Ooooh, two posts in one day!!

As promised, here is the setup bonnet in action. Basically, I took the loops of yarn between the picots and hooked them over every other needle.

Setup bonnet in place

From that point, I put on some scrap yarn, then the actual yarn for the sock. If you put the sock yarn directly on the setup bonnet, you can’t get it apart without cutting one or the other.

I made a basic hung hem, then cranked a tube.  You may notice I have a new yarn carrier, the slotted version from Roxana Baechle, who also made the instructional DVD’s that I have.  It’s much nicer than the yarn carrier with the little hole you have to thread the yarn through, especially when I’ve made a mistake and had to frog – with the slotted carrier I don’t have to cut the yarn when I make a mistake. 

Set up for the heel

After knitting a length of tube, I set up for the heel by raising half of the needles to take them out of knitting. Then I knit back and forth, raising 2 needles at the beginning of the first 2 rows to minimize the holes, then 1 needle at the beginning of every row after that. It’s basically the equivalent of a short-row heel on a handknit sock. Then at the midpoint of the heel, I push 1 needle back in to knit at the beginning of every row, until it’s back to half of the needles again. It’s important to keep tension on the lengtening heel, or the machine will drop stitches. For this purpose I bought fork weights, which are just bent forks with weights attached to them. This is how I attach them.

Heel fork weights

After getting all of the heel stitches back into knit, I push the other half of the needles back in and continue to crank tube for the foot. Then I knit another “heel” for the toe to be closed by Kitchener stitch. Here’s how the heel turned out.

A heel!

Nice, huh? It’s still too loose for my foot, even with fine acrylic baby yarn and pretty tight tension on the 72-slot cylinder. I will try the mock rib, and I am still awaiting my replacement 54-slot cylinder. Can’t wait to play some more!

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I’ve been making good progress on the Legare 400 circular sock machine.  First I made a set-up bonnet, which is basically a knitted tube with a picot hem, and is used to cast on to the machine.  I’ll post pictures of it “in action” later.

Setup bonnet

It’s made from Patons Kroy, nice and sturdy. I used a similar technique to make this baby hat, but I tightened the tension towards the top and then threaded the yarn through all the loops at the top to make this baby hat. I added a pompom, but didn’t get a picture of that before I gave it away.  It was the first time I tried to make a pompom by hand, and was really not that spectacular, so don’t be sad that you can’t see it.

Baby hat with picot edge

The yarn is Filtes King Color Baby, and I used less than a skein.  I wasn’t sure if the baby will be a boy or a girl, so I figured that a yarn with blue and pink in it would be appropriate.  It’s more blue than pink, so I chose the picot hem to be a bit more “feminine.”  So it’s kind of an androgynous hat!

I also played around with the tension. Here are the extremes of gauge I can get on the machine, using 2/24 acrylic yarn:

Loosest and tightest

And here is the first heel I turned! I kept dropping stitches, but managed to pick them back up.

My first heel

Finally, here’s my first practice sock! It’s sport weight baby acrylic yarn, which I have been told is not the easiest yarn to use on the CSM.  It was somewhat difficult to crank, but it is complete, even with Kitchener’ed toe!

My first practice sock!

I used the 72-slot cylinder, so with sport weight yarn it came out much too big for my feet.  Next I’ll try it with my 2/24 acrylic, to see if I can get the right size.  I will also try mock rib, meaning that I’ll take out some of the needles rather than having them truly ribbed with purl stitches, since I haven’t figured out the ribber yet.  The 54-slot cylinder I got with the machine has such a rough surface that it’s unusable, and even after soaking in oil and cleaning it, I can’t even put needles into all of the slots.  Fortunately, my eBay seller is going to replace it for me, so I’ll be able to experiment with that one too.

Hopefully soon I’ll be confident enough to use actual sock yarn!

Following all the advice I got on Ravelry, I went at my Legare circular sock machine from eBay with some Marvel Mystery Oil and a toothbrush, and started cleaning it up.  There was a lot of black oily guck in it.  I wonder when the machine was last used – that stuff could be decades old!  After much effort and some visible improvement, the oil was still coming off kind of black, but I got impatient to see if the machine would work.  So I put it together and added the cylinder spring and needles, which I bought new.  The whole thing is heavy and needs a stable surface to be clamped to, so I got a Black & Decker mini-workbench which I assembled (thank goodness for my visuo-spatial skills – the instructions were not easy to follow).  Then I started cranking! Casting on requires a set-up basket or bonnet to get the knitting started. A simpler method is to use a mesh bath scrubbie, which is what I did.  On my first try I got a tangled mess.. 

First try, a tangled mess

The yarn carrier seems to be able to adjust only up and down, and was either too high for the needles to catch the yarn, or hitting the needles. I think I probably bent some of my needles fiddling around with it. Then I put a piece of paper towel between the yarn carrier post and the place where it attaches, so the carrier head is a little further from the needles, and it’s just right!  Now it’s close enough to feed the yarn into the needles, but not so close that it’s banging into them.

Hey, it works!

So I’ve got a tube!! Many dropped stitches, but a tube nonetheless.

Second try

There is a set of very informative DVD’s that I’m getting for my birthday from my sister Pat – once I get them I’ll go over everything more carefully, but at least I know the machine is not a dud. Yaaaaay!!

The craziness continues…

So… even though I don’t have enough time for my knitting and spinning obsessions, I became fascinated by this after seeing it on the Lime and Violet Daily Chum Blog. Maybe it’s because I don’t have enough time for these things, and I think that it will save me time. I know that won’t be true, at least in the beginning, but I am a slow sock knitter, and I have a ridiculous stash of beautiful handpainted sock yarns that would look great in plain stockinette. And I’ll be spinning more yarn than I have time to knit. Plus, I have a birthday coming up!

So… I found the Circular Sock Machine group on Ravelry and learned as much as I could from the message boards. These machines can be up to a hundred years old or more, and can be bought in refurbished and working condition for tons of money, or “as is” for somewhat less. There are also new machines being manufactured in New Zealand, but those are the most expensive, close to $2000. Given that I came out of residency with a very large amount of debt, I figured that I shouldn’t be spending thousands of dollars to make socks at this point in my life. So I decided to look on eBay for a machine that would involve more work and some risk that it might not actually knit, but would cost a lot less. Here’s the machine I bought.

kn4797

Beautiful, no? It’s a Legare 400, a Canadian sock machine which according to many is very solidly made and reliable. This one comes with two different cylinders (54 and 72 slots), a ribber (36), and a bunch of accessories. The photo is from the eBay listing. Unfortunately, after I placed the bid, I found out that Risa was selling her refurbished (and definitely working) Auto Knitter, and that she lives in New Jersey, only 20 minutes away from my Dad! And that this particular eBay seller is a mixed bag in terms of people actually being able to use their machines – the one Risa bought had parts from different manufacturers and was not usable, though others on the forums said they were happy with theirs. But at that point it was too late, no one else bid on the machine, and I was not able to get out of the deal. So this machine will be coming to me.

I am nervous but excited at the same time. I’ve already gotten lots of support and advice from the CSM group on Ravelry, and I’m looking forward to taking apart the machine, cleaning it, and figuring out how it works. My dad also likes gadgets, so I’m hoping he’ll become interested and be able to help me.  For inspiration I’ve been looking at the Soxophone Player’s blog, as well as a post by Dave Daniels at Cabin Cove Mercantile, who was able to restore a machine from the same seller to make beautiful socks (I did not see his “BEWARE THE BLUE BACKGROUND” warning until after I placed my bid).  I hope I manage to do the same.

So… crazy, right?  That’s me!!

Happy Mother’s Day!  This is the first year Tim actually understands what’s going on. He made me a little scribbled card in preschool, and when he said “Happy Mother’s Day” to me this morning I just turned to mush. 🙂