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On and Off the Needles for September

On and Off the Needles for September

This last month’s report will be a little slim as I’ve been working on some secret projects to be revealed in 2019.  However, I do have one new pattern release!  The Simple Colorwork Mitts are now available on my Ravelry store.  These mitts are a great way to use leftover worsted weight yarn and they come in three sizes with three patterns for the palm.  If you are a reader of my blog, you can get the pattern for 50% off using the code BLOGREADER at checkout!  Enjoy!

I’ve also been spending quite a bit of time working at my sock machine this month.  I’ve made several pairs of socks for my daughter (she picked the yarn from my stash and also worked on some preemie hats and a pattern for a wine bottle cozy.  I’m starting to make socks to give away or sell for the holiday season.  I also made a whole string of fingerless mitts that now need to be finished and have the thumbs hand knit.

I put in a few rows on my Star Wars Scarf, my Japanese Poncho/Cardigan, and my Spanish Bay is just a few woven ends in from being done!

Gauge on a CSM

Gauge on a CSM

A while back, I really got into using the ribber on my CSM and I looked at all the factors that affected how the ribber worked.  One thing I did was reduce the amount of weight I was using on my socks and suddenly my socks were coming out in unexpected sizes.  It got me thinking about all the factors that affect gauge when making a sock.  Gauge included both stitch gauge and row/round gauge.  Stitch gauge determines how big around the sock is and is usually measured in stitches per inch/cm.  Row gauge (sometimes identified as round gauge) determines how long the sock will be and is usually measure in the number of rounds per inch/cm.   Although there are various charts on the internet that claim to list the number of stitches and rows you will need to make a give sized sock on a given cylinder, the only way to really know your gauge is to do a swatch yourself and measure.

Here are all the thing that will affect your gauge:

Cylinder size: All the cylinders for a given sock machine are the same diameter and circumference (different brands of machines will have different diameter cylinders).  The difference is in how far apart the slots are cut for the needles.   Fewer needles mean the needles are spaced farther apart.  More needles will mean they are spaced closer together.  The yarn will run a shorter distance from needle to needle when the needles are closer together and a longer distance when they are further apart creating smaller or larger stitches respectively.

Number of needles used in the cylinder: For mock rib or for patterns worked every other needle, removing needles creates short strands of yarn in the space where the needle is missing.  These aren’t as long as the path going around a needle, but they are longer than the usual path between side by side needles.  Removing needles for mock rib or other patterns will tend to tighten the stitch gauge but may lengthen the row/round gauge.

Two sock yarn samples on different cylinders with different cam nut settings every 30-40 rounds.

Tension as set on the cam nut: The position of the cam nut determines how far down the needle pulls the yarn as it creates a stitch and makes the stitches “tighter” or “looser,” affecting both stitch and row/round gauge.  The cam nut is the main thing we usually think about when adjusting gauge, but it works in tandem with all the other factors listed here.

Using the ribber:  Knit and purl stitches tend to draw in when combined, giving a tighter stitch gauge when measured in a relaxed state.  Ribbing does stretch, though, and a stretched ribbed fabric will have the same gauge as a plain knit fabric if all the conditions of making it are otherwise the same.

Amount of weight hanging on the sock: The amount of weight hanging on the sock will affect how large stitches become.  Less weight means less pull and less yarn in each stitch.  More weight means more yarn can be pulled into each stitch.

Heel spring use:  The heel spring puts drag on the yarn, meaning that less yarn can get to each stitch because it’s being pulled taut.  That means both stitch and row gauge are generally tighter with the heel spring on.

Yarn used:  All fingering weight yarns are not exactly the same.  They will be of slightly different diameters which can fill the space between stitches and affect both stitch and row gauge.  The amount of nylon in the yarn, the twist or springiness of the yarn, and if you add a thread of lycra to the yarn will all affect the size of the stitches.

Special patterning:  Cables, Fair Isle patterning, and slipped stitches will all change the gauge of a sock.  Cables tend to affect stitch gauge more and slipped stitches will change row gauge more.

Resting and washing:  The gauge you measure when a sock is fresh off the machine will not be the same as the gauge after the same sock has rested and been washed.  When the yarn has been under tension, it is much more stretched.  In addition, some yarns will “bloom” after being washed, which also affects gauge.  For a true gauge check, the sock should at the very least rest until it has relaxed to it’s “normal” state and should usually be washed to determine how washing changes the yarn.

Knit fabric is stretchy, so there is some range in which a sock will fit comfortably.  For consistent results in gauge and sock width and length, all the above conditions should be the same from one sock to the next.

Making Mitts on the CSM

Making Mitts on the CSM

So far I’ve made two sets of mitts on my circular sock machine and they are quickly becoming my favorite project. There are no heels to turn and they are smaller than a sock so there is less cranking.  I make a hole for the thumb using this technique and do a bit of hand work to finish them with a hand knit thumb which is a comfortable thing for me to do as a hand knitter.  They have also taught me a lot about using my ribber.

You can take a look at the checklist I developed to make these mitts.  I’ve been using checklists like this for my projects because they help me remember to do all the steps for both items in a pair, and if I’m pulled away from the machine by family needs, I know where I am when I can return.

Since the mitts are ribbed from top to bottom and require starting with the ribber and then changing to less ribber needles and then back to more ribber needles, I had to really get more comfortable with my ribber.  In no particular order, here are some things that helped me:

  1. Slow down!  Stockinette on all cylinder needles pretty much behaves itself at all speeds as long as your tension is right and the yarn is feeding correctly.  At least on my machine, when the ribber and cylinder needles start working together, I need to slow down so the yarn feeds back and forth between those needles evenly.
  2. Watch the first round or two carefully after switching needle formations.  In addition to going more slowly, I carefully watched each needle close around the yarn after putting in the new needles.  Although I carefully check the latches to make sure they are open, by watching each needle, I can make sure each one is going to do its job and I didn’t accidentally brush a latch closed somewhere.
  3. Learn to do the needle transfers from cylinder to ribber as shown here.  At first I was using a pick tool to move the stitches and it stretches them out just enough that they were more prone to dropping.  This method leaves the stitch tight on the new needle.
  4. Watch the latches carefully when switching to and from waste yarn.  The other place I would drop stitches was when moving between waste yarn and project yarn because the knot would get in the way of a needle latch or the long tail pulled into the cylinder would change the angle of the yarn.  So I’ve learned to watch those areas carefully and help the yarn into a latch if it misses.

(Some of the links in this post are to Ravelry forums.  If you are working with a circular sock machine, there are several friendly and helpful groups on Ravelry– and joining Ravelry is free!)

First Adventures with a Hand Crank Circular Sock Machine

First Adventures with a Hand Crank Circular Sock Machine

As a combination Christmas/birthday present last week, my dear mother in law gave me an Erlbacher Gearhart Circular Sock Machine.  My machine is a Speedster, named so because it has a 1:1 gear ratio– one turn of the handle equals one turn of the carriage.

I started my adventures setting up the machine and doing lots of tubes and sample heels.

After I got comfortable with cranking out tubes and making heels and toes, I tried my first pair of socks.  I picked the simplest pattern possible– a shortie sock with no ribbing.  I used the socklet recipe given by Jocelyn in her fiberdev blog.  I used this video to learn how to make the hung hem and I used the manual that came with my machine and this video to make a quick and easy heel.  This video is a demonstration of this type of sock and it was really useful to watch although not meant as an instructional video.  Finally, this video helped me to Kitchener stitch the toes.

You can see more details for this sock on my Ravelry page.  These socks are loose around the ankles but comfortable in the foot.  I made them a little too long for my foot.

 

 

Next, I decided to make friends with my ribber.  For the most part, I used this video by Jenny Deters and followed it step by step.  I also watched the Erlbacher Gearhart videos specifically about using my ribber to get started.  I dropped a couple of stitches for a couple of rounds on one sock and didn’t notice till they had already repaired themselves, so I caught them with a safety pin and made a repair after the sock was off the machine.

This sock has ribbing on the top of the foot but is stockinette on the sole and it’s fully ribbed around the leg.  It fits really well and is surprisingly comfortable in a shoe.  I made these just a tad short.  You can see more details on my Ravelry project page.

 

My third pair of socks allowed me to try the final techniques I was interested in learning right away– toe up socks and mock rib stitch.  I used this video and this video to make the toe and then used the heel I’ve been using for the other projects.  I used this video to make the mock rib and this video to finish the hem.

These socks fit well in the foot (I finally found my magic number for rounds in the foot) and the mock rib held the socks up surprisingly well.  You can see my recipe for this sock on my Ravelry project page.

Learning to use a circular sock machine requires some detective work.  The manual that came with the machine has lots of the basics, but some things are better explained in the company’s videos and in videos by other “crankers”.  I found some great support in the Erlbacher Gearhart Ravelry Group, which is quite active, and also in the Circular Sock Machine Knitters 2.0 Facebook group.  I also started a Google Doc where I’ve been collecting names of methods with informational links as well hints and tips that seem useful.  There are a few things that I’ve read about but haven’t found a good explanation for yet.  You can see that document in view only format here— I’ll be adding to it and reorganizing it as I continue to learn.