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Before we get too comfortable…

Lest anyone think I could focus on any one craft genre at a time…

Just when I have re-committed myself to pursuing the Master Knitter program, I got a tantalizing email from another knitting guild member offering up knitting machines and a garter carriage to anyone who might want them… for FREE.  I called and said that if no one else was interested, I would take the whole lot.  And that there were a couple of the machines that I would like dibs on even if there was a line out the door behind me.  It seems I was the first to call.

So far in my life, I have spent about $200 on three knitting machines and maybe $35 on some parts/accessories.  The first one was a gift for my sister, and the only knitting machine that I think is still sold new on the mass market:  The Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine.  I didn’t know much about knitting machines at the time, but she had a dream about felted squiggly curtains, which sounded like long tedious plain rows of knitting.  I was trying to be supportive, but it turned out that it’s a lot to have a knitting machine in one’s small apartment with cats, finding the right table for it is tricky, and ultimately the machine came back to me.

Before that machine came back, I got my own first knitting machine cheap on ebay.  A few years later, my Mom’s friend gave her (who gave me) a free 12-stitch punchcard machine, the Brother KH 800 from the 1970s.  And just now I’ve gotten a carload of machines and accessories!  It’s an embarrassment of riches!  Or maybe a lot of people are getting out of this dying art.

In truth, it’s challenging to get started when there are few teachers, the machines are (usually) prohibitively expensive to get sight unseen, I don’t think any book or magazine publishers are currently publishing sexy modern patterns for machines, and unlike hand knitting, it’s hard to take your problem project over to a friend’s house for troubleshooting.

In any case, I feel very lucky, this is a whole lot of machine value for the cost of a car ride.  It pays to join knitting guilds, folks.  One guild member’s clutter can be your future clutter… er, treasure!  But seriously, we didn’t talk much but I got the impression that my benefactor had enjoyed machine knitting but was having difficulty taking the bulky, heavy machines to classes and was now ready see someone else enjoy these machines. Carol Murdoch-Miller, you are an angel of the knitting world.  You have given a stranger a beautiful gift of crafting happiness.

As for the added equipment to my small home – my husband smiles, and groans, and teases about the space my stuff takes up.  But I am grateful every day that he appreciates the value of tools.  He really gets it – he was genuinely excited for me to get such an awesome collection of machines and accessories.  And then he lets me store as many knitting machines as I can find in our tiny house!  At least they fold down flat and slide under the bed easily.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually planning to keep all of the machines currently in my house.  I have friends and family who might putter around with them too, and are eager to take them on.  I think I’m just the obsessed one who gets other people going along with these kinds of things.

The ones I’m keeping are the new-to-me 24-stitch punchcard Brother KH 881, the compatible garter carriage, and the KnitKing Bulky punchcard (because I love worsted!) .  I’ll probably pass along the 12-stitch Brother KH 800, since this new one is a real upgrade.  The KH 881 is about 15 years younger, and has two noteworthy features:  the knitleader – which appears to be some kind of guide in which you trace your pattern shape onto a thin plastic sheet and it helps guide your progress; and the punchcard reader takes a 24-stich card.  The old one was from a short-lived period before the 24-stitch card was standardized, there are plenty of patterns that can be halved, but there are a lot more available that cross 24 stitches.

For the recipient of the KH 800, there is a really good video on troubleshooting the card reader – I never got around to that fix.  I’m happy to try to fix it with you, if you’d like!

I looked at the KH 881, and I don’t think it needs a new sponge bar, that seems to be one of the first things that break down, but this one seems to be in ok condition.  I cleaned and oiled and tried to assess if there were missing parts.  So far, it seems like the only missing thing is the extension rails for the lace carriage.  Luckily, there are still shops that sell parts, even if no one is apparently manufacturing new machines of this type anymore.

By the way, while the Brother FTP site seems to be down (unless they moved or something), I found a great many knitting machine manuals over on this site:  http://machineknittingetc.com/ and specifically Brother manuals (even some service manuals) on the Mostly Knitting Machines site.

Investigating my new machines will keep me busy for quite some time, I am sure.  As will finding new places in my house to stash my new equipment!

Until next time, keep those needle-beds clacking…

9

Playing with Machines Again

Brother Knitting Machine KH 800

Brother Knitting Machine KH 800 in action

My Mom was given a knitting machine by a friend who was cleaning out her basement, it sounded kind of fancy.  I offered to teach my Mom how to use it, but our recent get-togethers were focused on other things (eg. I am expecting).  When she came over to help me bake traditional Slovak Easter foods for the holiday, I figured I could at least set up my Knitmaster and show her the basics.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts and on the associated info page, my Knitmaster is a very humble sort of knitting machine.  It’s a standard gauge (meaning it can handle lace-weight through DK), but it’s functionality is limited to plain stockinette unless you are willing to do some very tedious hand-manipulation.

I had considered upgrading to a punch card machine last year, but I really couldn’t justify the expense.  My humble Knitmaster was an eBay bargain at $46 including shipping.  I’d likely have to pay at least $500 for a gamble on a basic punchcard machine.  Spare cash being limited as it often is, I gave up on the idea after a few months of Craigslist and eBay stalking.

So last week I showed my Mom the wonders of machine knitting on my Knitmaster.  I demonstrated various techniques on a piece that started as an attempt to machine knit a baby cardigan.  She also got to try out casting on, binding off, and basic rows.  My crafty buddy Emily also stopped by and got to try out the knitting machine.  Emily is a scientist by trade, so I think the precision and mechanical nature of the knitting machine were intriguing to her.

The next day I got a call from my Mom.  Maybe it’s the impending grandma-hood and the baby sweater I was trying to create, maybe it’s the fact that my Mom just won a circular sock knitting machine from ebay, or maybe it was the fact that my machine is kind of simple and her machine was a bit more complex.  Whatever the reason, she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  She asked if I would like to swap knitting machines with her!  So the pic above is “my” new Brother KH 800 Knitting Machine, “on semi-permanent loan to my collection” as we like to say.

So far, I am thrilled!  The Brother Knitting Machine had been in a friend of my Mom’s yarn shop, then it was given to another friend of hers who does charity knitting but apparently never got into the knitting machine aspect of production knitting.  A basement needed cleaning, the machine went to my Mom, and voila!  A free upgrade for me!  It is in fairly good shape (a few needles are missing, apparently swapped out and moved to the ends when bent).  It has a lace cartridge and takes a 12-stitch punchcard.  Alas, the couple of books that I have accumulated on knitting machine patterns are for 24-stitch punchcards, but I think most can be modified.

Compared to my Knitmaster, there are a lot of pieces to set up on this machine.  Flipping through the PDF manual I found online, I was able to figure out most things.  I am slowly building up my abilities with the new functions.  I like making hemmed edges on it – the cast on is so easy it feels like cheating!

The only major difficulty I am having so far is that the punchcard mechanism is not “reading” the cards correctly.  Some of the needles that the card says should be selected are not selecting – I can do it manually, of course, but that sort of defeats the purpose.  The PDF manual is missing some pages, but it doesn’t appear that it ever had a page that detailed troubleshooting the punchcard.  Hopefully internet research will help, but I may be relegated to taking things apart and seeing what happens.

I’m heading for a day-long knitting workshop this weekend with my crafty buddy Emily.  A couple of classes and a vendor area… Watch out now – I’m heading into the danger zone!

Until next time, keep those needles (and needle beds) clicking…