I received the email below from Linda at Stitcher’s Dream in Pennsylvania (about 15 miles outside of Philly) over the weekend. For anyone interested in learning more about Machine Knitting and in the area, I thought I would share (NAYY). I plan to go up there this fall. Who doesn’t like to craft and socialize at the same time?
My second in home lesson is 4th of July weekend. And, I will hopefully have my first project to show: a baby blanket!
I’m starting a small group email for those of you who have expressed interest in beginning-or-a-little-more-advanced machine knitting classes.
Most of you know that Stitchers’ Dream has a monthly Machine Knitters Club the second Saturday of each month at 10:30, followed by a class at 1:00. Because there are helping hands of more experienced knitters, most of those classes can accommodate beginners who have at least a rudimentary knowledge of their machines. This Saturday’s Poncho Class is perfect for beginners! July’s project will be a summer shell, also good for beginners.
Since some of the beginners will have to drive a few hours to get here to classes, we can try to set up full or half-day lessons. We will need at least 4 people to set up a class. The summer is a hard time to coordinate classes, but starting in the fall, we will offer more beginning classes. The monthly Club and Class will continue through the summer.
Please respond to this email confirming:
that you would like to be kept on this list.
whether you are available weekdays or weekends.
whether you are available Saturday afternoons, or Sundays, morning or afternoon.
what machine you own that you would like to use for the class .
Is your machine in working order with a new sponge bar, or do you need help getting it into working order?
I can’t even tell you how excited I was to start my knitting machine lessons yesterday. I’d been looking forward to it for a month. I’ve set up the machine on a metal stand in the dining room (I’m just out of space anywhere else) And, I’m happy to report that I really liked it!
My instructor came to my house and my first lesson was about three hours. I decided I wanted to learn on my Brother KH-830 (a standard punchcard machine) versus my bulky knitting machine (Kh-230). Most of the class was spent with me casting on and knitting (and learning to unravel. And lord have mercy did I ever spend time unraveling) so I’d be able to complete my homework assignment before my next lesson. She also checked out my machine to make sure it was in good working order.
It’s very interesting learning a new skill like this. At this point, I take my ability to sew for granted. So learning something from the ground up is a new experience for me. My first project is a baby afghan with handworked mini decorative ‘cables’. The afghan is five panels. We made one panel together and the other four she left me to complete on my own.
I’m happy to report I was able to knit two more squares on Sunday with just one phone call in the morning to my teacher for help. I mean, I won’t lie. These are the two that turned out. Let’s just say I have several wonky coasters laying about. I’m glad I’m taking lessons. I know there are many videos online. But, it’s terrific to have a local resource I can ask for help and who has experience teaching. I didn’t find myself sitting in front of the machine struggling from the start.
What is just great about machine knitting is how consistent the gauge is and how much faster it is! I mean, I knit 275 rows for each panel in about ten minutes. Well, it took ten minutes once I got the machine going. heh.
My next lesson is tentatively scheduled for a month from now (she’s traveling, I’m traveling) so I’m moving at a nice leisurely pace.
Well, I actually got two via Craigslist. One is a Brother KH-230 and KR-230 ribber and the other is a Brother KH-830 and KR-830 ribber. The 230 is a bulky with no patterning – very basic. The 830 is a standard with punchcard patterning. There are also two four-color yarn changers and a Knitleader (a system where you can draw your pattern onto graph paper — essentially). They came with some of the manuals and two coursework books on the machine and ribber. I also found a zillion books and manuals online and got a neat book on hand techniques for the machine from Jordan for my birthday last month.
I spent a big chunk of the weekend cleaning the 830. It was sitting at least ten years in storage and is almost 40 years old to begin with. I replaced the sponge bar with weather stripping and cleaned all the needles. Some of the mechanisms were stuck. But, nothing a all-purpose machine oil and Tri Flow couldn’t fix.
Both machines are older and more basic than later versions that came out. But, they are perfect to learn on.
With 200 needles I got really tired really fast of putting them all back in the machine after their denatured spirits soaking. So, I got Jordan to help.
With a clean machine, I’m ready to get started with lessons. Well, first my instructor is going to look over the machines and see if there are any other problems or repairs I need to make.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?