From Hand Knit to the Flat Knitting Machine

Even in the generation that was born in the computer age, most machine knitters were introduced to the craft with knitting needles and two trained hands. Using a knitting machine may result in a similar finished product, but the process of developing a pattern, choosing the yarn, and working up the project and finishing it are completely different. The closeness of the knitter to each stitch in the hand knitting process and the speed of hand knitting allow for more control than a flat knitting machine. Making the mental adjustments can be trying.

Not a Regular Sewing Machine

Most hand knitters "moving up" to a flat knitting machine have a variety of knitting needles, a drawer full of knitting patterns and a trunk full of left over yarns in all colors, weights and materials. With the thought of increased speed and output, the reality of the flat knitting machine can be a disappointing jolt. The idea is to purchase just one machine.

That means, in reality, that there will be just one size needle. The range of yarns is therefore more limited. The flat knitting machine is limited, also in the range of possible stitching styles. They can handle intarsia patterns quickly and accurately, for instance. If that sort of design is the goal of the knitter then a flat knitting machine is a wonderful help and the work it takes to learn to operate the machine will be well worth while. But if the knitter is looking for an easier way to do cables or lace work, there may be some disappointment in the offing.

The next surprise is that the process of changing from knitting by hand to a flat knitting machine is not the same as the change from hand sewing to machine sewing. It is, in fact, more like going from a file cabinet to computer filing. For quick, stockinet flat knitting, you can't beat a flat knitting machine. Add a ribbing component and you've really got something. For something more challenging, you're looking at an impressive learning curve.

For hand knitters, going from stockinet knit to a garter stitch is simplicity itself. Instead of knitting each row, you knit one row and purl the next. But in between you turn the fabric over. The flat knitting machine can't do that. You can do a garter stitch on a machine, but you have to learn how all over again. The learning curve extends to such seemingly simple tasks as figuring the gauge and changing the needles for a pattern stitch. This is the key: if you understand what a machine can do and you are willing to specialize in the machine's specialties, you are in for a long and rewarding relationship. And, after all, you can probably resort to the hand stitches for a project that requires it.