Saturday, 14 April 2018

Postcards from Sweden: crochet version

I am so excited to show you my latest creation!

YAAAAAAAY!!!  When I saw the Postcards from Sweden quilt pattern from Jeliquilts here, it was love at first sight.  However, I couldn't afford to quilt it, because this would tie me in to making 2 quilts plus a crochet blanket.  You see, one boy has a crochet blanket so the other was clearly owed one.  I didn't dare add quilting debts to this.  So I had to make the Postcards from Sweden as a crochet blanket for the smallest boy.

Because I cannot step away from the day job, I matched the yarn colours to the original Kona fabrics by writing a python script.  What else would you do?!

The very lovely Kelly has kindly agreed that I can share my colour list with you so you can recreate her work in yarn too!  You'll need to head on over here to download her free pattern, but really you only need to print pages 6 and 7 which describe her layout.  From there, you can write in the yarn colours in to her handy chart and then it's a crochet-by-numbers exercise, and a very lovely one it is too.

Here's the yarn colours I used, numbered to match the original quilt scheme:

  1. Tomato
  2. Matador
  3. Lulk *
  4. Pomegranate
  5. Sage
  6. Green
  7. Pistachio
  8. Leuven *
  9. Citron
  10. Apricot
  11. Saffron
  12. Spice
  13. Pistachio
  14. Kelly Green
  15. Aspen
  16. Cloud Blue
  17. Denim
  18. Turquoise
  19. Empire
  20. Lapis
  21. Sherbet
  22. Wisteria
  23. Magenta
  24. Amstelveen *
  25. Amstelveen *
  26. Lavender
  27. Lipstick
  28. Amersfoort *
  29. Lulk *
  30. Clematis
  31. Fondant
  32. Fondant
  33. Knokke *
  34. Spice
  35. Sunshine
  36. Spring Green

All colours are Stylecraft Special DK, except those marked with an asterisk which are Scheepjes Colour Crafter.  That's 31 distinct colours, I used less than 100g of each colour.

The border is made up of three additional Stylecraft colours:

  1. Grey
  2. Graphite
  3. Cream

In terms of the blocks, they're a solid granny square of UK treble crochet worked in two colours at once, which is achieved by reversing the work direction.  I bring you a diagram:

I worked 6 rounds for each block.  The only non-standard bit is where you reverse direction - after 2 ch, slst into the start of the round, then turn the work and slst back over the ch and then get ready to ch 3 to act as your first tr and you're away again.

Don't worry if the diagram is opaque - I made some video tutorials, so hopefully the diagram will be a good reminder once you have watched them.

There are three parts to the videos:

  1. Round 1
  2. Round 2
  3. Round 3

For the border, I used 5 rounds of linen stitch from the Attic24 blog here.  The colour order is Grey, Cream, Graphite, Cream, Grey.  Again, I was just trying to mimic my favourite quilt binding I've seen on the postcards quilt!

I found it important to keep track of all the squares by storing them on stitch markers as I made them to keep them in order.  Scrap yarn through a square corner would do just as well.

It's like a rainbow slug on my floor.
My squares curled, as you can see in the image above.  It was necessary to block them to 5"x5".  The most painless way is a blocking board - slip them over the pegs and shoot steam at them from above with a hot steam iron - it's enough to relax the synthetic fibres. 

There's no need to fork out for a posh blocking board as long as you've got access to an electric drill and some MDF.  I've heard some people suggest 3mm DPNs as good blocking pegs, but you can save your pennies - 3mm stainless steel rod is widely used in remote control hobby aircraft, so grab yourself some cheap on eBay.  I bought mine too long and owe thanks to my Dad who chopped them up with his grinder.  Sorry Dad.  Then just drill yourself some holes and pop the pegs in.

The blocks are whip-stitched together (I didn't want a visible seam - I wanted to match the quilt look as close as I could).

My little boy now has his own blanket which will doubtless get trashed in den building (as it should be, of course).  If you have kids and are not sure if the blanket is needed - it always is.  Did I mention they look as good as new after a machine wash and tumble dry?!

In my gauge the blocks are 5" square and the blanket comes out approximately double bed sided.  For scale, a real human on the blanket:

Once again, huge thanks to Jeliquilts for offering her quilt pattern to us all for free.  I can honestly say I enjoyed every single stitch I made to re-create her work in yarn.

You might be interested to know that I have started a crochet blanket for me now.  There's no pulling the wool over the kid's eyes (no matter how rainbow coloured) and they've spotted I already made myself a quilt, so have placed their own quilt orders accordingly.  I'd have got away with it if it weren't for those pesky kids...

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Turning lace patterns upside down

This post isn't news to the knitting world, but since there seems to be quite a bit of confusion about it on forums when you google "knit lace pattern upside down" or somesuch, I thought it was worth a post.

Lets say (like me) you want to knit a seamless cardigan from the top down, but you want to include an all-over lace pattern.  Most lace charts are written bottom-up, at least in the stitch-dictionary on my shelf.  Maybe instead you are knitting a lace scarf and don't want to knit two shorter ones with a graft in the middle.  What to do?

Some A lot of posts on forums breezily suggest "just turn the chart upside down and replace decreases by increases!"  Don't listen to them, my friends.  While this may work for some lace patterns, it won't work for all.  And it may well look different from the lace knitted right-way-up, so I wouldn't try to match the two.

It is true you can expend a lot of brainpower and swatching time to devise an upside-down chart that retains most of the design features of the original pattern, but it might well not look the same in some key features.  There's a reason to graft your scarf in the middle!

Here comes an example:

This cute pattern of three holes is called "little flowers" in my stitch dictionary, or perhaps it's really little hearts.  Either way, it's cuter this way up than inverted ("little stack of bowling balls"?)  The chart is thusly:

Knitted bottom-up, you make the middle yarn-over (yo) on row 1, then the two yo on the next knit row 3.

Now turn the chart upside down.  You will make the two yo as your first pattern row - you can either make the decreases outside them, or switch to one centred double decrease in the middle.  By the issue comes when it's time to stack that last yo symmetrically on top of and between the lower pair.  There's a single stitch where we want our yo to go.  Where to put it?

The most obvious is to k2tog before the yo, or else yo then ssk.  Both these options lead to a "fat" bit between two of the holes, one side or the other, depending on which side you "got rid" of that central stitch to.  For clearer diagrams of this effect and how you can use it to make deliberate lace patterns, see here.

Here's my swatch:

Looking at the swatch above, the lowest motif is the original lace pattern worked from bottom up.  The next one up is the chart knitted upside down with a centred double decrease between the two yarn-overs.  Note that the pattern is no longer symmetrical - there's a fat bit between the bottom right hole and the central hole on top, due to the ssk before the last yo on row 3.

How do we get rid of the fat bit?  I tried two options.  The top motif in my swatch is the following chart:

I make one extra stitch on the purl row 2 by purling into the front and back of the central stitch, then I get rid of it again by doing symmetrical decreases around my top yo on row 3.  Symmetry is restored, but the pattern is less delicate - instead of a little yarn twist between the holes, there are fat bits on both sides where stitches have been knitted together leaning in both directions.

The second motif down is a bizarre non-standard variation on this theme, where the top hole is created by making the central stitch on the purl row very loose*, then on row 3 knitting into both sides and the top to pull it open.  I don't recommend it, and it looks much the same as my other symmetrical option which is easier to describe and execute.

* Insert needle into stitch to be knitted, yarn round needle twice, pull through stitch.  Like making a yo part way through the stitch.

The essential difference is that stitches are shifted by 1/2 stitch knitting top-down relative to bottom-up.  Think about the shift in the peaks vs troughs in a wave, or the number of fingers on your hand vs. gaps between them.  So, there's no easy way I can think of to exactly replicate the effect of knitting bottom-up while knitting top down.

In summary, I will be knitting my lace cardigan bottom-up with the original chart.

Friday, 11 March 2016


Going back in time a little bit here, because I never posted the BEST SOCKS EVAR (capslock totally necessary).  Knitted toe-up, two at a time with Trailing Clouds Nimbus Self Striping Sock, in colourway "Mind the Gap".  Ravelry project page here.

There is nothing better than socks in the colour of the London Tube lines.  This yarn is the BEST.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Advent Calendars in March

Patting myself on the back for this one - I finished the second Advent Calendar (see here for the first one), even though I totally didn't want to.  But I wouldn't want to do it any the more for leaving it until November so YAY me - made room in the diary for more Christmas Crafting later in 2016!

Monday, 29 February 2016

Inside Nellie


I don't know how much terminology is common between knitting machines, and I don't know how much terminology is familiar to machine knitters.  However, I hope this post might be useful to you if you are sitting with a Toyota Elena Auto 7 (Toyota K747) knitting machine and you're thinking of taking it apart.  Sorry if the terminology is odd or unfamiliar, I only know what words are in the service manual.  I have never machine knitted in my life yet (I had to fix my machine before I could begin), so sorry if I am aiming the technical talk too high or low.

Getting to the mechanisms

Main body of machine lifted out of casing

The first thing we did was take the sponge bar out, ready to later strip and replace the sponge with two layers of 9mm draft excluder (thanks ebay) and a layer of fusible interfacing (better sponge/interfacing combo yet to be purchased).

Then we removed the screws in the blue casing (as indicated in service manual) and eased the main machine out of the casing.  You can see this stage in the above picture - the casing is sitting behind the bottle of Meths and has become a dumping ground for space screws and notes.  The refurbished sponge bar is sitting in front of the machine.

The next stage was to remove the rest of the blue/cream plastic casing from the top of the machine.  The service manual gives screw locations for this, some of which are hidden underneath the knobs if I remember correctly.

Needle selection mechanism

The needle selection mechanism is revealed.  The blue "S" levers can be actuated by hand or by punch-card, and the red "J" lever can be used to choose between these options or reset the S levers.  More of this later.  There are some white cogs visible around where the knobs were - the leftmost winds the punch-card in, and the right "zig-zag" knob sets the position of the 12-stitch pattern relative to the central needle.  Rotating this moves the entire top mechanism (pattern board?) along relative to the needle bed.

It turns out there is a little bell underneath the zig-zag knob that rings when you've moved the needle selector (by applying wrench under front left of machine).  Obviously this charming "feature" wasn't working for us until after the overhaul because the whole machine was seized.  It's not working any more either, because I shoved some sponge inside the bell so that I can stealth-knit when the children are asleep.

Underneath the machine

Flipping the machine over, you need to be careful not to damage the needles, so best have them hanging over the edge of the table, or removed (as we did).

On the bottom, you can see a variety of plates which I'm going to do my best to describe.  The biggest pair of plates are named "J installing boards" or somesuch (the manual refers to them by more than one name), while the next biggest pair are the "S installing boards".  I think the names may derive from the shape of the linkages attached to them, if that helps you to remember while reading the manual.

Anyways, all the plates are bolted to the underside of the needle bed joint plate at the front of the machine, and have linkages with cams that work into slots on the "working board" - a metal bar that runs the length of the needle bed and moves back/forth and side to side as the needle selector is actuated.  The working board has a big spring that attaches it to one side of the machine (bottom right corner of picture below).

The J installing boards have their back end bolted to one of the two long metal plates that support all the pattern selector levers and gubbins ("J feed plate" and "J pedestal plate").  The S installing boards have their back end bolted to the "S rest plate", which on the other side has a bunch of black notched plates, named "S pattern plates" or "S boards" or something (the names get a bit confusing).  There are a bunch of other smaller plates to set working distances and keep it all square.

How it works

Here is (approximately) how it works.  The needles are selected by your fingers on the blue S-levers, or by the punchcard which also flicks those blue levers.  The levers have little legs underneath which sit astride some rods (the "S rods" or something).  The clever stuff happens when you actuate the big "needle selection mechanism" lever with a wrench on the bottom left of the machine.  When selected, the lever engages with the rod below it and flicks it to the side, which flicks up the corresponding S board (with the notches on top).  The S boards are then moved toward the needles, and the ones that have been selected (moved up in their mount by the rod) push on the needles, moving them to the appropriate position.  Ta-dah!

The S/J lever mechanism has been removed here, and you can see the S-rods poking through the S boards.
There are 23 S-rods, to account for the full range of pattern positioning (only 12 of these are aligned with the 12 S-levers at any time, dependent on the zig-zag dial setting.  There are a bunch of tiny springs on half of them.

S pattern plates / S boards or whatever they're called
Here follows a little sequence of images as the needle selection lever is progressively moved.

1.  Not yet moved

2.  J feed plate moves forward (left hand side) and engages S levers with S rods, selecting the S boards

3.  S rest plate and all S boards move forward and select needles


We took apart every single thing except the black stack of S-boards and the armature pivots that had been riveted.  Everything was cleaned with auto degreaser and re-lubricated with lithium grease.  There are a LOT of contact surfaces, so thoroughness is key because little bits of friction can add up.  If you look carefully at the photos you can see my scribblings where I used permanent marker to label the pieces with their names and mark positions.  I also scribed important location marks into the metal with a knife as auto degreaser removes the pen and basically everything including all the moisture in my palms.  (Dammit.)

If you use blu-tak to secure each screw you remove near the hole it came out of, then you can even get the whole thing back together again without losing a screw.  Except the one that gets blu-taked to your sleeve accidentally, but don't worry, that one gets found safely on your arm when you go the computer to look for a replacement on eBay, so you never have to press "buy" ;-)

As you can imagine, most of the yarn-related fluff is under the needle bed.  You can get all the needle springs out to clean in here.  There are a reasonable number of screws, but it's not that tricky once you're in there.  Also, the needle bed joint plate has a bunch of fluff inside, and you have to carefully peel off the needle numbers from the other side to get to the bolt-heads so you can steady them while you undo the nuts on the underside.  You'll need double-sided tape when you reassemble this bit (the sinker comb is 100 individual 2-prong pieces), plus some spray-adhesive for putting the numbers back on again (for heavens sake, spray the adhesive on the number strip underside NOT onto the machine needle bed!!!)

The trickiest parts were:
1.  Guiding the S rods back through the S boards (start at one end, with the rods angled slightly, and align each one in turn as you bring the parts parallel again).  It's a two-man job, unless you build yourself a jig like the one they have in the manual.
2.  Getting the little springs back on underneath the S lever mechanism.  I used button-thread to pull them through and ease them on.

If you are reading this because you have your Toyota K747 in bits all over your table: good luck!  I wonder if this post will prove to be as dull as I anticipate, or unexpectedly popular?  After all, my most visited page on my last blog concerns repairing washing machine tachometers, and it's proved a hard post to beat in terms of viewing numbers :-S

Saturday, 9 January 2016

I promised photos of the insides

Knitting Nellie is now in bits; there must be over 1000 and we've not even tackled the carriage(s) yet.  Behold: the main body of the machine is in pieces.

Mr B has cleaned all 200 needles (because he's a legend) and together we've probably made it through half of the machine insides so far.  Just the J-linkage system to go (the bit with all the needle selector levers and punch card feeder).  Some of the linkages we've cleaned so far have been completely seized solid - no wonder the needle selection lever wouldn't move!  The old lubricants have gone solid with age and dirt and need to be cleaned away and replaced with new grease.

In this photo you can see that the sinker comb is made from 100 double-prongs stuck to the brown double-sided tape.  Also, check out that fluff accumulation!  No regrets about taking this to bits so far.  Actually, it's pretty enjoyable.  This machine is an incredible creation.

Knitting machine with a beard.
My new double-sided carpet tape has arrived which means we can put the sinker comb back together and start putting bolting the bits back onto the needle bed!  I can't wait!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Knitting Nellie!

Father Christmas brought me something special last year!  A few days before Christmas, I took the boys to collect a wonderful new toy from a very kind lady who was giving away her late mother's knitting machine.  I am very grateful indeed for her kindness, and I only hope I can live up to the previous owner's skills.  I have zero machine knitting experience to my name so far, but my aim is fair-isle Christmas jumpers for the boys by the end of 2016.  I've got 12 months.

This is knitting Nellie!

It's a Toyota K747 punch-card knitter with lace carriage, intarsia carriage, knit tracer and a bunch of manuals.  Also blank punchcards!  Very exciting!

It also comes with a marvellous range of 1980s pattern books, which I am very excited to dip into and make the boys wear!  Fair-isle dolly mixtures!  What more can I wish for?

Note the reindeer, centre bottom.  You're looking at my 2016 Christmas jumpers right there!

The knitting machine has sadly seized since its last use, so needs completely cleaning and re-oiling.  Fortunately both myself and my husband like to take things to bits, and this marvellous blogger has provided the full service manual online.  That shortens the take-to-bits time considerably by telling us the order to take the bolts out, and giving us a preview of the guts and how they work.  Mr B wants to call this a "re-build" to set expectations as to timescale (lengthy) and I suppose that's fair.

The sponge bar had degraded to such a sticky mess that the first job was to remove all 200 needles and use meths to remove the gunk stuck to them.  Mr B volunteered to do the lot (what a legend) in return for me sometimes letting him do the screwdriver bits... ha ha.

Anyway, the stage we're at currently is that the main body is out of the blue casework and I've labelled all the plates using a marker pen using the terms from the manual to help us in our quest.  Mr B has spent 3 hours cleaning needles and I've purchased 4 rolls of draft excluder to try as the replacement sponge.  Over the next few nights we'll be taking the main body to bits to get inside the needle bed where the rest of the decayed sponge bar has disintegrated.  Then we'll be exploring why the needle selector mechanism has seized.  Mr B has brought the lithium grease in from his garage as a mark of his commitment to the knitting cause.

Expect very little sewing or hand-knitting progress in the meantime, and potentially many photographs of knitting machine insides.  YaaaaAAAAAY!