Ways to Improve Your Knitting – Fix Your Sponge Bar!
By Diana Natters
Some of you don’t know that there’s a sponge bar hiding inside your knitting machine. This is a metal strip with foam rubber glued to it, and it’s critical to your flatbed knitting machine working properly.
I get mysterious questions about machines doing diabolical things to ruin the knitting, jam the machine, misbehave at the worst possible moments, and generally flummox poor, hard-working knitters. I usually write back, guessing at what the problem might be, and nearly always mentioning the sponge bar as a possible culprit. A worn-out sponge bar has caused the following problems with my own knitting:
Dropped lace stitches
Sloppy needles that don’t stay put
Garter carriage chaos
Falling ribber needles
Misery and cussing
Many of the knitters write later and say their problem went away after replacing the sponge bar.
In most machines, the sponge bar fits sponge-side down above the needles all across the needle bed. It’s under the metal plate just behind the needle number strip. You can get it out by pushing on one of its plastic end tabs, and just for grins, if you never have taken it out, look for instructions in your manual and push it out partway. (WARNING: do not ever remove the sponge bar with the garter carriage on the bed! Never, never! I have not stumbled into this problem myself, yet, but I’m told that disassembly will then be required to remove the GC from the machine. Horrors!)
Once it’s sticking out part of the way, pinch the foam rubber and see if it has any bounce at all. It should be puffy enough to squash the needles downward.
I tend to give my sponge bar the squish test whenever I’m about to begin a real project. I might not bother if I’m running up a demo swatch, but an afghan, sweater, or anything lacy? You bet, I’ll take a moment to squeeze and see if it’s squashed before I attempt any serious knitting!
It will probably be at least partly smashed down in each spot where there’s a needle. Sometimes you can get a little more life out of a sponge bar by moving it just a tiny bit so the un-smashed spots are pushing on the needles. If it’s too smashed, you will need to replace it. If you can’t find a sponge bar to buy, you can put new foam in (see http://www.knittsings.com/ for great instructions) or you can use weatherstripping to replace the foam.
I know people (inspiring, organized souls) who get much longer service out of their expensive sponge bars by taking them out of the machine to rest whenever they’re not knitting. I hope you can do that, but I admit that I don’t remember to do it, myself. I could make the excuse that my machines never cool off, but it wouldn’t be true. The truth is that I’m just a rather absent-minded dreamer whose brain has wandered somewhere remote much of the time.
Right now I’ve been knitting on the bulky and neglecting the standard, so I could do this if I were more mindful and organized. So, do as I say, not as I do…
I’ve also heard that you can revive a sponge bar with cleaning, but I’ve had no luck with that. I’ve always had to replace the foam, or replace the whole bar when mine gets squashed.
Oh – didja know that Ultimate Sweater Machines also have a sponge? You pop out the vertical gray horizontal pieces above the needles and there’s foam rubber in there. I tried knitting without the foam one day, because the lady at the Bond help line said it might help with short-row issues, but I couldn’t stand knitting without it. She said the original Bond machines didn’t have foam rubber, but I notice that they also have a slightly different carriage design. Just a side note.
Passaps have a spring, not a sponge bar.