getting started, machine knitting

Where to Buy your Knitting Machine.

If you have read the previous post, you should have a good idea of what type of machine you want to purchase. You need to look for the best one that you can buy within your budget. For example, if you want to buy a standard gauge punch-card machine, then you can buy a new SK280 for approx £700, a reconditioned and tested machine for about £400 and an second-hand bargain for £200-300. The cheaper machines tend to be older and may not have been used for a while. Cheaper bargains can be found if you are willing to clean and service them yourself (you can find info and videos on the Internet).

Brand New:

If you want to buy a brand-new machine, then the best choice is a new Silver Reed machine.  You have the choice of a simple chunky machine (lk150), a standard gauge punchcard (SK280) and a standard gauge electronic (SK840). You can buy them at your nearest stockist, list found here.   

Reconditioned with warranty:

As the range of machines that you can buy new is limited, you may prefer to buy a reconditioned second-hand machine.   This is a good option for those who do not want to clean and service an old machine.   It is important that you find a suitable supplier that you can trust and that can continue to service your machine if this is desired.    If the supplier is not local then you will need transport, or you will need to have the machine delivered.   Posting a machine can be a problem if the machine is not properly packaged, so you will need to make sure that your supplier knows how to do this and has insurance.  You should also make sure you have a warranty period.

These are my 2 favourite suppliers (very knowledgeable and friendly)

  1. Irene Court.  She is based in Wales but you can find her in the FaceBook group called Knitting Machine Sales UK.  Irene is well respected and can post abroad.   She seems to specialise in Brother machines.  She also has various accessories and spares.  Well worth joining this group and checking what is available.  She is happy to help if you message her.
  2. Andrea James.   She has a shop called Andee Knits in Somerset and a FaceBook page called Andee Knits Ltd and a website where you can usually find a good range of second-hand machines, spares and accessories.  Andrea has a range of Knitmaster and Brother machines that have been fully serviced and tested with a 12 month warranty.  Andee Knits is a good place to get your DesignaKnit software.

Second-hand – condition unknown:

If you are on a budget or are looking for something in particular, you may wish to ask around.   Find out if there is a knitting group in your area.  If there is, this is an ideal place to ask for help in finding a machine.   Ask local charity shops to contact you if they come across one.   Put wanted ads in your local shops, newspaper and online communities.  Check the two FaceBook sales groups; Knitting Machine Sales Uk and Domestic Knitting Machine Sales.  There is a regular supply of machines for sale, some of which can be delivered.  It is a good place to ask for help in finding the machine that you want.

The easiest way to find a range of second-hand machines to buy is on the Internet.  In particular, Ebay and GumTree.   It is easy to set-up a search/alert for machines with a specified distance.   Then it is a case of wait and see what comes up.   Ebay does involve a bidding process.  I find that if the machine is collection only, the price tends to be lower as there are few bidders.  If you do want to bid on a machine, you need to check out the photographs carefully.  How clean/dirty is the machine?   Ask the seller questions about  the machine’s storage and when it was last used.  The best deals are for machine packages.   As long as you have transport, you can usually find a good bargain bundle including ribber, colour changer, magazines, etc.   You will not normally be able to use the machine, as it is likely that the sponge bar will be old and trying to move the carriage could damage the machine.   Most machines will want a clean and a new sponge.  The needles will need to be cleaned and damaged ones replaced.   Buying a punch-card machine unseen is usually less of a risk than an electronic machine.  You need to make sure that the seller has switched on the machine and the lights have come on.   Else you will be spending more money getting the electronics repaired.  Only buy an electronic machine second-hand if it is being sold at a good price so that you can afford to get it mended if necessary.

GumTree will have less machines for sale, but prices tend to be lower.  If you find a machine in your area you have the opportunity to see the machine before you buy.  I would set-up search alerts on Ebay and GumTree and ask the Universe to send you the ideal machine.

While you wait, I would be preparing for your machine.  Where is it going to be used?  Do you have enough storage and good lighting?   What do you want to knit?  The Internet is a valuable resource to look for patterns and yarn.  Watch knitting machine videos to inspire you.  

I bought my two standard gauge machines from Ebay.  Both machines were collection only and I paid less than £100.  I did not know what condition they were in, but were assured that they worked before they were packed away.   I was fortunate that both machines did not show signs of damage and just needed a good clean and new sponges.  The electronic machine’s electronics worked, thank goodness, but it had really bad needles that I had to sand down before cleaning. Many had to be replaced.  I now have two working machines that will give me hours of enjoyment over the next few years. I tend to use Andee Knits and Ebay for my spares. I use Xena Knits for new sponges (these last longer and she had a good instructional video).

So, I hope that you will also find the right knitting machine for your needs. 

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getting started, machine knitting

Which Knitting Machine shall I get?

If you do a search on the Internet for Knitting Machines, you will find a vast array of different types and prices that you can buy on the second-hand market.  For a beginner, new to machine knitting, this can be very overwhelming and confusing.  It It can be difficult to decide which knitting machine to buy as the answer is not simple.  No one machine can do everything so it might be a better question to decide which one to buy first.  And as a beginner, unless you know exactly what you want to knit, this should be one that is easy to use and has easily available spares, tools and accessories.

Several factors can help a person to decide which one to start with.

  1. Make
  2. Budget (condition, functionality)
  3. Gauge (which yarn to knit with)

Make

In the UK the home knitter will have a choice of about 5 makes of knitting machine.  There is the simple plastic Bond (Ultimate Sweater Machine). This is cheap but does not have a lot of functionality but might be a good starting point if you want are on a small budget and want to use cheap balls of DK wool from places like Aldi.   Here is a page with links to information about all the techniques that you can do on a BOND.  And here is site that has a lot of free patterns that you can download.

There are also the European machines known as Passap, Pfaff and Singer Superba.  The Pfaff and the Singer Superba (Phildar, White) are not common and not suitable choices for the beginner.  The Passap is a double-bed machine that works slightly differently so is not considered suitable for beginners but does produce lovely textured fabric if you have one that is working.  Here is a link to a site that has a number of Passap manuals and patterns.  And there are more patterns on Ravelry.com.

The website will focus upon the more common Japanese machines known as Brother (KnitKing in the US), Empisal Knitmaster/Silver Reed (also known as Silver Viscount, Studio, and Singer) and Toyota Elna.  Toyotas are cheap to buy second-hand but more difficult to get spare parts so is not really suitable for beginners, however, if you have inherited one then I suggest that you join the Toyota Knitting Machine FaceBook group and get help there.  Here is a link to the History of Toyota Machines with the different ones available. If you do have a Toyota machine, then you can still learn the basic techniques on this website. 

Budget

Many Knitmaster/Silver Reed and Brother/Knitking machines were manufactured in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s (some silver reed since then).  They range in price from an old machine, condition unknown of £50 or less ranging to a new machine with software of around £2000.  I am ignoring bundles which can include accessories like the ribber and colourchanger etc.  The price you will pay for a single-bed machine usually depends upon the following factors:-

  1. Age of machine
  2. Condition of machine
  3. Demand for the machine
  4. Access to spare and accessories
  5. Functionality

If you want a new machine then you can only have the choice of 3 Silver Reed machines from Silver Viscount or one of their stockists.

If you want a different machine the you will be looking at getting a second-hand machine.  You can buy a reconditioned machine with a warranty from a variety of sources, my next post will highlight the best ones that I know.   If you can afford one, then this is a good choice for the beginner who wants the machine to work straightaway.

If you are on a small budget then you will need to look out for a second-hand bargain on the internet or in local charity shops etc.  The main problem will be the condition of the machine.  It may have been stored away and needs a good clean.  It may be missing tools and you will need to buy some more.  It may need repairs and this is extra cost.  Are you willing to do this yourself, or do you need to find someone to do this?   You will need to weigh up the condition of the machine (check any pictures, ask questions, try and see the machine before you buy) with the price being asked.

Most of the machines that still work were manufactured in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.  Over this period of time the machines new versions were developed that had more and more functionality, usually related to their ability to create different patterns.  These machines can also be divided into Manual Patterning, Punchcard Patterning and Electronic Patterning.  These terms were explained in the previous post.  

Manual machines are cheap and good for the beginner, but quickly become tiresome to operate.   Electronic machines are usually more expensive and will need electronics or software to operate.  The electronics are now very old and could fail so I would get a reconditioned machine if you can afford this.  DesignaKnit software and cables can be bought to work with many Brother or Silver Reed machines, but check first.  The software choice might not be the best for a beginner, but can be something to think about for your second machine.  A punchcard machine is the best choice for a beginner. They are more robust and reliable and offer a range of patterns and stitches to support your new knitting hobby.

The final part of the decision of which machine to buy depends upon the type of yarn that you wish to knit with or more specifically the thickness of the yarn.  No machine can knit the full range of yarns, if you want to do this you will need to buy more than one machine.

Home Knitting Machines can be divided into 4 types depending upon the thickness of yarn that it can knit.  This is known in the trade as the GAUGE.  This relates to the spacing between the needles (and thickness of needles).  The following table shows the type of machine, the type of wool it can knit and the names of the knitting machines that you should look for.

Gauge

FINE
7 gauge
STANDARD
5.6 gauge
MID
3.9 gauge
CHUNKY
2.8 gauge
3.6 mm
250 needles
4.5 mm
200 needles
6.5 mm
105/140/150/160 needles
9 mm
110 needles
1ply, 2ply, 3ply
lace, fingering,
light fingering
2ply, 3ply, 4ply
fingering, sock
4 ply, DK, aran,
fingering, sock, sport, worsted,
(DK), aran,
chunky, bulky,
mohair
  Simple:

LK140
LK150 (plastic)
Simple:
Bond (8 mm)
Knitmaster/SR
LK100,
Zippy 90
Brother:-
KH230
Punchcard:Punchcard:Punchcard:Punchcard:
Knitmaster:-
F270
F370

Brother:-
KH120
Knitmaster:-
321, 323,
260, 360,
700, 740,
zippy deluxe,
Zippy Plus,
Silver Reed:-
sk280

Brother:-
KH860, KH881
KH836, KH890,
KH891
Knitmaster:-
MK70 (foldup)
SK160

Brother:-
KX395
(convertable 4.5 and 9 mm)
Knitmaster:-
SK120, SK121,
SK150 (steel),
SK151, SK155
SK160


Brother:-
KH260
Electronic:Electronic:Electronic:Electronic:
Silver Reed:-
SK830
Knitmaster:-
500, 550, 560, 580
Silver Reed:-
SK840

Brother:
KH900, KH910,
KH940, KH950,
KH950i, KH965,
KH965i, KH970
Silver Reed:
SK860


Silver Reed:
SK890

Brother:-
KH270
  • Passap and Pfaff machines are 5.0 mm gauge
  • A full range of knitting machines can be found here.
  • Info on Knitmaster range of machines and accessories can be found here.
  • Brother range can be found here and thoughts on range of Brother machines here.

If you want to buy new then you can choose from the simple plastic mid-gauge LK150, the SK280 standard gauge punchcard or the SK840 standard gauge electronic machine, all can be seen at www.silverviscount.co.uk along with available new accessories.

If you are buying reconditioned or secondhand, the fine gauge and mid-gauge machines are rare and command high prices.   For a beginner on a budget wanting a machine that patterns, the best choice is a standard gauge punchcard machine or a chunky gauge, although the latter are not so common. 

Personally, I have owned 5 or 6 machines in my lifetime and as a beginner I like my standard gauge punchcard machine as it is easy to use and punchcards are cheap.  I do not knit thicker yarns often and am happy to hand knit them.

The choice between Brother and Knitmaster/Silver Reed is not easy as they both knit the same types of patterns, Knitmaster/Silver Reed uses levers on the carriage, Brother uses buttons.  Knitmaster/Silver Reed parts are more easily available and old accessories work on newer machines.  Brother have different types of accessories but were more popular in the UK so there are more second-hand machines available.  Some Brother machines also have garter carriages that can create purl stitches.  Some of the Brother machines can be used with img2track software.  Knitmaster machines were liked for their lace carriages.

In conclusion I believe that Brother or Knitmaster/Silver Reed is the best choice for a beginner.  Punchcard machines are the best choice overall.  Standard gauge machines and 4 ply yarn patterns is the most common choice and the most supported.  However, if you want to knit with DK yarn then you may need to wait until a suitable machine comes along or buy a simple LK150 new.

If you are still unsure find out if there is a knitting machine club in your area and go and see some machines.  Do a search on YouTube for knitting machines to get a better idea of how they knit and how easy or difficult they are to use.

Remember that you do not have to find your ideal machine straight away, the machine that you begin on can be resold so that you can find your ideal machine once you have a better idea of what you want to knit.

Here is an interesting YouTube video about choosing machines.

My next post discusses the best places in the UK (some with international delivery) to get your first machine.

getting started, machine knitting

What is a Domestic Knitting Machine Part 2?

The 1970s/80s introduced garment shaping or contour devices or charting devices that provided visual pattern guides as an alternative to written instructions.

The Knitmaster version was called a KnitRadar or Knit Contour and the Brother version was called a KnitLeader.  Some knitting machines had these incorporated into the main bed, but external ones could be purchased and attached (as shown above).

A set of Pattern contours came with the device in a range of sizes. The knitter chose the correct pattern to insert into the device. The device also included a gauge scale ruler and a set of stitch scales. A tension square was created and the gauge scale ruler was used to find a stitch and row number. The row number was dialled into the device. This controlled the rate at which the pattern turned when the carriage moved across the machine. The stitch number indicated which scale ruler to insert and this showed how many stitches should be cast on and when to increase and decrease. It is quite easy to use but you need to follow the instructions given in the machine knitting manual.

Users of the knitting software DesignaKnit have access to a range of garment shapes that can easily changed to suit any individual’s measurements.  These can be printed out with a set of written instructions, or the software can give verbal instructions to be followed as the user knits. DesignaKnit software can be used with Silver Reed/Knitmaster, Brother/KnitKing and Passap knitting machines. Each machine needs the appropriate connecting cable. Software called img2track can be used with some Brother machines to create black and white picture knitting.

I have touched on the main parts of the typical single-bed knitting machine.    These machines create knit stitches only.  If you want to add purl stitches to a design or even do ribbed cuffs etc., then you need to add a ribber.   

A ribber is a flat-bed of needles that is attached to the knitting machines with the needles in the opposite direction. 

A ribber carriage is added to a ribber sinkplate.  When you move the carriage on the main bed the ribber carriage is moved.   Needles are arranged manually on both beds, but the ribber does come with a set of punchcards (for the main machine) that allows ribbed patterns to be created.  The ribber can be removed is the user wants to knit only.

The ribber can be useful for Double Jacquard that does not have floats on the back of the knitting as you have with simple fairisle knitting (or Single Jacquard).  Instead the ribber is used to create stripes of colour on the back of the garment.

The Passap Knitting machine is a double-bed knitting machine.  This means that both beds are fixed and that the ribber carriage can create patterns.   It is operated differently and can create amazing textured fabrics.  However, it is difficult to see the knitting and thus rectify mistakes.   As such it is not considered ideal for the beginner.

toyota simulknit manual

Toyota/Elan introduced the Simulknit ribber to enable patterning on the ribber carriage.  Although Toyota is a rarer machine, this feature might be worth having if you can find one in good working order.

All this may sound daunting to the beginner, but now you should have a better idea of the many parts of a knitting machine. A separate blog will discuss accessories. 

If you do a search for domestic knitting machines you will likely find a large range of second-hand machines that you can buy.  In the next post I will discuss the questions that you need to ask yourself in order to decide which machine is best for you.

getting started, machine knitting

What is a Domestic Knitting Machine Part 1?

Knitting Machines cover a range of styles from the simple plastic toy machines that can make simple scarves and socks, to the big heavy-duty industrial machines that can make a range of professional garments.

This blog will be referring to the home knitting machine, a flat-bed knitting machine that range from a simple manual knitter (the user has to manipulate stitches to form a pattern) to the more complex electronic machine (electronics or software create the patterns but casting on/off, shaping and moving the carriage are all still done by hand). 

Home knitting machines are called flat-bed because they have a horizontal base that is clamped to a table.  This base or main bed holds the needles (that make the knitting) and can be made of metal or plastic.  Metal is more robust but can rust and is a lot heavier than plastic to carry around with you. The picture above shows the flat bed of a Knitmaster 550 machine.

The needles are made of metal and have a latch to hold the yarn. They have a butt that is used by the carriage to move the needles. The needles can only knit in one direction.  If you want to create purl stitches the user needs to take the stitches off and turn them around manually (can use a circular knitting needle or a garter bar accessory).  These needles can be different sizes for different types of machines.

Different types of knitting machines have different numbers of needles, the more common standard gauge machine bed usually has 200 needles and more needles cannot be added. Wide garments like blankets needs to be done in two pieces that are sewn together. The fine gauge machine has 250 needles.

A few machines can add extensions to its bed to add more needles, for example the Bond or Ultimate Sweater machine is a plastic bed machine that has extra needle bed pieces (shown above) that can be slotted onto the ends of the bed to add more needles.

A device called a carriage knits the stitches by moving the needles forwards and backwards as it is moved across the bed.   Patterns and shaping can be made by holding the needles in different positions.  Carriages can range from the  very simple (like the Bond carriage above) the complex (like the Empisal Knitmaster 700 below). A stitch dial is used to allow slightly thicker or thinner yarns to be knitted.

These latter types of carriage have knobs to control stitch tension and various levers and dials for pattern stitching.

A sinker plate is a metal device like the one above that holds the yarn and has various brushes and disks that help to hold the yarn in the needles.  You can also get a different type of sinker plate for weaving thicker yarns into your knitting.

It is also possible to get special carriages that produce lace knitting and a simple type that just moves the needles and is good for intarsia.

The first knitting machines were simple but knitters demanded more functionality.  The 1950s introduced row counters and tensions masts (also known as yarn brakes).  The latter enabled yarn to run quickly and smoothly through the carriage.   Whilst early machines could use cakes of yarn, they were small and you had to make sure you did not run out of yarn.  So, manufacturers produced small cones of yarn for the home knitter to use that could create a jumper with one cone and the tension masts could be adjusted to work with different thicknesses of yarn, and more than one cone of yarn.

Demand grew for more elaborate patterns and in the 1960s punch-cards and punch-card readers were added to create stitch patterns for tuck stitch, slip stitch, intarsia and fairisle.  The number of stitches that could be controlled expanded over the years and in 1971 24 stitch punch-cards became the most popular width for standard gauge machines (30 stitches for the Knitmaster 370 fine gauge machine).  Blank punch-cards could be bought and created using a handy punch device (shown in image above). 

In the 1980s electronics were introduced that used mylar sheets with a 60-stitch pattern capability.  Machines came with a set of mylar sheets that contained a variety of stitch patterns, but users could buy blank sheets and create their own by marking the sheets with a special pen.   In the 1990s Brother electronic machines were introduced with PPD that had 555 built in patterns, the last machine they made, the Brother KH970, had 665 patterns. Knitmaster introduced the EC1 to replace the Mylar sheet. A PE1 could be added to increase the stitch pattern from 60 to 200 needles. They were replaced by the single P10 device.

Today mylar sheets are rare and expensive to buy, and the electronic controllers are getting old and difficult to repair. Many users have turned to DesignaKnit software to create patterns that cover the full width of the machine.  This is particularly useful for double jacquard designs.   The software may save you from creating punchcards, but it needs a windows laptop to run on, and for some the user interface is difficult to learn. However, the software does allow you to explore and save your ideas, patterns, individual measurements etc. and many people love it for this reason. The software costs about £200 – £300 pounds (depending upon the version) and can be bought from a range of machine outlets. You do need to add the cost of buying the appropriate cable to connect the laptop to your particular machine (another £100 – £200).

continued in next post.

getting started

A Brief History of Machine Knitting in the UK.

A very early knitting machine was created in 1589 by an English clergyman called William Lee for knitting socks/stockings in the 16th century.  However, Queen Elizabeth did not want to put hand knitters out of work and so William went to France who supported the idea and slowly the sock machine spread and developed throughout Europe.  This type of sock machine is a circular type of machine not the flat-bed home knitting machine we recognise today.

Vintage Sock Machine

Knitting was encouraged during the two world wars in the 20th century and knitted garments became fashionable during the 1950s and 1960s when a range of simple home knitting machines and synthetic yarns was created that were affordable.  Girls were taught to knit at school and knitting was seen as a useful skill not just a hobby.  Machine Knitting continued to develop and expand a range of punchcard and then electronic machines appeared manufactured by Japanese (Brother, Empisal Knitmaster/Silver Reed and Toyota) and European (Singer/Superba and Passap) companies.  

Unfortunately, knitting became unpopular in the late 1980s as knitwear was being mass produced at cheaper prices. These garments could be made cheaper abroad and the UK garment industry suffered decline. Knitting machine manufacturers, yarn makers and magazines struggled to survive.

Unfortunately, knitting became unpopular in the late 1980s as knitwear was being mass produced at cheaper prices. These garments could be made cheaper abroad and the UK garment industry suffered decline. Knitting machine manufacturers, yarn makers and magazines struggled to survive.

Today knitting has seen a resurgence coinciding with the growth of the internet and the general interest in DIY crafts.  Natural fibres have become easier and less expensive to collect and produce.  People are sharing their knowledge and patterns on the Internet and KALs or Knit-A-Longs have become popular and have helped to spread techniques amongst a wider audience.

Machine Knitters are still a minority within the community of knitters, however, a lot of younger people are getting interested in learning this skill. Unfortunately, there is now a limited choice in new machines with only Silver Reed left from the main suppliers of home knitting machines in the UK. 

Silver Viscount Reed SK280 punchcard

Most machines that can be bought on the Internet are now very old.  The very old, and the very rate are difficult to service and maintain as there are fewer spare parts.  However, there are still places that service and sell many of the old machines in good condition and these can be found on the Internet.  More knitting yarns and patterns are now becoming available for knitting machines.  It seems that 2019 is a good year to start learning.  Especially as entrepreneurs in China are now starting to manufacture and sell spare parts and accessories for Brother and Silver Reed machines.

Further information about the history of knitting machines can be found at these links:-

If you are still interested in machine knitting then my posts on what is a knitting machine? and which knitting machine shall I get? will be useful to read.

getting started, machine knitting

Is Machine Knitting an Expensive Hobby?

It depends upon what you are comparing it with.   It is definitely more expensive than hand knitting, but perhaps cheaper than jewellery-making or golf.  However most of the costs are upfront in obtaining your knitting machine.  After that you mostly need an annual service and a good stash of coned yarn.   If you are on a budget then accessories make good presents so write a wish-list and make sure family and friends are aware of it when it comes to your birthday.

I am based in the UK and so most of the information on this page will be based on what can be found in the UK.

Overall the costs of Machine Knitting will need to cover:-

table, tools and accessories, patterns, learning resources, yarn, maintenance and repairs

Knitting Machine: Today a lot of young people are getting interested in machine knitting (probably with accessories and some yarn) because they have inherited an old machine from a family member. This is good news the costs are reduced.

If you don’t have a machine then you can choose to buy a brand new machine (expensive and limited choice), a reconditioned and serviced machine (not so expensive but you need to check any warranty period) or a cheap second-hand machine (varying prices and conditions so might be risky).

Costs will range from £3000 for a full electronic machine package with ribber and software to £20 for a simple plastic bond knitting machine found in the local charity shop.  

If you are on a budget, then I suggest asking around to see if anyone has one to lend or sell you.  Put wanted adds in the local shop, or go round the charity shops with your contact details, asking them to contact you if they come across a suitable machine.   

As a beginner I would suggest that you look for a punchcard machine to start with and might be looking in the range of £100 to £300. The main machines will be a Brother or a Knitmaster.  New machines will only be Silver Reed. I will write more about what knitting machine to buy and where to get it in a later post.

Table: A Knitting machine needs to be clamped to a table.  Whilst you might wish to use your dining room table (suitably protected with cardboard!) it is better to buy a proper knitting machine table.  If you have transport then you can probably find a cheap second-hand one locally for about £20 or you can get a new one delivered for about £60 from Ebay or local dealer.  

Tools and Accessories: Not sure if there is a clear distinction between the two so I am lumping these together.  The knitting machine should come with a range of tools that will help you to knit.  The operating manual will a picture and list of all the tools that you will need.  If you damage or lose them you can usually find replacements on Ebay or your favourite online store.   I will give more details in later posts.

It used to be difficult to find tools but in the last year or two, Chinese suppliers are now manufacturing many these at good prices.  The quality is not always as good as the originals but are getting better.  In particular they are now making cheap punchcards which were very difficult to get hold of.

More expensive accessories, like a ribber and colour changer, garter carriage and weaving arm only need to be purchased if and when you need them.

Additional accessories that you might find useful could be things like scales to weigh yarn, a good lamp,  and plenty of storage and containers to hold things.  I also have an old music stand to hold my instructions and a desk chair that allows me to move around my machine.  

Patterns:  There are far fewer patterns for machine knitting than hand knitting.  There is only one surviving UK magazine called Machine Knitting Monthly.  You can find copies or subscribe here  for less than £3 per month. There are a number of other places that you can find machine knitting patterns but you usually have to pay for them.   However I have found free patterns and I will give more details in a later post.   I will also provide some free basic patterns on this blog so look out for them in the contents.

Learning Resources: There are a few online courses, and metropolitan.co.uk does some residential courses and the costs vary.   There are plenty of second-hand books available, some of which I have found for very little cost.  There are also a large number of useful videos that can be found on YouTube for free.   FaceBook also has a number of machine knitting groups where you can get advice.

A very useful pdf online resource for finding free manuals, patterns and learning materials is the website MachineKnittingetc.com .  Here you can download a wide range of useful material for most machines that were made.

As usual information can be found for those on a budget, but you do need to spend time looking for it.   However, to save you time, I will write a post listing the best resources for learning.  I also hope that my beginners guide will also prove to be a useful free learning resource.

Yarn:  This is where you can spend a lot of money or not depending upon the quality and type of the yarn.  It is now more difficult to find good yarn at a reasonable price as there are few suppliers.   Most knitting shops only stock balls of hand-knitting yarn which are not really suitable because you need a lot of yarn on a cone that flows freely through the machine without any joins.  

Yarn also comes in different thicknesses.  You need to know which yarns will work with your particular machine.  The most common machine yarns are either 1 ply yarns or thicker 4 ply yarns.  These work with fine and standard gauge machines.  Chunky machines need thicker yarn to work, although you can use a twisting stack to twist 2 or 3 strands of 4 ply together.   Using thicker yarn will be more expensive, but some of the simpler chunky machines might work with balls of yarn if they are rewound into cakes or onto a wool winder hat.  I only have experience of the cheap Bond machine but might consider using a mid-gauge or chunky punch-card machine in the future.

I was able to find a couple of job-lots of cheap acrylic yarn locally that I could pick up. This will serve me well for practice and for waste yarn.  I also have found one or two online sources of affordable industrial yarn that I will buy in the future.   BSK.co.uk has a supply of cotton/acrylic yarn that is affordable.  As someone that reacts to wool, this sounds like a good solution if it works on my machine.  I will write a later post with more details about buying yarn.

Machine Maintenance:  You need to give yourself an annual budget for servicing and repairing your machine.   At minimum you need to buy surgical spirit (vets have the best deals) for cleaning your machine and some machine oil and spare needles (Andee Knits and BSK).   You also have to renew the sponge bar at least annually so you will need a sponge bar kit (I get mine from XenaKnits who has a good videos on how to do this).  I also use GooGone to help get the old glue out (got from Amazon).  Again I will give more details in a later post.

Andee Knits or Metropolitan and SilverViscount and Ebay can provide a range of spares for your machine.  Videos are available on YouTube to help you do this.   Otherwise I would join a FaceBook group and ask if there is someone not too far from you that could service or repair your machine.

I have found that even on a small budget there are ways to enjoy machine knitting. You do not need to have an expensive machine. As a beginner the joy is in learning to knit and finding out what machines can do. I hope that you enjoy finding out how I do this.

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getting started

Should I learn Machine Knitting?

This was the question I asked myself a couple of years ago and you may be asking yourself the same question.

I had a list of reasons why I wanted to learn to machine knit and how it would be of value to me, but I also had some concerns mainly relating to Affordability and Difficulty.

Instead of creating one long post here I will address the two concerns of cost and difficulty the next post, In this post I will present my thoughts about the value of machine knitting.

Will I get any value out of Machine Knitting?

I think it is important that you do have some idea of why you want to machine knit, otherwise it is likely that will give up at the first hurdle. Your reason why could be as simple as you have just inherited a knitting machine from an elderly relative and you would like to know what it does or as challenging as I love knitting and would like to learn how to design my own garments with a professional finish that I could sell. Mostly it will because you like being creative, making things and the idea of machine knitting appeals to you either as a creative hobby or as a means to knit more quickly and professionally.

You might find that using a machine is easier than hand knitting. It certainly is faster once you and your machine are in harmony. It is more difficult to do this socially as you need to have space to set up the machine and table. And this is difficult to transport to a meet-up. Decide what you want to knit and then decide what machine will do this. This blog will focus upon the flat-bed home knitting machine. Later posts will give more details about different machines that you could find in the UK.

In this post I list some of the reasons why I wanted to learn machine knitting. I am sure that some of these reasons will be similar to yours. I would love to know why you started to machine knit. Please write them down in the comments.

My Reasons for Wanting to Machine Knit.

  1. I am a crafty person and I am learning to hand knit and crochet so why not learn to machine knit as well.
  2. I love the idea of making my own clothes that fit me better than the garments I buy, especially as I am short in body and arms.
  3. I like learning new skills and the idea of learning how a knitting machine works appeals to me.
  4. I have time on my hands and I want a new challenge in my life.
  5. Hand-knitting can be a bit painful on the joints so a knitting machine could alleviate this pain (or give me different pains!)
  6. Hand-knitting can be slow and I would like to make things more quickly on a machine
  7. I would like to create more professional looking garments.
  8. I like the idea of using a machine to create my own designs and patterns or even recreate patterns that I see online.
  9. I have an old machine that I bought years ago and some old wool and since I now have no money it is time to learn to use it or get rid of it.
  10. As I tried to figure out how to get the old machine to work, I discovered a whole new world of machine knitting that excited me and I found that I loved learning about all the different machines, accessories, patterns, techniques, software etc. and wanted to learn more and more.

So these are my reasons. What are yours? Please tell me in the comments below.