We know that some seasoned knitters are so fast they almost seem like knitting machines (we're looking at you, Hazel Tyndall). Today though, I want to discuss a different type of knitting machine which is, erm, actual knitting machines!
Okay, you may be thinking, "Machine knitting--that's cheating!" That's not an uncommon response when handknitters are presented with machine knitting as an alternate fiber art. But stick with me because there are a number of misconceptions that lead knitters to think that machine knitting is cheating.
Here is my typical reply to a skeptical handknitter who says that machine knitting is cheating: Do you think a garment sewn with a sewing machine is cheating?
Much like sewing machines, most consumer-level knitting machines are not automated. That means YOU are still doing most of the work. You still need to use your hands (and your wits) to make each stitch (albeit much, much faster). You also still need to cast on, bind off, make any increases, decreases, eyelets, cables, and other techniques by hand (albeit with different tools and techniques). In the end, there are no yarn cartridges that are inserted into your machine as it whirs to life and automagically starts to knit your sweater pattern while you go to the kitchen for a cup of tea (or cognac, depending on the time of day).
What Machine Knitting is (and what it isn't)
Knitting machines do one thing extremely well: stockinette stitch. Scarves, shawls, sweaters, t-shirts, blankets-- almost anything handknit in stockinette can easily be adapted for machine knitting.
Our trusty knitting machines can also do most types of color work easily. I've machine knit items using intarsia, stripes, stranded knitting, and slip stitch patterns without much difficulty. (You can even weave in all your ends in spectacularly easy fashion on a knitting machine with one cool trick that you'll learn in one of our upcoming classes.)
So what is a knitting machine not so good at? Basically, most patterns that use garter stitch, as well as textured stitches such as ribbing, moss, bobbles, and others that incorporate purl and knit stitches in the same row. And while it is possible to knit things in the round with a flatbed machine, you need to employ a ribber, which is a secondary bed with the same number of needles as your main bed. Suffice it to say, machine knitting in the round with a ribber can be a pain.
One common refrain I hear from customers is "I have too much yarn in my stash!" (Personally, I don't know how it's possible to have TOO much yarn but that’s another story for another day.) By using a machine for portions of your projects, you can whip them up in much less time, allowing you to complete more projects and use up all of that gorgeous yarn stash you've collected.
If you're familiar with Sandra Lee's cooking show, Semi-Homemade, it's the closest metaphor I have for how handknitters can get the most bang-for-your-buck from their yarn stash with machine knitting. On Semi-Homemade, Sandra prepares recipes where she uses some pre-made ingredients while preparing other parts of the dish from scratch and saves time in the process.
Imagine you're working on a beautiful new cardigan pattern that has sophisticated (and complicated) open-work in the front and a plain stockinette back. Using your machine, you can easily knit the plain stockinette back and sleeves (the boring parts). Then, you can handknit the front pieces with the complex lace motifs (the interesting and challenging part). And now you have an amazing semi-handknit cardigan in about half the time.
But the virtues of machine knitting are not only related to speed. The tools you use in machine knitting often don't require the same fine motor movements as handknitting. If you're someone who could never get your hands to coordinate for handknitting but you love the look of knits, machine knitting may be for you. Or if you have mobility or flexibility issues with your hands or wrists, some people find that machine knitting is easier for them than handknitting.
Oh, and I have I mentioned that machine knitting is really fun too?
But if you are still feeling skeptical, then please join us for a free knitting machine demo, where you'll learn the different parts of a knitting machine, see a machine in action, and ask questions. You can also sign-up for our new Knitting Machine classes and if you'd like, even pre-order a knitting machine of your own. (Membersheep Rewards Club members will be able to pre-register for machine knitting classes on 09/10/17).
Knitting machines will also be available for hourly rental at the Creative Ewe studio so you can work on a project without making the investment in a machine right away.
Add some new skills to your knitting toolbox with machine knitting, create projects in a fraction of the time of handknitting, and explore fun, new techniques that can only be accomplished with a knitting machine. Get ready to say goodbye to your yarn stash. Once you get started with machine knitting, you'll finally turn all that beautiful yarn into finished projects.