Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why don't I post more of my knitting?

Because I have too many things on my plate!

Knitting sheath  for with set needle adapters for straight DPN  in 7 sizes.

(this is California, where some are bent.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Knitting Sheaths for Swaving

The straight needle techniques that I have worked out for knitting with a knitting sheaths work better when the needle is held more or less securely and does not wiggle or slip out. Wiggle increases wear, thereby enlarging the hole and slipping out is a problem for beginning knitters, and it can result in the knitting needle popping out at an inconvenient time.  The first knitting sheaths that I made were often made of softer woods and wear was a real problem.  Knowing that many old knitting sheaths were made of ceramic, metal, or had brass liners, I tried lining the needle hole with brass, but this allow the needle to slip out easily and was never very satisfactory.  Thus, I put a lot of effort into designing needle holes that simply did not allow needle wiggle, and thus were simply more durable.  These holes hold the needle with friction and do not allow the needle to accidentally slip out.

However for swaving, the needle needs to rotate easily in the needle hole. My holes that grip the needle are not suitable.  However, needle holes lined with metal or ceramic are very suitable.

I think we can go back to P. C. Brears, The Knitting Sheath, and understand that the knitting sheaths made of ceramic and metal, or with metal liners such that the needle could rotate freely in the needle hole, were likely for swaving, although they could also be used for knitting.

These days, I use needle adapters lined with brass for swaving.

Monday, November 26, 2012

more Swaving

The key to ergonomic swaving is the correct needles.  When I first made up swaving needles, I was working from a sample of  a glove needle, and I tried to scale it up to 6" and 8" needles.  It does not work.  The longer needles were not ergonomic  :  (  As I found out!

The sample glove needle had a 90 degree bend in the middle, so as it rotates in the knitting sheath, the tip describes a circle with a radius of 2".  Turns out that is about right for my hands/style.  If I take a 6" sock needle and put a 90 degree bend in the middle, then the tip describes a circle with a radius of 3". That does not work as well for me.

Now, I bend the 6" and 8" needles much more gently so that as they rotate in the knitting sheath their tips describe a circle with a radius of ~ 2" or less -- yes-- the gentile curve that we see in old needles.  About the gentile curve that we see in well used wooden or bamboo needles.

However, swaving needles have a ball tip, with essentially no taper. My swaving needles started as sock needles, but now the tips have been ground round, because that works much better. Note that it is much easier to grind the tips before bending.  : (  My needles are hard to bend. Addis are much easier, but they are plated, so you do not want to go grinding Addi tips.  Some steel DPN are made from tubing, which is likely to crumple when bent.

The needle is "popped" into the stitch, yarn looped, then both hands push down and out in a short, brief, powerful motion. In my style,as the hands are pushed down, the palm or ball of the thumb pushes the upper end of the knitting sheath down about 3/8" of an inch, the knitting sheath pivots, and the working needle levers the yarn through the stitch using the leg of the last stitch as a fulcrum, while at the same time pushing the working stitch open to allow the loop of yarn to come through. This happens suddenly!  The needle with its loop of  yarn pops through, and the small (3/8") motion of the left hand slides the stitch off the needle.

The system allows very large forces to be applied to the knitting. And the system works better when the firmness of the fabric can add to the "spring" that pops the stitch.  At this time, I actually do not know if the system will produce the soft fabrics produced by CYC ( recommendations. I have been knitting medium (4) yarn on 2.38 mm needles at 7 spi (28 s/4").  I like the fabric. I do have some finer needles, and someday, I will move on to finer yarns.

Swaving is very good for crossed stitches, and it is very good for garter stitch.

/Edited on 7/27/2013  Here I was knitting crossed garter stitch.  Eastern Crossed stitch at a firm gauge is not possible with blunt pricks./

 Likely, one of the reasons for the popularity of crossed stitch fabrics in the old days was that crossed stitched garter results in fabric that has a minimum number of stitches per area, and thus was fast (cheap) to knit.

The process works with firm and very firm fabrics.  The produced fabric is more like high quality machine knit sock fabric than like most modern "hand-knit" fabric. (This may just be me as I like this fabric.)

Stitches tend to lay along the curve of the needles right down to the tip.  Dropping stitches is a much larger problem, but ladders and even tension is less of a problem.

On can knit/purl with swaving needles, but swaving does not happen with straight needles.  One can use the same knitting sheath, but the needles are not really interchangeable for production work.   For me at least, ordinary knitting/purling with a knitting sheath and curved needles is much slower than ordinary knitting/purling with a knitting sheath.  On the other hand knitting/purling with a knitting sheath is much faster than knitting/purling without a knitting sheath.

I have not figured out how to purl with a swaving motion. I have to just purl.

/Edited on 7/27/2013 - I have gotten very good at purling using the swaving motion.  It just took a lot of practice./

Thursday, November 22, 2012


My wife was napping, the sauces were simmering, and I was putting fingers on some new ski gloves.

One of the needles was a second (not good enough to sell) and I had tossed it in my knitting bag, and then grabbed it as I sat down to knit. It had ball points.  I was thinking, "A ball tipped glove needle is an oxymoron!"  It poked my palm, so on the next round, I bent it.

And on the next round, everything conspired, and I was swaving.  Yes, today I give thanks that at long, long, last I understand ergonomic swaving.  It turns out the path to swaving is through mittens, red wine, and turkey gravy. And, yes, long ago I was correct about Yorkshire Goosewings being designed to pivot on the point of the hip, I was just wrong about the motion used to drive them.

They are pushed down with the ball of the thumb, and the spring of the fabric causes them to spring back.  It is like magic.  It can be done with other styles of sheaths.  In this case I was using a Durham design.

I had to go dig out all of those swaving needles that I made so long ago.  Now, I know how to use them.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tools for knitting gloves

I understand that new new edition of The Hand Knitters of the Dales will be out shortly, and I thought I should revisit glove making tools.

Certainly, in 1848, knitters in the Dales were still knitting a full range of items, and would have used a full range of knitting tools including long gansey needles and knitting sheaths optimized for such long needles. However, commercial hand knitting of fine women's gloves persisted into the 1930s.  Ladies gloves were the last commercially produced hand knit objects in Yorkshire.  Later Shetland and Bohus professional knitters used leather knitting pouches.

This post is about the tools that I have found to be most useful for knitting gloves.

I differ from most authors writing bout knitting sheaths (including Peter C. D. Brears) because I make knitting sheaths of various materials, styles, and sizes, then I knit with all the tools that I make.  The tool making informs the knitting, and the knitting informs the tool making.

Early on, I found bout 11 different knitting techniques that used a knitting sheath. or knitting stick. Some used the spring action of the needle, some used the spring action from the rebound of the knit fabric, and some used the elasticity of the cow band or the spring action of the compression of the knitter's abdominal tissue.  These spring action motions were faster than knitting that required two separate motions of the hand controlling the working needle. ("Cow band" the technical term for the belt that holds a knitting sheath.)

For a very long time, I thought that long knitting sheaths supporting short needles required two separate motions of the hand controlling the working needle.  I knit a large number of very nice socks and mittens this way, and everyone was amazed at how fast I could knit.   However, I thought the the two separate motions were intrinsically slower than gansey knitting with long steel needles .I tried using pieces of gansey needles with brass tubing to act as springs shorter needles.  I tried a lot of stuff.  A lot of it did not work.

 I have found that large knitting sheaths can use the elasticity of the cow band and the knitter's abdomen to deliver a spring action that be used to drive small (sock & glove) needles. It is really not that uncomfortable.  It would not be that bad to knit 50 pair of mittens in year using this technique.  What is required is a fairly large, broad knitting sheath and an elastic cow band.  After much evolution, the tool kit that I like for gloves is:

I use a cow band of hand knit garter stitch about 2" wide.  It goes around my waist twice, and is knotted.

I use a big knitting sheath of pine with chip carving that tends to help stabilize it in place. (It is tucked into the cow band.)  That thing is 14" long.  It is ugly, but it works.  It is not something most people would drag around and use to knit in public.

I use 6" long US 1 DPN for the cuffs and wrists. (set of 5)

I use 4" long glover's needles in sizes 1, 0, 00, and 000.  (I work with sets of 4.)

And, I like a fine steel crochet hook.  Not shown is the tapestry needle that is always in the knitting bag.

The system is wicked fast, and produces fine uniform product.

The patterns that I like for making gloves that fit are in Mary Thomas's Knitting Book.   Good patterns for mittens are in Latvian Mittens by Lizbeth Upitis .   However, I change the gauge around, and knit much tighter fabrics.  I do this, because tighter fabrics are warmer and more durable. And, I do it because I can.  A knitter with a knitting sheath can easily knit fabrics that are much tighter than any fabric knit by a hand knitter without a knitting sheath. Thomas's and Upitis mittens are better than those in Weldon's.  Robin  Hansen's Favorite Mittens has some useful material in it, and has more about fit than Upitis and less than Thomas.

A knitter with a knitting sheath can easily use the small fine glovers' needles. Trying to use such needles without a knitting sheath is a slow and uncomfortable process.  This is why we do not see many glovers' needles anymore.  And cables? they just cannot keep up at all.

Commercially knit gloves may have had cuffs and wrists that were produced using swavling.  Swavling is a knitting technique where the rebound of the fabric provides the spring action for fast knitting.  Swavling is done with blunt, curved needles called "pricks" and it also required a knitting sheath.  In swavling the prick rotates in the knitting sheath.  Swavling can be very fast, and produce a very fine, uniform fabric, however it is high effort!