machine knitting

anita chew, handmade, knit

TT: Fashion Illustration

Textile inspiration can start with anything really. But normally, for me, it begins with either an illustration, croquis (which is a small test pattern) or photo. Illustrations, especially fashion ones give a lot more information than the other options. This can be really helpful in deciding things like fibre, density of the fabric, and even how much detail may or may not be added. Like any form of design outcome (and probably like most things in life?) the more you know, the better off you are. 

INSPIRATION: Hand drawn fashion illustration

INSPIRATION: Hand drawn fashion illustration

OUTCOME: Lightweight silk with hand embroidered weaving in 

OUTCOME: Lightweight silk with hand embroidered weaving in 

anita chew, handmade knitwear australia, knit, handmade

Make My Beanie

Recently I’ve been running my very first competition, #MakeMyBeanie. To enter you had to colour in the supplied beanie template with the winner receiving his or her own beanie made. 

I had some great entries but from the start I was hoping to get one that would push the creative boundaries a bit, something that may be a bit of a challenge. And I always look at a kid’s artwork and see amazing textile potential, so for me choosing the winner was a pretty easy choice.

Normally I create adult size beanies but because of the design it seemed necessary to scale down a little. So firstly, a bit of math and some basic planning was required. 

Because in knitting we start at the bottom and work upwards the first real challenge was how to create that rib. I thought the easiest way to achieve a similar black and white mix was to simply knit one black yarn and one white yarn together to create a marl effect. Interesting as it knitted it created obvious horizontal lines which initially I wasn't so fond of but grew on me (probably because there was no easy fix). 

Once the full piece of knitting was done it was time to embroider the coloured design into the fabric. Using both swiss darning and backstitch techniques I did the design by eye rather than drawing it out first. While it means it's slightly disproportionate in places I hoped it would help recreate the free loose line work of the original. 

 

From there it was just a matter of finishing touches like the pom pom and tidying up all the loose ends. I have to confess I LOVED this project (enough that I'll probably run another one next year), and I am SUPER happy with the result. I hope it's new owner will be as well. 

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.