Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dyed Sock Blanks

(Click on photos to enlarge)
As promised, here are a few sock blanks that I’ve painted with their resulting socks or mittens.  I did these with KoolAid and food coloring early on in my dyeing ‘career’.  I’ve since moved up to retail acid dyes but the techniques are the same.  Painting blanks can be addictive and it seems that even if I have reservations with a specific blank, I can usually ooh and aah in amazement at the finished socks or mittens.  I had no clue what I was doing when I painted my first blank and my socks turned out to be quite interesting, however amazing to see my blank transform into a sock.  There are absolutely no rules to painting blanks, so it’s a good craft to let the creative juices flow. 
I keep saying painting, but 'painting' a blank isn't limited to using a paint brush, as you might assume.  I've used sponges, squeeze bottles and various sized foam paint brushes.  I guess what I use to get the dye there depends on what effect I'm trying to achieve.  I have the most control with foam paint brushes but the squeeze bottles are quicker if I don't care that the colors bleed more.  Whatever 'painting' method you choose, saturation is the key to a nice solid color.  Less dye saturation will result in a heathered look which is nice too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

DIY Sock Blanks for Dyeing

Another one of my addictions has been dyeing yarn for socks.  I started out a few years ago with sock blanks and let me tell you that painting blanks is definitely addictive.  I came up with a pretty good  recipe to make my own blanks on my knitting machines so I want to share with you.  I usually buy my sock yarn on cones so I use either a postal scale or fishing line meter to weigh or measure my yarn while winding it off the cone.  The standard skein of sock yarn is 100 gr (3.5 oz) or about 450 yards, depending on the yarn.  Besides being cheaper, another advantage of winding off my own yarn from a cone is that I can put more or less yarn in the blanks, depending on the size foot I’m knitting for...bigger foot, more yarn; smaller foot less yarn.   
When dyeing for socks or mittens that I want to match, I knit my blanks with 2 strands of yarn so I will have an identical cake of yarn for each piece.  If I’m making one article such as a scarf that doesn’t need to match anything, I only knit one strand of yarn in my blanks. 
So here’s how I make my own sock blanks.  I start out with 6 rows of waste yarn and then change to the 2 strands of sock yarn, each strand run through its own tensioner.  Knit the sock yarn, then end with 6 rows of waste yarn again.  Then I run the yarn tail thru the live stitches on the needles and secure.  Do not use a permanent bind off.  Starting and ending with waste yarn allows me to ‘play’ with my blank while painting, such as straightening or pinning it in place.  And it’s easy to unravel after dyeing.
I use my Silver Reed SK860 or Brother KX350 midgauge machines for most of my blanks.  For a 2 stranded blank, I divide the total yarn in half if I’ve wound it from a cone.  Otherwise, knit 2 skeins of 50 grams together.
Sock weight on midgauge machine:
T6 or 7, Scrap CO 60 sts, K6R with waste yarn. Change to sock yarn and knit as far as yardage will go. Scrap off with 6 rows of waste yarn. 

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Sport weight on midgauge machine:
T8, Scrap CO 60 sts, then same as above, about 120 rows for socks. 

DK weight on bulky machine:
T6 or 7, Scrap CO 53 sts, then same as above, about 100 rows for socks.
No matter what yarn or what machine is used, make sure that the blank is not knit tightly. If too tight, the dyes will not penetrate all the nooks and crannies between the stitches and white or lighter spots will be evident in the finished yarn.
Here’re a couple things I do depending on what I want my result to be.  Most always, I pull out every other or third needle to hold position and slip across for just one row, say every 10 rows or so. That way if I want to keep my dye application in a straight line, the slipped row will act as a guide to keep me straight with the rows.  I get better absorption if I begin painting on the purl side so it's easy to follow the slipped row.  Then I flip the blank over and make sure I have good coverage on the knit side also.
If I want more defined stripes, I add in about 4 to 6 rows of scrap yarn (cotton or acrylic work best cuz doesn’t take up the dye) between my striped areas of dyeing.  Note that the pink rows in this blank are scrap yarn.  The dyes won’t bleed into each other in the  stripes with the waste yarn in there. The blank gets longer but I get better stripes.  In this picture, I’ve only put 2 rows of scrap yarn between the colors and I did get some color bleeding so I added more rows of scrap yarn on subsequent blanks for stripes.
After my blank has been dyed, rinsed and air dried, I then remove the waste yarn and unravel the dyed yarn into 2 cakes, ready for knitting.  Don’t worry about the kinks, they won’t be noticeable when knit. 
In my next post, I’ll show some of the blanks I’ve dyed and the resulting socks and/or mittens.  Pretty much fun and gratifying.   

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Socks Made to Fit
Any yarn and any machine may be used to make socks.  The key to any good sock is the fit.  No matter how beautiful or how expertly made, it won't be a good sock if it doesn’t fit.  This is my guide to getting a good fitting sock for me.  It may require a bit of tweaking for individual feet but this usually comes pretty close to any I’ve made by it.  Swatch your yarn to obtain gauge and follow these calculations.
Measure Foot:
*Around ankle (just above the ankle bones) -AND- around the arch.  If there is a lot of difference in the two measurements, use the smallest one in the formula to calculate number of cast on sts.
**Length of foot from end of toe to end of heel (standing on a ruler on the floor).
*A good rule of thumb to determine number of cast on stitches is by using the ankle measurement in inches times the number of stitches in your gauge per inch.  Subtract 10% if you prefer a tighter fitting sock.  Make sure it is an even number by rounding up or down.  You will be happy with your socks if they fit snugly but are not tight as most socks will stretch with wear.
**A shortrowed toe and heel for an adult sock will each be approximately 2” long, depending on the yarn and size.  Therefore, subtract 4” from foot measurement to determine how many rows to knit between the heel and toe.  I have found that reducing the length by 5 to 10% will give a satisfactory fit; i.e., my foot is 10” long, minus 4” to allow for the toe and heel, minus 1” (10%), times the number of rows per inch in my gauge = number of rows to knit for the foot section.  Multiply the number of rows by 2 for circular knitting.
                                                                         Example for a 10" foot
                                                               and 8.5" measurement around ankle:   

                                                              (10" long, minus 1" from total length)


Midgauge Socks in the Round

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Machine:  SK860 Midgauge with ribber
Yarn:  Berroco Vintage Colors, 1 skein
            50% acrylic, 40% wool, 10% nylon
            Machine Washable, 217 yds per 3.5 oz
Tension:  T5
Gauge:  5.5 sts and 8 rows = 1”
Size:  Woman’s 8

Socks made in the round but may be made flat and seamed

Divide skein of yarn in half, either by weight or yardage

1)  Double bed e-wrap 44 sts in 1 x 1 (or desired) rib.  K1R to left and hang CO comb and ribber weights.
2)   RC000, T2/2 K20R.
3)   For a seam up the back of the ribbing, transfer main bed stitches to the ribber bed.
4)   T6, K1R across.
5)   Lower ribber and remove CO comb and ribber weights.  Hang 4 claw weights evenly across.
6)   Transfer the right hand 11 stitches to corresponding needles from ‘0’ to R11 on the main bed.
7)   Transfer the left hand 11 stitches to corresponding needles from ‘0’ to L11 on the main bed.
8)   Unravel the row of stitches on the carriage side to have yarn in proper knitting position.
NOTES:  If a side seam in the ribbing is desired, transfer half the stitches opposite the carriage to corresponding needles on the main bed.
      Transferring stitches may be accomplished by scrapping off stitches to be moved with several rows of waste yarn and rehanging to the main bed or by using a garter bar or Decker type tool (comb). 

1)   RC000, T5/6, raise ribber and set machine for circular knitting and K50R.

1)   Lower ribber bed one notch.  On the main bed and with main bed carriage, shortrow the heel down to 8 sts and back out til all needles are in working position.
2)   Transfer purl bumps from the main bed to the ribber bed at each side to prevent holes.

1)   RC000, raise ribber and return carriage and all settings to circular knitting and K88R.

1)   Repeat shortrowing as for heel but decrease down to 6 sts instead of 8.  No need to transfer the purl bumps on each side.
2)    Cut yarn, leaving enough to graft the toe seam.
3)    Scrap off stitches on each bed with several rows of waste yarn and remove from machine.

1)   Seam ribbing.
2)   Graft the toe seam.

1)   For a longer sock, use contrasting yarn for the heel/toes to allow for adding more rows in the ribbed cuff and/or ankle.

2)   I use a strand of Wooly Nylon run through its own tensioner in the heels and toes for added body and reinforcement for longer wear.  If not using Wooly Nylon, I reduce the tension in just the heel and toe by one full number.

3)   Be sure to swatch yarn as gauge may vary with different colorways even in the same brand.

4)   Ribber tensions usually run differently than main bed tensions, so always run a test swatch and set ribber tension to match the main bed gauge while knitting in the round.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Christmas Stocking, Standard Gauge

(click on photos to enlarge)
This stocking is made from cuff down, knit flat, with the seam on the side.  I designed the fairisle patterns and motifs in DK7 but can easily be made on a punch card machine.  The motifs are a couple rows wider than a 24 st punch card but duplicate stitches can be added later to complete the pattern.

Machine:  Standard Brother KH965i
Yarn:  Tamm 3 Ply Astracryl
Tension 4
Gauge:  8.5 sts and 12.5 rows = 1”
Size:  Approx 6.5” wide at cuff and 20” long

1)   CO 104 sts with scrap and ravel cord.
2)   T4, RC000, K42R for lining of cuff.

3)   Knit 42 more rows, placing fairisle patterns at desired spacing.  Lettering will need to be flipped both horizontally and vertically in DAK.
4)   Hang hem, K1R at T6 with CC from R to L.  Start w/COL for DAK patterning.

1)  T4, change to main color yarn and knit a total of 124 rows after the cuff and to the beginning of the heel, placing fairisle pattern 24 rows below cuff and evenly spaced on the sides.  Run a lifeline before starting the fairisle pattern and take note of RC.  The fairisle pattern will need to be flipped upside down in DAK.  
2)  Decrease down to 84 sts by using a 3 prong tool to decrease 1 st at each end of every 12th row 10 times.  (At RC 96, 108, 120, 132, 144, 156, 168, 180, 192, 204)
3)   Knit even to RC208 total; this includes the cuff row count.  (COR)

1)   T4, change to contrasting yarn and place left half of sts (42) into HP.  Heel to be worked on R hand side.
2)   Shortrow down to 14 sts by:
               a.  At carriage side, pull 1 ndl in to HP til the same number of ndls on each
                    side and the ndl next to the carriage is wrapped.  COL.  (14 sts on ea side
                    in HP)
               b.  Do not knit across, but put the 1st ndl opposite the carriage into WP and
                    then K across.
               c.  Repeat til all ndls are in WP.  Be sure to wrap the needle next to the
                    carriage on each row.  COR.

1)   T4, RC000, change to main color yarn and knit a total of 56 rows. 
2)    Using a 3 prong tool, decrease down to 74 sts by decreasing 1 st at each end of
        every 10 rows 5 times.  (At RC 10, 20, 30, 40, 50)

1)   Working on right hand side, repeat shortrowing as for heel, work down to 13 sts.
      (12 sts on ea side in HP)
2)   Scrap off.

1)  Graft the toe seam from purl side.
2)  Mattress stitch the side seam, picking up 2 ladders instead of 1.
3)  Lightly steam to block.
4)  If desired, tack a piece of fine nylon tulle over the back of the fairisle motifs to cover the yarn floats.

I-Cord Hanger (If desired):
1)  From the inside of the cuff, hang 4 sts at the top of the cuff, centered in the middle of the heel side.
2)  T4, knit a 4 st I-cord for 4” long (60 rows).  
3)  Bind off and sew to beginning of the cord at the cuff line.

Placement of duplicate stitches
Covered floats


Friday, October 19, 2012

Mock Ribbed Edging
This mock rib makes an excellent flat edging on the sides of blankets, scarves and even on garment armholes, hems and cuffs.  You may want to lower the tension if using it for hems and cuffs on ends of knitted fabrics.  It’s a fine substitute solution for machines without ribbers to add a nice ribbed edge that won't curl.  It’s worked during knitting and not as an add-on technique after the piece is knit.   The ribbing is worked on stockinette work only, not patterned knitting such as lace, tuck or fairisle. 
Depending on how wide you want the edging, drop the stitches on the third needle from the edge and every other needle after that.  Then using your latch tool, go under every other ladder and pull thru the stitch on the latch tool.  This can be done every 20 to 30 rows or wait til the entire piece is knit, then work the full row.   The edging around the vest is worked on needles 3, 5 and 7 from each edge.  The scarf is worked on needles 3 and 5 from each edge.
(Click on photos to enlarge)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Lesson in Pesky Yarn...Biasing
(click on photos to enlarge)
Did ya ever run onto a yarn that just wouldn't cooperate?  I just did.  I chose a really nice superwash plied merino wool, did my swatch at a couple gauges and laundered per instructions.  Directions say to lay flat to dry which I did.  Look what happened to it....biased to the hilt.  I did the twist test and it passed miraculously so it should not have biased but here's proof.  I knew that nothing was going to cure biasing in stockinette stitch so I decided to work up a nice garter pattern that I would eventually use in a chemo cap...or any cap for that matter.  This yarn is so soft and nice that it will make a nice chemo cap.  I worked up a diagonal knit/purl pattern and ran it on my standard machine with garter carriage as I was working on something else at the time and took advantage of the graciousness of the g-carriage.  It turned out well, didn't bias and I'm really pleased with the pattern.  However my tension was a bit high so will need to lower it for the next hats with this yarn.  The yarn is very tender when it comes out of the washer, almost looks like a rag.  But it gains body as it dries, just can't be stretched or played with much until it's totally dry. 

Chemo Cap, Tucked

This cap would make a good sleep cap because of its length
and softness.  Increase tension to 4 or add more rows in the
body for a longer cap. 

Be sure to do a swatch and launder before calculating a size for any tuck pattern.  Normally tucking on the machine is wider and shorter than comparable stitches and rows in stockinette.

Machine:  SK860, 6.5mm midgauge
Yarn:  Berroco Comfort DK
Tension:  T3
Gauge:  5.5 sts and 12.5 rows per inch in tuck pattern
Size:  Woman’s Med

(click on photos to enlarge)
          8” wide and 8” high without stretching
          (This size would make a good sleep cap, knit taller
          for a hat to wear over the ears and protect from
          cold weather)

1)   CO 110 sts and at tension R, work 1x1 ribbing or ribbing of
      choice for 10 rows.
2)   Transfer ribber stitches to main bed and work tuck pattern
       at T3 for 70 rows or 5.5”.  Knit more rows for a longer cap.
3)   Begin crown shaping by:
a.  Starting with the same needle on each decrease row, transfer every 8th needle to its adjacent neighbor, move sts together, K2 rows.
b.  Transfer every 7th needle to its adjacent neighbor, move sts together, K2 rows.
c.  Continue in this manner until there are 2 sts between transfers.  K1 row, gather live sts and secure.

Keep the seams as flat as possible and do not pull tight.  It must remain as soft and as flat as possible.
1.  Sew ribbing from wrong side.
2.  Sew body of hat from right side using a Bickford type seam on the K stitches and a purl graft on the P stitches.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Flat and Invisible Seam in English Rib

This is how I seam two edges of English Rib together to make a flat and virtually invisible seam.  To be successful, the ribbing must be configured to knit with the outermost left hand needle on the main bed and the outermost right hand needle on the ribber bed.

Work from the wrong side of the fabric and sew the seam by catching the outermost stitches of each edge.  On one side, you will go thru the layers and pick up the ladder stitch.  Then on the other side, go down thru the knot stitch of the outer edge.  Then go to the first side and pick up the ladder stitch again.  Continue in this manner along the seam by working back and forth between the sides.  Remember not to pull the seam stitches too tightly so the seam is as stretchy as the garment fabric.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Grafting a Seam from the Purl Side

Grafting a seam with a kitchener stitch is much easier and nicer looking if I work from the purl side.  Before I ran onto this method, I stayed away from grafting a seam like the plague.  I knew how to do it but it sure didn't look very nice.  But it's just so easy for me now and looks much better, totally invisible. I hope you try it the next time you have occassion to graft a seam.  It's particularly nice when used to close the seam across the toe of a cuff down sock.

To kitchener stitch a seam, begin by having both edges scrapped off with several rows of waste yarn.  Then fold fabric in half, with the purl sides out and the waste yarn sandwiched in between the layers.

Begin stitching from the yarn tail side.  Use a blunt nose needle to minimize yarn splitting.  I’m using a contrasting (blue) yarn to highlight the stitches.  Insert needle with the yarn tail into the bottom of the outermost stitch and bring it up through the outermost stitch on the other (top) side.  Pull yarn through both stitches.

From the same (top) side, insert the needle into the next stitch from the top down.

At the same time, insert needle into the previously worked stitch of the other (bottom) side.  Pull yarn through both stitches.

On the same side as last stitch (bottom), insert needle from the new stitch on the bottom side and into the previously worked stitch of the other (top) side.  Pull yarn through both stitches.

From the last stitch worked on the same (top) side, insert needle into the next new stitch and into the previously worked stitch on the other (bottom) side.  You will always have 2 yarn strands in each stitch.

Continue in this manner across the row, keeping your tension snug but not tight and trying to duplicate the original tension of your work.  The folded over waste yarn helps to keep the tension even.  You will soon get into a rhythm of ‘old/new, old/new’ on each side.

Finished row of grafting.

Turn work inside out with waste yarn on the outside.  Notice your new row of stitches (in contrasting blue yarn).

Remove waste yarn and admire your perfectly grafted seam!

NOTE:  When I graft a sock toe, I catch the knot of each stitch from the last row of each side before I start grafting the seam.  This will close any holes that may have developed by stretching the yarn between the ribber and main bed and will minimize the ‘ears’ that may form.  Do the same on the other side of the toe after completing the grafting and before tying off.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dishcloths, Manually Tucked on Midgauge Machine

Machine:  KX-350  Midgauge, 7mm
Yarn:  Cotton Carpet Warp, 8/4
Tension:  T3
Gauge:  Unimportant

These dishcloths are my favorite, absorbent, easy and just last forever.  These patterns are intended to be a learning lesson in tucking on a manual machine.  The tucking methods and their variations can be used in many applications such as shawls, scarves, blankets, garments, towels, etc.

They can be made in any width or length by adjusting number of cast-on stitches and number of rows. 

1)   CO 45 sts with waste yarn and ravel cord.
2)   e-wrap CO each needle.
3)   RC000, T3, K2R.
4)   Engage the left holding lever.
5)   *  Using the every other needle pusher, pull every other needle out to HP, starting with the first needle.
6)   With COR, K2R.
7)   Using the every other needle pusher, pull every other needle out to HP, starting with the second needle.  You can tell which needles to pull out by looking at the stitches in the previous row.  There will be 2 loops of yarn on the stitches already tucked in the previous row.  Pull out the needles next to the ones already tucked.
8)   K2R.  *
9)   Continue from * to * until RC120 or length desired.
10)  With COR, take carriage off hold and K1R to left.
11)  Backstitch BO.

1)   CO as in steps 1 thru 3 above, except use T2.
2)   **  Using the every other needle pusher, pull out to hold position every other needle starting with the first needle.
3)   Set carriage to Hold in both directions, K2R.
4)   Take machine OFF Hold in both directions, K2R.
5)   Using the every other needle pusher, pull out to hold position every other needle starting with the second needle.
6)   Set carriage to Hold in both directions, K2R.
7)   Take machine OFF Hold in both directions, K2R.  **
8)   Continue from ** to ** until RC110 or length desired.
9)   With COL after 2 stockinette rows, backstitch BO.

1)   CO as in steps 1 thru 3 as in the first pattern, except use T2.
2)   **  With the 1x3 needle pusher, starting with the 4th needle, bring forward every 4th  needle to HP.
3)   Set both holding cam levers to H, K3R.
4)   Take machine off hold and K2R.
5)   With the 1x3 needle pusher, starting with the 2nd needle, bring forward every 4th  needle to HP.
6)   Set both holding cam levers to H, K3R.
7)   Take machine off hold and K2R. ***
8)   Repeat from *** to *** until RC 100 or desired length.
9)   With COL after 2 stockinette rows, backstitch BO.

Pull out ravel cord and remove waste yarn.  Weave in ends.

You may finish the edges in any manner you wish by crocheting around, working a pie crust or worm edging, etc.  I worked a 3 st pie crust trim for 8 rows at T2 with knit side facing and the R part lever engaged.   With the ‘honeycomb’ pattern, I worked the pie crust trim with the purl side facing because of its excessive curling from the knit side.

There are only a couple rules that apply to tucking.  The machines won’t allow you to tuck 2 adjacent needles and best not to exceed more than 3 or 4 tucked rows.
Tucked stitched fabrics stretch more than plain stockinette, especially sideways.  So if you are mixing tuck with stockinette knitting, be sure to swatch both stitches to arrive at a gauge for each that will complement each other and properly work in to your project.

Any punch card or electronic tuck pattern may be performed by manually pulling out corresponding needles to HP on the KX350 and knitting appropriate rows.  These are just a few of the possibilities.
Leave an evenly spaced needle out of work to create a lacy effect.   Do some experimenting!