SockTV: You can find the live stream of SockTV episodes on select Friday mornings at https://www.socktv.tv/live-broadcast. SockTV weeks are usually announced on the Erlbacher Gearhart Facebook and Ravelry pages and on the Circular Sock Machine 2.0 Facebook page (linked below). Over 130 archived episodes are available for $10/month from https://www.sockmachine.net/.
Ravelry has quite a few forums for circular sock machine knitters. Ravelry is a social media platform especially for knitters, crocheters, and weavers and requires a membership to join but it is free and is probably the most respectful of privacy of any online forum. Check out the following groups on Ravelry.
Manuals will have information on how to set up your machine, adjust tension, engage the heel spring, clean you machine, etc. New machines will come with a manual but you can also find manuals for antique machines here: https://cskms.org/resources/csm-manuals/
Note: I’m continuing to add to this post as I make more masks and learn more about how to make them effectively.
As I write this, my family is starting week 2 of sheltering in place here in northern California due to the outbreak of Covid-19. The internet is awash with patterns for cloth masks and many hospitals and medical centers are making formal requests for masks. I thought I’d share some of the information I’ve learned and tell you about the three masks I’ve tried.
First, many health care facilities have specific requests for what they want, so it’s probably best to check before you start making masks. Some are requesting specific designs, others have lists of specific fabrics they want used, and others will ask you specifically to use/not use elastic.
In addition, find out how your recipient plans to use the cloth masks. Some facilities are planning to use cloth masks only in low risk areas to save medical masks for high risk areas and others are hoping to use the cloth masks over medical masks to extend the use of the medical masks. Each of these situations requires different solutions. If you don’t have any other information, at least try to find out what their usage scenario is going to be. UC Berkeley School of Public Health is compiling a reliable list of locations that have requested masks.
I tried out three different patterns and then tried them on my face and my husband’s face to assess fit. I used different materials as liners and asked for feedback from my husband on comfort. I used cloth ties for all the patterns as some of the information I found said that the heat used for cleaning may degrade elastic quickly. (However, if you are making masks for the elderly or anyone with coordination issues, elastic might be easier to manipulate.) I washed all the fabrics in hot water and dried them on high heat so that they were preshrunk and I ironed everything before cutting.
The first pattern was called A. B. Mask – for a Nurse by a Nurse and this was, in my opinion, the best pattern of the three I tried. It had the best fit of the three and worked equally well on my husband and myself. It has both shaping darts and pleats. For this pattern I use a woven cotton fabric for the outside and the ties and a dense t-shirt fabric for the lining. The only change I made to the pattern was that I sewed the top and bottom dart first so that I could enclose them inside the layers before making the pleats. The t-shirt fabric was a little harder to breathe through due to its thickness, but according the the effectiveness information above, as a cotton blend, it would be about 70% effective against a virus. In my opinion, this would be the best mask to use over a medical grade mask (which it was designed for) and has the best fit as a replacement mask. This one took the longest to make but I think the results are superior. (A video tutorial for making this mask is available here.)
The second pattern I used was this Facemask pattern, which is a rectangular style mask with pleats. I added two long strips of fabric across the top and the bottom of the mask for ties instead of using elastic, in the manner described in the A. B. Mask, above. This one was made entirely of quilting cotton. It was fairly well fitting for both myself and my husband although it gapped just a little at the sides and the bottom. This was the second easiest mask to make and it went quickly. With just two layers of woven cotton, it was very breathable. This would be my second choice of patterns and would be best as a replacement for low risk situations as it might not completely cover a medical grade mask.
The third pattern was the Fu Face Mask which I tried because this style was specifically asked for on one of the medical sites I looked at. This is the style that has shaping across a center front seam but no pleats. I picked this particular pattern because it used cloth ties instead of elastic. On this one I used woven cotton for the outer layer and flannel for the inside layer. This design was the least well fitting of the three I tried but the easiest to make. I think if you were making masks only for yourself, this style could be adjusted for a particular face and made to fit well, but if you are making masks to donate, I don’t think it’s the ideal solution. The flannel as a lining was soft and didn’t bother me, but my husband felt it was wicking moisture quickly and found it uncomfortable. This pattern might be good for covering a medical grade mask, but I don’t feel the design is the best unless you can customize it to fit. (ETA 4-05-2020: I’ve tried a couple of other patterns for this style of mask and I think the ones that have a curve at the bottom of the mask provide a better fit. This one from the University of Utah is cut on the bias and I think that also helps to give it a better fit although it wastes more fabric.)
There are numerous sites popping up on Facebook to help those looking to make masks and distribute them. You can find some of them here and here and here and here and I’m sure there are more to come. I’d especially recommend looking for a group local to your area to make sure masks are distributed where they are needed. I hope you find this information useful and feel free to contact me with any questions.
Responses to questions and comments:
What about adding wire to the nose area? Some of the patterns (like this one) use wire or aluminum to make the nose area of the mask more adjustable. I’m concerned about using folded wire/pipe cleaners/twist ties, because I think in an industrial washing situation, the ends of the wire could work their way out of a mask. My husband and I discussed the aluminum solution, and I think curving the ends of an aluminum strip and sanding them would be the most sturdy and safe for washing and aluminum would not rust. We both wear glasses and we noted that they helped close the gap around the nose on all the mask styles.
A good solution I’ve seen is to add a piece of ribbon to the nose area where the wire can go and can be removed for washing.
What about using interfacing for a layer? I’ve read some comments that I couldn’t verify that the interfacing we use for sewing is a “melt blown fabric” like that used in medical grade masks. I couldn’t find any research as to how protective the interfacing actually was, so I chose not to use it without more information. My experience with using interfacing is that it tends to soften and thin after washing, so I’m not sure how that would affect its protective qualities after washing.
The same goes for shop towels. Although many have reported that they have better filtration than quilter’s cotton, they degrade after a few washings.
What about adding pockets for filter inserts? If the nurse or medical facility you are making masks for has access to filter inserts, I think this is a great idea. I didn’t have any to experiment with, so I didn’t try a pattern with a pocket. There are three ways you could add an opening pattern you like to a to insert a filter. One would be to finish the edges of both layers of the side or top of a two layer mask with folded fabric strips before enclosing the other edges. The second would be to add extra fabric to your pattern so you can fold and seam the edge before adding layers. This pattern shows an example of how to do that. The third method would require your lining fabric to be something like a t-shirt knit that does not fray, then you could simply sew a center seam to the inner lining and leave an opening, like the first example here.
What about using strips of t-shirt fabric for ties? Seems to work well, but if you are using them in a design with a channel, consider sewing a seam across the channel so they don’t come out during washing.
What if I need to make a lot of masks fast? Our area mask making group is getting requests for lots of masks! If you have access to elastic, the Deaconess pattern is probably one of the fastest to make. There is also a version on the website with ties that would be a second choice. To speed up the process, consider making a pleating jig like this one or this one. Rather than make one mask at a time, do each step assembly line style, making 5-10 masks at once and doing all of the first step, all of the second step, etc. You can “chain” your masks at the sewing machine and not cut the thread between each mask as you complete each step.
A mask with the shaping across the center seam and channels for elastic or ties like this one or this one would be a little slower to cut out but also fast to sew. For these patterns, you could use fabric ties from t-shirts as illustrated in this pattern (which is also a quick pattern).
River House is an elegant crescent shaped shawl worked in a cascade of lace patterns. It is worked top down with increases along the edges of both the right and wrong side rows to create the broad crescent shape. The pattern is CHARTED ONLY.
Two sizes are available– small and large– approximately 78”/198 cm(95”/ 241 cm) at widest point and 20”/51 cm(25”/63.5 cm) long at center. Small size is shown in the photographs.
Happy new year! If you are a regular reader of my blog, I apologize for the long period of silence this fall. This year I started teaching again in a 50% teaching position which seems to take 70% of my time! I have really enjoyed being back in the classroom and I’m lucky to be working at a small school where I get to spend time with both younger and older students!
Now that my routine has settled there, I’m hoping to get back to regular blogging. So let me catch you up on the knit-worthy goings on in the last three months!
I also used my Erlbacher Gearhart hand crank sock machine to make over 50 items for our local Homeless Garden Project Holiday Store that benefits programs for the homeless here in Santa Cruz, CA. I learned even more about what my sock machine can do and I’m planning to release some checklist style patterns for circular sock machines this spring.
I was a participating designer for the Indie Design Gift-A-Long and I helped moderate the Hands forum this year. If you don’t know about this great event on Ravelry, join the group and keep your eyes open in late November 2019 for the beginning of the sale and Gift-A-Long. It’s full of friendly people and starts with a sale of patterns from literally hundreds of independent designers! I managed to complete three great patterns by other indie designers this year: I made several Sheep Tape Measure Covers by Justyna Kacprzak as gifts, I completed the Sunstone hat by Triona Murphy, and I made the Christmas Tree Wrap by handmade by SMINÉ.
I also have FOUR new patterns that came out this fall!
The Simple Colorwork Mitts are an easy to knit pattern in worsted weight yarn that have three choices of colorwork for the tops of the mitts.
Lernen is a fingering weight lace shawl. It’s perfect for beginning lace knitters as it gradually adds new stitches as you work the shawl.
Drachen is a oversized fit drop shoulder sweater that was published in Knitty Magazine. It features a colorwork dragon motif around the hem.
Finally, the Stripes of Many Colors Cowl is the perfect way to use up the mini-skeins from a yarn advent calendar or any collection of mini-skeins or leftover yarn. You’ll need about 135 yards of a contrast color to use throughout the cowl, but I think you will love the results!
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!
It feels like I had a slow knitting month but I finished one major project. My On a Whim CustomFit pullover is finished! I modified the pattern slightly to have longer ribbing at the cuffs and hem. It’s way to warm for this sweater right now, but I look forward to wearing it this winter.
I started two new sweaters. Spanish Bay is another CustomFit sweater. I worked the ribbing by hand and did the stockinette portions on my LK-150 flatbed knitting machine. The pieces are assembled and I’m adding the lace border now. I’m doing a fun trick for the lace. The first three odd rows are yo, k2tog and the next three odd rows are ssk, yo. It’s over 200 stitches so that over 100 ssks to work. On the even (wrong side row) before the first yo, ssk row, I wrapped my yarn for the purls in the opposite direction. That changed my stitch mount so that all the stitches are “pre-slipped” on the right side so I just have to work them through the back loops. It was a bit of a trick to purl the “wrong” way for my usual knitting style, but it’s making things go much quicker on the right side rows.
My second sweater is a poncho/cardigan combo from Japanese Knitting (Pattern F). The yarn I’m using for this is Knit Picks Swish DK, which I think should be called “Squish” because it is sooo soft and squishy. I’m just getting started on this and it is my new endless stockinette pattern for social knitting.
I played a bit with working a lace pattern on my CSM and made a little cozy for a mason jar. I have to play with this a bit more and see if this would be a good use for leftover yarn from making socks.
In knitting I can’t show yet, I spent quite a bit of time working on swatches and samples for third party submissions. More info on that if/when they are accepted!
I’m so excited to announce a new pattern release! The Seetang Cowl is a cozy and richly-textured cowl that uses a semi-solid and variegated yarn to create undulating textured stripes in a slipped stitch pattern. Only one yarn is used per round in this rhythmic, easy-to-knit pattern and both written and charted instructions are provided.
I loved seeing all the variations my test knitters created! They will be adding their projects over the next few days so you can see everything from subtle to bold color variations for this pattern! Most test knitters completed this project in just a couple of days, so you know it will make a great last minute gift.
If you are a blog reader, please use the code SUMMER in Ravelry to receive 20% off this pattern through the end of July 2018.
In June I got a new set of needles– 150 to be exact– in the form of an LK-150 mid gauge knitting machine. About 17 years ago I acquired a 1960’s era standard gauge Brother knitting machine in a silent auction where I was the only bidder. I played around with it for a bit and made the parts to a drop shoulder baby sweater that was only recently completed. I’ve become a big fan of Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit program and recently stumbled across a post from someone doing a lot of the work on a knitting machine and finishing by hand. It seemed like a brilliant way to work through a lot of stockinette in a short amount of time. Just by chance, someone was selling an LK-150 in my area on Craigslist. It’s a much newer machine that can work with yarns from fingering to worsted. (The Brother is best for yarns lace to fingering.) I completed two projects on it in June:
First, I finished my Featherweight Cardigan. Although it’s laceweight yarn, it was started on US 6 needles, so it worked best with the LK-150. It took me about five days to complete with the help of the knitting machine. I made and washed a swatch to match my hand knit gauge, hung and finished the back I’d been working on, knit the ribbing for the fronts and sleeves by hand, then hung and knit them up. The final two days of the five were spent knitting the wide ribbed collar and buttonbands. I am very pleased with the results and am now able to wear this lightweight sweater as a morning layer.
Second, I played with a variety of methods for working Fair Isle on the LK-150 using this resource. I used the Christmas Stocking pattern from Faye Kennington and re-engineered it a bit to be made top down on the knitting machine with a hand knit heel and toe. That little stocking took me five days as well as I had to frog a lot of mistakes (the birds got knit upside down the first time, for instance). But by the end, I felt pretty confident I could work Fair Isle on the machine.
My hand knitting has been making a lot of progress despite my distraction with my new toy!
My yarn arrived and I finished my new shawl design. My hat is off to Anzula for their quality control on their colorways. I was prepared to blend in the new skein as it would be from a different dye lot, but the match was so good, I didn’t actually need to do that. Here’s a sneak peek. It will be up for test knitting soon in my Ravelry Group! Sign up to be a test knitter if you’d like to hear about this opportunity.
I also made a lot of progress on my On a Whim pullover. I’ll continue to work it by hand. I’ve finished the body of the sweater and am working the sleeve cap decreases on the first sleeve. One sleeve to go and it will be ready to sew together!
My first Fidget sock is complete and the toe is started on the second sock.
I also started a new knit along project with my friend in Kansas. We are making the Star Wars Double Knit Scarf. This one requires a lot of concentration. I think it will be on the needles for a while.
Finally, I spent a lot of time swatching for some possible third party submissions. I love swatching, to tell the truth. My swatches are fairly large but much smaller than a garment and I love having that canvas to explore ideas.
Some of my Teaching Packs build in practice before students begin the actual project. For instance, in the Learn to Knit Lace pack, the teacher notes instruct the teacher to have students cast on a swatch and practice the yarn over and the different types of decreases in a swatch before they cast on the actual headband pattern.
Why build in practice on a swatch first? Well, in this case, making left-leaning and double decreases requires some stitch manipulation that will be new to many students. By starting with a swatch, students only have to worry about one thing– making the stitch properly. They don’t have to worry about following the chart or written directions. They don’t have to worry about getting the right tension. They only have to worry about manipulating the stitches correctly.
When possible, teachers should look for ways to build in practice on new skills in isolation before applying them to a more complicated project. When it’s not possible, remind students that it’s just knitting, and if something doesn’t work, we can always pull out the yarn and start again.
This month, my friend Jahna and I got to meet up in San Francisco. We were wearing the sweaters we made as a friendship knit along. This was the third project that we’ve done together as a knit along.
The first was the BFF Cowl, which is a completely great friendship project. You each make two short scarves in different yarn and then you exchange one of them so that you have one that you knit in one color and one your friend knit in another color. Then you graft the ends together so that they form two interconnected rings.
The second project was a Cheveron Blanket. Being as they are big and bulky, we’ve never gotten our blankets together.
The sweaters are our most recent project. For this one, we both picked a sweater from CustomFit, and we picked out yarn from the same indie dyer, but Jahna did hers in a worsted weight yarn and with a longer length and I knit mine in sport weight and a shorter length. Jahna did some cool color blending on hers as well.
Looking for some ideas for friendship knitting projects? One book that we have looked at is Knit the Sky by Lea Redmond. This book is choke full of interesting possible projects, with a few that are specific to friendship knitting.