If you have a knitting machine and have tried out its cool color-patterning abilities, you’ve noticed that the resulting fabric curls at the edges; it’s the nature of single stockinette knitting. For many purposes (garments, wall hangings) the curl can be dealt with in finishing, but for a project like a scarf or blanket you want your knitting to lie flat. The technique we’re using here, known as double bed Jacquard or DBJ, will do just that. Also single-bed colorwork can leave long strands on the back of the piece; DBJ incorporates the strands into the knitting so it’s neat on both sides.
To handle the patterning in 3 yarns, we’re using a method developed by Sarah Spencer at Heart of Pluto. For two yarns you could also use the Classic method, but even with two yarns I found that HoP gives a neater effect.
The color effect in the black two-yarn scarf is done by using a yarn dyed in multi-colors, often called a variegated yarn. The square shown beside the balls of yarn (below) is how this yarn knits up if you knit it by itself. Here we’re combining it in a pattern with the black background yarn, and just letting its colors fall where they may.
Our black yarn will knit the white background squares from the pattern file and the multi-colored yarn knits the black squares. AYAB decides which needles knit which color on each row, known as color separation; you just give it a black-and-white pattern, one pixel per stitch, the same as if you were going to do single bed Fair Isle. AYAB currently (v0.95) labels the black/foreground squares as A, and the white squares as B, then starts with knitting with color B. Similarly with 3 colors, AYAB labels the dark squares as A, medium B, then light C. It’s confusing and could change in a future version of the software.
You need to be familiar with your machine and ribber, and have practiced the cast-on from page 19 of the KR850 manual, which is for a 1×1 alternating rib (for manuals, see the “Further Information” links at the bottom of this article). It’s known as a circular or tubular cast-on, because of the passes that take place on one bed each, forming a circle. What we’ll be doing for DBJ (double bed Jacquard) is the similar cast-on called Full Needle Rib on page 26 of the manual, which uses all the needles in our selected group, with the ribber set to H (half pitch) so they don’t collide.
We’ll do it slightly differently than the manual, reversing one of the settings; we press in the right Part button on the main bed and lift the left slider on the ribber. This helps us get straight to the pattern in as few rows as possible, to minimize flaring at the edge.
Note that some of the colors used in the samples have been discontinued since I started working on this project. Two of the three browns used in the leopard print are no longer available. I’m looking around for alternatives from other manufacturers. The Snow Leopard colors in ivory and two shades of gray are available as of Feb 2022, so are the black/multi and the blue/ivory. The current colors of Woolike can be seen here, and all the available colorways of the Perfect Pair yarn are here. The one called Pink Cadillac works well too.
If you can’t find this yarn or prefer not to use acrylic, look for a lace-weight to light-fingering weight wool. Multicolored yarn similar to Perfect Pair is often sold for knitting socks; look for the thinnest and most flexible sock yarn you can find. You want a color mix that does not include the same color as your background.
The pattern for the knitting machine is a small PNG file, one pixel per stitch. The 2-color “Faux Isle” pattern is 71 stitches wide by either 553 rows long for a scarf about 60″ long, or 469 rows for 47″. The 3-color leopard pattern is 65×90 pixels, and can be repeated in both width and length. About 4 repeats makes a 50″ scarf. Download by right-clicking and saving the image, or by clicking the links provided.
You need a method of entering the pattern; I’m using the AYAB hack. The two-color version of this project could be done using other Brother machine models and other software, or even other brands of knitting machine, including machines that pattern using punch cards. The 3-color version can be done on other models too, but differently.
The two-yarn scarf is about 19cm (7.5″) wide and 150cm (59″) long and uses about 115g of the black yarn and 85g of multi. It is knitted to a gauge of about 35 stitches and 40 finished rows to 10cm/4″. I used tension 7 on the main bed and 6 on the ribber, moving up gradually from 3 and 3 during the first few rows. You may need to experiment with your yarn and machine to get a fabric that you like. Expect to start by doing several samples about 6 inches long and take it off the machine to check the result.
- More about the AYAB hack:
- My first Make: Project with AYAB: Knit a Puppet Using a Hacked Knitting Machine
- My YouTube channel
- Sarah Spencer, who developed the Heart of Pluto algorithm that we used
- The hack for knitting machines that have a floppy port, video by Becky Stern
- img2track software, developed from the floppy port hack
- Free manuals for knitting machines, from Machineknittingetc
- There are machine knitting groups on social media such as Facebook, Ravelry and Reddit. They discuss general machine knitting, AYAB, img2track and others.
- Beginner and advanced machine knitting videos by Diana Sullivan
- Machine knitting videos by Kathryn Doubrley includes maintenance and repair videos by her husband Ask Jack
- Blog about advanced machine knitting techniques by Alessandrina Costa