MachineKnitting,  Pattern

Three Colour, Single Row Height DBJ on the Brother and Superba – Part 2

Well if you read Part 1, you will know that I had found a method for knitting single row height double-bed jacquard, on the Superba, via a couple of different methods, but not the “offset” method that would, a) keep all the colour changes on the same side of the bed, ultimately allowing for, b) use of a colour changer.

Now I must take you back to a conversation I had via email with the makers of Superbaknit back in 2018. At that time, I had been using the “Skip stitch” function to knit DBJ, and noticed that it was limited to three colours. I wanted to use four with my colour changer. To make a long story short, they were able to lift the restrictions on the skip stitch method – which, by the way uses (1,1,2,2,3,3) double height method – for up to 6 colours. And, after some tweaking, they were able to make it so that changes always happen in the same order – a necessity with the Superba colour changer, as it is an automatic changer which pulls the yarns in the default order every time. Great!

In that email, they described why it would be more difficult to lift the restrictions on the “Fairisle Rib” method, because of the complicated calculations that would be involved in that method of colour separation when you get over three colours. The method described? — (1,2,2,3,3,1). At the time this didn’t make much sense to me, but as I started looking into all of this further, a bell went off in my brain. I remembered the email, looked it up to confirm my suspicions, and then loaded up Superbaknit and gave it a try. And guess what? The functionality I was looking for is, once again, already built into Superbaknit. All you have to do is load up your pattern and select “Fairisle Rib”:

Now interestingly, the “double bed” option doesn’t seem to affect the fairisle rib setting. The blank passes are there (or not there), regardless of whether double bed is selected. Of course if you have good eyes, you will also notice a key problem: the colour changes are not in the same sequence throughout. I wondered if that was because this particular pattern has sections without three colours on each row. So I loaded up another one to try:

Again we can see that the changes eventually go in a different sequence. Thus, we are once again left to the use of the jacquard claw. However as you can see, it is still completely possible to knit, even though not in order:

So we have our single row height design, and solved the problem of changing yarns on the right-hand side, but still would not be able to use the colour changer. Although in another test image I imported, the changes were kept in the same sequence throughout, so I can only tell you that it would sometimes be possible, depending on your image:

(I realize that pattern is super ugly, and you can also tell where I had a jam with the colour changer and then restarted knitting on the wrong row when I was testing. The flow comb cover and I do not play nicely together!) This image gave me a perfect 1,2,3 sequence of yarn colours throughout. I’m not sure why. Maybe the ball pattern is an anomaly, and most other patterns would follow the same sequence throughout? I haven’t tested enough to know.

Of course, none of this would be a problem on the Brother, since that colour changer doesn’t automatically supply your next yarn – you select the one you want each time. But how to get that information into the machine remains the problem. I know from others’ experience with Img2Track that you can just import a pattern that is already separated out, call it a two-colour pattern, and then knit with three colours in the appropriate order, although you won’t be prompted to change colours. And I already have a program that will split it out for me….

So my very inelegant way of doing this is as follows:

  1. Make your three-colour image for knitting. I tend to draw the image as I want it in Win_Crea, a handy little free program that saves images as a .BMP. Make sure one of your three colours is not white, as this will lead to confusion with “non selected” stitches later on.
  2. Connect your computer to Superbaknit, and power it up. You can not use the software when not connected to the machine, unfortunately.
  3. Select your image as you normally would for knitting. Keep the width box blank to only show one repeat of the pattern. Select the “fairisle rib” option.
  4. Click Download, and then select Knit, just like you are planning to knit on the Superba.
  5. Superbaknit will pop up the knitting window, with colours all separated. (For a three colour pattern, of ten rows, you’ll end up with 30 rows to knit.) Expand the window to full screen, making sure you can see as much of the pattern as possible. This is easy with a smaller number of rows, but if you have a large pattern you’ll have to do the next steps a few times.
  6. Take a screenshot of the knitting window, and paste it into a graphics program (I use Paint, but you can use whatever you want.) You can save it in that state and then, if necessary, get more screenshots of the rest of the pattern if it didn’t all fit in one shot.
  7. Crop your image(s) to the borders of just the pattern. Crop out all the row numbers, etc. and save as a .BMP. (Before you do that, I like to save a second copy of this image with the row numbers as it will be helpful later.) For a small pattern you will have something like this:

8. Take that image, import it into Win_Crea, give it the appropriate dimensions of rows and stitches, and resave it. This might not be necessary, but I did it anyway to make absolutely sure it was the right size. I don’t have to guess in Win_Crea about pixels, I tell it x stitches by x rows.

Now, if you are pasting multiple cropped screenshots together for a larger pattern, you need to import the first section, add enough blank rows at the top (or bottom, depending on which rows you copied first) for the second section, save it, open the second part and give it the appropriate size info, select the whole thing, copy it, open the first part again, paste the second part in the blank rows, and save the whole thing. YIKES. This part could probably have been done easier in another program, granted. Either way, you need to combine any multiple screenshots into one long image, and save it.

Also at this time, I made the three colours black, red, and blue – img2track doesn’t like the purple, but it does recognize these colours. (You can also make all the stitches black, I just had a hard time keeping it straight that way.) For a big pattern you’ll get a gnarly image like this 60 rows of pure terror:

Is it a moth? I see a moth.

9. Take your new, red/blue/black image, or black and white image, and import it into img2track for 2-colour knitting, with the vertical stretch set as 1. You can do this while not connected to the knitting machine to make sure it will work. Double check it to make sure all the rows look correct. It should look exactly like what you uploaded, but in black and white:

10. Transfer it to the knitting machine as per the img2track instructions, and then you are ready to knit it in the same method as for two-colour DBJ – start on the left, select rows to the right, knit row 1 to the left, change colours, knit two rows, repeat.

Because you can select the yarns in any order you want, it doesn’t matter that the sequence gets messed up, however you do have to keep track of the colour you need to be using. In this pattern, I noted that it was simply 1,2,3 in sequence until row 25, at which point it went out of sequence. This is why it is helpful to keep a copy of the “yarn coloured” rows with the row numbers to refer to when knitting, by the way.

And that worked beautifully! I tested both the different ball patterns – with three colours in every row, and three colours in most rows – and provided you keep track of the row you are on and what colour you need next, it goes perfectly smoothly. My ugly triangles also imported and knit successfully, and that one is always a 1,2,3 sequence of colour changes, so it’s easier to keep track of what colour comes next.

The results are just so pretty. Well, maybe not the triangles, they’re still ugly. But they’re single row ugly! Single rows, birdseye back, so stretchy and squishy. Just divine. But do the “offset” method knit pieces look as good as the “single-pass” method? The choice is yours:

I think they all look identical in terms of aspect ratio. The one on top (knit via changing yarns on each side of the bed) maybe has a more pleasing back, but it wouldn’t likely be worth the pain of manually changing yarns on both sides of the bed, unless it was for a really special project. I tried to do the math of how many rows on the back to the front for the offset method, and I think it must be exactly the same as the single pass, since it’s still 30 total knitted rows. So 3 birdseye rows, or 1/2 a row each pass of the carriage, gives 1.5 total rows on the back per knitted row on the front. If you did stripes instead of birdsye, 3 full rows on the back to one full row on the front, which elongates the pattern on the front more, but can still be nice depending on the effect you want.

Now, if you are so inclined to go one step further with your imported pattern, I just learned it is possible to edit the memo information for a pattern directly on the knitting machine console – meaning you can add in the colour change prompts. Page 52 of the Brother 930/940 manual tells you how to do this. I probably wouldn’t bother for a pattern where the changes are always in sequence, but for the ball pattern, it was easy enough to add the colour number for each pair of rows. So now when I get to row 26, and it all goes haywire, I can have a look at the console to see what colour I should be pulling next:

That is a beautiful thing. It was a really convoluted process to get there, but we got there.

I hope this deep dive into various three-colour knitting methods has been interesting for someone other than me. I could have saved myself a lot of pain if I had a better understanding of the functions in Superbaknit when I set out, but now that I do, I hope I can save someone else some time.

It would certainly be nice if there were a standalone utility to do this colour separation, (and dare I dream for four or more colours?!) Until that time, this will work just fine, I don’t have to buy something new, and I can knit whatever it is I might want to knit in three colour “offset” style jacquard on whichever machine suits the project better. Hooray!

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