As promised in my last post, this is all about how I knit a body and sleeve on my machine in preparation for hand knitting a yoke. I have knit myself four yoke jumpers in this way: my puffin cardigan, heritage puffin, fair isle yoke and my birthday yoke and without blowing my own trumpet, I have been quite pleased with how they came out. Its quite hard to explain and I’m not going to go into a huge amount of detail, machine knitting very much has its own language (some of which I still don’t understand) and I am very much a visual learner so to try and explain what I do it a bit tricky!
Fair isle yoke jumpers and cardigans have become a classic in Shetland knitting culture over the last 50 years or so. I have quite a few in my collection and although they are beautiful to look at (in my opinion) what made them so popular was the fact that they were easy to make and therefore many were made. Shetland knitwear was big business and a yoke was an economical thing to make. The body and sleeves could be knitted on a machine then the stitches picked up and the yoke hand knitted, Many family’s in Shetland would knit bodies for yokes in their spare time for extra income and there was a huge demand, in relation to the kinds of machines people would and still do use there is two types: the more industrial machine and the more typical domestic machine
These Dubied kntting machines, also know as V-bed machines were used both in the industrial setting (here at Adies in Voe) and the domestic setting in peoples homes. I did learn to use these machines at college and they are serious pieces of kit. A V-bed is named because their are two beds of the machine arranged in.. you guessed it.. a v shape! A knitting machine with one bed can only makes knit stitches so when you are going back and forth on the machine every row is knitted, this is where you need a ribbing attachment for the machine. This makes it possible to do all manner of ribbing as the two beds are what makes it possible to make a purl stitch with a knit stitch. This blog is great for seeing a modern knitwear designer using dubied machines.
The machine that I have and use for most of my machine knitting is a Silver Reed SK840 with a Knitmaster ribbing attachment. This is a standard guage knitting machine suitable for 4ply yarns. My icelandic yoke body was knit on a Zippy 90 chunky knitting machine suitable for aran and chunky yarns, it is worth looking on ebay as knitting machines turn up a lot on there, thats where I bought my zippy and my ribber.
for some people, knitting a body and sleeves is fine as you have the excitement of the yoke coming to keep your momentum going but for me and perhaps because I was mainly a machine knitter before I did a lot of hand knitting, I can’t see the point of all that plain knitting when you could do it on a machine a lot quicker! The way I knit my bodys is I knit the back, front (one or two depending if your making a jumper or cardigan) and the two sleeves flat and then pick all the stitches up and knit the yoke.
if you hand knit a jumper in the round, you knit the body and both sleeves individually then join them together to knit the yoke like so..
So by doing it in flat pieces it looks like this when you pick it up, you can of course seam the pieces together before you pick it up which is what Kate did for the Cockatoo Brae cardigan we made. I usually use a 100cm circular needle for this and then go down to a smaller needle as the decreases go.
The first thing you need to do when planning for making your body on the machine is do do a tension swatch, I just cast on about 20 stitches and do a generous sized swatch. You can do different levels of tension on the main carriage, but make sure to mark between them
By doing this you will know if you need to knit extra rows for length (which I usually do) The next stage is to take your pattern and rewrite it out for you knitting it on the machine. This sounds like a frap but once you do it, it makes it a lot easier. A knitting machine has a centre point marked with a Zero with it marked out in 5 needle increments so I write everything out as either side of the zero. For instance this is how I wrote out the sleeves for one of my yokes:
- 54 stitches – 27 either side
- knit 1/1 rib for 28 rows, transfer all stitches to main bed
- knit 18 rows straight
- increase 1 stitch either side
- k4 rows
- repeat 22 times until 50 stitches either side
- slip 7 stitches either end to waste yarn
- knit 10 rows in waste yarn
- remove from machine
I have found that by knitting a few rows on waste yarn takes the stress out of picking up the stitches when you come to put them on the needle to begin hand knitting. I have found that by picking up the loop before removing the waste yarn makes for a very tidy pick up.. like so:
And from that stage you just join everything together and follow the pattern as is, if you are doing a cardigan just cast on about 10 steek stitches or if its a jumper slip stitches til you get to the point in the pattern marked as the beginning of the round!
I plan on making myself a Cockatoo Brae cardigan this winter, (after I’ve done all my Christmas orders of course) so I will do a post with a bit more of a stage by stage process for you.
I’ve been struck down by a horrible festive cold – definitely not helped by my going out on Saturday night (ahem ahem) so apologies for not getting this post up til today. Speak soon,
oh also.. thank you all for the lovely comments on my last post, very appreciated as always :)