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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!)
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.