Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chain piecing snowballs!

I know that title will only make sense to a quilter.
I made a 'skateboard' quilt for a gkid.  Came out terrific.  I watched a video on piecing the top, and I was struck by the contrast between the speedy, streamlined assembly for most of the pieces, and the lumbering, fussy contrasting corners on the 'deck' piece.  I was inspired by Frog Tape.
If you have painted any walls or woodwork lately, you likely are familiar with Frog Tape.  It's a 3M painter's tape that is superb for masking, leaves a very clean line, and comes off easily.  It's green.  Frog.  Well, there is a yellow version that is for delicate surfaces- you can use it on new paint, and it will come off cleanly, with no damage to the new paint.  I have a roll by the sewing machine.  I have been using it for temporary guides on my sewing deck, and I have used it a few times to hold fabric or batting- especially where I was butting the edges of two pieces.   I don't sew through it. It is a 'gentle' hold on fabric.  Easy to reposition.  It does a great job of coming off fabric clean. It is not as clean coming off batting, but better than everything else.
On fabric, it is reusable three or four times before you need to replace with a new piece.

Here's the block piece I needed to put 'corners' on:

Here is how I chain-sew the corner pieces.

My 'deck' pieces are cut 5" by 10", and the corner squares are 1.5".
I arrange the deck pieces on my cutting mat, lining them up so that each piece is offset by 1.5 inches.  I am left-handed- so righties may want to line up the right side of the blocks instead.

Position the squares:

Position the tape:

I line up the tape on the diagonal corners of the 1.5" blocks.  I add a couple pins in the middle of the stack of blocks.  It helps when you are (carefully) carrying the stack to the sewing machine.  You could use some more tape, front and back, instead of the pins.  I prepare the opposing corners at the same time.  Sew!  My machine needle is offset .5mm right of center.  That's my scant 1/4 inch.  So I can use the edge of the tape as a 'center' guide, and my seam is one thread right.

Trim your seams, and take off the tape.  Press before you clip apart.  Them repeat this procedure for the remaining corners.  I leave the tape strips on my cutting board until they don't have 'life'.

With the 5" x 10" pieces, I stuck to doing 4 at a time, but with smaller pieces, I am fearless! I can make long strips, and there is no rule about how much frog tape you should use.  
Here's the finished top.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Notes for American Crew Socks

Notes for American Crew Socks
Prepared for April 8, 2015 Demo in Lincolnia, VA

This crew sock features a cuff in 2x2 half-pitch rib which is invisibly seamed on the inside of the leg, a sock body that is knit in the round, and a heel and toe that are done using short rows.

There are five parts to the sock: cuff, preheel, heel, foot, and toe.  This sock starts out life as a flat piece of ribbing.  When the cuff is knit, the sock setup is changed so that the rest of the sock is knitted in-the-round.  

The example that I will knit is done at a gauge of 8 stitches and 11 rows to the inch.  The gauge is measured on a swatch that is done in-the-round.  You need to get the same gauge on both the ribber and the main bed.

This sock is 64 stitches, with a cuff that is 64 rows, a preheel that is 20 rounds, a heel and toe that are based on 32 stitches which is shortrowed down to 10 and back up to 32, and a foot section of 60 rounds.
Ribbing stitch size is 4.5 and stockinet stitch size is 5.

A 100 gm ball of sock yarn will be plenty for a sock up to size Men’s 11-12.  I usually buy three 50 gm balls to make very tall, size 13 men’s socks.

(Japanese machines: review your ribber manual for “racked  cast on”, “industrial rib”, and circular knitting.)

Set your ribber bed so that the ribber and main bed needle numbers line up.
Set your ribber bed for half-pitch- needles and posts are offset.  
Pull forward on both beds all the needles between 32L and 32R.\
Put every 3rd needle back, starting on the left side on the back bed, and starting on the right side on the ribber.

Set both your carriages to KNIT, and make a pass or two to set up your needles, ending COR.
Set the row counter to 0.

Rack the ribber bed one number (left or right) to set the needles so you will get a zigzag when you cast on.  Set your stitch size for the zigzag row- This is usually (on brother machines) 1 or 0.  
Thread your carriage, tie the end of your yarn to your clamp, make sure that your carriages are set to ‘knit’, move the carriages to the left to make the zigzag row.  Hang your cast on comb and weights.
RC = 1, COL

Now, set your carriages for circular knitting in a clockwise direction.   Increase the stitch size to 3.  Knit to the left (needles on the back bed knit), and then knit to the right (needles on the front bed knit. )
RC = 3, COL
Now, set your carriages to knit in back and forth.  Rack the ribber back one number to the original position, so that when you knit, you will have a 2 x 2 rib, and increase the stitch size to your 4.5 (or a stitch size that will give you correct gauge).
Knit to the right.  Check the knitting, and hand-knit any needles that did not knit.
Then knit until RC = 64.  You will end with COR.  The cuff is complete.  

Transfer the ribber stitches to the main bed.  Of each pair of stitches transferred, one will fill an empty needle, and one will double up with a main bed stitch.

Set stitch size on the main carriage to 5 (or size to get correct gauge).  **Japanese machines: take off the ribber arm, and put your regular carriage arm on.**
Knit one row to the left.  
RC = 65 , COL

Using either a 40 stitch transfer comb or garter bar, take off the sttiches from 0 - 32R.
On the ribber bed, put up the needles from 32L - 0.  These are the new home for the stitches you have on the comb.  (for the right sock, move the right side stitches, for the left sock, move the left side stitches.  When you move stitches from the side that is the end of the row, make sure that the yarn coming from the mast is ON TOP of the needles.  Put back into non-work position all needles that you empty.  If you moved the end of the row, and not the beginning of the row, you will need to move your carriages to the other side without knitting.
Then, set RC to 0, set carriages to knit circular clockwise.  Set stitch size to 5.  

Part 2   PREHEEL

You are ready to knit the preheel.  You want to knit 20 rounds of preheel,  and the row counter will count 2 rows for each round, so you will knit until RC = 40.

end COR.

Part 3 HEEL

Japanese machines:  lower the ribber bed and take off the ribber arm and put on the regular mainbed arm.  You will be knitting the heel (and toe) on the main bed only.

This heel uses self-wrap on the way down, and ‘2-down, 1-up’ self-wrap on the way up.  
On the carriage side, pull the end needle all the way forward to hold position.  Make sure carriage is set to ‘hold’. Knit across.  Repeat until you have pulled 11 needles on one side, and 10 on the other.

The Turnaround row:  COL, raise 11th needle on the left and put 11th and 10th needles on the right into upper work position, and knit to the right.
COR, put the 10th needle on the right back into hold, and put the 11th and 10th needles on the left into upper work position and knit across.
Repeat these two rows until you knit all the needles on the left.  Then COL, put the 1rst needle on the left in hold position, and put any remaining needles on the right that are in hold in upper work position and knit across.  Use a tool to put the left needle in hold back in regular work position with the stitch in the hook.  
Set up carriages for circular knitting, and knit one round.  
This completes the heel.  Follow these directions for the toe, as well.

Part 4 FOOT

Set the RC to 0.  Knit 60 rounds, which will be 120 on the row counter.

Part 5 TOE  

Follow the directions for the heel

After you complete the ‘knit one round’ that ends the toe, do one round with ravel cord, then scrap off.

Graft the toe.  Flat seam the cuff.  Done.

To make larger sizes, Each 4 stitches will add about half an inch to the sock circumference.

64 stitches makes a sock around 8  inches around.  68 will be 8 ½  inches.  Your big guy socks will be on 72 stitches or 76 stitches.  

Socks that are the right length from heel to toe are the socks that don’t walk down into your shoe.  If a sock heel won’t stay where it belongs, the sock is probably too short.  If a sock is too long, you generally see that in too much extra fabric at the toe.

If you know the foot length is, say 10 ¼ inches, multilply your row gauge (11 rows per inch) by 10.25 : to get 112.75.  Round to the nearest whole number  : 113.  This is the total number of rows for the foot.  The total foot rows that are knitted in the heel and toe is equal to ⅔ of the total stitches around.  ⅔ of 64 is close to 42 (close is good).  subtract 42 from 113, and you will knit 71 rounds in the section of the foot between the heel and the toe to get a total foot length of  10 ¼ inches.
Notice that if your gauge is only 10 rows per inch, the foot section will be only 60 rounds to get that same 10 ¼ inches length.

My blog can be found at
I am on Ravelry (Sharonwue)
Have Fun,  Make Socks
Sharon Wuerschmidt

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The things you do for love, and the birdfoot heel

I decided to use up the leftovers in a couple pairs of socks.  These are always the socks that I experiment with, and some of my best, and worst, ideas have been tried out in leftovers.

My socks are knit in the round, on a superba double bed.  Recently, I was using my CSM in the comfy company of several CSM people, and I took a few minutes to expound on why I like the double bed knitting machine for socks more ;than the CSM.  It all comes down to flexiblilty.  I can have more or less stitches whenever I want.  It made me think.

I want to make socks that have more room around the heel and the arch of my foot- where things get stretched out the most when I wear my socks.  I mean, I want there to be more stitches around the sock in that area,
I also wanted to try out a couple of modifications to the short-row heel.  I wanted the heel to actually use MORE THAN HALF of the stitches.  I think I have figured out how to do that.  I also wanted to use a short-row that put all the needles back into work at one time, instead of one at a time.  Okay, then.

I managed to get these experiments into the socks, and I am pretty satisfied.

I started out by knitting 3 x 2 rib over 72 stitches- so 90 actual stitches in the ribbing- .  (see my recent blog entry for all the details on this. )
Then, I set up the rest of the sock in the round, 36 stitches on each bed.  I knit 4 rounds and increased 1 stitch on each side on both beds, by moving out the outer 2 stitches by one needle, and filling the empty needle with a crossbar from the row below.  Then I **knit 8 rounds, increased 4 stitches** two times.
Now I had a total of 84 stitches, 42 on each bed.  I knit 8 more rows after the last increase row.
Here's a graphic represention of the stitches that I added and, after the heel was complete, subtracted.

Now for the heel- I wanted a heel that used a total of 48 stitches, so I would be shortrowing the 42 needles on the back bed, along with 3 needles on both ends of the front bed.
Here's how that works.  With carriage on right, set up your carriages to knit the back bed, but pass the front bed.
Before you knit across the back bed on the first row of the heel, I handknit the three rightmost stitches on the front bed, wrap the yarn in the hook of the next stitch, then handknit the three rightmost stitches again to get back to the edge.  Now, I knit the back bed- moving the carriages to the left side, where I hand knit the 3 leftmost sttiches on the front bed, wrap in the hook of the next needle, and handknit back to the end.  For the next two rows, I handknit 2 stitches,wrap, handknit back, on both ends, and for the net two rows, that's right! handknit i stitch, wrap, handknit back on both ends.
Now, carriages on right- wrap the yarn in the hook of that rightmost needle on the front bed, and set my back carriage to hold position.  On the first row, pull the end needles on both the left and right ends.  On each row, pull both the right and left next needles into hold position until there are 12 stitches left in the middle, and the carriage is on the right.  (You have knit 12 rows of the heel).  
For the next row,  on the left side, I put all but the end needle back in work position, and knit to the right.
For the next row, on the left, pull  the next (2nd) needle into hold position, and on the right, I put all the needles except the end needle back in work position and knit across.
Now, the carriage is on the right, and I pulled the end needles to hold position on both ends every row until there are 12 or 13  (I forget, lol- something close to that) needles left and carriage is back on left.  I put all the right side needles back in work position and knit to the right.
I set up the carriages for circular knitting.   I make sure that the carriages are no longer set for hold position.  I put the needles that are still in hold position on the left side of the back bed back into regular working position.  I used a transfer tool to put the stitches back in the hooks, and the hooks lined up in regular working position, ready for the carriage.
I knit the first circular row- first right to left across the front bed, then left to right across the back bed.
I was now done with this heel.
This stripe really allows you to see how the heel is done.  By the way- this short row heel is very smooth on the inside- no ridge.  And no holes.

Now,  it was time to reduce the number of stitches, so I knit 4 rounds  and decreased by moving the outer two stitches in one needle, doubling up the 2nd and 3rd stitches from the ends, on both beds and both sides.  **Knit 8 rounds and repeat the decrease**  until back to a total of 36 stitches on each bed.
Then I completed the sock, making the toe by shortrowing on the back bed only on 36 stitches down to 12, and back up, using a self wrap on the on the way down, and 1 up, 2 down on the way back to 36 stitches.

So, how do I like them?  Well, the fit is exactly what I was after.  My socks, going forward, will have a wide load section.  My feet will be happy for it.
As for the birdfoot heel, I like how smooth it is.  Also, since the fussier part, for me, of knitting the heel is putting the stitches back into work, this heel simplifies that part.  I find I do not need to move around the weights as often as with a conventional shortrow up and shortrow down heel.  The birdfoot heel using more that 50% of the stitches, has the effect of moving the pivot point for the heel higher up the ankle, and more forward.  This, combined with the additional stitches, means that the front of the sock over the arch doesn't need to stretch quite as much.  Now for some wear testing.

Gretzsky's shawl finished!

Came out very cozy.
I finished the edge with a wrap-a-round knit-on plain edge.  I cast on 9 stitches, and on every second row, I put one edge stitch on the 5th needle.  Tension was tighter than the original shawl- around 4 on the Bulky.  Started at one corner,  and grafted the stitches when I got all the way around.  The edging curled around both sides, making for a a very neat finish on both sides.  I buried a lot of ends under the curl on both sides.
Here are a couple closeups of the purl side and the knit side.
purl side of gretzsky's shawl

And here are more complete updated directions for the shawl:
First things first- You need a foundation to start.
Cast on with waste yarn- a multiple of 9 stitches.  Each 9 needle section will make a foundation triangle.)  Knit 10 or 12 rows of waste yarn, ending COL, then knit 1 row ravel cord ending COR.  
If you want closed cast-on, then e-wrap and knit each needle.  If you don’t mind open cast-on, just knit row 1 with your garment yarn.  This row needs to be at a loose tension, I used T7.
Set your carriage for holding position.  Set tension for 6 or 7.
Set up for the first triangle.  On the carriage side, leave 9 needles in work position, and move the rest of the needles to hold position.  The 9 needles in work position are the base of the first triangle.  You might need a small claw weight to help, and to move up as you knit the triangle.  
*Now put the right most needle of these 9 into hold position, and Knit 2 rows.  Put the right most of the 8 needles and Knit 2 rows….until there is only one needle left.  Knit 2 rows on that one needle.  Now put the other 8 back into work position (total of 9 in work position) and knit to the right.  Now, put those 9 needles into hold position.  All the needles are now in hold position.  Move the carriage to the left past all the needles in hold. **
Put the second set of 9 needles into work position and follow the directions from * to **.  Put each subsequent set of 9 needles into work position and follow the directions from * to **.
When all the triangles are made,  move the carriage back to the left side, and again taking each set of 9 needles into work position, take each triangle off on waste yarn separately.

The individual entrelac block ( for this pattern)  is 9 stitches by 17 rows.  
The stitches for the blocks of the first row will be picked up from the long edge of the triangle, and will incorporate the open stitches of the next triangle.  One of the triangles has it’s open stitches on the end of the piece.  This is the triangle you will start the row with.  
With purl side out, hang the long edge of triangle on 9 stitches.  Your carriage will be on the side of the triangle’s open stitches.  Again, use a small claw weight and move up as needed.
Now, locate the nearest open stitch on the next triangle and put it on the 9th needle.  Knit 2 rows.  Put the next open stitch on the 9th needle, and knit 2 rows.  Repeat until you are down to the last open stitch.  Put the last open stitch on the 9th needle (go for the part of the stitch that ‘wraps around’), and knit 1 row.  (17 rows knit). You can now pull out the waste yarn that held the stitches that you have transferred to the 9th needle, and use it to  take the 9 stitches of the last row of the block off on waste yarn.  
One block down.  Now finish the row.
The second row will be knitted in the opposite direction.  If your knitted left-to-right on the first row, you will knit right-to-left on the second, and all even rows. You will be able to knit from block to block without breaking the yarn, except for when you end one row of blocks and begin another.

To knit the shawl, The first row of blocks  will be 23 blocks.  You will need three sections of foundation.  Each section will be 72 stitches, making 8 triangles each.  Make sure they are all knitted in the same direction.  The sections will be joined by the blocks of the first row.
Each subsequent row of blocks will be have one  block fewer than the row before.  
The Double-idiot-roll edge:  Cast on 9 stitches on waste yarn, knit a few rows, knit a ravel cord row, and begin with garment yarn and a tension that is tighter that the garment tension.  I used T 4.
On every other row, pick up an edge stitch and put it on needle 5.   When you have knitted around, graft the last row to the first row.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Entrelac Shawl needs a border!

Okay, we got this far finally.
Gretzsky likes it.
This shawl is made from a shrug that I finished and frogged.  The yarn is some walmart 1 ply synthetic, that has a big tendency to collect static and while the color transition really works well in this entrelac, it did not do the same in the shrug.
However, now I need a border and No, it won't be worm, i cord, piecrust.  It needs to be at least as wide as the blocks are: 9 stitches, and it will be knit as you go, so 2 rows for every stitch.  Probably plain stockinet around 15 rows ( to allow some curl and still have some width) would be just fine. Maybe 16 or 17 stitches with a needle or two out of work in the middle.   I'll let you know.
Here are some close ups of the purl side and the stockinet side.

There are also quite a few loose ends, mostly on the edges, so I will be able to take care of them as I do the border.
If someone needs the details, here they are:
Brother 260, tension 6.  (This technique will work on any midgauge or bulky, I am sure. )
The entrelac block is 9 stitches wide and 17 rows long.  Each new block is picked up from the side of a block on the row before.  If you have never done this technique, I recommend Dianne Sullivan's You Tube intro to Entrelac.
The foundation row of triangles to set up this project had to be done as three 72 stitch strips.  Once the foundation triangles are done, the first row of blocks links them together, and you are off- completing rows that are each one block shorter than the one before.  Each block takes (after all that practice!) around 3 minutes.

Entrelac is a great handknitting technique that can easily be adapted to many knitting devices.  You can, of course, use a flatbed knitting machine.  I'm pretty sure you can use a circular sock machine (getting a vision of how you could do that, and will report here with pics when I try it out.)  You can use knitting combs, all kinds of peg knitters and knitting looms.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

3 x 2 industrial rib: How I do it and Why I bother

3 x 2 half-pitch ribbing- using racked cast-on
I have always been a fan of what the old ribber manuals refer to as ‘industrial rib’- which is a 2x2 rib set up half-pitch, such that you use 2 out of every 3 needles on both beds, and the beds are offset so that you get a very deep, 2x2 rib.  The rib uses 33% more needles and yarn than a conventional 2x2 rib (Full pitch, 2 needles in, 2 needles out of work across both beds).
One reason I am such a fan is that this rib makes a sock that has a very neat appearance when worn- the rib is not stretched out, and the cast-on edge stretches nicely to accommodate the less-than-slender leg.   


Note: These pics and directions are for the White/Superba double bed. If you are working on Japanese machines, check your ribber manual for the industrial rib directions. You will be able to adapt them to do the 3 x 2 rib.

The 2x2 industrial rib is an easy set up:
  1. set your beds for full needle rib- half pitch.
  2. put up into work 2 out of every 3 needles on both beds, such that the 2 needles in work on the front bed are between the sets of 2 needles on the back bed.
  3. rack 1 (left or right) to get your zigzag.  (pull up an extra end needle if you need it)
  4. zigzag row : tension 1 Hang comb and weight.
  5. 2 rows circular tension 3
  6. rack back to rib setup.  tension 4.5.  carriages both set to knit.  transfer the orphan stitch if you had to add one at the end of the row to make your zigzag come out.
  7. Knit your ribbing.

Lately, I have been using a 3x2 rib, based on the industrial rib set-up, for a lot of socks.  It’s a bit of a yarn saver for me, as this rib only incorporates 25% more needles and yarn than the stockinet rows.  I does involve one more step than the 2x2 industrial setup.

3x2 industrial rib setup:
  1. set the beds for full needle rib- half pitch.
  2. put up into work position 3 our of every 4 needles on both beds.  
                      Back Bed:      0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1
                     Front Bed:         0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1
3.       zigzag row - tension 1, and hang comb and weight.

Here's my zigzag row.

4.  2 rows circular - tension 3
5.     Rack front bed 1 space to the right
                      Back Bed       0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1
                      Front Bed            0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1
6.  In each set of 3 on the Front bed, transfer the left-most stitch to Back bed , doubling  the right-most stitch on the back sets of 3.

Here's what it will look like when you have transferred the stitches.

7. Tension 4.5.  carriages both set to knit.  Knit your ribbing.

For bigger combinations (3x3, 3x4) the racked cast-on doesn’t work in most applications.  You have to rack 2 spaces, and that tightens the edge too much for many applications.  You can cast on 1x1 or FNR, but then you have to transfer a lot of stitches to set up your rib.  You can always ewrap, but I have not been happy with ewrap on the top edge of a sock.  

This is my cheat-sheet for the 3 x 2 rib cast-on

Now go make some superb (ah!) socks.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Better, Neater, Faster, Easier.

My friend Linda W., up there on Tug Hill, offered me some sound critique on the hem-top socks.  She told me that her husband would find the hem messy.  She wants to make something with a neater top.  Well, Linda was right.  I was immediately not happy with the hem.  I had used the eon e-wrap for the hem for maximum elasticity.  But that leaves really big floppy loops of yarn on the inside of the hem.  I know they feel okay, but it looked crappy.
On the next pair of socks, I did my knitted e-wrap cast-on on every needle.
When I hung the hem, I still only hung every other bar (the bars between the e-wraps).  The hem is just as elastic as the eon cast-on, and looks so much better.  That aside, the every-needle cast-on solved a couple problems I didn't know I had.  Let me count them out for you.
1. Your waste yarn cast-on can be full-needle, instead of 1x1-  Simply set up your rib pattern on both beds, set the beds to 1/2 pitch (needles staggered), rack 1 (left or right) to get your zigzag row, and after you have done 2 circular passes, set to full pitch (needles opposite) and rack back 1 so your back bed needles face your front bed needles.  You are now done fiddling with needle setup.
2.  The knitted on e-wrap may be a bit snugger on every needle than on eon.  If so, then manually raise the needles on the first bed to knit, and knit them back with the carriage, then do the same on the 2nd bed  to knit.  Nicer cast on row.
3.  The bars, when you hang the hem are still easy to see, and no big loops in your way when you knit the first row after the hem.
4.  This cast-on is faster to do than the old one.  Mostly, I think, because it does not combine changing to  the rib pattern while doing the cast on rows.

I made a couple pairs, and played around with different mock-rib intervals.  I got a little obsessive-compulsive over having my rib pattern be symmetrical, and centered front and back, and having a rib on each side to bridge between front and back beds.  I also obsessed over sock size as it is affected by the ratio between the total needles for the pattern and the net number of needles that actually are in work.  omg!
Turns out, you have to worry about that if your princess can feel the pea under the mattress.