Thursday, July 27, 2023

Sponge Bars

Sponge bars on my mind lately, and I thought a little information about them might be useful to others.

So, why are sponge bars on my mind lately?  I have pulled two different knitting machines out that I hadn't used in a year or two, and they both needed sponge bars.  I can push on a needle tip anywhere and it pops up about 1/8".  I know better than to try to knit with the machine like this!  This can result in jams, bent needles, and terrible aggravation.   

First of all, just about every flatbed machine has either a sponge bar, a felt bar, or a spring to hold the needles down against the bed.  If the sponge bar is worn out, the machine will absolutely not knit properly.  It will be absolutely miserable to use, and plenty of people have given up on machine knitting when all they needed was a decent sponge bar.

Sponge bars wear out.  I've had knitting machines where I never had to replace a single part except the sponge bar!  These have foam rubber, and it deteriorates over time.  Also, the foam is squashed all the time, which of course flattens it.  I understand you can prolong the life of a sponge bar by removing it from the machine whenever you are not knitting, but I simply cannot make myself do this.  They're not all that quick to get in and out, and I like to go to my machine and just start knitting.  (But hey, I might as well mention that I've always been the sort who slips off shoes without unbuckling the little straps or loosening the laces, if I could get away with it.   And nothing terrible has happened to me from that particular bad habit.)

The sponge bar is a long metal stick (the length of the main bed) with foam rubber on one side.  It slides in to a slot at the end of the knitting machine near the front of the bed.  There is very seldom any information at all about it in your machine's manual - I guess the manufacturers all assumed we had a local dealer to help us with this.  The sponge bar is installed with the foam rubber side pushing down on the needles.  You need a new sponge bar if your machine's needles are not pressed firmly downward against the machine's number strip.

You can get your sponge bar out with a wooden chop stick.  Push on its end until it sticks out enough at the other end to grab it, then pull it out.  When you install a sponge bar, make sure you push the needles downward with the flat side of a needle pusher as you slide in the bar, because it has to be ABOVE the needles, FOAM DOWN.

Yes, you can refurbish your sponge bar.  There are good directions here.  I admit, I prefer weather stripping to the foam rubber in her directions, but it does take some hunting to find just the right size of weather stripping.  

However, I don't refurbish sponge bar anymore unless I can't get the proper sponge bar for that model.  I prefer to buy from a dealer.  Rehabbing a sponge bar takes time, effort, and materials, and my rehabbed sponge bars never last quite as long as the ones I can get from dealers.  If you have a dealer near you, buy the sponge bar from the dealer.  First of all, it supports your dealer (you are so lucky to have one!), and secondly, she can show you how to put it in, and third, shipping these long, skinny things is expensive, so you will probably save both money and time that way.  

I don't have a dealer.  Lately, I've been buying them from The Knitting Closet, here.  When I buy them, I try to buy several at once, to save on shipping.  Sometimes, you can find a friend who needs some, too, and order together to save on shipping.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Latest Video

 I didn't know how many of you would be interested in this, but I've been fascinated with it, so I'm sharing.  I had purchased a TINY Sister toy knitting machine, so small I can put it in my suitcase for an ordinary trip, and it is quite old.  I did a video on it, and someone suggested we replace the sponge.  Well, of course, I should have thought of that!  All old machines need a new sponge or felt.

The sponge holds the needles in proper position for knitting.  It's just foam rubber, and it deteriorates over time.  Modern machines have a sponge bar, which you can simply purchase.  They slide right into the knitting machine, super easy if you know how (sponge above and against needles, please).  I like to get mine at the Knitting Closet, which has an online store.

Older machines, especially small ones, might have a piece of old-fashioned felt or they might have foam rubber.  

In this video, my husband (always the good sport) took this old toy machine apart and figured out what and where the padding was.  Then he replaced it with a home-trimmed bit of foam, to very good results.

Later this summer, I'm posting some videos on making hems with this old, plain, simple machine.  Of course, I think you should get the very best machine you can afford, but you'd be amazed at what can be done with a primitive machine.  Let's not settle for so-so knitting - let's do our very best!

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Deadline Approaching for Charity Knitting Grants

 The knit club that I belong to, the Knit Natters, which is a machine knitting guild in the Austin, Texas area, has funds for charity knitting and has decided to offer charity grants.  The grant application (which is short and simple) is due by July 10.  

Yes, the deadline is coming very, very soon!  You can pick up an an application in the files on Facebook in the "Knitting with Diana Sullivan" group.