Saturday, October 01, 2005

How I caught the Machine Knitting Bug Summer 05

Time for me to start a knitting blog. First posting will be a long one since I have “saved up” some notes.

I have recently become nuts for knitting with a knitting machine (or two, actually) and have a steep learning curve going on now.

Things I have learned:
1) Study carefully the standard being used before you buy a piece of equipment on eBay
2) Have fun and don‘t take yourself too seriously

Mid summer 2005 I started to look around at eBay for a knitting machine and THOUGHT i understood what the deal was with knitting machines. OOPS. Not...

There are oldie but goodies machines out there which have great merit but i was so eager to get a darn thing that that I really did not take the time to study it all as thoroughly as I normally would have done, and do, with most pieces of technology.....
Alright, may be....... I am a impulse shopper in my computer life a bit too (I have a Mac or 4, wifi router or 2,(Airtunes and wifi enabled printing, iPod, various backup FW drives, printers, scanners,yada yada and consider myself fairly technologically savvy ) All those cables, power adaptors, docks, serial to USB converters....you get the picture.

I consider(ed) myself somewhat capable of diving into this new arena- How complicated could it be to set up a knitting machine? As long as there was a manual, I thought.

Have you ever been amused by a device (like a watch for example) that comes with a non-manual?- you know- those how to set up instructions that are close to, if not totally indecipherable? Well, I found myself with a large manual with so many funny little ways of explaining even the most basic of actions to take/ pieces to piece together, that I halfway considered taking up Japanese language classes to figure out the sentence structure.

In any case, buyer beware- knockoffs that you see ONLY one of, may be that way for a reason. Later, when I researched a few knitting machine lists, I DID manage to find someone who used my one of a kind, but she was just as goofy as the Manual and little help developed. I have since joined a Machine Knitters Guild and an Adult Ed Knitting Workshop, so I AM finally getting better and getting it going. It became apparent that a few nuts and bolts were put together improperly- either at the factory or by the previous owner...no wonder it was in pristine condition!. Fortunately I have a built in mechanical support system close at hand- my sig-O aka DH- So that problem was short lived.

Simultaneously, when I was bidding/ eventually purchased the knitting machine and ribber attachment, I actually posted a request in a community area (on Craigslist http://www.craigslist.com ), a request for a donation of a knitting machine and got a nice response. A Singer LK 100 machine, very basic, was gifted to me by a sweet woman! Of course I was severely chastised for placing an off topic, item wanted ad in an improper area-but hey- who looks in wanted?..It was removed in day or 2 but I did get the appeal out successfully... heh heh.

It was great! Up and Running in no time- I took it camping for a week and the even the campground spoiled brat chipmunks were amused and entertained by my efforts. It is a plastic one,(needles are metal (doh), and very lightweight( the other one weighs a ton since it has a metal bed, and is built like a truck, huge).

My first efforts included swatching lots of junk yarn to fool around with tension and gauge. I ended up binding off, turning the piece and rehanging by another edge- changing yarn as I ran out of scraps.. and.... pretty soon I had a bag which needed only a few edges to be stitched together (on machine and by hand) and ~viola~ a big bag!

My first project on the knitting machine was born, in the campgrounds of Mendocino, on the Singer LK 100, a very basic Bulky. The piece was subsequently felted since I was pretty sure I had only used wool (not superwash) yarn.

Usually I knit by hand and felt hats and bags (and socks to become booties) with 2 big strands of wool so was not sure how this would turn out, using only a single strand. I was a bit nervous since I hated the thought of the bag becoming a big , twisted- out-of-recognition-or usability piece, in case one of the yarns had not been woolen yarn.

Low and behold, the bag turned out to be a really really nice one!. WoW. I am/ so far/ too lazy and busy to line it but now it holds a small project (currently self striping socks); I ALWAYS have a small project to carry around close at hand wherever I go. Knitting in Public is a favorite pastime to fill spare moments. .....More of this later...

Back to first throes of Machine Knitting. Being the yarn junkie that I am, I did manage to use this success as as a reasonable excuse to peruse the local(on vacation) Yarn Store and boy was I in luck! (maybe) They had just moved into a larger building and had bags and bags of yarn in huge plastic bags, on sale. One nice Italian yarn caught my eye and several skeins became mine. Vest for DH coming up...Of course they had tons of books too and the most expensive Knitting book I had ever seen, soon became mine. It is really nice- using using natural forms as inspiration for texture/ patterning. Wow- inspiration galore.

Getting interesting stitching patterns on to my knitting proved the next challenge...Of course my machines are, for the most part manual patterning (until I decipher the push buttons and levers on the metal bed one , which will add a few basics and make some patterning possible. Read: stockinette and plenty of handwork (and plenty of playing with needles by hand)...
If you have a Super Speed 350 (Synchroknitter) I would love to hear from you..

Quote:
Early machines had little or no such capability, and the knitter had to pattern the design manually. Subsequent knitting machines use one of three different methods to automatically pattern: punch-card, mylar, and electronic.
Punch-card machines read a special piece of graph paper that has holes punched in it to represent the design to be knit. Mylar machines read a similar graph that is drawn on a clear piece of mylar. Electronic machines have a computer on board that can be programmed with the graph. The most critical difference, besides ease of use, is that the latest electronic machines are capable of reading a design the full width of the needle bed (200 stitches on the standard gauge). Punchcard machines are only capable of reading a graph up to 24 stitches wide per row, which limits the design choices. Electronic machines may also have garment shaping capabilities that tell the knitter when to increase or decrease.
When the knitting machine reads each line of the graphed design, it places the selected needles into the correct working positions to make the pattern. Regardless of type, any knitting machine will repeat the design, whatever size, over and over across the selected needles, unless it's programmed by the knitter to do otherwise. In addition, when all the rows have been knitted, the machine will start over with the first row again unless the design is cancelled.
My advice to anyone buying a new machine knitting is to buy the best that you can, even if it's more than you need right now, because trade-in values are very low. If you should decide later that you want more features, you'll end up spending a lot more than if you just got them in the first place.
The last paragraphs are plagiarized from the below website, which offers a Great Overview of the knitting machine:
http://www.woolfestival.com/articles/knittingmachines1.htm

Of course hindsight is always best. Being a computer technology freak ( I have Mac, know some Unix ) I KNOW I will drool over an electronic knitting machine, eventually, but will ignore the above advice and get a punch card patterning machine as I progress. Non electronic, this step wise approach will be fine for me, to be moving slowly.

So far I am resisting more of eBay‘s lure - amazing how many machines belong to aunts who just could not figure it out and is in like mint/ excellent/new condition after being in the closet for 20 years......hmmmm. However, I have a slew of favorite sellers now and my MK book and accessories collection has grown considerably via eBay.

There are great websites and listserves/ email groups out there to educate oneself about Knitting Machines, techniques,patterns, yarn, deals. I should know- I have spent more time educating myself there, than on my machine, so far. ;-)

Knitting Machine Links
Here are a few of my favorites: I have web archived many to be able to view offline.
http://www.yarn-store.com/knitting-machine-chart.html
http://www.daisyknits.com/
http://maskinstrik.homepage.dk/english/index.htm#Preface <--I LOVE this site as very complete overview of machine knitting. Made a good book for myself to refer to, offline,from this many-chaptered site. Gotta love computers...

http://knittersreview.com/goto.asp?goto=machine The forums here are really fun too.
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Favs for knitting in general:
http://www.knitty.com/ has fun patterns for hand knitting, which I would never give up even if i become a total machine knitting nut, which is quickly bercoming the case.

1 comment:

Jerry Simpson said...

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About Me

Marin County, California, United States
I work for 2 non-profits in Marin County CA (near SF) that serve the Developmentally Delayed. I was introduced to weaving and knitting at a very young age. Over the years I have always had knitting on hand. There was a time where I was severely chastised for being so old fashioned, so it is great to see the upsurge in the home arts now going on! I have expanded into machine knitting; fortunately there is a great Guild nearby that has really been great. Spinning Fibers is a new thrust as well, and felting has creeped in too. If only I had more time...