Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Yarn and Knitting Machines

I get questions about what yarn to buy and what knitting machine to buy.

I've done most of my videos on a Brother 270, which is a "bulky" knitting machine, because it's the biggest gauge I have and therefore allows the biggest pictures and clearest closeups.

I'm not a good person to ask which gauge machine to buy because I believe I need them all! You could ask your dealer to show you things made by the different machines and look through the knitting books to compare the results. Then there's the cost issue, and the visibility issue, and the versatility issue. I did post on this a while back: http://diananatters.blogspot.com/2009/08/choosing-your-first-knitting-machine.html

As for the yarn question, please don't get the idea that you can use a lot of fancy, bulky handknitting yarns on the "bulky" machine. It takes up through worsted weight yarn and not much thicker at all. If the yarn is hairy, furry, eyelashy, bumpy, kinky, uneven, that makes it knit up much bigger. I urge you, as you're learning, to use smooth, thin yarn, thinner than you think is necessary, so you don't have a struggle caused by the choice of yarn.

For the midgauge (6 or 6.5 mm) you need sport-weight yarn or thinner.

For the standard gauge machine (4.5 or 5 mm) you need thinner than sport-weight yarn, fingering weight, lace weight, or industrial/machine knitting yarn.

The process of learning machine knitting and choosing what to knit is kind of like looking for clothes. If you go to the store searching for a red silk wrap dress with a swingy skirt, you're unlikely to find it. If you go to the store determined to try on available dresses and see what looks good on you, you'll find a dress.

If you start machine knitting by following machine knitting lessons, books and patterns, pretty soon you know what the machines will do, and you're bursting with ideas. If you go into it wanting to duplicate Aunt Irene's handknit Celtic sweater, you'll be frustrated and miss most of the fun.


  1. Question! I have a bulky weight machine which I have owned for about a year now, the singer sk155 with ribber. I have fallen in love with a brand of lace weight yarn and would like to do an open-knit shawl/cardigan with it, but I'm afraid the yarn may be too thin for my machine. Or do you think I would be able to get away with it? Another option may be to double knit the yarn, but I am still a novice and not sure if that would work. Any advice?

  2. I think it's too thin for your machine. I have used true lace weight yarn with my standard gauge, and it's actually a little thin for that machine.