Funchal Moebius: It’s a Wrap (sorry, couldn’t resist)

It took me 7 months to knit the first 2 thirds of my Funchal Moebius, but I knitted the last third in just a month, and managed to finish it by beginning of June. I just kept knitting, and suddenly it was done!

I feel rather like one might after running a marathon – victorious and relieved, but also slightly bereft and thinking about the next one….

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One reason I finished it sooner than expected, was that I only needed to do one extra repeat of the pattern, instead of the anticipated two. Having used Malabrigo Sock before, I knew it was prone to getting bigger after blocking, so I erred on the side of caution. And I was right to, because the length increased from 44 to 49 inches (apparently this is common with superwash yarns). At 49 inches it’s the perfect length to be twisted up once around my neck, which, as a year round scarf enthusiast, is how I intended to wear it.

I usually wet-block, but decided against it this time because I was worried about leaving wool out to dry during moth season, and also didn’t want the hassle of putting all those stitches onto spare yarn. I steam blocked, as suggested by the pattern, and I’m fairly happy with the result, although I still think wet-blocking might have evened my tension out further.

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I had to put a whole evening aside for grafting the two ends together, which I was dreading. It was never going to look perfect, because I was grafting a nice even edge to a fairly wonky provisionally cast-on edge, and me and Kitchener stitch don’t really get along anyway…

That said, I’m pleasantly surprised by my acceptable (as opposed to disastrous) result. I debated not putting a twist in the cowl before grafting, but relented when the consensus from other knitters was that I should keep the twist in. I suppose it does make the most of the reversed colour scheme on each side.

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I’m pretty thrilled with the finished result (one would hope so after 8 months of work….). This project arose as much out of a practical need for a proper winter scarf, as a desire for a fairisle project, and I think it will do the job perfectly. The fabric is really thick, soft and squishy, and will be super warm in winter. I’m also really glad I used a soft, superwash yarn, as it sits close to my neck which is usually prime itching territory.

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The lovely mustardy gold will also brighten up my largely grey and navy coats, jackets and jumpers. My only regret is that I can’t wear it yet!

So what’s next?

I don’t think I’m quite ready for another big knit, so I’ve been working on smaller projects – some lovely felted slippers for a workshop we’ll be running at Social Fabric, and some fingerless gloves for me (I’m gonna be so ready for winter). Watch this space!

Funchal Moebius: Work in Progress

Hi Readers, it’s been a while has it not? I’ve been working on a slow and (literally) lengthy fairisle project which I started back in September.

I’d been mulling over fairisle patterns for a while, and decided on Kate Davies’ amazing ‘Funchal Moebius’ because it only has two colours and would be forgiving of any beginner tension issues.
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I also wanted to (gulp..) use up the Ochre Malabrigo Sock that I salvaged from my machine knitted t-shirt. I hate admitting defeat, but I wasn’t wearing it, and frankly, it was too small. I combined it with more Malabrigo Sock in ‘Natural’. As someone who doesn’t really ‘do’ bold patterns, I really like how the Ochre shows a defined pattern against the white, without it being too stark.

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It’s slowly growing, but I’m not quite there yet. I’ve knitted about 11 of the recommended 14 repeats, and it’s shorter than it should be and also quite a bit narrower (judging from the pattern photos). I’m trying to keep it all super loose, but clearly my gauge is still pretty small. Hey, that’s why I chose a scarf and not a jumper for my first fairisle project… I think I’ll need at least 16 repeats altogether to get it to the right length.

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I’ve heard (and seen…) a few fairisle puckering horror stories and  was initially quite worried about the uneven texture of my knitting, but it really settled down after a quick steam with the iron. I’m optimistic that a good wet-block will even everything out when it’s finally finished (oh the miraculous wonder of blocking)

The first repeat of the pattern was quite the learning curve. The provisional cast-on took me at least 5 attempts to get right and looks a bit…rough. I also blundered in without properly familiarising myself with the colour work basics (“I tried it once 5 years ago, I totally know what I’m doing!”). My stranding was all over the place in the first couple of rounds, and it took a bit of experimentation to get the colour dominance right. I eventually found that it worked best with white carried as the dominant colour throughout (you can clearly see the ‘experimentation zone’ in the first row of diamonds below).

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I had rather optimistically hoped that this cowl would be finished by Christmas, but it looks like it’ll be one for next winter. Only 5 more repeats to go!

Replacing a Knitting Machine Sponge Bar DIY Style

Readers, sometimes you have to grab the bull by the horns, so when a friend sent me an ad for a knitting machine with all accessories, a big box of yarn, and a few books, all for a bargain price, I had to go for it!

Behold, my 1980s Toyota KS901 (and please ignore our truly hideous dining room).

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If you tell anyone that you’re buying a second-hand knitting machine, they’ll tell you to check the sponge bar (seriously, even people who know next to nothing about knitting machines..). The sponge bar is a layer of sponge (duh) that presses the needles evenly  down on to the needle bed, while still allowing them to move. Eventually they wear out, causing the needles to sit out of place and generally cause problems with your knitting.

Being a clueless noob, even armed with this information I had no idea how to check the sponge bar (or even where it was) and since my machine was generally in very good shape, I assumed all was fine…

…Until I tried out some fairisle and all my stitches kept dropping off. Gah!

On closer inspection, the problem was pretty obvious – the needles weren’t lined up properly, and were sitting really high off the needle bed (they should be sitting at the level that my hand presses them down to). definitely sponge bar trouble.

Turns out you can locate the sponge bar by two black plastic tabs at either side of the machine. If you push each tab down and pull, you can pull the whole thing out.

On the left is what the sponge is supposed to look like. On the right, is my sponge bar. Flat as a pancake.

My inner ‘make-do-and-mend-er’ didn’t like the idea (or the price..) of buying a whole new sponge bar, and it seemed far more sensible to replace just the sponge. Turns out this is quite easy to do, and for the benefit of other knit machine novices, I’ve included  a step by step tutorial!

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You will need:

1. A replacement sponge  – I bought a kit online which consisted of specially made sponge-bar sponge and some fusible fabric. Make sure you buy the right sponge for your machine, as widths vary between different brands. Other people have used weather-stripping, or cut their own sponge – if you’re feeling brave, you can find a tutorial for how to do this here

2. Clear sticky tape

3. A craft or utility knife

4. Nail polish remover (any kind)

5. A scraping implement (a flat nose screwdriver, or if like me you don’t have one, anything with a narrow flat edge).

6. Cotton buds or cotton pads

You might want to wear an apron/old clothes and put newspaper down because this gets pretty messy..

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First, cut through the old sponge, at the edge of the plastic clip, at each end of the bar (don’t worry about the stuff under the clip).

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Peel back the fabric covering the sponge. I should warn you, it gets pretty gross from here…

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Scrape off as much of the old sponge as you can with your scraper of choice. It will be crumbly and sticky with ancient glue…

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Ewwwww! I will never look at sticky toffee pudding in the same way again…

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When you’ve scraped off as much as you can, pour some nail polish remover on to the bar and leave it for a few minutes (maybe open a window, the fumes aren’t nice..). This will start to dissolve the remaining glue. Clean the rest of the gunk off with cotton buds/pads (repeat applications of polish remover may be needed).

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Ta da! Clean off any remaining nail polish remover with warm soapy water, and dry thoroughly (make sure it’s absolutely dry, or the next step won’t work!).

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Apply the new sponge to the bar. You should start and end at the edge of the plastic clips (where you cut the original off). Make sure you don’t twist or stretch the sponge. The sponge I bought was self adhesive which was convenient.

My kit came with fusible fabric, which I ironed on to the sponge on a medium heat (don’t press down!) and trimmed at the edges and ends.

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Finally, wrap sticky tape around each end of the bar. Half should overlap the sponge and half should overlap the plastic clip. The wrapped section of sponge should be pressed down (as shown above).

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Re-insert your sponge bar, making sure to press the needles down with your hand as you go (or you’ll do what I did and insert it under the needles instead of on top…). Et voila, poker straight needles…

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… and fairisle heaven.