Knitting in the Round

Learning to use a Circular Sock Machine that is older than me.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

I’ve got a new machine

I’ve got a new machine this year. It’s a Legare 400. I bought it on EBay from Dantib in Canada. He had it packed really well and the only thing I found was a chipped cylinder cam. He sent me a new set and with a little help from the Dremel I got them fitted perfectly.

I ordered new needles and new cylinder band too;

The machine was very clean; the original black paint is well worn but no flaking or chips to the body.

I managed to get it knitting tubes straight away. The ribber was fine but just needed some adjustment to the timing.

I also got some Large Hook Needles, these have allowed me to used quite thick wool, and the 54 slot cylinder has a good variation of stitch size.

I decided to knit a composite sock to see what the machine and I could achieve.

I used Bartlett, Sport Weight 2 ply yarn; this is produced in America and was Gift from Barry Travis.

I did try 1 x 1 ribbing on the Legare and it did work. The cylinder is a 54 and the ribber dial a 36. To enable a 1 x 1 rib to be produced the ribber needles are sometimes over the empty cylinder slot and some times over the adjacent cylinder post. This does work but looks pretty uneven; the ribbing should even out once off the machine and in the wash.

For my test sock I tried to make an E Wrap selvedge and was very pleased to have got a nice even start to my sock. I decided to make 2 x 2 rib to make life easier.

 I changed to 5 x 1 rib and this looked fine until I realised I had got out of sequence so not all the ribbing is the same ratio. Never mind we learn by our mistakes.

The heel was the next challenge though I have made a heel with the ribber on( On my Griswold) I decided to remove the ribber this time so I could study what was happening. I used the heel spring and even though it was, at what appeared to me, to be at its loosest setting, it made the stitches far too small and the knitted fabric too firm. I took the heel spring off for the second part of the heel and go better results just by keeping a slight tension on the yarn with my hand. As you will see from the picture there are some anomalies. This is because the wool was stretched too much by the heel spring and it came apart. It didn’t run though as the surface of the wool wasn’t ultra smooth.

For the purposes of this experiment I didn’t put the ribber back on and knitted the foot in stocking stitch. This made the foot far too wide and in future I will use the ribber to make the top half of the foot narrower thus giving a better fit.

Lastly the toe, done without the spring and no stitches dropped. I have sewn the sock up but I have to do some more Kitchener practice as I have only been used to doing this, off a pair of needles.

The sock won’t win prizes and there won’t be a mate for it, but it did give me the chance to string all the parts together and give me the chance to work on my weak points and see what my new machine was capable of.

If you click on the photos, to read the text they will enlarge.
This is an example of the tension on a Legare 400 with a 54 Cylinder using large hooked needles.
Next time, I hope to have got ahead with the Kitchenering!

Friday, 18 December 2009

The Ticket

I set a date with Janet to come to Oxford and duly booked the train tickets.

The day dawned and I set off from Pwllheli, the train manager on the Welch train examined my ticket to Wolverhampton and went on his way.

The train arrived at Towyn, not before we had been enlightened about the train in front of ours; it had broken down necessitating a coach to take us past the aforesaid breakdown. We piled in and had rather a pleasant journey along the coast road to take us inland and on eventually to Machylynth. Here we all boarded the waiting train to convey us to Wolverhampton.

So far so good. I must add that my ticket was inspected once again, to allow boarding of the replacement train.

I settled into my seat and sometime later the train manager on Mr Bransoms train asked to see my ticket. Well you could have knocked me down with a feather. “This”, he proclaimed “is not a ticket!” Looks like a ticket to me says I. “No Madam it’s a seat reservation ticket not a ticket to allow you to travel.” Oh says I, will I have to get off and walk? (At this point I notice a distinct lack of humour on his part) “No madam, it won’t come to that”. He strides off to make a new announcement with promise of his immanent return. (I can’t wait) After informing me he should really charge me the full fare, he looks kindly on me and indicates that I need only pay from the next stop, that being Banbury. I produce a fiver, before he changes his mind and look suitable chastened.

The train arrived at Oxford Station where I am met by Janet. We have never met before up to this point. I arranged to wear a T shirt with MIND THE GAP on it (Spot the train theme!) and Janet was to be adorned in Wellies.

 I’m looking at all the feet as I progress through the station, I spot them, “Hi Pat, did you have a good trip”, No I didn’t I reply , I recount my woes and we go to the ticket office to see what could be done. I did have to buy a replacement, and did get a refund, minus admin costs of course!

On the train ride home (Only one hour late) I decided to try and see what the response was when I presented my seat reservation ticket. It was of course accepted, no questions asked. Isn’t travel great?

I spent a great time with Janet and I can now operate the infernal Machine.

On the first evening Janet set me to work and I got the feel of her Imperia Machine. It was different to the Griswold, instead of a solid needles clasp the Imperia has a wire spring. This was easy to use and I rather liked it for its ease of use when changing the cylinder needles to the ribber ones.

The following day after breakfast we got down to making a sock.

I learnt that I had been using too much weight on the Griswold.

When I tried to make heels I was shown how to apply added weight to hold down the heel stitches which is where they tended to rise up the needle and so miss knitting a stitch. I now make sure that the first needle to be knit is raised slightly; this allows the latch to catch the yarn and complete the stitch.

I was shown the dreaded ribber and how to operate it; don’t know what I was worried about actually; the instruction book suggested taking the ribber off the machine and putting it away, which I did and I was too scared to try it as the weeks went on.

It was a very intensive day and I did produce a pair of Socks, Thanks to Janet’s expert tuition.

Next time, I get a new machine! Happy Christmas everyone.
                                                                                                                                  See you in 2010

Monday, 16 November 2009

Finding a good teacher

Next step in the learning curve was to try making heels. I made several tubes using different tension settings. I made notes of all I had done. Saving work notes, pined onto the knitting, acted as an aide memoire.

Making a heel was certainly a challenge. I always managed to drop stitches on the right side, when working from right to left. On reflection I was not applying enough weight and the first needle was not picking up the stitch. I learned later to allow the needles latch to engage with the yarn. This involves putting the needle back into work, but not pushing it right down. This way the latch catches the yarn and a stitch is formed.

On YouTube, where I had seen the first Circular Sock Machine knitting merrily away; I found a very helpful video of the no wrap heel. This made it all so much clearer. I downloaded the video onto my computer and watched it every day, several times every day in fact. Him indoors kept looking to see what I was watching so intently, only to proclaim “Not Socks again!”

By now I had the machine for four months and still no sock! This was getting me down. I had become quite good at buying yarn on EBay and this was not boding well on the home front! I put a cover over it (Rather like a noisy parrot in its cage) and left well alone for another month or so.

I really was beginning to resent this heap of metal sitting menacingly leering at me. “Go on”, it said, “Bet you can’t get the better of me, no one else has yet, so why should you be any different?” (What’s this woman on?)

So once again more tubes with strange lump like heels and even a toe! Of course I still hadn’t even touched the ribber. I hid that in the travel box; couldn’t cope with two of them hasseling me.

I did however invest in a Wool Winder and set-to to wind most of the yarn I had previously bought. I wind the yarn twice, the second time in the opposite direction. This has the effect of allowing the yarn to relax and is not too tight when knitted. This felt really productive. While doing this I made a list of all the yarn I had, showing a sample of the colour, amount, make, yarn content and size. I also kept details of the price.

Him indoors put on his sympathetic hat and suggested that some driving lessons might be a good idea. I got in touch with Helen at Vintage Krankers. Helen lives in Devon so that was too far for me to travel but she introduced me to Janet, who at the time lived a bit nearer and was certainly easier for me to get to in a day. Emails where exchanged, a date was settled on and off I went. The only thing I regret is not being able to take my Griswold with me but as it turned out it was the train journey from hell, both ways, and it was the hottest day of the year;

Tune in for the next instalment....................................I make a sock!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


The machine came with an instruction manual! It was printed on coloured paper; the print was so small I had great trouble reading it easily. I decided to scan the pages onto the computer and enlarge it, making it so much easier to read. I think that some of the information must be missing. There is no mention of how the ribber dial functions in relation to the line drawing with the parts itemised. I have only just this week found how to adjust the timing of the ribber needles to enable them to pick up the yarn in conjunction with the cylinder needles. I have Janet to thank for that. She has a great Blog which I’m sure you will enjoy reading.

The Sock Machine has to have yarn already on it before you can start knitting a sock. Mine came with a setup basket, well it was actually an IKEA whisk that had been decapitated! I failed to engage with this marvel of modern technology. In fact I lost my rag with it! Failing to get any stitches started on the machine I made a set up bonnet. I knit one by hand and then was able to start making tubes. I eventually made a set up bonnet on the machine and this has been so much easier to use.

Using my scrap yarn I kept making tubes whilst at the same time altering the tension to see what effect that had on the finished knitting. I found that using a 4 ply sock yarn the tension was only happy at a fairly high setting (6) to enable a larger stitch to be created. I think because the machine is so new it needed to be run in. I can now get the tension down slightly but it still creates a firm stitch.
Sitting looking at the machine one day, having not progressed very far, I noticed that the needles in the cylinder where not of equal height. I took all the needles out and low and behold there were four different sizes. Some were a centimetre or so longer, others had butts that were larger than the others. I got in touch with Helen at Vintage Krankers  who helped me to decide that new needles would probably be a very good idea.
I ordered both cylinder and ribber needles from Pat Fly who is based in America. The Royal Mail and the Customs and Excise added their dues to the bill.
I put the needles into two separate tins and put a few drops of oil on them. Once they were put into the cylinder it knitted like a dream, no jarring and no dropped stitches.

My next step was to find someone to show me how to use the machine..........properly!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Early Days the start of a Steep Learning Curve

Welcome to my Knitting in the Round Blog
I want to air my thoughts on looking for, buying and learning to knit on a Circular Sock Machine.

I own a Griswold which was manufactured, in Leicester England, around the 1920's.

Most machines of this age have been previously owned by someone who probably had one either to make a living or at the very least supply lovely warm socks for their families.

My machine however was never used by anyone. I am its first owner to actually knit on it.

So she is over 80 years old.

Before the machine arrived I joined  Ravelry Circular Sock Machine There is a very active Group of people who own, or are looking to own, a sock machine.

I was so looking forward to its arrival. I bought some wool, then I bought some more!

I was so disappointed with the machine when it did finally arrive. I was expecting it to be a bright, shiny, cleaned up job. I paid enough for it. (Him indoors was not impressed) I put it away for a few weeks.

After setting the machine up again I tried to make a tube on it, but it just kept jamming. So I decided to take it to pieces and give it a rub down with the sporting life. Well the dirt and grease that came off it was something to behold.

I used some Acrylic yarn for practice and was finding, with copious amounts of oil, it was running more smoothly. Even with the tension set at the largest stitch it was making a fabric that resembled chainmail.

To be continued