Friday, December 16, 2011

All About Knitting Machines

All About Knitting Machines

Machine knitting has leaped in popularity over the last year.  Since 1987, when I became a Brother and Studio (Silver Reed) knitting machine dealer, I have seen the rise and fall of machine knitters and manufacturers. I briefly sold Passap and Artisan.  Passap and Brother both, have not manufactured machines for over 10 years.     Today I sell Silver Reed knitting machines.  And truly, machine knitting is where my passion is.  

Machine knitting is a challenge many have enjoyed.  The knitted garment that comes off a machine, verses hand knit, has a different personality to it.  My hand knits are casual and I hand knit in the evening after a long day.  There is no deadline.  But when the impulse is creation and I want it now, the machine is my #1 tool.  The exactness of not only stitches, but measurements is what draws me back time and again.  The machine and I mesh together well, and the creations that come off it are precise and beautiful.

The reasons someone machine knits over hand knitting are various.  The calls that come in cite reasons such as hand pain from long hours of hand knitting, requests for items that cannot be hand knit fast enough, wanting to use of stashes of yarns, and simply an enjoyment of knitwear that cannot be satisfied by hand knitting alone.  Machine and hand knitting happily co-exist side-by-side.

The search for information on knitting machines can be a frustrating one.  It's a very small industry with a relatively small number of retailers.  Everyone has an opinion, from the new machine knitter to an experienced retailer of 20 some years.  Machine knitting is not for everyone.  Just like cell phone and today's technology is not for everyone.  But within the field of machines, there are models that are ideal for the simpler knitter, and models for the techy-bound knitter.

For me, I am drawn to the simpler models, such as the LK150, SK280 and the SK155.  My day consists of hours of computer work and processing. These knitting machines do not require that I be connected to electricity or a computer.  My patterns are either drafted out with paper and pencil, or I will use a design software, such as DesignaKnit.  

There is no such thing as "knitting machine yarn".  
  • When someone refers to knitting machine yarn, usually they are thinking of coned yarns.  All yarns, came off a cone sometime in their process.  Hand knitters prefer small amounts of yarn, so yarns are removed, balled or hanked into smaller amounts.  This also allows the yarn to breath and relax.  Coned yarns, because there is so much on a cone, are often somewhat flattened.  I prefer the hand knit smaller sizes, because I don't end up with partial cones in my stash.  Most all hand knitting yarns will work on a knitting machine.

Trying to decide what machine you want?  
Are you trying to use up your stash?  
  • The most common size yarn in your stash will lead to the machine you want.  The SK280 uses fingering weight and lace weight yarns.  These yarns usually call for a US#0-3 needle.  The LK150 uses mid-range yarns most commonly used by hand knitters.  Those are sport, DK and it does a great job with worsted weight yarn. These yarns are hand knit on US#4-9. I have used bulky on the LK150, and it does work, but you need to be careful.  The SK155 is for worsted and bulky yarns.  Those yarns calling for US#7 and up.
or are you planning on knitting thousands of patterned hats?
  • Selecting a machine based on project is a lesson common way to select a machine.  These are home hobby machines and are not designed for mass production work.  None the less, there are small designers out there that do exactly that.  Some for the actual production, sometimes just for the prototype design work. The SK280 and the SK155 both have punchcard pattern abilities.  The SK840 (same gauge as the SK280) is computer ready.  It uses the DesignaKnit software to feed it and you data.  DesignaKnit is a full blown design program that downloads into this machine.  (a topic for a later blog.)
The cost of knitting machines are a real steal.  In over 10 years the price of the Silver Reed line has barely increased.  Whereas the price of sewing machines . . . . omg . . .   wow!  The quality of this line shows true when you see how some models of 15 yrs are still running like new.  How many people have their refrigerator from 15 yrs ago.  and cell phones?  What is the average age of a cell phone . . . like maybe 3 years?  If you average the price of a metal bed machine over 15 yrs (they do last much longer then that), then it averages out to $67 a year.  Wow!!!   Sweet Deal!!

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