If you are interested in Machine Knitting, then you need to have a knitting machine. You could buy a new Silver Reed but these are expensive. You can also buy a new Artisan or Taitexma machine, but these are made in China and would need to be shipped and are still expensive. A cheaper option is to buy a refurbished machine from a trustworthy source, but these can still hundreds of pounds especially with a warranty. If, like me you are on a tight budget you might consider buying a cheaper machine from an auction site like eBay. But is it too risky to do this?
New to Machine Knitting
Getting a second-hand machine off eBay is not usually a good option for a beginner on a small budget because cheap machines are usually cheap for a reason. And it may be difficult for a beginner to spot these reasons. A beginner needs to have a working machine with all the manuals and tools etc. Without these you will need to spend more time and money getting them. Bargains can turn out to be anything but!
However, having said that, I have bought three machines off eBay! ( I bought my first secondhand machine from an advert in a knitting machine magazine in 1985!) And so far, I have been lucky … or just wise in my choices.
On a tight budget
Buying machines from supplier can be expensive. As I do not have a lot of money, looking for a machine at a lower price has been my only option. However, to do this successfully I did need to do research and be willing to wait for, and spot a good opportunity.
So what is my experience of doing so?
Why would you want to buy from eBay
If you are new to the world of machine knitting you may not know how to get a knitting machine, and an online search will bring up lots of adverts on eBay. eBay is probably the most common place to get a machine. In the UK eBay probably has the most knitting machines and related tools/accessories for sale so it is more likely that what you want will appear given time.
It is easy to set up a search on eBay and unless there is something specific that you want, you should get a lot of hits! It is also easy to bid on an item and if you win then you can pay with PayPal and bingo…. you have a knitting machine. Be careful though, it is too easy to get carried away with your bidding. A search can bring up so many items that you want to bid on everything!!
You may also be looking for something specific in a number of places without success and then suddenly the item you have been looking for is being sold on eBay.
You are interested but concerned about the risks. So what are the risks and what is the maximum price you would be willing to pay given the risks. You need to work this out before you start bidding.
First do some research
First what type of machine do you want? I have posts (e.g. Which knitting machine shall I get? that give further information on this. If you are a beginner on a budget, then I strongly suggest you look for a Knitmaster or a Brother punchcard machine. These are fairly common and you should be able to find machines, tools, accessories, spares and repairers at reasonable prices.
If you know very little about knitting machines then look online for more information. Read through some my posts in my Getting Started chapter of my guide on my Wicked Woollies website. Go onto YouTube and search for knitting machines at watch how people knit with different types of machines. Join a beginners knitting group on Facebook and read some of the posts and ask questions. Find out if there is a knitting group in your area and go along and talk with the knitters. Machine knitters love to share their knowledge and experiences.
If you are a beginner then narrow your choice down to a few possibilities. This will give your a better chance of finding something suitable. A standard gauge punchcard machine is a popular choice (this does 2 ply, 3 ply and 4 ply yarn) although a lot of people are looking for chunky machines because these can knit with DK and Aran type yarns. Fine gauge machines (1 ply to 3 ply) and mid-gauge machines (4 ply and DK) are rare and go for much higher prices. Decide what you would like to knit and then find a suitable punchcard machine that can knit that yarn.
I know about Knitmaster machines, so I would be looking for a MOD 700 standard gauge punchcard machine. These are going to be the most expensive and will command a price of £300 – £500 for a refurbished machine from a supplier. Thus a second-hand one may cost £100 – £300 depending upon the condition. I would also consider an older Knitmaster 360 or 328, but these should be much cheaper. You can also consider a newer Zippy Deluxe or Silver Reed 280 in the same price range.
If you are not a beginner, you may be looking for a specific type of machine and it may take months or years to find one online. Unless you can afford to buy one through a supplier, then eBay (or other similar online resource) may be your only option. However, you will have experience of machines and what can go wrong with them. It should help you to know what to look for, what questions to ask so that you are not wasting your money.
How much should you spend?
You have a good idea of what types of knitting machine you would like to buy. Searching the Internet or asking fellow knitters should give you some idea of price ranges for machines. This is important to know. Unless you are determined to find a specific type of machine at any price… then you do not want to spend hundreds of pounds on a machine that does not work and can not be repaired!
I would find out how much the machine would cost, refurbished, from a trustworthy knitting machine supplier. This price would give you a working machine with most if not all the tools, manuals etc that you need. It may also give you a money back warranty or at least a repair service.
For example, a refurbished popular Knitmaster or Brother punchcard machine may cost about £250 – £400. An electronic can cost £400 upwards. If you buy a machine for about £100 off eBay (or similar) then you can spend money to make it work and still have a bargain. However, it you are not technically minded to do this, you will need to factor in taking/posting the machine to a supplier and pay them to make repair the machine. Are you willing to do this. As a beginner this may be daunting. As a knitting machine addict who is after a particular type of machine, this may be a suitable option.
The price you are willing to pay for the machine should reflect its condition and the amount of money you may need to spend to get it into good working order with all the necessary tools, manuals etc. You do not want to spend more than you would pay from a supplier.
Bidding on eBay:
The problem with eBay is that the items start off at a bargain price and may stay that way until the final few moments of an auction. Then suddenly from nowhere there is a mad onslaught of buyers putting in crazy prices to try and win the item. Suddenly the machine is won, but the price is much higher and therefore may not be the bargain everyone thought.
To get a true bargain you need to work out your maximum price (depends upon the condition of the machine – see later in this post) and stick to it. Do not get carried away. I always put in a low bid, so that other buyers know there is someone interested, and if I really want something then I need to be putting in some high bids in the last few seconds (like everyone else). A low bid means that eBay will send me further emails when I am outbid and I have a quick link to the item so that I can check on the bidding price.
If an item is for collection only (no post) then I have found that it is more likely to have few bidders and therefore go for a lower price. This is how I find a true bargain. However, I may have to wait a long time for a good local opportunity. You do need access to a car and be willing to travel in order to find a good bargain.
I also prefer to pick up a knitting machine because I am worried about damage. Many knitting machines on eBay are being sold by a knitters relatives who know little about knitting machines. Thus they may not know how to protect the machine from damage. The plastic ends of a machine are particularly vulnerable to damage. If the item is being posted, then you need to know what will happen if the machine is damaged. Can you get a refund, a lower price? Will you have to send the machine back?
So buying a machine off eBay can be risky. How do I mitigate the risks?
Set-up a search
Set up a search on eBay (and any other marketplaces if you can) and you hopefully will find some machines that you can consider. If you are looking for something specific then you can be alerted by email when something turns up. It may take time so be prepared. You may not win the item. It can take a while to win something.
Find items that you would be interested in. If your item is rare or you need a machine quickly then you may have to miss this step. Do not bid on any of these items. Instead spend a few days/weeks putting the items on your watch-list and check what prices they are going for. Keep checking your emails or your searches for more items that you would consider buying. If you want a specific item that is rare then it may take some time to find something. It took me 2 years to get my latest purchase (more on this in a later post).
Can you see the machine?
If you are lucky enough to find a suitable machine in your area, ask if you can see the machine before you bid. If this is not possible then you will need to scrutinise the pictures that come with the machine. DO NOT bid on any machine without pictures or generic pictures. There should be lots of pictures showing the condition of the machine, the carriage, the tools, manuals, accessories etc. Since the seller may not know anything about a machine there may be a machine and a box of things! Make sure you can see the pictures on a large screen (not your phone).
First look to see what you are getting. Can you see manuals, pattern cards, tools, any accessories. Is there any yarn, magazines, etc. Is there a ribber included. How much you see will give you a better idea of your maximum price range. For example a knitting machine with ribber and colour changer will most likely go for more money than the knitting machine alone.
Also look closely to see if you can what condition the machine and carriage are in. How much dirt, are there any cracks or other damage, how much discolouring etc. It may be difficult to discern exactly how much damage etc there is. Look in the advert to see what additional information is given in the advert to describe what you are getting and there should be information about any damage.
If you are unsure about anything but are still interested then you need to find out more about the machine.
Email the seller asking for further information about the machine. If you do not get any replies in a couple of days, then I would not bid. Unless the seller is unable to email for a valid reason I would be worried that they might not be quick to sort out any problems once you buy an item.
If the seller emails back but does not know much about the machine, they should be able to be clearer about what is included with the machine such as manuals or pattern cards. Ask when was the machine last used?
If the item if being posted, then I would ask the seller to be clear about how well the machine will be packed. Make sure that they will protect the ends of the machine as these are the most vulnerable parts to be damaged! Normal bubble wrap packing is NOT enough, not even 6 layers! Ask what will happen if the item is damaged whilst it is being delivered? How would you get compensated? They should have sent other machines successfully and have insurance. Delivery is the biggest risk. (as you will read at the end of this post). Make sure you are happy about the answers. Do not make a high bid on anything that has more risk than you can accept. Personally I have learnt my lesson. I will only buy a machine that I can collect even from a supplier. Having to send back a machine by courier is a big hassle.
Your enquiries will give you a better understanding of what is being offered and what price that would be worth to you. If you are still interested put in a low bid and put the item on your watch list. ( You may not want to bid on any other items… just in case!)
If you are not getting anywhere with the seller, then I suggest that unless you get the item at a very low price then I would move on and continue searching for something else.
Check out the Seller
When you see an item that meets your needs, then I suggest that you check out the Sellers ratings. Read though some of the feedback. Make sure it is mostly positive. If they have been selling machines for quite a while and have a lot of positive feedback, then they should be a reasonable safe seller. They should know how to safely package a machine for posting. You should be able to get a refund if the machine gets damaged in transit. They should be giving a good description of the machine and its tools.
If the seller is an amateur and has not sold items before, there is a risk that some bits will be missing and that the machine could be damaged during transit. I would not risk them posting a machine to you unless the price is low enough for you to get it repaired if damaged or if they take on board that the machine needs to have protection, especially to the ends. I would be willing to buy something from them if I can go and collect it.
Take a photo of the description and photos
When you find a machine that you are interested in take a screen shot/photo of the advert, i.e. the description and the photos. You might need this later in any dispute.
Place your bid
Place your low bid and wait til later in the bidding process to put in a higher bid. You may or may not win. Can you see how many people are watching the item. I have noticed that this is not being used as often as it used to. Most bids will come in the last few seconds. So make sure you are there when the bidding is ending and ready to put in your maximum bid if necessary. Do not get carried away. However, you may be unlucky in that someone else wants your bargain and they have a bigger budget. Move on and look for something else.
Buying as a more experienced knitter
I still buy off eBay because I am on a small income and like to look for bargains. As I own a knitting machine, I have 3 reasons to buy more machines… off eBay or elsewhere
- I have a machine but with more experience I would now like to upgrade to a different or better machine, but I cannot afford or find one from a supplier. My experience and knowledge helps me to ask the right questions to ensure that I am getting a good machine at a good price (this is probably not going to as cheap as I would like).
- I have a machine which I have finally got to work well, but I would like to buy a cheap identical machine (working or not) for spares. A lot of knitters do this and you can get a lot of spares from a £50 or less machine.
- I would like to learn how to take a machine apart to repair it, a skill that is necessary for any serious machine knitter. Any suitable machine might do. It can be damaged. It does need to be cheap. So far I have bought two cheap machines to take apart and found that they worked …. so I ended up keeping them. I am still looking for a cheap machine to take apart!!!!
- I am looking for a specific machine and have been looking for some time. The only one I can find is on eBay and I am willing to buy at a reasonable price given the condition. I am willing to spend money on spares and repairs to get it in working condition if necessary. I am willing to pay extra because I know it is rare and in demand.
So should you buy from eBay. The answer is Yes if you do your research and find out as much as you can about the machine. Work out how much the machine is worth (depends upon condition, rarity and popularity). Check the pictures. Make friends with the seller if you can… you should be able to trust them and work out what to will happen if the machine is not as described or damaged in transit.
What is the worst that could happen?
If you are going to buy off eBay work out you can do if the machine is a dud. Can you get a refund? The worst case is probably that you have some spares that you could use or sell. If you have a pile of junk and this was not stated in the advert, then you should be able to get a refund from eBay. However what if the advert does not say that the machine works. Then you may not be able to get a refund.
I recently bought an electronic knitting machine from eBay. It had been on my wish list for 2 years. It was a popular machine and its price range was outside my budget. I kept looking for one that might be for local collection and therefore within my budget. The seller had good ratings and the advert said it was in good cosmetic condition. I took the risk.
The item turned up, well packaged in lots of bubble wrap. Unfortunately the ends of the machine were badly damaged. I was truly disappointed. It would take a lot of spare parts and money to make it whole again. There was no power supply cable to check if the machine worked. It was missing other things that I would have to buy. Overall I was bitterly disappointed.
It was difficult to get hold of the seller and I am still trying. I can try and get a full refund but I would have to organise a courier and I do not know if I can get this refunded as well. Alternatively I could keep the machine for spares for a much lower price. I will update when I know more.
For now I have learnt my lesson. I might consider buying a machine on eBay but I would want a clearer idea of what was included in the price, and only if I could collect the item. I would never risk having a knitting machine posted/couriered to me again. I would only get one posted from a proper dealer like Irene Court on Facebook or Andrea James at Andee Knits.
I got a partial refund and kept the machine. I cleaned, oiled and repaired the machine as best as I could using duct tape, superglue, yellow stickers, sellotape and a hair grip for a brace. I used the power supply, yarn mast, tools and mylar sheets from my 560 machine and managed to get the machine working. The 580 carriage is definitely easier to use than the 560, and so far so good. It is definitely harder to setup and use the mylar sheet than a punchcard. I will just do simple knitting for now. Once I have mastered the patterning I think this would be my new favourite machine. I think I need to save up for another one so that I can fix a ribber to it.