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April 9, 2011 / KristenMakes

Spongebar Squarepants!

Righto!  A machine knitting update…  His name is Chip and he is a doll!  Chip (as my mom tells me -or ‘mum’ if you spot her in the comments!) was a nickname my mom and dad considered trying out on my older brother when he was a wee baby but it never stuck, so I’m bringing it back now with my new brother…  Chip.

I had a lot of wonderful comments and questions about machine-knitting,especially some really good ones from Rue of  Tinks and Frogs; so I am going to share what I know thus far…  for machine-knitting, speed does make up for the lack of hands on quality, but even still (just as in hand-knitting) it feels as if the possibilities are endless.  There is so much creativity and opportunity in machine-knitting, but it is of a different kind (just take a look at All Daily Report – the knitwork of Annie Larson – thanks Holly for mentioning her, I’ve been following her blog for a few weeks!).  Basically every stitch is held on by a hook with a latch.  So to decrease you just transfer a stitch from one hook to another and knock the first hook out of action: a K2tog! …and to increase you just push a hook forward into action and the yarn carriage does the rest.  And you can make nice curved edges like necklines and sleeve caps (just like in hand knitting) by the rate at which you increase or decrease.

So as to my progress, remember how I told you I made a scarf on my first tinker with Chip?  Here it is!

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It is a nice infinity scarf that can loop comfortably three times around my neck.  Looking back I have no idea how I was able to make this happen because the next time I had a go on Chip he was putting up a harder fight than before.  The work just wasn’t weighing the needles down enough and things were getting screwy.  So I did a bit of research on a Ravelry Machine Knitting Group and found a page of help for Newbies, a section of which was devoted entirely to something called a spongebar (sorry, those links probably won’t work if you are not a Ravelry member).  In search of the spongebar I was brought to a blog called Knittsings where she did a post about checking and replacing this curious object.  Following the instructions, I pulled my spongebar out and was horrified to see this:
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The mound portion indicates how high the entire strip should be but instead my spongebar was flattened almost paper thin!  Exhilarated that I had diagnosed and solved the problem (er, found a website to diagnose and solve the problem) I wanted more…  I found this post from the same Knittsings blog about a very similar brother knitting machine model where she takes it apart completely, cleans it, and reassembles it.  I thought, ‘I want in.’  So in I dove:

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I took out each needle and set them aside in an empty yogurt cup.

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I disassembled Chip carefully piece by piece…

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until he was just the machine mechanism and the case. Then I gave him a good wipedown and cleaned out his innards with canned air. I was disappointed at how clean he already was! Where were the years of dust and goop and fibers clogging his insides? Truth is, he was used very little by his last owner, but cared for very much – I very much appreciate that!

Once he was reassembled and had a brand new spongebar, I got right to work.  Fiona (Chip’s previous knitter) had kindly given me all her notes and coursework from the machine-knitting class she took so I followed a few of the tutorials and made:

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Mock ribbed hems — the knitting machine cannot purl, so you basically knock a needle out which creates a ladder.  The fabric pulls together slightly to look like ribbing.

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A plain-knit hem.

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…and a mock rib neckline!  Although it is far from perfect, I am proud of this sample because in involved decreasing, working one side at a time, and picking up stitches at the neckline curve to create a mock ribbed neckline.

After these I wanted to make more things!  I had some yak’s wool from uni that I made into wristwarmers with a 2×1 mock rib hem:

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After making a swatch and deriving (from the gauge and desired measurements) how many stitches to cast on and how many rows to knit, I knitted a flat rectangle (the machine doesn’t knit in the round) with mock ribbing at both ends.
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…then I pinned them (right sides together) and single-crocheted a seam with an opening for the thumbs.

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I am super pleased with them!

But I wasn’t done!  Back to the Knittsings blog, I found a free pattern for a simple hat for beginners where you knit a big square with eyelets at the top and bottom.  You sew the long edge together and gather the top and bottom through the eyelet rows.  Pop one gathered end into the other, fold up a brim, and you’ve got a hat:

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I am still having trouble with the punch card, and cannot figure out if it is me or Chip…  I’ve used punch cards before at uni so I’m familiar with how they word but there is still something missing and not causing the needles to go to their proper place!  Until I’ve got it sorted though, I can at least do plain knitting and perhaps cast on for my first ever garment this week.  Perhaps a small and un-intimidating child-size jumper will do.  Anyone in need of a poorly-knit baby sweater?

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7 Comments

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  1. Carol / Apr 9 2011 11:10 pm

    Really enjoying your journeys in sewing/knitting/handcrafting! Keep it up! I read every word!

  2. Sølvi / Apr 10 2011 8:23 am

    Kristen, you are so bad, now you´ve got me wanting a knitting machine! 😉 This seems so cool, and now I suddenly understand why RTW knitted clothing have the construction that they have. Love your infinity scarf!

  3. frayedattheedge / Apr 10 2011 12:09 pm

    How brave, dismantling Chip and sorting himn out!! You are making very good progress – sometimes the best thing to do is to just dive in and do it!!

  4. amanda / Apr 10 2011 1:26 pm

    so many questions I have (young padawan). This new brother is amazing! Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! And if you have no takers on the poorly knit baby jumper, we have some friends that just got pregnant:) (not us!) Wouldn’t that be funny if that was the way we told you we were pregnant!

  5. Mom Orme / Apr 10 2011 1:48 pm

    Wow, am I ever impressed (of course, I usually am when I read your blogs). Who knew you were so mechanical (did TEO not have to help at all?)! I love the picture of you in the scarf; the colors are so good on you — the eyes, scarf, and earrings all match (are those earrings from Amanda?). If you want to send the baby jumper to Amanda, just wait and we’ll bring it back with us.

  6. Rue / Apr 10 2011 4:03 pm

    Fascinating! And I absolutely love that first scarf. The combination of color, texture, and pattern is really lovely.

    I’m definitely looking forward to reading about further adventures with Chip. The pattern punch cards sound like a lot of fun!

  7. Holly / Apr 12 2011 12:47 pm

    I can’t believe you took this thing apart, fixed it, and are now knitting necklines and armwarmers. WOW!! I used to take apart sewing machines and when you get it working well, it’s so satisfying, isn’t it?

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