Friday, September 23, 2011

Things The Ribber Manual Didn't Tell Ya...

I've been thinking about all the valuable bits of information that aren't necessarily in the manuals.  The manual guides you step-by-step through making ribbings, but it doesn't necessarily say WHY you must do this or that.  Here are some examples:

1.  The ribbing can easily be too loose for the garment. It might seem logical, that if my garment is on a 7 tension, my ribbing could be, say set on 5 - that is, if you are thinking of hand knitting needle sizes.  However, you really need a swatch of your ribbing before you begin, and you need to make it tighter than you'd probably expect.   Why?  The gap between the ribber and the main bed adds some distance that the yarn must travel between each knitted and purled stitch, and that distance adds to the size of the stitches.

2.  Weighting work on the ribber is quite different from weighting work on the main bed.  I might use two claw weights on a good-sized width of fabric on the main bed and all is well, because the fabric presser does a lot of the job of pulling the work down so stitches knit through.  On the ribber, though, the ribber arm doesn't have wheels and brushes, so you depend on gravity.  Get used to the idea of using more weight.

3.  It's very important to balance the comb, but isn't it a contortion getting the comb in there correctly?  Mark the center of your ribber comb with bright nail polish (why should the sock machine folks get all the nail polish uses?) and put that at zero, the center.  Put your comb in between the beds with the wire in it, bring up one side and slide the wire almost out, then slide it back in with the teeth in place between the stitches.  Whew.  Much easier!

4.  In my experience, circular knitting takes the most weight.  Keep an eye on circular knitting and make sure the stitches are knitting through. 

5.  When you added a ribber to your 200 needle machine, suddenly you had 400 needles!  That means that you can do a technique called "full needle rib" which uses every needle in a knit one, purl one configuration.  Please bear in mind that for this technique and for other techniques which have the needles closer together than the usual 4.5 millimeters that you must use much thinner yarn.

6.  Did you know that the medium comb with the brass bar can be used as a "buckle" for weighting the work when it gets too long and hits the floor?  You remove the ribber wire, insert the knitting between the brass bar and the comb so that weight will make it stick (sort of backwards - I guess I better do a video), and then hang the weights.  You can slide the comb up as you work, gathering the width of the fabric into the comb. 

7.  I talk about this in my videos, but there are certain items you'll use constantly if you add them to your ribber equipment.  Get some spare weights and some triangle weight hangers, either from a dealer or second-hand from a knitter.  Sometimes you can find a short ribber comb, and if you can't, you can usually purchase a long ribber comb and cut it into a short and a longer-than-medium comb.  I like to have spare double-eyed needles, too.

8.  Experiment with your fine knit bar!  This is a long white plastic strip (lurking in the white styrofoam packaging - I've heard of folks discarding it because they didn't even see it).  It goes between the main bed gate pegs and the bottom of the needles and is wonderful for getting the stitches to knit through.  You won't always use it, but it will often be a real help.

9.  If you carry your ribber around or have to store it, a plastic shotgun case is a fantastic, cheap solution. 

10.  Ribbers can get out of adjustment.  First of all, make sure the brackets are inserted correctly in the back of the ribber bed and also attached correctly to the main bed.  Make sure the needles match up between the beds, that is, full pitch matches and half-pitch has the needles halfway in-between each other. 

11.  Ribbers often have sponge bars, which wear out and need replaced. 

Okay, commenters, what else just isn't in the manuals and ought to be?


  1. Diana,

    Excellent tid bits. I have used my standard gauge comb with the bar often to weight the longer items i.e. a scarf, works very well. Have also found the correct distance of the ribber from the main bed to also be important. Ribbers are wonderful to have as they expand our horizons. I would encourage anyone to get their hands on one if they can. I can scan and email any of your followers the instructions to adjust their rubbers and km's if they are in doubt how to do so.

    Las Vegas

  2. There's a good book on adjusting the knitting machine, Make Your Knitting Machine Sing, available at Distinctive Knits website.

  3. This blog post was great!! The info is mostly common sense, but when you are a newbie everything you have to learn to do can be overwhelming. Knowing "why" you should do something is as important as "how." I wish someone would explain to me what the triangles and circles mean on the S/S/SR carriage!

  4. Thanks for this post Ms. Diana. I learned several things and was reminded to get those shot gun cases! It will be nice to be able to store them that way. I live in a small space that requires rearranging from activity to activity so containerizing with accessibility is the way to go.

  5. What model of machine does anonymous have? The manaul explains the Arm Lever symbols. I can help her find a manual.

    The triangle is for casting on, punch lace knitting, lace knitting, knitting fine yarns, or when knitting at a tension higher than usual.

    The circle is used for stockinette, tuck, slip, and fairisle.

  6. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Wish I found your blog a long time ago- it would have saved me a lot of time, aggravation, and I probably wouldn't have gone two years without touching my machine.

  7. Hi Diana, my yarn snapped while I was using the automatic carriage and the work came off the ribber :( Is there a way to get this back on both beds?

  8. Hi Diana, is there a way to control the vertical spacing of stitches on a knitter and ribber? My machines are the sk301 and sr 101. The carriages are not coupled. Ribber carriage follows knitter carriage. It works beautifully, but I don't know how to get the vertical rows closer together.