Friday, November 11, 2011

Adventures in Machine Knitting

So, yesterday, I finally picked up the knitting machine from the repair shop, which was a mini-saga. If you listen to the podcast, you'll have heard the story. Sufficed to say, everything's working now.

So, when I got it home, I grabbed our workhorse table, clamped it down, grabbed some left over yarn (Cascade 220), and set about making some test swatches.

Worsted weight yarn is about the "thinnest" this machine can do unless you want a loose weave. As it was, the weave for worsted is also pretty loose, but nothing that I can't live with in anything I'd make on this machine.

I also played with changing color. As seen in the photo, it ain't bad. It's stockinette stitch only, so it "curls" in on itself, but nothing that a good washing & blocking won't fix...or a crocheted edge.

Knitting machine test swatch

I also figure that since its Cascade 220, I can felt the yarn just a little bit to tighten up the weave, and it won't harm the overall end product.

Why am I using a knitting machine? So, if you listen to the podcast, you'll know that my Viking wanted the Doctor Who scarf from Season 18 (the red outfit with the red scarf). I am NOT about to hand-knit a 20 foot scarf by ANY means as it takes TOO DAMN LONG -- ask anyone who has knitted one -- but a machine knit one? Sure it won't be "exactly" like the original (the original was a garter stitch scarf, and this is stockinette, but honestly...who's gonna care outside of the Doctor Who police?

So after a few test runs where I made some mistakes, learned some things, then I started in on the Scarf. After about 10 minutes of putzing, I had this:

Docto who scarf

Overall, the machine is a *blast* to use. It is relatively easy to use, and everything goes by quick! After playing with the machine for several hours, I had ~8 feet of scarf, and had gone through nearly 1 skein of every color. I have one more skein of every color, and am going to need to pick up about 2 more of each color.

It was nice to see so much progress after a few hours work. This would have taken MONTHS to do by hand.

Knitting Doctor Who

Not to say that I didn't have any problems. I made some minor mistakes, which were easily fixed, and some BIG mistakes that...while fixable took a LOT of time to fix.

1) always make sure you have enough yarn for a row. If you don't, everything comes off the machine, and you have to carefully put everything back on carefully and tear your hair out. If you're unsure if you have enough, then you don't have enough so SPLICE in another skein!

2) MAKE SURE THE WEIGHT is on before you even start. Otherwise, it drops stitches of the needles.

3) move the weight every 10 rows. It helps with the tension.

4) When you move the weight every other time, double check the following:
a) no other needle has moved into position. Otherwise, you increase a stitch, which can be corrected easily by a K2TOG.
b) make sure that no stitch has accidently dropped. This is also easily fixable since it's just like regular knitting, but a PITA, because you're looking at the reverse side of the stockinette stitch.

5) Small color changes are a PITA, because you have to snip the yarn in order to do a small color change, unlike hand knitting. This makes for a LOT of loose ends to knot & weave into the scarf.

Overall, I could see making a bulky-weight blanket for just around the house or something similar...or making something nifty to just felt and cut out squares...after all, different tools provide different uses, and the knitting machine is no exception. But I'm not going to be giving up my needles anytime soon.

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