Saturday, September 19, 2015

Spring Fashion Trends - New Colors

Hat tip to My Blue Heaven knits:

I like these colors!  First of all, we're going to have plenty of color this spring.  Remember a couple years ago, when it was all so neutral?  I also appreciate that these are gentle colors, flattering on lots of people.

I don't understand how color trends happen.  I suppose some designer hits a home run and companies copy the nice theme and combination.  I do know that mysteriously, clothing, furniture, and all sorts of manufactured goods will follow the prevailing trends. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Upcoming Seminars!

I apologize that I haven't done a very good job letting blog readers know where I'm teaching and when.  I only do a few seminars a year - still working full-time at a job I love, so I do them on vacation days.  It's always a shame when I hear from someone in an area where I just taught who is looking for a seminar and missed one!

I'm about to do two more seminars in October:

October 9 and 10, I'm going to Princeton, Minnesota to teach for two days.  Information is here:

October 24 and 25, I'm teaching a two-day seminar in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area - in fact, right next to the DFW Airport.  Information on that one:

Now, for those of you who really plan ahead, here's some 2016 news:

February 2016, in fact, Valentine's Day weekend, I'll be in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I haven't been there before! This will be a two-day seminar, but I'm not sure whether it's a Fri-Sat or a Sat-Sun just now. 

March 11-13, Newton's Spring Fling, in Anaheim, California.  That seminar is a real experience, with lots of people, lots of teachers, lots of excellent shopping opportunities.

April 30, I'll do a one-day seminar with Generic Knitters in Denver, Colorado. 

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.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Making Slant Lace Circle Scarf on a Different Machine

When I did the September video, it was a long video already, and I didn't explain much about how to do this lace stitch on a different machine.

This can be done with either a Brother (Knitking) or Studio (Singer, Silver Reed) machine that has a lace carriage.

The pattern is this, where X is punched or black and O is blank or unpunched:

O  O

X  O

If you have a punch card machine, you need that all over.  Not in the mood for punching and punching?  For a Brother, you can use card #1 and lock the row so it doesn't change (or any card that is punched out on every other needle).  Two passes with the main carriage, then two passes with the lace carriage.

If you like it, I think you should punch a card.  I'm not keen on having the lace carriage move all those empty needles unnecessarily on the second pass.

If you have an electronic machine, input the pattern.  Two stitches wide, two rows tall.  Bottom row:  black, white.  Top row:  white, white.

Whatever machine you have, set it up so the end needles don't transfer.  You want two plain needles on the end on the lacy rows, with a hole next to the end needle.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Brother KH 900 and KR 900 Ribber

Here's the Brother electronic, model KH 900, with it's ribber, the KR 900.  I had mentioned to y'all that I had never seen one of these before.  John was really getting into this by the time we started on this machine, and he removed and soaked all the needles, took the carriage all apart and unstuck the middle button, and made a repair to the upper tension unit, as well.

John is fascinated with how the machines work.  I can understand that, but I'm not one of those folks who loves to clean and adjust my machine.  I want to knit!  And knit some more!  So, to testing the machines after John has them humming is just my cup of tea.

The 900 was easy for me to use.  The carriage buttons and levers are familiar.  It also has a very simple electronic control panel.  It just has 50 different stitch patterns built in, and you push the Pattern Number button, then the up and down arrows to find the pattern you want.  Then you poke the Pattern Number button again, and you're ready to go.  You can also use the input keys to put in patterns.  I actually use very few large patterns, and 24 stitches is usually plenty of design space, especially in this situation, because if you want a smaller number, you don't have to use 24 - it could be 11 stitches, or 5 stitches, or whatever, but repeated on across the bed.  Another cool thing about 24 stitches is that I have several books of 24-stitch punch card designs that will work with this.  You can get books with hundreds and hundreds of patterns!  There are a few simple variation keys, and I tried those.  There's a double jacquard key.  There's a way to position or isolate patterns, but I didn't play with that, at least not so far. 

There's a door here with some electronic contacts, for a PPD.

I believe this model was not originally sold with a lace carriage; if you wanted one, you had to purchase it separately.  I tried the one from a Brother electronic.  Some lace patterns knitted fine, but one miss-patterned in a certain spot.  The main carriage didn't miss-pattern that lace chart.  Hmm.  So maybe these machines are pickier about which lace carriage that I expected.  My girlfriend has a spare lace carriage from an earlier electronic that I'm going to try with this machine. 

We put the ribber on, and it wasn't working well at all.  After puzzling over it, I realized that the ribber brackets - those little gizmos that you install on each end of the main bed, and from which you hang the ribber - had been installed incorrectly, back under the front edge instead of butted up against the front edge.  We hadn't looked at those, just left them where they were when we got it.  That made the ribber ride too low and too far back, just enough to cause trouble. John and I moved those, and had instant success with the ribber.  I'm curious how this ribber differs from the KR 850.  I notice it does have "lili" buttons.

One of the things John and I talked about as we fiddled with this machine was its possible age.  He thinks perhaps the 900 model was not necessarily before the 910, but was a less-expensive option or something while several other, fancier electronic models were also being sold.  I really have no idea.  I was a dealer when the 910 came out, and I thought it was a great innovation.  At the time, the new technology was very exciting.  This was the time when the garter carriage came out.  I was certainly paying attention to each new product!  When the 930 came out, I truly was in love with that model.  I had that machine when I sold my shop, kept it, and it was my one-and-only for years.  I moved up to a 965i and a 970, but truthfully, my 930 was just a sweet machine, and I kind of miss it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

New Video for September - Slant Lace Circle Scarf

This month's video is a fun stitch, a very simple lace that biases automatically.  I've joined the slanty beginning to the slanty end to make a circle scarf.  I like the geometry!  It's a nice little accessory to wear, doesn't take much yarn, and I think you'll be as fascinated as I was with the stitch:

I admit it, I got a little obsessed.  I don't know how many circle scarves I've made this way.  I used fancy patterned sock yarn for them, and one of my favorites was made with a bunch of scrappy leftovers that I put together using the Russian join.  When you get a pretty item out of such small bits, it's like getting something for nothing!

I believe you can do this on any machine with a lace carriage.  You just want every other needle to select, and you'll transfer them all with the lace carriage.  You'll do two passes with the lace carriage; then do two passes with the main carriage.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Brother 900 in the Knitting Machine Hospital

I'm not very good at mechanical things, but John is, and he's been helping me clean and lube an assortment of nice, but used machines that have wandered into our lives. 

There's nothing elegant about turning my kitchen and dining room into a knitting machine hospital.  I find myself cooking in a tiny corner while my 6-foot kitchen island is covered in junk. However, it's also an indescribable feeling, so wonderful to get one of these babies running like silk.  Later, we hope to find them homes.

There were two Brother Profiles donated to our knit club.  These are older, push button machines, and they are very cool.  They both needed sponge bars, then one needed cleaned and oiled, and the other needed quite a bit more work, but now every button is unstuck, every needle lubed.  We even whitened the plastic a bit!  There's a ribber and knit leader I haven't even looked at yet.  I've knitted a bit on each, and they're terrific, but of course, you have to think more when you're pushing buttons to make a pattern.

Then there's a Brother 890 John and I purchased at a garage sale, a 24-stitch punch card machine  This baby was in pretty good shape, but it needed the plastic treatment, a sponge bar, cleaning and lubrication. 

They always need sponge bars.  I keep ordering more sponge bars! 

This is the bed from yet another acquisition, a Brother 900 found on Craigslist.  This is the only 900 I've ever seen.  Perhaps they were more common in other countries.  It's an electronic model, preprogrammed with just 50 patterns, but you can put in more with the input keys.  Patterns are only 24 stitches wide.  We tested it at the seller's house, and it worked pretty well, despite having a totally flat sponge bar and a stuck button on the carriage.  John is currently putting the carriage back together, after getting the center buttons unstuck and everything cleaned and lubed, and I'll get to play with it a bit and see what I think.

The 270 we worked on has found a marvelous new home with Bev, who read a blog post where I mentioned it. 

The biggest problem we've seen with second-hand machines is missing parts.  When you buy one, be sure and compare the machine parts pages in the knitting machine's manual to the items being included with the machine.  Parts are expensive, and sometimes, you can't find a particular item at all.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Helen Griffiths New Website

Go visit Helen!  She's got a new blog, selling site, links, patterns and recipes!

Those of us who've been lucky enough to attend one of Helen's seminars or knit her patterns know what a talented designer and teacher she is, and what a charming person she is, as well.  Helen and carries the EXCELLENT ribber comb wires that I'm always showing y'all at seminars.  I told Helen this week that I need to inventory all my ribber combs that have crummy wires and stock up. (John and I keep bringing home homeless knitting machines to fix up and place for adoption, and they always seem to need these good wires.)

Helen is also working on Knitter's Edge these days.  Linda's getting busy with that site, which had gone dormant.