Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays From MKGM!

The Machine Knitting Guild of Minnesota does not meet in December so we can spend the holidays with our family and friends. In light of this, we wish all of our readers a happy, safe and healthy holiday season. Looking forward to seeing everybody in the new year!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some Nifty Show and Tell Items

Our guild is known for innovative, creative, lovely machine knit items. So, I thought we should share some of them from our November meeting:

Mary Ann shows off a circular blanket. Makes me think of Spiderman! What a cool idea for a little boy!

Joanne has been working on socks.

And a sweater.

Cindy J. made a hat using the loop technique for the top. What fun colors!

Amanda has a cute baby item to share.

And a ruffly scarf.

Carol shows off some mittens.

Admiring all of the show and tell items.

There was a big pile of them this month. Wonder how many were given as holiday gifts?

Judy shows off her reversible jacket.

Ellen's version of Judy's reversible jacket.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pattern Conversions Between Machine Gauges

Many machine knitters already knew this, so that may be why it was so hard for your extremely math-impaired author to find this information. It seemed to be top-secret, too, not to be shared with anybody, especially new machine knitters. Nevertheless, I have found it, and I know that other newbie MKers have wanted to know the same thing, so I am going to divulge this tasty bit of information, even if I end up in machine knitters jail for sharing it:
How in the world can I make a pattern written for one machine on a completely different gauge machine?
I know I wish I had known this, as I had wanted to make a pattern written for the 8mm Bond machine on my 9mm bulky. I sat there with a tape measure measuring the needles on the Bond and estimated how many stitches would be equal to that on my bulky. Oh, had I known how much easier that could have been! The project I made turned out, but probably more by sheer luck, rather than any skill on my part. Certainly not by mathematical precision.
Let’s say I have a pattern written for the bulky machine, but I want to make it on the standard or mid-gauge machine. How do I know how many stitches to cast on, bind off, decrease, increase, etc.? With an extremely easy formula:
Multiply the number of stitches for which the pattern calls by the gauge of the machine for which the pattern was written.
Divide that result by the gauge of the machine you wish to use.
This applies to all those numbers you find in the parentheses for different sizes in a pattern. You don’t need to calculate for every size, just the one you want.
For example, say we’re making a hat and the bulky pattern says to cast on 80 stitches. We would simply multiply 80 (the number of stitches in the written pattern) by 9 (the gauge of the machine for which the pattern was written). That gives us a result of 720. Now we divide that result of 720 by 4.5 (the gauge of the standard machine on which we wish to make the hat). We get a result of 160 stitches to cast on. 80x9=720.   720÷4.5=160.
You may be looking at that formula, and already know that the difference between the bulky and standard gauge machines is 2:1. After all, 4.5mm is half of 9mm. You would be correct. Now let’s say you wanted to make the same pattern on the 6.5mm mid-gauge machine. Easy enough! 80x9=720.   720÷6.5=110.77.  Uh-oh. That didn’t come out even. In this case we would round up to 111 stitches. If you happen to have a 7mm mid-gauge machine, the formula is the same: 80x9=720.   720÷7=102.85, so you would casts on 103 stitches.
You would then also use this formula to calculate the number of rows to knit in any given pattern.
The reverse also works if you want to convert a pattern written for the standard gauge machine to a larger gauge machine: 160x4.5=720.   720÷9=80.
One caveat: Make sure you use this same formula to calculate the gauge of your swatch! Without this critical first step you will not know which tension setting to use on your machine! As with all projects, making a gauge swatch is always the first step in producing a well-fitting, and successful end result. For example: 17 stitches and 22 rows to 4 inches on the 8mm Bond would become 15 stitches and 19.5 (you can fudge up or down, depending on your yarn) rows to 4 inches on the 9mm bulky, or 30 stitches and 39 rows to 4 inches on the 4.5mm standard.
Hopefully this little tidbit of information will help out those new knitters that were asking this same question. I know it has opened up my collection of patterns because I can now make the same pattern on any one of my three different gauge machines! I am no longer limited to making it on the machine for which it was written!
Have fun, and happy knitting!

With thanks to Yarns And...

Friday, September 28, 2012

September Feast-ival

September saw MKGM’s annual potluck dinner, and like every year, it was not a disappointment! Who knew that knitters were also such good cooks? There was much talking and laughter, and several trips back and forth to the buffet to sample all of the goodies spread out there.

It is truly amazing how, without a plan or sign-up sheet, there are few, if any, duplicates to the food items brought and shared. There are always hot dishes (not to be confused with hot-dishes, although those occasionally make their way to the table, too), cold dishes, salads, desserts and nibbles.
However delicious the food, or how much we may look forward to this annual event, we are a club of knitters first, and this was the meeting we collected the dishcloths and dishtowels we knit as a thank-you gift to The Crossings for generously allowing us the use of their wonderful space. They were arranged prettily into a basket to be presented to the office, then they could decide whether to use them in their kitchens, or allow residents to pick one out for themselves.
This was also the meeting in which the entries to the State Fair competition were to be presented, although most of the knitters who entered items could not be present, so we only had one Show-and-Tell item. Marilyn brought a lace curtain she had entered, which turned out beautiful. It should, for the many, many hours she spent learning the thread-lace technique, and ensuring their were no mistakes.
There were several other items brought for Show-and-Tell, and President Jennifer tried something different, which should be repeated. She had each person stand up in the front of the room where everybody could see the item being shown, and also hear the description of the item. Then they were laid out on a table for everybody to take a close look at later. Too often the items are missed because they’re held up from where the presenter is sitting. Way to go, Jennifer!
Polly shows off a new technique she has learned.
Finally, this was also the meeting where our charity hats were collected for the rapidly approaching winter. Shortly after this meeting, northern Minnesota received over a foot of snow, so it’s quite apparent how important this club activity and mainstay is for the disadvantaged of our communities, particularly in this economy.
Pretty hat by Ellen.
Bruce shows off a hat and a winning smile!
Of course, it’s not only people that get cold in the winter, but our beloved pets do, too, so what other act of love can we show them? Knit them something to keep them warm, too! Carol made an adorable little dog sweater.

The star of the show had to be Susan, who brought it many items to share, and one truly unique item that she had designed in Design-a-Knit (DAK), that received rave reviews! A blanket/throw with a photo of her hubby! What a cool idea!

Another DAK project, in which multiple elements are combined to make this unique child's afghan.

Gorgeous scarf of gold and black.

As they say, however, all good things must come to an end, and so our potluck. There is still next year to look forward to! But first…the holidays. Stay tuned! Our holiday showcase is still coming up!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

August Knit-in: Proper Machine Care and Maintenance

August’s Knit-in had to be the most informative, most helpful and most important event of the year for the MKGM. It truly was a must-see opportunity, and if you missed it, you missed out on a real treat. Shawn Dolan of Knit & Sew World was the guest dealer/speaker, and he spent the early part of the day demonstrating how to clean our machines, and even to make minor repairs, then after lunch we all got “down and dirty” (literally) as we cleaned and repaired our own machines under Shawn’s expert supervision. It was astounding just how dirty our machines get, even if we “think” we’re keeping them clean! There was actually little to no knitting done whatsoever, but for those of us that attended, Shawn’s demonstration was so worth the lack of knitting time! So much so, that it would be worth its weight in gold to host Shawn and his maintenance seminar as an annual event. After all, our machines are a relatively substantial investment; learning to properly care for them can make them perform at their peak, and increase the life of them. Shawn likened this simple maintenance to routine oil changes in our cars. Without them, our cars would quickly conk out on the side of the road. The same holds true for our knitting machines. The small annual to bi-annual investment for new needle retainer bars, replacement needles and cleaning solution is nothing compared to repair and/or replacement costs!
Shawn provides one-on-one supervision as we clean our machines
Shawn systematically went through each step of how to clean your machine, the do’s and do-not’s, what to watch for, where to be careful so as not to damage the inner workings of the machine that we can’t see (and didn’t even know was there), and told us which solvent to use, and where to purchase it (De-Solv-It Contractor Solvent—an oil-based solvent available from Ace Hardware and other retailers (click link to find where else it’s sold)). He stressed the importance of not using de-natured alcohol, a favorite among many machine knitters, as it can actually damage the machine by drying out the lubricants you can’t even get at, and removing the finish that protects the metals.
The first thing he had each of us do was to remove the needle retainer (sponge) bar and needles from our machines, check the sponge and clean the needles, replacing them, if necessary (he had new needles available for purchase). A bad needle can be working perfectly at the latch end, but he showed how they can wear on the flat sides of the needle butts where a groove can form, causing the needle to shift from side to side, damaging the needle bed. The only way to notice this is to take the needles out of the machine and inspect them.
On a side note: Your author highly recommends not getting into the common habit of moving bad needles from the middle of the machine bed to the ends, rather simply throw them away and replace them. It will be impossible to remember which needles are bad, and leaving them in the machine can cause damage down the road, especially if a project requires a large number of needles, if not the entire needle bed, or more importantly, when you take them out to clean them.
He had new needle retainer bars for purchase, as well. He reiterated the importance of the sponge bar—which most machine knitters know, but don’t know all the reasons why it’s so important—by stating that the machines are tuned to a very fine calibration, and if the sponge bar isn’t in perfect condition that not only does the machine not knit properly, but the needles can wear through the metal on the interior of the machine, causing damage that can’t be seen, and can take years to become aware of.
Shawn then had us clean our carriages, which can get “gunky” with old oil, lint and dirt, jamming up the cams and/or patterning buttons. Sticky cams lead to dropped/missed stitches, and stuck buttons are one of the most common complaints when a machine is brought in for repair, yet easy to fix yourself, or prevent in the first place. After they were cleaned, we re-lubricated them properly with just a touch of machine oil on the tips of the bristles of a paint brush. No need for lots of oil! After all, the solvent is also oil-based, so not only does it clean the machine, it adds a touch of lubrication, as well. Bonus!
After this, Shawn showed us how the needle bed, itself, can begin to warp. It’s such a subtle warp that most of us don’t even notice it. The needles sit in slots on the needle bed. Between the slots are the thin strips of metal. Those are what begin to warp downward, and can also damage unseen parts of the machine. He showed us how to move them back into place (if you weren’t at the demo, please do not try this at home without being shown the proper way to do this!), and how to remove tiny nicks from the needle slots. Those are also subtle, and your author was surprised to find several on her own machine that she had never even noticed before!
Finally, he showed us how to clean the timing belt and behind it (yes, behind it) on the machine. He stressed the importance of how to do this properly and carefully, so as not to damage it (it’s extremely fragile—do not try this at home if you haven’t been shown the proper way to do it!) and incur a costly replacement expense. That was probably the most surprising portion of the entire demonstration. Timing belts are probably the one thing most machine knitters don’t know they should be keeping clean and lubricated. They were the most dirty part on everyone’s machines, probably for this very reason.
Shawn even did simple repairs for us, if needed
In all, it was a lengthy, and tiring event, but so worth it! It was astounding how well the machines hummed along after spending one day tuning them up. Monthly maintenance should keep the length of time spent tuning them up to a minimum after the initial thorough ordeal, and with proper care and this maintenance there is no reason why our machines can’t last a lifetime, or even the next.
Thank you, Shawn!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

July, 2012 Meeting

July saw an informative program put on by Nancy, in which she demonstrated her new and improved software/database program. This updated version is unlike any other knitting software on the market. Not so much a program for designing knits, as it is a program for calculating yarn usage, converting gauges, tracking yarn, content, colors and weights, and what your author could really use, a place for tracking your patterns so that they can be found again, and easily!
Nancy demonstrates her software
The pattern tracking capability works in such a way that you don’t have to know exactly which pattern you want, rather what type of item you’re in the mood to make, or simply the color. For example, I want to make a sweater. If I search for sweater, every sweater pattern I’ve entered (and yes, there is a place for photos) will come up. I can narrow it down by size, sex or even color (say I wanted to make a blue sweater). Voila! Up will pop the sweater patterns I’ve entered that match the criteria of my search! Of course, databases are only as good as the information entered into them, so it would behoove us to enter as much information as is possible. This would be very time-consuming and take away from actual knitting time, but oh so worth it down the road, if you’re like me and have hundreds, if not thousands, of patterns to dig through.

Students listening closely to Nancy's presentation
The yarn tracking capability works in much the same way as the pattern tracking. You can search through all the yarns by color, fiber content or weight. Again, as long as you do the requisite updating to the database, you should be able to find the perfect yarn in your stash for your project, and be able to calculate if you have enough (or enough left) for the project at hand.

If you’re interested in this software, please contact Nancy. Her contact information is in your membership book (I won’t post that information on the World Wide Web—your author believes in as much computer safety/security as is in her power to provide).
In addition to the program, there were some fun knits for show and tell:
Fun knits! Everyone was excited to discover that the yarn for Cindy J's lime green scarf could be used on a machine, as it was Patons Lace Sequin yarn. The sequins don't jam the machine or break off!
Hats galore, made by Joann

A pretty, sparkly poncho/shawl

Friday, June 29, 2012

What We Did on Our Summer Vacation

Okay, I’m not going to go into what I did on my summer vacation, but I will say that it made for my absence from our knit-in on June 23, 2012. Still, others did go and reported what happened when Carole Wurst from Rocking Horse Farm was there to present how to use the lace carriage, and especially the garter carriage.

Below are excerpts of what Guild members had to say:

“Carole focused on the garter carriage and the lace carriage, which I thought I knew all about, but there is always something new to learn, and I did.

I brought some patterns with me to try. One being Carole's pattern for the smoke ring scarf and the other for her hat scarfer. I did make the lace smoke ring and decided rather than making a plain hat for the scarfer I would try it in a lace pattern. They both turned out good.” — Donna

“I went to part of it. I got there when she was going over the g-carriage. She gave us some wonderful tips on using it and how to prolong the life of the curly cord. She also gave some info on the lace carriage. I had to leave before the lace carriage part, but for the time I was there the demo was well received and a lot of questions were brought up, which Carole happily answered.”
— Bruce

“The knit in was a full day of sharing, knitting and learning. In the morning Carole presented information on the care and feeding of the Garter Carriage to a receptive audience. We all came away with a new understanding of this interesting addition to the Brother standard machine tools. Those who had GC's wanted to go home and make use of them right away. The afternoon presentation showed us how to use the Brother lace carriage, and what to do when there was a miscount on the number of transfer rows. The knit-in was well attended and we are looking forward to the next one.”– Mary Ann
Discussions About Machines and Yarn Often Took Place
Knitting and Shopping Enjoyed By All
Marilyn Winding Yarn
The Room Was Decorated for the 4th
Donna Shows Off Her New Tattoo While Working on her Project
Conversation Over Lunch
If you missed this one, the next knit-in will be held on Saturday, August 25th from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at The Crossings.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Build an Ark?

Well, it has certainly been a very, very wet June so far. It seems all it does is rain and storm on a daily basis. There has been flooding from the north to the south borders of the state. I would say unequivocally, that the drought from last summer is most definitely over!

Wet as it’s been, there’s a place that’s warm and dry. The Machine Knitting Guild of Minnesota will hold its next knit-in this Saturday, June 23rd from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at The Crossings in Brooklyn Center.

From 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., our guest dealer-speaker will be Carole Wurst from Rocking Horse Farms (click on the link, or find them on Ravelry). She will present and offer hands-on practice of several advanced knitting tools and techniques.  Her focus will be on the G-Carriage and Lace Carriage.  She will happily answer any other questions you have about any other machine knitting topic as well as minor machine adjustments.

As always, the knit-ins are open to members and non-members alike, but best of all they’re free, and in the case of this month, dry!

Happy knitting!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Knitting on a Bulky Machine with Punch Cards

At the May meeting of the Machine Knitting Guild of Minnesota, Karen put on a wonderful demonstration of how to knit on a bulky punch card machine. Many of the punch cards that come with a punch card machine will knit the same pattern in different techniques, which in turn gives a different look to the finished object. Be sure to check your manual to see which cards will knit which technique before starting. Some patterns don’t work well, if at all, with some of the techniques, such as tuck stitch, in which two stitches cannot tuck side by side. There must be a plain stitch between them.

The techniques that Karen demonstrated were fair-isle, slip stitch, tuck stitch and thread lace.

Note: Please forgive the video quality. Your author is an administrative assistant by profession, and neither a videographer nor a film editor.

To view the video larger, start the play, then hover your mouse over it, and click on the YouTube in the lower right corner to view it directly on YouTube.

Here are close-up photos of the finished sample:

The Fair-isle Sample

The Slip Stitch Sample

Tuck Stitch Sample

Thread Lace Sample