Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gang of Four

I have 3 new handmaidens. The old one is not pleased.

Even chickengoddesses have to live and learn. And I have learned. The answer to the question of introducing new pullets to a single old hen is, um, don't do it.

You see, I have been intending to get Ophelia new friends since Gladys was killed, years ago. And probably had I done it then while she was still young it would have been fine. But not so now. I brought home 3 pullets today and tossed them in with the best of intentions. At first, they were acting like one big happy family. Then I noticed that Ophelia had started pacing and talking a lot. Whole lots. She started getting kinda schizo with the pacing and talking to herself, but was still largely leaving the pullets alone. Then she started pecking them, but only like a warning, and only when they came near her. I had hoped that this was as far as it would go, but sadly I was wrong. About the time my husband came home for lunch she had started seeking them out like some kind of chicken terminator. The littlest one found shelter between the roosting bars and the floor where she could just fit, but she couldn't stay there forever. The other two were getting bloodied and I had to do something, so I pulled Ophelia out and put her in the bathroom while I ran out and borrowed an old rabbit cage from a friend. It will definitely do for now. So now everyone is separate and safe, until the new girls get big enough to go in with Ophelia.

Originally I had named my chickens Gladys and Ophelia because those were the names my sister and I would assume as children when we played dress up at my Gram's house. But now that there's only Ophelia, I have decided to go with the theme of Shakespearean females, and after today sticking with the tragic ones seems only right. So here's Juliet (the white one), Desdemona (the black and white one) and Cleopatra (mostly black) in their first blog appearance, with Ophelia being angry, which is what she does best today. Any guesses how long before she starts laying again?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Saucy Jack

I have to tell you that the one thing you really don't want to announce on a blog is that you are going to name something. While you are writing it, the idea is just popping into your head and flowing out you fingers. And, largely, bypassing the rational thought centers of your brain. Next thing you know, it's out there and folks are commenting and now expecting some sort of greatness. And while I can't say it was well thought out at the beginning, the knitting machine bailed me out by giving itself a name worthy of your expectations. So now I and my newly working friend will show you our stuff.

First, meet Jack. Jack is a Studio SK360 from some time back in the 80s. The SK360 is a standard gauge machine. That means needle spacing is 4.5mm, also referred to as pitch. It handles fingering weight yarns (a range of sizes, probably up to a thin DK weight) best. For those of you who have or have seen the Bond Incredible Sweater machines or Ultimate Sweater Machines they have a pitch of 8 and handle worsted best. Mid gauge machines would really handle DK and sport weight best. Fine gauge machines would knit very fine yarns and threads. There are bulky machines as well. I have 2 Bond ISMs as well.

The SK360 is a manual machine. This means there are no onboard or integrated electronics. It has a punchcard reader and a knit radar built in (the integrated knit radar is, I think, unique to this machine. Otherwise it is sold separately as an attachment). Punch cards provide a mechanical method of knitting limited designs singly or repeated in either colorwork or in lace type patterns. The knit radar "reads" a schematic of the garment and tells you when to do the shaping. I am not fooling with either of these things right now. I don't know enough about them and I don't need them for this first project.

My machine came with lots of accessories. I believe it in fact came with all the accessories you could get for this model. I have a ribber, which is a second bed of opposing needles which would allow you to knit and purl simultaneously. Otherwise, ribbing on a single bed requires you stop every few rows, drop the desired stitches, then latch them back up in the correct orientation. It is a royal pain in the butt if you have lots of ribbing to do, or if you're on a standard gauge machine.

The best thing about machines? They're fast. I swatched Socks that Rock lightweight for gauge on 3 different settings. It took me about 10 minutes, and I was really distracted.
Here is your typical machine knitted swatch. What this swatch says is that the gauge I want with this yarn, 8st per inch, I can get with the carriage set to 6 (See the little eyelets above each sample? That's how you tell.) . It also told me that I had a bent needle 5 needles to the right of zero, which I replaced. If you look you can see the column of slipped stitch mess.

Armed with this knowledge and this book I prepare the machine to cast on for a sock. Today I am not using the ribber, but am going to knit it with a picot edge, top down.

Open a new window for Pandora. Check. Carriage dial set to 6, phasers set on stun. Go!

Note to self. For this sock, the hem is 6 rows, knit a 7th and make eyelets every other stitch, reset row counter to 0 and knit to 61 rows. This is where we are now.

And if we peek behind, you can see the picot edge hem behind the waste knitting.
And now the heel. I'm going to shortrow down to 12 stitches, then back up. Here we go...

And back up...
Now a zillion more rows all over for the foot. As I'm knitting this I see that I will not need anywhere near as many rows and the calculations suggest. I cut it to 61 and I still may have a large sock. Well, we will see after all is said and done. So here we are with the toe done. Boy, these are going to be some psychedelic socks!
And the sock on waste yarn off the machine...
Lets get this seamed up and see what we have!
A large sock! But it is a sock!

My thoughts on this whole thing.

1. Machine knit swatches are dirty lying bastards just like hand knit ones!
2. The seam is not objectionable at all and can be done better with more practice.
3. The heel is too deep and the foot too big, but these are easy adjustments and I'd have the perfect sock!

I hope you have enjoyed this brief look into my crazy day of machine knitting. Me and Jack are getting to be better friends all the time. Oh, and I hope you guessed his name by now, it is...

Wait for it....

Jack the Ribber!