Sunday, February 24, 2008

Maiden Voyage of KathKnits

Here we go, kids! I'm trying to work out all the kinks. This was my blog site ages ago, as the archives evidence, and in the middle I blogged now and then on myspace. I'm trying something new, a consolidation of sorts. Most of my knitting talk was posted on myspace, but it seemed to be quite limited and fraught with spam, so I guess I'll make a new start right here, right now.

I used to really make fun of machine knitters because they seemed to be more into their machines than what they could accomplish with them. However, my months in this hobby have given me a greater understanding of the appeal of owning many machines: Every one has a different set of capabilities.

I began with a Studio 328, purchased for me as a Christmas gift by my best friend, Penny. It was a basic machine with a built in knitleader (also known as a knit radar or forma, depending on the brand of machine) and punchcard patterning device. I discovered quickly that the most important part of successful knitting with a machine is a fresh and fluffy needle retaining bar or sponge bar. I made some nice flat objects, but was disappointed that I was unable to just hop over to Hobby Lobby or Michael's for yarn. I sold this machine to Phyllis, who has become a wonderful friend!

So I bid on and won a lot of leftovers from a knitting machine distributorship. Included in this auction was a CompuKnit IV (aka Brother 940) electronic standard bed machine, with a garter carriage, disk drive, tilt stand...a lot of bells and whistles! Also part of the lot was a Toyota 601 bulky machine. It was a basic bulky, requiring hand manipulation for patterning. It was as basic as they come, and I loved it to death! This is the machine that began my work for Project Linus, and my love affair with Yarn Bee's Soft Delight yarn, which Hobby Lobby frequently had on sale for $0.99 a skein.

I was seriously overwhelmed by the learning curve required by the CompuKnit IV, and still not comfortable having to order yarns for its use. The garter carriage was persnickety and I noticed the machines were fetching a pretty price on ebay, so I posted it with accessories and sold it for more than I had paid for the entire lot I had purchased it in.

I had shoulder surgery and had to take several months off, during which time I learned a great deal by reading yahoo group lists and surfing the net. By the time I was able to knit again, I was jonesing for the capability to do some patterning, which I had begun to understand. I purchased a Toyota 901, reasoning that it would be as wonderful a standard bed as my bulky was. Unfortunately, I purchased it from a Texas reseller, drove to meet her in El Campo, and she hurriedly put it in the trunk of my ladybug. By the time I opened it up at home, I realized why she'd been in such a rush. It was practically rusted into one solid piece. I painstakingly refurbished it, and they are not that common--the parts are rare and therefore expensive, I could not locate a service manual. As soon as I had it knitting flawlessly, I put it on ebay. I took a bath on it, but as I told a friend, "Once I undress them, they lose their appeal."

I was tiring of paying exhorbitant shipping fees, as most machines are shipped from cold country, up north. I started casually perusing craigslist (uh-huh) and of course, right away a local posted not one but two machines she had procured brand new in Scotland, a Empisal Knitmaster (same as Studio) 155 bulky and 700 standard. Cary and Ashley and I met her at a mall and looked at them. I considered just purchasing the bulky, as it had a ribber and a 12 stitch punchcard and really set my heart to racing, but the standard had a color changer, lace carriage, knitleader, etc., and the accessories were brand new! All of the machines were in their original boxes! She gave me a very good price for all of them, and Cary loves seeing me happy.

Because I had purchased a more capable bulky, I decided to part with my beloved 601. The wonderful lady who purchased it, Rabecca, has become my very good friend. Friendship is probably the greatest product of machine knitting.

About this time I heard of a 5mm machine (a standard with capability up to a midgauge) with a doublebed that had amazing capability. It was a White 1602 with a motor. I joined the Superba yahoo group and found a home--Alan, Clarisse, Cera, Alison, Terri--you guys are awesome! My friend Phyllis described these machines as "delicate children." Mine proved to be a teen with a voracious appetite for dollars! Unfortunately I was never able to make it do any of the picture knitting or true doublebed jacquard for which it is known. Fortunately I was able to sell it to the genius, Daren Vinyard, who repairs them, and I made a new friend to boot!

My shoulder began giving me fits again and at a knit club meeting I found out that a brand spanking new Brother motor was available and AFFORDABLE. Cary bought it for my birthday! It took me a week to assemble it and many frantic e-mails all over trying to find the piece necessary to fit it to my Studio machines. Eventually I took the pieces to Home Depot and a nice man there helped me rig it! And my friend Pam helped me adapt an old Brother color changer tension mast to fit it. I LOVE MY MOTOR!!! It is amazing. It has it's own row counter which counts down, so you can set the machine row counter to count up so you can keep track of short tasks and the motor row counter to count down the entire piece. The tension mast detects knots and even the end of the yarn and stops the machine more dropped knitting when you aren't paying attention. It sometimes works TOO well, because it knits so quickly. I am horriby spoiled to it!

Finally, I sold the 700 standard after I bought the White, and then when I realized the White was just going to have to be fed continually and sold it, I happened onto a 930 that Pam was liquidating. It is pristine and I now have the knowledge necessary to be able to utilize it's electronic patterning. It's also fabulous that the motor was actually made to work with this machine, so I can use the motor with both of the machines I own!

I feel so fortunate that I've been able to recoup most of my expenses in my quest to find the perfect machines FOR ME.

(There is no perfect machine, because they all do different things.)

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