Its been a while since Ive posted. Lots of life events have gotten in the way. Im a home owner! I've got more machines! I've been flying all over doing craft shows! All the things have happened! Luckily things are starting to settle and I'll return to posting about knit geekery. In the meantime check out this great post from Emma Smith. http://www.blacksmithcountrygeneral.com/the-makers She and her partner have a wonderful shop and studio in the Ancaster/ Jerseyville area of Hamilton. She makes beautiful functional ceramics but also, curates textiles, prints, ceramics, wood and jewellery pieces in her shop.
I recently acquired an old dubied machine with some interesting accessories I have never come across before. The accessories are pattern devices called the Super Auto Rigatore and the Super 8. Along with the pattern making device is a pattern reader which helps the user keep track of the repeating pattern.
Both pattern devices attach to the left side of the carriage and engage with the grooves of the knitting bed to work. Patterns are created via a drum. The super auto has a drum with 4 disks and the Super 8 has a drum with 8 disks. Each disk is configured with a different pattern to rotate and engage with the needles. In the image below, just under the engraved number 8 is an example of one of the pattern disks. It and 7 others are sitting on a drum which can be rotated left or right. Lets say you select disk 8, followed by disk 5, followed by disk 2, then followed by disk 1. You have just created a pattern.
Using the accessory below, you can create a record of your pattern. It is essentially a printout of your pattern which advances like a typewriter to tell you which disk to select, which row you are on and any cam changes. Ingenious.
See here how the device with your pattern written down, interacts with the pattern accessory. I have it working and will make a video soon!
These devices are capable of many type of knit structures including a variety of jacquards and fairisle.
I've included a sample I created using the Super 8. As you can see each time I move the pattern drum to activate a new disk, a new pattern is generated. I tried a basic jacquard structure here.
To begin, I start on the right hand side of my knitting, I select a pattern disk and run it and the carriage set for rib across the bed to select needles. Then on the left hand side I knit the selected needles back into position. Where the black yarn is on the sample, that is a rib knit. That is followed by a row of the cream knit in a tube.
On the back you can see alternating black and white stripes where I knit one row of rib and one row of tube. In some places I was playing around with lengthening the pattern just by adding rows of rib so that is why you see some thicker blocks of cream yarn.
The really interesting thing is how much flexibility these pattern devices would have offered the user, because they really are so ingenious. The super auto essentially selects new high butt positions for each row, which is really unique. Todays machines develops patterns through a combination of high and low butts in fixed positions and carriage cam changes.
To add to the ingeniousness of this device, you can also do some freestyle jacquard intarsia type of work. The image below shows an example. You can run the carriage across the needle bed, and select your own needles by putting them into working position thus creating your own large scale coloured designs.
I have some more great vintage images to share. These are all from 1929 from the Dubied magazine publication "Lavori di Maglieria." I'll be posting more from this collection in the coming weeks. I just love the knitted coats!
My fall season went really well. I did more craft shows, both local and far away which I found both refreshing and rewarding. I'll definitely do more next year. In addition I picked up some more vintage machines which have some great features such as patterning capabilities.
Its been busy at HQ working on orders and feeling Fall Vibes but I wanted to fill you in on upcoming events and shows. I'll be at the Beehive Winter Fair on November 28th-29th here in Hamilton. It has a solid line up of skilled crafters with some amazing work as well as the Halifax Winter Market on December 4, 5 and 6th. I'll be at both shows with my mittlets, scarves and sweaters.
I found time over Thanksgiving to get home to the farm and enjoy a more rural pace. Dad is resurfacing the barns and organizing his clock restoration workshop so it was great to see that happening.
I also did some store updates here and have been working on improving the overall vibe of my product photos. I've posted some photos on the blog below. I feel better about this new style of photos, they are still clean and clear but a bit more interesting. Thank you so much for your amazing positive responses so far! Speaking of positive feedback, check out this fabulous post here from Tracing Threads, it is so nice to hear my garments become well loved and appreciated!
I've also been shuffling my space and workshop about, and just focusing/ narrowing my knitting interests. It can be hard with so many possibilities especially on these old machines:) I'm particularly interested in developing pattern work on the Dubied's. There are some really unique punchcard, prisms and pattern disks out there and I'm hoping to share this work with you shortly.
Hop on over here to view my Fall collection. I'm pretty excited about it. Specifically the use of lace and mesh in sleeves of the winter sweaters and the use of marls for stripes in my accessories.
With my recent acquisition of a cone winder I've been able to ply yarns together for a salt and pepper marl. As well as achieve some great mixes, such as black linen with black cashmere and viscose for fine gauge sweaters.
In other news I found these great pages on machine maintenance. Click on them to magnify so you can give them a good read. My manuals are not too helpful on the subject of maintenance so this detail on daily, weekly and three monthly maintenance is very welcome. The second page gets really specific about oil types from specific brands. I can't help but feel this is more about back office corporate deals and arrangements than it is about real world oil brand usefulness. I have always used clear sewing machine oil on hand flat knitting machines from my local dealer and it has worked just fine. When using flat japanese style knitting machines I use either Ballistol oil or a spray on silicone lubricant. Do you have any preferred brands???
I was recently contacted by Vivian down in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Her mother is from Northern Italy and brought this machine along with her to America. I wanted to post about it because all together it is a fantastic machine to knit on.
So yes, its for sale! and if you are located in the States, looking for a basic high quality machine, I highly recommend this.
It is a gauge 7 ( 7 stitches per inch) machine with a metre long bed. Its not a machine with high and low butts, but it does do ribs and tubes and stockinette.
The machine comes with Italian manuals, all of its cast on combs, weights and transfer tools. It also comes with a Super-Otto accessory for patterning (which I have never ever seen complete with a machine) and if that wasn't enough there is a cone winder and skein winder. For me the thing that makes this machine is the patterning Super-Otto accessory and the completeness of the accessories. The Super Otto accessory is a rotating drum which attaches to either side of the carriage, selecting needles for colour jacquard patterns.
I like to see good machines go to good homes so please feel free to contact Vivian about this machine here. If it has sold I will update my post to reflect that. If you purchase it, contact me and I will send you an English knitting manual to help you along.
In other news, I've been installing Margarita's Dubied machines and her old Moretto. Its been really overwhelming keeping track of the parts, restoring them and sorting out electrical work for plugging in the motorized machines. The manuals for the complex machines like the DUT and Moretto have been amazing to parse.
When we first got the machines back, some of them needed testing. So I left those at my parents' farm an hour outside Hamilton. My dad got the electrical connections tested and parts replaced. Then we carted them over here on a large flat bed trailer and got them moved in JUST BEFORE A THUNDERSTORM ROLLED THROUGH!
Today I got the 220v plugs for the machines sorted out, but not before one of the electricians cut through a water line spraying half of my stainless steel machines with tap water. Cue the flailing hands and the visual of a knitter running with an oil can. One of these 'new' machines is missing its motor and the DUT is completely missing its jacquard prism and its set of punch cards. I think we can make the jacquard prism (if that sounds crazy its just a set of perforated metal bars) and the punch cards should not be too hard. There's a level of archaeology that meets technology here which I fundamentally enjoy. There are so many ways to select a needle or particular stitch type on a machine. Its really endless!
I recently acquired a colour Dubied manual in Spanish. If you have previously purchased the English PDF version from me please email me. I can send you this Spanish version so you have the benefit of crisper detail and colour images. This is the same edition, just a different language. In future I will be offering them together to increase usefulness.
Things have been hectic around here with orders being filled, fall sampling and a road trip to Fort Washington, but I wanted to post some information on some new equipment and what I've been up to.
I was contacted a few months back by the children of Margarita Macia, a knitter with a full studio of machines who recently passed away. The following images are of pieces or instructions to pieces I picked up from her workroom.
It was lovely meeting her children, who told stories about her life in Argentina where she used a motorcycle to pick up yarn, deliver orders and visit clients. Later in Fort Washington she made custom pieces for women in the area. Aside from amazing stories she left a series of boxes brimming with samples and swatches in outrageous yarn colours which will keep me busy for a LONG time.
The DUT machine came with the studio equipment and it represents a cusp technological development prior to electronic machinery where you the user are basically operating as a computer in tandem with punchcards and prisms. However, you are still manually moving the carriage and you still have to write out a pattern and operate levers at the correct point. I would liken it to a jacquard loom.
These last two images are of the autocam. A really neat device for N series Dubied machines which is similar to a conventional punchcard but in some ways more interesting. It consists of a drum in which you place knobs of various heights, so that rather than a hole on a punchcard instad you are placing a knob in a hole to ask the machine to tuck, slip, etc. The arms called A in Fig 2 meet the carriage at the end of each row thus advancing the drum one row onwards. On my autocam I have 24 rows . On another machine, with another autocam I have 36. It all depends on the make and capabilities of the machine. There are times when I make a complicated pattern and my brain cannot consistently a perfectly count the 6 steps required to make the pattern over 450 rows, so this helps a lot. I hope I have not lost you. These analog formats of selection are so fascinating.
I ended up digitizing the manuals for these and they are available here. With a further parts reference manual for NHF Dubied machine available on the knitting here. Stay tuned for more on analog technology and my experiments.
When I think of positive associations with clothing, I think of favourites, wearability, great fit, humorous or funny colours and interesting textures. When I think of the negative associations, I think of rigid beauty and sizing standards, coffin clothing (a term that describes rather 2 dimensional clothing), esoteric fashion history references and trend analysis. I felt that in school trend analysis and sizing was a huge thing. There was very little interest in the process of developing a personal structure for idea development, working style or creative problem solving. So Part 2 is about that…..
When I graduated from fashion school I took a job doing piecework, cutting and eventually designing for a now large label in Toronto. On my breaks I would have a knit or crochet sit in with my fellow co-workers and I found it therapeutic. We would do math calculations to switch a knitted garment to a crochet one or to adjust the gauge for a different yarn thickness. Around that time I had bought an LK150 knitting machine to experiment. It was a sad little plastic machine that held no charm for me. I’m afraid I swore off machine knitting for another five years. But I continued to knit and crochet, even at one time doing crochet piece work in the form of openwork cotton sweaters as well as continuing to design easily sewn, trend appropriate clothes for the label I worked at.
A lot changed when I went back to school for textile design at Sheridan College. I can’t say enough great things about that program except that perhaps it should be a degree program rather than just a diploma program. I learned how to develop original creative work from brainstorming, used sketchbooks to record qualities of line and material, began to use log books, as well as collage, and intuitive creative play. These are great tools that allow me to record results, build shapes and above all develop original work. At the time I was focused on screen printing which is very close to painting. I have logbooks from this period with detailed information on colour mixing, effects and results. I use this same method today with my knitwear.
After graduation I struggled a bit to find my footing. Screenprinting and garment making in Canada is a very competitive space. I had developed some silkscreened knitwear which I really enjoyed as well I spent a lot of time deconstructing second hand garments from vintage and thrift shops. I was really drawn to the sweater aisles and from there collages, and sketchbook work from sweater scraps emerged. Around the same time I picked up an old dubied hand flat knitting machine in dire need of restoration. Its wooden handles and solid metal frame felt so inspiring, it reminded me slightly of my dad’s clockmaking machines which were built to last. This was a far cry from the LK150 I bought five years before.
The Italian lady I bought the Dubied from lived close by in Stoney Creek. She was still wearing garments made on the Dubied and they were absolutely beautiful. She had old cones, old magazines and some wonderful descriptions about the types of garments she made over the years. She seemed upset about selling her knitting machine which struck me as odd. I distinctly remember her sitting me down to tea outside her 1950's bungalow in the summer with a Chuawawa sitting on her lap.
At this point I spent a few years educating myself with books and manuals on how to operate hand flat knitting machines properly. There seems to be so much information on hobby machines but so little on hand-flats. It was very intriguing. I turned to logbooks to record my findings and I worked this helped me to replicate effects and feel some progress. At this time I was still silkscreening. My switch to knitting was ugly and dramatic when I lost my studio space due to a horrible landlord. I spent some time thinking about my direction. I loved that the knitting machine allowed you to design and control the fabric itself. One could knit complex textures injecting a warmth and personality into a garment….
So I bought some more knitting machines…..
Things have been busy around here with the Spring City of Craft, the COStyle event, sales and renovations in the studio.
I feel really grateful for all of the interest in my work. I thought I would talk a bit about how I fell into knitwear. Its a meandering personal story, so I'll post it in two parts. I hope you enjoy it.
We lived in England until I was nine. I vividly remember picking out plastic purple barrettes in Tesco’s to go with my purple pinafore. They came in a rainbow of colours fixed to a small branded card and were PERFECT FOR MY ENTIRE WARDROBE. The importance of coming out of Tesco’s with the barrettes was totally disproportionate with their actual usefulness. Throughout my childhood and teenage years I had a lot of emotional responses to colours, shapes and forms when it came to fashion. Our house was in the Cotswolds, a particularly picturesque part of rural England in which we were living the early 80’s dream of British hippie family life. Dad was a clockmaker and mum was a weaver. And EVERYTHING WAS HOMEMADE.
Mum used to sew the majority of our clothes. She would sew what pleased her or sew in sets to save time so my sisters and I would end up with a wardrobe born of whimsy, frugality and colour experimentation. Depending on my age this was either fabulous or really terrible. There was a lot of lovely pinwale corduroy with paisleys and printed folklorish patterns. As well as classic liberty florals sewn into pinafores, frocks and matching accessories. Granny would round out this utterly British look with Fairisle cardigans and matching knitted accessories. In fact both grannies knitted us all manner of warm cozy sweaters. The house was full of floral and checked dresses, hand knit cardigans, and freshly pressed linens.
As I grew older, I felt the siren call of mass produced clothing. The sort of which everyone in Canada, my new home, had. Everyone wore matching tracksuits with Thundercats and He-man on the front. The girls wore miniskirts and scrunchies. All that fabulous custom made clothing my mother made was suddenly jarringly uncool and my new vocabulary was miniskirts, leggings, printed sweatshirts and jeans. 100% of this ready to wear clothing fit my broad shoulders and tiny hips terribly.
I got my first sewing machine at a fairly early age. Whether it was because I was actually interested in sewing or I just wanted to imitate my mum, I cant remember but I did have one by age ten. It was a Singer hand crank sewing machine. At first I made outlandish costumes and home organizers. But later I began to sew myself summer clothes as well as refitting my ready to wear garments. By the time I was in grade 10 I was sewing all the time and making clothes for one day, which were refashioned the next and so on.
One year my granny gifted me a bunch of her custom clothing from the late 1950’s. It fitted me so well, in all the right spots. Wearing it transformed my idea of ‘vintage’ and ‘fashion,’ as well, my curiosity grew about how fashion could evolve structurally alongside cultural change. Grannies dresses from the 1950’s were both like and very unlike the dresses I wore as a child and I wondered why that was.
At this point, I went to university for fashion design. It was permission for everyday to be like Halloween, even more so than high school. I enjoyed showing off my design and tailoring prowess while at the same time hating all of the classes. The schools teaching structure managed to strip away all of the positive feelings about sewn fashion in favour of a rigid type of industry standard. My intuitive, sewn pieces seemed at odds with the teachers marking processes. It was around this time that I took up knitting and crochet.
Anna is a Hamilton based knitwear and textile practitioner blogging about her collection development as well as pre-1950's knitwear technology.
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