Friday, 27 January 2017

A tiny Lancashire Loom

This is a really special vintage loom from my collection that I have had for a few years. It is also called Lancashire's Smallest Loom, made by A Chesstok of Manchester.  Original cost was 5/- or Five shillings which translates to 25 pence in the current currency. 

It is a little mending weaving loom and here it is in use. 

The idea ( briefly) is that the warp is formed over the hole to be darned by making stitches opposite the hooks and looping the yarn over the hooks in turn, then taking another stitch opposite the hooks.  You then weave and change the shed to give plain weave by pushing the metal oblong at the top which tilts the hooks to the right and left in turn. Once the weaving is complete, the remaining 3 sides are stitched down to the garment. Ingenious. 

Here I am using a contrasting thread to show how it works. You can make the weaving as small as you like. The width is constrained by the width of the loom ( a bit over 2") but the length could be more. I will be taking it with me tomorrow as I am helping at a Costume and Textiles Association event in the Bridewell Museum tomorrow on ' make do and mend'. I think the participants might enjoy seeing this lovely vintage item. 

Tom of Holland has described it's use in detail on his blog of 23 June 2011

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