On guard

Dear Anne

I’ve just had fun and games using my colour changer for the first time in years. So, here’s a tip if you’re working with three colours rather than four. I left the fourth roller empty and accidentally pressed the button by mistake. With no yarn in it every single stitch dropped, so you can imagine the language! Now I’ll always thread it up with yarn. However, it needs to be a strong contrast or, as I did first time, you’ll knit away in the wrong colour! I now always thread it up with a colour such as black against pale shades, so I notice at once if I select the wrong feed accidentally. My theory is that it’s much better to unpick a wrong colour, instead of having all the dratted knitting falling off the machine. I’m now a little older and wiser! Kind regards, Margaret

Split ends

Dear Anne

Here’s a tip I think Joan Lafferty passed on years ago and I always use it. When you get near the end of a cone of yarn and you’re not sure if the new one is an exact match, use the old and new yarns one row at a time alternately and you’ll not notice the changeover. Best wishes, Irene

Band Aid

Dear Anne

I’ve never liked sewing on neckbands and saw this method in MKM years ago, so it might help someone coming back to machine knitting who may not remember it. First do a cut and sew neck and leave the left shoulder open. Set the ribber up and using the same number of stitches needed for the neckband, knit something like ten rows at Tension 7 or some 1×1 rib in a bit of waste yarn. Transfer all stitches to the main bed and knit a few more rows. Knit a row with a nylon cord then one row at Tension 10 with main yarn and one row at Tension 6. Take it all off on waste yarn, still with the ribber comb in place.

Hang the neckline on the empty needles, push the knitting behind the latches and then put the neckband stitches in the hooks. Carefully push the needles back through the neckline and I usually knit another row at Tension 4 or 5. Change to rib, add weights to the ribber comb and knit the rows required. Leave the ribber set on P and with the stitches in place on the ribber, move it to H. Knit the rows needed at Tension 3/3. Transfer stitches to the main bed then remove the ribber comb and pick up the first row you knitted at Tension 10. Put the stitches into the hooks, but make sure you leave the other stitches behind the latches. Take all the needles back, then remove the cord and waste yarn and latch off. It seems a lot of messing about, but it’s easier than writing it down and a lot neater than backstitching through the open loops. Over the years I’ve learnt such a lot from the magazine and what goes around, comes around. Thanks for all you do, Anne. Best wishes, Chris

Handy Hints

Shot at dawn

Dear Anne

I’ll be shot for sending you this, but I’d like to remind the youngsters that right from the start, MKM has always been there for all of us knitters. I so miss the hints Joan Lafferty tucked away in her articles so you might like to find a bit of room in the magazine for a few of these ‘oldies’. It’ll remind all of us that there’s nothing new under the sun. I know we’ve to move with the times and we need the youngsters in the spotlight. But many of us have had MKM since the very first issue and I’d like to think we’ve helped to keep it all going, so the young ones have MKM now. Thank you Anne and please keep our magazine going. Yours sincerely, Ivis

Handy hints

  • Should you punch the wrong square, fill the hole in with one of the little discs and secure it back and front with a tiny piece of Sellotape. Make sure though that you don’t cover one of the holes you need either side of it.
  • When putting a single motif on a card leave at least two blank rows before punching the final joining rows, or don’t even bother with the joining rows. The plain rows let you know when you’ve finished the motif, but it can often be shorter than the 36 rows you need for joining the card.
  • When joining up a card you’ve punched for the first time, note where the clips are inserted and put a mark on the edge of the card. Then you’ll know where to put them next time.
  • We all know that cards are marked in squares rather than oblongs, so when designing we can use normal graph paper, rather than the stitch-related kind. But if you’re trying to copy a design from a Japanese card to the Passap, be careful! Passap cards rotate once every two rows, but Japanese cards rotate every row. In Bird’s-eye Fair Isle the pattern is squashed a bit, but even so you still need to remove some rows from a Japanese pattern for the design come out the right length.
  • If you’ve a Japanese punch as well as one for the Passap, use it to punch the outer holes of pattern on a Passap card. It’s easier on your hand than a heavy Passap punch. Japanese punches aren’t long enough to reach the centre of a Passap card, so you still need to use a Passap punch for the centre.
  • If holes are not punched cleanly or are hard to cut, the punch may be getting blunt, so roughen it with some medium sandpaper. It won’t need much, so try it out on an off-cut of card until it becomes sharp again.
  • Finally, don’t forget to empty the little box of bits! When it gets full, it can be hard to get off and then it pings open all of a sudden. Empty the box into a small paper bag, otherwise the bits will go everywhere. If they get on the carpet the Hoover doesn’t want to know and you’ll be picking the odd few up for weeks to come!

Keep knitting our way

Love your lace Here’s a tip about re-programming your punchcard machine if you’ve made a mistake when knitting a lace pattern. It’s always best to undo the whole block repeat of lace just knitted. This may mean putting several stitches that are on one needle back to their original place. Turn the punchcard back to where the last black curved arrow is on the card. It’s at this point you’d have worked, for example, ‘K 2 rows’ or similar. Look at the arrows on the left hand side of the card. By the black arrow is the red arrow, pointing to the right. Don’t lock the card, but carry on ‘lacing’ and you will be on the right row. The only time you do lock the card, when re-programming in lace, would be if the arrow was pointing to the right and the lace carriage was on the left. You’d next work one pass with the lace carriage and then release the card.

Sausage roll Have you any idea what’s a ‘knitted sausage’? For the life of me, I’ve never heard of it, but I’ve been told it really is something well-seasoned knitters know about and use. I’m not in the first flush of youth, but obviously need to keep going a bit longer before I’ve got enough seasoning! Can you help, please?

A ‘sausage’ is what some knitters used to call a cast-on strip and newbies will have no idea what we’re talking about. Instead of using waste yarn that we usually throw away, the ‘sausage’ or ‘cast-on strip’ not only saves yarn, but also gives even weighting to the work. It can be any width you like and there are many versions, but this one used to be popular. Most knitters made one long enough to use over about 100 stitches and a second that’s long enough to use when all needles are in work across the full width of the bed.

To knit it Over about 20 needles at the extreme left of the needlebed, cast on and make a bias strip in a brightly coloured 4-ply yarn. The colour isn’t really important but as it’s going to have a lot of handling, use a good quality yarn. Make the bias strip the length you wish and cast off. Steam press the strip well. Buy some curtain weighting in medium thickness and sew this weighting onto the edge where you did the decreasing. We use this edge because the side with increasing will have little holes all the way along it.

To use it Bring up required number of needles. Using a treble transfer tool, put the ends of the prongs through the little holes along the top edge onto the needles. The strip now hangs down very evenly all along. Using a nylon cord or similar, about Tension 6, knit one row. Continue now as you wish, either casting on again or going straight into knitting. On completion, pull one end of the cord gently, then go to the other end and pull it right out. The strip drops away, ready for use next time.

Warm as toast Here’s an easy hot water bottle cover to knit. Choose a Fair Isle pattern to make it cosier and it gives us the chance to use up scraps of waste yarn. Any yarn can be used but 4-ply is ideal. You can vary the number of rows and stitches but basically, cast on around 75 sts and K 10 rows plain. Change to Fair Isle for about 115 rows. K 5 rows plain. Cast off centre 12 sts with some scrap yarn and then cast them on again. This makes a hole for the bottle’s tail. Now knit the other half in reverse. For the tabs, measure 2½ inches in from each end, pick up 12 stitches and work 30 rows. Sew up the cover and, for extra strength, work a row of double crochet around the top edge and tabs. Sew snap fasteners on the tabs and front to finish it off.

Heat treatment Don’t we all have to unpick a piece of knitting? Wind the unravelled kinky yarn round a large heatproof jar and not too tight, just comfortable. It’s best to wind it as you go, so you don’t end up with a heap of kinks. Fill the jar with nearly boiling water and leave it to cool. By the time the water is cool, the yarn will be straight. If you don’t have a jar, someone I know uses a hot water bottle but I’ve never tried it. If you did this, I guess you might have to fill the bottle first and take care wrapping it round the hottie. You can then use a wool winder to wind the yarn back into a neat ball, ready to use again. I’ve done it for years and it may well have been a ‘Joan Lafferty special’! Keep knitting our way,

Waste not, want not Inspired by some of the articles I’ve read recently, I tried my hand at felting. Once I’d got the hang of it, I got completely carried away and then ran out of ideas what to do with all the felt. Not for long! I traced round an inner sole that I have in my trainers and now I’ve lovely warm, comfortable insoles. My husband’s a keen gardener, so he threw the cut-off bits on his compost heap.


More top tips

Free download

I’m really enjoying Marianne Henio’s articles. I think she’s really generous allowing knitters to download her booklet ‘How to Design, Write and Convert your own knitting patterns’. My daughter, who lives in Canada, has just bought her first knitting machine so I’ve emailed Marianne’s offer to her. I agree with the reader who said that she’d not like to see MKM go digital, so keep that body of yours going! Kind regards, Julia

Grab Marianne’s free guide on ‘How to Design, Write & Convert your own Knitting Patterns’. It’s online at http://modernknittingpatterns.com/your-free-guide/

Find Marianne’s designs at http://modernknittingpatterns.com/

Follow Marianne on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mariannehenio

Follow Marianne on Pinterest at https://uk.pinterest.com/mariannehenio/boards/

Follow Marianne on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/900734820016110/


Figure it out

I’ve been with you from the start and we MKM readers are such a happy bunch and you are our excellent team leader. I thought we all might enjoy something apparently doing the rounds on the Internet right now, to keep our brains going. I don’t have a computer, but my grandson is a tease and got me thinking about it. It’s just a bit of fun and an excuse to sit with the magazine a bit longer instead of getting on with the housework. Roughly speaking, try to work out what these seven words all have in common. They are Banana, Dresser, Grammar, Potato, Revive, Uneven and Assess. I spent forever thinking about it and threatened to stop his pocket money if he didn’t tell me the answer! Like me, you’ll kick yourself when you know what it is. Best wishes, Marjorie

(In all the words listed, if you take the first letter and place it at the end, it spells the same word backwards. Joan Lafferty often reminds us that machine knitters are daft and this proves it!)


All tucked up

I’m writing in the hope that you can help me. I’ve some patterns for tuck lace, but I don’t have any books or manuals that explain how to do it on my Brother 836. My manual doesn’t seem to tell me so I hope you can help. Yours sincerely, Alison

Thanks for your letter Alison and Pattern 221 is a good example. It’s taken from Brother Punchcard Pattern Vol. 4. On Brother single bed machines you’ve a card that’s punched out with both a tuck and a lace pattern. After transferring stitches for the lace pattern with the lace carriage, you need to do one of two things.

  1. If the needles are selected, push the tuck button(s) and move the K carriage.
  2. If the needles are not selected, push the ‘plain’ lever and move the K carriage.


Double or drop

I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said to me recently and I agree with you. It is up to us ‘old hands’ to pass on some of the hints and tips we’ve learnt over a lifetime of machine knitting. I make a lot of hats for charity that need stitches to be pulled up before a bobble is attached. I’ve not forgotten this helpful hint from my To & Fro days. If we’ve to take stitches off the machine to pull up tightly, take a long thread and double it so the loose end overlaps the other by a couple of inches. Thread a double-ended tool or big tapestry needle with both strands and take the stitches off as usual, but keep an eye on the longer end so it doesn’t slip through. Once all the stitches are on the thread, gather up and sew securely straight away. The double thread gives extra strength, especially useful if we pull a bit too tight and the thread is in danger of breaking. Perhaps you could include a plea for more of us ‘oldies’ to pass on bits and pieces. All the best, Joyce


Timely reminder

Please remind readers to regularly check that the screws of the clamp holding the machine to the table are tight. I guess I’m not the only person to have had the machine land in my lap, so be warned! I’m just relieved that the ribber wasn’t attached at the time, or heaven knows what damage I might have done to myself. I’m a bit more careful when the ribber is attached, as I know the movement tends to work the screws loose. If you think about it, there’s not a lot holding to hold it in place anyway. By the time you’ve added weights and pushed the ribber up and down a few times, those small holding screws are bound to loosen. I guess I thought it wasn’t as necessary just using the single bed, but it is. Best wishes Mary


Pen friend

I’ve just been reading through a pile of old magazines and come across this trick I used to use. You need an empty clean Biro case, with quite a large opening at the tip. Unscrew everything because all you need is the open tube. Thread the yarn through the machine and carriage, then through the tube so it goes from the point and out of the other end. Now pull enough yarn through the tube for the length of your e-wrap. (I measure roughly three times the width of needles plus a bit.) If you’re right-handed wrapping from left to right, have the carriage at the left and use the pen holder to e-wrap just as if you were using a pen. When you get to the end, you can slide off the pen case without cutting the yarn, then knit the first row. The old ones are always the best! Yours sincerely Sylvia


Low down

I’m so low. I don’t understand what you mean when you start off patterns talking about doing something with a latch tool. I love my LK-150 and I can do simple stuff, but as soon as I see the words, ‘using a latch tool’ I freeze. I want to get better, but don’t know who to ask except you. Please can you help? Yours hopefully, Kate

Let’s sort this out for you Kate because using a latch tool to cast on makes a beautiful finished edge. First of all, make a slip knot in the end of the main yarn and slide it behind the latch. Push the needles you need right out to holding position. With the yarn at the right of the first needle, bring the latch tool up between the first and second needles at the right and hook the yarn over the first needle. Pull through the loop, but not too tightly. Repeat this between the second and third needles, then between the third and fourth and keep going all the way across. Finally, place the loop from the latch tool onto the last needle. All the needles are still in holding position so if you want them in working position, you can’t push all the needles back by hand or the loops will fall off. Simply use a transfer tool to take each needle back and leave the loops you made in the hook of each needle. You get a beautifully smooth chain edge and you’re then ready to knit.


Memory lane

I was thinking about dear Joan Lafferty the other day and do you remember her telling us one way she used to gather up a rib edge when she was making bobble hats and scarves for her market stall? It’ll perhaps help the newbies. She left an extra-long yarn end when she cast on. After knitting the zigzag row, you take the end of the yarn up between the beds, across the zigzag and down the other side. Hang onto the end until the first rib row is knitted, then you can release it. When the work is off the machine, you just pull up the rib stitches on this thread to gather it all up and then fasten off. Works a treat! Happy memories, Jenny

Great big shout out for Tom!

Hi Anne

Greetings. I would like to share my experience with readers. After a 25-year hiatus from machine knitting to pursue career opportunities, I have retired and had hoped to return to this passion. While I had been vigilant about maintaining my machines, cleaning, oiling and changing sponge bars every six months, not once did I inspect my expansive collection of Mylar sheets, which had been stored in their original foil packaging. When I recently opened them, I was crushed to find they had virtually crumbled! While one of my machines is a 24-stitch punchcard, it still left my G-carriage unusable. At this point, I seriously considered selling my entire collection of machines, accessories and file cabinet stuffed with pattern books.

I decided to try to buy Mylar sheets, but with very limited success. I purchased five patterned Mylar sheets on eBay for a crazy price of $100 US! But, at least I was able to use my G-carriage. At that point, as luck would have it, I came across MKM’s list of Knitting Buddies! While there was not one buddy listed in Canada, there was a US buddy listed so I took a chance and contacted Tom in Las Vegas.

I cannot express to you how helpful Tom has been. He was gracious enough to provide me with not only the original pattern package, but blank sheets as well. But Tom’s help didn’t end there, he gave me the spark of encouragement I needed to soldier on. So, I would like to give a great big shout out for Tom! When readers are in need, MKM’s buddy list has proved to be invaluable to me. Thank you MKM for including this component in your magazine, it certainly has put me on a path to be a productive machine knitter – I hope!

Best wishes, Wendy

Time For Tea


MKM Editor Anne writes: “It was a huge surprise for me to be called into the hall after the fashion show at Bournemouth this year. It had been a wonderful day of celebration as, between us, we’ve kept Machine Knitting LIVE! going for 20 years. It was even more of a bolt from the blue to be handed this absolutely fabulous cake. Could you ever believe that anyone could make something so amazing? It sat on a board edged with a tape measure and, from the bodkin to the buttons, everything was beautifully crafted by the exceptionally talented Margaret Hudson. She’s an enthusiastic and supportive member of Ringwood Machine Knitting Club and it’s probably fair to say she can be known to produce more unusual cake creations than machine knitting! Maureen Gulliver runs Ringwood and, together with Joy Hopkins and her Carbery Machine Knitting Club in Christchurch, they’ve been a backbone of strength and support for the Bournemouth Show. They knit garments and organise the fashion show, as well as demonstrating and offering a helping hand to all our visitors throughout the day. You’ve made the most amazing cake Margaret and I’m honoured that you’ve spent so much time and effort making it just for me. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart and I’m sure all the readers will join me in giving you a huge pat on the back. For once, you have the ‘thumbs up’ for heading to the kitchen instead of your knitting room and please accept my very sincere thanks.”

This month’s top tips

Get weaving

I was reading through some of my very old To & Fro magazines and spotted an absolute gem of advice from the real ‘old school’. (Happy memories of Joan Lafferty!) It’s about doing a weaving cast-on, which I so wanted to use but I’ve never got it to work for me. I’ve had a go at this tip and yes, it really does work so I’ll pass it on for the newbies. Well, first of all we’re told to lift up the end of yarn at the inner side of the carriage and move the carriage to and fro a bit before putting the yarn across the holding position needles. Sounds obvious, but I’d never done it. It lifts the yarn above the metal sinker plate and saves it catching in the brushes. Doh! Now the yarn is in the right place, you can put in the weaving brushes. I put both brushes in, though they actually say you just need the one on the inside leading edge of the carriage. When you come to close the hem, you just pick up the large loops from the cast on, onto every other needle. Here’s the best bit! Supposing you’ve a special needle set up, such as in tuck lace where some needles are out of work. You can still use the weaving cast on, as long as you bring forward every other working needle to holding position. Try it, it works fine!

What I truly had never heard is that all isn’t lost if you don’t have a cast on comb or any weaving brushes, such as on some earlier machines. Bring every other needle to holding position, knit the row and lay the nylon cord across in the usual way, between the needles and sinker posts. Bring out of work needles to working position and continue to knit. The effect is the same as the weaving cast on. After laying in the cord they say don’t forget to bring forward (a little bit) needles with stitches on, so the cord doesn’t get tangled up with the stitches. Good tip! Being able to do a weaving cast on has given me such a lot of confidence, after thinking I could never do it.


Have you any ideas for getting a really good rib cast on edge? I knit on a Brother and mine always look frilly and, frankly, a big mess. Hoping you can help please.

To get a fine rib edge on your Brother machine, use Tension 0/0 and set the slide lever at II for the cast on. You can actually wind the yarn anti-clockwise round the ribber joining knob to slow down the flow, as you need the cast-on to be as tight as possible. You can also try putting the ribber cams to tuck, just for the zigzag, but none of this works unless you pull down all the slack yarn at the back of the yarn tension arm before you start to knit! After the zigzag row, put in the ribber comb, but no weights, until you’ve done the circular rows, still at the same tension. Now add the weights and lay a nylon cord right across between the needles. Hold the ends below the beds, just for the first actual rib row. If the rib tension is to be (say) 4/4, do the first rib row around 2/2. When the work is off the machine, pull up the stitches on the nylon cord and tug the cord away from the work. This will straighten out the edge beautifully and is much easier than threading a fine knitting needle through the edge afterwards!


One great tip about making life easy for sewing up garments.

Fran McCarthy has made me really think back to my early knitting days and how much of a struggle it all seemed to be. One great tip I read was about making life easy for sewing up garments. If you’re using 1×1 rib, a simple trick for the cast on is to put one extra needle to work at the left on the ribber bed. After the first rib row, transfer it to the main bed so that two stitches are working side by side. The extra stitch gets taken into the seam in mattress stitch, corresponding with the one on the main bed at the other end, so the rib is continuous. For cardigans, put one extra stitch at each end on the back rib, but none on the front ribs. For 2×2 and 2×1 industrial rib, you don’t need to do anything. The normal set up joins perfectly when you mattress stitch the two pieces together. Isn’t that handy?


It’s the time of year for making winter warmers and I make lots of hats and scarves for charity. They’re nothing special, just gathered into a pom-pon for the top of the hats and ends of the scarves, so have you a quick way of gathering up a rib edge?

Thanks for asking Flo and you may also knit hats which are made double length then one edge is pushed inside the other. For the cast on edge, leave an extra-long end of yarn when you cast on. It needs to be about 20 cm longer than the width of the working needles on the machine. First knit the zigzag row. Now lift the end of yarn up between the beds, take it across the zigzag and down the other side of the work. Hold this end down until the first rib row is knitted and then you can release it. When the work is off the machine, just pull up the rib stitches on this thread and fasten off securely. Old hands will recognise this as something we did on a single bed machine when we couldn’t find our nylon cords to cast on!


I prefer to knit sideways bands on my cardigans, as I can’t stand all that sewing up. Is there anything I can do to stop the ends on the fronts pulling up? Pressing doesn’t work and, anyway, we can’t press acrylic unless we want to wreck everything. Don’t take it the wrong way, but did you do something in the dim and distant past I might not know about?

You need what we used to call a ‘flat rib’. One bed, usually the main bed, knits with all needles in work whilst you put into work the needles which will show the rib you want on the ribber. Here’s an example for a 2×2 flat rib. On the ribber, have two needles in work and two out of work all the way along. (Don’t forget the pitch set at H, of course!) You can’t cast on like this, so cast on in full needle rib and transfer the unwanted stitches from ribber to main bed. The alternative is to use a 1×1 rib cast on, transfer all stitches to the main bed (easy if you’ve a transfer carriage!) and then return the needles you need on the ribber to working position. If you just put the needles into work and knit, you’ll get small holes at the base of the rib, which you could get away with by calling it a design feature! Otherwise, you’ll have to fill up those needles with the heel of a stitch from the main bed. Hope this helps.

New for old sponge bar

Hi Anne

I’ve just replaced the sponge bar on my Singer Model 120. After trial and error, I put a strand of 100% pure thick wool in the bar and pushed it in with a spatula. Then I put white glue on it and laid in another strand of wool. I just pressed with my fingers to make sure it glued on. You might have to repeat pressing with your fingers every two or three minutes for fifteen minutes. Use the same spatula to push both strands about one inch at beginning and end, so the wool doesn’t get caught in the needles. It worked for me! Best, Gisele