I love knitting. It is so relaxing, so zen, so quiet, so slow, so social, so calming. That is what hand knitting is all about for me. But as my daytime knitting persona sleeps, my nighttime knitter emerges. My dirty little secret is that I am also a machine knitter.
I know I know. Boo-hiss machines! The machine does all the work. They go fast while we common folk labor away the hard, difficult way “by hand”. I must admit that I used to be of that mindset.
That was until I tried knitting something on a knitting machine.
Put simply: it ain’t easy. Whereas I have made things on my knitting machine, it has taken me a good long while to feel at ease using it. In fact after having a knitting machine for several years tucked away in a box, I wondered if it was a craft for me. After all it isn’t really relaxing, zen, quiet, slow, social or calming!
And it is not at all like the craft of hand knitting. The finished product looks like knitting, but it really should be called something other than knitting. More like weaving, I have heard it referred to as hand looming.
It was only a month ago that I sat at my knitting machine after having all the stitches drop to the floor in the middle of a sweater and considered picking up my Silver Reed 155 in an uncraftsman-like fashion and smashing and stomping it to pieces. Did I mention the part about crying and shaking my fists? I was having a craft meltdown! At that moment it was very hard to imagine that I was going to ever knit another blasted thing on that machine.
Oh, I am glad that I did not smash it.
I took a deep breath and picked up my awful mess of a partially knit sweater, and started again. Strangely, I seemed to turn a corner from that point on. I got in the zone and figured that monster of a machine out.
Like transposing any pattern to a size that will fit you, there is a hefty amount of number crunching involved in machine knitting. I am so glad that I did listen to Mr Rinaldi in algebra class! It takes me a while to get the plan in hand and to feel confident that I know what I am doing. Nothing can be left to the imagination. Like taking a long drive through a foreign country, you have to map out every detail of your sweater ahead of time. What piece to begin with, what row to decrease or to make the armhole or buttonhole, which side to pick up and knit the sleeves, and what row to bind off.
A large gauge swatch is of the utmost importance, since the knitting machine stretches out and distorts your stitches, making it impossible to judge your progress as you knit. In fact, your pieces look completely wrong up to the 11th hour when the stitches have all relaxed into their normal shape.
A heaping helping of patience is also involved (I think that I have alluded to that already). If you can’t give your project your full uninterrupted attention, then you are asking for trouble.
As you machine knit you have to train yourself to see all that is going on in several places.
You are noticing the stitch formation on the needle bed, the yarns feeding from above to make sure that they are not tangling, the row counter to the center right, and your pattern directions. Several more sets of eyes would come in handy.
Much of my fascination with machine knitting started by seeing Skif sweaters in St. Louis.
See their website at SKIFO.COM. The brainchild of Nina Ganci, you may recognize her innovative style knitwear in the movie The Matrix.
Part of the fun is that she combines thin yarns to get a worsted-like thickness. The tweedy look is irresistible. I have found that by using several colored yarns creates a sweater that seems to go with everything. I love working with a linen, cotton and silk mixture.
I loved the Skif sweaters unconstructed look, which took advantage of what the knitting machine does best – the stockinette stitch – complete with curling edges, and exterior seams. I have been lucky enough to be in Skif studio, meeting Nina and her friendly work atmosphere, and seeing where the magic happens. I have bought several of their sweaters and knitting patterns and have taken inspiration from there.
Both of these designs that I have made were based on the vest pattern called BMX. Skif has several of their machine knit designs that have been translated into hand knitting patterns that you can find HERE.
So now you know my knitting alter ego ~ Karen