January 19, 2008

Spindolyns, hybrid knitting, machine-knit socks?

In response to a recent question from someone who saw my Knitty Gritty spinning episode (hi Amy!) — the supported spindle I’m using on the show is a Spindolyn. You may recognize the photo on the top of the Spindolyn page from Spin to Knit — that’s Catherine, one of the featured spinners in the book, and the creator of the Spindolyn. You might also be interested in her re-released Pleasant Spindle if you’re on the lookout for a supported spindle. I love my Spindolyn!

When I went to her site to link the right page here, I noticed an interesting post on Catherine’s blog about “hybrid knitting.” The sad but true part of knitting for a living is that you eventually need to learn to use a knitting machine to get through the big, bad blocks of stockinette and other time-consuming things in order to produce enough work to meet magazine deadlines, book deadlines, etc etc.

I have a few knitting machines, although to be honest I’m still fairly unskilled in using them, and usually end up crying for help. My shop co-owner Heidi is a knitting machine genius, so she generally draws the short straw there! So I’ve been talking to another local knitting machine guru about putting on a conference for newer designers sometime near Columbus TNNA on using machines in their work.

I say “newer designers” for a reason: those who have been in the business since the 80s or early 90s when it was much easier to get your hands on a good knitting machine — let alone learn how to use it properly — have more experience with the machines, and therefore a distinct advantage! The current crop of designers don’t have machine knitting experience, for the most part, Marnie excepted, she’s got a sweet Silver Reed.

Back to the idea of hybrid knitting: combining machine- and handknitting. This is something I can get behind. I don’t see it becoming widespread among non-designers, if only because the big machines are pricy and of limited use to the average knitter. But I heard some rumbles at TNNA that lead me to believe a sock-related knitting machine might be on the way, and if it’s priced well, can you imagine how that would take off? (And with it, hybrid knitting). Imagine being able to crank out the bottom portion of a sock and then spend extra time and love on the fancy patterns for the top, for example.

Don’t ask me what information leads me to guess about a sock knitting machine on the way. None of it was obvious enough for me to outright assert that’s what’s going on, and I wouldn’t want to implicate anyone in particular in case it is true and they get accused of letting the cat out of the bag (which he or she did not). However, I’ve got a pretty good track record for predicting things like this, based on fairly oblique comments or bits of data.

You heard it here first, if it’s true.
If it’s not — well, come on, companies — get on it!

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  • tina

    Get OUT!!!!!!!!!!!! Sock knitting machine you say! It is sort of like weighing in on the current political climate, there are many pros and cons each way. If such a thing is heading down the pike let’s hope it doesn’t cost a googoozillion dollars!


    Reply to tina
  • Erin

    I would love it if there was an inexpensive sock knitting machine on the market…I’ve contemplated purchasing a vintage one, but they’re like $1,000 and probably don’t work that great.

    Reply to Erin
  • Marnie

    I think I’d actually get more use out of a sock knitting machine than my flat knitting machine (which I love, though it’s on long term loan to a friend until I have a place big enough to house it)
    The big problem with knitting machines for people who write hand knitted patterns is that the row gauge tends to be tighter on the machine than hand knit work, so you either have knit a gauge swatch, write a pattern based on that and then fudge it for the machine knit version or work a pattern without any row counts (you know, the “work for 5″ then…” knit of instructions).

    Oh and I got a spindolyn too. It’s a really fun spindle, but such a different feel from working with a standard drop spindle.

    Reply to Marnie
  • Post authorShannon

    Agreed, Marnie. There’s definitely fudging when you end up using the machine for all or part of it. However, I’ve found that Denise needles (and other tip-swappable needles) come in handy for this — if you do a nice wide swatch on the machine and like how it looks, you can take it off, put it onto your Denises and switch tips as you knit across until you figure out which needle replicates the gauge best. Then it’s full swatch with that tip size, hand knit, which sounds like a lot of work but really isn’t in the grand scheme of things if you’re going for accuracy.

    Reply to Shannon

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