Last week I introduced you to the knitting machine and generally explained the mechanism of this tool. You can read it here – Part I. Today I am going to show you how I do the shaping and fix mistakes in my fabric. Again I want to point out that this is not the step-by-step tutorial on machine knitting, I am sure there are much better resources out there. My main goal is to introduce a hand knitter to this craft and maybe tempt him to buy a knitting machine 🙂
When I just got my machine, I felt quiet lost with it. Simple things that you do without thinking in hand knitting seemed completely undoable on the machine. And I guess this is one of the reasons why some people feel disappointed and discouraged with machine knitting. It’s helpful to refer to your hand knitting knowledge, but you should also realize that it’s not completely the same. It’s like crochet and knitting – these crafts have a lot in common, but each has its own aspects. So, the bottom line – do not expect machine knitting to be a speedy hand knitting’s twin.
How to Join a New Skein of Yarn on the Knitting Machine
For example, hand knitters usually don’t have any trouble to attach a new ball of yarn. But how to do it on the machine? It’s worth to mention that it’s better to use big cones of yarn for your machine, so you don’t have to change them very often. But I do just fine with my stash yarn for hand knitting. The most important thing to remember is that you always have to attach new yarn from the side where your carriage is. It’s better to leave a longer tail, than end up with unknitted (is it even a word?) last stitches.
First of all I have to thread a new yarn. I do it just like I showed you in part one, the only difference is that I start from the opposite direction (when I thread it the first time I started from the machine, because I made the ribbing by hand and placed it on the needles bed). So after I go through all yarn tension guides, I end up with the tail in the yarn feeder of the carriage. I pull the yarn down and then I move the carriage across the bed, still holding the yarn tail, so it doesn’t slip away.
Then I tie two yarn tails (one from the first skein and the other from the new one). I’ll hide them both in seams later.
So, the next question from you was – can the machine do the shaping (increases, decreases, bind off, etc.)? Well, I would put the question in a slightly different way – can YOU do the shaping ON the knitting machine? I accentuate this because I’ve seen and heard many comments with the note of disappointment – Oh, it’s machine knitting, I thought it was made by hand. I also read about this concern on Ella Gordon’s blog, she is a terrific machine knitter. Ella has designed beautiful pillows which she makes on the machine. In general people love her craft, but she mentions that once in a awhile there are ones that are disappointed and refuse to buy her creations because it is done BY the machine. Well, for me it is like saying – Oh, it’s not handmade, it’s done BY the needles. You see what I am saying? Machine is just a tool and your hands are the ones that are creating the fabric. Maybe it is the word itself – “machine” that confuses people. But as you will see, I do a lot by hand, some shaping manipulations take me even more time than in my hand knitting.
So. Shaping. Yes, you can do the shaping on the knitting machine. Basically, you can take any basic stockinette stitch pattern for hand knitting, try adjusting the stitch dial to get the recommended gauge and work from this pattern to make a garment on your knitting machine. You’ll have to “translate” some things to machine knitting reality, but overall it’s basically the same thing.
How To Decrease Stitches on the Knitting Machine
Once you are done with your numbers or if you are working from the pattern, you determined on what rows the decreases fall, you can start your shaping. This is the main tool that I use – Transfer Tool.
To make a full fashion decrease (one stitch in from the edge), I push forward 3 last working needles. I take two end stitches on the Transfer Tool and move them one needle in.
The last needle is left empty. You will push it to non-working position – one stitch is decreased.
You will do the same on the opposite side. You can see there are two stitches on the second needle and the last one is left empty. It is basically the same thing as k2tog or ssk decrease in hand knitting.
How to Increase Stitches on the Knitting Machine
I push two last working needles forward plus one empty needle.
With the Transfer tool I place the last stitch onto the adjacent empty needle.
Then I pick the loop BELOW the second stitch and place it onto the empty needle – 1 stitch increased. I do the same on the opposite side. It’s basically the same thing when you do increase by knitting in stitch below in hand knitting.
How to Bind Off Stitches on the Knitting Machine
I am making a modified drop shoulder pullover, which means that I will have to bind off stitches for armhole shaping. Bind off can be done only on the carriage side, just like in hand knitting you can bind off your stitches only on the working needle side.
I push forward 3 last working needles and transfer the last stitch to the adjacent needle. Important thing – the transferred stitch has to be under the stitch that was originally on this needle. Which means to transfer it, you have to lift the second stitch first, then place the last stitch on the second needle and then put the original stitch back on. Sounds awfully complicated, but it’s very easy when you are actually doing it. It looks like a regular decrease but you are not done yet.
The empty needle is pushed back to non-working position. Two stitches on the last working needle are pushed slightly back behind the latch on the needle. The tread that is coming from the carriage is placed on the needle, holding the yarn, I push this needle back – two stitches slip off the needle – 1 stitch is bound off.
I continue in this manner until all necessary stitches are bound off. For example, I need to bind off 10 stitches, so working in this manner I will eventually empty 10 needles.
Then I knit even necessary number of rows. Next shoulder and neckline shaping.
How to Shape Shoulders and Neckline on the Knitting Machine
Here is your hand knitting knowledge will serve you well. As you know you can shape shoulders in hand knitting by binding off stitches in steps or use short rows. You can do both on the knitting machine. I chose to do short rows, as they result in much smother shoulder line.
As in every short row shaping you don’t work x amount of stitches at the end of the row. Here it’s the same. Before working your first short row, you push the last needles (the number depends on the pattern or on your own calculations how many stitches should stay unworked for short row shaping) to the non-working position.
You will make some adjustments on your carriage – your manual will tell you which ones – and knit the row. The last stitches won’t be knitted and the yarn will lay across them.
Do your remember that in short rows you do wrap&turn to avoid the hole? Here is the same story – you wrap the first (from the inside) needle.
So, you continue in this manner, until you are done with short rows.
Neckline. You are left with x number of neckline center stitches. You can leave the neckline stitches open or bind them off. I prefer the second option, as the neckband looks much better later.
You can leave the neckline stitches open or bind them off. I prefer the second option, as the neckband looks much better later.
Then you knit one more row on each shoulder – you will do it separately, as shoulders are divided by the neckline. And bind off shoulder stitches. You can also just take them from the machine and use three needle bind off later. Whatever you prefer.
This is how I do the shaping on the knitting machine. I am sure there are other ways and I have a lot to learn, but I hope it was helpful for you to have a general idea what it looks like.
How to Fix Mistakes on the Knitting Machine
One more thing I wanted to tell you is how I fix mistakes. When you do machine knitting, it doesn’t mean that your fabric will be always perfect – sometimes you don’t watch the tension, or don’t notice the slipped stitch and so on. For example, here – you can see that something went wrong and I noticed it rows later. Oh, by the way these clamps are weights that pull your fabric down, so the stitches don’t slip off the machine.
What I do is I unravel all the rows to the place where I made a mistake.
And with the help of the usual crochet hook, I fix the stitches – one by one.
Well, this is what I wanted to share with you on the machine knitting. I really hope I didn’t bore you to death 🙂 Then I do the same thing for front, sleeves, block, then I seam the pieces together and weave in ends – just like in hand knitting.
If after this overview a thought of buying a knitting machine crawled into your head, it will make me really happy 🙂 There are many reasons why you can be considering buying a knitting machine. As for me, I decided to get a machine, because I made a decision not to buy any knitwear in the store, but try to make everything on my own. Of course, it’s not physically possible with hand knitting, at least for me. The machine doesn’t consume any energy, it’s completely manually operated, I still get a handmade piece that I know where it comes from and I get to work with yarn, which is always a bonus. And it’s great for gift knitting! But can I tell you my secret number#1 reason for getting a knitting machine?! DRESSES. Yep, I am completely obsessed with dresses, especially crochet and knit ones. I cannot explain it, but there is some gravitational pull between me and knit/crochet dresses 🙂 It would take me forever to make all the dresses that I want by hand, but the machine opens new horizons! Here are some that I made on this machine. I made more, but before starting a blog, so they are not documented 🙂
You can also read about a professional machine knitter that I did the interview with. She’s been making her living with custom orders on the knitting machine for many years. Her story is truly fascinating – World Crafter. Tessa. Los Barriles, Mexico.
I am sure I didn’t cover all the aspects of machine knitting – it is just not possible. So let’s keep discussion going – ask me in the comments any questions that you are interested in and I’ll do my best to answer them! It would be also great to know your opinion about machine knitting in general!
Joining Yarn Along.