MachineKnitting,  Pattern

Three Colour, Single Row Height DBJ on the Brother and Superba – Part 1

Recently I started exploring double-bed jacquard (DBJ) on the Brother 940 in more detail. I had only played with it a couple of times to knit a couple of the two-colour patterns from Stitchworld, as a test when I first got the machine. Recently while flipping through Stitchworld, I noticed a couple of beautiful three-colour patterns that are in there, and thought I would give them a try. Unfortunately there isn’t much information in the manual about how to knit in three colours, but I assumed I could figure it out – not much different than two colours after all – so I tried to knit #390 and was unsuccessful.

Why oh why was I getting just stripes and not the pattern? I went on a googling spree and discovered that I was doing one thing right – starting on the right, selecting my first row to the left, and then starting to knit with colour 1 on the left. This is the opposite to how it is for two colours, but TBH I hadn’t checked the manual and would have done this (incorrectly) for two colours as well, and I’ll get into this more in a second. I was also doing one thing wrong – turning on the KRC button.

There is nothing in the manual for the 930/940 that tells you that you don’t push this for three-colour knitting, (although I have since discovered that they do talk about this in detail in the manual for the 965i.) I asked about it in a Facebook group and received some helpful replies, but I still wasn’t really “getting” why. I do understand now. The pattern chart in the back of Stitchworld for all your patterns is the clue. The two-colour patterns are not stored in the memory of the machine separated out line by line (as for DBJ, where you knit one colour per row) because you can knit them as fairisle or whatever other method you want. So to separate them out in the machine computer, you hit KRC and it does the colour separation for you. The three-colour patterns are unable to be knitted via any other method than one colour at a time (like how it is done for DBJ), and thus are stored in the computer already separated. OK that makes sense. And following the instructions I cobbled together, (ignoring the tip I had seen online to select double-height, because again, this is already done for you if you look at the chart in the back of the book) I was able to knit this beautiful sample:

But why the opposite side start? I still wasn’t getting this. DBJ is DBJ right? Well, actually no, and this is where things get interesting. (I hope…interesting for me, ha.) All the DBJ I have ever done on other machines has been double-height, knit 2 rows in colour 1, then two rows in colour 2 and so on. A DBJ pattern has to be doubled in height to accommodate the fact that you can only change colours on the left, and can’t leave your yarn orphaned on the right. On the Superba I had done this way up to 6 colours using Superbaknit. I wasn’t really paying attention at the time I knit the two-colour samples on the Brother, however, because that is actually not how it knits.

I now understand that when you select KRC, it splits up the pattern in such a way that you select your first row of pattern needles from left to right, then knit the first row of colour 1 from right to left, change colours, and then, on your next two rows, knit the first and second row of colour 2, then change colours back to colour 1 and knit the second row of colour 1, plus the third row of colour 1 on your way back to the changer. So, you are knitting this way (1,2,2,1) and then of course it carries on (1,2,2,1,1,2,2,1) and will eventually end with a single pass of colour 1 to the right to close out your pairs of rows. I am going to call this the “offset” method from now on. This is instead of the “usual” way of (1,1,2,2) as I described above. If you are having trouble visualizing this, the manual for the 965i has some helpful illustrations. Here is the 2-colour method that happens when you push KRC:

And here is how the patterns for three-colour are stored in the memory:

Why does this matter? Well, it means that two-colour patterns are going to have much less elongation, for one thing. Instead of knitting two copies of each row, you are only knitting each row one time, thus your pattern looks better, and gives you much higher resolution and less pixelation of your design. Amazing right? I then fell down a rabbit hole of blogs, namely a few posts from Alessandrina, and this piece by Tanya Cunningham about how to achieve this same effect with three colours, because that’s not an option that seems readily available on the Brother 940. You simply can’t upload or input a three-colour pattern, push KRC and have it knit in the offset method – at least not that I can tell. I do have a PPD disk drive that I have never used – maybe it is possible to do it from a disk, but I don’t think so.

You can upload a 3-colour image via Img2Track, but it automatically doubles rows and coverts it to knitting in the (1,1,2,2,3,3) method. Apparently the offset method of separation is one of many built into DAK, but I don’t have the $$ for that at the moment. There is a way to do it using the AYAB interface and open-source programs, which is awesome, but I don’t necessarily want to hack my perfectly working 940 at this time either. So what else can you do? Well you can draw out your pattern line by line, manually separating it for knitting in the offset method, but it is complex and I couldn’t do it successfully even with a small pattern repeat.

Then there are the methods described on those two blogs/posts I linked above, mainly this one, where after each pass of patterning on the main bed, you complete a blank row, knitting only on the ribber with lili buttons engaged to carry the yarn back to the left to be changed. The method described for use on the Brother seem a little tedious, but then I got to thinking about how the Superba handles patterning. The needles are not selected a row beforehand, as they are on the Brother. They are selected and knit at the same time, so there is no option to de-select needles by pushing them back. But I wondered what happens if you push the cursor across without the carriage and then knit across. Would it select all needles, or none, for knitting? Luckily, it selects none! *Here you should note that the carriages are set to O, or “slip” in both directions, as they are always for this kind of DBJ. Without any needles being selected on the back bed, it simply doesn’t knit any needles. If your carriages were set to V, or “knit”, I think it would knit them all.*

Here is the sample I knitted in this way — knitting the first row from the left to the right, then, despite the fact that the software was using the standard doubled rows, (1,1,2,2,3,3) just manually moving the cursor back to the left and not knitting the second row in each pair – only knitting on the front bed in birdseye pattern. In Superbaknit, it just thinks you have knit the row as usual when you move the cursor. (For much of my testing I used the same image from Alessandrina’s site, as it was easier for me to visualize with the same image that she had already drawn out in various ways.)

It is still kind of stretched, and there’s quite a bit of grin-through, but it works. It is also really easy to do on the Superba. No pushing of needles, just knit to the right, move the cursor back to the left, knit to the left, change colours, and repeat. It is also worth noting here that I was not using a colour changer, just the jacquard claw, manually threading and unthreading the carriage each time.

Given that I was already manually changing colours, I thought I would try knitting “true” one pass per colour, and change colours on each side of the bed. By knitting birdseye backing, you would then be knitting 1/2 a row on the back (ribber) side for each pass of the carriage, meaning that for each full row sequence of your design, instead of having up to 6 passes (or 3 full rows) on the back for each row of design on the front, you would have 3 passes (or 1.5 full rows) on the back, to one row on the front. This would give you a much more desirable fabric, and the least amount of elongation on the front. Sidebar: Tanya Cunningham’s post mentioned this as well, but you can only really do this easily with an odd number of colours, unless you want to be cutting yarn each row. But with three colours, it works nicely.

Because I am not the brightest sometimes, I manually separated the colours into single rows, loaded that pattern into Superbaknit, and off I went. You do have to disengage the carriages on the right-hand side to thread and unthread at that side of the bed, but otherwise it wasn’t any more work than changing at the left with the claw, and worked out beautifully:

At this point, I was so pleased with the result, and thinking how this is actually something I might use. It looks so good, and the resulting fabric is so gorgeous and balanced, and has great stretch, that changing yarns manually would be worth it. But what a pain to draw your pattern out line by line. Surely there must be a way to do this automatically? Well of course there is, the functionality is baked right into Superbaknit, I just forgot. *facepalm*

If you use the “jacquard” option when you are loading a pattern in Superbaknit, it splits the design up for you exactly that way – one pass per each colour of each row:

Taken right from the Superbaknit manual, describing what the jacquard button does.

Obviously with only two colours, you would end up with your yarn orphaned on the wrong side of the bed each time, so I had initially written this off as a setting to never touch. But with three colours, and a willingness to change on each side of the bed, it becomes much more useful. Especially since I figured out that also selecting the “double bed” option will build in a blank pass of a colour if it doesn’t exist in that row. HOORAY!

A single-height chart for the ball, necessitating changes on both sides of the bed

But, what if you don’t like changing on both sides of the bed, or want to use a colour changer? Well, that is something I will address in Part 2, as this is already way too long. Until then, you should know it CAN be done, and it isn’t that difficult if you have Superbaknit. Kind of. Hooray!

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