Thursday, October 31, 2013

In This October Halloween Issue of the "Cranker" the subjects are about Making a"WingSpan shoulder shawl"  on  
a circular sock machine and 
"Standing Up for Cranking!"

First I offer my readers the suggestion that standing, rather than sitting is a very good position for cranking.

 Standing is not only a way to spend less time sitting, it can be far more comfortable for those who have back and leg issues. The two tools I use to get my machines at a good height for standing to crank include height adjustable stands and kitchen work carts.  The least costly adjustable stand I use starts with a $35 Home Depot tool stand. Hank turns this stand into a cranker table by replacing the plastic top with a nicely finished wood top. The advantage to this stand is that it is portable and adjustable to the height that best meets your needs

 I found a great Work-Cart  
 It is a Catskill-Craftsman Kitchen Cube.  With the locking casters it is 35" tall. I chose this particular model because of all the great storage space and its small foot print.  There really is lots of places to store weights, needles, and tools for several machines.  This one cart is now my main storage for all the small parts and tools I use with my different machines.  Apart from the storage it has 24 sq. inches of work surface. That is even enough to hold my coffee cup! You can find this cart for about $170 at ;  

Cranking Angel Wings

Above is a Wing Span collar laid flat on a table so you can see the off-set triangles.  This collar was made with one ball of 100gm, 4 Seasons Hot Socks, self striping sock yarn. It was made on a Green Harmony Auto Knitter with a 96 needle cylinder, using only 90 Big-Hook needles.  A  good steamer will get the triangles nicely blocked and laying flat. 

You might call this a shoulder-shawl, scarf or a medieval collar but the concept is built on 8 triangles.  Each triangle is 90 stitches and shaped by short rowing 3 stitches every two rows until all 90 stitches are up and out of work.  Then the next triangle is started 16 stitches past the beginning of the first, but also extending ahead 16 stitches; making each triangle set 16 stitches ahead of the one before it. When made on a CSM the short row was done going left to right in a 2up+1 method. I left no edge with open stitches; all edges are cast on or bound off.     

The inspiration to try making this type of knitting on a circular sock machine came after our fall journey of 1200 miles towing our old vintage Airstream.
As we made our fall pilgrimage this year to our ancestral home , I used the hours of driving to hand knit my first "WingSpan".  By the start of our return journey there were less than 1/2 the number of wings needed so somewhere in the middle of the Flint Hills of Kansas, I began fantasizing about a way to make these connected short-rowed wings faster. The results were so exciting that my daughter Dee,[seen below wearing my first CSM made WingSpan in glorious fall colors]  thinks I really have to share this with you.

I do think this pattern holds great promise when it is made on a CSM because it is so much faster.  When you consider all the possible color combinations, not to mention different types of lace or tuck stitches that could be added, this method of using connected, short-rowed triangles holds great possibilities for the cranker looking for new challenges.  

If you think you would like to try cranking out your own WingSpan scarf I encourage you to get the original Revelry pattern and read through the directions for hand-knitting the scarf.  The CSM method I settled on is essentially the same pattern.  

Look for the "WingSpan" hand knit pattern at " Maylin " on Ravelry where you can purchase the pattern for a very reasonable $6.  

The pattern includes some very well designed diagrams for visualizing how the scarf is built by knitting a series of connected, off set,  triangles.  Once you are able to visualize how the scarf is hand made it is much easier to understand how the same basic pattern can be done using your sock machine. 

The only real difference between mine and the hand knit version is the stocking-knit stitch.  This stitch is not possible on a CSM so by necessity the CSM made version is a simple knit fabric.  

My first effort was an abbreviated version shown in the photo with little Oreo. To test this pattern I used KnitPicks Chroma fingering in "Prism". Though this bright progressive rainbow of color produced a truly eye catching swatch I would not recommend using Chroma to develop your Wing Span method because this yarn has a soft single spun twist.  As such it does not do well with the rough handling that often occurs when developing hand knit patterns for a sock machine.   

This first WingSpan prototype took me about five hours just to figure out the logistics of how best to use a CSM to make these connected triangles.   After many missteps I worked out an initial method that I could repeat but it took another several hours to see fewer errors and develop  a sustainable rhythm. It is cranking in rhythm that makes this craft so special.

Soon my thoughts drifted away to the beauty of the fall foliage outside my window. It was the colors of fall tress that most inspired me to select the green, teal, rust and brown hues of my first full size  WingSpan scarf. 

A few more specifics for the curious !

To achieve the largest stitch possible, the stitch size adjustment was turned down as far as it would go then turned back-up, 1/4 to 1/2 turn to be sure the cranking would go smoothly.  This produced a stitch that was very close to what a 3.5 to 4 mm hand knitting needle would make. 

It is this larger than normal stitch size that lead me to use the Harmony for this project. 

The Green Harmony Auto Knitter tends to make the largest stitch of any of the different machines I use.  This can be infuriating if you want your fingering sock yarn to have a tight knit fabric but great for making 7" wide tubes for wide leggings and hats or flat work kitting that can be up to 15" inches wide. 

Cranking out Flat knit fabric for garments is not why most of us bought our Sock Machines....... 

But from the start,  our knitting machines were not just for making socks.  Check out a full featured CSM pattern book from the early 1900's like this old Gearhart Pattern book of over 60 knit projects.  These were filled with flat work garments that would make up  a baby Layette as well as children's warm under and outer ware like coats, sweaters, hats,scarfs and insulated leggings and ear-muffs.  

Keeping warm was a matter of life and limb up to the early 1920's because there was no way to travel that was heated and most means of travel exposed everyone including babies, children and the aged to rain, wind and bitter cold.  Home made wool knits were the most reliable means to keep warm.  For the skilled cranker
a knitting machine was a tremendous time saver.

Ready and Wating for Yarn

 Now my mind is racing with ideas 
for yarns that could make for some 
real eye-catching scarfs!

My next project before Turkey day is to make more Videos

What CSM video do you want ?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

CSM Tools For Cranking

 Tools For Cranking

There are some fantastic tools out there to make the most out of your cranking time.  The most affordable can be made at home or found at your local Wall-Mart and Home Depot.  In this edition I share with my readers tools that make cranking less work and more fun.  I have several products to present and will add more to this article over the next few weeks.  

The Little Cable Cuff

I found these at our local Home Depot.  

They work marvelously to clasp around the finished part of your sock and hold a soft weight where you want it.    

Pattern For Making Soft Weights

 What's a soft weight ? It is weight that holds the knitting close to the cylinder by setting inside and moving down through the cylinder with each crank rather than hanging from below and pulling the knitting down.  In the picture above that bulge just above the orange Cable Cuff is the soft weight inside the progressing sock. But before I explain further, here is a bit of historical back ground on the use of weights and our beloved sock machines.

When our old sock crankers were first made, directions and common practice taught the user to crank out several pairs of socks in a row, one sock after another with waste yarn between the end of one and the start of the next sock.  This method was a great time saver.  Once the first tube of knitting was started; the machine was never left without a sock or an equal length of waste knitting so the cranker could start right off making the next sock another day. This practice of making socks or mitts separated by waste yarn in one continuous stream of knitting is why the Creelman Brothers made buckles and hanging weights instead of hooks and hanging weights. The buckle was quicker and easier to move up the finished garment closer to the machine as each piece was completed.  It might also account for the scant effort made in designing an easy-to-use tool to get knitting started.   If you were following the directions, going from sock to waste yarn to sock,  any tool made to get knitting started would seldom be used.

Today, there is no need to use only buckles and cast iron weights.

Soft weights set inside the cylinder will do the job as well if not better. I developed simple soft weights to avoid falling weights on my toes and new hard wood floors.  How I made these soft weights changed over the years from coins to fishing weights to bee bees and finally Hank recommended I use #6 bird shot which was the by far the best weight for the job as the much smaller shot pellets moved easily around and down through the cylinder.

Years later, I discovered my little soft weights were the perfect tool to use for my toe-up socks.  One 3.5 lb. soft weight set on a hung-toe provides evenly distributed weight all around.  The smaller 2.5 lbs. weight is just right to set inside a finished heel, eliminating the need for a weighted heel hook to remain hanging down as the sock is completed. While a 1.5 lb weight is perfect for lightly holding down knitting to do eyelets for lace patterns, a picot hem and for binding off with a latch tool.

Over the last few months 
I have had several YouTube viewers 
request directions to make my SOFT WEIGHTs  

 Here is how I make the
 Colorado Cranker style soft weights 

Each soft-weight is filled with the small pellets of lead made for Bird Shot, usually the #6 or #5 size used for loading into shotgun shells.  Smaller shot such as #8 is so small the pellets can work their way through most woven or knit containers appropriate for use in a CSM.  Shot gun pellets can be found at sporting goods stores that provide bird-hunting equipment and re-loading supplies. 

 When we first started making these the cost of a 25 lb bag of Bird Shot was about $30.  Now that same bag is nearly $50. 

Here are the little details and wisdom I have discovered 
  • You can get 2 to 3 soft weight sets from one bag of shot.  
  • The pellets are poured into men’s spandex socks purchased at wall mart. 
  •  A set of weights will require 3 to 4 socks and 7.5 to 12.5 lbs. of Bird Shot.   
  • A calf length sock in a medium to dark color such as gray, black and blue work best and stay looking cleaner.
  • These spandex socks need to be filled, tied, turned out-side-in then tied again to be sure there is no bird shot working its way out.   
  • Having at least a 4” tail past the last knot will provide a means to pull the weight out.  
  • Using some 3d fabric paint or a Sharpie to mark each weight with its lb. of shot will help quickly identify it for years to come.  
  • A funnel will be most helpful in getting the pellets into the sock and not on the floor. 
  • A 25 lb. bag of shotgun pellets can be hard to control so pour the pellets in a bowl then dip a spouted measuring cup to scoop up the pellets; then pour the pellets into the soft weight-sock. 
  • Though there is always some resistance of movement between the soft weight and the sock yarn the smooth surface of the knit side of the spandex sock will slide down with the knitting and back out of the knitting with far less resistance than the purl side.
  • A 4 lb soft weight will move down inside cylinders on Legare, Creelman and Auto Knitters.  But I find that 3.5 lb. works best in the Imperia, Tuttle, Erlbacher Gearhart & Mater Machine.
  1. Start each soft weight by turning  the spandex sock, purl side out. 
  2. Fill the sock with enough pellets to make weights of 1 or 1.5; 2.5 and 3.5 to 4 lbs as needed by setting the sock on a scale as you pour in the pellets, stopping when the desired weight is reached.  
  3. Tie a knot , giving the pellets room to move around a bit. Flip it out side in; the knit side is now on the out side.
  4. Tie a second knot, again loosely to give the pellets room to move.  Leave a 4 to 6 " tail. 
  5. Label each with the amount of weight they have.

Understanding This old Creelman Sales Sheet 


This sheet totally captures the advertising mood of the 1890's 
as this Creelman Brother's add uses the fad of parlor hypnotism to mesmerize their market.  

When set slowly spinning around, this parlor trick was thought to help soften the buyer by mesmerizing them into believing 
the Dollar Maker Machine 
didn't just crank out Cranked out Money! 

 Today there is still much to be said 
for a craft tool that offers the user 
unlimited opportunity 

to create baskets of luscious warm 

socks, mitts, scarfs and hats for those they love! 

 Realize all the possibilities of your CSM !

One way to learn the most about
 how to use your sock machine is to be a part of a 
CSM society that brings CSM owners together to share cranker wisdom.  There is a new CSM society forming in the US and I believe this group has the potential to meet the need of the 21st century CSM user.  

To discover if this new society 
will bring you closer to your CSM 
check it out at or email: 
Kathy Roletter
and look for the 
Ravelry Groups 

***You can also use the permanent quick links to these 
sites on the middle-right of this blog page

Next Blog is scheduled for October 
and it will be full of more Tool ideas for Crankers
 Here is a sneak peak ......