Monday, June 9, 2008

"Machine Knit"

(Raspberry Shawl - manual machine knit, with hand crochet border. Currently available from our Etsy shop.

I recently had a coversation where the term "Machine knit" was used. It went something like this:

Other person: I thought you hand-made all your items?

Me: I do.

OP: But this items says machine knit.

Me: It's a manual machine, not an automatic machine.

OP: But if it's done by a machine, then it's not hand-made.

Me: Hand-made means it's done by hand. The machine is powered by hand, and all stitches are manually made, since you work the stitches by hand - you just work more than one stitch at a time.

OP: But you're using a machine...

And so the conversation went.

A manual knitting machine is a very simple thing. It's a row of 100 hooks. After casting on the yarn, you push a carriage across with one hand, feeding the yarn with another, which make 100 knit stitches. Push it across again, and you made another 100 stitches.

Nothing happens on it's own. If you want any stitches that are not knit stitches, you have to make the stitch, then "drop" it and re-work it. Same thing with cables - you have to take the stitches off the hooks, put them into position, then slide the carriage over.

In other words, unless you are doing straight knitting, it's a pain. Single end of row color changes are pretty easy, but any real color work is not.

On the plus side, when you need to do large areas of stright, single color knitting, it's a great item to use. It cuts down time and boredom considerably.

For large items, I will often do both manual machine knit and hand knit for the same item. This shades of blue sweater I made for my son was done using both methods.
Using needles, I cast on the front and back and worked the ribbing. Then I placed those pieces on the machine, and worked it up to the neckline area. I took it off the machine, back onto regular needles for finishing. Same basic thing on the sleeves - regular needles for the cuff ribbing, machine for the arms, regular needles for the cap and bind-off. Pieces sewn together by hand.
Either way, it's still hand made.

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