Thursday, September 17, 2015

Good Question - How can I avoid dropped stitches in lace?

I had a good question the other day in my email.  The knitter has a Studio 700 (nice punch card machine with an excellent lace carriage), and stitches keep dropping, frustratingly, in lace knitting.

So - I asked if the lady was a new knitter or if the machine used to work fine and it was just a new machine problem.  Turns out, she's fairly new to knitting.  Then I thought it over for a while and wrote a little list of things that might help.  Readers, I'd appreciate your comments as you think of additional tips I didn't include.

Hmm.  Ways to avoid dropping lace stitches:

1.       Knit some waste yarn (two inches, maybe) before casting on and starting with the lace.

2.       Try tightening tension.  Doesn’t work?  Try loosening tension.   If too loose, big loops fall off.  If too tight, stitches don’t slip off and onto needles well.

3.       Make sure the upper tension unit take-up springs are not too saggy.  You don’t want any edge loops.

4.       Make sure the little brushes/wheels under the sinker plate (also called fabric presser, the silver thing attached to the carriage) are clean underneath.  Those little wheels should spin freely, but if fuzzy stuff often gets under them, they don’t spin.  That causes edge loops, which catch and cause dropped stitches.

5.       Start with easy yarn.  You’re looking for medium thickness that the machine knits effortlessly, probably acrylic with a little elasticity.  Thin wool is also usually good. Avoid cotton, linen, bamboo, mohair, angora, spandex, slubs, kinks, bumps, super thin or thick yarn, at least until you're more expert.  The thickness is “fingering weight” or a 2/12 kind of thickness. I have driven myself nearly crazy trying to machine knit “lace” weight yarn.  It’s really a little too thin for the machine.  I can do it, but I have to be really careful.

6.       Start with easy stitch patterns, that is, the ones that do not require “full fashion” lace and just happen right as you knit without changing the carriage settings or unthreading.  Why?  Because full-fashion lace pulls the stitches farther and puts more strain on the fabric.

7.       If dropped stitches are intermittent, you can put in a "lifeline," that is, sew a piece of thin string through all the stitches.  You do this every inch or two.  Then, if you drop stitches, you can go back to that.  NOTE:  I personally virtually NEVER use a lifeline, but other people swear by them.  Why don’t I?  I do big swatches and make sure my machine likes the yarn before I attempt the lace project.



  1. When I first started machine knitting lace, I had to remove the ribber and knit only with the main bed flat (so that the knitting falls at a 90 degree angle to the machine). Now I use the covers and have the knitting fall in front of the ribber (still a 90 degree angle to the main bed).

  2. Hi Diana,
    I sign all your tips you posted - what a nice check list :)
    I find it helpful not to put too much weight while knitting lace. Although Brother really loves a good amount of weights, in this case I only use the cast on comb plus -after some inches- 2 claw weights on each end.
    Also I found out, that each machine has its own mind (we know that already, right?): my very first Brother machine, a KH842, knitted lace effortlessly, as long as it was mounted in that angle it has due to the ribber clamps.
    Later I got a KH900 which dropped almost every stitch while lace knitting - until I put away the ribber and mounted the KH900 with the standard clamps horizontally, without any angle.

    Have a beautiful weekend

  3. I agree, Kirsten. For my Brother machines, it's nearly always the comb and one claw weight on each end. I've had better luck with Brother with the machine flat, but with Studio, better with it on the ribber clamps.

  4. A tip I gave someone, and found myself having to use, is to use the fine knit bar (the white plastic bar that comes with the ribber). It's designed to help stitches knit off correctly. Also, a problem I had one time, and is something that can happen easily without notice, is to make sure the one button on the lace carriage (Brother) is set to regular knit instead of fine knit. It gets bumped easily, and you don't tend to pay attention to it. My Brother KH940 machine requires an enormous amount of weight to do lace--even more than ribbing. Each machine is different, though. Even the same make/model will behave differently for different knitters.

    See you in 2 weeks at the seminar in MN!

  5. Good check list!
    I have problems with previous row knitted lace catching on a gate peg.
    I have found that my Singer SK360 needs even weight on lace and perfectly straight needles.
    Check gate pegs if stitches are catching behind the knitted work

  6. I also use the knitmaster Lace carriage and can knit a whole garment with maybe only one dropped stitch,( unlike knitting lace on the Brother 940) The best tip I would give anyone with the Knitmaster and ribber is to follow the manual and bring the knitting over the ribber and weight it evenly using the provided weight combs. If you have ribber covers even better as you have something to push against when you move the weights up every 30 rows.

  7. so, if I have stitches that are hanging on the tip of the needle or falling off, is that too much weight on it?

    1. Loops could be too large, slant of machine bed could be wrong, or it could be a weight problem.

  8. Thanks Diana, I fought all day with the carriage yesterday. It is running rough over the bed now, not sure what is going on and it is dropping stitches randomly. I am going to run a fair isle test today and make sure it isn't the patterning that is messed up. I am pretty sure it is just the lace carriage, it was working great, I made a scarf in the same pattern that was 300 or 400 rows long, and now it just wont work for making the hat. I am confused, the only thing I did was clean off the lace carriage, I wonder if I knocked something out of alignment or off of the carriage?

    1. I'm not a repair person and I don't know. A lace carriage is a fairly easy thing to mail for repairs. If you want a couple of names of repair guys, email me.

  9. I'm incredibly new to machine knitting and I'm getting so frustrated, I've oiled my machine and made a new spounge bar. I can get my machine to knit if I start off with four needles and increase from there but my yarn is like bullet proof tight even on tension ten I have a studio knitting machine 326 but if I try to use too many needles the carrage gets jammed it will do fine till the last few needles. And most the time the loops won't knit. I even use the weights that came with the machine but nothings working. I aparticipate any and all help my email is