Tuesday, 8 October 2013
To non-knitters, knitters may look like a monolithic group, but there are actually factions and camps within knitting because there are so many different types of knitting. One small but avid subset you'll find among knitters is antique sock machine enthusiasts. It's still possible (if challenging) to find, buy, and operate an antique sock knitting machine. In the video above, Shelly Hatton demonstrates how she uses her antique circular sock knitting machines at Maker Faire in Austin, Texas.
In a second video, Kenya Habegger, a sock machine enthusiast from Berne, Indiana shows us how her sock knitting machine works and also tells us something of the history of sock machines. During World War I, sock knitting machines were sold for about $11 and their operators were paid $0.05 for a pair. Habegger can make a pair of socks in 45 minutes. You can work out for yourself how much a machine operator would be likely to make in a day and how long it would take that machine to pay for itself.
For more information about sock knitting machine, check out this online sock knitting machine museum, or visit Angora Valley. And if you're very interested in sock machine knitting and would like to connect with other like-minded knitters, check out the New Sock Machine Society of America (which is an international organization despite its name), which has its own website and a Ravelry group.
Friday, 10 May 2013
Someone has constructed a knitting machine out of Lego blocks. And to think that the most creative thing I did with my Lego when I was little was to make furniture for my Barbies. But when I knitted Barbie blankets for the my Lego Barbie beds, I at least knitted faster than this machine, if without a classical score.
Coming up: Look for the Knit n' Style Summer 2013 review tomorrow morning!
Saturday, 2 March 2013
Artist Reina Mia Brill likes to create bizarre but cute creatures (such as those above, in a piece entitled, "If You Keep Making Faces") through a several step process that combines clay sculpting, painted, and knitted wire mesh made on antique knitting machines. As Brill states on her website,
I make creature sculptures that live in a children’s world. Part animal and part human, their lives are filled with mischief, insecurity, fears, and curiosity. Their story begins as a lump of clay which is slowly formed through my fingertips. After being bisque fired, colorful underglazes are painted on the surface. Once all the firing is finished, I pause, change pace and step back in time. Sitting down with my 1920’s and 1960’s knitting machines I decide how to transform the glazed surface with an unexpected texture, knitted wire. Colorful wire mesh is stretched and sewn over the hard clay surface for the actual skins and garments for the creatures. These old mechanical machines are truly precious. I love using them for a renewed purpose, which adds to the story and fabled world where my creatures reside.
You can visit Brill's website to learn more about her and her work and especially to see more of her fantastical knitted mesh creatures. Which I so want to see starring in an animated movie.
Thursday, 31 January 2013
This is an old Family Circle ad from 1974 for a child's Knit Magic knitting machine.
And apparently a child can make all these items with a Knit Magic. I'm skeptical, to say the least. As well as somewhat aghast by the sheer aggressive ugliness of most of those items. Why on earth were seventies crafts just so horrible? It seems to be largely because of the ugly shades acrylics were dyed at that time, but the designs are often cracked-out too.
It's still possible to buy a child's knitting machine. Singer makes one, there's a Hello Kitty knitting machine, and Mattel makes a Barbie knitting machine. You could probably even score your very own vintage Knit Magic on eBay if you searched long enough. But I wouldn't recommend it. The online reviews of child's knitting machines that I came across on Amazon and other places while researching this post were unenthusiastic and qualified at best. People were saying that the stitches constantly slipped off the hooks, that working the machine could be an extremely frustrating and tricky process that was hard for even an adult to learn, and that the plastic gears wore out by the time they made a third item. And another problem I have with toy knitting machines is that they're mostly pink and otherwise targeted exclusively at girls, which will discourage boys and boys' parents from even thinking of knitting machines as a boy's toy, and by extension, knitting as a boy's activity.
My shopping experience has been that cheap special-purpose gadgets are generally not worth the money. They never work anything close to as easily or as well as their advertisements make them appear, and just end up taking up space in the cupboard. Or are donated to a thrift shop, and then bought by someone else who will also be disappointed in them and stick them in their cupboards. You see this principle manifested most often in cooking equipment. As any good cook will tell you, a good quality set of sharp knives will take you a long way. Hey, just look at David Duchovny's experience with the Chop-O-Matic.
Children's craft kits are a subset of the cheap gadget category. Those big, colourful boxes often hold just a few, poor quality items, such as plastic needles and small amounts of horrible acrylic yarn and plastic beads with badly drilled holes and the coating already flaking off them. You'll pay a premium price for that kit, and if you think about how frustrating it is for you to work with poor materials, just think how much harder it will be for your child, when she or he doesn't have the experience or patience or finer motor skills that you do.
So I'd avoid trying to entice children to take an interest in crafting, or in anything for that matter, by buying expensive novelty items, and instead give them less exciting but decent quality materials and tools to work with, invest the time teaching them the necessary skills, and/or enroll them in a school knitting program where they can have fun learning with their friends. If the child really wants a knitting machine, I'd buy her or him a very basic, good quality machine intended for adults, secondhand if possible. Then, if the child uses the knitting machine like an obsessed little prodigy or even just regularly and with enjoyment, I'd get him or her a better model some Christmas or birthday down the road. Alternatively, if it turns out that the child doesn't ever use the basic machine, I could use it myself, or sell it or give it away to someone who will.
When I was six I started asking my mother to teach me to knit. She'd told me she learned to knit when she was six so I figured I could learn at that age too, but she told me I wasn't old enough. I spent the next two years begging her to teach me, and she kept putting me off. She told me later that she dreaded teaching me because of my temperament — I was basically pure id as a child — and she postponed the evil day for as long as she could stand to have me pestering her about it. (This wasn't unjustified — some of her collection of knitting needles are still slightly bent from being flung across the room.)
I still remember the moment of utter joy I experienced when, one summer day when I was eight years old, she finally told me, "All right, go get some needles and yarn." I learned to knit with a pair of double-pointed needles and some remnants of pink Aran yarn. Genuine interest and natural ability can't be bought, but always manifest themselves if given a reasonable opportunity.
Monday, 3 December 2012
In the video above, which was shot at World Maker Faire in 2011, artist Andrew Salamone is shown demonstrating the knitting machine he's programmed to knit images and displaying some of the amazing work he's produced with it: a ski mask with an image of his face on the front, a "break beat" scarf, and a sweater featuring a picture of Bill Cosby wearing a sweater with a picture of Bill Cosby on it. Bill Cosby, for those of you too young to know or remember, wore a series of dreadful sweaters on The Cosby Show in the eighties. Salamone hopes to someday get Cosby to accept and wear the sweater he's designed, and I hope he succeeds. I'd just love it if The Cos did something so meta and self-deprecating, and God knows Cosby can't reject this sweater on the grounds that it's in any way inferior to the sweaters he's worn in the past.
Check out more of Andrew Salamone's knitted art on his web site. In my favourite piece, Salamone recreates a still from "The Muppet Bohemian Rhapsody".