The Multipom

The designers of the Multipom have been kind enough to send me one of these little gadgets so that I can try it out.

This is me discussing how I fared following the packet instructions and making 12 tiny pom-poms in DK yarn. I chose acrylic yarn for these test pom-poms, because I thought that would be a good test. In my experience wool yarn, or at least with some wool in it, makes the most luscious pom-poms. They must be steamed though. This opens out the fibres at the cut ends of the yarn, plumping them beautifully.

This was my method, following the instructions that came with the Multipom.

Firstly I wrapped the yarn 40 times, lengthwise around the Multipom. Doing fine so far.

Next it needed to be tied off into 12 equal lengths. Well not equal, as the end tie is closer, which was tricky. Somehow I managed to tie only 11 ties, but couldn’t work out where I had gone wrong. A ruler has been printed on the instruction sheet so it should have been easy. I put it down to me being tired!

Tied yarn on the Multipom

Tying the wrapping threads was challenging. Another pair of hands to hold the knots tight would have been helpful. The advice to use a strong thread is very sensible as you have to tug hard to make a nice ‘waist’ on each pom-pom before cutting.

Tying the knots tight enough was fiddly. Strong yarn needed, and strong fingers.

Anyway I decide to get ahead and cut them anyway. Cutting the end ones was awkward,so that pom-pom was more ragged than the others immediately after cutting.

Getting the scissors in to cut the end folded yarn was a bit awkward.

I rolled each cut pom-pom between my palms to encourage them into balls, and then started to trim them. This is where a pair of curved blade embroidery scissors would be useful.

The pom-poms after cutting but before being rolled between my palms.

Once again, a good tip is given in the instructions, ‘Don’t be afraid to cut too cut off quite a lot’, and thats what they mean Take it a little at a time and turn the pom-pom as you work; there is a lovely nugget of firm roundness inside those straggly monsters.

Trim,turn,trim,turn. And again

It took me at least 10 minutes to trim them all to my satisfaction.

Trimmed and almost done

Then I steamed them by hanging them inside an electric kettle. Do be careful if you do this. Don’t put too much water in the kettle so the pom-poms won’t get wet, and when you take them out be very very careful not to scald yourself with the boiling steam. Use an oven glove and let them cool before handing them. If they do get wet, don’t worry as this can improve their density. It just means you’ll have to wait for them to dry before working on them any further.

After steaming the outer fibres expand and fill in the shape.

So what’s my verdict on the process and result?

Is it quicker than making individual pom-poms on other gadgets?

Yes, although the trimming is a bit more arduous.

I find the yarn management much easier than when wrapping the small, individual pom-pom makers. It also avoids that situation where you are struggling to pop the two parts together, but they always spring apart again, or worse still the hinged bit pops off.

Cutting is a lot easier because you are just slicing straight across rather than inserting the blades between the plastic halves and trying to cut in a narrow space, whilst trying to hold the maker together. When using the Multipom there is the rather fiddly end cuts on the frame to deal with, but that’s only 2 per 12 pom-pom s, so pretty minimal compared to using an individual maker.

Wrapping core yarn is easier on an individual maker, as you seem to be able to get a better cinch around a circular waist, although that may improve with practise.

I haven’t tried larger pom-poms yet, but I suspect the individual pom-pom makers may give better results because trimming becomes more important to the final shape on big pom-poms.

So the Multipom gets my vote if you want to make lots of smaller or mini pom-poms, which after all is what it was designed for. However there is still space in my workshop drawer for the larger, individual pom-pom makers

Thanks once again to the Multipom team, it’s good to see innovative tools being designed to meet the diverse needs of the craft community.

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Crochet revisited in a caravan

We are in our caravan. It’s a bit windy to sit in the awning even though it’s quite warm. So I decided to practise my crochet skills. I want to make an Afghan (granny square blanket) for the caravan, so tried a wagon wheel square in some rather garish DK acrylic yarn I have here.

The instructions are US terms, so I’ve become a bit stress trying to convert it UK terms.

I think I got it right.

I can’t make it in acrylic. All those hours of work that will be needed should be rewarded by working in wool, so I can’t start until I get home and sort some out.

Although the dog will sleep in it so it will have to be fully washable.

Tying a blowline knot

For years when sailing I managed not to really learn how to tie a bowline – I mean not so that I could tie one without thinking, or behind my back, or with my eyes closed as my friends could.

This summer, whilst caravanning in Scotland I tried to re-capture my rather dismal knot-tying skills, with poor results. Google-in-hand I tried and tried; the little pneumonic about the rabbit and the hole failed to click, and I vacillated between laughter and tears at my ineptitude. What I thought was a successful bowline ended up undoing itself and losing the dog’s ball-thrower. All in all a bit of a disaster.

So imagine my joy to find a page showing a different method. Its called Aegean Sailing School and makes so much sense. Aegean Sailing School how to tie a bowline knot.

So anyone with the same problem, give their method a go. I hope never to lose another ball-thrower!

Brother ScanNcut

Last week I made a bit of an impulse purchase of a Brother ScanNcut machine. A friend at a dinner party had mentioned that these existed, and I became intrigued, did a bit of web-trawling and found the CM900 on offer. So I pressed ‘buy’!

It took a week to arrive, which was frustrating, and then I had to go into work and other various things stopped me opening the box until this morning. My first test cuts were not successful, until I discovered it’s necessary to close down the handle of the knife holder! Ha ha, silly me!

After that it was a matter of testing the blade depth, based on the recommended depths, until the blade cut the paper but did not go into the mat too far. I’ve discovered that it seems to always mark the mat, but when thinking about this, to cut through its probably always going to do this.

The other thing I struggled with a bit was how to position the image and paper so that the cut is where you want it. A bit of maths and spatial understanding is needed for this, and I am still getting the knack.

The built in patterns are fine for practising on the machine, but I aim to work on the Canvas software later on today and transfer files by USB or wifi.

Editing on the machine’s screen is quite easy, you can resize, crop, flip, mirror and combine (weld) images to make your own outlines. So far I have made scallop edge with a cut out border above, not brilliant, but testing out how it all operates.

My first real cut – using an installed image, resized.
Scallop edge with a cut out border, made by combining two installed patterns

Apparently there is dust inside the lens of my phone, hence the dark spot at the top of the photos, great

Another technical glitch!

Any way back to the ScanNcut, so far I love it! Can’t wait to try other papers/cards and fabrics.

‘Translating between Hand and Machine Knitting’ – publication date is 31st August

Cover of Translating between Hand and Machine Knitting
The cover features a voluminous and irresistibly tactile 3D knitted textile by Marie-Claire Canning

Using snap on presser feet with a Bernina 1030 – take care with some types of adaptors

I have been using snap-on feet on my Bernina 730 and 1030 machines for years with the aid of a clip-on adaptor screwed onto a low-shank Bernina adaptor. This combination allows me take the adaptor apart and use the low shank adaptor to attach low shank feet, such as a ruffler.

Bernina feet, whilst clearly the best option, are exorbitantly expensive and I can’t justify this cost for some of the more exotic feet that I may only use for part of one project.

Through the years I have also acquired a Bernina clip -on adaptor with a metal lever at the back with which to ‘clip’ the clip-on feet to it, which is also brilliant at the job but obviously lacks versatility as it doesn’t allow for low shank feet to be used.

Recently I bought a set of 48 (? I think), clip-on feet to expand my collection at a reasonable price, and another ‘Bernina style’ clip-on adaptor which has a red plastic lever at the back rather than a metal one. Now for the weird bit.

I used the knit foot and then the cording foot from the new set, both with the combination adaptor, and all was well. Then the next time I sewed, I attached the rolled hemming foot to the machine using the adaptor with the red lever, and the needle smashed into the foot. Not having used this foot before, I thought the foot was a fault, and so, being in a hurry I sewed the hem with the standard foot instead.

Today I attached the knit foot to the machine, and picked up the adaptor with the red lever as it was at the top of the box in which I keep the clip-on feet. Lo and behold, when I started to sew (with a straight stitch), the needle collided with the centre plate of the foot and smashed! I was confused, this foot had worked last time, what was the problem! Having forgotten which adaptor I had used last time I spent some time fiddling around checking what could be wrong with the machine. Then I thought about it a bit more, and realised I’d most likely used the combination adaptor as this is always stored in the actual machine’s own accessory box. I swapped the adaptors, and sure enough, no collision and no broken needle.

A little analysis and test-driving was needed, and after re-checking it seems that the red-lever adaptor positions some clip-on feet too far forward, so that the machine needle hits the centre plate of the foot. I haven’t tested all the clip-on feet with both adaptors yet, but have written big notices one the storage box, machine and accessory box to remind myself to use the combination adaptor with the knit foot and roller hem foot, and to check any others carefully before starting to sew.

A lesson learned!

‘Translating between hand and machine knitting’ is about to be published

i have just received my pre-publication copy of ‘Translating between Hand and Machine Knitting’, it was waiting here on my arrival home from holiday. It’s a great welcome home present.

Holding the book
My pre-publication copy just out of its wrapper.

Here are some sample pages.

Translating between Hand and Machine Knitting

A pre-publication glimpse of my new book, Translating between Hand and Machine Knitting.

CoverTo be published by Crowood Press in summer 2018, this book is lavishly illustrated with clear step-by-step instructions on knitting techniques, stitch structures and fabric constructions.

Unlike many other knitting books, this one explains why knit stitches behave in certain ways, and how to achieve effects using combinations of stitches. Each stitch construction is analysed and explained with diagrams and examples, for example tuck stitch (in hand knitting this is known as broiche stitch) is clearly illustrated so that the route of the yarn is tracked, and effects on vertically and horizontally adjoining stitches can be seen.  Fabrics made with this stitch in both hand and machine knitting are illustrated, explained and compared and contrasted in both methods of knitting. The most suitable method is highlighted and pros and cons of methods discussed.

diagram_stitchCopyright

The constructions of textural and colour effects are explored and described by hand and machine knitting methods. There is a whole chapter explaining how to knit a hand knitting garment pattern on a machine, or vice versa, and how to subsitute yarns between both methods. Examples and illustrations support every step, and shortcuts and hints and tips are scattered strategically throughout the text.

I am proud to say that my book has been written with the primary aim to enable the reader to take control of their knitting and create exactly what they want in both knitted textiles and knitted garment shapes.

It will take pride of place on any knitter’s book shelf, sitting next to The Knitting Book and Knit Step-by-Step.  Preorder on Amazon

Knit presser foot versus walking foot

A number of years ago I invested in a walking foot for my Bernina sewing machine. It wasn’t cheap, but it does a wonderful job. The walking foot makes sewing stretch or very light fabrics a breeze and matching checks and stripes a dream, but it wasn’t cheap. Its also wonderful at preventing puckering and when matching seams.

Bernina walking foot, note the special Bernina fitting which means no screwdriver is needed to fit the foot.

Last week I saw something called a ‘knit presser foot’, and thought it was interesting – mainly because the foot itself is smaller than the walking foot so I thought it might be easier to use in tight spaces.

The clip-on knit foot – note the bar that fits over the needle clamp.

The knit foot I bought is a clip-on foot, but provided you already own (or purchase), a Bernina adaptor for clip-on feet thats not a problem. These adaptors cost anything from £7-£15, depending on which one you opt for, and where you buy it. I have bought a couple from eBay and the most recent one from Austins. The eBay ones are made up from a Bernina low shank adaptor and a low shank clip on adaptor screwed together. A slightly kutcha solution, and with more potential for wobbling and misalignment, but they work OK in general. The Austin’s one is a single piece adaptor, which on the whole I prefer, but both have their uses.

I am also an impatient sewer, and it looked a bit easier to fit the knit foot for a quick seam. Its actually still a fiddle, very little difference in time needed fitting the knit or the walking foot I would say, once the adaptor is installed.

The knit foot itself came as part of a set of feet, some of which quite frankly I have no idea how to use. My enjoyment of this set is amplified by the wonderful names of some of the feet, ‘Iron opens the mouth to’, and ‘If you don’t speak iron’. Yes they are embroidery feet, but much prefer these names.

Finally I was ready to test out the knit foot. I am impressed, it does a pretty good job of sewing stretch fabrics and matching checks; I’ve not tried it on slithery or slinky fabrics yet, or thick knits rather than jersey.

The blue plastic bar, I think this is silicone type plastic as it is slightly sticky.

The key feature of the foot that you notice first is the arm that fits over the needle clamp. This works in a similar way as the arm on the walking foot; it reduces the pressure of the foot on the fabric as the needle raises and lowers. In the knit foot this is a little more obvious than with the walking foot. Underneath the knit foot a small (blue in my case) soft plastic bar grips the fabric and as the pressure is released on the foot, this gripper feeds the top fabric through the foot in synch with the raising and lowering of the foot.

The Bernina walking foot I have has black firm rubber bars that grab the fabric, feeding the top fabric through as the foot lefts of the fabric. Some brands of walking feet have teeth rather than rubber bars. I think this was the mechanism on a low shank generic walking foot I bought many years ago that, despite an adaptor, did not work well with my Bernina, and was a pig to install each time. I think I still have this, so may try it some day on my non-Bernina machine.

The under side of my Bernina walking foot, you can just see the black rubber bars between the metal .

Both feet equalise the feed of the top fabric with that of the bottom fabric as it is fed through by the feed dogs underneath the machine. In overlockers (sergers) a differential feed prevents puckering in stretch and very fine fabrics in a slightly different way, but still controls the way in which the fabric is fed through under the presser foot.

Stitch length makes a big contribution to successful use of the knit foot. Shorter lengths work best for me. You can use a double needle in with either foot. My walking foot is limited to a shorter stitch length for reverse stitch at start and finish.

These two feet so far have seemed pretty equal, but I like the knit foot for being small and easier on small pieces. It is also easier turning corners and sewing curves with the knit foot than with the walking foot. If I want a perfect seam I will however use the walking foot, because I trust it more through my experience of its reliable consistency in use.

Time may change this evaluation, but if you want to try sewing stretchy fabrics or matching patterns etc, for the price, a knit foot is a good investment. If you use it a lot, maybe think about a walking foot on your Christmas list.