Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hunting Magic

My friend Hillary brought 2 cones of a really beautiful purple boucle yarn to Knit Club last month that she was destashing. I normally can resist yarn since I have a 2 lifetime supply, but not when it is the perfect shade of purple. I grabbed those two cones and brought them home.

The yarn has a heavy boucle, but the carrier thread is thin. I thought at first it was 100 percent cotton. Boucle yarns often present problems with knitting machines, and if the yarn had not been such a beautiful color, I would have left it for someone else to have fun with.

I swatched the boucle on my standard gauge knitting machine at tension 9, and the machine knit it, but complained the entire time. I went ahead and designed my sweater thinking I would knit it on the standard, but when I cast it on and knit a few rows, I immediately started having lots of problems with stitches not knitting properly. The more I knit, the worse things got. The standard machine was not going to work out.

So, I decided to move the project to my mid-gauge machine, which is an LK-150. It is a nice 6.5mm plastic machine designed for DK weight yarns. It will also knit some heavier yarns as long as they are not too bulky. Because it is plastic, I feel it is sort of fragile. You really can not push it with any sort of abuse without running the risk of breaking the carriage. One of these days, I will get a Studio/Silver 860 but for now, this machine is my only mid-gauge.

I swatched at tension 3 on the LK-150. The carriage did not glide, but it did knit without too much complaining. When I blocked my swatch, I determined that the carrier yarn is not cotton, but is a synthetic either acrylic or nylon and the drape after blocking was just wonderful. I became more determined to get at least a sweater out of the purple yarn.

When I started the actual sweater, the LK-150 was still not real happy with the yarn. I knit slowly but every row was a struggle. The machine would knit the yarn, but it was complaining every row, and I was afraid I would break the carriage or the machine if I continued. I almost gave up and would have except that the color was beautiful and the drape on the blocked swatch was just what I like.

Then I remembered a a tip that my friend Carol gave me to lubricate Bond machines. Yes, I have a Bond machine and I CAN knit on it, but it is not one of my favorites. Carol, on the other hand, LOVES her Bond and has knit many gorgeous sweaters on it including lots of intarsia ones. If you browse the photo archive at the DFW Machine Knitters Guild website, you will see lots of samples of her work,

Carol advises using a Silicone Cleaning Rag from the Hunting Department to lubricate both the bed of the machine and the carriage. This really makes the Bond machines knit much easier. Bond owners really should discard the wax that the machine manufacturer recommends for lubrication and only use this rag - it makes so much difference. I think that a lot more Bond knitters would be successful with just this one tip.

I got out the Silicone Gun and Reel Cleaning Rag that I bought at Wal-Mart and rubbed the bed of the machine as well as the underside of the carriage with it. I took extra care to get down into the needle channels on the carriage as well as the bearing surface for the rail. I like a rag rather than a spray because you use so much less. There is no overspray and the product goes exactly where it is needed.

The difference after the Silicone Rag was absolutely amazing! The LK-150 carriage now glides over this difficult yarn without so much as one complaint.

So, I thought someone else might benefit from this little bit of inexpensive magic. Look for this in the Hunting section at Wal-Mart. I know my rag was less than $5 and it will last a long time. Be SURE that the package says "Safe for Plastic" as some lubricants can dissolve plastic machines.

If you have a plastic bed knitting machine of any brand, try this out. I think you will be amazed.