In this post, I'll try to show you how the knitting machine works.
I'd like to say, though, that if you consider buying a knitting machine, you should make sure you either get one which comes with its manual or you can get instruction on how to use it. If possible both.
I started out with just the manual and I have to say that most things I tried based on that went wrong about twenty times before they started to go right. Sometimes that was because I didn't properly understand the lingo yet, sometimes because there is only so much anyone can show in text and pictures, sometimes because the instruction were a bit sparse and often because I had yet to develop a feel for this thing.
It was a bit of a struggle and I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to figure it out without the manual.
When, on to knitting. Let's assume the machine is safely installed on a table and the sled with the thread guide are in place, like I showed in the last post. Position the sled at the right side of the needle bed.
To start knitting, you have to move those needles you want to use forward like this.
Then, you can hang the comb between the needles. It attaches to the underside of the machine with two twisting bits of metal at either side. There are other ways of setting up stitches, but this is the easiest one and the most appropriate one if you just want to try it out.
Release the thread from it's resting position on the shaft of the thread tension unit and pull it into the hole in the thread guide on the sled. Pull on it until you hear the click which indicates you've inserted it in the hole at the bottom as well.
Hold the loose end at the bottom. If you don't the tension will pull it out.
Now, you can, gently, move the sled to the left.
It should form a kind of zigzag between the needles you pulled forward and the teeth of the comb. Release the comb from the machine and let it hang just by that zigzag of thread. Hang the weights on the comb.
Move the sled back from left to right. This time, loops form around the zigzag and at this stage, you may recognize knitting stitches.
And that's all there is to it. Moving the sled back and forth over the needles creates normal flat knit. To increase the amount of stitches you just pull out more needles and to decrease, you hang two stitches on one needle (it takes a bit more trouble to decrease more than one at a time though. A bit more trouble, not a lot).
The experience of knitting in this way is, I guess, probably more like weaving that like hand-knitting.
The machine makes each stitch like this (I'm trying to show it here by doing one by hand):
It pushes the needle forward so the stitch(=loop) which is on it is pushed back over the moveable lip of the needle.
Then, the thread from the thread guide is pulled over the extended front of the needle.
Getting caught there when the needle is pushed back again and the loop pushed the lip forward.
When the loop is pulled over lip, it slides from the needle and has become the next stitch and a new loop hangs in the hook of the needle.
When you move the sled, its parts make one needle after the other go through these motions. It works great. If it all works.
That's something to watch out for: in order to go through the motion of knitting properly, each needle must be able to open all the way and close all the way. And to do so easily and smoothly. Needles which don't either cause dropped stitches or the piling on of loops. Those have to be replaced.
You also have to make sure that there's always a bit of tension on the thread in the sled. That is why the tension unit is there, but something may happen (like the cone suddenly unwinding quicker) which makes the thread go slack and if you try to knit with a slack thread, it won't get caught in (at least) the first few needles. Don't ask me how I know…
I hope this has clarified the process a little. I will continue in a next post about gauge, fancy stitches, patterns and other less hardware-minded things.