Machine Knit Cotton Cardigan

#1 Daughter-in-law celebrated a birthday recently. As usual, I didn't do any real pre-planning for a gift idea, so...I turned to my trusty knitting machine (Knitking Compuknit III - Brother KH930) and a large cone of 100% cotton yarn that's been lingering in stash far too long. Here's the result:

The yarn was some of that thick/thin, slubby cotton that my standard machine refused to knit without complaint. Using the GC-95 garter carriage worked a treat with this yarn, however, and being able to add a nice knit/purl pattern stitch to the mix resulted in a heavily textured fabric that I quite like. The pattern stitch is a chevron (Stitchworld #502) at T9 (tension 9). The 1x1 ribbing is also produced on the GC (Stitchworld #532) worked at T6. Knit cotton fabric has a tendency to stretch and grow with wearing, so you really need a firm ribbing so that it doesn't look sloppy an hour after you put on your sweater.

The cardigan design is my own - and the pattern was created with the help of the Knitware program. The program did a splendid job of sizing on just about everything except the button bands. On those, the pattern called for far too many stitches to be picked up on the front edges and would have resulted in a badly flaring band. I reduced the number of stitches by about 25% and the bands turned out just as I like them.

The pockets were an afterthought - and a bad one at that. I chose to make great oversized pockets that extend across the entire front sections from button band to side seam. While I like the look, it was a poor choice because the pockets gap badly if the cardigan is unbuttoned. I did a quick and dirty fix by running a sewn vertical seam in the middle of each pocket, effectively splitting the two pockets into four. The seam is virtually invisible, so I got the giant pocket look without the gap. It worked out, but I won't be adding giant pockets to anything like this in the future.

There are more photos of this project on my Ravelry project page: HERE

I'm calling this project a success primarily because it opened my eyes to the possibility of using the garter carriage when I'm confronted with a yarn that my standard machine carriage refuses to knit. I'm seeing new possibilities for that mohair, boucle, and some of those other thick/thin yarns I had pretty much relegated to the "handknit only" stash.

Ravellenic Games 2012 -

Day One - It was my intention to cast on my first project for the games during the Olympic Games' opening ceremony gala scheduled for 9:00pm London time - 1:00pm here on the west coast of the U.S. Unfortunately, other obligations got in my way. I chose, instead, to cast on while watching the delayed NBC broadcast of the ceremonies at 7:30pm my time. The delayed start cost me more than 6 hours of productive knitting time, so I decided to do a quick and easy machine knit project that I could easily complete in a few hours. I wanted to have a finished object that I could "medal" with early on day two. Voila, the Lowly Dishrag:

My personal goal for the Ravellenic Games 2012 is to complete 16 knit projects over the 17 days of the games - an unrealistic goal for hand-knitting unless every project consists of something no more complicated than this dishcloth. I'll be using a knitting machine, of course, since it allows me to complete a project in about a tenth of the time I need to hand-knit just about anything. I intend to do a couple pair of socks, a lace shawl, and a simple summer tank top.

Beyond those, I'll knit whatever simple project strikes my fancy and suits the stash yarn I have. That's goal #2 for Ravellenics 2012 - stashbusting. I've done a significant amount of time lately recycling/frogging high quality sweaters. I am at SABLE (Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy) and have been for a very long time. Time to dig into some of that yummy merino, cashmere, silk and linen that I've reclaimed.


Machine Knitting Upgrade to Electronics

The old Singer Memomatic 327 knitting machine with ribber has gone off to a new home and a newbie machine knitter in Puerto Rico. That old punchcard machine (manufactured in the 1977) has been a dependable little workhorse and served me well over a decade. I was sad to see it go, but in its stead, I've purchased a newer electronic patterning machine - a Knitking Compuknit III. It is exactly the same as the Brother KH-930, just rebranded. It's standard gauge (4.5mm) with 200-needles capable of creating stockinet, tuck, slip, fair isle, weaving, and transfer lace. The onboard computer offers over 500 built in stitch patterns, as well as the capability of programming my own. No more searching for the right punchcard or taking time out with the hole punch to make a new pattern card. All the patterns are ready to go at the touch of a few buttons. It's a wonderful machine, easy to use, and I've been spending a lot more time knitting by machine because of it.

I purchased the ribber attachment, too. I really can't get along without the ability to create professional-looking ribbing for my garments. The ribber enables me to knit circular, too, which allows me to create seamless socks that are as good or better than the ones I've knitted by hand. It tell you, the ability to knit a pair of socks in a day by machine as opposed to two weeks by hand really satisfies my occasional need for instant gratification.

With the addition of the garter carriage accessory, there's only a few stitch techniques that I cannot accomplish on the machine in a fraction of the time it would take me to knit by hand. Cabled projects are a notable exception. Although it is possible to fashion cables on the machine, the process is too fiddly for me and I still prefer to work those projects by hand. One of my first projects with the garter carriage was a gansey-style pullover for my son to wear with his favorite kilt. Would you believe it - this sweater took about 80 hours start to finish. I'd have spent months creating this sweater by hand.
The real beauty of the garter carriage is that it is electric and doesn't require hands-on operation. Once programmed, it requires only occasional monitoring until it's time to decrease for armholes, neck or shoulder shaping. While the garter carriage was busy doing its thing on this sweater, I was free to work on an intarsia sweater project or cook dinner or do a load of laundry. Can you say, "multi-tasking?"

As great as the knitting machine is, it will never completely replace handknitting for me. I still enjoy the tactile pleasures of working fine wool and other luxury fibers by hand. And then, of course, there are the cabled projects I am fond of doing. The kilt hose (below) are a handknit work in progress and one that I could never accomplish on the machine.
I will say, however, that there have been more than a few times with this project when I wish these socks could be worked on the machine. I don't even want to think about how many hours I have invested so far in a single, unfinished sock.

Toe-Up Socks – Hot off the needles

from iphone 016
Finished up this comfy pair of toe-up socks this morning. These socks have been hanging fire for two weeks, only needing a couple of hours to finish. I put them aside (in fact, I put ALL of my knitting aside) when my best friend put the arm-twist on me to design a website for a political action committee she belongs to – but that’s another story. As I said in my previous post, I put a new Estonian lace project on the needles and I’m anxious to get clicking on that. Unfortunately, I couldn’t until these socks became a done deal instead of just another UFO.

You see, about a year and a half ago, while in the process of cleaning/reorganizing that pit I commonly refer to as my “studio,” I came up with no less than 26 UFOs floating about in various stages of unfinishedness. I did a little mental calculation on what I had invested in yarn alone in these projects and was stunned when I came up with a number that exceeded $1,000 (and if you spill the beans to my DH, I’ll lie through my teeth about it). Really, though, even DH couldn’t be more unhappy with me that I was with myself. I vowed then and there that, in future, I would not start any new project until: 1) the current one was finished;  AND, 2) I had to finish one of the UFOs.

That was over a year ago and I’m glad to say that I’ve stuck with it and completed most of the damning evidence of my knitting sloth. Today, out of the original 26 UFOs, only 3 remain – the comfy socks in the photo were not one of these, BTW. That was my project on the needles. The UFO was one of those “Surprise” baby sweaters. Have you heard of it? It’s a mitered square affair worked as a single piece of fabric that, when folded correctly, produces a little boxy sweater needing only seaming at the shoulders. I saw a couple of cute incarnations of that pattern and gave it a go, but found that I hated the execution of it almost from the get-go. Garter stitch…yards and yards, hour upon hour of garter stitch. ‘Nuf said.

Okay, so after making a short story long, let’s get back to these socks. They were knit on two Size 1, 24” circular needles using the basic sock pattern I adapted for myself from “Socks from the Toe Up” by Wendy D. Johnson of Wendy Knits. See my post on “Knitting with Rheumatoid Arthritis” for more info on this book and why I don’t use double point needles (DPNs).

I’m giving this pair of socks a B grade for a good fit, soft yarn, and a bit of lacy interest. They’re short of the A grade because I’m not over the moon on the colorway. The yarn is a tweedy blend of pink and blue with just a teensy bit of yellow ochre tossed in for God knows what reason. What can I say? It looked better when I bought it. Some yarns are just like that. They can be awfully appealing in the skein state, but once it’s knitted up…meh.

I don’t mind it so much with something like socks. Once your shoes are on and pant legs are down, who’s going to see them anyway? It really snaps my girdle, though, when I get suckered into using one of these changling yarns for, say, a sweater project. It’s just too bloody expensive and too much labor to end up with a sweater you’d only want to give to your ancient aunt – the one in the nursing home – who’s blind – and seldom comes out of her room.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I put a new Estonian lace project on the needles yesterday. Using Size 2 needles and laceweight yarn (which is a bit like knitting with spiderweb) it takes a lot of knitting to come up with enough fabric to photograph. I'll post something when it looks like something...or I'll let you know if my patience wore out and I frogged the whole business.