How to Make a Sweater on a Knitting Machine. Hand Knitter’s Guide. Part I.

Several days ago I started my Mineral Heather sweater on a knitting machine. I know that some of you have never seen the knitting machine in action, or have been thinking about buying one, or just curios about how it works. I decided to do a mini-guide on making a sweater on a knitting machine. This is not a step-by-step tutorial where I walk you through every stage of the process. It’s mostly an overview of what knitting machine is, what it does and how it works, mainly from a hand knitter’s point of view. When I was choosing my knitting machine it was the information that was missing – I couldn’t find a place where the mechanism of knitting machine would be explained from the point of view of hand knitting. I think this way it is much easier to get the idea of what to expect from the machine. This overview is not going to teach you how to use the knitting machine. If you buy your own machine some day, the manual is the best way to start. There are many helpful YouTube videos and you can always visit Machine Knitting group on Ravelry for any technical question.

When I first got an idea to buy a knitting machine, I hardly imagined what it was, how much it cost and how to use it. All I knew is that I loved knitwear and yarn and wanted to experiment with this kind of craft. I did a very thorough research before picking up my first knitting machine. One of the best places to start your knitting machine education is Angelika’s Yarn Store website, where she writes reviews of the most popular knitting machines, shares tutorials and other useful information. The best article to start with is What Every Hand Knitter Should Know Before Buying a Knitting Machine where she covers the differences and similarities between machine and hand knitting.

In this review I will share my experience and how I make things on my knitting machine. I am definitely not a professional machine knitter, but I think, my point of view as a hand knitter who occasionally does machine knitting, will be useful to those who are just considering the machine knitting or just plainly curious about it.

Ok, this is how my process of making Mineral Heather looks like. I am posting black-and-white pictures because I think this way all the details are much clearer. And this way you can’t see the rust on my machine 🙂

First of all I decide what kind of garment I want to make. The shape, the fit and so on. Then I do all the numbers and write down instructions for myself to follow. There are machine knitting patterns out there, so you don’t have to do it all by yourself. My machine (Silver Reed LK150) is very simple and it can’t do the ribbing. You can do the ribbing manually transferring stitches, but it takes more time this way than doing it by hand, at least for me. So, I am knitting my ribbing for the desired length by hand.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Then I place the carriage on the needle bed. The carriage is like your hands in hand knitting. It does the work of knitting the stitches.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

These little knobs are the “heads” of the needles. Each knob is a needle. Here you can also see the row counter. Every time you pass the carriage across the needle bed, the number goes up. It is very useful, as the exact row count is much more important in machine knitting than in hand knitting. When you are hand knitting a piece, you can stop and measure it to see how much is left before the desired length. But on the machine the fabric is really stretched and distorted, so you can never do your measurements while the piece is still on the needles. You can rely only on your raw gauge and follow it exactly.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

The next step for me is to push forward the necessary amount of needles. For example, according to my calculations I need 82 sts for the back, so I push forward 82 needles.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

They don’t really look like needles, more like long crochet hooks. The next thing I do is to put my knitting off the usual needle on the knitting machine. I put one stitch on one needle, one by one. Wrong side is facing me.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Then I push the needles with stitches on back to the working position.The stitches should be secured on the needles, so they don’t jump off when I move the carriage across them.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Now I am ready to thread the yarn. First I carry it through the yarn feeder – this is basically a place where you “connect” your fabric on a needle bed with the carriage.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Then I go through several tension guides. It is almost like threading sewing machine, only much easier, at least for me, I am a hopeless seamstress 🙂

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine how to make a sweater on a knitting machine
how to make a sweater on a knitting machine how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

This is what you get at the end.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Next step is to adjust the stitch dial. Stitch dial is like the needle size in hand knitting. It will determine how many stitches/rows per inch you will get. For this sweater I chose 6.5. This number doesn’t correspond to needle size in hand knitting. You have to try several stitch dial adjustments to see how the fabric behaves. The higher the stitch dial, the less stitches per inch you will get. The thickness of yarn also determines the stitch dial number. The thicker the yarn, the higher the number. It is also worth mentioning that your machine can’t knit all weights of yarn out there. Your knitting machine is like a set of knitting needles – there are a lot of them, but not an infinite number, which means that some yarns just won’t work on the machine. I am using one of the most universal machines – it is mid-gauge and it covers a great range of yarn weights.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

When I first got my machine I was quiet scared – what did I get myself into?! It didn’t look like knitting at all. It is not really a hobby that you can take to your cozy couch and relax. You need to have a special place for the machine, you need to sit straight, move the carriage across the needle bed, watching the tension and making sure that everything is going smoothly. It is a manual work and I am definitely not choosing to work on the knitting machine after a long day at work. I love to do it early in the mornings or at weekends when I am full of energy. But I do enjoy it a lot! It is really fun to watch how the smooth (given that you are watching the yarn tension!!) rows of fabric are growing. It is a domestic knitting machine that has very little to do with mass product knitting machines. There is a lot of hand work involved. I would definitely label the piece knitted on the domestic knitting machine as “handmade”.

Now the fun part begins – knitting!! I decided to set a timer and let you know in how much time I knit 10 rows, without any shaping involved. Well, ready? 10 rows in 32 seconds!!! Pretty fast, right?

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Well, I think this is enough information for today. I don’t want to give you a headache 🙂 Next week I will show you how I do the shaping – increases, decreases, binding off and so on. Who knows maybe you will consider getting a knitting machine for yourself!

Joining knitting and reading Yarn Along today. I got Mark Twain from the library and can’t wait to dive into the collection of his short stories today.

Enjoy your week and stay safe!

How To Make a Sweater on a Knitting Machine Part II


RELATED POSTS

7-11-15-machine-knitting-sweater-3
Mineral Heather Sweater
Machine Knitting
New Dress Is On The Way
Machine Knitting Dress
The Violet Gift Dress. Details.

34 Comments

  1. WoW!!! an art all in itself. the yarn is beautiful, i really like the color. i have yet to be brave enough to knit a sweater, but soon i will become bored with hats and scarfs and will be ready to move on. happy knitting!!!!

  2. I had one long ago, but never got the hang of it. Now I wish I had not sold it at a yard sale! Oh well, maybe one day.

    • It is true that it is hard to fall in love with machine knitting immediately. I was so disappointed at first, but as you learn more about it, you become “hooked”! Maybe someday you will buy one again!

  3. What an informative post! I’ve been meaning to ask you for more on machine knitting! 🙂 I had no idea what it was but I didn’t expect it to be so…. manual!
    Surely you can call the finished product handmade!!!
    I can’t wait for part 2!
    10 rows in 32 seconds??? Hello new world! 😀

    • Oh, I am glad you found it useful, Zeta! It is very manual! Some people think of machine knitting as cheating, but it is so far from the truth! It is just a different kind of craft. It does take quiet some time to prepare everything for the project. but once you are set – it goes like a breeze!

  4. I think a knitting machine would frighten me as well! Very cool craft though 🙂

  5. love all the information and your pictures are terrific!

  6. Thank you for this Alina, I learned so much and must tell you I am fascinated by the whole knit machine process. !0 rows in 32 seconds is just amazing! I am looking forward to your next blog post 🙂

  7. Thanks so much for sharing this, I am indeed one of those hand-knitters that did not understand the mechanism of knitting machines at all. This clarifies a lot!

  8. I can’t wait till the next post. I would love to get a knitting machine. I live about 10 minutes away from Mark Twain’s house. I’ve visited it many times. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house is right next door to his and you can tour her house as well. 10 rows in 32 seconds. Hmm, takes me longer than that just to pick up the needles 🙂

    • As you are good at sewing, I think you will learn the machine knitting very fast! I would love to visit Twain’s house! He is one of my favorite authors!

  9. Anna! This is a great post. You always have great posts, but this one definitely fit the bill for explaining the process of knitting with a knitting machine for someone like me who’s been immensely curious about it all, but not likely to invest in a machine any time soon. Your pictures were the perfect accompaniment to the explanations given. BTW, those hooks remind me of latch hooks. Maybe that’s exactly what they are. When my boys were younger they all made latch hook pillows and the hooks they used were identical (as far as I can tell) to those on your knitting machine, only they had a rounded handle on the end. It’s interesting to see how the same/similar tool is used in different processes. Can’t wait for Part 2!

  10. oh wow, this is so fascinating! Thank you so much for putting this together, and with so many helpful photos. I love the idea of a knitting machine, but find the concept really intimidating. This is really helpful! Does the machine work with waist shaping, too? can it do increases and decreases?

  11. This bought back memories Alina. My mother had a knitting machine when I wad a child. I remember being fascinated by all the parts it had and watching the knitting grow fast! I also remember lying in bed listening to the whir of my mum pushing the carriage back and forth. She made most of our clothes back then and I have no doubt that it was a huge time saver for her.

    • Oh, I love this whirring sound of the machine, though some people find it disturbing 🙂 Having a machine is very practical indeed. As I stopped buying any knitwear, it helps me a lot to catch up on my winter wardrobe.

  12. Alina, thanks so much for all this detail. I know I was one of the people who commented before that I’d love to find out more about a knitting machine when you’d posted about some of the beautiful pieces you have made on yours. It definitely doesn’t replace hand-knitting but there is so much potential to make items special in their own way. I still think I probably have to wait to get a knitting machine until we move into a bigger house (my workspace here is jammed enough as it is) but I’m saving this for that time.

    • Machine knitting definitely can’t replace hand knitting! It is a completely different kind of craft. I hope you will find the opportunity to get one for yourself in the nearest future!

  13. Thank you for detailing the process (and for the wonderful close up pictures). I can’t wait to see more of the sweater and find out the mysteries of shaping using the machine. Is yours able to knit with more than one color or do colourwork patterns? Machine knitting is like a whole new world to me but I would not rule it out as a possibility for the future because I love how speedy it is. Wow, 10 rows in 32 seconds!

  14. Wonderful tips, Alina ! I’ve just started to learn ho to use my Silver Reed SK-840 and it seems like I’m never going to master it to make anything worth wearing. I’m glad to find out you successfully combine hand-knitted parts with machine-knitted ones. I’m going to try and do the same with my machine. Thanks a lot!

    • Oh, I felt absolutely the same about my machine first couple of months 🙂 Just stick to it. And I am so happy to hear that this tutorial is helpful. I am really looking forward to more machine knitting out there, this is such a great craft!

  15. This is one of the best explanations I have seen on the use of a non-complex knitting machine. I believe your Silver Reed is the same as an old Studio machine that I have, but have not used for years. I also have a Bond machine, which I used to sell, and plan to set up both, as soon as I can find space in my “new” abode. The only thing I do differently, is to knit the body first then transfer to hand knitting of the ribbing. I look forward to the next instructional article.

    • Oh, thank you so much, Carol! This makes me really happy 🙂 I love your idea of knitting the body first and then hand knit the ribbing – this way we can also adjust the length! Thank you so much for a tip!

  16. Ioanna Economou

    Dear Alina,
    I would love to buy a knitting machine but i don’t know where to look, do you have any suggestions?

  17. I found your post useful. I’m in nigeria currrently and i need your recommendation for best knitting machine to buy that can dualize functions like name writing and pattern

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*