Monday, January 23, 2012

What's a Mid-Gauge Machine, Anyway?

For years, the only mid-gauge machine I had was an MK-70.  This is a fascinating, fold-up, portable machine manufactured back in the 80s with an 18-stitch punchcard.  It's a 6 mm machine.

I wanted an LK-150 for several reasons.  One, I believe it is the most widely-owned of the midgauges, so I ought to write patterns and teach on something lots of people have.  Two, it's 6.5 mm, a much more common size.  Three, it seems like an absolutely ideal beginner's machine to me, since it's much easier to use than the Bond and has a lot more features, while it is still more reasonably priced than most Japanese machines.

I am nearly finished with the bulky part of the Entrelac book I've been working on.  I had made some gauge swatches with the MK-70 for a mid-gauge section of the book, but of course, once I got my hands on the LK-150, I made more swatches so I could compare the gauges.  I certainly want my Entrelac sweaters to be practical to knit on both machines.

Check out the difference in gauge between the machines, using a sport-weight yarn:

My MK-70's tension 10 is about the same gauge as my LK-150 tension 3!

My MK-70's tension 6 is about the same gauge as my LK-150 tension 2!

The next thing I noticed was that, even though turning up the gauge dial on the MK-70 had a fairly subtle effect, turning it up on the LK-150 had a huge effect:

  • Dial set at #2:  6.4 stitches and 10 rows = 1"
  • Dial set at #3:  5.7 stitches and 8 rows = 1"
  • Dial set at #4:  5.3 stitches and 7.3 rows = 1"
That's a lot of change in stitch size for just one number on the dial!   There is just one click between numbers, so there's going to be less fine-tuning opportunity with gauge, but you can influence it a little by changing the upper tension dials.  Seems to me that this machine will take a fairly wide range of yarns. 

I think #4 is too loose for this yarn, so I stopped trying out bigger settings. 


  1. Not to put you under undue pressure, but will you be addressing the possibility of doing this on any of the machines for felting? I'm looking forward to this whatever the case, but inquiring minds would like to know. ;-)


  2. I use mostly worsted weight (#4) on my LK-150, usually tension 7, but sport weight works great too. I made 80 hats for donation using worsted and ten 7. The thing that has me puzzled is how to use the tension dial for the heavier weight yarns. I don't see how to get the dial on those higher settings, and am afraid to force the dial. Maybe I have overlooked it in my manual, but I am clueless as to how to turn the dial to those additional settings. :/ I can't wait to see what you do with the 150.


    1. The higher tension settings are for using the heavier yarns knitting on every other needle. There is no adjustment made to the dial. The LK150 is the only knitting machine I own. And I would welcome more patterns and techniques for it. It's a great machine. I've had mine since 1997. And it has given me no trouble at all.

  3. Yes! Would love the vid-book on "Family Sweaters" with an entrelac yoke, especially written for my LK150. Really enjoyed your pattern for the entrelac bag. My granddaughter's eyes popped when she saw it. Am thinking of making one in 100% wool and felting it so that I could skip the liner bit. Depending on the outcome I will make some more - one for everyone! I am certain that the entrelac yoke family sweaters would become extremely popular with your fans:-)
    Shine ON*

  4. Just another thought - If you were to make an addendum for your sock knitting book - a translation from standard gauge to mid-gauge w/ sew-as-you-go instead of ribber (LK-150) flat bed -- I couldn't buy it fast enough :-)
    Shine ON*

  5. Those higher settings are for when you're only using every other needle, I think.

  6. Re the question about felting: I would not possibly felt my Entrelac. I think it would lose much of its texture, detail and charm. I would felt some simpler color work, though.

  7. I have the SK 860 and would love more mid-gauge patterns for it. I would be real interested in how to transform the standard gauge or the bulky patterns for this machine.