Friday, January 23, 2009

Think Again!

If you've ever thought that machine knitting is easy, or somehow "cheating", think again! It is neither! It's very difficult, quite a learning curve to it. It can be rip-your-hair-out frustrating. For some reason though I'm drawn to the challenge of it.

I've had this Singer 360K knitting machine (with ribber and lace carriage) for a number of years now but I've never before had the room to set it up. I finally have access to a small, spare bedroom and I set the machine up tonight and did a bit of maintenance.

I wiped it down and oiled it though it was pretty clean. I don't think the previous owner used it much. It clearly hadn't been touched in decades.

Look at these sponge bars! They are both shown from the side. The one on the left is new and the squished flat, yellowed and crumbling one on the right is the old one. Thanks to the ongoing discussions about this in the machine knitting forum on Ravelry, I knew to check and change the sponge bar. An old deteriorating sponge bar is the first thing to check when a machine has not been used for a while and is not knitting correctly.

With the maintenance taken care of I set to work attempting to knit.....following the instruction book line by line. The green and blue-grey swatch is the first thing off the machine. Lots of mistakes, stitches dropping off the ends, too tight tension, poor yarn choice and so on.

This second swatch was much nicer. It's done in a much finer yarn and the tension was set up better. I even managed to try out increasing and decreasing singly and with multiple stitches. I also tried a "tappet tool" cast off, though not very successfully. I kept dropping stitches and those tiny things are near impossible to grab when they decide to run!

I can forsee lots of frustration and gnashing of teeth in my future, but hopefully the end result will be well worth the time, effort and tears put into learning this new-to-me craft. Machine knitting is not handknitting, but it is neither easy nor "cheating". I consider a knitting machine to be just one more tool in my fibre crafts obsession, like a loom is a tool for weaving.


CTJen said...

i tried my hand at machine knitting with the bond machine you can get at the craft store. You're not kidding when you say there's a learning curve. I got too frustrated with it before I got the hang of it. Good luck!

Angelika said...

Welcome to the club. I have brother that has been sitting for two years now. I had an intro class, but forgot most of it, so it's back to the instruction books for me and I think that's what's keeping me from it. Maybe you inspire me enough to actually get to it again.

Dorothy said...

It will be fun seeing what you come up with! I tried a brief stint with an old machine years ago, but had neither the patience nor sources (isn't Ravelry great?) to make a success at it. Fortunately the machine had been given to me, so there was no great financial outlay. I hope you meet with success!

Marlene said...

Yes, Dorothy, Ravelry is GREAT. The machine knitting forum really fired up my interest in finally doing something with this machine. And that's not to mention all the inspiration I find for HAND knitting too. I'm constantly amazed at all the wonderful features Casey has packed into the site.

Angelika, maybe if you get out those manuals and read through them you will find it all coming back to you. Are you a member of Ravelry? If so, come on over to the machine knitting forum. Lots of helpful folks if you run into troubles.

Yes, CTJen QUITE the learning curve! And then the unfortunate thing is that if you DO master the machine you don't get any respect with most hand knitters who think you are cheating and taking the easy way out. HA! Anyone who feels that way has obviously never tried it. It may be different than handknitting, but it is still a hobby worth a ton of respect.

FiberGeek said...

Knitting machines have a way of humbling you. They are powerful tools though. You do need to be headstrong to learn to use one.

Can not wait to see all the beautiful things you make.

cedar said...

I have just been given a knitting machine and want to have someone teach me how to use it. Would you be interested or do you know someone who would be interested. My children are small so I don't have time in house so I would like to be able to go to someone with my machine in hand, so I could concentrate on learning this... please contact me

Marlene said...

Oh my goodness Cedar I am so NOT qualified to teach anyone! I'm barely figuring this out myself. TEN years ago I took a college class, sort of learnt some basic stuff using a class machine, and then promptly forgot it all again. Now that I have my own machine I am trying to stumble my way through learning it all again.

I know there is a machine knitting group that meets in Abbotsford. Perhaps the lady that runs that would be willing to do lessons. I know that she teaches a little demo within some of her meetings. I went to two of their meetings years ago when I had nothing but a basic hobbiest machine.

I think there is also a larger group of knitting machine users that meet in Langley, but I have never met them.

Kathryn said...

That was one flat sponge bar!

I too am looking forward to seeing what you knit. I know there are a lot of hand knitters that have machines available but are too intimidated to give them a go. The more posts showing success, the more likely others will be encouraged to give it a try.