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.
I haven’t really woven on a loom since I was a student at college. I have a Spears toy loom which I used for one project but the width is limited and the heddle is quite fiddly to work with. What I really wanted to do was to find a technique that uses up my small bits of handspun yarn my experiments and my texted handspun that I don’t think looks very good in knitting.
The Spears loom is actually quite good, and is very much like using a rigid heddle loom but with the shortcomings mentioned earlier. So I was really pleased when a friend offered to lend me 15 inch rigid heddle loom that she had in her attic. This now gives me the extra width and also the heddle is much easier to manipulate.
And so my weaving adventure has begun. Kindly she put a viscose thread warp on it for me to get me going and I’ve used this to practise using some acrylic DK yarn I had to hand.
Having acquired a Devon/Cornwall fleece that is quite similar to a Romney in feel and quality, I thought I’d dye some for blending. This fine will be great to comb for a semi-worsted spun yarn.
One of my favourite methods for safely dyeing fleece without matting the fibres is to use a slow cooker. I have a large family sized one that will dye 100g comfortably and 150g at a pinch, and a single-person one that does 20g for samples etc.
Using a pre-mixed colour I’ve used before I did a blue first. However, on this fleece it came out darker than I anticipated, but will probably lighten up once combed or carded and spun.
From the remains of the dyebath I got a pretty light turquoise.
I have combed these colours as shown in this video.
I also wanted an olive green, and have a recipe that worked perfectly on a Dorset fleece last year. I must have made a mistake somewhere, because I got a dark green instead. Maybe it is the different fleece, but I think I got my proportions wrong!
Once again they was some colour left in the bath, so in went 100g of Dorset fleece. OMG, the colour was bright! No idea what I did wrong, but it makes me blink.
That bright green total exhausted the dye – no surprise really! I will probably card this as the staples of the Dorset fleece are short and it is a soft fibre. Great for soft woollen spun yarn.
If you are interested in discovering the difference between different terms such as roving, tops etc, click here to read Abby Franquemont on Spin Off.
How I disassembled the needle selector plates of a KH710 and they lived to knit again
I have purchased one of these older, push-button knitting machines and at first look it was not in too bad condition. I have fond memories of these machines; Jones KH588 machines were the first ones I used at college when I started my degree in textile design in the dim and distant past. Apart from being cream rather than blue, the KH 710 is pretty similar to look at, and has the same functions and a lace carriage included. The KH710 is a little more streamlined as the two carriages have integral handles, not screw-on ones like the 588.
The 710 unpacked, de-needled and ready to be worked on
After a quick assessment it seemed to be complete and by the state of the brushes, I would say never used – but the main problems were sticking push buttons and, sadly, rusty needles. It looks like the machine may have been stored in a damp place as the needles were rusted underneath the sponge bar. This is not too bad, as the hooks and latches are not damaged so I planned to salvage as many as possible. The sponge bar itself was disgusting, melted, sticky and disintegrating into the bed, but this actually made it easier to clean it and re-line with a replacement sponge from Xena Knits. https://www.xenaknits.com/
Before I tackled the sponge bar I removed the needles and put them into a jar of 10% citric acid for about an hour or so to see if I could shift the rust. The needles came out of the soak and after a thorough rub with wire wool and surgical spirit followed by a gentle oil they are not too bad. I’ve only had to swap a few few dire ones for fresh ones, and after a knitting test the salvaged needles knit fine. I’ve tried tuck, fair isle and slip in an acrylic 4ply and all went well.
However, I now needed to take a look at the push buttons as some were sticking down. This started with number 8; it was very slow to rise up so the cancel button didn’t clear the selection and the needle was reselect – really annoying.
Brother apparently didn’t issue a separate service manual for the KH710, so I worked with the KH588 one I have, which was a good starting place. Although I have taken these machines apart before it was a long time ago, so I trawled the internet and found useful info on YouTube from the Answerladyknits and also from Vintage Knitting Machines. However, as with the service manual, these feature older KH585 and 588s which seem to be slightly different inside – particularly where the button module sits.
Whilst working on the machine I cleaned out the buttons, not that they were dirty, but one of the little springs was out of line, so had to be babied back into position. I may have done that whilst repeatedly testing the buttons for a clean return.
One of the parts that was difficult to get apart was the long wire that is attached to the plate which slides the button/needle selection across the bed. This is connected to the black numbered scale on the cover which shows the needle positions and has to be removed if you want to take the main back cover off. The screw is difficult to remove becasue there is nothing behind it, so no resistance to turn against. I managed to strip this and needed to use pliers in the end and a new screw was needed to replace the old one.
Since starting the refurbishment I’ve taken it apart several times and made a video which might help people with this model. I will put it on YouTube and link to it at the end of this post. The first time I removed the case, and sprayed the insides with LP1 to clean and food grade silicone to lubricate as recommended by Jack on the Answerladyknits, using both on the selector plates as well. After testing I thought the buttons were freer, but they reverted to sticking quite quickly, and had this had now moved to numbers 3 and 7. By now they were not miss-selecting but the slow return was annoying me! The physical needle selection with the set lever was also a little sluggish, so I decide the problem was probably with the needle selector plates inside the machine rather than the buttons themselves. All really frustrating. A lot of rude words were heard!
As I had taken the machine apart I thought it might be useful for other owners of 710s to see how I did this. Sadly I didn’t think of this until I was putting it back together again, but have put photos and video together to show most of my method, as you can see below.
At this point, thinking I had solved the problem I decided to knit a garment to test the machine. But whilst knitting this number 3 button began to get sticky and annoyingly slow to respond to the cancel button and pop up to neutral. It was only a little glitch, but enough to be noticeable. I also noted that number 1 and 2 were a bit slow as well. After I completed the back my frustration with the buttons overcame me and the machine came apart again.
This time I decided to concentrate on the needle selector plates. There are eight of these plates which are thin metal strips with tabs along the top, longer edge that look a bit like castle battlements. These are sandwiched between two ‘L’ shaped nesting metal needle selector plate holders in one complete assembly. Each thin plate has differently positioned, evenly spaced tabs which correspond to a push button and a needle. These plates are held in the needle selector plate holder with pins and screws and slide across each other, so must be clean and smooth without any gunge between them.
The way these plates work is rather neat. Each has a different sequence of holes, (round and elongated) along their length. They also have as series of slots shaped like extended ‘U’s. When the plates are stacked together in the holder in the right order the holes overlap, forming a set of eight small holes that line up with the control wires, (or feelers) that come from the eight push buttons. When a button is pressed its feeler wire moves to the side, sliding the corresponding plate so that the tabs are inline with the needle number (1-8) to be selected. However, the plate is still too low to touch the needle butts and this is where the pins and slots come into action. When the plates are stacked in the holder, the slots fit onto the pins. As a plate slides, the slot travels over the static pin and the plate rises upwards as it reaches the higher side of the ‘U’. This lifts the tab high enough to align it with the butt of the correct needle. As the set lever is pulled the whole plate assembly slides forwards and each selected plate tab pushes the needle in front of it as it moves forward.
So I bit the bullet and stripped it down a bit more. To start with I unscrewed the white nylon zig-zag arm and removed the metal plate that slides the button selection/assembly along the bed from position 1-8. You can see how to do this in more detail in the earlier video. This allowed me to see the needle selector plates more easily. At this point the needle selector plates were still inside the machine. Next I tried taking out the three little screws on the base of the plate holder assembly which hold the right angle plate-holders together. This allowed me to open them up so that I could slide a scalpel blade between the plates to open the gaps, and squirt more LP1 into the gap and clean out any debris. I then stood the machine at 45 degrees so that the fluid would run out from between the plates and left it for an hour or so. After this the sticking improved, but didn’t go away. Plus I had a pool of lubricant in the lid of the machine that I had sat the end in… messy and smelly.
Next I decided to remove the plate holder itself. This involved removing the button assembly as well. Horrors! I was entering the dark side…
All the sensible advice is to avoid disassembling the needle selector plates, but I could see that there was a stringy, viscous substance between them preventing them sliding across each other. I really needed to clean this off! My envy of videos showing effortless button pressing on other machines spurred me on.
It all came out quite easily, which was a surprise to me. The whole needle selector assembly is mounted on three raised-head screws that enable it to slide from left to right but there is a long, screwheaded nut that fits through a metal blocking plate attached to the button assembly which stops it sliding totally off these mounting screws. I had to remove this long screwheaded blocking nut to remove the holder from the machine body. The button assembly had tocome out as well, so before going any further I carefully unscrewed the two large headed screws that hold it in place on the metal slide its rear. Once that long headed blocking nut was removed, and with a little fiddling the whole needle plate holder could be slid to the ‘keyhole’ end of the three long screw slots and holder and button assembly lifted out completely. The button wires could then be slid out of the plates and put to one side. Mine was clean, but if yours needs cleaning do that after cleaning the plates and before reassembling it all.
Now it was easy to take the plates apart. BUT, if you do this, take the time study how it all works before starting. Take lots of photos as you disassemble, and label each part clearly in permanent marker BEFORE moving it. Then if you knock things over, or have to leave the machine for a period of time, you will know how it goes back together again.
My order of work, once the holder was out of the machine, was a follows:
Remove the inner plate holder
Label L and R end
Remove all the plates in one go and lay them parallel to the inner with the tabs facing away from you
Label the outer holder L and R.
Carefully separated the top needle selector plate
Label it on one end. I used ‘L1’ meaning it is push button 1, and that that end matches ‘L’ on the holders. All others followed as ‘L2’, ‘L3’ etc. One is the plate at the rear of the holder, eight is the one at the front.
Wipe the plate clean of oil and dirt and polished both sides
Replace it onto the pins in the outer holder, matching L to L.
Repeat with each plate, making sure to label them methodically.
Test that the plates slide smoothly.
Screw the holder back together.
Phew, time for a cuppa now!
With a little fiddling the button wires went back into their respective holes. I found this easier to do with the assembly held so that the wires were vertical.
Because that long screwheaded blocking plate nut is really awkward to replace in situ I replaced it in the needle plate holder before putting it back into the machine. This meant that I had to remove one of the raised screws which the holder slides on otherwise the blocking plate didn’t fit correctly and the holder would not slide. These raised screws attach through to the set lever mechanism, but temporarily removing the left hand one, (button side of the bed) meant that I could slide the needle selector holder and button assembly back in place so that the blocking plate and nut fitted together correctly and did their job. Just remember to replace and fasten this screw before you move anything else.
A quick test showed that the buttons were zapping away cleanly and efficiently and that the needles were selecting with ease. After that is was plain sailing, and the machine went back together as shown in the original videos without any problem.
I hope this might help anyone who wants to take a Brother KH710 apart for repair. I certainly could have done with a bit of help.
I will put this into a pdf at some point and upload it here.
I took a quick look at the Amazon page for my book Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting and thought I would share some reviews.
I notice that subscribe wishes to express their annoyance because the price has been reduced. I fully appreciate how annoying this can be, and wonder if retailers understand how this upsets customers. I felt similarly annoyed when I bought a new drawing tablet only to see it was reduced by £40 in the Black Friday sale two weeks later! They wasn’t much I could do but accept that I’d had two week’s use of the tablet already, (working on my next book). So although this is beyond my control, my apologies to anyone to whom this has happened.
So moving on from issues of frustrated shoppers, here are some of the very nice things said about the book.
JayBards from the US writes, ‘5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Coverage of Topics, Great Photos and Illustrations’, and finishes the review with, ‘The text is really well-written, very clearly presented, easy on the eyes, and a pleasure to read. This book will become an important part of my extensive library on knitting. In short, I LOVE this book! Congratulations to Dr. Haffenden on an excellent book that should become a classic.’
Thank you JayBard for your feedback and review.
Meceo from Canada writes, ‘This is one of the best books I’ve purchased covering the hand knit patterns converting to knitting machines. It is beautifully done with lots of photos and information to help anyone interested in this type of knitting.’
Sharon Sullivan from the US writes. ‘Very well written book. Haven’t had the book very long, but the time I’ve spent going through it so far, it’s an A+ book. Content is excellent. Photography is excellent. Easy to understand. Definitely worth the cost. I don’t usually do reviews, but think everyone should know that this book will help a machine knitter immensely.’
Its so helpful as an author to get feedback, and positive criticism, (suggesting improvements rather than just pointing out what you don’t like) is the most helpful.
So thanks to all who have taken time to review my book and help others decide if it is right for them.
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.
I’ve been running a suint bath for washing fleeces this summer. Whilst the temperatures are reasonably good the suint has worked well. I’ve actually finished washing all the fleeces now so we’ll probably use the diluted suint bath as fertilizer.
Suint is explained it chemical terms by other people far better than me, but basically it means that the fleece soaks in a liquor composed of the sweat and dirt and developing microbes. The bath is built up from other fleeces. I use the dirtiest fleece first as that made the best base for the suint and have worked through 5 fleeces weighing about 1-2 kg each before going into the bath. I skirt and sort the fleece first because I don’t see the point in washing really dirty stuff that’s never going to come clean, but I equally try to preserve as much of the fleece as possible. I’ve got a bucket of the really unsalvageable stuff soaking so that I can use that liquid as a fertiliser as well.
I didn’t take a photograph of the locks of this Scoth Mule fleece before the suint bath so can’t make a comparison but it has come up beautifully clean.
My process was as follows. I laid The fleece out on a mesh grid cleaned as much of the dirt out as I could by shaking it and then skirted it. Next I sorted it into qualities, picked out as much vegetable matter as I could. Each quality was put into several smallish mesh laundry bags and then into the suint in manageable quantities. The suint bath really stinks, which I think must be caused by ammonia, as it makes my eyes water!
I left the fleece in the suint for 5 to 7-days then using rubber gloves and, with a peg on my nose, I removed it and left it to drain. Once it was drained, I rinsed it in a couple of changes of clean, cold water. Because I didn’t want to put the stinky mess in spin dryer I swung and it around to remove excess water.
Next I washed the fleece in batches in hot water with Eurolana wool wash. This is good as it cleans well without loads of suds so rinses out easily. The smell was slowly fading, but even after two rinses it lingered.
A final spin and then the fleece was emptied out of the mesh bags into a two-tiered flat mesh dryer. This goes outside and by the time the fleeces are dry the smell has gone. Phew.
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.
A bit like outdoor anything – providing its not raining or freezing – spinning is enhanced by the open-air. I took my little Louet wheel with me whilst on holiday on the Pembroke coast recently. We were being careful and avoiding towns etc in our caravan sitting on a farm, so there was plenty of opportunity to spin in the lovely sunshine. It seems ages ago now, but was so refreshing.
I took a bag full of mixed colour Jacob’s fleece and sorted it into dark and light before hand carding it. Ifirst of all spun a skein of cream to test the tpi and grist I was aiming at and on a rainy day decided to dye it with the onion skins from our soup.
All very earthy!
I can’t resist a marl yarn, so plied the colours into variations on this.