Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dallas Seminar - Next Weekend! And, machines for sale...

My last 2015 machine knitting seminar is in Dallas near the DFW airport.  Anyone looking for information about the upcoming Dallas seminar can look here:

Next year, I have a spring schedule, and plan to go to Denver, Anaheim, and Albuquerque.

I have some machines for sale.  If someone is interested, please contact me through my email.  Email me by clicking on the email icon on this blog.  Scroll down, and it's on the left, looks like an envelope.

The good news is, my prices are very reasonable for these machines, John cleaned and oiled them, and I inventoried them to make sure they're complete and purchased any missing parts for them.  Bad news:  we don't want to ship them.  They're work to pack and expensive to ship, plus several are multi-box packages.  I can bring a machine to sell with me to Dallas, if that's closer for you.  I'm in Austin, about 3-1/2 hours south of Dallas.

So here's what I have that's ready right now:

1.  A lovely Brother 900 electronic with ribber (and KnitLeader, too, if you want).  It's not the most common machine, but I'm actually tempted to keep it, as it's sweet to knit with and easy to program.  We gave it a good  going-over.  It patterns beautifully, has a lace carriage, and the carriage features are the typical Brother ones.  It has some stitch designs built in, and you can put in your own with the input keys.  It holds stitch patterns up to 24 stitches wide (for instance, you could have a repeat of 17 stitches if you wanted).  It has variation keys, including the one for double jacquard.  The ribber is the typical modern ribber with lili buttons.  The ribber and its accessories are in a plastic Plano shotgun case.

2.  A Brother 890 with ribber (and if you want a KnitLeader, that can be arranged).  This one is the 24-stitch punch card machine with lace carriage. 

3.  A Brother 350.  This machine is a reliable plastic bed mid-gauge.  Patterning is manual, the machine is delightfully portable (I've taken these to fiber fairs and knit club), and it knits very smoothly. 

4.  Does anybody want a sturdy metal stand?  I have a couple extra ones.  One tilts, and one doesn't.  These are older, but built like tanks. 

I have other units that aren't ready yet, most notably, there will be a Brother 970 and its  ribber.  This is the most advanced Brother electronic machine, and it has a good CB-1 with an original clear display (many of them need new backlights by now).   It appears to be in great shape, but I haven't inventoried it for possible missing accessories yet or done the clean and oil job.

One more announcement:  My John changes the displays in 970 CB-1 boxes.  He has a reasonable price for that, and he also fixes FB100s that need a belt (you might fix that one yourself.  I did a video here) and Passap E6000 consoles with dead batteries.  Email for details.  John's not going to Dallas, but he'll do these at seminars if you let us know so he'll take his tools and parts. 

Finding the Right Tension

I had a great emailed question today from a lady who is about to get a new machine.  She's already enjoying knitting on a simpler machine (the wonderful, affordable Brother 350), and this nice bulky will make it possible to knit heavier yarns and easily make fancy stitch patterns.

Her question was about what tension to use for Aran yarn.  Well, she's in UK, where the REAL Aran yarn is available, but I've certainly hand knit with some good "Aran" yarns, or at least I was told that's what it was...Hmm. Is her stuff like the lighter, softer Aran, or is it like the stiff, hard-twist yarn I used once that was thicker? I don't know.  But it got me thinking about this whole tension question, and what I've learned about it over the years.

I mostly learn knitting the hard  way.  I do what doesn't work, repent, and try something different.  And repeat.  And gradually, I learn all sorts of details that help me out later.  This blog is about having them help you out, too, if you haven't yet fallen into some particular error I've experienced.

To me, tension is all about FEEL.  The machine should knit the yarn easily, that is, the carriage should slide smoothly across.  The resulting fabric should feel good, not packed tight and not sloppy-loose.  This means you have to experiment.

The "experimental swatch" has a different purpose from the gauge swatch.  For this swatch, you knit a row of contrast for a marker, set the tension dial to a possible setting, knit a few rows, make an eyelet for each number of the dial (so later you can see what tension it was), knit maybe 20 rows, knit another marker row, and try another tension setting.  You'll feel the difference with your machine.  Ironically, sometimes a looser tension (larger stitch size) will be easier to knit and sometimes a tighter one (smaller stitches) will be easier to knit.  You're looking for the "sweet spot" for that yarn.  Make a note of what tensions were smooth and easy.

See how photographed experimental swatch gets bigger as it was knitted with bigger dial numbers?  Note that I made a section for T3.  Too tight.  T4.  A little too tight.  T5 - starting to feel good.  So, I did a section of T5.1 (see that extra hole) and T5.2.  Finally I did a section of T6. 

When the experimental swatch comes off the machine, you give it a vertical tug and let it rest.  Then, block it in the way you plan to block the garment.  You should launder it, too, whatever way you plan to launder the garment.  Yarns can grow, shrink, soften, or fall apart in the wash.  Even well-behaved yarns can change size by 10-15%. 

You go do something different and return to the swatch with Serene Objectivity, then examine each section and decide which tension is best for that yarn.  In case Serene Objectivity isn't living at your house that day (she often fails to show up when I need her), show it to a friend or family member and collect an opinion or two. 

The best tension will be easy to knit and produce the look and "hand" you want in the fabric.

If you're doing a pattern stitch, do the swatch in pattern.

Warning:  If the yarn is miserable to knit, the carriage hard to push, or too scratchy, or too splitty, or whatever, don't use it in your machine.  You can damage your machine, or simply end up frustrated with a very disappointing finished project after investing hours of time and handfuls of money.  This goes back to the told truism that a cheapo yarn results in a cheapo sweater.  Its true nature will come through, despite skilled, meticulous workmanship.  I am referring to quality, not price; some expensive yarns can be disappointing just like cheap ones.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


I've just taught a two-day seminar in Princeton, Minnesota (Thank you, Cindy Schmatz and awesome knitters).  This was a grand experience.   We have beautiful weather here in Minnesota, and we're planning on a nice Sunday drive today.  We've already seen some spectacular fall color.

One of the things I've noticed is that a lot of knitters like to keep up to date on my new videos and blog posts, but they miss them.  You can subscribe, you know, and be notified of each new video!  Go down the left-hand side of this blog to subscribe.

I am still doing a YouTube video every month.  This month was an interesting shell stitch.  To subscribe to the YouTube videos, and not miss any of them, go here:

Saturday, October 3, 2015

New Video for October - Seashell Stitch

I had a knitter email, linking a picture and asking about a stitch like this.  Then I saw a number of posts about stitches like this on one of the knitting lists.  After that, I couldn't get it off my mind.  It looked fairly easy; rather like the triangles, argyles and other designs we used to do with short-rowing.

After thinking it over, I decided it would be a good thing for a bulky or mid-gauge in a 12-stitch version.  Of course, you could make it on just about any machine, and it would be gorgeous in standard gauge, but I liked the idea of it working up quickly on a bulky.

This morning, I had a chance to play with some ideas.  I ended up with a very simple 12-stitch shell, s simplified so you don't have many ends to deal with, you can do a quick, no-wrap short-row, and you don't have to do much counting or mark the needle bed. 

You're going to see a very interesting texture - the bottoms of the shells are raised.  You can block that into flatness if you want, but after making, oh, at least four swatches today - I decided I like a very light blocking.   Also, notice how the variegated yarn makes curves? 

After you watch the video, you'll probably realize that this could be done automatically using slip stitches, with an electronic machine that would hold a large enough pattern.  However, you'd have to pass the width of the knitting every row, even if it's just a two-stitch row, so it's a job for a motor attached to an electronic machine.  I might try it...but not today! 

Nope - this weekend, John and I are getting ready to go to Princeton, Minnesota next weekend.  I've going to do a two-day seminar, and I've got a very busy curriculum planned!  I believe Cindy Schmatz still has some space in that seminar, if you'd like to attend.