Monday, November 22, 2010

Update: Goldilocks Challenge

Did you think about getting a Bond knitting machine (Ultimate Sweater Machine)?  If not, think about it again.  This week, Hobby Lobby has a 40% off coupon.  No affiliation, I just like Hobby Lobby, and they carry this machine and lots of nice yarn.

Now, some tips for when you bring it home:

  • Did you know there's a great video in the box?  Pull that out and watch it!  You might even want to watch it twice, if you're not a machine knitter.
  • You've got to find an appropriate table for it.  The video shows what kind of table you need.  If you're really going to be happy knitting with it, you need a good, flat surface where you can clamp the machine.
  • Because I knit on other machines, I have a longstanding habit of cluttering the area behind the machine with my tools.  Don't do that with a USM!  Try to put your tools down at one end of the machine, because the best way to feed the yarn is to follow the video - lay the skein down on the table behind the machine and pull out some lengths of yarn before you knit each row.  Tools and odds and ends will catch on the yarn, and when the yarn gets caught, the machine stops.  
  • If you're a handknitter, you probably don't even think about pulling a little yarn out at a time and then knitting.  But - the USM knits at a furious rate and you'll need to pull out about a yard of yarn for just one row of knitting a foot wide!  Get used to the idea that now that you have a knitting machine, you have to feed it!  Chomp, chomp.  In goes the yarn, and out comes the knitting.  If you forget to pull out some yarn before a row, the machine gets hungry and beastly and refuses to knit any more.
  • Expect to be very uncomfortable at first, even if you're a machine knitter.  This machine is different.  You need to practice knitting with this one, which requires NO tension no the yarn (versus most other machines, which deliver yarn at a steady tension) and which requires more weight than we're used to on the other machines.  Also, you have to pull up the yarn at the beginning of each row.  Now, if you're a hand knitter, the whole thing is awkward, so give yourself a little time.  Suspect judgment until you have your first beautiful object knitted, okay?
  • Also, if you're a hand knitter, you're going to go through the whole machine adjustment.  The differences between hand knitting and machine knitting are enormous, so don't try to convert your hand knit patterns right away.  Instead, check out some of my patterns that are written for knitting machines, or the patterns at Bond America, or the scarf pattern which is my first effort in this challenge.
  • Hand knitters may balk at knitting so much plain stockinette at first.  However, this is the beauty of knitting machines:  if you want a big stockinette project, you can zoom it out; if you want complexity, you can do a little more work.  Either way, you will be knitting much faster.
  • The scarf is an IDEAL first project because, (1) it's a very simple rectangle, and by the time you knit it, you've gotten lots of practice, (2) some hand-tooling at the end makes it look super special, and (3) I managed to make it up with some very interesting yarn that I would not attempt to knit on my Japanese bulky machine. 
  • Need yarn for the scarf?  Okay, for your first one, PLEASE do yourself a favor and buy smooth yarn. Caron Simply Soft, or I Love This Yarn, or some other worsted 4-ply will make that first project easy.  We're saving the bumpy or hairy yarn for later.  Got a lot of leftovers around the house?  Well, start with worsted or thinner in a smooth yarn.  
  • Trying out the USM after using a different flatbed machine?  Well, please understand that the USM is much slower.  You really must stop often to pull out yarn.  Pulling a whole bunch at once can give you tangles.  You need to push more slowly, too.  However, you can go steal some nice tools from your regular machine stash - for instance, some claw weights, weight hangers, and perhaps a cast-on comb.  
  • Wanting to jump ahead of me on this?  Well, watch my Beginner Machine Knitting Lessons.  You can find them by scrolling down the left-hand side of this blog.  Almost all of those lessons apply to the USM, and watching them will get you thinking in machine knitting concepts and jargon.
  • What can you make with this machine?  Well, check out my bulky patterns, such as the warm, lined slippers in lots of sizes, a marvelous pinwheel round baby blanket, and the short-rowed baby hat.  More ideas at Heidi's Knitting Room, Knitting Today, and many other sites.



  1. I am a long time USM owner. Its been in the cupboard for the last 2 years since I got a Brother standard punchcard machine with ribber. But I am willing to pull out the ol' USM and follow along what you will be showing us! :D

  2. Great!

    if anyone doesn't have a USM but has a bulky, these will work okay for you, too.

  3. I have a Super Bond (two joined together) and I strip all my skeined or balled yarn into popcorn tins before knitting. They sit under my saw horse table and feed up from behind.

    I have gotten into the rythm of a project and forgot to pull yarn from the skein, resulting in nice tight stitches. ;p

    Also when making blankets it is nice to just russian join the skeins together and not have to stop in the middle of knitting.