Thursday, August 11, 2011

What IS it about those knitting machines!

Thinking of buying a knitting machine?

Machine knitting is fun and extremely creative. But it is necessary to educate yourself of what a knitting machine can do for you. While both hand and machine knitting produce knitting garments, the path to the result is quite a bit different.

This is another part in my series about knitting machines.

This particular article is focused on the differences and similarities between machine knitting and hand knitting.
(Please do not copy for use on your website, commercial or noncommercial
nor for use in any printed materials, but feel free to link to it.)

If in doubt, email me. I'm pretty easy to get along with. Angelika's Yarn Store, Angelika Burles

What Every Hand Knitter Should Know Before Buying a Knitting Machine
Is Machine Knitting Cheating?
Hand and Machine Knitting: The differences and similarities.

As you can tell, as I wrote this article many kinds of titles came to mind. Over the years I have worked with hand knitters who wanted to start machine knitting to increase their speed. Sometimes it was because they had a buying market for their hand knits, sometimes it was because of pain caused by hand knitting and sometimes it was because the family was just so large they wanted to increase their output. Not thoroughly checking into the abilities of a knitting machine, they often find to their dismay that machine knitting will not produce as fast and easily all of the stitches they love to use in their designs, as they thought.

Thus the title "What Every Hand Knitter Should Know Before Buying a Knitting Machine".

The common thought is that machine knitting is cheating, or that it is easy. Just throw yarn at the knitting machine, right? But the fact is that machine knitting is much more complicated and difficult than hand knitting. When a hand knitter moves into the field of machine knitting, it is often a shock to the creative side. Machine knitting takes perseverance and a stubborn constitution not to quit. But when you pass that first hurdle, look out!!  A whole new design world of creativity opens up!

Before you can cast on, you have to make sure you are using a knitting machine that is appropriate to the size of the yarn you are working with. Even with the appropriate yarn size, you still need to learn the rules of the knitting machine. Like driving a car, there is so much going on that you have to watch out for. After you are comfortable with your yarn and knitting machine, you need to have a large swatch done and have the stitches and rows per inch figured. A complete knit plan (schematics or pattern) needs to be preplanned.

A knitting machine is like NO OTHER piece of equipment you have ever used. It can behave in some of the oddest ways, and our logical minds have no experience to draw upon. When the yarn gets caught up around the wheels, when stitches fall off the needles, when the carriage jams or is so hard to move you need to hook it to the tow truck, do you know where to begin to look for the problem? In the beginning of this learning curve, you will be in situations where you are learning, and you are learning a lot. Machine knitting is a totally different way of producing knitwear.
Give yourself weeks to learn machine knitting techniques. And don't ever tell anyone machine knitting is cheating. When you have mastered machine knitting, I bow down to your dedication and perseverance. You deserve it!
Thus the title "Is Machine Knitting Cheating"

and finally

Hand and Machine Knitting: The differences and similarities.

Not all hand knit stitches and techniques can be reproduce identically on the knitting machine. Some are not possible and some are tedious. On the same hand, there are some machine knit stitches that are not very doable by hand either.  Below I have addressed some of the more commonly asked questions and misconceptions regarding adapting hand knitting to machine knitting.


The most common request I get from hand knitters is “I want a knitting machine that will knit socks, blankets and baby clothes”, or “I want a knitting machine that will knit cashmere, alpaca and merino wool.”

Would you go into a yarn shop and say “I want a knitting needle that will knit wool.”?

It isn’t the type of yarn, nor is it the type of garment that determines the needle or knitting machine you need, but instead, it is the SIZE of the yarn that determines the needle or the knitting machine required.

The latch hooks on a knitting machine are locked into position in slots of the bed of the knitting machine. So the stitches, no matter the size of the yarn, are locked this distance apart. This is one reason that one knitting machine cannot knit ALL sizes of yarns.

The other reason that there are different gauges of knitting machines is the size of the latch hook. On a knitting machine, it is a row of latch hooks. If you attempt to knit with a yarn that is too large, the latch hook will split through the middle of the yarn. Try to imagine crocheting a bulky yarn with a crochet hook designed for thin crochet cotton. All the hook will grab is a few hairs or strands of the yarn, just splitting it and making the next row impossible to knit.

For lace weight, fingering weight and some sport weight the standard guage SK280 knitting machine is your best choice.  For sport weight, DK, worsted and some bulky weight yarns, the mid-gague machine is perfect.  My personal favorite is my little buddy the LK150.  If you knit a lot of worsted and bulky weight yarn, you will want the bulky SK155 knitting machine.  The SK280 and the SK155 have a built in, mechanical, pattern feature that is easy to learn and understand.    This feature allows you to knit 2 colors in a row and many varied types of textured stitches automatically.

Stay tuned,  in a day or two, I will post about some hand knit verses machine knit stitches  . . . . 

1 comment:

N. Maria said...

Very well thought out post! Very informative, too.