’m going to watch the raglan ‘seams’ to make sure they doesn’t drop. If the jumper does start to drop I will also work a crochet slip stitch in the back of the seams to stabilise them.
I’m just hoping the weather stays cool so I can continue to wear my new jumper.
Renovating an Imperia circular sock machine
Through one of my fellow members of the Woolly Umbrella spinning group I was asked if I would help renovate a vintage sock machine. The machine is part of the Stanmer Preservation Society collection and they hoped it could be got working for their Heritage Week this week.
Sue sent me a photo of the manual, but with little info on the machine apart from. ‘It worked a few years ago’, I was in the dark.
So today I packed a range of tools, oil and cloths etc and set off for Stanmer not sure what I would find. The machine was in a sad state. Not really bad, and most of the parts seem to be there, but it was pretty rusty. It seems to have been left uncovered and un-oiled in a damp shed for the last few years so had a thick layer of dust along with the rust.
Luckily the instruction manual is with the machine, but there is no maintenance manual. Having used one of these before I know the general points about it, but not the precise specifics. A quick YouTube trawl found some useful videos and it was time to tackle the job.
The rib dial was not attached and I didn’t want to address that in this session. My aim was to get the machine working well single bed first. So the rib dial stayed in the somewhat dusty and rusty spares box for now.
A thorough dusting helped a bit, but there was no air hose or even a vacuum cleaner so it was down to cloths and some blowing and picking the dust out of cracks. I dismantled the top tension and removed the yarn feeder. That was a bit rusty so some gentle fine emery paper was needed to clean it up. Next came removing the spring to allow the needles to be taken out and the dial removed. Most needles were slightly rusty on the hook if not the shaft as well, so I gently emery papered the bad areas and then soaked them in surgical spirit and oil for a while. Two broken and two bent needles were rejected at this point as too far gone to salvage. Meanwhile the cams were now revealed and could now be inspected and cleaned.
Once all seemed OK, if not in perfect condition, I reassembled the machine. Some needles still felt sticky, so it was a matter of replacing them one by one in the jamming areas to eliminate bad ones.
Time to cast on with that horrible little ‘daisy’ claw tool. A job that I hate, but went OK in fact. Sticky latches caused several repeating ladders and miss stitching, but after some use, and easing the latches it began to knit properly. Only one needed to be replaced before the whole dial would work! So satisfying.
I want to get the machine knitting a reciprocating sock heel before I tackle the rib dial, but if that goes well next time, I hope to be able to tackle the rib dial after that. There seem to be some spare needles for the rib dial, but not sure if there are enough. We will see…
I’ve marked the dial into quarters; the half way mark was already filed of the needle truck. So far it’s working for a creating the heel, but returning the needles to work causes holes.
We took it to pieces again in better light, and found that the cam is a little with on one end, but I’m not sure that’s the problem.
Blending board fun
A happy hour or so spent hand carding hand dyed fleece, whilst watching tv. Then using my home made blending board to make the next batch of rolags to spin more of my ‘Greenfinch’ variegated singles.
First ‘in person’ TAG meeting of 2021
Our local Textile Arts Group (TAG), finally managed to meet today. Eight of us met up with Covid secure arrangements and as the weather was sunny we were in fact able to sit outside the hall to spin, knit and talk.
It was lovely, and everyone has been busy learning new things and perfecting their skills during lockdown.
I took my Louet Victoria folding wheel and spun up a bag of Suffolk fibre that will be used as the core for a fancy yarn.
New members are always welcomed. If you live near Brighton and like to know more, or would like to come for a taster session, do get in touch.
With good weather, fleece washing starts…
Although I promised myself not to get any more fleece until I had emptied my cupboard, I’ve cheated . Well only a bit. Over the winter I have used a lot up, but not all of it!
Having been to Herefordshire and seen the Ryeland sheep sculpture in Leominster I read up about the Ryeland breed and wanted to try a fleece. From what I understand the Ryeland was one of the breeds that can from the Romans crossing their imported Merino sheep with local British breeds. This is probably why they look like Teddy Bears with dense fleece. This breed was instrumental in the success of the British wool trade in the Middle Ages and after, which laid the foundations for wealth in Britain, especially in Herefordshire. Fascinating stuff!
The long and the short of it is that I now have a Ryeland fleece to play with. I sorted out today and have started to wash it with promising results. Not to much VM, but a bit yellowed – the name for this escapes me right now, is it ‘yoked’? I’m guessing its last years crop.
You can see a staple in the photo, and i’ll post once I start spinning. I plan to spin Long Draw, ply and then to dye it.
A while ago I posted about this new acquisition. I’ve not been able to use it much recently as I have two knitting machines up. I’m busy writing my latest book on machine knitting which has to take priority.
Before going any further I must point out that the machine now had been rewired and has a new for pedal, so is not as precariously wired as in the photo any longer.
However, I need to plant out my tomato plants and have to make grow bags for them, so it out came! I’d forgotten how great it is to sew with. It went through six layers of hessian without batting an eyelid. The big ‘but’ was that I had forgotten it’s little foibles.
When start a seam on my Bernina I go forward, back and then sew the seam. Singer-babe is different, she needs special measures. To prevent that worrying sounds of jammed threads in the bobbin and a jammed feed, I’ve learned to drop the foot 1cm or so into the seam, sew backwards and then go forward. The manual clearly explains this point, but who reads manuals? Once I remembered this, all went well.
I’m still annoyed that I can’t get her to use metal bobbins. Plastic ones were in the box when I got the machine, and I really dislike these. So I invested in several metal ones to fit, but they don’t work well at all. I’ve adjusted bottom and top tensions to try to get a good stitch, not nothing works. So it’s back to the plastic ones before they all go out the window.
Anyone else have this problem, or have any advice to offer?
UPDATE. May 2021
I the problem I was having with the bobbin was that the thread was not looking over the bobbin, but catching around it instead. I found a video by Andy Tube on You Tube which explained how to check the thread gap on the bobbin case, which prompted me to check mine. Oh yes, it was way out.
I can see how this happens; the black spring that holds the bobbin case in place has a tempting little finger that looks as if it should be used to lift the spring up. BUT DON’T. That is clearly one of the ways it can get out of line. So with the help of a feeler gauge and Andy’s helpful video I think I have largely fixed the problem.
Andy suggested that the bobbin case might be worn, and that also might be contributing to the thread dropping underneath. So I have ordered a new one. After all, it is probably 50 years old, ( this machine was made in the late 1950 early 60s. Maybe it’s had a new bobbin case in that time, but maybe it hasn’t!
I still haven’t solved why the zig zag stitch missed sometimes, that is my next challenge.
UPDATE July 2021
Ok another update.
I think the zig zag daily is because the needle arm is slightly out of line. Another Andy Tube video shows how to fix this, so that my next challenge.