As with all craft hobbies there is a range of tools and accessories that will help you as you learn to machine knit. Buying everything does cost money but if you take your time, you may well be lucky enough to find good second-hand bargains that will ensure that you can continue to knit on a budget.
Overall you may need to spend money on table/space, machine, tools, accessories, spares, maintenance, yarn, patterns and learning resources. I will give more details about each of these areas in later posts.
Knitting Machine: Unless you have inherited one, then you will have to buy your machine. Carefully consider which machine is right for what you want to knit (see later post). Buy the best you can afford. This will most likely be second-hand so check its condition as best you can. You can buy a reconditioned machine, but these will be more expensive. A new machine with ribber can cost £1000 or more. An electronic with software and ribber could be more like £3000. Alternatively you could find a cheap second-hand machine for £100 or less. Ask around, look at local adverts or go to local charity shops and you might find a bargain. As a beginner I suggest that you start with a simple punch-card machine.
Table: A typical knitting machine is large and heavy and needs to be clamped securely to a table. Whilst you might be tempted to use your dining table, there are special knitting machine tables that you can buy. Second-hand ones can be found for about £20. You may also need good lighting.
Tools: The knitting machine should come with a range of tools and a manual. Check the manual to make sure all the tools are there. If not then you need to search online to find replacements. Other useful tools include pens, paper, storage containers, and storage for patterns and yarn.
Accessories: Ribbers, colour changers, garment contour devices, wool winders, twisting stacks etc. There are lots of accessories that you might need as you progress. Some are difficult to find and can be expensive. You only need to buy these when you need them. Some of you might be lucky enough to have some of these included when you bought your knitting machine.
Spares: There are a number of online resources where you can obtain spares for the more common types of knitting machine, the Knitmaster/Silver Reed and the Brother/KnitKing. It may be more difficult to find spares for other types of machine.
Maintenance/Repairs: There are fewer knitting machine repairers around today. You may have to post your machine or transport it quite a distance to get it repaired. There are still a number of Knitmaster/Silver Reed stockists around so it is easier to get them repaired than a Brother or Toyota machine. It is more likely that you will need to learn to do this yourself and there are some free online videos that can help you.
Yarn: Yarn in the UK is much more expensive than it used to be especially hand-knitting yarns. Knitting machines are not able to handle balls of yarn easily. They need to be rewound into ‘cakes’ using a wool winder. Most machines prefer to use ‘cones’ of yarn. Buying large cones of yarn means that you can complete a piece of knitting without joins and sometimes you can create a whole garment from one cone of yarn. Cones of yarn work out cheaper than balls of yarn, but there is a more limited range of types of yarn as there are few manufacturers making them. ebay has a large range of cones of yarn for sale, but the postage can be expensive. I found it best to set up an alert to find a job-lot of yarn on cone locally. It took a while but I managed to find a large number of cones of yarn that I could pick up cheaply and were perfect for practising with.
Patterns: There are still a few resources where you can find knitting machine patterns and some are free. The UK still has one surviving machine knitting magazine, Machine Knitting Monthly, which you can subscribe to. ravelry.com also has some patterns that might be useful. Most patterns are old and some are ancient and the styles can look dated. As patterns were often limited in printing space, they are not always simple to follow. I hope to include some simple patterns for you to try on my blog.
Learning Resources: Free resources are difficult to find. You can still obtain old knitting machine books that are useful. YouTube has a growing number of videos that show a range of knitting machines and knitting techniques. A very valuable resource for manual, patterns and other knitting machine information is MachineKnittingetc.com.
Yes it all seems daunting at first, but hopefully this blog will help save you money and time as you start your new hobby.