Friday, March 12, 2010

Brand new machine? How do I start?

I see emails, maybe one or two a week, from beginners asking how to get started. I wrote another typical reply today, and thought I'd excerpt it for the blog:

Dear New Machine Knitter,

I suggest that you learn the main bed first and the ribber later. It's just too complicated to start right out trying to make complicated things that use both the main bed and the ribber when you’d be much less frustrated doing the main bed lessons first.

Is your machine a standard gauge? It is if the distance from the center of one needle to the next is 4.5 millimeters. A bulky machine is 9 millimeters from the center of one to the next.

Go skinny on the yarn for your standard machine, I mean really skinny. The skinny stuff will make your life better as you learn! You want lace or fingering weight on a cone. Say, 2/24 or 2/12 at the cone yarn websites. If you contact Stephanie’s yarn, she sells the industrial stuff and you can get a couple cones in contrasting colors to practice with. Tell Stephanie you are a beginner. Get colors that aren’t too dark or too bright. She’s a good gal - and her yarn is not very expensive. It takes a long time to use it up, though, as it comes in big cones. Cone yarn is even treated with a lubricant and knits more smoothly.

If you use cones, you don’t have to use your winder to prepare the yarn. If you do use the yarn winder, you want the yarn to come out of the ball with absolutely no tension at all. Either pull from the outside and put the whole winder core on the floor, or pull from the inside but have it wound quite loosely. Best place to put your yarn is on the floor – it feeds better if there is more distance from the yarn to the upper tension unit.

Okay, next thing, seriously, consider working right through my beginner course on videos. It’s free – all YouTube – and each lesson is 10 minutes or less (because that’s the YouTube limit). Just do ‘em in order. Don’t start right in wanting to knit a project, even if you are an accomplished hand knitter, weaver, or crocheter, because machine knitting is just plain different. Just "waste" some cheap yarn to make samples. In fact, whenever a new person comes to our club with a new machine, I like to give her two cones of thin yarn in contrasting colors so she can just knit samples.

At least, watch the videos, and learn the lingo and the machine knitting way of thinking about things. Right now, if you’re like I was, your machine is an enormous assortment of unfamiliar parts that do peculiar things, and the videos will really help. I have taught a lot of people to knit in this way. Here’s the link to the list of lessons:

My blog ( is crammed with all kinds of other machine knitting stuff, a beginner course, a ribber course, a garter bar course, and lots of project videos and patterns. I am pretty much devoted to providing beginner materials.

Do swatches first, before attempting a project. The Circular Swirl Baby Blanket is a good project. The beginner's V-neck kids' sweater is a very detailed video course showing how to do every step. There’s a fair isle sweater on the blog for kids that’s just rectangles, too.

You will benefit a lot from ideas and help from others. Here are two ways to find that. Go to Yahoo Groups and search on machine knitting, then sign up for the machine knitting list. It will send you emails from the other knitters, who are really nice and will answer almost any question you post to the list. Next idea, go to our club site, and look at the links. There are some great links there to get more information on the internet. (Then, on those sites, look at their link lists, and you can read forever and ever...) Finally, post a note on the machine knitting Yahoo group and ask everyone if there’s a knitting club in your city. You’ll probably find the closest one pretty quickly that way.

You would enjoy a machine knitting club. First of all, I’ve never met a knitting group that wasn’t a nice group of people; secondly, they usually have lessons, demos, and show-and-tell at their meetings, and thirdly, they are often affiliated with a dealer (although our club in Austin has no dealer L). A dealer can help you find all kinds of things and can answer questions, yet they are hardly ever pushy or unpleasant.

Good luck! Stay in touch!

Diana in Austin

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post. It gave me some very useful info. and I have been doing what you advised about learning slowly. I love your swirl blanket and short row hat. I have not managed to make the slipper yet but I will one of these days. But I have also, been able to figure out how to make my towel topper using my knitting machine instead of doing them by hand. Betweeen you and susyranner I am learning. Thanks