A few years ago there was a train wreck of a reality show about a knit bikini designer in LA. All her samples were made on a knitting machine. Until I got a glimpse on that show, I had no idea knitting machines existed. And lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting one for myself. But, a few ‘issues’. Only two companies still make metal-bed knitting machines for the home market (which would allow me to do ribbing). One is a newish Chinese company that clones Brother knitting machines and the other is Silver Knitting (Silver Reed/Studio/Singer) which has a long history of machine making. But, after seeing a machine knitting demo today, I think I want a pre-owned Brother with ribber. A new machine is just way out of my budget. Used machines appear to be plentiful on eBay, easy and Craigslist. But, finding one in good working order can be harder. And, I’m not really clear on what they should cost. Especially considering I know *nothing* about how they work. And, they don’t seem as easy to repair as vintage sewing machines. I decided it might be best for me to get a demo from a knitting machine instructor, so I would at least know what I was looking for and what gauge knitting machine (standard or bulky) I would want. I went to Woolstock north of Baltimore City where the owner, Leslye Solomon, is a machine knitting instructor and author. It was a GREAT demo. I mean, I have no idea which gauge machine I want because I liked them both for different reasons. But, the instructor is a big fan of Brother knitting machines (no longer made) and sells the Chinese clone. I feel totally iffy on spending that much money on a new hobby and really iffy on buying a clone.
Standard gauge with fair isle motif
So, I’m on the hunt for a vintage Brother knitting machine and ribber that actually work (the nearest knitting machine repair shop is two hours from me in Pennsylavania). I’ve got a few online searches set up for one and hope to find a late model Brother and ribber by the end of the year. Gauge? TBD. But, After this demo, I know at least how the machine should work (which I didn’t be fore) and what it should be able to do.
Bulky gauge with fair isle on the left and sample ‘lace’ and cables on the right
Unlike sewing blogs, machine knitting blogs don’t seem to be as abundant? I’m guessing because machine knitting’s hey dey was in the 80s and before and the women who machine knit aren’t really into blogging? Within my own feed though, I did find four machine knitters, Rachelle at Smoking Needles, Petit Main Sauvage, Kay The Sewing Lawyer and Kathryn from I Made This. Plus, this really interesting article by Karen at Did You Make That? The machines don’t seem to be as popular here on the east coast of the US. But, in the pacific northwest and midwest, business is booming! Plus, in the UK and Europe, there seem to be quite a few machine knitters. I’m assuming the climate has a lot to do with this. There’s also a super active Yahoo group and Facebook group. Great for inspiration photos. I also found a slew of people to follow on Instagram to see their knitting machine work.
Ribbing along the bottom and stripe sample above
So, what are my machine knitting goals? Pretty modest I think. 1. I’d like to make a couple of scarves a year. I love scarves and manage to lose them more often than I care to admit. Jordan likes scarves too in bright colors but short of cashmere ($$$) good scarves seem hard to find 2. Two sweaters a year would be amazing to me. I LOVE sweaters. I’ve been buying vintage from the 80s sweaters from ebay and the thrift store and trimning them down to size. Why? Because they were actually made of wool instead of cotton or acrylic.
20 rows in less than three minutes!!
3. A pair of socks every now and then. In winter, I live in wool socks from REI and such. I wear boots most of the winter and would love warm, cute socks. 4. Occasionally, my own knit fabric to do cut and sew projects from. I am able to get great sweater knits at Mood when I go to NY. But, the pilling factor is a gamble. I don’t know how often I would do this. But, it’s nice to know I might have the option of making my own fabric.
Don’t worry. Sewing is still my first love! And, as Amanda pointed out to me yesterday, yarn is expensive.I also muslined my Hot Patterns Cosmopolitan dress over the weekend. I need to raise the neckline another 1.5 inch and shorten the darts. And, I want a slightly less ‘scoop’ to the neck line. So, I’ll do one more version in a poly knit before cutting into my silk jersey.
Unfortunately, it’s too low cut to keep as wearable. But, I really ended up liking the scrap fabric combo! And, I could not love this pattern more. So, any other machine knitters out there? Any advice for me?