Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why I Prefer Electronic Machines Instead of Punch Cards

I was corresponding with a reader last night and this morning and got into a whole discussion with my John over breakfast about electronic machines versus punch card ones  John said it would make a useful blog post.  So I'm taking some pieces from my note about electronic machines and writing a post.

Here's why I spend all that extra money on electronic machines, even though I am a thrifty (cheap) accountant who  hates to overspend:

1. I dislike the noise of punching the cards, I have to go off by myself because nobody else likes that noise, either, my hand gets tired, and I get bored. 
2. They take me a half hour each to punch - I'm probably slow, but I always feel that I have to mark and double-check the card first because mistakes are a problem.

3. The punch card machines come with a couple dozen cards, and the electronic machines come with 500+ patterns. Many electronic machines are designed to let you use part of a chart, or double it, or reverse it, varying it so that you effectively have a great many more designs.

4. I make a lot of mistakes punching cards, and it bugs me to have them taped over or mess up so badly that I have to use more cards.

5.  I don't like buying blank cards, and I even have a tendency to hoard them instead of punching them up  (dumb, now that I think about that).

6. I am very inventive and experimental about patterns and usually decide that the pattern would look better or work better with an extra row here or this closer together, etc., and then I have to punch another card.  I am just one of those people who wants something very specific in my patterns and will fiddle and fiddle.

6. Punch cards limit you to 24 stitches. That’s a lot, but not enough and sometimes too many. For instance, suppose you have an adorable grandchild and you want to make a sweater with his name across it and under that, a parade of different cute dinosaurs. We’re talkin’ 150 stitches wide…this is the kind of unusual knitting I would do. Or, I often knit things with borders, which can be 200 stitches wide with pattern in the middle plus borders, or multiple patterns across. Doing borders as part of the pattern is easier and looks better than sewing them on later.

7.  Some of the newer punch card machines let you put just one or two patterns where you want them by using a gizmo called an "isolation cam," but the older ones put them all across.  Also, some machines have the ability to always or never select the end needles, a wonderful option because I find it difficult to always stop and remember to check my end needles.  If the end needles are wrong, you can get raggedy side edges and/or ugly seams.  With electronics, you will generally be able to isolate and move the pattern to whatever needle numbers you want.  Some electronic machines don't have a setting for the end needles but have cams under the carriage that you can change.

8. Beeping in a pattern into an electronic machine or drawing it on mylar is almost as tedious as punching a card, but still not as bad. I use software and cables to store a zillion patterns and ideas in my PC and then download them into the machine, but that’s also expensive.  There are some cheaper software options than DAK but the cables are definitely an investment.

Everyone is different.  Some people a very happy to stick to the patterns that come with a machine, or they find that they don't use a lot of patterning.  Certainly they aren't as headstrong about how they specifically want the patterns to look (the patterns that come with the machine are already attractive).  You've got to know yourself, or be willing to have fun getting to know what matters to you.

Sometimes we find ourselves buying a series of items because we haven't bought exactly the right one.  I've certainly done that with household items.   Companies know this and constantly release new models, but for instance, I managed to find a sewing machine with just the right features for me and wasn't tempted for many, many years by different and newer models. 
If you have a reputable dealer in your area with brand new machines and free or inexpensive lessons, that is never a bad decision.  Maybe that dealer has a knitting club, a great stock of terrific yarn, or puts on seminars, even better! 

If you want/need a bargain, don't live anywhere near a dealer, or can't take advantage of lessons, there are better deals on used knitting machines than I have ever seen.  You have to wait and watch, but I see deals that make me almost swoon with jealousy on a regular basis.  I have gotten a few amazing deals, from someone who bought all the toys and wanted to keep it all together, by buying a huge package.  That's how I recently acquired a Studio electronic and that's how I got my Brother 970 with all the toys.


  1. great article Diana. Two questions.
    What version of Dak do you use? (an article on DAK would be good to see)

    What electronic machines do you use (a continuation of this article with a breif summary of each electronic machine would be great)

    Your blog and U-tube videos have been so helpful. I recently took a machine knitting class and the instructor was very impressed with how much I knew. I owe a big thank you to YOU!

  2. I am using Dak 7 Pro with the lace tool but plan to buy the new version. After all, my laptop is Windows 7, so I need the new one for that.

    Electronic machines - primarily I use the Brother 270, 965i, 970, Passap E6, and I just got a Studio 560. I also have a Singer 9000 but I have done pathetically little with it. So many fun things to do, so little time!

    You're welcome. I have an audacious goal - I want to teach more machine knitters than anyone ever has. Sometime this year I should pass 1 million video views!

  3. Thanks for sharing Diana. Can you share the differences between the 965I and 970? I want to purchase a standard electric and I'm not sure which one I should buy. I have a 270. Thanks Flower

  4. The 965 is more similar to the other, previous electronic machines, and the 970 is quite different with a separate little computer control box. There is a whole learning curve, and I found it difficult to learn from the manual.

    I do have one video on the 970, and because a lot of people write me and say it's difficult to learn, I've been thinking of filming some classes.

    The 970 is feature-rich, though, a very deluxe machine.

  5. I have a silver reed sk840 which i am so very pleased with. Now i am learning to knit lace. I am rather new to machine knitting.

  6. I have to agree with you Diana I also have the brother 970 and hate the manual. I am now looking for another brother electronic machine or possibly a studio/singer electronic. What would you recommend? Deb

  7. Your 970 is a wonderful machine. Check out the instructions at Daisy Knits. Also, call Charlene Shafer at the Knit Knack Shop, or go to her website and order her book on it. I really should do a 970 course...not enough hours in the day or days in the year... one of these days.