Before you attempt to make any ‘proper’ garments, you need to practice. This is good for several reasons. Firstly, you need to check that the machine is in working order… are all the needles working etc. Second, you need to learn how to use the machine. Third you need to test different types of yarns in the machine. Fourthly, you need to try out different stitches and patterns to see how they look.
In order to do this on a budget, you need to find some cheaper yarn to practice with. You can also use left-over yarn for ‘waste’ yarn. Waste yarn is used to protect the main yarn of the garment. It is usually used for casting on and casting off (binding off).
The cheapest type of yarn is usually acrylic. This is a light-weight man-made yarn that can look and feel like wool. Cotton is the next cheapest, and this is natural and can be stiff, heavy. A cotton/acrylic mixture is a very nice yarn to work with. Wool is the natural fibre spun from the coats of various animals, the most common being lambs/sheep and alpaca. Some people, like me, are sensitive to wool and cannot wear or work with it. Wool is more expensive to buy but there are wool/acrylic mixtures that make it more affordable. Cashmere is a yarn made from a special type of goat and is very expensive, but very luxurious to wear.
The best yarns for practice are acrylic and acrylic mixtures. If you look on Ebay you can find a good range, but the postage costs soon mount up. You may be able to find a job-lot of yarn at a suitable price near enough to collect (Try gumtree, ebay etc). However, it may take time to find it.
For most knitting machines, you will be looking for yarn on a cone as this is the most suitable type of yarn for most knitting machines. This also means that you have a lot of yarn that will not run out in the middle of your knitting. These cones can be put on the knitting table behind the machine, but the best place is down on the floor behind the machine. This gives more time for the yarn to smooth out before it gets into the mast. I put my yarn on a small plank of wood, raised off the ground. This stops my feet from knocking over the cones.
Small ball of hand knitting yarns are only suitable for simple types of machines like the Bond knitting machine or the Silver Reed LK150. If you have a mid-gauge or chunky simple machine and balls of hand-knitting yarn that you want to use, you need to rewind the balls of yarn into’cakes’. You do this with the help of a wool winder. The standard type of wool winder will rewind balls up to 100g. The resulting cakes can be used with your machine by taking out the thread from the middle of the cake and threading this into mast/carriage.
If you have purchased a mixed pack of cones and you find them too thin for your type of machine, you can use a twisting stack to twist 2 or 3 yarns together. You will need to put the stack and cones on the floor. My next post will give more details about yarns and thickness to help you to decide what yarns to twist. I twisting stack will allow you to twist up to 3 yarns. I have two so that I can twist waste yarn with my main yarn, or I can do fairisle with two colours.
I have a large/jumbo wool winder that I got cheaply on the Internet and love it. I buy large cones of yarn from BSK and wind off some onto a spare plastic ‘hat’ (also known as bobbin) and twist them together using my Hague twisting stack. I would get at least one more spare ‘hats’ or ‘bobbins’. (Alternatively you could tape some card around the hat and then take this off and slip on another spare empty cone!).
Best Practice Yarn Option:
I highly recommend going to Yeoman Yarns and choosing one of their starter packs of yarn. They cost £30 for 4 kilos and £35 for 6 kilos. The yarn is good quality and this is a fantastic deal as postage is free to UK.
You should specify your type of knitting machine and thickness of yarn needed. You can try and get your favourite colours, but this is practice yarn so colour does not really matter. However, I would ask to not have black or dark blue if you do not have good eyesight. You will not get everything you want as it depends upon what they have in stock, but they will try to meet your needs.
- FIne Gauge: Ask for mainly 3 ply with some 2 ply
- Standard Gauge: Ask for mainly 4 ply with 3ply (those allergic to wool should specify this and ask for 2 ply)
- Mid-Gauge: Ask for mainly DK wool with some aran
- Chunky: Ask for aran and chunky
You will also notice that they have other 4 kilo and 6 kilo packs of specific type of yarn. For example, you can get a chunky/aran yarn pack for £45 and you can specify your favourite colours. These packs are a little more expensive but they are ideal for your next pack to try and make some garments.
Additionally fine gauge and standard gauge machine knitters can also buy thin industrial acrylic in cheap packs at BSK. BSK has clearance packs of coned yarn from 2 kilos to 10 kilos. The costs range from £11.00 to £42.00. You would have to pay postage, but if you were buying more yarn, spare needles, long brush etc you get free postage to the UK if your order is over £50. They have a good range of industrial acrylic and cotton/acrylic mixes as well as bramwell yarn, yeoman yarn, and some fancy yarns. I like to buy a stash of yarn from BSK each year. I particularly like their cotton/acrylic mix and hope that they get some more in.
So order some yarn and lets get ready to do some knitting.