Your knitting machine has just arrived. Congratulations. This is the start of a wonderful new hobby.
Carefully unpack your machine. Hopefully it has arrived safely and everything is as it should be.
You will probably be excited to start knitting straight away but it is best to check that everything is working or else you may cause damage to your machine.
There are a few important steps to take before you can start knitting.
- Get your Operation Manual
- Open machine and contents
- Check all tools are present and not damaged
- Clamp machine to table
- Detach carriage and remove if you can
- Check condition of sponge-bar
- Examine needles and latches for damage
- Check side racks (punchcard machines)
- Check electronics (electronic machines)
- Machine can be set up ready for knitting and testing.
I will now go through each step in more detail and give more information on what to do if you come across a problem.
What to do first
Ideally you will have read my previous post and you have your knitting table set up in your workspace.
If you have bought a new or refurbished machine, then you should have all the tools etc that you need. However if you have bought or been given a second-hand machine, then you need to check everything carefully to see what you have, what, if anything, is damaged or missing.
You should carefully unpack your machine and place it gently on your table. The machine label should be on top and the handle placed away from you.
Next you need to find a copy of the operation manual or user instructions.
Read the Operating Manual
If your machine did not come with a set of manuals then you can download them from www.machineknittingetc.com which is a fantastic resource for finding free information and patterns on most knitting machines.
If you have an unusual machine and can not find your manual, then pick a model of the same make that is closest in age (or number). Manufacturers tended to make only small changes or additions between models. Pick the previous model and the next model. Between them you should be able to work out how to operate your machine until you can find the right manual.
You may wish to print out the manual as you will refer to it often. I also set up an alert on eBay for any printed copies that might be being sold. I also asked on the various machine knitting Facebook groups. It is amazing where you might be able to find a copy.
Check your Tools
Open your manual at the beginning as it should tell you how to open up your machine cover and find your tools etc.
The start of the manual should show you diagrams of the parts of the machine and the tools that come with it. Check that you have them all and get to know them. Some of these items will be in the box, others in the machine. Whilst you might not need all the tools at the start, it is best to replace any missing items as they will all be used as you progress your knitting adventure. Look online for replacements, set up an alert on eBay. I have a list of online resources in this post.
Put the tools/items in a storage box (or two) for safe keeping until you can organise them.
Clamp the Machine to your Table
The first item in the list of tools is usually the machine clamps. Find yours and follow the instructions to clamp your machine to your table. Your machine is heavy and precious, fixing it to your table will ensure that it does fall off and get damaged.
The machine carriage of most metal Japanese machines will be firmly fixed to the main bed. This is to keep it safe during transportation. The operation manual should explain how to remove the fixing bracket.
When you have removed the bracket, you should try and carefully move the carriage sideways to remove from the main bed. DO NOT FORCE.
If Carriage is Stuck
If you machine is a punchcard machine, it is common for the carriage drums to become stuck if they have not been used for a while. The lubricant hardens up.
Use a hair-dryer on a warm (not hot) setting and gently warm up the drums at the back of the carriage. Do this until you can get the carriage off the bed. Be careful though. Do not do it for long periods of time as you do not want to cause further damage. I would then turn the carriage upside down and place on some old rags/newspapers. Get some knitting or sewing machine oil and put one drop on the top of each drum. This will slowly move down the drum and keep it moving. Leave for 24 hours. The drums should move easily.
Check the Sponge-bar
This is a very important thing to do. This is not covered in any of the knitting manuals but even if you know the sponge-bar is new, it is important that you learn how to check it.
The sponge-bar is a long piece of metal with a sponge on it. Its purpose is to hold down the needles as they knit. The sponge will erode over time (with light and oil) as you knit and once it has eroded and flattened it will become difficult to knit. Stitches will drop easily. So it is important to keep the sponge in good condition.
You can replace the whole bar ( about £20) or you can replace the sponge (about £10 for two sponges). A sponge will last about 6 – 12 months.
It can be a bit difficult to remove your sponge-bar but it is something you need to learn how do do. I give more information about taking out and renewing a sponge-bar in this post.
Do not try and knit until you have renewed the sponge-bar.
If you have a sponge-bar in good condition you can move on to checking the needles.
Check the Needles
With the sponge-bar in you can check that your needles are all straight.
Take your needle pusher and with the straight edge, move the needles forwards and backwards again Take note of the positions (number and side) of any that might be damaged.
Take out your cleaning brush (you should have one in your tool set) or use a small natural-haired paintbrush and gently push back all the latches. The latches should all go back easily. Brush them forward again.
Take note of the positions (left 33 or right 48) of any damaged needles. You will need to take these out of the machine and replace them. If you do not have any spare replacement needles, you can always take some needles from the ends of the machine to use whilst you order some new ones. You will not normally be using the very end needles when you first start to learn to knit.
You may need to change any damaged needles so get some spare needles for your machine. Them manual usually explains how to remove and replace a needle, otherwise there is useful information on the Internet. For example theanswerladyknits has a good video at this link.
You will need to remove the sponge-bar to remove and replace the neeles.
Side Racks (punchcard machines)
Some punchcard knitting machines have a left and right side rack at the back of the machine, one at each end. These rubber ribbed items help the carriage drums to work without damage at the ends of the machine,. After a while the rubber will rot away and these can break.
It is not easy to replace the racks without taking the machine apart. I tried to take an old machine apart and the plastic cracked. Here is a video showing how to do this
I now try and put these in without doing this using a long flat head screw driver to gently bend the metal part forward a little bit, in order to push on the side rack. I do not recommend doing this – you need to be very careful. It is a last resort and has worked for me.
If you have an electronic machine, then you should read the instructions in your manual to check the electronics are working. In most cases the instructions should include carefully plugging in the carriage cable, the machine cable and the power cable. Then switch on the electricity socket and then switch on the machine.
Always switch off the machine and then the electricity socket before removing any machine cables.
If you have Designaknit software and Silverlink or other cables. Follow the instructions carefully to ensure that it all works OK. Do not remove carriage cord or cables without switching off the electricity and removing the power cable or the Silverlink can blow.
Setting up Your Machine
If your machine is refurbished it will usually be cleaned and serviced. You can now use the operation manual to thread your machine with some practice yarn and start to cast on and knit your first swatch.
You should do lots of practice swatches in order to make sure that your machine is working properly. You need to check the row counter and any patterning device (punchcard, electronics, software etc) are all working fine.
Use your operation manual and this website to learn how to knit with your machine. I have a number of posts in my Basic Techniques section of this blog that describe how to cast on, cast off, increase, decrease etc. Please take advantage of this information.
Good luck with your new hobby. I am sure that you will enjoy it.