Sunday, January 18

Machine knitting: It's not a toaster!

I really feel I should dispel a myth about machine knitting. Yes, yards of straight stocking stitch (and other patterns) can be produced quite quickly. But casting on takes time (especially if it's all 200 needles!). Increasing and decreasing, and any other technique you might like to do (eg cables), takes time. Casting off takes time - it can be back-breaking, sat in the same position for half an hour. Then you STILL have to sew all the pieces together (sometimes, you have to do some sewing partway through the process so you can machine knit some more, eg sewing one shoulder up so you can add the neck welt). Not to mention, the swatching/washing/blocking beforehand if you want the garment to fit a specific person, the measuring, the designing of the pattern, the false starts and frogging back when your attention is distracted or you make a mistake. These things aren't specific to machine knitting, of course - any fibre crafter who wants predictable results should be prepared for some up-front prep work. But I suspect people see the word "machine" and imagine it's as easy as waving your arms about a bit, and out pops a fully finished garment, like some sort of yarny toaster. Or this adorable Pingu cartoon.

We don't press a button, and out pops a finished article, all sewn up. There ARE industrial machines that can do this, but only after hours of programming, and my house just isn't that big, and neither is my bank account. Where would be the fun in that, anyway? The only reason I bring this up, is that there was a request on a knitting group yesterday for someone to pop into a tv studio on Tuesday with a finished article (a novelty item). I'm sure the researcher meant no harm by the request. Just as the various requests that crop up on the knitting lists, usually around the beginning of December, for xmas jumpers for celebrities and "oh can we have them finished by the end of next week?", are well-intentioned, but poorly researched. There was a request to hand knit the entire royal family, a fortnight before Prince William's wedding. I've often seen requests on knitting lists, from students - they've come up with a line of knitwear, can someone please knit it for them by the end of the month? Not entirely sure what one is supposed to learn if someone else does the hard work for you, but then I never went to art college...

These things take TIME, my friend. Learning to machine knit is like any other skill - riding a bike, flying a helicopter. It takes time to learn the ropes and then things can still sometimes go wonky. If you know nothing about the craft, know this: the word machine does not mean it's much faster. It can be, but only after a LOT of practice, and quite a bit of swearing. There's a heck of a learning curve, and a lot of folks just don't make it past that. Alas, there are an awful lot of knitting machines in attics and under beds that are testament to that.

Maybe I'm just grumpy, or over-sensitive, but I feel that these "last minute" requests devalue the skill of the craft and are somewhat insulting. Hey ho. Maybe it's just me, I'm not a winter person. I'll be more perky in March, I promise.

Having said all that, I did manage to make a semi-decent jumper out of the olive green all-over cable disaster - this took probably 5 hours, over two days, to make the parts, and then another 3 hours or so to sew up by hand. It was made on the SK860, which protested a bit, until I hit on the idea of running the yarn over a wax candle attached to the tension mast. Himself seems happy enough with it, although I'd've liked a tighter neck. No, he never tucks his t-shirts in. He mostly lives in fleeces since discovering them in conjunction with his snowboarding hobby, so I suspect this will sadly be the last jumper I make for him. He just doesn't wear them.

olive green jumper

I also made a hat with some of the leftovers - there's still enough of this yarn to make quite a few more hats I think. The yarn softens quite a bit in the wash. I shamefacedly admit I didn't wash the swatch I used to calculate the jumper from; the yarn felt so acrylic-y I figured it wouldn't change much  - so I learnt a lesson there! The hat was converted to midgauge from Daisyknits' adult bulky hat - it's basically a big hem, so double-thick and nice and warm.

olive green hat

I also finished off the Zen jacket - I ran out of yarn, so the sleeves are shorter than in the pattern, and it didn't come out as long as in the pattern for some reason. I'd definitely make this again, but choose a lighter yarn. This is Artesano Merino. If I was to make this again in the same yarn, I'd probably change the even stitches in the 9 dtr shells for chain stitches, to take out some of the weight (and of course make the yarn go further).


Apologies for the weird camera angle - I am not top heavy with tiny legs, alas. I blame the cameraman! The back problem has mutated into pins and needles in my right leg, should I dare sit on a conventional seat for more than about 30 minutes. It sounds minor, but it means pubs and cinemas are right out at the moment, and the only way to watch tv is horizontally. I hope it hurries up and heals - I have things to do, and a lot of them I need to be sitting down for! And the el-cheapo knee chair at home is not kind to my knees or behind!

Current mood: uncomfortable

1 comment:

Barnicles said...

THANK YOU for explaining machine knitting so well. I'm fairly new to machine knitting having done some in college but never completed a garment yet and even after hours of 'studying' my machine there are so many variables that can go wrong and it's so time intensive.

Amazing jumper! I hope to knit a baby item or small adult item on mine. Need to build that confidence one step at a time!

Barnicles x