i've been so excited and nervous to share about my newest knitting endeavor. right at the tail end of this last spring, i acquired a knitting machine from a very kind woman. like i said, our summer was packed to the brim with activity, so i got less time than i had hoped to get accustomed to this technical new skill. but over the course of a couple segmented evenings and weekends, i somehow fumbled my way through knitting my very first machine knit sweater, my very first machine knit anything! it's been done for a couple months now and only my nerves have kept me from posting about it. i always hesitate to talk about yet another hobby in case i lose interest.
i'm still learning, but if you're interested to hear, read on and i'll share what i've come to find out about machine knitting so far...
even though i've been driven to learn, machine knitting has been very hard and challenging. i'm starting out with the most basic of machines, which in a lot of ways, is probably a better way for this impatient student to learn. nothing is computerized, everything is manual. this machine has a way of one minute making me feel like the smartest person on earth, and the next bringing me down to the reality of how anything good takes a whole lot of time to learn (and loss of hair and sleep).
the fact that i couldn't find even one pattern for a sweater to help me start off knitting on a machine meant i needed to start from square one on this project. i'm used to just trusting the hard work that someone else has put into a pattern with most of my knitting projects, and tweaking things along the way. i had to slow down enough to really, really deconstruct a sweater and understand the fit of a knit garment. it wasn't anything too different from drafting a sewing pattern, i just had to get out the old paper and pencil and do some math (use my brain? what?!) to figure out where to manipulate the stitches to decrease and increase rather than just deciding where to cut. the hardest obstacle was figuring out how to decrease for a sleeve cap since i wanted to create set-in sleeves. i read a couple good tutorials which helped me tackle the concept of spacing my decreases. i feel like this little project has was only the start of understanding machine knit pattern construction, and that's kind of exciting and intimidating all at the same time!
learning the quirks of a knitting machine can be time consuming. my machine would jam on parts of the front of the sweater that were effortless on the back. the yarn would break right when i was counting on it to hold up. whole stitches and rows would drop off the machine because i'd either forget a step or get going too fast. sometimes i'd have to only back up enough rows to fix the problem, and other times i'd have to completely start over. i don't know how many times i'd huff past doug and threaten that i was done for good, only to saunter back a couple hours later determined to finish.
i can't emphasize enough how much fun it is once you really get going though. there is absolutely no way i could have knit this in such a short amount of time (i'm guessing about two weeks total, pattern drafting and all) without a machine. every time i knock off 80+ rows of knitting within minutes, i just about die thinking how much time that takes me to hand knit that same amount, no matter how concentrated i am. despite the time it takes to learn about the technicalities of machine knitting, it's incredibly easier and quicker in so many ways. getting to the "i love this" or "this is not what i was expecting" stage of knitting is something that happens a lot quicker. you are able to see what you'd want to change in your next project without much wait, which also means the speed at which you learn is so much faster in comparison to hand-knitting. another benefit is that hands down, a machine knit swatch is better than any of my best hand knit samples. it's so uniform and perfect, it's thrilling.
i'm glad that my machine hasn't replaced my need to hand knit though. it helps that hand knit projects usually travel a whole lot easier, but the hand knit look, effort, and slower speed that goes into hand making something still appeals to me. in fact, the lack of speed is exactly what can be an advantage to hand knitting. the choices you have to make are spread out over a slower amount of time, but with machine knitting you have to really plan what you're going to do before you get going. since planning is not always my strong suit, i like that besides spending (wasting?) a lot of time researching patterns for things i want to hand-knit, i can usually just grab needles and yarn, knit a swatch and get going.
i feel really fortunate to finally have a tool that helps me create knit garments so much faster than i would have been able to before. i can't wait to see what else this knitting machine has in store for me!