There was a question posed in one of the Facebook Knitting groups regarding the use of a knitting machine. Most of the comments tended toward the negative, since most of the people in that particular group are hand-knitters. A few people commented that using a machine turned the task of knitting from a pleasurable hobby into a chore. One person suggested that using a knitting machine made the project no longer hand-made. Another person said that the plastic ones are more like a toy than a tool.
Bollocks!! Such notions are erroneous, false, misleading, wrong, ignorant, and just plain offensive. In a word, it is bullshit and insults those who use knitting machines.
Using a knitting machine to create a project (blanket, scarf, hat, whatever) makes it no less ‘hand-made’ than clickety-clacking through 10,000 stitches on two hand-held needles. In my opinion, those who have a negative idea about machine knitting simply don’t understand what it is, what it does, or why it is sometimes good to use one.
Now, first, there are people who simply prefer to hand-knit with two needles (or circulars or DPNs), one stitch at a time. That is their preference and they are entitled to it. They are, however, not entitled to denigrate machine knitting.
Every knitting machine is basically a bed of ‘needles’ (literally, they are latch-hooks, not pointy needles), and the yarn is drawn over the needles by a carriage to set the yarn in place, move the latch hook backward and draw the yarn into the loop already there and forming a new stitch. On my widest machine (a Bond double-bed basic machine), I can form 200 stitches in about 10 seconds, rows and rows of plain stockinette stitch in a few minutes.
It is, of course, a different skillset from hand-knitting. Depending on the machine, the user needs to know how to set the tension, how to use the various buttons and levers to form different types of stitches. The fancier electronic machines can do patterning and textures automatically, while the more basic machines require stitches to be manipulated manually.
No matter what type of knitting machine is used, you do NOT just drop a cone of yarn onto it and walk away. And you don’t make a dozen or a hundred identical items simultaneously, like a factory operation would do. Each article is made individually, with whatever texture, shaping, and details are required.
Using a home knitting machine is not at all like what is done in factories, where the entire process is automated. The user still has to manually move the carriage side to side, forming each stitch and row. I have done light lace work on a basic machine, as well as intarsia and other types of colorwork. There are certain lacework stitches that I suspect would be nearly impossible on a machine — I’m thinking of things like nupps, clusters, and popcorns, because they add and decrease stitches which would require moving all the other stitches away, at least temporarily. But slip stitches, tucks, and most other texturing can be done on a machine.
The knitting machine is a tool for hand-knitting. It requires learning and practice. It is no more ‘cheating’ than someone using a sewing machine to create a quilt; the quilter still has to cut each piece, sew all the pieces into their proper position, align the finished top to the batting and backing, etc. It is very much a hands-on project, whether 100% hand-stitched or with the aid of a machine.
Using a knitting machine saves time and forms more uniform stitches, but it is just as ‘hand-made’ as clickety-clacking the long way.