Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's not as easy as they make it look

You might have run across this video, Karen Allen interviewed by Martha Steward while knitting a sweater for her on the electronic knitting machine. Scroll down on the page, the video is in the left side almost at the bottom.

In about 5 minutes she casts on, knits the sweater, assembles it and Martha goes out of the shop with the sweater in a bag. We all know the video is heavily edited, also you should know that only due to the properties of Cashmere, a very sticky fiber, is Karen able to cut, sew and assemble the sweater easily without a running stitch.

What brings me to share this video with you? In fact, there is more than one reason.

I have seen there a lot of knitters who are turning to machine knitting. I think they all finally got scared from looking at their stashes and are figuring they will never ever make unless they wise up somehow, and its not going to be by cutting on the yarn budget, that's for sure. Used machines are going for a lot more money than they used to, younger kids are figuring out ways to interact with the machines with opensource source software instead of the very expensive proprietary packages we have. Brother machines are coming back into the market with another brand name, word has it, its the same machines. The yahoo groups and machine knitting Ravelry groups are growing in number of members by the day.

I love the process and the efficiency of it all. I struggle with machine knitting sometimes, specially when it comes to stitches and designs and patterning. No problem with plain garments, no shaping, no changing stitches, that's the easy part. Although I struggle and sometimes I rip more than I knit, I keep at it, I know that in the process I learn and eventually I do come up with things I like and someone can wear.

There are several kinds of knitting machines, as far as stitch patterns are concerned. Shaping, increasing, decreasing, casting on and off, is on the knitter's plate exclusively, of course operating the machine so it will knit different patterns stitches is also up to the knitter. That is where the challenge begins.
There are several kinds of machines, completely manual were the knitter hand manipulates the stitches to create the stitch patterns she wants. Punch card machines, these are limited to 12 or 24 stitch wide patterns and electronic machines which interface with a computer of some sort and can create patterns the width of the machine. Both punch cards and electronic machines require operator's input, push the buttons, unlock the cards, send the command from the computer to the machine, and so on. It gets confusing sometimes and it is easy to forget from one project to the next. I am getting better at it, earlier I showed you several machine knit scarves I made, and now the challenge is a Fair Isle sweater.

Amazing the number of problems I have had with this! I designed the overall fabric in the software, knit a swatch, designed the sweater, and have started it five times! Once I ripped the body, and both sleeves!
Why? Because I got over confident and forgot a few steps....after knitting the body and both sleeves I knew I did not have enough yarn to complete the whole thing. I still wanted to use the yarn, so back to the design board to figure out how to use a lot less contrasting yarn just enough so that the main color will suffice. The latest design is yet to be tested, this time I am feeling confident that I might make it. Just need time to try.

Here is the first swatch:
Faroe on the knitting machine. Swatch

Yet another try:

Hopefully this one will do the trick:

1 comment:

Rob Knits said...

Wow, interesting experiment.