Tuesday, May 17

Steps to make a (machine) knitted/crocheted garment

1. Choose a design
2. Take body measurements
3. Select pattern and adjust to size
4. Prepare yarn
5. Thread up machine
6. Make tension gauge; let rest for at least 24 hours; treat as for finished garment
7. Make note of gauge
8. Set the knit contour (if using)
9. Knit the pieces
10. Block and press
11. Sew up the garment
12. Final press
13. Completed garment

This is based on a list I found alongside a cute cartoon, in the invaluable Knitmaster publication "Bible for Machine Knitting: How to knit garments".

I'm sure most non-knitters think it's as easy as steps 1, 9, and 13. Certainly I get that impression from people who've asked me to do commissions. Luckily they've never followed it up with yarn or money. I'd rather not take commissions - I don't have the time, and I'd rather knit what I want and then pass it on. Having a deadline would make it a chore, and that's not what I want from my hobby. Plus the two people who asked wanted large items in black or navy blue. Very hard to see, even harder to sew up neatly.

They seem to think, it being a machine-knit, it must be faster, right? Press a few buttons and out pops a jumper? Yes, the old toaster-knitting machine idea. It doesn't work like that (except perhaps in industry). Working from an established pattern that I've done loads of times is one thing - I know what yarn works, what gauge works etc. Designing something from scratch and doing it properly is quite another. I've heard tales of customers ultimately not paying up because what they thought they wanted and what they got didn't match up. I'm not sure I could handle that. If you cost it correctly, there's no way it'd compete with a cheap shop-bought item anyway - the yarn itself can be expensive before you've even factored in a minimum wage for yourself.

Handknitters ought to do all of these steps too, skipping steps 5 and 8 of course. To get a perfect garment, you should follow all of these steps, and don't skimp or skip any of them. Unless you are knitting for charity, or have an unlimited supply of relatives in various sizes, you really need to swatch (unless it's for a non-critical item such as a bag or scarf). Let us not speak of the time I wasted in hand-knitting the back of an intricately-cabled cardigan, in cotton, in the size I thought would fit me, only to have my mother point out the back alone would happily fit Giant Haystacks (a wrestler) as a shawl. Not to mention, the thing was so heavy even in the smaller size that it has stretched beyond all usefulness. Never again! If you hate to swatch, knit part of the sleeve. It's big enough that you can measure it, and if it's right you're already under way.

Unfortunately I get the distinct impression that a lot of textiles students are being taught about textiles, but not about how long these things take to produce. I've lost count of the messages I've seen on various boards, some student needs a knitted/crocheted garment for their coursework, and they need it for next week. Yeah, right! They should be taught to make something themselves and see just how long a machine (or a loom, or knitting needles, or a hook) really take. Not an industrial loom or knitting machine, either. A real one that needs warping up or setting up.

As in all things, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. I'm my own worst enemy in this respect. I'm impatient and I get bored/distracted easily. Sometimes I'm in such a hurry to get to the fun bit, the knitting bit, that I skip the preceding steps. It only takes a few minutes to machine-knit a swatch in advance. Then I get bored again, and the pieces lie around, waiting to be sewn up. It takes patience, concentration and dedication (or perhaps, sheer bloody-mindedness) to get to the finish line sometimes.

But it's definitely worth it.

Hey, this almost turned into a rant. I must be in a ranty mood, sorry about that. Now, where did I put that pile of things I need to sew up?! :)

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