Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Using a circular sock knitting machine

In 2001 soon after we moved to Cheshire I bought this vintage sock knitting machine and had a lesson with the sock knitting guru  Denys Wright, who I bought the machine from. I just loved the engineering and it joined my two other vintage knitting machines - both normal flatbed type. I didn't  really expect to produce anything useful from it. 
Full set up 
This machine is a Berridge and made late 1800's early 1900's, still trying to track the model down. It was built in Leicester and is a Griswold design, but he went back to America between 1890 and 1892 and Berridge took over! 
I wasn't really interested in getting it to knit  socks, but played a bit and managed the heel and toe ( both the same thing in a machine knitted sock ) and even the ribbing for the cuff, as samples. But then we moved to another house in Cheshire  so I took the needles out and stored it safely. Then I was busy- mainly working! 

Then last January, now living back in Norfolk and having more space I got the machine out again, fitted it all together and checked it was working. It has sat covered up in my 'sewing room' since then. Now it is 2017 I have decided I am going to try and knit a pair of socks with it. I have done a little bit on it most days over the last week. 
Here is the progress so far. 
Sock  1 
Trying  ( and managing) to get a sock and a heel in the same sample. 
I never even tried to get a decent leg length or foot length. It has worked but the grafting of the toe - the last bit in making a sock this way) is not neat enough for me.

Sock 2 
Nearly happy with this one, some tension errors, fits my foot beautifully but still unhappy with the grafting

Sock 3 
Pleased with this. A different method of grafting that is brilliant. Decided to use a contrast yarn and make it match the simple cuff I am currently doing. Tension is better too. 
I am not going to try to add the ribber section ( on back left in top photo) until I can knit a perfect sock without any hiccups at all. If a latch sticks open on a needle  there is a ladder and the knitting needs so much weighting that the ladder runs very quickly. The other two keys to success are getting the tension right, there is pointer on the side of the machine that adjusts the height of the needles and getting the weight just right when knitting the heel and toe. Too much weight and the stitches can't knit and too little and the stitches come off the hooks. 
The toe is grafted to the top of the foot by hand, and I am now pleased I have a neat method for that. 
It is much more complicated than an ordinary knitting machine as you have nowhere to park the carriage easily  where it is not sitting on the stitches being a circular set up. 

I am pleasantly surprised how it knits fine yarn. 

I have some old books to help me. The best advice was :
This ( knitting a sock correctly with shaping at first sitting) should not be anticipated; but anyone can become an expert in working the machine within a short time, from the book only, without personal instructions, provided they will commence at the beginning and learn perfectly ONE THING AT A TIME, following the order herein given' - so true!

You tube is proving very useful in finding extra hints and tips. 

I might just get my own knitted walking socks yet but the you tube video labelled the 8 1/2 minute sock is not something I am aiming for! What fun would there be in rushing with a wonderful machine? 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

End of 2016, start of 2017

When I returned home after Shetland Wool Week, my first treat was to knit the Sanik shawl by Donna Smith from the Wool Week Annual . I had bought two balls of Shetland Organics 1 ply lace wool, each ball 50 grams, length 350 metres. This was short in length of the yarn Donna used ( 194x4 m  allowed) but I crossed my fingers and got started. Donna recommended long needles so I used my 40 cm dpns as I wanted to use the project to practise with using a knitting belt. I loved ( and still love) the  simplicity of the shawl. I also liked it as I had not made a shawl in this shape - achieved by working short rows. 

I loved knitting the cockleshell edge and used many wool knitting markers(1)  to make counting stitches easier. At one stage in the cockleshell pattern there were 781 stitches on the needles. I needed an extra 40 cm needle for these rows. 
In time, the shawl was finished, with quite a bit of yarn left over so that was good news. 
I managed to block it on my large blocking board - it just about fitted. 
Here it is sharing the block with another favourite shawl. 
I love how it works around the neck, very light ( total weight used was 61.6g )  and lots of shawl to drape. 


I am going to knit one in natural ( off white) too- it's on the hand knitting project list but 
not at the top of the 'to make' list - yet! 

So a fitting end to a great textile year for me and now looking forward to my next hand knitting project- one from Kate Davies lovely 'Book of Haps' I think and it might be another Donna Smith design too! 

Happy New Year to you all. 

(1) my favourite knitting markers are the ones I make myself out of yarn - I can have different colours for different things and no concern about them catching on the yarn of the project 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Shetland 2016: Day Twenty two: Arriving Home

Thurs Oct 6
The journey from Knaresborough to home seemed short and there were no hold ups. In fact I didn't write a thing in my journal! 
We were home about 15.30 and then of course it was unpacking,sorting through the mound of post that had built up and finding a home for our purchases. 
We had had a great time and although initially we planned to return in two years we are now wondering about another trip next year. How can we miss the great scenery, wool week activities, camaraderie and birds? 
But before then we need to complete the decorating. I am not sure we are refreshed as we feel pretty exhausted but we have a large lounge & dining room to decorate and hopefully have finished before Christmas. But of course there are other priorities too-like the order for extra long double pointed needles so I can knit the Makin Shawl by Donna  Smith from the Wool Week Annual.  I have the wool and want to practise my developing skill of using a knitting belt!  Then of course there is the Shetland lace knitting, the jumper for M, more dyeing, teaching a Nuno felt class and so on..... It all keeps the brain going. 

I hope this has inspired  you to take a look at Shetland and maybe visit. The landscape is special and the people are very special too. Thank you all for making our visit, once again, special. 

The fingerless meadowsweet gloves finally get finished- shown on my new gloves boards

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Shetland 2016 : Day Twenty one - Rheged and Bowes Museum

Wed Oct 5
Today was a short travel day so we treated ourselves to a visit to Rheged. So often we are just passing and don't feel we have time to stop. Today we had a second breakfast in the cafe which was very nice indeed. There was an exhibition of Cumbrian Artists ( being defined as artists with links to Cumbria), some nice shops including an excellent extensive toy shop. It was so nice to see actual toys, rather than rely on online shopping. 
An interesting piece - thought it was great when I saw it in the exhibition but now I am home I 'm not so sure. ( Fortunately, it stayed in the exhibition!) 

We then drove on to Barnard Castle along the A66, a journey which has lovely scenery. We determined that we would come and stay in the area for at least a week in the spring. We like to park at Bowes Castle and eat in the cafe. We were lucky to get a seat by the window and had a nice lunch. I like to do clothes ' observing' when in the cafe- usually there are one or two lovely pieces and today was no exception giving me ideas for a modification to my normal shawl cardigan pattern (clever use of lace placement!) 
We arrived at The Caravan Club Knaresborough  site at about 15.30. One of the bonuses to staying here is the Bistro. We had booked dinner which was enjoyable. So our last meal out before  driving home tomorrow
As I have mentioned our motorhome is a Wildax and we were interested to find that another was in the spot next to us. On talking to these neighbours we found that there were another two on the site. We have never seen so many together before. 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Shetland 2016: Day Twenty Aberdeen to Troutbeck, Cumbria

Tues 4 Oct : 

We have 526 miles to drive to get home. Rather that knock ourselves up we have decided to take it relatively easy and enjoy the journey- one of the pluses of being retired! 
We are very lucky that we are in the motorhome which is a pleasure to drive and can be self sufficient. We do like to stay on recognised camp sites and have booked in to the Caravan Club site in Troutbeck. We have stayed there before and although a long drive we will get an early start, the roads are good and the traffic is likely to be quite light. 
I didn't have my best night on the ferry- I think my head was too full of plans based on what I had learnt and bought during wool week. I must remember to load my iPad with podcasts as there is no radio reception! M took the motorhome of the ferry and then returned to finish his breakfast. We had done this before and it worked well, it is much better than rushing at the start of the day. 
The downside is that the route is not well provided with service stations. Stirling was our stop for coffee and then the spacious Happenden for lunch. We were at Troutbeck for 16.00 and had arranged to have a meal from our freezer for dinner - although it was a day when the Fish and Chip cart visited the site. 
We had seen some great sunsets in Shetland but the one from the site was good too. 
We began to wish we had planned to stay another night or two! 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Shetland 2016: Day nineteen visiting Wilma Malcolmson and Jamieson and Smith

Mon 3 Oct 
Well, our last day in Shetland had arrived, we were catching the evening ferry back to Aberdeen. 
We had really enjoyed our stay at Aithsvoe  Marina. Today the weather was good and as everyone else was taking photos of me I thought I would have one for myself. So wearing my hat and holding my covered notebook M took photos in the lovely morning light. I am not a fan of having my photo taken but think this one is OK! Unfortunately despite my best efforts the fingerless gloves were not finished so they are missing from the set! 

I had promised Wilma that I would visit her studio before we left. We were very close as she is situated on the main road in Cunningsburgh. What a feast for a knitter's eyes it is inside. Wilma also showed me her box of samples from designing with her latest set of colours. She has an amazing eye for colour and her fair isle knitwear is lovely.(1) M was 'eyeing' the jumpers but wanted to think about them, so this is first on the list for him in terms of a purchase next year. It was good also to see a thank you photo from Jimmy Perez who also appreciates Wilma's skill. It was good to hear that a granddaughter is keen on working with Wilma. I think I have a good knitting space but this was even more desirable! We were glad we managed to fit in the visit and highly recommend it! 

Lerwick Harbour was the next spot and the last visit to the Shetland Times bookshop, the 'excuse' being to find something for the grandchildren but I just had to go through their knitting books again! 
A treat to see ! 
Purchases made we made our last visit to the Peerie cafe and bade 'safe journey' to fellow wool weekers from some of my classes who were travelling back to America. It looked like the ferry would have quite a wool week contingent. More purchases at the Shetland Museum and a last look at the 19th century pattern books project  exhibition in the foyer which I had not had time to study previously. There really is so much to do in Wool Week. 
From the pattern books project

Unfortunately Hay's Dock cafe was closed for staff training on the new menu so we couldn't enjoy our usual view from the first floor over the  Harbour- instead managing with the view from the motorhome in the car park there as we had lunch. 
Then onto Jamieson and Smith and a conversation with Oliver about fleece and the purchase of cones of Shetland Jumper Yarn  for machine knitting- a cone for a jumper for M and natural coloured wool for dyeing before knitting for myself.
All too soon it was time to go to the ferry, once on board we made for the lounge, which wasn't quite full of wool weekers but there were several. We had a nice meal with Eve and chatted to a couple from Whalsay. It turns out the husband makes knitting boards ( glove boards, jumpers boards)  so I have his phone number - what a lucky meeting that was! 
Exhausted from a restful day I tumbled into bed. Once again we were stopping at Kirkwall and it looked to me as if it was not a flat calm crossing! Tomorrow we would wake up close to Aberdeen. 
(1) see Wilma's work at www.shetlanddesigner.co.uk 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Shetland 2016 : Day Eighteen- - Shetland Guild of Weavers, Spinners, Dyers and Knitters Guild Sunday Tea

Sunday 2 Oct wool week day 9 

I guess it was inevitable that after 2 completely full days I would get a migraine. ( for those that are lucky not to suffer from this 'challenge', it seems for many of us that 'doing a lot' is fine but taking the foot off the body accelerator allows a chink for the migraine to creep in. ) Fortunately nothing much was planned for the morning so I took the medication, kept eating and drinking and hoped I would come round for the afternoon. It sort of worked! 
So we were at Tingwall early and while waiting showed a German Wool Week attendee around out Motorhome. ( I lost count of the number of tours we did while we were away!) so then into Tingwall Hall and as expected it was busy and already people had full plates for their 'tea'. We happened across Ruth Gough from Wingham Wools. Suffice it to say we have quite a history together  - M and I enjoyed many residential courses run by Ruth & her husband Alan in Borrowdale . Until Wool week it had been a while since we met!
It was a glorious afternoon of eating (£5 for a plate and choose from an extensive buffet), drinks brought to the tables non stop; catching up with friends; viewing the stunning knitwear and talking to members of the Guild who were demonstrating spinning and knitting - many of whom I had chatted to during the week. 
 Many thanks to Sarah Moran (1) for taking this photo 

It was lovely to see items from the Guilds's challenge for the year - which was an item inspired by the Guild's first book A legacy of Shetland Lace 
Just a small sample of this:
Individual members of the Guild were displaying their own items and there were  rosettes  for prizes awarded for the beautiful knitwear from many shows. An afternoon not to be missed in terms of stunning knitwear. 
I was also rather overwhelmed by the number of people asking to take photos of my meadowsweet yoked jumper - the ones I know about are going to places as far away as the west coast of America and Australia! 

Even Michael didn't escape the photographing, he writes: 'While having a quick look round I was quite surprised to be stopped by a charming American lady who asked for a photograph of my chest!  Well actually the fair isle sweater I was wearing on it.  I was of course happy to oblige but also  felt I had to admit that it had been bought for a few pounds from a vintage second hand shop in Beccles, Norfolk. Janet has knitted me a rather special fair isle jumper but not one to wear when messing around on holiday in the van!' 
The colours and design of M's fair isle jumper are superb and as it gets closer to it's end I need to chart it so I can get close to replicating it. 

What a wonderful penultimate day in Shetland - so much skill on display and so many items at the very top of the stunning scale! 
(1) Take a look at Sarah's blog - she was lucky enough to get to Fair Isle for a day during wool week, and lots of other great stuff too! www.didyoumakeityourself.com