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Jessica Joy

Knitwear designer and writer

Adventures in Machine Knitting: Part 1

By a crazy stroke of luck, I was given a vintage punch card knitting machine this week. Oh my gosh! Along with a big box of pretty cones to practice with. I’ve been curious to play with one for so long, so I wasted no time getting started. I’m not sure it’s been used in a few decades (and it kinda smells that way, ew), but it seems to be in perfect working order.

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Knitmaster Knitting Machine

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Knitmaster Machine Knitting

My first hurdle was to track down a manual, there was no way this thing was moving from the box without one. After a few hours I struck gold and set about poking and prodding it rather quizzically, trying to follow the very basic instructions. There were so many little buttons and switches, I didn’t know its arse from its tension rod, but somehow I got it slotted together, and had cast on a little blue swatch. Cue excited squeals!

Casting on seems to be the fiddliest bit of all. After my initial success it took about 20 goes before I could do it again. Cue frustrated screams! If anyone has any tips or pointers, I’m all ears. At this point the smell of ‘old’ was getting to me, so I gave my new toy a wipe-down and oiled up all the moving parts. There’s a little accessories box on the top that perplexes me. It’s full of many a plastic widget and poking device that I have no idea what to do with, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.

In the end I managed to negotiate changing colours for stripes, and playing with the tension dial to make ‘textured’ stripes, but haven’t graduated from a plain knit rectangle yet. I attempted to decrease a few stitches at one time and the whole swatch fell crashing to the ground. Hum.

My next adventure in machine knitting is to (master increases and decreases) investigate the punch card feature to create patterns and lace. It looks incredible, like one of those little wind up musical toys. If the setting up instructions were sparse in the manual, the punch card instructions are non-existant, this may be tricky. If any of you have experience of machine knitting I’d love to hear your thoughts, tips, struggles – please do share.

8 comments
  1. Sophie (onetenzeroseven) says: 18 May 20131:53 pm

    Oh my God, I am so jealous of you right now!!

    x xx

  2. Miss Knit Nat says: 23 May 201311:30 am

    Hi Jessica, how exciting you have a knitting machine! I got mine last year and it’s sooooo frustrating when it falls off (all the time!) but so so exciting when you get it going, hoorah! I did a short course last year at Greenwich college and hoping to do another in July, I also have a couple of books I can recommend as I also found it difficult to find much online, one of the main ones we learnt from was The Machine Knitting book by John Allen. My machine is being serviced at the moment (I miss it so much!) but I’m picking it up again on Saturday yay! Have fun x

    • Jess says: 23 May 20137:05 pm

      Thanks so much for the tips, Nat! I’ve been looking around for courses in Bristol but they’re few and far between (and pricy!) – think i’ll have to save up for those, or travel to a better one. How did you find yours?

      I think my machine will need a proper service at some point too. I’ve just been reading about sponge bars and how I probably need a new one – oh joy. Thanks for the book recommendation, too, I’ll have to order that one – I love how everything machine knitting is so retro!

      Good luck with yours at the weekend!xx

  3. Miss Knit Nat says: 23 May 20138:28 pm

    I know I love that it’s all so retro! My course was really good and I’m doing the same one again in July, it’s three days and only about £70 which I thought was a bargain! We learnt on the single bed machines and learnt loads of techniques, shaping and folding over hems, lace and fair isle! I have a ribber as well but no idea how to use it yet so I bought a book about that too at the weekend. The other thing I found was a garter bar where you can pick all the stitches off the machine and turn them over to do garter stitch, so exciting!! You probably will need a new sponge bar, I thought mine was ok as I had been using it but then took it out and it was completely flat! Ah can’t wait to get my machine back and play now, have fun! Xx

    • Jess says: 30 May 201312:29 pm

      That’s a fantastic deal – I might have to consider a little field trip. Oo exciting, a ribber would be great fun. Mine came with a lace carriage, but I think I need to master the basics before I crack that open. Hope you’re enjoying being re-united!xx

  4. Adventures and Tea Parties says: 29 May 20136:41 pm

    Awesome! Can’t wait to see what you create with it! I’d love to try one out some day soon. Happy knitting! :-) x

    • Jess says: 30 May 201312:33 pm

      Hehe, thanks Jo! So far, just a big mess but there’s hope yet.xx

  5. avonlady,hants says: 18 November 20131:48 pm

    am considering machine knitting as didn’t take to hand knitting (no patience!). have been offered 4 different knitting machines, but they all look so intimidating with all the fiddly parts. was offered a fold up machine, and as have little space to store that seemed like a good idea. can’t find one anywhere on the internet thou. any comments, tips please?

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