Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year Tension

This year has been full of tension, so far. Knitting machine tension that is. I've enjoyed playing with my new Christmas toy - an Ultimate Knitting Machine.

Now that I think about it, it's been a long time since I got a real toy at Christmas. I really don't remember the last time I got something that I could play with. I think that it might have been a badminton/volleyball set that was a gift to both me and my sister when I was 15. Now, I'm not athletic in the least bit and I'm not sure why my parents thought it would be a good gift. Maybe they were hoping that I would suddenly become coordinated or graceful. While neither of these two things happened, I do remember playing with it, so maybe it wasn't a bad choice after all. When it comes to gifts, I'm more of a clothes, jewelry and music kind of girl.

This year my mother made another good choice and gave me an Ultimate Knitting Machine. I thought I'd like to have something to use to knit things that require a lot of stocking knit or large pieces, like blankets. After playing with it while being banished to my sewing room for two days straight while my husband watched football, I think it will be perfect for those two things.

I knit 200 rows of 50 stitches in about 20 minutes, and that's with screwing up several times. It made me want to open the window and shout - "I'm the fastest knitter in the world." Prior to this 20 minutes of success, there were plenty of lessons learned. The most important - tension is EVERYTHING! Even the smallest amount of tension on the yarn impacts the needles. When there is too much tension in the wrong place, the needles hang up. When there isn't enough tension in the right place, the stitches fall off the needles and you have a mess on your hands.

I've experimented with making cables, changing colors and doing a bit of fair isle. It really is very easy. The hardest part is really doing the ribbing. The machine knits with the wrong side facing you, so all the purls are facing you. In order to create a knit stitch on the side facing you, you unhook the stitch, unravel and reladder it so the stitch is now basically reversed. I stink at reladdering normally, but with the weighed hem that hangs on the bottom of your knitting it's not so bad, but it is time consuming. Right now I think I could hand knit ribbing faster than I could reladder it on the machine and evidently a lot of people think this because there are instructions for how to remove your knitting from the machine and hand knit the ribbing in the instruction guide.

I'm using Caron Simply Soft right now to experiment and make baby blanket. It's wicked cheap and the machine likes it - which is the most important thing right now. Of course the edges curl into a tight little tube without any blocking. I think I have figured out a way I can create a garder stitch boarder while it is on the machine, but this requires me having to reladder four or five stitches on the left and right sides of the blanket, then pick up the bottom and top hems and do those by hand. Being a total yarn snob I'm trying not to think about all the acrylic that my hands are touching and just focusing on the fact that people who have babies need something they can wash over and over again and they won't care that it isn't a natural fiber - although, the sweaters and booties I will hand knit will be of a cotton blend I'm sure.

Needless to say, I have a lot of playing to do to decide how I want to use this new toy. There's a lot of details and handwork involved in this machine, even though it is every quick for basic kind of stuff, you've obviously got to know what you're doing to make anything useful. More tomorrow. Happy New Year!

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