Wednesday, March 28, 2007

For Barbara and Miriam

To answer Catbookmom's question yesterday....yes, occasionally you do get knocked in the chin, LOL. Generally speaking though, the facing out position is not a good one. It can be overly stimulating for little babies, and as they get bigger, they tend to lean forward, which pulls your back/shoulders forward--which is one reason why Bjorns are not recommended. Facing outwards, there is too much space between baby and mom, causing strain on the back. And the narrow support between the legs can cause spinal compression. And the legs hanging straight down can cause hip problems....But having the baby face they get taller, it can be really nice--you can kiss their little heads, and talk to them, etc. One problem with doing back carries is you don't really know what's going on back there. Missing mittens, missing hats, boogers in my hair...

And now, for the knitting machine infomercial :)
I'm not going to re-post the recent pictures, but I suggest scrolling back a bit to see my new machine, and the day where I showed how I fixed the mistake (early March).

A knitting machine is basically a long row ('bed', can be plastic or metal) of latches--they look like rug hooking latches. One latch for each stitch. The Incredible Sweater Machine has 100, the LK150 has 150, and my new Singer has 200.
They come in a few different 'gauges'. Fine is 3mm, and not very common. Standard (my new Singer) is 4.5mm and uses laceweight to DK yarn, Mid-Gauge (the LK150) is 6.5mm (uses sock yarn barely, to heavy worsted), and 'Bulky' which is 8 or 9 mm (The Bond and KnitSmart are 8mm, most others are 9mm). There are some brands which have totally different gauges though. The smaller the gauge, the smaller the latches, the smaller the spacing between latches (that's actually what the numbers are).

You have a tension dial to set the tension. It adjusts how far back the carriage pushes each latch on the bed. The further back it pushes, the larger the loop/stitch it makes. The Bond and KnitSmart use 'keyplates' which are plastic plates that you put in the carriage yourself, instead of turning a knob which moves levers underneath the carriage. The keyplates do the same thing--guide the needles/latches--but you just don't get as many choices as with the levers built into the carriage. The standgauge for example, has say, 43 settings for gauge (I'm not sure exactly), the mid-gauge has about 20, the KnitSmart has 8, and new Bonds have 6.
You make stitches by sliding the carriage along the bed. The levers/keyplates guide the needle butts (little bits that stick up at the back end of the latches) forwards to make the stitch, and backwards to lengthen the loop depending on the gauge setting.

To make cables, increases, decreases, lace, and ribbing, you must 'hand manipulate' (unless you have a lace carriage, or a ribber, or a garter carriage). You use a tool like a large eye needle, to transfer the stitch to where you want it. Keep in mind, that with a knitting machine, you are making stockinette fabric, and you look at the PURL side! That makes cabling, especially, very interesting. To make ribbing, if you don't have a ribber (more on that later), you take the stitch that you want to show as purl on the front side, drop it off the latch, and undo as many rows as you want. Then, using the latch tool, you 'whip it' up as a knit stitch and put it back on the latch. It's not too hard, especially if you've ever rescued a dropped stitch in handknitting. However, it is tedious, and your fabric is not growing as you do this, LOL, so it's a small time thing--not many do a ribbed scarf or sweater! If you drop a stitch off a latch accidently, and need to relatch it back up as a knit stitch on the front side...well...I have a lot of difficulty doing that!

If you want garter stitch, you have to take all the stitches off, and turn your piece around. You can knit a few rows of 'waste yarn', take it off the machine, and turn it. Some people have (or make) garter bars that have prongs to fit into each stitch to pull them off the latches and hold them for turning. Other people use a knitting needle, Weed-Eater wire, or a blocking wire. Again, it's for small things, you don't want to do this every other row.

One important thing--you need weights on the knitting, to keep the fabric hanging down and tension on the sts in the latches, otherwise the fabric rises up and gets caught in the carriage. And weights at the edges, because we all know how stockinette st. rolls in--this causes the carriage to jam too.

There are some other features too, regarding 'patterning'. The Bond, KnitSmart, and LK150 all rely on you moving the stitches into position for any patterning. Then there are punchcard machines, like my new one. You insert a flexible card with holes punched in a pattern, into a slot, connect the ends so it's continous, and somehow, the machine knows what to do! The card is 24 sts wide, but it repeats across the whole bed. It moves forward each row too. You can do tuck stitches, slip stitches, fair isle....look at the red and green sample I made earlier. I just had to change the yarn at the beginning of every two rows, and then zip across!! A step up are electronic machines, and you somehow program the designs into them, and then, like PhotoShop, you can reverse directions, colours, elongate, etc, and you aren't limited to a 24st repeat. At the top end is DAK--Desing-a-Knit, a computer program that somehow talks to your machine. I know NOTHING about it!

Ribbers are basically another needle bed that you attach to the front of your machine so the latches of both are almost touching. The main bed makes knit sts and the ribber makes purl sts, I think. You can use it to knit tubular pieces too, but not in ribbing.
Garter carriages can do funky patterning stuff, but are available for only a few machines.

And that, is a basic introduction to knitting machines. Much more than I knew when I got my KnitSmart from the Salvation Army for $25 almost two years ago. I knew nothing, but the fact that it came with it's own stand impressed me. Not a very sturdy stand, LOL, and since retired.

Now, for the socks. Just like in handknitting, you can make them flat, or if you have a ribber, you can make them in the round (just not with ribbing). I didn't like how the ribbing looked on the LK150 with sock yarn (see my posts earlier this year), but on the heavier sock yarn it was okay. Tedious, but okay. Many people save the ribbing so they have some mindless handknitting in the car/doctor's office, etc. Typically, socks are made the same way--short row heels and toes. You start at the top (although for my first pair, I did start at the toe!). When you get to the heel, half the sts are the heel, and half the sts are put 'in hold' as the instep. You make short rows for the heel, just like handknitting (except you need lots of weights!). THen you work all the sts for the foot, and then the toe is exactly like the heel. You end up grafting the toe sts (half the total sts) to the foot, and seaming up one side, using a flat seam called a Bickford Seam, very similiar to mattress stitch. There is also a method where you are working only half the width. Down the back leg, turn the heel, down the bottom foot, turn the toe, then as you work back up the top side, you knit the edge stitch of the top with the edge stitch of the bottom, so it is 'automatically' seamed as you go. Haven't tried that yet--doesn't work so well with self-patterning yarn...but the stuff I have out is not self-patterning...

There. Anything else I can help you with? LOL. Knitting machines are NOT cheating, they are a parallel universe to handknitting. Sort of like crochet. It all takes yarn! You can MK and never pick up a knitting needle--gasp!! Sometimes it's faster, sometimes not, LOL.


CatBookMom said...

Wow! That sounds SO complicated! But I've seen so many pretty things done very fast with a knitting machine, and like most new processes, I'm sure it goes faster the more you get used to it.

A friend of mine had breast-reduction surgery last year, and is very happy with the improvement in her life. So I'll be thinking many positive thoughts for you.

Elizabeth said...

Great info on machine knitting! Parallel universe lol

I love my machines!