Knitting Machine Museum


As a dedicated, enthusiastic knitting machine, associated gadgets and book collector it was always my aim to record and maintain these artifacts so that at least it will be possible in the future to look back at what used to be.  My biggest concern is just how  many old and sometimes beautiful domestic knitting machines are being taken apart for spares, or worse still thrown on tips. We all know the sock machine story, at least a few have survived and you can even buy new models now, but scarcity has increased the value of these superb little vintage circular knitting machines.  The good news is that videos released on youtube, have lead to a surge of interest and, for whatever the reason, I will be eternally grateful because I can now buy the most important part of my old sock machine, the main bed and ribber needles, fine for me, because I am actually lucky enough to own one. I  am forever playing around in an attempt to actually produce socks on it - mind you there are easier ways of doing that job.  


When able to get my hands on a knitting machine, rescued, donated or purchased  I can hardly wait to open it up, and you know its absolutely fascinating that first look, to see just what sort of machine it is - oh and the colours - some are just plain beautiful -  I then make it my business to  clean, oil and operate that machine. Probably the most boring looking, but to their credit one of the best workhorses are the nicotine yellow Knitmaster 321 and following models.  Among my particular favourites though are the Vogue, Pine Star, vintage PassapOrion, green suitcase Singers,  Minitex - I could go on but it would take me a while as I have around 80 machines, they range from my number one machine, the Pfaff E6000 right down to the tiny Knitmaster Instant, with a plethora of odd ones in between such as the Simple Frame and the strange Knitting Pal that knits several rows (yes I mean rows) at once.

These wonderful pieces of our history deserved a more than a passing mention,  besides which our fascinating art deserves a boost - we machine knitters want to revive our craft before its too late.  The domestic knitting machine has given hours of pleasure to many and it appears to be on the up - yet again.  The most depressing years for me were around 2002 when nearly the last of our much loved magazines Machine Knitting News went to ground and a hand knitting publication by the same company took over,  at least the long standing magazine Machine Knitting Monthly is still on the go.    Around that time Brother decided to stop the manufacture of their popular machines, I often wonder why.  I still yearn for the days when we had many magazines to choose from, all of them highly professional publications. 

What happened to the domestic machine knitting industry is of no consequence now - it was thriving, there are so many theories it would take literally years to go into them all.  However, what's done is done, and to my mind its a pointless exercise to delve deep - lets concentrate on today and what we have now.  Many of us did not appreciate how lucky we were with such a large choice of dedicated magazines.   I have a large collection of knitting machine magazines, and still browse through, in addition to this, a large book collection still survives along with a drawers full of punchcards and mylar sheets.  I have been collecting knitting machines and associated gadgets for over 20 years now and operating them since I was 23, and I still use them on a daily basis and still love trying out new techniques.   In 1990,  I advertised for like minded parties to start up a knitting machine club and the Tay Tummel Knitting Machine Club in Strathtay was born, we had 10 wonderful years with some incredible machine knitters who were truly expert on their chosen machines, but time passes and we were all dissipating, and I was moving to Brittany. To conclude, I achieved my dream of moving to Brittany around 2003 and am now happily ensconced in my “Knitting Shed” - this houses my collection and provides me with a peaceful haven to knit (or should I clarify that by saying machine- knit) to my heart’s content.   

Welcome to 2011

2011 is here, how time flies, I am busy working on my Passap Duo 80 Knitting Machine and beginning to realise that these precision pieces of engineering if used regularly need to be serviced.   To my mind the worst thing you can do with a Passap is to have a carriage crash with a motor attached, it can do all sorts of damage, ie bent needles, damaged beds and worst of all the stripper holders get bashed out of alignment.  I told myself it should be a simple job to fix ie I have all the books that tell you how, but what they do not mention is just how difficult it is to align a stripper carrier.  It really is a job for the skilled, just a fraction out and they just do not do the job.  I am talking here about black strippers, the orange ones really just need to be centred between the beds, but the black ones which are incidentally the most expensive strippers, really need a special tool to set them properly.   I have found this out by experience and I suppose my next trip to the UK must be with all my rear locks in the back of the car so that an engineer can set these stripper carriers properly, now I avoid touching the locks at all costs and am extra careful about using my motor.  One of the main causes of crashes is yarn tension, and I do have the Electra motor that stops with a break, but when you have a bad cone, and the yarn sticks, they are not so good at recognising that and accordingly this is what drags the needles into the wrong position and before you know it you have the worst of all crashes.  I envy folk who live in the south of the UK because they good access to mechanics.    I read some time back of a way of repairing the plastic part of black strippers using some sort of medical tubing but I have searched and searched and still cannot find it, most annoying. 

I hope the first of many, a Passap D owner's contribution
  
Its February now, and how time flies, I am still busy knitting stuff and as time goes by I learn more and more.  I gave my Brother 940 and Knitmaster 580 another clean and workout.  These machines are both standard gauge but oh so different.  The Brothers excel in lace making and to my mind have the most wonderful lace carriages, which are usually included with the machines.  Funny thing is you start out thinking about a complete lace jersey then you think well if I use that fashion lace its gonna take a lot of time.  Some of the Brother fashion laces take many passes of the lace carriage, but I suppose the end  result is well worth while.   If I really want to impress someone with what a knitting machine can do, I drag out my long lace sample to show - (samples are my speciality after all).   That said and done, the Knitmasters/Silver Reeds have their own specialities, for instance pile knitting, just love this, especially if done with a variety of yarns, what can be better than your own design of a fur coat (if only I had the patience).  I really love the Knitmaster rib transfer carriage, its a pleasure to operate and the same can be said for their linker, both good designs.  I do not get on well with the Brother linker though, it takes the patience of a saint.    When it comes to lace on the Knitmaster, well you have to buy a separate carriage, and with one pass lace, its reasonably simple ie it transfers and knits all in one pass (that is for simple lace) however fashion lace has the dreaded technique of having to remove the yarn from the carriage whilst you transfer it and its extremely tedious.    Although I am a confirmed Passap fanatic, I still enjoy experimenting on my many machines, they all have their own special techniques,   Toyota with its fantastic Simulknit facility and great lace carriages, Singers ie the old standard gauges are very smooth running and lets not forget the wonderful Superba machines ie the european Singers, they have a very unusual feature of a double bed spacing mechanism that can adjust to accommodate a great variety of yarns.  All totally fascinating machines and all providing us with the maximum pleasure whilst providing us with that ultimate pleasure of being able to provide you and your family, friends with a made to measure garment in a yarn of your choice.   By the way we now have our first knitting machine with its own story provided by one of my visitors, please take a look, its an unusual Passap D knitting machine and it was provided for the museum by a lady from Canada and it belonged to her mother.  

Knitting Machine Guild (UK) highlight the virtual knitting machine museum

Well into February and its been a busy month - the number of visitors is increasing and the forum is beginning to take off at long last - so many interesting people have posted with some great machines and gadgets highlighted and now all we need are the photos of these machines and a wee bit of information and they could be added to the site - please if you have an interesting machine, send me some photos - share your machines, we all want to see them.  By the way, very many thanks to the Guild of Machine Knitters for highlighting the museum website and it certainly has increased the number of visitors to the site.  http://www.guild-mach-knit.org.uk/  hey! it looks like I have been able to add a link - now that's good news - well you live and learn.   The Guild have a monthly publication which is sent to all their members.   The only knitting machine magazine in the UK of the old school that is still going is edited by Anne Smith.  The Knitting Machine Monthly  http://www.machineknittingmonthly.net/   Their website highlights what is going on in the knitting machine world (well in the UK at least. 

Photos added of Knitmaster 230 and 250 attachments

It will soon be March and we will be going shortly to collect the knitting machines I bought last year - long way to travel ie near the south west of France, never been down there and I am looking forward to the journey.  I have had many interesting conversations via the forum and email and recently learned about another new gadget - an attachment for the Knitmaster 230 and 250 machines, it must have been the forerunner of the automatic punchcard machines, and I have added some wonderful photos - now added to the Knitmaster 100 page of machines -  lets have more information of this kind and to ensure this website is kept alive as a reference tool for the future.

Back from South West France with my stash of machines and other stuff

Just returned from my journey to South West France, and it was a long run but well worth the trip.  I have now added a couple more machines to my collection, plus a new Hague Linker, (mine gave up the ghost the day I bought it). 

Some kind soul on the forum pointed me in the direction of Ebay and the offer of an instruction manual for my last vintage machine purchase, my Turmix Unic.  It is an unusual machine and I had difficulty with needle replacement - so my grateful thanks to the lady concerned. 

I have a little time on my hands at the moment and have been busy testing the machines and stash of bits and pieces included on my last trip - and the mammoth task of putting them all away.    One of the most useful things is a set of supplements published by Sue Woolley outlining patterns, instructions and tips for the Singer/Superba collection of machines, and thats something I am short of - very well written and well presented.   Certainly these machines are very unusual, but offer a lot of possiblities once you know how.  The Singer 9000 is a machine I have been trying to operate for some weeks now and unfortunately the mouse on the consul was faulty but I have now solved this problem with the purchase of a 2nd machine - it now takes a few minutes to set up each pattern, and this suits a lazy knitter like me.   

Surely there must be owners of more vintage machines out there

With respect to the Forum, most of the responses to enquiries seem to come from me, and I apologise for this but correspondents seem thin on the ground and my request for details of more knitting machines to display seems to have fallen on deaf ears.  Bit sad really as I had hoped this website would provide a good reference point for research in the future.  I do not advertise on the site nor do I intend to, and I pay for the publishing -  if you have any old machines not highlighted, please get in contact.  There are still many vintage knitting machines out there that deserve a mention.

The world's worst demonstrator

I have added some more images of my meadow flowers (just to cheer this page up) and a new page featuring some of my knitted stuff - I must admit I am of the ilk that does more samples than actual knitting, but when I do get in the mood, and get the initial stuff over and done with then time flies - must admit the actual finishing is time consuming and sometimes it takes longer to finish a garment than it does to knit it - especially Shetland - it takes time but the effort is worth it.   In the old days I used to demonstrate my stuff at our knitting machine club and as the piece was being examined it used to practically fall apart thanks to my Hague LInker that frequently missed stitches, but the good news is I now have another one and it works perfectly.  However, it became a standing joke - I must be the world's worst demonstrator - I either forgot what I was supposed to be doing, or like the time I took in my Toyota 950 to demonstrate Simulknit and promptly dropped the ribber carriage on the floor and broke the left hand cam - I could have cried.  Luckily we were blessed with a fantastic lady in our club who had attended and passed with Honours the City and Guilds exam and was a wonderful and gifted demonstrator.

Fisherman's Rib, am I a glutton for punishment

April is here and the sun is shining - long may it last - I have been doing a bit of knitting in fisherman's rib - just do not want to do this again for a while but being a glutton for punishment, could not resist a pattern found for an all in one fisherman's rib jumper - my idea of heaven (or so I thought) ie no sewing up - good news.  However though it took only around 3 hours to knit, the cut and sew neckline was no fun, it was a big project - thank goodness I now have a new Hague linker that actually works, what a difference.  The jersey had an odd 2/1 hem that doubled itself - as I was knitting in 2/30's - I suppose this was to save having to add a 3rd end to thicken up the rib - but it does not really have the required stretch for this type of hemline.  There really are no shortcuts, an all in one jersey with separate cuffs, and a difficult cut n' sew neckline equals just as much hassle as knitting the whole thing.  Note to myself - don't be so damn lazy....it does not pay.  Granted I have another jersey but its just not comfortable and it will probably join the rest of my so called "sample" pieces and I have way too many of these.  The pic of this and the other too thick fisherman's 4 ply wool jersey will eventually get onto the knits page. 

Machine Knitting Guilds Worldwide

I have had a few emails lately from all over the world - keep em coming, I love to hear from you all...by the way, many thanks to the New Zealand  Machine Knitters Society for promoting my website http://www.nzmks.org.nz/ - I seriously envy their busy events calendar  - just wish there was something similar here in France.  Please support our knitting machine guilds, they help keep machine knitting alive and in the news and with this in mind my grateful thanks to the Northern Ireland Guild for their link to this site - their web address is  http://www.machineknittersni.co.uk. and don't forget our UK Guild - http://www.guild-mach-knit.org.uk/

Mini Math Linker

Just before Easter, I have been Iooking at linkers and an unusual one in my collection, called a Mini Math Linker, the reason for my interest is that I found an old advert in one of my early Machine Knitting News Magazines ie around 1998, my, oh my, does that not sound so last century!  It interested me because it mentioned a different patented method of linking - I had never opened the box since the day I bought it with loads of other stuff.  Well to be honest, it is not in the class of the Hague - ie plastic, plastic and more plastic - it looked brand new, but whoever bought it had not used it at all - I oiled it, thread it up and noticed it had an unusual linking needle ie a latch needle - anyway to cut a long story short, the metal and plastic gears were of poor quality and obviously the first sign of stress would have caused serious damage to them and thus it would only work with very lightweight material - the linking pins were of good quality and renewable but as soon as they required replacement, it meant taking the machine to bits and this I believe was its downfall.  Needless to say it has been packed away again - looks as good as new but just does not work very well - tempted to throw it out but it is a working example of this machine albeit useless.

Racking Pattern mistake 

Another project I decided to tackle was a superb racked pattern  by one of my favourite designers Renee Marston - it was a Passap pattern and I had knitted this summer top many times before without any problem whatsoever, but this time the fabric came out pleated as opposed to an open lace effect - reason, well my needle spacing was correct, the tension was fine, however, she said rack to the left  2 rows, then rack to the right , 2 rows - well I followed the instructions or so I thought - knitted the back and front - but I landed up with a pleated fabric - but not the light lacy pattern that it was supposed to be - and why, I racked to the right 2 rows, then racked to the left 2 rows - my other half always said I did not know my right from my left and it look like he was "right".  

Singer Colour Changer Problems

At the beginning of May and I decided to give my Singer 9000 another trial run, and use the colour changer supplied with this model, and yet again I am sad to say I failed miserably in my venture, perhaps the error I made was that I used the full needlebed to knit just a simple 4 row striped jersey, I found it the most impossible gadget to operate successfully, I just could not get it weighted properly, and it kept missing time and time again.  After the umpteenth time of falling off the bed, I gave up and finished it on my beloved Passap - much easier.  One of the worst designed colour changers I have ever used, and sadly yet another gadget bites the dust!  So all in all the good points re this machine are the ease of patterning via the consul, the double bed fabrics which owing to the variety of tensions and bed spacing have a nice handle, a great selection of built in patterns, and its a nice light machine, however, to operate, it requires the patience of a saint, something I just aint got... in respect of those who love this machine, I will not go on, I guess I am just spoiled with the ease of use of so many other much better designed machines.   I have quite a few Singer/Superba's and have tried to knit with them all but I still cannot get on with them, strange.  To boot, I used for the first time, the Singer Big Nine, and again I am not too impressed, a very basic machine, there are many better at the job.  When purchased, this machine had a couple of nicks out of the plastic bed, and looking on Ebay France, the parts were expensive, so I decided to cut a piece of plastic from the end of the machine and glue it to the broken piece in the middle of the bed, and this worked fine and more importantly saved me buying an expensive part to operate a machine that will now sit in storage for the foreseeable.  I will now add it to my museum catalogue.  All my Singer/Superba's have been put away...till the next time!  To be honest, many people say they cannot operate the Passaps and perhaps this is the problem you are either a Passap orientated knitter or a Singer specialist, and there are some wonderful Singer, Superba knitters out there.

Designaknit Cables

Having more time on my hands than usual, the knitting machine shed has been the subject of a good clear out.   The temperature in the shed is pretty comfortable at present as I insulated it last year, its not as bad as it used to be and is a comfortable  24 degrees at present.   What I need to do now is to get myself into gear with doing some actual knitting,  I’m great at playing around, looking up patterns, thinking about things, but actually knitting, now there’s the thing.  I have plenty to do and the ambition but I just do not seem to be able to actually get started.    I fired up the Designaknit, oiled and cleaned my Passap, then realised that I had to find the bits and pieces required to use the computer and pc.  No problem with the magnets, sorted out the Autocolour and connected it to the consul and motor, then I once I had placed the leads into position I suddenly realised that its well over 2 years since I downloaded a pattern from the PC – and I had lost an important connection ie the USB /serial port  connector and my latest computer does not have the required serial port connection, so no serial port, no connection to the Passap.  I have searched and searched but can I find it –well no chance, my shed it’s the worst place in the world to lose anything – take my word for it – so I looked up Designaknit on the web and discovered it gonna take an arm and a leg to replace it –  I will have to have an indepth think about how to proceed.  First thoughts are to just use what I have and that’s not too bad an idea, after all I have so many iin-built patterns in the Passap’s memory,  next I considered what to knit, so looked toward my old Model books for some inspiration, ie more time wasted.  So at present that’s what I am doing at this time of night and hopefully tomorrow I will actually start to knit – that is once I have checked my yarn stocks, chosen the yarn, knitted a test square, thought about a form computer program etc etc, ie watch this space…

Knitmaster Super 4500

This past couple of weeks have passed so quickly and as I have recently finished some work, I have time on my hands and that usually means checking out my collection of books and magazines for inspiration - someone came on and asked me about the Knitmaster 6500, via Ravelry but by the time I opened up the site, the request was a good few months old, however, I responded quickly and then it was down to my shed to check this machine out - I have a 4500 Knitmaster, and its in good condition, so I decided to give it a go (any excuse) I cleaned and oiled it then tried it out, however, as usual I could not find the instruction manuals - after a bit of searching they were in the back of a deep draw, but it was too late - by that time, I had setup the machine, cast-on and knitted with it - funny thing is with these old machines, the patterns are absolutely fabulous and they put later knitting machine patterns to shame, but however they were able to knit these things on these old Knitmasters, I will never know - after around 20 minutes, I was having problems, this machine does not operate with weights, but with plastic sinkers, casting on was difficult (only because I did not know how) and knitting even worse and that was just the plain stuff.  If you look at the other patterns in the books, some are tuck, or loop or fairisle, there are wonderful lightweight woollen coats - so classic but I take my hat off to whomsoever, knitted them on that machine - it must have taken ages - on the coloured leaflet that I have (ie newspaper broadsheet size, it outlines the whole kit with prices, it shows in great detail the wonderful things one can knit, it illustrates a ribber and the price is low (though I have the feeling in those days even £10.00 was a lot of dosh.

Oh well, its back to looking at magazines etc etc - the road to doing now't.

Susy Ranner

I have been watching her videos for quite a while now and what can I say, they are brilliant - her tuition is unpretentious and to the point and unlike me she sure knows her stuff.  I had a problem attaching the ribber to my 4500 Knitmaster and she has resolved it in her own way - ie she sent me a link to yet another of her astounding videos.  http://susyranner.blogspot.com/    Knitting machine enthusiasts, take a look at her site and Youtube videos - prepare to be amazed.

Passap E6000 Knitting and other stuff
 
This last couple of weeks I have been busy with the Passap E6000 and trying out the Designaknit leads for uploading and downloading patterns - I had misplaced the leads but found them still attached to my old E6000 computer along with the necessary USB converter.  As a machine knitter I wish the latest computers still had the handy gadgets of a few years ago ie floppy disk drive, serial ports - no such luck, even the the cd readers are becoming extinct - such a pain, still time marches on but not always for the good.  I have so many floppies with patterns ie Irish Bishop etc etc and wish I could access them a lot easier.  Even the serial ports on computers are becoming extinct.  In the last fortnight I have knitted a few jerseys, one in boucle for my daughter for work ie warm and light and in stockinet so easy, with roll over hems, cuffs and neckband.  Added a couple of pockets on the front and walla a tunic style.  I think the Passap and Duo's patterning systems are superb, I must admit I have never got around to trying them all but everytime I need something different its always a pleasant surprise how beautiful textures can be obtained almost completely automatically.  I was doing my usual today ie reading an old magazine and marvelling at some of the patterns of the very old model books, so far I have come across a man's jacket (I am sure you would need some dressmaking skills to put it together), actual net curtains - seriously thinking about trying these for my old caravan - its amazing when you really delve into these old books how complex some of the stuff is and even when you are looking at old machine knitting mags the patterns are really good - almost tailored and so many of them, when you compare them to the later mags, where you were lucky if you got say 6 or 7 patterns, some of these old mags were packed with stuff.  There was a bad period when every knitting machine magazine seemed to promote the dreaded drop shoulder jerseys, I feel they almost sounded the death knell for knitting machines, some of the patterns were totally hideous.  The very fine stuff still comes from the early days of machine knitting, it was almost as if they had something to prove, ie the home knitting machine could produce very classy stuff - you see everything from tailored skirts to beautiful swagger coats, one problem though in those days, yarn was serious money - it seems to be going back to those days again, I can hardly believe what a 25 gram ball of yarn costs nowadays - way too much.  With respect to the Passap e6000's Form Computer, I was just entering a pattern in via the form, then testing it and writing it down, so I could knit without the stops, then I thought when I got to the sleeve which was quite complex, why dont I just knit with the Form Computer on, and then I wont have to keep on entering into the computer the extra needles, each time I did say 10 increases, with the Form I do not have to keep on doing this and to boot, it is so much easier ie no thought process required, just follow the instructions.  Still that's me, I always have to learn....the hard way.

Returning from visiting my daughter in the UK  

and wonders will never cease, not a knitting machine in sight - for the first time ever...anyway I am missing messing about in my shed and as my son and family from Australia was here for a precious week or so, he helped me with all the electrical and mechanical things I was having problems with, that is or should I say was, my motor for the E6000 - never the same since I changed the belt and my Brother garter carriage.    This wee machine is a remarkable workhorse or so I am told, me, I have had now't but problems, especially with the curly wire connection - this got damaged with use, ie not very much - and I did my usual, tried to repair it myself, but what a hassle, in doing so I damaged the case by not disconnecting a circlip, (info thanks to Heathercraft and for the life of me I just could not get it back together without something else popping up, my son checked the motherboard and it was faulty so we exchanged it for another that I had from an older machine and wonder will never cease but we got it up and running again.  Next problem was that it would not return, but I hope we have solved that, however, only time will tell, I must get it up and running for a while.  I am determined that I shall have more than just one garment from this machine.  It cost me a fortune.  My grandson is here at present and he will keep me busy this week but I will progress onward and upward., After a beautiful start to the summer, the weather here has turned miserable however, thats a great excuse to disappear to my shed.    I have just purchased a handy book binder and this is going to prove useful to bind all the knitting machine manuals I have to preserve.   My big problem here is space, I need more, my machines are taking over, and my yarn now has to be stored outside in my stone barns, ie not ideal. 

The other problem I had was simple or so I thought changing the E6000 card for the more advanced motor from an older Passap computer to my latest one, it was not easy but thanks to Jack, I now have a new card installed in my latest E6000 that will enable me to hopefully test out the capabilities of downloading via Designaknit and knitting with this 4600 motor which actually operates the autocolour via the consul as well - watch this space...

One thing I did do when in Scotland was to visit a craft shop - got to admit I was astounded by the prices of yarn, good job I have one big supply, however, I did purchase a set of circular knitting looms - always wondered if these things would work out, the colours are gorgeous, but the operation, well - give me a knitting machine anyday, they will however join my collection, one would need the patience of a Saint to operate them.   Whilst in the shop noticed some small weaving looms - more food for thought! 

Passap Picto Intarsia Carriage, Designaknit and the 4600 motor

Decided to try this gadget out today as I had taken a shine to a pattern in one of my old MKN magazines.  It was a full size wrap in a sort of tartan style intarsia.  So I set up the Passap and then found the Picto (unfortunately without any instructions) and began.  It looked simple enough, but probably the most flimsy Passap accessory ever manufactured.  Good design though with a number of unusual features,  an inbuilt row counter, a set of 2nd bed needle covers with the needle numbers printed on them (very handy for counting out the stitches), and finally a switch which you lift up so that on your final row, you can with the yarn in, return the needles to working position.  The downside is that because you only have a narrow space on the Passap bed when dropped, it is difficult to lay the yarns across.  Worse part was the fitting of it onto the bed, and the row counter - not the easiest thing - this fitted onto the rear rail -  I then tested it with a roughly 3 ply Shetland yarn and it worked very well knitting wise but I had difficulty with yarn tangling when using more than one colour.  In saying that, as you will gather, I am not the most patient of machine knitters and this particular garment had well over a 1000 rows - and it soon became clear to me that there was no way ever I was going to knit this one.  So what to do? cause I just love this design - especially the lovely tartan affect.     After deliberating for a wee while,  I wondered if I could draw the outline in Designaknit 7(Professional Version for this project).  This I have done, then I looked for a tartan type pattern and found one among my Knitmaster downloads - a bit basic but with a bit of colouring-in etc, I now have a design ready to test, so watch this space.  Of course knitting it on the Passap means that it has to be done using a fairisle technique which will use all the colour changers but is still only a 2 colours in a row, design - this still needs 2 passes of the carriage for every row - so this may well provide me with the means to test out my 4600 motor along with a Designaknit download using my cable - it also means that I will be able to test the 4 colour Autocolour with that motor.  This type of project is an easy way to test the facilities since I changed the motherboard from my older Passap E6000 knitting machine to my latest version because it is really a fairly straight piece with a sort of v shape at the front, so fingers crossed and yet again - watch this space.  By the way someone emailed me from his/her phone to say “learn to knit”  - in my case, ironic and truer words ne’er spoken!

August and my E6000 front lock woes

I felt I had to clear up my cluttered knitting shed and actually knit something.   I tried the tartan design,discussed above, but had way too much of a job getting together all the yarns in the colours required.   So eventually I chose another jacket from one of the old Machine Knitting News mags – my favourite occupation is browsing thru looking for that design that catches my eye or suits my purpose, in this case I wanted to test the my latest Passap E6000 knitting machine and work with Designaknit and the 4600 motor.  

It was during this time, I discovered a couple of faults in the front locks of two of my Passap E6000' knitting machines, one has a faulty front motherboard and the other a damaged cable,  the short one that connects the rear lock to the front electronic lock.  This made me think about how many of us buy second hand Passap E6000 with the hope they will last forever.  This is the very first time I have had a fault with not one but two Passap front carriages-  how’s that for luck and believe it or not they are my newest carriages.  Luckily enough, the Passap Console is not too fussy about which front carriage you are using,  so you can use an all singing dancing E6000 console  with an ancient E6000 front lock.  The first of my faulty locks has obviously been caught by the motor when I disconnected the adjoining wire connection to do some manual work with the motor in use, and I also disconnect the curly wire when I am doing this so it is not too stressed, the end result is that the sellotape holding the connection plug must have broken – this resulted in the wire being caught in the carriage, end result, the internal wires have been torn from the plug…. not good news.  When I tried this carriage initially I immediately knew there was a problem because when taking it to the start position, the computer kept putting up an error number.  I suspected no electronic connection.  I suppose one of the advantages of owning multiple machines is that one can test and retest on different machines.  The second carriage has a damaged electronic board – my fault again, I did not pack it carefully enough when transporting it from one destination to another – I know its damaged because it only selects the needles and pushers when returning to the right, when going to the left it does not select at all.  Damn, damn and double damn, not one carriage but two and worse thing is they are both my newer models.    I just wish I could get a hold of an electronic instruction manual to let me know how to dismantle the carriages to get at the boards which incidentally are attached to the cables.  I did remove the front lock plastic case but no visible sign of any access to the board.   Will not be buying new spares though, they are way too expensive.  Funny thing is, I always feared the consul would pack in, it never occurred to me that the front locks were so prone to electronic faults, hence I suppose the increase in demand and price for the Duomatic 80 knitting machines.

 

Tailored jacket and downloaded charts via Designaknit experiences.

 

Now back to the jacket, I had to first draw the chart into Designaknit, in three sizes ie small, medium and large (same check style pattern), then download it to the E6000 (just one at a time, (its so easy to download,) this jacket had the smaller pattern on the shawl collar and the turn-back cuffs of the jacket, the medium pattern for the body, and finally the larger pattern for the pockets.   I made a mistake with the last bit, I downloaded the pattern as is and ended up with bits of the pattern on either side of the pocket and the designer of the pattern was very efficient as all the patterns were keyed in to match – I had to go back into the console and reprogram to knit just one single pattern – lot of fun I don’t think but I always follow the manual instructions as I can never quite get the gist of the E6000 consul dialogue questions, they are so illogical.   Knitted in French crepe with two ends, the yarn did not behave itself either so it was quite an exercise to get it to run smoothly without twisting and required lots of top tension setting and resetting.  A two coloured double jacquard pattern, the photo of the jacket in the magazine, looked very slick and tailored.  Working with the 4600 motor is fine, but it takes some getting used to, ie just let it do its stuff, the E6000 computer goes on first then this switches on the motor – you do your programming, ensuring your motor stops are correct – as these are not operated by the consul, but I noticed it will let you know if they are not far enough out to cover your selected needles – then just follow the console instructions as normal.  When casting on with the empty rows, it stops just as required – incredible.  If you use the form computer, it will stop at every instruction.  The other thing is you can programme it to stop, as you want it to do, however, I just like the simple things in life.   Now comes the most important part and the bit I am not so hot at, ie the finishing, however, a friend of mine has offered her services and I must say I am very tempted!

 

Three coloured jacquard – pattern sheet printouts required?

 

On the subject of jacquard, and in this case 3 colour, I took ages to draft in a couple of charts into Designaknit,  but what I did not realise is that because of console direction changes, I would not be able to download this directly to the console. The original design was too complex to draw as a complete picture, so  I had 2 drawings,  I thought about it and have I hope come up with a solution, ie print out E6000 pattern sheets, enter them via the reader make the suggested alterations and hopefully, I will have my pattern.  This will provide me with my first 4600, motor and autocolour three colour design collaboration.  Wish me luck and watch this space….

 

Sorry I am so Passap orientated, but at present I am running behind with some promised winter stuff for my family and my Passaps knit things up quickly and most importantly easily.  (Even for jacquard designs).   Most of my yarn stock is mixed industrial and again this suits the Passap system.  

Socks

The Golden Fleece sock machine

This is an old well used machine however it does work and has 2 cylinders with accompanying ribber plates - a 60 and an 80 needle.  I have the original well worn instruction manual.  Thanks to the Youtube’s videos on the subject, sock knitting machines have come into vogue again and the prices have increased but on the bright side, needles are now being manufactured for the more common machine and thank goodness mine is in there though the needles are not cheap at around 50 dollars for 100 however and the ribber ones even more expensive.  The needles are crucial to the operation of this machine and they are constantly easily damaged by the wool carrier that catches the latches.  The machine knits fine socks and of course circular rib is possible and that where they differ from the flat bed machine which can do circular stocking stitch and its derivatives but not circular rib.  I am the first to confess I find the whole process a bit fiddly but perserverance does pay - to my mind the main type of sock this machine excels in is the ribbed sock and you start off with say 40 rows of one by one rib - moving on the say around 100 rows (for long socks) of 3 by one rib, then changing the front set of needles for stockingnet in preparation for the turning of the heel, you then do around 20 rows and then turn the heel - I wont go into this as there are plenty of good videos outlining the method.  After turning the heel you then do around between say 40 - 60 rows for the foot and this leads you the final stage and that is turning the toe.  

This takes me a couple of hours, for each sock and believe me when I say I have a bucket full of socks that have never reached the toe stage and its frustrating.  I truly believe the new machines will rattle these socks off but older machines are not so finely honed with the result, lots of hassle.  Now the finishing touch is the grafting of the toes and for this you need the kitchener stitch and again this takes me a while. 

Singer/Superba double bed socks

Compare this with the Passap or Singer sock that takes me around 30 minutes per sock and you will see what I mean, the flat bed socks do need sewing up at the rib but that said you still land up with a nice sock - for the long sock I favour the 2 in one industrial rib leg, again with around 20 rows to get to the heel, and finishing the rest of the sock in stockinet using the decreasing method for the toe - so no Kitchener stitch for me.  One of the problems re these socks is the yarn - any old yarn will not last long and it preferably has to have some nylon content and testament to this lies in my sock drawers which are filled with worn heel and toe 4 ply acrylic socks that look oh so gorgeous when finished but have no wear attributed to them.  One of my favourite patterns is in the Passap Duo manual for ankle socks and I have just found another fine pattern in the Singer intruction manual so happy days...

Use the 4600 motor along with a 3 colour design download via Designaknit

The original design was for electronic graph and one problem encountered was that the graphs were not of equal size thus when trying to download as jacquard the E6000 computer would not accept it – I therefore had to resize the drawing – I then laid one graph on top of the other in Designaknit and this was then saved with a 3 colour technique and successfully downloaded to the consul..  I had to colour in the two graphs separately in Designaknit so that when laid one on top of the other, the colours were correct.  (This was done with the aid of the photograph of the design.) 
A little bit of hassle but the design was well worth it.  I did try to print out a reader sheet which in the past had been successful with my HP printers but not so with the Epson – this must be a different black ink, so I suppose I will have to pay out for the more expensive cartridge.  Such is life!

September was a productive month for me, I finished the jacquard jacket and embarked upon another of my favourite designs – a polo neck designed as a pattern for the Passap but I used the Singer 9000 knitting machine – it’s a 2 by one rib and I knitted it with a soft green cotton/acrylic yarn.  Initially I knitted the tension square checked it was fine, the designer comes from New Zealand and she is Doris Paice,  I just love this particular sweater, light enough to wear under wool – I love wool but am allergic to it, so need something under.  The pattern tests the brain cells big time, but overall it is well written but thought provoking.

 

The next thing on my list was a sweater for a friend, ie something heavy to wear  for a winter working outside on the hills behind Aberfeldy, and believe me it’s a cold place,.  Now I would have chosen to knit the sweater in wonderful wool but again, he is allergic, so it had to be done in a stitch pattern that is both heavy and warn – I have loads of industrial acrylic, so I used 3 ends of differing browns, thread thru a single tension mast on the Passap E6000 and the pattern was the wonderful full needle half fisherman’s rib.  Initially drawn into Designaknit, I knitted a tension square then checked it overall for size (not forgetting to include ease) and everything seemed fine, I then printed out the pattern and knitted it using one of my machines with a 4000 motor.  All went smoothly until I had to think about the cut and sew neck and the polo style neckband.  I took a guess at it I must confess and it went well, it was knitted in full needle rib at a higher tension thus giving a soft fit overall.  As an added bonus, the pattern on the sweater looks good too – Finally I checked that it was  machine washable, and to test the stability of the industrial yarn.  As all these industrial yarns are donkey’s years old, I have no real idea of the content of the fibres, but from past experience they are fine quality yarns.

Another great addition from a kind visitor to the Knitting Machine Museum

A Trimax vintage Knitting Machine - never seen one of these before - in fact I have never even heard of the make, but again a superb example of another great knitting machine.  Now featured on its own page - take a look!

 Recently I have received many direct emails from all over the world asking for advice or giving me pics of their work, or asking about instruction manuals etc etc – it would be nice if they used the forum to boost its popularity and let others read the very  interesting stuff I get sent. 

Fairisle using the Brother 940 Electronic Knitting Machine

Well I have been busy and my latest project was to knit a wonderful fairisle jacket I found in Machine Knitting News ie Jan issue 2000 -  (designed by Gill Harford) – and this time I used my Brother 940 – as the jacket was fairisle but using 7 colours I just manually changed the colour each time – the jacket was knitted in Shetland and I am lucky enough to have a good stock of this yarn ie its one of my favourite yarns mainly because of the colour ranges – however the stuff I have is around 20 years old at least so it’s the old fashioned colour ranges of the old one pound (in weight) cones. (see pic below)

I tried to get the colours as near possible and it turned out fine.  Shetland wool needs to be knitted on a loose tension to allow it to fluff up when washed.   It was good to get the Brother working again, I have been neglecting it lately – its such a smooth operator but like all machines benefits from being used, not just stuck in a corner like mine has been for a couple of years now.  I gave it a thorough clean and oil and to start with it was a bit stiff, but with use it got easier.  I actually photocopied the pattern this time into the computer, (great things these modern printers – ie you can copy, scan and print) cleaned it up and opened the Jpeg in Designaknit, converted it to a stitch pattern – this saved me a bit of time.  I did not colour it up as I only wanted to download the pattern into the Brother 940. – wonderful machine this one as the one cable does the lot and you can actually design and knit – I once designed a waistcoat, downloaded it and with the computer on speech mode, I sat and knitted it following the spoken instructions from the computer, (great for a small item like a waistcoat but I suppose it could get a bit tedious doing a full size garment).   Funny to think that there is no way I would have knitted this design in my younger days, way too much hassle – but now I actually look for challenging projects cause I have all the time in the world to do them and I enjoy a challenge.  The whole project took me 5 days working from around 2 – 7 pm each day...anyway the outcome is that the jacket has been knitted and is ready to put together, ie the worst bit for me, but I am getting better…honestly!

 

Well the jacket is now finished and I am well pleased, it has a very soft feel and goes  with the polo neck knitted last week or so, (I think).  I am getting so much better at this finishing stuff, and my new Hague linker has been such a boon, personally I think my original linker, sold to me new, was a faulty machine, as it never stitched properly and I could seriously kick myself thinking this was the norm.

 

My son from Queensland sent me a book for my birthday, “Make Your Knitting Machine Sing” (Brother Machines) by Scott Renno and James Dixon of Distinctive Knits - strange title I thought, however, one bit in this particular book caught my eye and it was the section on the Brother ribbers, now mine has always been a pain to operate, even from new, and the reason being, it’s a difficult machine to set accurately.  This book went through the whole process from stage one, and now it really does “sing” though I can’t for the life of me understand why Brother did not include the same instructions in their ribber manual.

 

The next thing this month was to knit my daughter a much promised sweater in the soft boucle yarn that was so popular many years ago and I again like most machine knitters have quite a bit of it, though not in Sharron’s favourite colours ie black, black and more black – this time it’s a salmon pink but as I know her priorities are (a) that it is machine washable and (b) it’s warm.    I knitted it with the brother and motor using one of the Knitmaster pattern books for this type of yarn and used a jacket pattern with a simple tuck stitch to give body to the yarn, as a base, I used a  picot edge to give it a long loose look this design had wonderful soft set in sleeves – so I just knitted the back and front, added pockets which I had knitted prior to,  I then knitted a soft 1/1 rib polo collar and added it to the jersey via the knitting machine, the hard part of this  was the sleeves as I had to adjust the pattern as it was originally designed with three quarter sleeves and I want loose long sleeves.  However it worked out fine, a lovely soft baggy jumper, perfect for work or leisure and best of all, machine washable.  One great thing with this type of yarn is that it turns over naturally and hence neckbands and pocket tops are easy but look so good.

 

Turmix Unic on Trial

 

The Swiss made Turmix Unic knitting machine, purchased from the UK from EBay for very little money and collected a couple of years ago has been languishing in the Shed for way too long, and as I now have the manual, (which I may add is essential if you are lucky enough to own this machine), I decided to give it a fresh trial and update.  The machine is in wonderful condition and looks as though it has never been used, but I know it has because there are missing needles from the edges, and this is one of the worse points of the Unic, ie the needle springs.  If you have to change a needle, this is easy as per the norm in fact, but and it’s a big but, each needle has a tiny spring under and they are so fragile, in fact I damaged three of them trying to insert one into a needle  (middle of the bed as luck would have it.)  I now realise that this machine has to be tested, cleaned and stored as the more use it has the more chance I am going to run out of these springs and apart from getting hold of a second one for spares, (my usual tactic)  the chances of replacing these springs is non existent. 

 

Be warned if you are going to collect knitting machines you will need to collect preferably two of the same kind (for spares) and speaking from experience, they take up lots of room.  (Half the time, I can never remember where have stored some of my spare machines).

 

Now back to business, as I take this machine out of its gorgeous soft cardboard box, I am amazed by how colourful it is, soft stove enamelled green and gold are the primary colours, and its all complete – superb selection of ribber combs all in stainless steel, and 2 hooked combs which are used with the knitting loom type pins to turn the stitches over to achieve plain and purl stitches ie rib.  The purl stitches are knitted on the main bed on this machine and the plain ones on the pins as it is easier to turn.  The pins when knitting stockinet act as a sort of pusher to ensure the stitches knit off cleanly.  I am always amazed at the workmanship poured into inventing, to say nothing of the cost of manufacturing these vintage machines and some of the features of this Swiss one are similar to today’s Superba machines. (ie row counter, yarn support etc etc). 

 

One thing that comes to mind with practically all vintage machines is the lack of attention to detail of one of the most important things ie upper tension and yarn feed, and this one is no exception, it has the most terrible upper yarn tensioner/feeder and it needs constant hand– tensioning.

 

Funny thing is  inventors never seemed to look at the obvious  (reminds me of my biggest bugbear, car windscreens in the winter, e.g., front windscreen washers still freeze over even in this day and age and make driving dangerous in slushy freezing conditions so why was nothing ever invented to take care of this.  You know what I am talking about, you are driving in poor slippery conditions with lorries racing by and sending up loads of mud and slush – you manage to get the wipers working for a minute, and hey presto, they freeze again and you are left with a mud smeared windscreen, to top it all add a bit of sun or in the evening headlights and help, we are all land up in a nightmare scenario - driving blind but I digress, back to business…

 

So I cast on using a ribber comb wire, ie you knit the first row with the ribber comb in position and after the stitches have caught on the needles and the knitting pins in the highest position on the opposite side, you put in the wire and off you go ie (I put the pins in the lower position to continue), stockinet knits easily – so I decided to try the rib setting idea and to save time I simply transferred the stitches from the knitter to the pins opposite ( again after pushing the pins to the highest setting).  You then knit one row which holds the yarn on the pin side, then you take a stainless steel hooked comb and slide in up the pins, take the stitch off pull slightly towards you and take it over the top and release, if you have ever used a knitting loom or a French knitting gadget ie cotton reel with 4 nails comes to mind – you will get the idea.  This machine does it says jacquard and I am sure it does, but I will leave this for another day – I am quite happy with what’s achieved – a sort of soft hand knit finish using a light acrylic 4 ply – surely the best testing yarn ever.  So overall a very very unusual machine and I am happy to add it to my collection.

 

followed by - Passap Automatic and Ribber

 

Now onward and upward, next machine to take out for an airing is my newly acquired (ie last couple of years) is my Passap Automatic.  Again in a soft box but this one is slightly battered, but the good news is, it has a ribber and this fits the Passap 201 – very good news – so I start out by setting up this machine and I must say its in excellent condition, considering the sales cards ect state its from the 1950’s – having used the 201 I am familiar with how operate this machine but not the ribber and its some task – first of all the actual ribber is quite difficult to set properly (these machine do not screw onto the table and have rubber feet, so they can move around.  The ribber itself was quite difficult to cast on as it has fixed ribber needles that are operated by a sort of crank system ie to cast on – one position – to release the stitches then position 2 and finally to reset the needles to accept the yarn, position 3 – the trick is to remember where you are or your knitting lands at your feet.  You have this sequence to carry out every row.  However, I expect it was innovative in its day and you can get into a rhythm.  It’s a sturdy beast of a thing, another thing I should have mentioned is that you have to actually remove the needles for say 1/1 rib ect using a special tool and again its quite simple to operate, the other thing I should mention is the fantastic row counter – you know its odd, you have Singer Superba row counters today and they are terrible gadgets, a problem to get back to zero etc etc then you have this wonderful smooth operator – similar to the Passaps today.   Another point to mention is the Passap Automatic has a fine upper tensioning system unlike the Turmix I tested.  Overall it’s a good machine, certainly built to last and again you need some backup machine for spares, and the good news is that these Passap models are easily obtainable at this time, and for very little money and again a machine that provides a soft hand knit type of finish.

Superba S48 knitting machine (Green Machine)

I decided to resurrect this machine from the depths of the shed as I bought it a couple of years ago and had to supplement various bits and bobs, I mainly bought it for the motor it had attached and it also included a couple of good craft magnifiers, one in particular is floor standing and handy  and although my eyesight is good at present - who knows what the future may bring.    This machine is in extremely good and almost unused condition but it has not been well stored and from what the seller told me, it has been handed around quite a bit.  The motor had a missing foot pedal and the machine had no plug, no mylar sheets or cover, and had the electrical connection missing. There were no instruction manuals, but thanks to Tony Lewey who was able to sell me the missing bits I now have a complete machine.  I initially tried the machine out to see if it had power and that the box connected and it did then I laid it past.

Now for the second test session, and I manage to put the machine up on a standard machine table and next came the struggle to connect the box - it was a hassle, basically because the instructions on Youtube told you that the cursor would move if it was connected properly and it did not move, what they omitted to tell you was that you had to set the top right had switch to the check mark (ie geometric setting) and then it would move if set up.  An hour later and a few choice words, the box was connected.  I then followed the instructions in the manual (must say they are not the best) and managed to set the cursor to the right side on the box, then move it 15 stitches out past my knitting to the cursor stop on the right along side the carriage.  Another not so clear instruction to get the mylar sheet in was that you must set the decorative design adjustment dial to zero, once I had done this I was able to roll the card to the top (stud end) and attach the wire pattern holder. You then have to set the mylar sheet to the required pattern - another sore point was the size of the lettering on these sheets, they were hardly legible, anyway after I had set this I had to then reset the decorative design dial (which incidentally is an equation that involves a test square) but the book I had with only picture instructions - perfect for an idiot like me - said to set it to 7.5 and when I did this then pushed the programme return card advance  switch worked.  The snag is is my case it just ran the card straight through without stopping - so big problem because if this does not operate then you are unable to use the pattern cards.  I looked everywhere for a solution ie a whole afternoon setting and rechecking and looking up the web, looking through umpteen books but no joy.  In desperation, I took the box out and had a look and on the back there was a circle of plastic that when removed housed 2 fuses.  The long and short of it was that one of the fuses ie the .25 amp one was broken, and luckily enough I  had a few of these glass fuses thanks to a similar problem with my Brother 940.  I had one hassle trying to see the sizes on the tiny fuses but eventually thanks to the web and my magnifier I was able to see that one was a .25 and it worked.  Now I know that blown fuses are a sign of perhaps deeper problems but I reasoned that as this box had been sitting unused for who knows how long, then it perhaps it was just an age thing, so I replaced the fuse and started again.  The end result is that it now patterns - but ye gods, is it noisy, it bleeps to warn you its finished the pattern, then bleeps again to tell you its starting and I would think on a short pattern it would drive me to drink.   I have tested it and now it will be put back in its box and stored away - I do love Singer (Superbas)  but not this one -  I am sure there are tons of fans of this machine out there, but I am all for an easy life so count me out.

 Singer Memo 11 or Singer Freestyle.

This is an extremely lightweight machine but sophisticated with it.  I can well understand why it is loved by those dedicated Singer Superba users.  If physical strength is not your forte, it offers sophistication and a solution to pushing heavy carriages and with the addition of a small Singer motor attached, even better. The Singer/Superbas are fine electronics and are still reasonably priced even today!  The programming of the Freestyle is simple enough to understand as long as you follow the instructions and only takes minutes.   The graphs are maximum size of either 12 x 16 or alternatively 16 x 12 and believe it or not you can produce some lovely designs using a functions board that offers a choice of mirror image, double length etc etc (check out the fabulous Superba website for a dedicated expert’s view of the whole range of these fine machines.

http://www.superbaknitting.com/

Now I have a few of them but as a basically lazy knitter ie do not like punching cards and prefer the electronic method of downloading designs using Desiganknit, I had to find a quick and easy way of producing these little graphs on the computer and this I have done but to be honest it only takes minutes to draw them out - you only need a pencil as the marks are for your own use to use the curser tool (ie fine plastic pointed tool included in the toolkit of this machine) me, I am such an idiot, cause I thought they were talking about the cursor on a computer.  Of course there are loads of patterns already included with the machine so plenty to play with meantime. 

The programming sequence on the machine has to be followed to the letter or else you will end up shouting at it - its always operator error never in this case the fault of the onboard electronics as I have found out in the last couple of days.  Once you insert your design, you then push the button F for functions and key in the width, using the tool - its done via a very simplified system and I must confess the instruction manuals are clear and concise but you know me, I never read and instruction manual if I can help it and in this case it did not pay off,  the next step is to key in the height of the pattern, The next function is to use the cursor to sort of press the paper pattern on the black squares, line by line. then for a basic pattern its all systems go - that is once you have pressed the start key and keyed in the position of your cursor after the pattern has been entered.  The symbols on the Singer keyboard are not self explanatory so its essential that you study the manual carefully.  If you do not follow the correct procedure it does nowt.    

My major errors were for a start, placing in the paper pattern, pressing the functions key and the start button but forgetting to press in the pattern, ie load the pattern, or not threading up the fairisle carriage, or not pressing the start button, or not setting the cursor on the machine to tell it where to start the pattern from - I could go on and on.  So my next job is to make an idiot proof sheet of instructions to follow so with a bit of luck it takes me 5 minutes to programme the machine instead of an hour (or two).

The best thing I did was to make myself a little sheet at the correct size on a desktop publishing programme so that I had the pattern graph, then I was able to fill in the squares - and then print them out and slip them in - what a difference it made to me, I could then see clearly where to press the cursor without peering and wondering if I was pressing the right part of the graph (you will have guessed my eyesight aint what it used to be).  I had designed a couple and it was then easy to alter them to suit.

Overall this is a cracking machine and of course you must not forget the all the other fine pointers such as jacquard, tuck, slip stitch, and of course its a great machine for rib and the only standard gauge machine I have ever seen on the domestic front that has a bed space facility to accommodate those thicker yarns.  Finally, my grateful thanks to the couple who donated this nearly new machine to the Knitting Machine Museum, it will be well looked after.

Single Bed Pintucks

Happy New Year to one and all - its Jan 2012 – already, Christmas is over, and the New Year begins.  Must admit I have not been that busy for the past few weeks,  apart from knitting a jersey for my other half,, around early December.  This one was a pattern from one of the old Machine Knitting Monthly Magazines and was a saddle shoulder in with a zip (just for the collar) and pin tucks from arm level upwards.  I chose a gorgeous Shetland yarn in a maroon marle and began – I decided to knit it on my Singer 9000 (without the electronics) and it was fairly easy till I came to the pintucks – I assumed they would be simple enough, the pattern was actually knitted for a Brother but the pintucks were a single bed type – try as I might, I could not get them to operate on the Singer – for all sorts of reasons.  So desperate measures were called for after a half a day of trying to get it to work,  I decided to knit off the front by waste knitting and then I transferred it to my Brother 940, followed the instructions for the single bed pintuck and that was that.  I did worry about the change in tension but it seemed to have no effect.  I then finished the jersey on the Singer.  It looks good, I even managed to sew in the zip after finding one among my ton and half of odd and sods.  See pic below of the finished results.  After having read a few old mags I came across an article about pin tuck on the Singer but it was a double bed fabric and I am almost sure it would have done the same job, ie easy when you know how I suppose. 

In January, I decided to knit another of my favourite polo neck jumpers ie by Doris Paice - ie all in one polo – and this was easy enough on the Singer with the motor as it’s a simple 2 x 2 industrial rib – and once finished, I read another article about the patterning system on the Singer 9000 and decided to try it with the consul only – and it was fun, no hassles trying to set up ancient television screens – just put in the floppy and follow the clear instructions from the consul – and when you get used to the method, it’s a fairly easy way to knit some very complex patterns.  In my case, I wanted a wide shawl or wrap-around based on the same colourway as the polo neck – I did not have loads of yarn left but I thought, enough to get a decent sized wrap – and this gave me the opportunity to test some of the Singer 9000 patterns and in particular pin tucks – they are so easy to knit and so sculptured – the pics in the book seem to have a 3D effect on my eyes, blink and they change – making them quite difficult to see properly.  However, I knitted 150 rows in one type, then tried another, then another – the Singer is the easiest machine I have ever used to pattern with – once you set the cursor, its all systems go – that evening I was reading even more of my old mags ie year’s 91 and 92 when I came across a series of articles by George Le Warre, a specialist in Passap and Singer and author of the famous Duet Magazine, his style of writing is superb as are his instructions and this gave me the incentive to try some of the jacquard fabrics highlighted in the Singer pattern book – I used a contrasting colour in a fine yarn to go with my other colour and set the disks up following his clear instructions and off  I went,  first knitting reversible double jacquard – then I tried another pattern – it takes no time at all to enter in the numbers, and change from one pattern to another.  I had a feeling by this time I was going to run out of my original yarn so I simply used some of a second yarn in a fine cashmere cerise in a full needle rib for around a couple of hundred rows then worked the whole thing backward so that both sides matched – all was going fine until I came to around 150 rows from the end, and damn damn and double damn, I ran out of the main colour – well it’s a designer’s right to have something different (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it) – so I just used the second colour to finish off the pintucks – good job it’s a quality yarn, however, I was a bit concerned that it might outshine the finish of the main colour, an industrial  nibbed mix but it worked out fine.  Next day decided to do a fringe and used a method taught to me, ie its knitted over 80 needles, with 6 needles either end and in fisherman’s rib but I forgot the main thing ie a couple of needles in the centre so that you know you are cutting the fringe straight,  the fringe was knitted in the cerise – now knitting the fringe was another thing – ie too much hassle on the Singer, so I did this on my Rolls Royce – oh sorry my Passap – so simple with the pushers and the motor – 1000 rows done in no time – I then stitched the fringe onto the wrap and cut it – then I decided to plait it – not so fussy that way.  When I wear the wrap, I turn a slight collar over (this is where the double jacquard is) and the fronts hang sweetly,  whilst the cerise colour at the back drapes (thanks to the cashmere yarn) beautifully.  Gonna do more of this type of thing, great for the Spring which incidentally seems to be coming early here, ie Magnolia buds galore – only hope we do not have late snow or frosts – then we shall have a disaster of plant summer.  What is happening to our climate.

Toyota Test Time - Toyota 950 first

Coming to the end of February and must admit as I have been diagnosed with a frozen shoulder, I have not been able to knit as much as I would like.  I decided to take out a few of my Toyota machines to refresh myself with what they are capable of and especially the Toyota 950 as I had been berated for my criticism of this model.

This was one of my most expensive machines as I bought it new from a company in Edinburgh and was so excited about it as the 506 ribber to go with it boasted the fabulous Simulknit facility and to be honest I always loved the colours of the Toyota machines.

With a great deal more experience than in the past, I still find this an unwieldy machine to operate, it has a stiff carriage and the rubbers under the carriage are quite damaged for some reason.  I always found it difficult to get the carriage onto the rails – it knits fine and patterns ok, but it lacks the smoothness of most of the modern standard gauge punch cards – I fitted the ribber bed on, and this is a good ribber, and it is this that has the Simulknit facility.  I may be wrong, but I think I may have been sold a bad machine; surely they are not all as stiff as this one to operate.  I tried the lace facility – similar to Knitmaster, this has a transfer and knit at once facility or fashion lace type that you remove the yarn whilst transferring.  I just do not feel comfortable with the carriage at all.   A very disappointing machine compared with its predecessors.

Toyota 901 

I then tried out my Toyota 901 and it works like a dream, I find it a superb machine that also works with the 506 ribber and to be honest, tons better than the 950 – no comparison.  Does all the usual standard gauge tricks and also has a fine plating attachment that is very unusual in that it can be changed from one colour to another,   to top it all, the lace carriage is the separate transfer type and it works beautifully.  Very impressive machine that is usually sold for incredibly low prices - this is in my opinion, the very best of the Toyota machines.

Toyota 787

Finally, I took out my heavy Toyota 787 knitting machine – this is a very unusual machine with not only a 24 stitch punchcard but also buttons that provide a zig zag facility to pattern with or without using the punchcard, just love it but…forget the lace carriage, it is absolutely terrible, must have been one of the first and personally I don’t think the technology for the needles was (at least for the Toyota 787) was that good, the needles bend and damaged easily and I did not want to force it.  This machine has its own ribber and it has a separate add on extra for Simulknit.  It is a well made machine but I would imagine it has to be well stored. so buying second hand I would be careful.  Mine is nearly new and I have oiled and stored it well so it works well but like all knitting machines it would benefit from someone who uses it often.  The Toyota 787 is a really fun machine.

Storage of Knitting Machines

Storage of knitting machines is so important, do not store them for long periods setup if possible – it really does the machine no favours, as they are often light damaged and dried out,  if you have to put them away, always store them in their cases and if possible the original packing and in a dry non humid area.  If you clean and lightly oil your machine prior to putting it away it will reward you with many years service.  Some of these machines are getting on for 30 and more years old now,  someone emailed me to say she had stored her Passap E6000 plugged in for 10 years as she believed the built in patterns would disappear from the system if she unplugged it. (not true by the way).

Fabulous Patterns from Machine Knitting News 1998

The other thing I have been busy with is my other favourite occupation, ie reviewing my massive store of knitting machine magazines and in particular a set from the year 1998 Machine Knitting News and Machine Knitting Monthly.  The patterns for these great and innovative years of machine knitting are superb – it was the time of the electronics – there were patterns dedicated to the special features that these machines offered at this time.  For instance I am looking at one at present, Machine Knitting News May 1998 – a wonderful dress and jacket written especially for the Silver Reed Machines with knit contour.  There was no actual written pattern for this machine but they gave you a shape to draw into the knit contour but the actual jacket was so beautiful and knitted in ribbon and silk in a tuck stitch pattern– if only they had kept that kind of pattern up, with all its gorgeous shaping that looks as good today, as it did then I am sure machine knitting would still be alive and kicking today– it was a timeless piece – and geared to home knitters without the homemade look – this was a time before the terrible shapeless drop shoulder look when designers seemed to forget about tailoring and concentrated on electronic patterns.   The old Knitmaster books from the 1960’s really showed what could be done on knitting machines, everything they produced on those really basic machines looked professional and tailored. There are loads of coats and suits – I do not know how the knitters of that time had the patience and they must have had serious skills to produce such garments.

Designaknit 8

Recently someone emailed me and mentioned the new Designaknit 8 – I had never even realised there was an upgrade – however, upon reading about it, Soft Byte have really only ironed out the problems that their Dos/CAD based computer design system had imposed on their software and made for instance the shaping method involved in the Professional version a lot clearer, (not before time I might add)  the saving of files now appears to be easier as you can now at least store with a decent file name.  They have concentrated on stitch pattern designs and how they are viewed,  tons of cables and stitch facilities and easier scanning facilities, and oh, before I forget a dedicated usb port,  however, and again this is my personal opinion, way too few built in designs for knitting shapes.  I think the stitch pattern system has enough bells and whistles and the time has come for more built in knitwear designs ie for instance – there are no slacks or fully fashioned garments with darts or in fact any really innovative knitwear patterns – perhaps that area is way too complex to be incorporated but I always assumed that was the very thing it was destined to do. 

Knitmaster 580 Electronic and Lace Carriage

I have just taken this machine out for a refresher course and general maintenance session,  I own 2 of the Knitmaster 580’s and one 500 – all work well apart from the built in knit radar on the 500 – the row dial is stuck on that so no joy there I am afraid. 
Thought I would test my KR7 with my newest 580 (after giving the other two a good clean, oil and test run.  It works easily and the KR7 is a good piece of kit for that allows you to use your own varieties of  yarn.  

I chose a simple summer top style pattern ie just back and front, and attempted to come up with a tapestry style pattern using a shiny viscose linen in red and a gold chenille, and it looked fine.  Used one of the standard mylar sheets,  surely this has to be an easy way to get going, 
I threaded up the 2 yarns, set the mylar via the instruction book and it was simple ie when you know how, set the card to the beginning of the pattern, run the carriage across a couple of times to set the cams then switch on the inspection light and mine feeds the pattern downwards and I have to then move it again to the bottom of the pattern then in feeds the pattern in 10 rows and gives a double clunk and away we go.  I decided to do a lace border on this machine so got out the electronic lace carriage and was pleasantly surprised at the number of knit and transfer at once patterns, good news for a bone idle knitter like me.  Initially knitted around 20 rows waste yarn after casting on with what is now my favourite cast on method, dunno why I did not learn to do this years ago and this is it…

Weaving brush cast on

Everyone knows how to do this, don’t they – well I didn’t – I believed it was a hassle but no – its really quick and easy ie bring all needles out to holding postion then use the one and one rule to bring every alternate needle to working position, place the yarn from the left hand side over the top of the needles in holding postion and then thread the yarn into the carriage,  bring the weaving brushes into work, and holding the yarn in your left hand - let it run through your fingers whilst moving the carriage to the left and you have lift off, just continue to knit slowly with the weaving brushes still in work, for around say 6 rows then lift them off, and your have good cast on.  By the way don’t forget to ensure the russel levers are on 1 – because this cast on requires you to knit back the holding position needles. 

Once the cast on is complete, I usually do one row with the nylon cord to the right, then with needles in holding position ewrap on top and knit 2 plain rows with the first row still in holding postion and knitted to normal position.   You then weight it all along, with the combs supplied with the lace carriage, you set your mylar sheet as above and simple knit slowly – this produces a lovely lace border quickly and easily.  I am most impressed – the design I chose left me with a  fancy edge.  Note I did not set up the ribber for this knit so the machine was flat on the table, if the ribber was on you would have to bring your knitting over the ribber for lace.

Now to the important bit, ie separating for the neckline, and what a hassle – there is very little info on this in the book and I had a helluva job getting it to work properly and obviously it would be my fault ie operator error mainly because it was guess work.  It took four goes to get it to properly align – I moved the cams as per the book ie on the first side I switched off the machine – moved the cams to the right and did not touch the N1 cam at all, and knitted, when I came to take it off the machine it was one row out – so I rattled it back and tried again,  I reset the mylar sheet after taking note of its postion moved it down ten rows so it would feed in 10 rows and started again, this time it was one stitch out, so I admitted defeat.  However, the left side was more fun, it was a total disaster, I switched off the machine and moved the cams to the left and then after switching on the machine took the carriage across and back to read the positions, and left the N1 cam in the centre and off I went, this time it was even worse, it had moved the pattern across by around seven stiches and it was a total mess, so perservering, not something I am noted for, I thought try again. Could find nowt about setting cams for the neckline, so I thought of another way of doing it, ie this time I simply left the cams in their original positions ie as if doing the whole width of the piece and took the carriage all the way across (the carriage must go beyond the cams or it patterns incorrectly – same as the E6000 and this method is ingrained into my brain with Passap use) and this time it worked – as it was only for a matter of 28 rows that was fine, but surely there must be a simpler way.

When I had finished the above rant I noticed to my embarrassment that I had actually knitted the back of the piece without a problem and that included the rear neck shaping, so I must have done this without thinking – perhaps that’s the problem- I should knit on auto-pilot.

Must admit for ease of use, this machine scores high but as far as the instruction manuals are concerned there is not much in the book about the setting of  and the use of cams and that includes the N1 cam– Still cannot fathom out what I did differently on the second piece. 

I have a couple of the PE1 pattern controllers for these machines and I note a ton of stuff is written about the use of these – but better written instruction books (I note in the 2 manuals for my machines both have errors – which have been amended by the insertion of  an A4 sheet outlining what they were and important stuff it was too).  I am sure there are many other uses for the cams once you have played around with it a bit. 

Knitmaster 580 Electronic (now rebadged Silver Reed) Conclusion

To conclude, I note this machine is often sold on Ebay at a very reasonable cost and  you must consider that it is exactly the same as the very expensive badged Silver Reed model except it has its pattern controller built in and to boot it usually has every extra under the sun included in the price and you can still buy Designaknit and a cable (though this would probably cost you more than the whole package) that allows you to knit from screen – to my mind one of the most underrated second hand machines on the market.  The only other comments I have to make is that I have a universal motor for standard gauge machines and the Knitmaster has a curly cable that sort of gets in the way when knitting with this particular brand of motor.  I might well add that the ribbers for Knitmasters are inexpensive and that both the linker and rib transfer carriages are among the best designed ever.

Notes of a "needing inspiration machine knitter"

Summer is surely on its way, but when, its pouring down here in Brittany at the moment, so lets hope the weather improves soon, one good thing is that my Wistaria which I have been trying to grow for more years than I can remember, is going to flower this year and not before time

I have been a bit lazy in the last month or so, and I desperately need some impetus to get going again.  I was searching through my magazines for some inspiration when I came across an old book I acquired along with many others - from the 1986 era ie the beginning of the knitting machine boom years - this book was produced the usual way of this time, ie looks as though it was word processed with a binder cover.    What interested me was the content, ie very unusual knitting machine patterns, the author had started up a small business that seem to promote the use of Shetland yarn and the main area of production in those days were Shetland wool jerseys and machine knitted fairisle.  There was a great deal of information on how to knit, finish and wash Shetland.  Seriously interesting stuff.  Those days were the halcyon days of machine knitting, the sky was the limit!   Shetland wool is still available at reasonable prices on cones even today.

Scanning through a book by Kathleen Kinder, (the Machine Knitters Book of the Ribber Volume 2)  I came across a superb man’s sock pattern ie simple rib top socks finished with plain knitting, and what was so unusual was that the pattern was for the standard gauge machines with a ribber, and the body of the sock was circular knitting.  Various techniques were discussed such as adding cotton to shetland wool to make it more suitable for socks (great idea) as everyone has ends of Shetland.  Anyway I decided to try the pattern out using my Passap, I used her pattern to the letter and it was an easy knit that took around 45 minutes per sock.  I often wonder why more sock patterns were not put forward, most I see in magazines etc knitted on a standard gauge are the flat ankle type - amazing really!   Next job is to try and find some small fairisle pattern that I can knit in the round on the Passap - now I wonder is that possible? (perhaps that was the reason most socks were knitted via the flat method).  I will definitely keep this pattern as I knit socks often for my other half but usually with industrial rib legs.

Now my next task is to find out where I saw the method for short rowing without holes - I know you can short row ewrapping, but I am sure I saw a better method somewhere, perhaps on Youtube sock machine videos.  The socks required finishing with a Kitchener stitch graft - not too many stitches to graft ie 8 and 8 so refreshed my memory on this as well - seriously does no harm to keep these techniques fresh. (knit slip purl, purl slip knit.)

I have been thinking about my next project and this is probably going to be knitted in mohair, I have been looking at the pattern for a while and have decided to drag my old chunky machine out and have a bash, if I can manage it successfully I will photograph my efforts, if not then you will hear no more!

Flaming June.....

Its nearly the end of June, and the weather here and I believe in the UK is abysmal.  Rain makes one miserable and well it takes some effort to just get on with things.  I have taken out a couple of machines to take another look and one of them is the Singer 9000 with its colour changer, last time I was at least able to operate it, however this time absolutely no joy, and that was with the aid of a video, and loads of old magazine help - try as I might I could not get this thing to work again.  I had actually gone in with a fresh approach, i.e. on the basis that no attachment for such a fine machine could be so useless, hence the renewed but failed approach.  I adjusted, re-adjusted, checked the settings umpteen times, read all the advice given and watched the instruction video and to make sure it was not a faulty changer, I then tried the second one I own with absolutely no success, the carriage would just not pick up the yarn - sure it would take the yarn from the changer but it would not take the first yarn from the carriage and hence I had way too many rows of double threading up.  I absolutely hate to be beaten, the cast on was for a single bed and I used the comb as advised, then I knitted around 40 rows of plain knit, on the back bed, and then I closely followed the instructions - this was over 5 days but here we are, I am beaten, I just cannot get this thing to work at all, last time at least I got it to work but found it a total pain but this time I could not even get past go.  So, one Singer colour changer, again packed away for the foreseeable!

I just do not know if its the weather or what but whatever I have tried to do lately does not seem successful - I attempted to knit cotton on the Passap but absolutely no joy unless you have the muscles of a body builder.    Yarn type on the Passap is key to operating it comfortably, and most of my yarns are of the industrial variety - I look at the Pfaff Model Books and note that the samples are all of soft double knit yarns - one thing I know for sure is that normal double knit yarns do not knit comfortably on the Passap.

My attempt of a dress from one of the Passap Model Books

The yarn is the biggest problem with these designs i.e. the original yarns are soft expensive and luxurious.  I liked the style of this dress and decided to knit with some of my vast stocks of boucle.  Don’t ask me why I chose black, I never did have taste or come to think of it, dress sense, but I enjoy a challenge and this dress had a sort of Spanish look to it.  After knitting the test square and finding it compatible size wise, I had the feeling this yarn was going to be of a softer drape than the original.  Anyway onward and upward - the frills are full needle half fisherman’s rib - after knitting around 26 rows the stitches are then transferred to one and one rib – takes patience this job as you have 4 sets of frills to add to the back and front (one knitted initially and the other 2 added).

 I especially liked the look of the sleeves, they looked comfortable and well fitted – but well fitted means hassle when knitting, and by that I mean some increases were of the 2 stitch at a time variety, the job is now done and I am pleased with the result and I will hopefully wear it in time.  Funny thing is, despite all my many Passap gadgets, I could not find one that would transfer full needle rib to one and one rib – it would have been very handy for this frock.  The neckline instructions on the Passap model books are difficult and they assume you are very experienced thus need no explanation – I just wrote down the calculations for each side of the v neck and followed them to the letter, and believe me, this was time well spent – it took no time at all to finish both sides of the neckline.  The sleeve frills have elastic threaded through the circular knitting at the cuffs and this was simple enough.  The biggest problem I encountered was that the frills on the neck would not stand up as per the picture of the dress in the book as my yarn was way too soft - they look fine flopping over as they do on the dressmakers model. The final frill design did not specify knitting circular rows in contrasting waste yarn  - after knitting the damn things, I had to then re-knit as there was no way I could attach to the neckline stitch by stitch onto the same colour yarn especially black.  These things are sent to try us eh. 

By the way I did attempt the Mohair thingy, however, I just could not get it to look right, and it was a nightmare to knit but certainly not worth photographing - perhaps it was its jigsaw layout.

August 2012

This month I decided to try and service a few of my machines - noteably the Jones 588 and Brother 710 plus Toyotas 787 and 747.  I also took out a couple of my old Knitmaster 321’s of which I have many, and the Knitmaster 305.  I really need to take storage of these machines seriously, with this humid climate, I need to store them in the knitting shed in dry and insulated conditions.  However to do this I have to seriously consider what to keep and what to part with, and its difficult.-  also they need maintaining and this costs money,  so something has to give.

The Knitmaster 305

was similar to the Knitmaster 302 and I have a full set of cards but not unfortunately instructions, I have downloaded a free set from the web for a similar machine ie the 303 and put them on cd.  The machine is in good condition and after a quick service, clean and oil it was back to normal working condition.  The cards are for many many different patterns and cost me a fortune way back and are all like new, its quite extraordinary what can be done with these simple single beds, which work with a dial system.  This one knits very smoothly and I have all the tools etc so its really ready to go.  

Brother 710

To my mind these old machines are an ideal way to see if you really do want to participate in the knitting machine world.  Once you are able to operate these models then the rest should be a dawdle.  This brings me onto the next one ie the Brother 710.  A fine smooth running machine that has a lace carriage, and the best bit is that I have a set of written instructions, patterns, tools and a tutorial.  It selects needles by the spanner method and its relatively easy to do, my friend Betty from Aberfeldy was an expert on this machine and knitted up the most fabulous lace shawls and she was quick, it was fascinating to watch.  I have another couple of variations of this machine ie the Jones 588 so this machine after a service will go as it desperately needs to work.

Toyota 787

Finally my Toyotas, and I love these machines - the Toyota 787 is a fine piece of engineering and I have the ribber to match, with the Simulknit carriage.  The only problem with this model is the lace carriage which is useless, it must have been the first of its ilk as it bends the needles badly and I just had to try it again, but still no joy,  (perhaps it has been damaged over time)  who knows but one thing I do know is that this machine needs use as soon as possible - any more time in storage in this humid climate will render it in-operable.  I have tested it and it works fine.  It has its own book, tools and set of 24 stitch punchcards - a great machine with many bells and whistles.

Toyota 747

The next Toyota (747) has suffered a little,  when I acquired it, the case was damaged at the ends but this has not affected the way it knits, however, its a difficult machine to learn especially with the punch cards (long 12 stitch variety) and charts.   The carriage is again well built and heavy but not to use - knits like a dream - I have all the books etc for this machine which incidentally does not have a lace carriage.  However, this one will stay with me as I feel it is not great case wise and its a totally unusual machine.

Toyota 901

I have recently finished servicing the Toyota 901 and this is to my mind the very best of the Toyotas, with a excellent lace carriage, and coupled with the 506 ribber, Simulknit becomes automatic, a 24 stitch punchcard machine and still knits like a dream.  Definitely one of the best of its ilk overall and so well made.  I have the books, cards and tools etc for this machine.

Finally Knitmaster 321 and similar models

Last of my old machines to get the treatment this month are my many Knitmaster 321’s and their ilk.  Great and smooth running machines and there are so many variations still on the go.  Simple to use and with ribbers easily accessible, they are a fine machine to own, only problem with mine is that I have so many of them,  probably bought along with a bundles of machines, the punchcards for most are non-existent although I have kept a set to use for copying purposes, the thought of punching out all those cards, turns me cold.  Funny thing is,  I have stacks of special punchcards, charts and new cards ready to be used, including punchcard rolls, but only a couple of the standard sets, so anyone taking these away would have to do their own thing.  Sadly the plastic has suffered from light damage, but most are brand new engineering wise, folk must have bought them and stuck them under the bed - amazing for such an easy machine to operate, it has punch lace, tuck, slip, to name but a few techniques and with the ribbers the amazing pile knitting not to mention jacquard facilities.   However, as with the above machines they are not happy,  they need to be used, and this is one machine you would never need to upgrade if you get a good one.  They are so well built and with TLC rarely go wrong.

Oh well back to the grindstone, and trying to re-organise my limited space and sadly this means letting go - never an easy task for me.

September and October - (sorry its so late)

Golden Fleece Sock Machine

How time flies, the weather here in Brittany has not been good this year.  I have been busy in the shed as usual and have dragged out my precious sock machine to give it a good clean and oil ready for use again, though I must admit making socks on this takes the patience of a saint, to think many women attained these machines in exchange for sock quotas though how they did it I wish I knew.   I still love mucking about with these machines though and feel good when I actually achieve my goal - and operating it is thanks to the youtube videos.  I am sure these videos were the reason for the increase in price of these old machines and more importantly the manufacture of needles for them - without the new needles, I certainly would never have got mine working.  

Next job was looking at a few of my other machines - one thing about an awful summer is you feel inclined to work in the relative comfort of my cosy shed.    I love this place, smells of knitting machines, oil and old wool helped by bunches of my dried lavender.   I decided to check on the condition of my one and only metal chunky machine (or bulky).  Its a fine Knitmaster 155 professional with the ribber.  This machine has a 12 stitch punchcard facility but in the past I have used it mainly for Shetland so that I can felt it at the end of the day.  Its also great for mixing odd bits of wool stranded together to provide a yarn that gives endless colour ranges when you felt it.   The only thing is I must get used to the tension dial, everything I do seems to be way too loose a tension.  I just do not buy chunky yarn, on the premise I hate the look and more importantly the price.   I do use it for double knitting and Arran yarn and  I like to use is mohair coupled with a smooth industrial acrylic to do punch lace. Very attractive and it knits up very quickly.   

I have to keep a close eye on my machines in this Bretton climate as its a bit damp or its damp and hot then freezing at night.  The knitting machines do not fare well and being in the middle of a wild meadow, my visitors ie tiny voles get in the smallest of spaces which leads me neatly onto my next project,

Passap E6000’s

I think I mentioned that I had problems with a couple of my front locks on 2 of my E6000’s.  One bought a couple of years ago and at that time I was way too busy to check it was ok.  I am certainly not complaining, it was one of the best buys ever, working or not as it came with a multitude of fantastic patterns and books.  However, I tried the front lock out a while ago and noticed it only selected in one direction ie the left side going towards the carriage.  This machine had not been used in my opinion by its previous owner, or she had not noticed this problem.  The lock was absolutely clean, not even a bit of dust - so today I decided to try again.  I gingerly took of the top casing and had a look.  The electrical board looked so complex that I promptly put it back on and closed it up again.  Tried it on the machine but no joy - exasperated, I told myself off for not looking into it a bit further, I again removed the cover of the lock then unscrewed the covering plate held over the electronic board and took a much closer look - anyway to cut a long story short I discovered a fine white wire attached to what looked like an electrical coil that had been totally jammed flat by the metal plate - so much so that the cover of the wire was split and the copper wire left looked so fragile.  I rolled the wire in my fingers and loosened it off a bit then ensuring it was not caught again,  I simply put the whole thing together.

I really did not think this would work, but nothing ventured, nothing gained - so I put it back on the E6000 - plugged it in and started - I only use the 2 by one rib to test without yarn - I fired up the consul and strangely enough even though I had just used it say 30 minutes before, it came on with the language choice!  Anyway I persevered, and believe it or not, it started selecting the needles, and I am so pleased, but as the copper wires are so fragile, I wonder how long it will work, only good thing is it is not a stress area for the wire.  I often feel these soldered wires are so tight, its a wonder they ever work.  At least I now know where the fault lies.  What annoys me the most is that this machine has probably never worked,  I wonder if the old lady who owned it perhaps thought it was her fault and I wonder was it ever tested before being sold.  I certainly hope so.

My other lock though is a different story, it was damaged, ie loose wires at the connection between the back and front lock, (my fault, as I was using it with the motor and it must have caught).  The wiring is now entirely separate from the plug in metal end, so I will have to search for an electrician that can solder the very fine wires, and there are 7 of them - I have looked at another one of my plugs to try to see the order of play, a bit difficult but do-able.  I wonder why they printed with numbers on the case as opposed to colour initials.   Just hope I am able to get someone to do the job as this is my second best machine.

Incidentally, my Passaps seem to be discolouring rapidly, and I am sure it heat driven as opposed to sunlight which does not get into my space easily.   Finally, to get back to the previous story, I was seriously fed up when I found an old voles nest inside my well packed Passap - luckily enough I was able to clean the stuff off but how on earth do these creatures get in?  I only had it stored for a few months, which goes to show I have to be vigilant - so its a good job I decided to take another look at these carriages.

Singer Standard Gauges

I meant to mention a couple of months ago, I took out the various Singer standard gauges, nce set up they are nice smooth machines with the punchcard set on top of the carriage.  They have loads of extra bits and pieces included as standard, and I still have a couple of totally complete machines with books and punchcards . There are lace carriages included with these machines.  

A  point worth mentioning is the carriage is very difficult to set onto the main bed with this machine.  As they designed the later models for single motif, I think the carriage became an even bigger problem with two dials protruding at the back that had to be aligned with the metal rail that operates the patterning device - the 2600 model was seriously difficult and would probably put off most knitters.  

New release of Designaknit 8 - latest release

I note Softbyte has released Designaknit 8 and must confess I love the tutorials included with this package.   As a basically lazy knitter,  I hate punching cards etc, the download facility and in some cases the interactive knitting with the use of this software is a great - knitting with the computer verbally instructing me as I go - without staring at pattern sheets has got to be good news!    The downside is that added on to the price of the  software is the appropriate cable/s for your machine -  to my mind Designaknit without this facility would never work for me.  You are able though to print out patterns and templates for mylar sheets and punchcards and knit from screen.  Depending upon which package,  you have standard garment design, a stitch design facility with loads of stitch patterns included, and a graphic design facility whereby you are able to take a picture and turn it into knitting.  This is just a brief outline, however, for even more information, you can download a demo of this latest release by using the following link.

http://softbyte.co.uk/designaknit.htm#ProductLevels

Casting on and working with the Knitmaster Instant

This is a tiny machine compared to today’s models, you can see pictures of my two machines in the museum.  They came in cardboard boxes with red ties – I believe they were distributed in the 1960’ though info is thin on the ground.  

Neither models have instruction manuals and only one came with tool set in a plastic cover. This included a plastic tube (for joining together the long bar weight) a single tool with a hook on one end and a latch on the other, a small metal clip and a holder for a row counter, not included.   

The  main difference between the two machines was one had spring hooks and a row counter, (the older one) the other did not.  The needles for this the Knitmaster Instants are fixed and do not move, but the springs in between move with the carriage and push the stitches off the fixed needles and so form a row.  The carriages of the two machines are slightly different, the older one, smaller, in ivory and green with a knob for a handle, the other green and pale green with touches of ivory with a proper handle and slightly larger carriage as it needed a cam to move the springs.  The other piece that comes with this machine is a long red flannel cast on rag.  You push the pole weight into the hem and thus you have a method of casting on.  As the needles are fixed you have no way of selecting them, so you just use as many as required.

How to cast on with the Knitmaster Instant

Push the cast on rag on i.e. one hole per needle and then comes the important bit, you must push the rag behind the latches and then ensure the latches are open by using the supplied brush or similar type of tool.  You then lay the yarn from right to left across the needle hooks, allowing a little tensioning (I use the yarn from the floor) in this instance 4 ply acrylic – nice and easy to knit with a tension of 7.  You must check that the yarn is laid in the needle hooks then take the carriage across – the weight of the pole holds the knitting down and then the springs push the stitches off and you have your first row.  Every row you must push the knitting back behind the latches before laying the yarn across and knitting your second row – the machine knits a soft hand knit finish.  No doubt you will, like me, drop the stitches as many times till you get used to the correct feel and procedure.    This machine is not easy to use, and if you want fancy stitches, get another model. It does allow ease for knitting intarsia or stripes or in fact anything to do with the yarn, but as the needles are fixed, fancy stitches are difficult if not impossible.  Note there is no holding position.

The above method allows for an open cast on, however, if you get a bit of fine smooth cast on cord and knit to the right, then loosely e-wrap your main yarn from left to right on top of these stitches and then bring the yarn back again across the needles (carriage is on the right)  make sure that the work is behind the latches, knit to the left, you will perhaps attain a closed edge cast on.  Other ideas are to perhaps knit your ribs by hand and do a first knit row.  Then hang onto the machine and off you go.  

If this was my main machine, I would knit a few cast on rags of different sizes as they are easier than the red flannel as this starts to wear after a few times use (not surprising given its age).  If you do use cast on knitting, make sure it is evenly weighted across the bed.  This machine does not clamp to the table and again if using it constantly, I would try to do this as laying yarn, pushing the work behind the latches etc.  on a machine that moves is not easy.  

If you are curious, and want to look at the needle size, be careful, I landed up with all the needles sitting in my lap and a couple of hours hassle putting it together again.  The needles are tiny compared to most and spares will be non- existent.  As for patterns, well any plain hand knit pattern will suffice as long as you get the tension correct – this machine is a 5mm gauge – same as the Passap and Superba.  It has 12 stitch tensions and I imagine it would knit double knitting reasonably well, if it does not like what you are doing, you will soon know, the carriage refuses to move.  As is normal with these vintage machines, the more you use them the better and easier they knit, providing they are well oiled and clean without rusty needles.  The maximum needles would be 166 if they are all there.

I like this model but only as a collection piece, despite researching my old books and adverts as far back as the 60’s I just cannot find any ads for this baby.   Perhaps I will have to take a look at my very old Knitmaster pattern books to see if they considered this model.  However, that’s for another day.

Singer 9000 colour changer - eventually did manage to get it to work.

I just had to try this damned attachment again, I hate to be beaten, so I settled in for the long haul to try yet again.  The set up is not easy, I eventually found that it collected the yarn from the changer but would not drop the yarn off from the carriage and therein lay my problem.   If it does not drop off the yarn, you get the double yarn scenario or alternatively it just drops the whole thing off the bed.  There are so many different methods of setting it – i.e. bed space, the lifting up or down of the actual changer box, positioning of the box, included are two different types of needle covers, threading, tension masts - way too many in my humble opinion.   I did manage to get it to work eventually by moving the box itself bit by bit so I could ensure the catcher did indeed catch the first yarn - hopefully where it is now set is where it will stay.                                                                                  

February 2013  Computerised Knitting Machines (December and January)

A Happy New Year to one and all and I am sorry I have been busy over the holiday season but here is my latest update.
I have been playing around with the computerised machines and in particular the Brothers ie 940 and 930.  My Brother 940 is now well used but as its one of the very best computerised machines on the market if you are a Designaknit fan - it easily uploads, downloads and knits from screen without any magnetic computerlink boxes etc and an added bonus is that it does not have these curly cables as connection points - it was indeed a machine well ahead of its time.  The upside of not have a cable connection from the top masts is that when I use my motor, its is relatively hassle free.  I know my 940 is getting well worn so I decided to drag out the 930 machine as I have never really done anything on it except change all the needles, spongebar and give it a good clean.  When I received this machine it was in a terrible state, as it had been stored in a shed outside and that’s not good news for electronic machines.  

After cleaning it etc, I switched it on with intrepidation (I hate electrics') and the thing gave a huge flash ie it was shorting, probably due to the damp etc.  I changed a fuse and left it for a few days in the dry heat and tried again and this time it worked,  I then packed it away for another day. 

This week I took it out again and tried the patterning mechanism and it seemed fine (no books for this machine but I do have my own 940 books and this is a similar machine but does not have such a big memory as the 940 and it really requires a knit link box to operate the knit from screen automatically.  I then thought about trying my DK cable with it, and initially uploaded the patterns within so the memory was clear,  However, when trying to download a simple pattern it would not work.  It obviously recognised the connection though - I then decided to first of all check my connections were secure ie the serial port on the computer, then I followed the advice of the DK program to clear the memory using the 888 method,  First of all I manually deleted the stitch patterns from 901 onwards, as they were still insitu despite a successful upload.  After this I restarted the computer and hence Designaknit and then tried this 888 program to clear the memory,  This was successful and then I tried another download, and it worked - seriously good news for me as this machine is important to me as a backup for my Brother 940 and as a machine to again test my Brother Garter carriage on.

Standard Gauge Motor

Then I came across another problem, my old standard gauge motor was making a terrible noise when reaching the end of the row going to the left only, I had a feeling it was the belt and despite having books for the motor, not one mention of belts ie tensioning or replacing,  I thought about this for a bit and then discovered a screw at the left end of the motor, so I completely unscrewed it and then realised I had accidentally found the belt tensioning bolt, but as I had completely unscrewed it I had to try to replace it back again, and I did this by touch and sight ie the belt was obviously loose, so I watched as I battled to get the screw back into the correct position and when this was reached the belt started to slowly tension.  So far so good, ie no more noise but I will have to use it a bit more to test this, one thing I do take great care in doing when mucking about with these motors, is to ensure they are switched off and unplugged from any power source, and I do not muck about with the electrics' as some of the motors have areas of discharge that could give you a mighty shock on or off.

Update on the Superba S48 Selection Box

An old problem came to light a couple of weeks ago with the Superba S48 and the electric box, I had had a problem with this before but solved it with a change of fuse, but fuses only blow for a reason and giving it another try out recently it again would not feed the mylar sheet through.  I took it apart to have a look and discovered the motor was seriously loose (not helped by me dropping it on the floor from machine height).  So I replaced as best I could but noticed a wire had come loose at the front of the motor unit.  I bought a solder kit and tried my hand at this but I am useless and could not get the thing to stick,  Seriously fed up I put the thing together again and thought I would do something later.  

In the meantime around a week ago another box came up for sale on French Ebay, so I decided to bid for it ie it was 15 euros plus postage, I would not risk paying lots of money for these boxes as they rarely work, but I took a chance and it should arrive here in a few days, so watch this space.   Well the box I bought did not work as luck would have it - the seller did refund my cash however.  I did try to repair the old box but no luck so I am back to square one. 

In the meantime my son visited me from Australia and I asked him to have a go at soldering the wires in the old Superba S48 box but it still did not work and I am not surprised - I had probably damaged more than meets the eye when I dropped it.  So I am afraid this baby is destined to be stored for spares. 

The good news is that my son did manage to repair the complex wiring on the cable on my Passap E6000 carriage and it took some doing,  once done I fired it up and hey it works - so I now have my old Passap E6000 back and that’s nowt but good news for me.  I wrote about the above some time ago - I believe the cable was caught by the motor - I had it tied up at the time doing stuff without the electronics, it just shows you can never be too careful.

Suprise surprise, mucking about with my E6000 and the form computer patterns.

This last couple of weeks I have been working again on the Passaps, as they are fantastic machines worthy of attention.  

I have been using industrial yarns and though wonderful thought they are - I need the help of my E6000 form computer to use them in the best way.  You have to actually look at a stitch pattern and decide what kind of yarn best suits, and take into account what garment you want to knit, in my case, the designs I choose are usually way too complex for me, but there aint no harm in trying, (my scrap bag lays evidence to that).  

You can look at a pattern with a bulky yarn in the Passap Model books but what you cannot know is that most of the heavy yarns are soft and almost double knit, but nowt like you buy nowadays or if you do  - you have more money than me.   

I work with so many different mediums and my favourites are the natural fibres, best of all wool, then perhaps some mixes.  I am not too keen on cotton, as I find it difficult to knit if its not a certain weight.  I do have loads of industrial viscose and linen - a fine mix but not easy to knit because of knops though slight they are.  Another yarn that can be easy enough on a standard gauge is chenille, however, it has to be an extra good quality to knit successfully on the Passaps.    I bought some chenille recently for little money - an acrylic type and knitted on the Brother using the fairisle setting, it was a very heavy jumper.   

At present I am taking a look at the wonderful form computer patterns in the model books for the Passap.  Its only when you take a close look you begin to appreciate what a wonderful feature this is, and I have to be honest it was the main reason I bought my first E6000 - I used industrial yarns even in those days,  and was fascinated that theoretically I could knit “made to measure” garments.  

Know how is very important though and knowing that for instance you need a very fine industrial to take advantage of some of the E6000’s fantastic up to 20 hold rows tuck stitches.  Anything with a full needle setting must be fine enough to run, there is nothing worse than knitting a garment with a machine that needs the strength of an ox to push the carriage.  My motto is that if it is difficult for me to push the carriage then the same applies to my motor.

I attempted to collate the form computer patterns but its an enormous task and would take forever to do, in one book alone there are over 49 patterns.  You have to try to look at a shape and if possible to see what it looks like when knitted up to see what type of stitch or yarn would suit it best.  This is one marathon task but its fun, especially when you can put the stitch patterns into Designaknit,  and simply download them - so much easier than reader cards

I simply love the stitch patterns designed for the Duomatic 80 and it really does take some thinking about to try to analyse these settings for the E6000. In some cases it does not seem possible though some of the old school Passap experts managed it, it is seriously complex to me - in fact it drives me crazy to see some beautiful design made in the days of the Duomatic that I am unable to reproduce.  

The model books before the E6000 release had some of the very best designed coats and jackets, with stitch patterns that beggar belief.  I am lucky I suppose that I do own a few Duomatic 80s but I dislike the deco and punchcard system.  I have a huge selection of these punchcards attained when buying my Duomatics and you never know, one day I may get around to having to use them when E6000 finally die a death (if I am still able to use them that is....)
Simpleframe and its ilk

Simple Frame

Decided to clean and dust off a couple of my older machines and the first out of the bag was the Simpleframe, how I hate this machine, it must have taken a lot of patience to knit anything on it - its an uncomfortable frame ie the one I have and very awkward to knit with - I have to take my hat off to anyone who ever actually knitted a garment on this.  Still thats it cleaned and stored away till next time.  Funny thing is compared to the Bond which was sold around the time this came on the market at around the same price, there is no comparison - the Bond Knitting Machine is a far superior machine, light and easy to use and ok so you had to set the Bond up on a table, it is so much more easy and comfortable to work with.  I have a couple of these hand frame knitting kits now and personally I don’t get on with any of them - if push came to shove, between hand frames or knitting needles, give me the two pin method anyday!

Singer Magic Memory

The next was my Singer Magic Memory knitting machine, surely one of the most attractive standard gauge machines ever, its a sort of candy floss pink and full of gadgets that you feel you have to try and besides which it was probably one of the first machines to operate with electronics of a sort ie  4 batteries in a compartment and seriously it does not select the needles without these batteries.  Its is has a lever selection facility and that is why I assumed wrongly that the batteries were just a marketing ploy.  This machine has a lace carriage that works beautifully but the punchcards are 12 stitch and are moved by pulling a lever to move the card on.  Sometimes there are needle selections and sometimes none.  It has a slide lever, that you can use to move the pattern in different ways and also selection buttons with a reverse facility.  There are quite a lot of quirky bits included and it gets my vote for a great knitting machine albeit a single bed 4.5 mm gauge.  It comes with a pattern book and a set of heavy plastic punchcards with a variety of of tuck, slip and other patterns.  It keeps me amused for a while anyway and its very well built.

Brother 910 Electronic

The next machine I had to take out for its bi annual test was the Brother 910 knitting machine - this was one of the first Brother electronics and its easy to operate and like most Brothers, still knits like a dream,  It operates its electronics with mains and the aid of batteries and and its important that you keep an eye on them so they do not corrode but most sensible folk are not like me, they use their machine all the time instead of say, once say every couple of years,  This electronic operates with mylar sheets and I believe they are getting difficult to find.  This one was donated with an extra set of printed lace cards,  nowt but a good thing as the ones included in the original set are pretty boring and after all the Brothers have virtually the best lace carriages included in most of their machines,  

I have heard that it is possible to use Knitmaster mylar sheets so I put both of them together, the Brother Mylar Sheets are longer but the main thing is that the squares and feeding holes on both mylar sheets match though Brother has 6 boxes squared and Knitmaster has 5 - that apart they appear to be the same, except for extra lines externally on the Knitmaster ones, another point is that the Brother 910 uses the left, right, top and bottom numbers of your drawn pattern as the electronic guides as to where on the sheet the pattern is - quite simple really (I think),  You can draw many patterns on one mylar sheet so if you do have this model,  its a good thing to try get extra blank mylars before they disappear altogether as there is no other method of electronic input and really important point - use the pencil provided to draw the patterns  as then you can erase them and  re-use the sheets over and over again.  As an added bonus, some excellent instruction manuals were included with this machine.

Knitmaster 700 knitting machine with optional lace carriage

Great machine this, simple to operate and easy - ok not the best looking but Knitmaster never were great in the aesthetics however, if you want a workhorse then this is it.  This model has the built in Knitrader 7 and its a handy facility if you just want to concentrate on awkward patterns ie lace for instance - you can get on with the job in hand and just knit.  I am very impressed with this lace carriage, it knits and transfers at the same time, so it gets my vote for ease of use, and as with most lace patterns are great for summery tops now is the time.  I used a basic sleeveless KR7 pattern and have produced a garment (wonders never cease).  I love this machine for its ease if use and I did not use my motor once.  The lace carriage does fancy lace as well but you have to remove the yarn to transfer, the same switch for this gives you a free move so its easy to set up your punchcard.  If you were about town doing a demo - this is a handy beast, and whatever you produce looks good, especially lace.  As with all punchcards, patterning is easy when you know how (not things I use a lot but I can appreciate their flexibility and quite understand that many designers use punchcard machines - great for portability too.  The one thing can be said about this patterning system, unlike the mylar sheets, you can easily get 24 stitch punchcards and I have so many I dare not take stock (most came along with the machines either donated or bought).  Come to think about it, my Passap Duo punchcard collection is enormous, and its not down to me either, for me to think about punching 24 stitch cards is bad enough but 40 stitch, no chance.   One thing I did do though was to punch a single line of one by one holes just for the picot edge transfer, took about a couple of minutes and then the Knitmaster lace carriage simple transferred and knit in one go, what more could one ask for.  I have a good few ribbers for the knitmaster machines mainly SPR 50’s but luckily enough a dear friend gave me a SPR 60 ribber and it was new, so that’s the one I use when using any of my Knitmasters, and of course don’t forget the unusual facility only incuded as standard with Knitmaster and that is the ability to produce pile knitting.  It has many uses I am sure, but must confess I have never used it myself - hey good idea ie my next project perhaps - wonder if you can knit towels.

Now I have a confession to make, yes I did finish the basic knitradar sleeveless summer top pattern but when I knitted the front after finishing the back, I looked at it and realised there was something not quite right, and guess what, I had put the punchcard in the opposite way, and lace was produced but it was flat and boring compared to the sort of raised pattern produced when the punchcard was inserted the correct way around - soo damn it, I had to start it again...one of these days I will get it right first time.

June  2013


Good news here in Brittany, summer has arrived at long last - it been a long dreicht winter and spring.  I decided to take a look at some of my old machines and to give them their bi-annual spruce up.  

Knitmaster 302 knitting machine

A fine wee machine and in good condition, I do not have an original manual for this but there are plenty available to download on the web.  There is new site I notice that offers manual for free download - so nowt but good news there.  The 302 was the first machine I ever owned back back and its an unusual model.  It knits with ease, and has selection buttons for most techniques though funny thing is - it calls tuck stitch “pick” for some unknown reason.  It works with a set of supplied pattern cards for fairisle or two colour patterns where the 2nd colour has to be laid across the bed and knitted in.  With this machine there were a set of cards for a lace type technique and its very effective - it uses a selection of needles in and out of working position.  I have a Knitmaster weaving accessory  for machines without weaving brushes and I was able to download a pattern book for this as well.   This particular model came with an unusual feature, a set of cast on wires, very handy.  This must have been one of the first of this model released as I do not see any mention of these in later models of the 302.  Impressive machine and would have been innovative in its day.  I believe there is a ribber available as well.

Toyota 787 and my faulty lace carriage

The next machine I took out was the Toyota 787 knitting machine to try to see if I had missed anything with respect to its faulty lace carriage, but no joy there, the lace carriage is new so I am assuming it has never worked. Good machine but complex with so many features there is so much that can go wrong, however, apart from the lace carriage, mine seems to work smoothly.  I have heard from quite a few people though that have not been so lucky with this one.  One thing I do note with this machine is that the needles are very soft and bend easily, perhaps too easily.

Knitmaster 580 and my tales of woe with Designaknit 7 and the lace option

The next machine is my Electronic Knitmaster 508 knitting machine- I needed a refresher course on downloading and knitting via Designaknit 7, I have a Knitmaster PE1 so that makes it relatively easy, uploading is simple though annoying as you can only upload one pattern at a time.  Downloading into the PE1 must be the easiest exercise ever, and once in the PE1 you have to save the download on your card.  The only thing I have problems with and this applies to all machines is the drawing or in my case copying of lace patterns in Designaknit and then either downloading or knitting them, and it drives me absolutely crazy as I have never been successful once in doing this, I must seriously be missing something.  With the 580 and the PE1 its even worse, the pattern I chose came from one within the Silver Reed lace patterns, so it should in theory anyway, just download and knit, but no such luck.  I am not talking about trying this just once, I tried for over 10 days to see if I had missed something, I tried searching the web for info and I even went so far as asking Softbyte UK for help (silent response) .   Simple lace, ie knit and transfer is the method, so I downloaded into PE1 then saved and tried to knit, but the PE1 does not recognise this as lace and this is where I suspect the problem is.  To eliminate the machine, I used a lace mylar sheet and this knitted without problem, I also transferred a lace pattern onto the PE1 without using Designaknit and this knitted without problem, its only when you do it via Designaknit that I have the hassle, its almost as if the PE1 sees it as fairisle.  I have researched every bit of info within the software, I have followed religiously the instructions but still no dice.  I suppose the next step has to be trying the exercise out with the Brother 940 machine.  Anyone out there can help, I would be pleased to hear from them, (I wont go into the countless times I have tried to copy a punchcard lace pattern from a magazine into Designaknit without any success no matter what machine I use.   All this apart, this has to be one of the best buys ever compared to what the badged Silver Reed machines are selling for nowadays.

Well that’s my rant over for today, I will in the meantime add this to my useless and unsuccessful trials ie -is it just me - am I the only one?

1.  Singer/Superba 4 colour changer

2.  Designaknit Lace Tool

Great new site for knitting machine manual downloads and its free

You must take a look at this site if you are looking for instruction manuals for your machine - its fantastic - I have downloaded a couple and its so easy,,,

http://machineknittingetc.com

July 2013

 
At long last summer has arrived, we are currently enjoying a heatwave here in beautiful Brittany and not before time either.

The downside is the shed is so hot. (at the last count 32 degrees) and I am loathe to drag out my old portable air conditioner as
I know the weather will change as soon as its operational, so a fan will have to do.

I still work but the weather draws me outside to the garden and once ensconsed, and stuck into a good book, knitting takes a back seat.  It is so quiet and peaceful here and the book I am reading, written by Ranulph Fiennes is “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know”, a thought provoking autobiography.  

Back to reality and the knitting shed and my beloved machines.  I decided I had enough time playing around and it was time to give the Passap E6000 and the Brother 940 a workout.  

A large cone of soft slub ivory white yarn enabled me to try a pattern from one of the Machine Knitting News Collections.  Luckily enough the test square matched so it was all systems go to knit a plain long tunic style knit with an off the shoulder feature with a 2 by 1 industrial rib at the waist.  Good news about this was it gave me a chance to try out my gadgets, the U100E and the Tricofit cast off gadget.   My motor took did the hard work and Passaps’ handle stocking stitch with ease.  The original was knitted in soft black angora and lambswool but the photo was the worst I have come across, the model was sitting down and it was black and to be honest it was frustrating because there was no way you could see the design – so curiosity got the better of me and I had to knit it .

The sweater was easy to knit but if the photo had been clearer, I seriously would not have bothered.  It was nothing special in design or look.  (Perhaps that’s why the model was sitting down.)

Next machine to get a workout was my Brother 940 and this time I just wanted to knit a simple tuck design with two ends of mixed industrials in browns – for my other half.  Acrylics are easy to wash and wear and normally I would not use this stuff for knitting with but the industrials I have are of top quality and last for ages.   

With the Brother you have to remember to engage the tuck brushes and I used the simple triangle pattern in the book – once I had knitted a test square I drafted out a quick pattern on Designaknit.  I then simply printed the pattern out and knitted it.  I suppose I could have knitted from screen with my leads but for some reason I have yet to discover, Designaknit and my carriage do not seem to co-ordinate very well especially when knitting with the motor.  I will do further tests on this later.

Once this sweater was knitted, I decided to knit another using again a couple of ends of industrial but this time I used on of the patterns from Machine Knitting News – this was a light tuck stitch design.

I drafted it out on Designaknit and downloaded it without success.  After some thought, I remembered reading that most tuck stitch designs should be knitted with the KHC button pressed in ie to reverse the selection.

I spent way too long  trying to resolve the problem with this particular pattern which was actually designed with electronics in mind with no mention of the above pattern instruction.  Eventually though, my motor made short work of the main body of the knit but this particular pattern had a few quirky bits.   

Quirky bit number one,  was special rib that had to be cast on then hand transferred, ie time consuming, and number two, at the end there was a bit of hand finishing at the neckline.  I thought I would be smart and save some time  by using a latch tool cast off but the end result would not have gone over a tennis ball never mind a head.  I relented and took it back and did as the designer suggested – cast off onto waste yarn and stitched it by hand and what a difference.  The end result was a very nice classy design.

Just a note on industrials, and I have many large cones - but as usual they are too thin to use and require coning to give more ends, however, lately I have been looking at different colour blends and now use two ends of different colour cones and the end result is great, you get some seriously interesting colourways - and more importantly, I don't have to spend hours coning by hand.

,August 2013

And still our wonderful summer continues, and this month its way too hot to work in the shed, the sun is hot and and the beach calls.

I did have an interesting meeting the other day, a friend of mine who has her own Alpacas and spins, then knits the fleece,  and she has the gift of being able to design as she goes producing the most wonderful knitwear.  How I envy her talent - no matter how many hours I sit at my machines - anything I dare to attempt without some pattern rarely looks as professional as her stuff.  She knows the name of every Alpaca whose fleece she spins, and the yarn is so soft - she knits by hand, a Brother 836 knitting machine and also does some very professional felting - the end result is a variety of beautiful knitwear, from gorgeous hats to the wispiest of cardigans.   To top in all she weaves some of the yarn into delightful bits and pieces.  I asked her about tension squares and she says she never does them, nor does she do as I do, knit sample upon sample.  

Anyway it got me to thinking about knitwear designers and their skills, and that’s why I seriously put machine knitting and its ilk forward as arts and crafts - personally, I may have the crafty bit, but not unfortunately not the arty bit but I sure love trying.

I have been lucky in that I once worked for a wonderful and innovative designer who virtually crafted his knitwear to his model, and through this forum I have been lucky enough to communicated with some fantastic designers from the old days, these ladies seriously knew their stuff and again their finish is exemplary not to forget the finish of a garment can take up as much time as the knitting.

This got me to thinking,  just what is knitwear design - there are so many different forms, some knit garments that would look ridiculous on us mere mortals - but look fantastic on a size 8 model tall with skinny legs - and I knit for me - and believe me I aint tall nor am I a size 8 - again you have to take into account the the needlebed on a machine when designing stuff - ok so if you are knitting tuck stuff then no problem it will stretch to any size easily, but when you are knitting finer yarns and say slip stitch (seems to be perennial favourite with some designers) then you are limited to the amount of needles you have to work with thus the size.  I then checked up on the web by typing in knitwear design to give me inspiration, and the funny thing is some of the designs I knitted for my designer were portrayed there, (note his designs - I just followed a pattern) along with some more unbelievably gorgeous stuff and a myriad of dare I say it, over the top outrageous stuff - but this is what knitwear design is about - this seems to be the thing that gets them noticed.

The thing that has always interested me with knitwear is how - I always wondered if it would be possible on a domestic machine to knit a circular sweater - there was a piece about this very subject within one of my old knitting machine magazines come to think about it, but in those days it was beyond my comprehension, I wonder if I could tackle it now.  I have my many shortcomings I must admit - patience and a short attention span are the worst - I know I would never be able to do intarsia - way too fiddly - I always start out with good intentions but in general if it don’t go smoothly, then I lose interest.

Now back to the Alpaca lady, she has one machine, and she works with one yarn, and that has to be a good thing, you get to know your material and you get to know your machine.

In my case I have a ton of machines and way too much yarn of every type, from boucle, wool, linen, cotton, chenille, industrial acrylic, viscose - you name it, I’ve got it.  Almost 90% of my yarns are industrials - and that’s because I love double bed knitting machines like my Passap and Singer and when I need thicker stuff, then I blend by knitting several colours together, and this produces some interesting results - but then and again, you have to consider the body of the yarn you are using, some are way too soft and limp and some are so crisp they are unwearable - that’s the problem when using industrial stuff.  I often wonder if I got rid of my yarn stock and limited myself to one machine and one type of yarn, would I be improve as a designer...only problem is which machine!  Oh well, at least I can dream

This week I am visiting the UK and picking up a donated machine, a double bed Rapidex knitting machine- cant wait, watch this space for more information on this vintage machine. 

October 2013

Today I decided to try out an unusual pattern produced in Machine Knitting News 2002 by Pam Soames.  This designer also wrote a very interesting article along side - it features the art of circular knitting - and in particular fisherman’s ganseys.  The pictures of the small test jerseys knitted are superb and the actual pattern, was a challenge not to be missed,  Biggest problem was the substitution of the light but bulky 2 ply wool and acrylic that was used in the original and the gorgeous eye catching colour ie red,  Mine was knitted in an industrial yarn mix of 2 greens of a similar mix - not nearly so nice but fine to try out this pattern,  I have always been fascinated with circular knitting and feel there could be so many more applications.

Garter Carriage bit

This particular pattern called for the use of a garter carriage and as mine was seriously needing a workout, this eventually persuaded me to give it a go,

 The circular knit cast on was easy enough, done in waste yarn (unfortunately I used something way too close to the main colour typical me!) then you just continue with the main yarn in circular until the armholes, then the fun begins  - as the knitting is circular and you are knitting both back and front there is quite a high row count and thank goodness I have a motor.  Having recently recovered from a frozen shoulder - I have a feeling that machine knitting and computer keyboards, are seriously beginning to take their toll, my arm is beginning to rescind back to being painful again,  I suppose I have only myself to blame as the doc did warn me - don’t you just simply hate old age....

The next bit was comparitively not too bad, ie waste knitting the ribber bed off - then the remaining main bed bit was tackled - you simply download, in my case with Designaknit 7and my cable to the Brother 940, your garter carriage pattern or in the case of punchcard machine - the pattern supplied by Pam Soames, and set the garter carriage  to do the yoke part on the back of the jersey.  When this is finished you waste knit off.  

Rehanging the front with the wrong side facing

You continue by rehanging the front part of the knitting wrong side facing onto the machine and proceed to knit again with the garter carriage (cut and sew neckline in the case of this design so no shaping - good news in this case) - so far so good now for the complex stuff ie the joining of one shoulder and the cut and sew neckline.

Cut and Sew (or should it be Sew and Cut)

I tried several methods ie backstitching then cutting but untidy edge so resorted to using my Hague and overlocked the edge and replaced this onto the machine with the back straight across so fingers crossed it does not look too untidy - next step is the garter carriage after a plain row across and this does 4 rows at tension 4 then 4 rows at tension 3 then 4 rows at tension 2 on a 2 x 2 rib then its down to stocking stitch to finish to give it a role over edge - very nice edge.

Finished at last

Come Friday, I had finished this jersey and it took about 5 afternoons  but again thats another type of knitting tackled and its not so bad to do once you get the hang of it - but - when knitting sleeves downward and circular its seriously important to do as you are told ie hang the weights before you start and me as usual trying to be smart decided I would do it once I had started, never again, I should have hung the weights via the comb by pushing it through the top part of the knitting before putting the stitches onto the machine, not only was it so difficult doing the second row ie the ribber bed (I hand to knit the stitches by hand)  but I had to hang on to the knitting as I went to give it more even weight and it was sore on the arms, the 2nd sleeve because I did what I was told,  was 100 per cent easier and I was able to use the motor. Once again I learn, the hard way.

I have just tested and added 2 more machines (Rapidex 320 and A Trumod Autopin plus an addition from Alison Lee of the
Guild of Machine Knitters giving us photos and details of her Singer/Superba 624.

Just come across this very interesting website with what seems to be a healthy itinerary - wish we had something similar here.

www.scottishmachineknitters.org.uk

If you hail from Scotland, you must take a look.

November and December 2013

Jersey knitted on the Passap E6000 knitting machine in half fisherman’s rib 26th October 2013

Knitted with a mix of industrials ie 3 to be precise - this turned out to be a marled green colour, one by one fisherman’s on the Passap with the aid of the Passap book on Fisherman's which incidentally is for every needle fisherman's rib not 1 by 1 - however, I just doubled up on the figures and hoped for the best and produced a fairly substantial knit for a large guy.  This design is raglan shaped and took some time, and the neck was a cut and sew but I finished it in around 7 hours.

Problems that ensue with half-fisherman’s rib (sometimes called English Rib) are the weight of the jersey, and mainly ensuring the tension is not too loose or it will just grow and grow.  Soft industrials are bulked up by using any sort of tuck stitch and mixed colours are incredibly beautiful if you get it right.  Some of the industrials yarns I own are very old but top quality - none of the cheap rubbish acrylics usually sold today.  They wash and wear well, I wonder what garments the factory who sold them made and what price range they were.  The main difference with yarns nowadays and then is the feel, modern yarns feel so soft but have no substance.

Irish Bishop's Yoke Sweater Pattern

The next job I decided to tackle was on the back of the popularity of fairisle garments knitted in shetland wool, and patterns devised by one of my favourite designers, Irish Bishop.  I have been admiring her pattern from a book I bought at one of her appearances (from memory it was during one of the rare hotel get- togethers, many years ago, the book featured her method of knitting fairisle yokes.

The pattern looked so involved but you know me, I can never resist a challenge.  I knitted this on my Brother 940 and was it a pain, not being used for a while does these machines no favour but the ribber, well what a hassle to knit a simple industrial rib ie 2 plus 1 - this ribber was not in the mood - the carriage was a nightmare and the yarn kept breaking etc etc etc, so I decided to take a long look at why, using the book my son bought me a couple of years ago -Scott Renno and James Dixon of Distinctive Knits.  It gives fantastic instructions on how to set your Brother ribber to perfection and I followed the instructions to the letter, and what a difference, it knitted so smoothly you would not think it was the same machine.  I even used the Brother rib transfer carriage on it with ease and that's the test that tells you your ribber is correctly aligned.   Once I had knitted the rib, I had to manually enter all the punchcard patterns into the 940 using its pushbutton technique, I know I could have used Designaknit but decided to do it the hard way just to keep the machine in condition.  There are 4 separate patterns (none too long) and when this was done, the rest should be simple, or so I thought.

By the third sleeve (ie 2 useless versions,) the machine started to loosen up and knit properly, the problem was the increasing, the sides were too untidy whilst the machine was warming up.  The easiest way I found to do this with fairlisle is to put the increases into position “d “ and this worked fine.  My yarn is pretty old and does not always behave itself, but eventually, machine, yarn and my brain went into action.  You must knit the sleeves first on this pattern, then the front, this was easy with the motor ie no increasing - short-rowing took care of the shaping, note to myself though, read through the pattern first, it’s essential with this pattern, and Iris Bishop’s instructions are very precise and easy to follow if you read the pattern first.  As an example, one of my stupidest mistakes was picking up the stitches then realising I had picked them up from the right side instead of the wrong side.  However, the jersey is well under way and this is another very interesting technique acquired.

Finally, my French neighbour Marie loves knitted ankle socks so I knitted a couple of pairs of these on the Passap - its such an easy pattern and a pair of socks can be knitted in one hour.  

Yoke Jumper, pattern by Iris Bishop - episode 2

Well what can I say, I have at last finished the Iris Bishop yoke jersey and if there was a mistake to be made I did it.  First of all anyone trying this one out needs to actually read the instructions before you start – it takes time;  secondly, I would take more time inputting the design and I should have checked it was right – I was rattling along fine until I got to the second pattern on the yoke and and it was not correct – more hassle then, after knitting the front and taking it off the bed I then noticed the sleeves were replaced onto the needles incorrectly - I had put right sleeve on left side - I did not take note of the instruction to place a yarn marker at the right hand side – could anything else go wrong well er yes… after I had finished the back and got as far as adding the neckband I took a closer look and then realised as I had not turned off the end needle selection for the one by one fairisle bit, the machine had mis-patterned so I had to take it right back to the beginning of the yoke and to make matters worse - I had removed all the waste yarn that held each part – I am absolutely hopeless.  The end result is fine but next time I promise myself I will take account of all instructions instead of being way too smart.  I reiterate, Iris Bishop's pattern instructions are written so well and I am sure most knitters would never have the problems I have.

Anyway, after finishing this jersey, I decided that I had to knit a beret to go with it and the end result is photographed – I have some strange mixes of shetland but loads of the stuff – and who knows how old it is, but after a quick wash it looks like new.  I just love wool. Its warm to wear but light (I have to wear a polo under because I am allergic to it) it always goes back to shape after washing and takes absolutely no time to dry and its so soft.  Lovely to knit with and lovely to wear.

Compliments of the season to all

Well it will soon be 2014 and may I take this opportunity to offer everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year or as the French say Bon Noel et Bon Annee!

January 2014

Electronic Standard Gauge Fun and Games whilst knitting Iris Bishop “autumn leaves” pattern jersey.

Knitted for the first time on the Knitmaster 580 (the Brother 940’s download system via Designaknit is not working).  I have had the Brother 940 for a very long time and its well used.  I think the problem is that the battery needs changing and this sounds a bit complex and involves soldering so I will leave it a while, I think.  

Working with a Knitmaster 580 electronic is an entirely different kettle of fish to the Brother.  To start I had to download the leaves pattern to the PE1 then load it onto the machine - its a fairly simple procedure when you know how.    The first problem I came againt was that the PE1 had no charge, so left the Knitmaster on for around a week to charge it up.  The memory cards have a watch type battery in them but this was fine.  Once charged up,  I downloaded the pattern again, then saved it to the card, then switched off, and reloaded the pattern onto the PE1 to check the number allocated was OK, I then had to turn on the scan/read light on the 580 and run the carriage across the preset cams to let the machine know when to start and stop the pattern.  Once this is done a couple of times (with carriage in the up position) I then pressed knit on the PE! and “=” to actually knit.  You also have to set the pattern width to 60 ie maximum width when using the PE1.

A couple of points re the KM580 - its an exceptionally easy to use machine, if you make an error when patterning (as I do frequently) its so easy to get back.  This machine does not require any preset rows and this makes life very easy.  So the yarn broke going across and I had to rattle back that row, then all I did was to take the PE1 down a row and simple knit again.  What could possibly be easier.

The other great feature with all Knitmasters is the ability to run the carriage across without needle selection by simply lifting the carriage handle up.  The needles on the 580 are a bit stiff to move but perhaps this has more to do with it not being used enough.  You do have to set cams for patterning but its simply a matter of sliding them across the bed to the number you want to pattern to ie left say one stitch in with fairisle, and right the same.  Talking about cam setting, you do this with the Singer/Superba electronic but with these you set them 15 stitches away from the edge - now there’s a thought, what do you do when you are at the maximum number of needles, must look it up but I digress, on the Knitmaster there is a N1 cam and this is set in the middle of the bed erring to the left, and this centres the pattern, but if you wanted to say move the pattern then this cam is the one to use.  If you have 2 sets of patterning cams you can have strips of pattern starting and stopping where ever you set the cams, please feel free to let me know if I have got this wrong.  The PE1 once loaded allows you to knit continuously - whereas if you were using a mylar sheet you have to stop momentarily at the end of each pattern to allow the sheet to return to the beginning. Another point is that when setting the patterning cams for say moving outside for increasing you must always set them at the opposite side of the carriage or the pattern does not read correctly.  

I decided to use my standard gauge motor to knit with, but I had to remove the countdown from the motor rail as it was impossible to knit with the curly cable( it got jammed on the countdown attachment.)  I just left it sitting with a number of rows, and the motor just carried the carriage but without the countdown facility.  As I was using it with the foot pedal this was fine.

With respect to the Brother 940 there are no cables attached to the carriage and this is a great feature of this model plus with Designaknit - its fully uploadable, downloadable and knits from screen with just one cable.

The Knitmasters (later versions) have stitch holders for fairilse to be fixed 3 needles past either end which are fine when you are not increasing or decreasing - I found these a pain when increasing for the arms of this jersey so  I removed them and just lifted the working needle closest to the carriage into holding position to ensure no problems when knitting fairisle.  I had the holding levers switched off (russel levers in Knitmaster speak) so that the needle knitted down when the carriage passed)  

Yet another comparison with the Brother machines, the Knitmaster lace carriages are sold as extras but have the facility to knit and transfer at the same time, however, fashion lace is a bit of a hassle as you have to remove the yarn from the carriage to transfer.  The Brother lace carriages are included in most but not all Brother machines, and are simply transfer carriages ie they do not transfer and knit at the same time.

All in all I am amazed by the simplicity of operation of the Knitmaster 580 knitting machine though intially the cams and PE1 put me off using it for a while but like all Knitmasters it knits beautifully.    My biggest beef with these machines is the rate at which they are turning a smokey yellow and as such they all look terrible..  Perhaps I will try to whiten them all one of these summers but what a job its going to be.   I keep telling myself it is after all just cosmetic

This particular model of the 580  is the older of the two I own, and I bought this for very little (around 35 euros from memory) along with the best selection of knitting books ever - the machine was in dreadful conditon, left in a damp place but after a deep clean it worked no problem - its amazing what we put these machines through and yet they nearly always work so easily.  The case on this machine was damaged and cosmetically its a mess - and its still a great workhorse.  This machine also came with a PE1,  SR60 Ribber, plus a load of extras as well as the afore mentioned books.

Back to this wonderful jersey design, its is so comfortable and as with all Irish Bishop patterns she keeps you on your toes and if you follow her instructions to the letter, one cannot help but knit a fabulous garment.  I must have knitted this design around 10 times using her leaves patterns and her tiger patterns - it always draws admiring comments.  The actual pattern is practically worn to a tissue, I must get around to reprinting it before it turns to dust.

Passap Model Books

I am so pleased to have been able to download numbers of Passap Model Books from the website

http://machineknittingetc.com/

This fantastic website offers free and simple PDF format downloads of knitting machine manuals and pattern books, ie its well worth a look, we must support these websites as they must be hard work to upkeep and do us a great service.

February and March 2014

The Knitting Shed has been quiet this last while, and I have been busy with the garden but have had a bit of time to look at differing techniques and there are 2 that I am particularly interested in right now - number one is circular fairisle (ie for the tops of socks ect) and the second is the famous Passap carpet stitch that looks similar to my mind to Knitmasters pile technique.  This was the first time, I have ever tried the carpet stitch and this was because I have a Duomatic 80 set up - I used wool (around 4 ply) with a single ply wool to do the pile.  It was extra hard to push (or am I getting old),  you do 2 rows then release the stitches and with the above yarn type you get a seriously good thick carpet style fabric but it would only be possible with the motor and seriously I dont like stressing my machines ie if I find it hard to push then its stressing the machine.  I must try it again with lighter yarns.    

The second technique has always interested me, and that is circular knitting ie knitting in the round - obviously you need 2 beds for this and the Passap and Singer are true double beds, but the Passap can do single bed fairisle strangely enough, so I wondered how to go about doing this - I have looked up umpteen books but there is not a lot on this technique for some reason.    A couple of lines in the Passap Duomatic instruction manual but curiously nowt else.   When I get the time, its my next thing to do - but I need to do more research first.  However, its still chilly here in Brittany though we did like the UK have a couple of seriously sunny days - soon be those balmy days hopefully when the shed is a bit warmer and I don’t have to warm the place up to work.

I have reknitted a pattern I found in the Passap Model Books, a type of dress that can slip off the shoulders should you be young, but I wanted to use it as a soft polo neck style - the first time I knitted it, it came out so soft and once washed floppy, ie no use for this type of dress which seriously needs a bit of body to keep it in shape.  After all its just 2 long pieces of rib ie 2 by 2 on the back bed and 3 by one on the front bed so it can grow if the yarn is not right.  This time I used 4 ends of industrial acrylic - and this gave a different type of fabric to the last - a bit more body - the arms of this garment are shaped beautifully so it does not give a dropped shoulder look which I hate - this time it was so much better but I changed the tension at the start of the neck shaping ie put it a full one tension smaller as opposed to what was suggested ie one dot lower and did the same on the sleeves, and this made such a difference.  Its a better fit overall and the neck instead of flopping about all over the place gives a comfortable fit to the neckline - essential in this cold weather - to be honest the dress is a winter, spring woolley not a summer one - its was to warm to wear with the shoulder off in the summer and too cold to wear it this way in the winter.  Trial and error - best way to learn (in my case at least).

I knitted some of the Singer ribbed socks for my husband but after the successful but long winded sock machine socks these failed completely because of the industrial rib leg which keeps slipping down despite using lycra in the cast on rows - again back to the drawing board, who says machine knitting is boring.  

I am always on the lookout for unusual knitting machine techniques, like the time I found a pattern somewhere for a premature baby jacket knitted all in one, I have it on display, and its gorgeous - only problem is now I cannot find the pattern - so typical of me - or take the time I found an all in one fisherman’s rib jersey but that was a disaster big time - the cut and sew in the middle for the neckline took forever to do and unless you are hot stuff at this - it makes or breaks the look (and I aint hot stuff.)

Mid July 2014

Its now mid July and I wish the weather would improve a little – it hot and humid and cloudy, not exactly ideal knitting weather. 

Someone contacted me recently via my email address asking for information on buying her first machine – and had read my blog re the Passap and nothing else would do.   This brings me to a point one never considers when you have been using machines as long as I have, how easy it is to simply slip into machine knitting, but for this lady who had never used a machine before - it was anything but.  The Passap is probably one of the more complex machines to learn.

No amount of advice is going to tell you that the machine is of a certain age and its in good working order, most of these machines when sold have not been operated for years and they need a good deep clean, service and oil.   Then you have the problem of what can go wrong and in the Passap E6000’s case there is a lot.  You have the consul and its age ie before being upgraded or not, memory wise – the serial number should give you that information, plus you need to know the locks still work and the front electronic one is the one to check, I had 2 faulty front locks (and I used to worry about the consul) you then need to consider whether it has been well used or has it just been stored for years or even worse left on its stand in a room – you can tell this by the colour usually,
( I bought one that had been left up for many years) – in the case of this machine there were several problems to sort out and fortunately for me, my main interest was the motor rather than the machine and at that time the price reflected that.  It was badly discoloured and that too can devalue the machine.  You have to consider things like the strippers which nowadays cost a lot to replace and then there are the tools, ie are they all there – are the books there, does it have a 4 colour changer – does it have a simple U70 transfer carriage – is there a motor – so many questions its hard to give constructive advice.

I think nowadays with the average age of so called modern knitting machines getting on for over 20 years,  its now getting to the stage where you have to be an expert to buy them safely.  The Passaps are now getting thin on the ground or should I say decent Passaps.

My old Brother 940 is now starting to play up and does not select properly – I had blamed in on the download cable but during in depth testing, I have discovered it has a faulty selection system – it was a fine machine and I have knitted loads of stuff on it but its getting on a bit now and that is the problem with most knitting machines.  If you are lucky and find one that has not been used, you have a great chance – however if its and electronic and its been well used or misused, then you are probably better off leaving well alone.  I cannot even say that he colour of the machine every time is an indication of age or misuse because it is not – I bought a second Knitmaster 580 electronic for 35 euros along with loads of great books and it was a total mess, cracked case, discoloured and very dirty, it had been stored in an outhouse and was damp to boot – however, once I had cleaned it up thoroughly and plugged it in, it worked beautifully, it had not had much use, just bought and badly stored, this machine I bought for spares had a PE1 card reader, spare card full of designs, and all its books plus SR60 Ribber, there was no way I could lose.  

So the message is, if you are really keen,do some research, there are still good machines out there, its important that you physically see the machine so you know what you are buying, its great to get its history, and private sales usually bring the best bargains but if you want guarantees then go to a dealer – you will pay more but you do have peace of mind.    Finally you still have the option to buy new, but you do pay a hefty premium and if you are just doing it to try machine knitting then don’t even think about it.  The reason to buy new is that you know exactly what you want and you want it in the best possible condition ie new.  It will run like a pussycat and if you look after it, will last you for donkey’s years.

Lots of my old vintage lnitting machines still work beautifully and that’s because they come into the category old but normally never used.  They were well packaged and well made.  People in those days generally bought a machine to make a living with and probably found them too difficult to operate.  Imagine hand selecting needles every row to do fairisle, nowadays you just press a couple of buttons,  download from a computer, or load up a punchcard and your design appears before your eyes, BUT you still need the skill and expertise to knit the garment and most importantly put it together.

I knitted a wonderful jersey around a month ago and I used one of the Pat Cook designs - such great instructions, just made for someone like me - a confirmed pattern knitter, this jersey was knitted using a pattern sheet attached to the pattern itself for the Passap machine, so I copied it and put it into designaknit - then downloaded it - mainly because its a great pattern and I will use it again and again - the instructions were so clear and concise - it was seriously interesting to me as there were a good few techniques I had never used but thanks to her method of pattern writing, they proved to be successful.  A wonderful and concise pattern so many thanks to Pat Cook.

Last week I decided to knit a jumper in cotton on the Singer 9000 knitting machine for my other half and after considering, I  thought – those arms are going to be too long - will I never learn – I had entered Jack’s measurements into the computer, I had done the test square – I then in my wisdom shortened the arms by 10 cms and you know the rest….the arms turned out way too short and a saddle jersey that’s been sewn together using the machine – its going to take me hours to undo then reknit…by the way I could not use an interactive cable as they do not do one for this machine unfortunately, but I did knit from screen - it helped a lot, as it was quite a complex design.

I would also like to mention a great website I have come across by Susy Ranner - seriously interesting website and a must for machine knitters.

http://myknittingmachinesandme.wordpress.com

and also grateful thanks to Anne Croucher for information on my faulty Passap front locks - she offers a service that is thin on the ground nowadays ie the upgrading and if possible repair of Passap E6000's by her husband.   This is always a handy service and one Ifeel is going to be a necessity in the future.

I must admit I have not been writing as much as I should lately but I have to learn French and its no fun, one of the most difficult tasks I have ever undertaken but its not before time.  I am using the internet as a medium - I much prefer it to the physical teaching, ie most of the classes are too mixed or in my case some of the teachers have no idea of how to teach, its a gift not something in my opinion many folk have - good teachers on any subject are thin on the ground but they can make the experience of learning any subject as different as night and day..

 Knitting machines and computers

There’s such a lot of stuff out there nowadays with respect to knitting machines and picture knitting, hacking into the knitting machines and then using computers to download the image.  I am not too sure why this is such a trend, after all Designaknit has a facility to do this – but it is expensive to buy so perhaps that is the reason.  I watch all the online videos showing usually the E6000 attached to a computer and motor and its knitting away producing art work of sorts.    One of the first things I ever did with the computer and Designaknit was to knit a long piece of knitting with “The Knitting Museum” so I could hang it up as an example of what a knitting machine could do.  

I have never forgotten a radio interview when I was younger, where the interviewer asked me what I like to do, and when I said machine knitting, he said – oh so you knit jumpers.  That,  it seems,  is the impression most folk get when you say – my interest is…little do they know.

Now a trend is emerging, and I see it online, workshops setting up to teach would be designers how to do their own thing using domestic machines.  I know you can take the long route via university or art college but I suppose this method of teaching is more specialised (lets hope it works as it costs a fortune).  

The one thing that put me off going to college for machine knitting in the 1990’s was that the HND courses did not allow you to use double beds machines or electronics and there was a lot of art work involved.   For instance, you had to produce boards, with ideas and swatches – I felt weary at the thought of the whole process.  I have always been a great believer in technology and at that time it was going places.   

I have to admit it was the beginning of the demise of machine knitting, machines were getting more and more expensive.  To be honest the technology did not justify the seriously high prices of the machines, and by now the loads of “accessories”, that in the golden age came with the machines were now being sold as at an extra price.  Putting it simply, manufacturers began to get greedy.   Even today, you can buy knitwear at seriously low prices – in most cases you could not even buy the yarn at the price, never mind about the time taken to knit it.  

Take needle retaining bars as a point in question, I have never quite understood why these could have been designed in a better way, and indeed why should they, they are one of those expensive extras that provided a long term income for manufacturers. (Similar to inkjet printers, it’s a scandal that so many good printers are thrown away as it’s cheaper to buy a new one for the same price as the cartridges)  

Machine knitters nowadays do it purely for pleasure - some more specialised make a good living out of selling their knitwear – they have business savvy and usually do it online.   They produce unique knitwear and hopefully make a profit.  Shetland knitwear is a good example of a unique product that sells well.

There’s a myth out there that knitting with a machine is easy – no skills required – to my mind, machine knitting can be hard and skilled work – hand made does not mean just using knitting needles.  How you finish can make or break your design and indeed take as much time as it took to knit the pieces,  aye, finish is a skill in itself.

Furniture covers

I needed a heavy material to use as a cover for my garden 2 seater couch, this is a wooden affair with foam cushions that we drag out each summer into the gazebo as extra seating.  My thoughts returned to my Passap Duo 80 – I had an old book that featured a bedspread knitted in a mix of slip stitch patterns, it looked like a patchwork piece and if knitted in the right yarn this could do the job.  I found some industrials made of a shiny viscose – it had to be around 3 ply to give me the weight and the width.  

After I had set up all the pushers – took some time, it was just a case of knitting with the motor but changing the pushers to the different squares.  It took some doing but it became a lot easier after a while – thank goodness for the motor as my arms would not have handled this task.  After I had finished the pattern I had a substantial piece of material a bit like arran knitting, to be honest I wondered about cutting and sewing it into a jersey – however, it looked fine for the purpose I had in mind.  It’s a wonderful machine the old Duomatic 80 but the motor is to my mind a necessity for any serious knitting with this baby!

Well that’s all -  till next time... Should you wish to get in touch, my email address is theknittingshed@fastmail.fm