Join Me At The Finger Lakes Machine Knitting Seminar

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I am so excited and honored to be a presenter at the 2017 Finger Lakes Machine Knitting Seminar on Sept 28th and 29th. (Click here for Seminar info.) I would LOVE to meet some of you there. Over the course of 2 days I will be giving 8 workshops, with an emphasis on img2track for electronic machines, but also some fun sessions that will apply to any machine. Here is a list of my workshops:

1. Tips for Knitting a King-sized Photo Blanket — Many of you have seen some of the truly amazing blankets that have been created using img2track. I will talk about and demonstrate some techniques to use in creating image files for this process. How to split an image in to 2 or more segments, and construction techniques. I use GIMP on a Mac, but the processes will be similar in many graphics programs. (Single bed or Double bed)

2. Tips and Tricks for Optimizing Graphic Images for Knitting – This will be a computer-based workshop. I will be demonstrating many ways of manipulating an image to optimize it for knitting. Mostly I want to encourage you to dig into your graphics program (whichever one you like using) and explore and experiment to find ways of altering images for knitting.

3. Img2track – More Than Just Fair Isle – Explore some of the ways in which you can let your creativity and imagination loose with lace, tuck and slip

4. Bubble Pops Shawl – This easy and additcitvely fun stitch pattern uses the ribber and a drop stitch technique. You’ll wonder why you waited so long to try it. (Double Bed) AND Crochet On The Knitting Machine? – Learn how to create this unusual and beautiful open stitch pattern that you’ll swear is crocheted when you’re done. (Single Bed)

5. Knitting Outside The Box: Creating a True Linen Stitch – A true linen stitch is one of those very elusive techniques for the knitting machine. Because it involves slipping/passing yarn on the knit side, it involves hand manipulation. I will discuss how I’ve developed a tool that facilitates this technique and demonstrate its use. (Single Bed)

6. Single-bed Plaid Without Floats — Using intarsia and manual needle selection, you can create a plaid that mimics the look of a woven fabric. (Single Bed, Intarsia)

7. Creating Filet Lace Motifs with img2track – In this workshop we will USE computer graphics and img2track to create and then knit filet-style lace motifs, using the lace carriage. (Single Bed, Lace Carriage)

8. DBJ – 3-6 colors per row – Using img2track and computer graphics, we will explore how to maximize an image for knitting in Double Bed Jacquard with more than 2 colors. (Double Bed)

Public Participation Machine Knitting

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This Sunday I’ll be doing machine knitting demonstrations from Noon-6pm at Threshold, in Madison, WI. I’ve spent a lot of time this week preparing for the event.  In addition to demonstrating my own knitting, using img2track, one of the things I want to do is to set up a Public Participation Machine Knitting Project. I’ve sort of gone back and forth on a lot of ideas about what that should be, and have settled on creating a crocheted rug from a knitted tube. (Credit where it’s due, I have always wanted to recreate this installation art piece by Liz Collins.)

 

So I dragged out one of my bulky machines, and some bulky yarn from my stash and made a start on the project.

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This is probably the easiest, least intimidating way possible for people who have no prior experience with machine knitting to get a little hands on time at the machine. It’s a pretty bomb-proof project. I just set up a piece that’s 8 stitches wide, and knit, knit, knit. Add more yarn and knit, knit, knit some more. Even if stitches get dropped, even if the whole thing drops off the machine, it’s easy-peasy to just rip back a few rows and put the 8 stitches back on the needles. Since the stockinette knitting naturally curls at the edges, it creates a sort of tube structure all on its own.

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I then take that super sized tube and use it to crochet round and round, creating a little rug, or chair cushion, or meditation mat, or pet bed. No additional tools needed, I simply use my fingers to pull the loops through. It makes a yummy, cushy structure that is lovely under the toes.

 

I did a similar demonstration some time back at the Madison Children’s Museum – Knitting Kids’ Art. I had the kids draw pictures with markers, and then I chose a few to knit.

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The staff then helped out by making them into little pillows, which they eventually hung from the ceiling in a semi-permanent display. I had a blast doing this project, and I think it turned out really well. We’ll see if others feel the same way. I’m hoping that people jump right in and knit lots. I think it’s fun for people to participate, and see something ‘real’ being made from their efforts.

 

How about you? Do you like to jump in to hands on demonstrations?

Lace Knitting: A lifeline can save the day

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I have always loved knitting lace, whether by hand or on the knitting machine. I love the mathematical precision of the patterns, the astonishing designs that can be achieved simply by placing holes and doubling stitches at defined intervals. Most of all, though, I love the thrill of the ‘reveal’.

Once all the knitting iimg_20160920_114849578s done, and you take what is a crumpled pile of yarn all looped together and block it to open up the fabric and make it lie flat, it’s one of those ‘chorus of angels’ moments. I am transported by the beauty of it, every time.

As with so many techniques at the knitting machine, lace can be both a joy and a terror. With automatic needle selection it is ever a thrill to watch the myriad littles holes being created as you operate the lace carriage back and forth, back and forth, transferring stitches from one needle to the next and then knitting across to create the many yarn overs (as they are called in hand knitting) that will leave behind precisely placed holes that are another row in your lace design.

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All good and wonderful, until . . . dun, dun, duhhhhhhh! a dropped stitch. Because the fabric is always stretched taut from side-to-side, with hanging weights pulling down, a dropped stitch can run very quickly down the work. And while other kinds of knitting can be ripped back and placed back on the machine, this can often be nearly impossible with lace.

Enter the lifeline. Used in both hand and machine knitting, the lifeline is a separate piece of cord or yarn that is threaded through one complete row of stitches. It serves the dual purpose of stopping a run dead in it’s tracks, and providing a stable row of knitting that can be rehung in the needles so that the entire piece doesn’t have to be scrapped. However, weaving the lifeline in does take some time, so it’s an inconvenience. The balance one must strike is between the time spent putting in lifelines (ie how often to put a new one in) and risk of a dropped stitch and having to unravel the knitting to the previous lifeline, or even the beginning of the piece and starting over.

Here is my technique for inserting a lifeline. (There are other techniques equally valid.) The thing to keep in mind is that a lifeline cannot simply be knitted into the fabric along with the regular yarn, as it would also run, right along with the regular yarn if a stitch is dropped.

Try to put the lifeline in on a knitted row. This assures you will get all the stitches, and make it much, much easier to rehang if necessary.

Thread up a needle with a firm cord or yarn and bring the needle up from below into each heel below the active stitch.
Thread up a needle with a firm cord or yarn and bring the needle up from below into each heel below the active stitch.
Here's another view showing the tip of the needle pulling out on the heel stitch below the active stitch.
Here’s another view showing the tip of the needle pulling out on the heel stitch below the active stitch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The lifeline goes through every stitch in a row
The lifeline goes through every stitch in a row

 

The lifeline is in place, time to add a new one.
The lifeline is in place, time to add a new one.

 

 

 

Back To the Future: Technology closes the circle

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One of the things that I find so fascinating about combining my laptop and my knitting machine is how it’s such a cool convergence of circles. Hmmm, maybe a Venn Diagram is in order?

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. A huge part of how I got to be doing what I’m doing with knitting is that my friend, Davi, created a program – img2track – that made it possible for me to take these wacky, super complex patterns that I design on my computer, using a graphics program, and feed them into my lovely, but technologically limited, 1980s vintage domestic knitting machine,

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upon which I can then produce the most amazing knitted art.

(l) 4 color Tiger (r) 2 color Tiger
(l) 4 color Tiger
(r) 2 color Tiger

Now, if we start at the laptop, and back that story up, waaa-a-a-ay up, to very early computers, we will find (eh-hem, some of you might even remember) that they were programmed using punch cards.

IBM Port-A-Punch

Gigantic, room-filling contraptions were fed hundreds upon hundreds of these cards with holes punched in them, in order to program the computer to complete certain tasks. Those punch cards had their origin in the weaving industry. Starting in the early 18th century, punch cards were used to control looms in order to automate the weaving of patterns into cloth.

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These punch cards would automate the selection of warp threads on the loom so that as the weaver ran the weft shuttle back and forth, a pattern developed in the cloth. This semi-automation allowed the creation of much more complex patterns than were practical to achieve using manual selecttion. Not only because of the time involved, but also because of the high likelyhood of errors being introduced into the cloth. Tasks that require rapid selection of multiple data without error are not well done by humans, but perfect for computers, of which the Jacquard Loom was a very early iteration.

Now let’s move forward in time, but this time along the fiber arts route instead of the computer route. The very first knitting machines were introduced in the late 16th century. There wasn’t rapid development for some time. The first widespread introduction and use of knitting machines domestically was at the beginning of the 20th century, when circular sock knitting machines were widely used in the home to knit socks for soldiers.
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By the 1940s and 1950s, flat bed knitting machines were being produced for the consumer market. These had little or no patterning ability, other than what could be achieved manually, like the earliest looms. Eventually, automatic patterning was developed for the domestic knitting machine, using – guess what?? – punch cards! Knitting machines manufactured in the 1970s and 1980s were capable of reading a punch card that would select needles automatically as the knitter moved the carriage (equivalent of the loom’s shuttle, it carries the yarns) back and forth. The punch card system allowed for a 24 stitch repeat, along the needle bed of 200 needles. A definite advance for the time, but only a whisper of the capability that we now have to use a laptop to automate the selection and patterning for every one of the 200 needles independently, for every row of knitting.

So here we are, back in the 21st century, and computer programing has met up with cloth production to move forward in a whole different direction. I’m pretty psyched about it!

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