First, if you have your first knitting machine, or it is on it’s way to you, congratulations. This is the start of your new hobby.
You will probably be excited to start knitting. But this may not be possible yet. You need to prepare your knitting area and machine before you can start. This post will go through the things that you need to do/get before you can start.
If your machine is an new or old Knitmaster/Silver Reed/Singer/Studio standard gauge machine, then this blog is perfect for you as I will be showing you what to do on a Knitmaster standard gauge machine. However, if you have a different machine, or a different gauge, you can still use this blog. You will need to refer to your manual as to how to set up your machine and which buttons, levers to press etc. The basic techniques will be the same. Different gauges/tensions are also catered for.
Your Knitting Area
First decide where you are going to set up your machine. You need lighting but putting your knitting machine in direct sunlight may cause the machine to yellow and slowly become brittle. Being in too hot or too cold environments are also not good for the machine.
Find a space that has enough room for you to sit in front of your machine and enough room behind for the yarn. You also need space at the sides to get your sponge bar (if your machine has one) in and out.
You also need space for yarn, for tools, for accessories, for pattern, for your latptop/computer (if you are using knitting software). This storage space does not need to be near the machine if you are short of space.
You can store your machine under your bed or in the corner of a room when your machine is not being used.
Your Knitting Table
Your knitting machine is large and, if it has a metal bed, heavy. You need a long, sturdy table or frame to mount your machine. Most knitting machines are clamped to the table. If you are working on a dining room table, then you will want to make sure that the table is protected with cardboard before you try clamping your machine! This is not a good idea for the long-term but will do if there is no alternative or until you find your proper knitting table.
Traditional knitting machine that fold up can be found online. New ones can be purchased at Andee Knits or your local knitting machine supplier. They will probably deliver them by post. You can also find new and second-hand tables on Ebay or Gumtree for about £20. These knitting tables give enough room at the back to store some tools and weights and are my preferred option. You will usually need transport to pick these up, so keep looking until you find one within reasonable distance. Ask in charity shops or put up a notice in your local shop. Someone might have an old table you can buy.
Recently a member of a Facebook Machine Knitting Group showed pictures of her knitting table using IKEA trestles (link here to UK site, costs about £25). A suitably sized plank of wood was firmly attached to the trestles to hold the machine. This seems like a good alternative if you have DIY skills (or know someone who has).
Get a good craft lamp so that you can see your stitches. This is especially important when you make mistakes and when you are casting off (binding off). Some people clamp a desk lamp to the knitting table. I do not like this idea. I need the room and it gets in the way when you are knitting (especially with colour changing). I prefer a floor lamp. I already had a suitable craft lamp with a magnifying glass that was perfect for my knitting. A father and son floor lamp would be good. You can move the lamp about and you can quickly move it out of the way when you need to. Even a cheap one like Argos one could suffice for those on a budget.
Pattern Holder/Computer Instruction
You need somewhere to put your instructions. If you have an electronic machine with software then you need a small table/desk/chair to put your computing device(s) near to the machine, but out of the way of the moving carriage.
If you are following paper instructions (book, printout etc), then you need somewhere to place the paper where it will not be damaged or blow away. There used to be devices that you could attach to the mast or to the table, but are easily available today. I used a chair until I thought of my old music stand. It is ideal and a couple of plastic clothes pegs help to hold down the pages.
A range of tools will come with the machine. They will be found either in a plastic box or in a space in the machine itself. Or in case of plastic machine, they may just be in the box that the machine came in. These tools should be placed on the table at the back of the machine so that they are always easily at hand. Jars, old cups etc. are useful to hold these items. I have 2 cups. One with the tools that I usually use and one with the rest of the tools. I also have a jar with rarely used tools nearby. Knitters also attached the lids of metal machines to the table in order to store longer items like ribber combs, cast-off combs and fine knit bars etc.
If you do not have any ravel cord (cast-on nylon thread) with the machine, then you will need to purchase some. I got several colours (important as you need a contrast colour) for a few pounds. You buy some from Andee Knits. This is useful for casting on and for making double hems.
In addition, you also need a pen/pencil, rubber, scissors close at hand. Your machine will come with weights and I find it useful to store these at the back of the machine on the table.
I also find a set of digital kitchen scales very useful for weighing yarn and finished garments. It is useful to know how much yarn is left on a cone and how much you might need to do another jumper.
Before you set up your machine and start knitting, you need to check that you have all the relevant manuals for your machine. The Japanese machines usually came with an operating manual (how to set-up and operate the machine), a knitting manual (how to do a tension square and various knitting techniques) and a pattern manual (pictures of the different stitches that the machine can create).
Find these manuals. If the machine did not come with any manuals then go to www.machineknittingetc.com and download them for free. Most manuals are there. If not then try and find a manual for a similar machine.
I will do a separate post on yarn. For now, I thought that I would add an idea for your knitting machine table. Some people put their yarn cones on the table, but it is better for you to put them on the floor. If you are twisting 2 or more thin yarns to make a thicker yarn, then you definitely need to have your yarn on the floor behind the machine table.
I always kept kicking my yarn, so I have added a shelf a few inches off the floor so that my feet now go under the shelf.
I have also taped down an old metal clothes hangar to the back of the table so that it just hangs over the edge. This stops the yarn from rubbing against the back of the table. It might not look pretty, but the yarn is happily running smoothly over the round metal. This is a great, inexpensive idea that I would recommend.
Ok you now have your space, your table set-up, your operating manual. It is time to set-up your machine. The next post will discuss this further.
I would love to know what type of machine you have chosen. Please tell me in the comments below.