Not Your Mama’s Poncho

Sometimes my brain decides I need a break from making, and everything that I started in the last month or so either fell at the first hurdle, or went wrong at every conceivable point until I put it away in frustration. Given my run of bad luck, I was a teensy bit worried when work asked me to try to machine knit a simple asymmetrical poncho for the shop. Especially because they let me have four skeins of beautiful Artesano Alpaca 4-ply that I definitely didn’t want to ruin…

Grey Poncho 7

I won’t say it knitted up without incident – the yarn was almost too fluffy and splitty for my machine, and I had a few tension problems because the centre pulling balls didn’t pull easily. That said, I think it looks pretty damn good!

Grey Poncho6

I cast on 128 stitches, and knitted until the piece was about 1.3m long. I then folded it in half and partially seamed it on one side, leaving a gap for the neck. It’s knitted at quite a loose tension for 4-ply (tension dial setting 8 on my Toyota) to give extra drape, and minimise rolling at the hem.

It’s almost perfect. The poncho has a bad rap amongst the style-conscious, but in this guise, it’s really quite elegant. It feels amazing to wear – like a really soft, luxurious, easy-to-wear sweater. Everyone who’s tried it on (including me) wants one. I think I may have Christmas sorted…

Grey Poncho 5

My only gripe is that the seamed edge flicks out a bit awkwardly at the side. I think this is because the cast-off edge was much looser than the cast-on, leaving a slight ripple where they meet. Next time, I might try using a provisional cast-on so I can match the tension on both edges more closely. I also think I’ll invest in some blocking wires, so I can get the edges really straight

If you don’t mind hours and hours of stockinette stitch, you could easily hand-knit one of these (you don’t really need a pattern, but this one on Ravelry looks very similar and has an additional cowl neck option). It also makes an easy beginner machine knitting project.

I’m optimistic that I’m back in the groove now, watch this space…

Baby Knits: It’s a Wrap

I actually finished this baby cardigan weeks ago, but stashed it away in a rage because it’s not as perfect as I would have liked. I won’t tell you where I found fault with it, and if you squint you hopefully won’t notice either…

Baby Cardigan FO 2

Despite its imperfections, it’s very cute, and was a great, easy pattern that you can put your own stamp on – I went for stripes, with plain contrast sleeves and neckline. I also made the cardigan totally seamless by joining the shoulders with a three-needle bind-off (instead of casting off and sewing them), and knitting the sleeves on in the round (I had to restart my first sleeve because I forgot that garter stitch in the round is alternating rounds of knit and purl….duh!).

Baby Cardigan FO 3

I’m slightly dubious about the sizing. My gauge was bang on, and I don’t know much about babies, but if you ask me it’s way too big for 3 to 6 months. I do know that babies grow at an alarming rate though, so at least it’ll fit eventually.

Baby Cardigan FO 4

The overall look is a little bit boyish, but luckily for me, mystery baby arrived a few days ago and he’s a boy!

I hope he’ll like his elephant, and fit into his gigantic cardigan one day…

DIY Sponge-bar Repair For Knitmaster 120

NB. This post will only be of interest to knit machine owners, but I thought I’d put it here in case someone else has a Knitmaster 120 and is tearing their hair out…

 Social Fabric recently invested in a knitting machine – a second-hand Empisal Knitmaster 120 Chunky, which was in pretty good shape but had a predictably disintegrated sponge-bar. Given my…ahem…encyclopaedic knowledge and wealth of experience…I was asked to try to fix it.

Knitmaster 120 Spongebar

This machine has a particularly narrow sponge-bar that is no longer manufactured by Knitmaster, and, as far as I’m aware, no-one produces DIY sponge replacement kits for this model either. The only other option was to use spongy insulation tape (or weather stripping, available in most DIY shops) to replace the original sponge, and find a way of cutting it down the middle to make it narrow enough to fit.

Unfortunately, once the old sponge had been cleaned off I realised there was just no way I would be able to cut and fit a length of sponge into a 3mm wide channel. A botch job was required!

Knitmaster 120 Spongebar 1

After a bit of a brainwave, I decided to flip the metal bar upside down, and stick the insulation sponge down along the length of the underneath of the metal bar. I then used a rotary cutter to trim off the excess sponge at the sides, by running it along the bar, flush to the metal. I secured the sponge at each end of the bar with sticky tape, and left the plastic backing on the top of the sponge layer to protect the machine needles (the insulation tape I used was sticky on both sides).

Knitmaster 120 spongebar 2

I seem to have gotten away with it, because when I put the bar back in the machine it worked perfectly! Obviously, insulation tape isn’t designed to work in a knitting machine, so I have no idea how it will stand up to regular wear, but it would be pretty easy to replace again if it disintegrates.

So there you have it, a simple solution to an annoying problem!

If you want more detail about fixing sponge-bar trouble, you can find it in this post.