Garter Stitch

If you’ve been following along on my Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve been working with the GLTC (garter lace transfer carriage) for a few weeks now, trying out various garter and lace patterns on the Superba. I’m happy to say that after some failures last year, I have now gotten it worked out, at least to a point where I feel comfortable that I can make it do what I want it to.

The Garter Lace Transfer Carriage (GLTC) for Superba/Singer/White/Phildar double bed knitting machines

I will post a longer, more detailed post about lace and various fancy garter stitches at some point, but today I will solely focus on plain garter stitch.

Ye Olde Garter Stitch (hand knitted)

Firstly, what is garter stitch? If you are a hand knitter, you know that it is made by, instead of knitting a row then flipping around the work and purling a row, as in knitting stockinette, you simply knit each row. Garter stitch is desirable for certain projects because it is a balanced stitch – which is to say, it doesn’t curl. It’s a nice, easy stitch to do in hand knitting, that will stop your edges from curling, it’s extra squishy, and it looks nice as well. But of course, doing this hinges on your ability to flip the work around and knit from the opposite side of the work.

Because of how a flat bed knitting machine of this type forms stitches, however, it will always be knitting from one side of the fabric – the needles can only pull the loops in one direction. You can’t just flip the fabric around and knit from the back, without a lot of tedious removal of stitches and rehanging. Thus, the default stitch on a machine is stockinette. On a double bed machine, any stitches on the front bed are “purling” as they are knitting from the opposite side of the work.

Now of course there are other machines that can knit garter stitch, such as the Brother machines, that have an electronic garter carriage that moves along the beds and manually reforms stitches to purl stitches. You could also manually do that – drop the stitch to one row below, form it backwards, and rehang it, but I am a much bigger fan of the way these Superba machines do it, which is to use the GLTC carriage to transfer all stitches to the front bed to knit a row, then transfer them all back to the back bed to knit a row, and repeat. Sounds simple, and it is, but it takes a little practice to make the GLTC work optimally, as I found out.

If you don’t have the manual that came with your GLTC, there are copies of manuals available online, that can be found in the Superba Vault, and they are invaluable resources for learning how to use this carriage. I have made a quick YouTube video (below) that shows the process for knitting garter stitch, but you really do need the manual as well, especially if you’re attempting any of the fancy stitch patterns. (Thank you again to all those who maintain this vault; I’d be lost without it.)

I should also add that you can also knit plain garter stitch with the “regular” transfer carriage, that looks like this:

The “regular” transfer carriage for Superba/White/Singer/Phildar double bed knitting machines

That carriage can’t do the fancy garter and lace patterns, but for transferring every stitch from one bed to another, it does a fine job.

The main points to remember when knitting garter stitch are:

  • Check your needles – if you have bent latches, replace the needle. Bent latches in combination with the GLTC will guarantee you have a bad time
  • Beds must be in “transfer position” or 1/4 pitch
  • Bed spacing must be at 4 or 5, depending on what your transfer carriage prefers (I have the most luck on 5)
  • On the GLTC itself, both buttons should be set to the UPWARD position, and this doesn’t change, regardless of what side you are starting the transfer from
  • Both carriages are set to CIRCULAR knitting, not the V key. The front bed will then knit right to left, and the back bed knits left to right. Make sure you have the carriages on the correct side for whichever direction you are about to knit
  • Adjust your weights as necessary. I tend to keep two small ribber weights on the comb, and two claw weights on the edges, moving them up every so often
  • Keep a bodkin handy for transferring stray stitches that didn’t get transferred
And that is really all there is to it! Next time I will get into fancy garter patterns and lace, both of which require a patterning mechanism, such as a light box, pressure pad, peg board, or computer with SuperbaKnit, so they are a little more involved, but still very doable.

I hope this helps everyone get even more enjoyment out of these beautiful machines.

Happy knitting!


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