Well yes, I seem to have picked up another new fibre-crafting hobby!
A few weeks ago, I somehow ended up on Facebook Marketplace, and noticed someone in my neighbourhood was selling something called the Ultimate Sweater Machine…
It’s the ultimate!
I mean, how could I pass that up?! It even has the prestigious “As Seen on TV” award 😉
I knew nothing about machine knitting, but I love crafting tools and learning new skills, so I couldn’t resist.
The machine was complete but for the instruction manual and – oh! the tragedy! – the patterns for the ’90s-chic designs pictured on the box. It did come with some instructions, but I have no way to view them…
Yep, this is old!
I began to question the sanity of my purchase, but thank goodness for YouTube – there were plenty of tutorials there to get me started. I clamped the machine to the front of a desk and I was ready to go:
I got lucky – the machine matches the length of my desk perfectly
My machine is about as simple as it gets. It only knits stockinette, and there’s no motor or electronics or automation – you operate it by pushing the carriage back and forth across the row of latch hooks. One pass equals one row of stockinette.
Pretty latch hooks, all in a row
In case you’re like me and wondering how on earth this works, here’s a 10-second explanation: inside the purple carriage, the angled bars on the green plate direct the raised peg near the back of each hook, which pushes each hook in and out as you move the carriage along. The hook is moved forwards to grab the yarn in the open latch, and then moved backwards, which closes the latch, draws the new yarn through the existing stitch, and drops the old stitch off the hook.
It’s a simple but clever mechanism
It’s possible to make increases, decreases, lace and cables with the machine, but you have to move each stitch in turn into its new position (which takes ages) before you knit each row – it’s a completely manual process.
(If you wanted to do ribbing, or any other stitch pattern consisting of both knits and purls, there’s no way to do that except to drop every stitch that should be a purl, and hook it back up in the other direction with a crochet hook or latch hook – I’m not sure if you’d save much time at all after all that faffing around!)
After a few stitch-dropping fiascos, I got the hang of the machine and knitted a rag hem (a reusable provisional weighted hem). The machine is incredibly fast when you’re just knitting back and forth – it just takes a couple of seconds to knit a full row!
Woohoo! I knitted something on the machine!
I made two more rag hems, both for practice using the machine and as gauge swatches for my first ‘proper’ project (blog post coming soon…)
And here’s the rag hem in action as I start swatching for another project:
- The weighted rod slides inside the bottom edge of the hem to weigh down the project
- The pink thread temporarily attaches the project to the hem
- The yellowish-green yarn is the first row of my project
Rag hem in action
Here’s the finished swatch before I bound it off. It looks pretty strange, because the stitches are hugely stretched out across the machine, and the front of the fabric faces away from you as you knit:
Knitting in progress (with the rag hem at the bottom)
After removing the project from the machine, the stretched stitches retract back into regular knitted fabric. Flip it over, and you have rows and rows of stockinette:
Looks like knitting!
I have big plans for this machine – in theory, I should be able to design a handknit sweater and knit my design much more quickly than on manual needles. You may consider it cheating, but I’ll still have to form every increase and decrease myself at the right places, and do all the assembly and knit the ribbing by hand. It’s just a different way to knit, and I think I’m going to enjoy it!
Have you ever tried machine knitting? Or do you think it’s cheating to use a machine?!
I’d love to hear about your experiences, or if you have any resources or tips to share. Let me know in the comments below!