I had little experience of using a domestic knitting machine before so I was excited to be able to learn how to knit properly and create samples.
We started the week by having a talk with Julia (one of the knit tutors) about what knit is – what it is used for and how we can use these examples as inspiration in our own work. We were shown examples of designers and artists whose focus is on knit; this would help start us off for researching the subject. We also went through our Box Clever collection and discussed how the colours, patterns and textures of objects in the box could be translated into knit. We were told to focus on colour as this would be the easiest way to represent an object through knitting. I found this element of knit quite difficult.
On the first day we learnt how to thread up the knitting machine; cast on, changing the colour and holes & ladders. This was quite a lot of information to take in at once but I managed to try all to the techniques except the holes and ladders. The threading up was important as this can often be why the knitting does work – if there is a problem with the knit the first thing to check is the threading up. Once I threaded up a couple of times I understood it; it was quite similar to threading up a sewing machine. This can also effect the tension; the tension is also controlled on the carriage. On the first day I was playing around with the tension; trying yarns on a really tight tension vs a very loose tension.
We learnt how to do stripes of colour but I found that every time I wanted to change the colour it would pull the knitting off the machine. This was extremely frustrating and I couldn’t figure out why it was happening. To combat this is I found that if I pulled the needles out (like when knitting the first few rows) and moved the carriage across slowly, this helped to make sure the knitting did not fall off. Also, holding the yarn as it moves across the first row of knitting (to keep the tension) also helped to keep it on the machine.
I did attempt the holes and ladders but I couldn’t get the hang of the transfer tool which meant that the holes didn’t close up properly; they also created big unintentional holes. I kind of got the ladders right but I was getting a lot of looping and gaps at the side of the sample – which wasnt ideal. These can be cut away but it increases the chance of the yarn becoming loose and creating a bigger hole at the side of the fabric.
The next day we learnt the “hooking up” technique. This I really enjoyed. We were shown how to hook up all the way across the knitting, half way across and random hooking up. (This technique creates a ledge – interesting when done with strips of colour) I found that I really liked hooking up halfway across the fabric; this manipulated the material and created interesting movement to the piece. The random hooking up didn’t work so well for me, as I couldn’t get the hooked up stitches to stay; they kept dropping. This day we also learnt how to create cording. It was very quick and easy to do. I created lots of the cording’s and stitched them together, layering them on top of a plain knitted sample. This added lots of texture and colour variations. The “increasing” technique was relatively simple; all it required was that you bring down one needle at a time on each side of the knitting. This technique enables you to create a much larger sample very quickly without the need to cast on the entire length. The “decreasing” however is a bit harder because you can’t just remove the needles. You need to take the transfer tool and move across the stitch on either side and move it over one. Then remember to push back the needle into “A” position – or “out of action”. This ensures that the machine will not stitch on the outside needles. You can move each stitch over one or more, the more you move over the quicker and more severe the decrease will be.
The next couple of techniques we learnt were some of my favourites. I ended up using them a lot during the rest of the workshop. We learnt e-wrapping; adding in a thicker yarn by hand (to avoid the machine clogging up if it’s too thick to knit with). You can also use thinner yarns, and this technique can be useful to build up layers of colour and texture. You can create more figurative , organic shapes with this technique. I also like the fringing technique, this also helped to create interest and texture in the knitted sample. The fringing was done with a ruler; wrapping the yarn around the ruler and attaching the yarn to the hooks of the needles.
The last day of the workshop for week one was independent working in which I spent my time going over previous techniques… a lot. I wanted to “master” the holes and ladders because every time I tried this in the past they would create extra holes or not look right. I used this day just to practise, practise, practise!
I feel that my strengths for this week were problem solving. I like to figure things out on my own because I find that usually when someone does it for me / shows me it doesn’t sink in until I do it myself. I try to sort out problems myself before asking for help; such as the colour changing (pulling out the needles).
My weaknesses this week was grasping some of the techniques; such as the holes. When these things go wrong it can be hard to understand why, especially if you feel you have done everything right. This can be very frustrating but that is a skill that comes with experience. Having to cast on each time in the beginning can be rather painful; it feels like all you do is cast on, knit a few rows and start again. This does get better though, as time goes on and skills improve. I also found it quite difficult to design a knitting sample; looking at an object and translating it into a knitted sample.
During the second week of the knit workshop we learnt how to cast off. This is particularly useful as without this, samples are very likely to unravel. The casting off also helped to make the samples look much neater. I found it a little tricky to start with – as I made it too tight thus making the top edge much smaller than the width of the fabric. But, as with most things, the more I did it the better I got. This was a very useful technique to have learnt.
We also went over how to steam samples in order to flatten them out – ready for presentation which makes the samples much easier to look at and compare. The steaming can be done with the steam iron or at home with an iron, the important thing to remember is to pin down the edges so that they don’t curl back up – instead they lay flat. It is also important to let the knitting cool down before taking away the pins, to encourage the fabric to stay flat.
During this week, we also had a tutorial. This was helpful as I was guided by the tutor to look at my current samples, choose the best ones and develop these techniques for the final pieces. I decided to keep them simple, as this was the best way for me to achieve successful pieces. We also were shown how to do short row knitting. This is creates triangular shapes in the fabric. This was quite a simple technique; however I didn’t manage to even out the fabric. I tried to do half triangles (2 on each side of the knitting) and this still warped the fabric, creating a bow-tie shape.
Another valuable skill which I was very pleased to learn was fixing dropped stitches and dropped knitting. It was very frustrating to me that every time the knitting came off the machine I had to start again, so this technique was very useful to me. One of my final pieces actually came off about of a third of the way in – which I was now able to save and continue with. I also discovered how to fix dropped stitches. A few helpful tips; pull away the few top rows of bubbly knitting so that you are left with a clean edge. Don’t always go for the exposed stitch loop – often quite hard to get the transfer tool through. Using the transfer tool, push it through one of the lower row stitches and pull the needle through from the other side. Make sure that the loop goes quite a way down the needle; or it may just come off again.
The last day of the knit technical block was spent working independently. I spent the day working on my “final piece” knits. I was focusing on colour to link them to my box collection. Some of the techniques used; stripes, ladders, holes, hooking up etc.. I can see how some of the samples could be applied to clothing; such as socks or jumpers.
My strengths during this week were; practising the techniques we had already learnt and making sure I knew what I was doing. I am also very pleased that I learnt how to fix my mistakes – this was important as I always want to be able to solve any issues I face; especially when it comes to learning new things. I also think I now have a good foundation of knit so in the future if I decide I would like to do a few samples with it, I have to knowledge to do so.
My weaknesses for the week; I find it quite difficult to think creatively when it comes to knit. I find myself getting carried away by the technicalities of the techniques and so often they end up being quite simple samples. I would like to be able to do more interesting techniques so that the samples would be varied and more intriguing.