Today I began using the new Erlbacher Gearhart Bumblebee. The Bumblebee is a circular HAT machine, and is very similar to the circular sock machine. I have been on a waiting list for a year or so and purchased one of the first run.
I have seen a picture from the Erlbacher's famed annual get together of two rows of Bumblebees and they were a beauty to behold. When I opened my custom made box, it looked very familiar--quite similar to the CSM I purchased from them last year. But I was a little bit shocked to see how small the cylinder was. To be sure it is larger than the sock machine, but not as large as I had thought from the picture I saw. It's so easy for the eye to be tricked without a frame of reference. In my imaginings, I thought the Bumblebee would be a metal version of the Addi circular hat machine, or the Innovation, as well as many other, plastic circular hat machines.
The Bumblebee has 90 cylinder needles which knit the knit stitches, and a ribber with 90 slots for ribber needles which knit the purl stitches. This is known as an equal ribber plate. So if you use 1x1 ribbing and all the needles, you will have a 180 stitch hat.
I am no different than other noob circular machine knitters...ribbers are intimidating and require finesse that I only have in fits and starts. I have been able to rib sometimes. But it hasn't been easy.
So to begin my CHM experience, I oiled the machine heavily and operated it without yarn for a bit. Then I gave it some acrylic waste yarn. I found one needle with a sticky latch and replaced it. I was happy to discover that the cylinder needles are identical to those of the CSM.
Included with my CHM were two cast on bonnets of straight cylinder knitting or stockinette stitch. It was standard sock yarn and I could tell it would NOT go around my head. So I removed every 3rd needle to make mock ribbing, as I know the bars of yarn that go across the empty space increase the circumference of the work. Waste yarn cranking around happily, I chose a cone of ugly sock yarn I had wound and fed it through. I decided to knit a scarf and cranked around for rows and rows. I had several dropped stitches which I latched back up. I tried to determine the cause. One possibility was the very wide clamp that was included with the machine. I could see that the tension on the stitches was not even using this clamp. I decided to readjust it and try some more, but I may try the CSM clamp on my next attempt. Another possible issue was the yarn itself, as its composition was as vile as it's appearance. A third idea is that I was cranking too speedily. The short instruction sheet I was provided warned to crank slowly, but I thought this was when ribbing. Could apply across the board.
Before I had completed the scarf, I had yet another dropped stitch and while trying to latch it back up, committed operator error and pulled some of the scarf off the stitches and tangled it up. No way I was going to fish for all those stitches and rehang them, so I took everything off at Row 162. (The machine does not come with the FAR SUPERIOR slotted carrier, and I couldn't find the spare I have somewhere, so I had to cut the yarn. Grrrr. I hate that.
I took the length of knitting off and looked it over. I pulled it over my head and saw that it would indeed fit. I then determined I would gather the stitches on each end and tie them tightly, then bring them together and affix them with a stitch through both. This makes a gathered top and a folded end, which becomes a brim when folded back on itself. A serviceable hat was born!
Day one: Satisfactory.