Sunday, November 29, 2009

Inkle Pattern: Christmas book marks

I was headed out to SCA practice today, and realized I didn't have a good project to take along with me. So I grabbed the inkle loom and some cotton crochet thread, and spent the afternoon chatting and warping up the loom. I decided that some simple bookmarks in Christmas colors might be fun for the day.

Handsome, aren't they? I encourage you to make your own! Here's the warping pattern I used:


G: green
W: white
R: red

Read from left to right, starting with the top 'G' and alternating between the top and the bottom rows. The top line are the yarns that are threaded above the first post, and the bottom line are the yarns that are threaded below the first post. Make each bookmark about 7" long. Cut a couple of lengths of cardboard to weave in between bookmarks, like you see in the picture. That leaves room for fringe on each end.

Have fun with them. These would make great stocking stuffers, or little gifts for co-workers.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quote for the Day

From my mom's knitting calendar:

"Many, many cultures around the world have ceremonies and rituals that center around the washing of the feet. It is humbling to care for the most functional, low, and work-bearing of a person's parts. To tend to someone's feet speaks of an understanding of the journey they are on. It's just one of the reasons I've always thought that knitting socks was really noble."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tutorial: Ribbed Selvedge Edge on the Circular Sock Machine

I've been working with the ribber on my circular sock machine today, trying to get it working properly. I was having some issues with dropped stitches, and with stitches binding up on the needles and not dropping at all. There were two issues in play.

First, on the inside of the main cylinder, there is a metal stopper screwed into the wall. The screw I had to hold this in place was too long, so the stopper wiggled back and forth. The head of the screw was also chewed up by the years. I went to the hardware store for a replacement, but the ones they with the right size thread were all too long. I took one home and sicced my guys on it. With the help of a bench grinder and a magic threading gizmo, they made me a screw that worked. Problem one solved.

The second problem I was having had to do with the height adjustment on the ribber. I didn't realize the height adjusted, to start with. It actually can move up and down with the help of this screw. I found you need your ribber low enough that the yarn is catching and not being strained, but not so low that the stitches bind up when they slip down below. You especially need to leave room to slip by that metal stopper on the inside of the cylinder. Trial and error gave me the right height. Yay!

So, now that I had the ribber working, I hunted around until I found directions on how to make an edge that wouldn't ravel. Here's what I did:

First, I set up the machine with every other needle in place. Then I hung my set-up bonnet on the needles.

Some of the needles are down below, so I couldn't hang the bonnet on them. I started my waste yarn, and pulled down on the bonnet. Then I cranked forward until those needles were raised.

Now the needles were available, and I hung the rest of the bonnet.

After all the needles had stitches on them, I hung my weights on down below. I'm still missing the weight buckle that should have come with the machine originally. A clamp is working well so far, with the weights hung around the knitting just above the clamp.

With the weights in place, I cranked a couple of rows of waste yarn.

Now it was time to put the ribber in place. The pole slides down into openings on the side of the machine. I made sure it was settled all the way down as far as I have the screw set. Mine sometimes sticks half way down.

There are two moving plates on the ribber. Pull the bottom one counterclockwise, until the pin below comes to rest on that stopper in the cylinder. The top tappet plate rotates clockwise, until it comes to rest against the big pin comes down in from the top.

Now, I added my ribber needles, sliding them into the slots.

This screw down below moves the ribber by little bits. Adjust it until each ribber needle lines up with the opening left by a missing cylinder needle.

I made sure my ribber needles were in service, and cranked a couple of rows to make sure everything was adjusted correctly.

Then I cut the waste yarn...

...and replaced it with sock yarn.

After cranking half a round, I reached up with a little crochet hook, and pulled the tail ends of yarn down into the interior of the machine. Then I completed one row of knitting with the sock yarn, with the needles in service.

After completing the first row, I put the needles out of service, and knit two more rows.

After those two rows, I put the needles back in service. This maneuver makes the selvedge edge, that won't unravel. I only had a snippet of left over sock yarn for this trial, so I knit the rest of the yarn up. When I reached the end, I held the knitting down below while I cranked, so when it fell off the machine the weights wouldn't hit my feet.

Here's the ribbing, still attached to the waste yarn.

I snipped the waste yarn off, and was left with a neat and clean top.

I'm pleased with the problem solving and the learning I did today. Maybe tomorrow I can actually work on making a ribbed sock!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tutorial: Dyeing sock yarn

I was playing with the dyes today, coloring a batch of wool/acrylic sock yarn that I bought off of Ebay. I had some fiber reactive dye left over from last year this time, when I had made a series of warp painted cotton shawls, and I was hoping to use that. Of course, dyes for cellulose fibers don't always work on protein fibers. I spent the last couple of days pouring over my books and various web sites, and came up with a solution. It seems that you can use fiber reactive dyes on wool, if you substitute vinegar for the soda ash in the pre-soak phase, and heat set the dye. So, I decided to try it out. Here's what I did:

wool/acrylic sock yarn
Dharma fiber reactive dye (from Dharma Trading Company)
white vinegar

Tools (NOTE: do not use your dye tools for food prep ever again!)
measuring cups and spoons
plastic spoons
small tupperware tubs
saran wrap
plastic bags
sponge brushes
drying rack
breathing mask
rubber gloves

First off, I put my yarn in a bucket and covered it with water. Then I put the lid on the bucket so the dogs wouldn't drink the nice wool soup, and went out to lunch. When I got back, I pulled the yarn out for a moment, and added 4 cups of white vinegar and about a 1/3 cup of Synthropol to the water, and put the yarn back in. The vinegar makes the water acidic, so the protein fiber will take the dye. If I was working on cellulose fibers, I would use soda ash instead at this step. The Synthropol helps the fibers take the dye.

While the yarn was soaking in the vinegar water, I cleared away the remnants of the Epic Nerf War from my working surface, and convinced the various cats that they didn't really want to help. Really.

I covered my working surface with plastic garbage bags, then a couple of layers of newspaper.

Next, I had to mix up the dyes. At this point, I put on my breathing mask and rubber gloves, for safety's sake. Then I made a batch of chemical water, using 2 quarts of warm water and 1 1/2 cups urea pellets.

I put a cup of the chemical water into a little tupperware tub, and added two teaspoons of dye powder. A layer of saran wrap went down onto the table, and the yarn went on top of that. I used the sponge brushes to directly paint color onto the yarn.

Then I folded in the edges of the saran wrap, sealing in the yarn, and rolled up my skein into a big funny looking cinnamon roll.

The rolls went into my steamer, and simmered for 1/2 hour. While the last one was simmering, I cleaned up my work station and then took off the breathing mask.

After the rolls had steamed, I put them out on the counter, still in their wrappings. They sat for several hours, until they were cool to the touch.

I unwrapped the bundles one at a time (gloves back on for this stage!). I filled the sink with cool water, and gently put the yarn in. The unused dye leached out into the water, at which point I would pick up the yarn, drain and refill the sink, and repeat. After three or four repeats, the water ran clear and all the unused dye was removed from the yarn.

The yarn is hung to dry.

The yarn seemed to take the dye quite well, actually. I am really looking forward to putting some of these skeins through the sock machine, to see what I come up with. But as it is, I'll call this dyeing experiment a success.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A new stand for the sock machine

I do so love Craigslist, don't you? (For you all not in the USA, that is an online classifieds spot.) I managed to score a Black & Decker workmate for $20. That is a portable work bench, which is sturdy enough to clamp my sock machine too without fear of it tipping over. That means I can take this show on the road!

I used it last night, to test things out. I'm happy to say that everything works just fine. In fact, if I had the floor space in my studio, I'd just leave the machine on it all the time. But since I don't, the machine will go back to its place on the beading desk, and the work bench will get folded and stashed until I want to be portable.

I did get a new camera tonight, so I can show you the socks I've made so far:

These are all made with different brands of commercial yarn, and are all quite comfortable. I'm getting quite spoiled--I don't want to go back to cheapo Walmart socks any more!

I did some research today. I have a stash of fiber reactive dye from Dharma Trading Company, that I used for the warp painted shawls I made awhile ago. Those were cotton however, and dyes for cellulose fibers don't necessarily work on protein fibers. From my reading though, I think I'll be able to use these dyes for my wool sock yarns, with a bit of a change in the recipe. Somebody check me here: if I substitute vinegar for the soda ash in the pre-wash, and steam set the resulting yarn, I should be ok, yes? Or can I just let it set 24 hours to cure like I did with the cotton, skipping the steaming step?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Progress with the sock machine

I'd love to show you what I've been up to...but my camera decided not to work any more. Pout. Gripe. Grumble. Luckily, it is still in theory under warranty, so tomorrow I'll go to the bank to get the statement that has the purchase on it, and we'll send it in. But that does put me dead in the water as far as listing items goes.

So, in the mean while I'm playing with the sock machine. I've made 4 pairs of socks on it so far!! The first was a hair small. The second was a bit big, and fits my daughter. (She snapped them right up.) The third and fourth are just my size, and are extremely comfortable. I wore one pair today, and the other is fresh off the machine in time to wear tomorrow. They are made of commercial self striping sock yarn. It is great fun to watch the patterns develop as I crank along.

As far as the learning curve goes, yesterday I finally figured out the correct adjustments to make to get the ribber attachment working. There is a screw that controls how high off the base of the machine the ribber sits. That screw had gotten out of whack, and the ribber was sitting too high. Once I lowered it, things started falling into place. I've successfully ribbed with both sized of cylinders now, so the next step is to actually knit a ribbed sock. Eventually.

Actually, I think my next step will be to hand dye some sock yarn. I got a shipment of 10 skeins of dyeable wool sock yarn, and I'm itching to make some custom colors. Using someone else's self striping yarn is great fun...but it is someone else's design. I want to design my own! I'm not working at the school tomorrow, so hopefully I can break out the dye pot and play for a bit.

And once I get my camera functional again, you all can take a peek. (Stupid camera...)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cording on the sock knitting machine

I was playing with the sock knitting machine again today. Normally, there are lots of little latch-hook looking needles sticking up out of it. When I crank the handle there on the right, the blue yarn carrier goes round and round, and the needles raise up and grab the yarn to make their individual stitch.

Right now though, I only have four needles in place, because I'm making knitted cording. The finished cording is hanging down below the machine there. The weights keep the yarn from riding up and off of the needles as I am working. And up top out of the picture where you can't see it, I have the heel spring engaged to keep tension on the yarn that is feeding in. That keeps the stitches from getting too big and loopy.

I cranked out two yards tonight, in next to no time at all. I'm thinking it might be useful for making cording to couch down onto garb, in all sorts of big bold heraldic patterns. Hmmm...I wonder how it would full down, if you used non superwash wool? Piping? Belts? All sorts of possibilities to play with!

First socks off the machine

I am extraordinarily pleased with myself this evening! Awhile ago, I bought a circular sock knitting machine off of Ebay. It is a Creelman Brothers Money Maker A, and is approximately 100 years old. Mind you, I'd never used one of these before. And I don't know how to knit. And it arrived with missing pieces, slightly rusty and gunky, without directions. Needless to say, there has been a bit of a learning curve.

But tonight, it finally all came together, and I am currently wearing my first pair of socks. They are made of Lion Brand Sock-Ease yarn, which is 75% wool/25% nylon, and is supposedly machine washable. They're comfortable!

They're not ribbed anywhere--that is a learning opportunity for another day. This is what I did though: 10 rows, then hang the hem. 65 rows for the leg of the sock, then the heel. 50 rows for the foot of the sock, then the toe. I used the 54 cylinder. They are maybe a smidge short in the foot, so for the next pair I'll add around 5 more rows there.

I foresee many pairs of custom socks in my future!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kumihimo tutorial: flat braid with hearts

I got the pattern for this braid from a friend of mine, who found it here: . It makes a flat braid, with a heart pattern running up the center. I am using 10/2 Uki red cotton weaving yarn for the background of this braid. The hearts are in an unlabeled cream colored cotton from my stash, that is about twice the thickness of the red. The finished width is about 1/8", which makes for a cute little delicate braid. I'm picturing using this as friendship bracelets, as necklace cording, as drawstrings, or as trim on a little bag.

Here's the finished braid:

And here's the process on my foam disk. This would probably go much faster on the wooden marudai stand, but I like carrying a project along with me, tucked into my purse. Somehow, the wooden stand just doesn't fit!

Here's the starting position. Notice, I've put a pencil mark on the foam at the bottom of the disk. That helps me keep track of which way I'm supposed to be holding this one, on the occasions that I have to put my braiding down.

We'll start with the threads at the top of the disk. The inner two threads will be moved. The outer two threads will stay on top for now.

Take the right hand, inner thread on the top. Move it over to the threads in the 9:00 position, and put it just below them.

Take the left hand, inner thread in the top position. Cross it over to the threads in the 3:00 position on the disk, and put it just below them.

Take the two remaining threads in the 12:00 position, and move them closer together.

That is the end of the first sequence.

Now, we're going to do something similar with the four threads at the bottom of the disk. The left hand inner thread will cross over to the 3:00 threads, and settle in above them.

The right hand inner thread at the bottom crosses over to the 9:00 threads, and settles above them.

Now, move the remaining two threads in the 6:00 position closer to each other.

That is the end of the second sequence. We started with 4 threads at the top and bottom. Now we have 4 threads on the sides.

Starting with the 9:00 threads. Again, we are only really concerned with the inner set of threads. Take the top inner thread on the left side, and move it down to the 6:00 threads. Put it to the left of these threads.

Take the bottom inner thread on the left hand side. Move it to the threads in the 12:00 position, and put it to the left of these threads.

Move the remaining threads closer to each other.

That is the end of the third sequence.

Finally, take the top inner thread at the right of the disk. Move it down to the threads in the 6:00 position, and settle it in to the right of them.

Take the bottom inner thread on the right hand side. Move it up to the threads in the 12:00 position. Put it to the right of these threads.

Move the remaining two threads closer to each other.

That is the end of the 4th sequence, and you have completed one repeat. You again have four threads in the top and bottom position. Start over from the beginning.