December 17, 2013

The knitting machine - 1

This post I promised you, about the knitting machine and how to work with it, got me a bit worried. I'm only a novice at this after all.
And yet, with so many people owning but not using knitting machines and yet so many others considering them, I thought I'd give it a go anyway.

In this post, I'll show you my knitting machine and try to explain a bit about the various types of machines you may come across. More information about working with it will follow later.

As I've told before, I bought my machine quite cheaply through a local auction site (a Dutch Ebay, basically). When I did so, I really didn't know anything about knitting machines. I just didn't want to spend much and this was one of the more elaborate machines which were for sale at a really low price.
Now I know that knitting machines were really popular from the 1950's onwards. A lot of the really vintage-looking Knittaxes and Passaps which I found must have been from that era. Many of the really old machines, including mine, were sold by people who didn't know how to work with them themselves. Which doesn't really help if you want to find out if the thing still works. All I could do when I went to pick the machine up, was to check if all the bits shown in the manual were accounted for (I searched for machines with manuals in the first place and I'm glad I did).
Then, there were the more sophisticated and more expensive machines: some double bed machines, some with punch cards and some which could be controlled by computer (watch out with those. A lot of the second-hand ones have their software on floppy disks…). 

 My knitting machine is a single bed one (which means you can't knit cables and real rib knit). It has room for 200 needles although I don't have quite that many (the lady at the store calculated that 180 should be enough to knit for my size and recommended I buy a few more than that). All the needles are held in place by the sponge bar (which you can't see here, it's on the inside. You have to take it out to change the needles though).  
You have to fix to machine to the table using two special screws. Some fancy machines come with their own tables, but most simple ones are like this.

The needles can be placed in various different settings, as indicated by the letters at the edges of the needle bed. You need those for different stitches.

To knit, you have to place the sled on the needle bed. This one has all kinds of buttons, but the only important one for normal knitting is the dial in the center, below the handle. That's to set the tension.

And attach the thread guide to it (Oh, I should mention that my manual is in Dutch and French. I'm just translating the names of the various parts so I may be getting all of them wrong. I'm only sure about the term 'sponge bar' because someone mentioned that in the comments the first time I blogged about the knitting machine).
The whole thing should move smoothly over the needles.

Then you can put the other bits on. 

This strange, spindly contraption is the thread tension unit. It's typically folded up in the box so you have to unfold it and insert it into a hole in the machine. Then you take the yarn from the cone (only one for normal knitting), guide it through it and put it in the clamp on the shaft (that's the yarn's waiting position. you put it there until you're ready to put it into the thread guide of the sled).

You can also click on the row counter. The lump of plastic sticking out at the right side of this simple gizmo is hit by the little metal bar on the sled on each pass and so it mechanically counts the rows.

My machine also has this collection of buttons. These are all for various fancy stitches. If you just want to do plain knitting, you don't use them.

There are a some tools which came with the machine and are really useful. 

The little ruler is used to push needles forward in knitting position. It just makes that easier. The middle thing is one you absolutely need. It's a helping needle which you use to transfer a stitch to another needle, like you have to do to bind off stitches.
The thing on the bottom is the handle to activate the settings for the fancy stitches (so a simpler machine won't have one of these).

You will also need these: these combs provide the easiest way to set up stitches and the weights are put on later to let the work hang properly.

As I mentioned before, there are many different kinds of knitting machines, however, I suppose a lot of features are pretty universal. 
I hope this post is of use to you and I'll be back soon to show more about working with the knitting machine.


  1. My Mum had a knitting machine in the 1970's, as did my grandmother. We were never short of woollies as children! Looking forward to seeing what you make with this.

  2. After reading your posts about the knitting machine I am *so* intrigued with the idea of having one! I really like knitting but it takes so long to make garments. Thanks for these posts!

  3. I think during my holiday vacation I may pull one of mine out and experiment. Maybe a simple pieced cardigan. I have a standard, mid gauge, and a slightly bulky.