On knitting: my dirty little secret

DSCF1003

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.

DSCF1017

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.

DSCF1018

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.

DSCF1002

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.

DSCF1019

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.

DSCF1004

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.

DSCF1006

As you machine knit you have to train yourself to see all that is going on in several places.

DSCF1021

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.

DSCF1022

Much of my fascination with machine knitting started by seeing Skif sweaters in St. Louis.

DSCF1005

See their website at SKIFO.COM. The brainchild of Nina Ganci, you may recognize her innovative style knitwear in the movie The Matrix.

DSCF1010

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.

DSCF1009

DSCF1008

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.

DSCF1007Both 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

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “On knitting: my dirty little secret

      • Oh….. I have a Skif sweater and linen tunic. We went to St. Louis to see a Sting concert and hit the Skif studio. I was in heaven on both counts!! I didn’t know you could buy their patterns. I’ll have to check that out. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to tackle machine knitting, but would love to see it in action!

        Like

      • going to skid is so fun! their studio is full of light and just oozes with inspiration. it is right around the corner from nola heidbreder’s studio which is another destination! her studio is open by appointment only, i believe.

        Like

  1. There is certainly a different feel to machine knitting, and not something you can tote around and work on in company, but the pattern possibilities and speed with fine yarns are wonderful! I have some yummy Merino yarn that I am eager to get started on!

    Like

  2. Your sweater is gorgeoues to begin with, but even more so after all that trouble! I was on the edge of my seat. The algebra alone would make me crazy… And now back to my needles. Oooohhhmmmmmm.
    (Love this post:-))

    Like

  3. I have a knitting machine that i haven’t managed to really knit on yet. I have made two swatches and was so frustrated that I haven’t gone on the the next bit…everybody else makes it sound easy. Thank you for some truth.

    Like

    • it helps to have some kind of support group, i think. i have 3 friends who are avid machine knitters, and can always get some help and guidance from them. about swatting, make sure that you make a pretty large swatch, like 30 stitches by 40 or 50 rows. otherwise you may not get a good idea of gauge. i would suggest starting with something easy, like a scarf — letting the natural curl at the edges be part of the design. have fun!

      Like

  4. Dear Karen!! I also am a machine knitter -I have 5 machines -no need to have excuses-its not easy to make your own patterns and then create something!!Its an amazing challenge!!!Then to relax you have all the casting off and sewing up the pieces by hand . . .
    I love to knit with 2 needles

    – but the machine is a different thing all together-!I use mostly cottons . . .Enjoyed seeing your beautiful creations!Share some more-you are totally inspiring!
    Judith

    Like

  5. I just came across your blog which is really lovely and inspiring. I have been a “normal” knitter all my life and now I have started with a vintage knitting machine. It is quite something different but I am curious to explore the limits of it. Your cardigan and how you mix the yarns are a revelation. Thanks a lot. In England I came across a guild of machine knitters .-)

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s