Thursday, August 2, 2012

Learning to Knit on a Machine

Well, it took a few days to get my oomph back after Convergence.  Spent a few evenings studying books on machine knitting and put my new machine together.  It's a basic, entry-level knitter and I'm looking foward to making lots of projects on it -- especially blanks for space-dyeing yarns.

I quickly realized that I would need to do something about a table before I could use the machine.  It has to be bolted on to a table.   Turns out I don't have a table sturdy enough for a knitting machine that can accommodate the clamps.  I don't have room for another piece of furniture in my house, so I did some research on knitting machine stands and my friend Holly and I made a trip to Newton's Yarn Country on Saturday.

They were having one of their parking lot sales (yee-haw!) and as usual they were very busy.  But that didn't stop "Mrs. Newton's" from taking a few minutes to talk with me about tables and accessories.  And "Mr. Newton's" stopped pulling yarn out of the warehouse to look for a stand for me.  How pathetic is it that as many times as I've been to their store, I haven't learned their names?

Anyway, I  was quite impressed that they had two choices of stands in stock, and that they didn't try to sell me the more expensive one.  We talked for a few minutes about my machine and plans for using it, and they suggested that the costlier one would be overkill, and I think they were right.  Having done my homework, I knew the lowest price I would pay if I bought online, and I actually spent about $30 less, even adding in the tax.

As I was looking around the shop, I noticed a couple of cases near the knitting machines.  Turned out they use rifle cases, same as Nancy Roberts recommended.  They sell them at their cost (less than I would have paid buying it direct) so I got a very fair price on a case. 

Of course, I couldn't visit Newton's on a sale day and not check out the yarns.  So we bundled the new stand, rifle case, and a couple of garbage bags of yarn suitable for machine knitting into the car.  And I think I may have Holly hooked on fiber arts because she came home with a few cones of yarn, too!

Soon as I got home I had to check out the case.  Everything fits just right and the foam in the case even keeps all the small stuff from moving around.  Now I need to figure out how to embellish it so it's clear that it does not contain firearms.  As much as I'm in favor of keeping my constitutional rights,  I don't need anybody thinking I'm carrying.

Then I put together the stand (instructions were excellent and easy to follow) and got the machine clamped on.  Funny that there was no indication of how the machine should be oriented on the stand.  I looked all over the internet and found zip.  Guess you're just supposed to know what the purpose of the arm thingies is.  (Turns out they're for other machines that have different case configurations.  All I needed was a simple solid surface to clamp to.  I was surprised at how sturdy the stand turned out to be -- It doesn't wobble a bit.  And it will be so easy to transport it to classes, etc.

I was about to spend a few hours over the weekend getting better acquainted with the machine.  So far it's been quite easy to follow the instructions in the basic guide to the machine.  Learned a little about using the transfer and tappet tools, and made a small pile of samples using different techniques.  Here goes  (photos show front of fabric on left, back on right):

Pile of Samples

Color Changes

Tuck Stitch

More Tuck Stitch with Loose Gauge
Tuck Stitch in Colors
Tuck Stitch in Colors, Changing Yarn in Different Rows
Slip Stitch - Hard to See Diagonal Effect
I Think This Was the Start of Lace Stitch
Plating, Using Every Other Needle, Variations in Gauge

Plating, Using Every Needle
I had a ball learning about these techniques. It's a bit like driving a car, where you have to keep track of several things going on at once.  Make sure your inactive yarns are out of the way, check your active yarn tension, be sure the carriage goes past all the live needles on each pass, on and on.  Just when you're confident that you've got a handle on it, you make a pass and knit your work right off the machine.  But that's why we have classes and books to help us learn, right?

Speaking of books, here are the ones I'm currently reading.  Bought the first two.  Borrowed the third but I'm going to buy it one of these days.

Mid-Gauge Basics + Much More.

This is the first book I bought and it expands on the techniques in the LK 150 manual.  Offers several simple but attractive projects for learning the ropes.  Can't wait to make the baby cardigan for my new great-niece!

 The Uncomplicated Knitting Machine.

This is a common-sense guide to machine knitting that takes the fear out of approaching a project.  Takes you through the phases of knitting different styles of sweaters from planning to execution to finishing.  Maybe the family will be getting sweaters this Christmas.

Hand Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters.

This book has a really clear explanation about how knitting machines work, various tools you might need, and the basics of casting on and binding off before it gets into the more exotic and decorative stitches.  It may be a while before I'm ready for more than just the basics, but the directions in this book are so clear and well illustrated that it's going to be a pleasure to use it.