domestic machine knitting

anita chew, knit, knitting machine, knitwear

tools of the trade 3

Now that the knitting machine is all set up with yarn it’s time to knit.

The machine bed has 200 needles across it, which allows you to knit any width within that. By pulling forward the amount of needles you want to use and casting the yarn onto these only that number will knit. From here it’s just a matter of moving the carriage across the bed. Each pass knits one row. Simple as that.

On its basic settings the machine will knit a straight jersey or stockinet stitch. The front side of the fabric is a knit stitch while the back is a purl. It’s the equivalent of knit 1, purl 1 in hand knitting. The same techniques achieved with hand knits translate to the machine, things like Fair Isle, cables and lace work plus lots more.

Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals the world is your knitting oyster.

anita chew, knit, knitwear, queensland, yarn, knitting machine

tools of the trade 2

Yarn.

Without it, Betsy and I would be pretty useless.  

And by yarn, yes, I mean those balls of wool your mum or nana knit with. Except here’s the thing… it’s might not actually be wool which is why we call it yarn instead. It could be made from any type of fiber like acrylic or cotton or bamboo or yes, wool.  

yarn2.jpg

Just like the yarn that they use when knitting with two handheld needles, machine yarn comes in all varieties of fibers. What makes it slightly different is that machine yarn is generally a lighter weight or thinner yarn and is comes in larger quantities on cones rather than balls.

The cones make it easier for the yarn to be pulled off evenly without everything getting tangled. Betsy has a vertical yarn feeder that brings the yarn from the floor behind the machine up over the top via various hooks and eyes. This threading system allows you to adjust the tension of the yarn as it feeds into the machine. 

anita chew, knit, queensland

tools of the trade 1

Meet my Singer knitting machine (now I realise I should have named her)... Betsy.

I've had Betsy for about 3 years, which is only a very short part of her life. She was made around 1974 and has spent the majority of her time with a lady in Victoria. As her third owner, she spent some time with another RMIT knit graduate for a few years before I bought her during my final year of uni studying textiles in Melbourne. 

Domestic knitting machines like Betsy are a bit unheard of these days but were big business back in the day. Your nana has probably got one tucked away in a cupboard or the back shed that's been untouched for decades. Depending on the make, model and condition they can still bring in a bit of money today. Recently I met a lovely lady, Thelma, who told me about how she bought her first knitting machine, a $1100 Passap, back in the 80's from Myer. Interestingly today Thelma could realistically get a similar price if she sold that exact machine. 

I'll be posting more about Betsy and her workings but maybe in the meantime go check out what you can find in your Nana's back shed.