Monday, April 7, 2008

Knitting Machine Magician

On my recent trip to the retirement regions of the South, I had a chance to visit with world's-most-patient-husband's aunt, a dear lady who also happens to be a world-class knitting-machine expert. Maybe even a knitting machine magician. Before she wrapped it up a few years back, she was a dealer, teacher, and conference speaker on knitting creatively with these contraptions. Oh, she enjoys hand-knitting too, for fun, but for the serious stuff, she really makes those machines do pirouettes.

While I was there, Auntie-knitting-magician showed me her set-up. She has not one, not two, but three knitting machines. She may not be running her business any longer, but a gal likes to keep her hand in, after all! She has not one but two rooms of her house devoted to knitting. But, really, who wouldn't, given the chance?

She gave me a little demonstration of how her knitting machines work. Two of them are computerized, and the other one is manual and runs from punched card patterns. These things look pretty complicated, but I believe much of that to-do in the picture is just there to feed the various yarns into the business end at the right tension for a multi-colored stitch pattern.

If your satisfaction comes mainly from designing garments, from considering and deciding on color, stitch pattern, cut and seeing it all come to life, you could knit like the wind with these things. I imagine that sewing up is by far the slowest part of this process.

Auntie-knitting-magician was a young mother when she became involved with these mechanical marvels. A hand-knitter then, she noticed her children's friends' mothers seemed to be producing sweaters considerably faster than she was. Her interest captured, she was off and running for decades to come.

The only drawback she mentioned is that the machines are noisy, chattering and clacking as the shuttle (if that's the word) slides back and forth across the array of hooks that do the work of knitting needles.

Auntie-knitting-magician seems to have her two knitting rooms remarkably under control, considering the number of projects she has cranked out. Most of her yarn is hidden away, but just look at all the half-pound cones she needs to have casually out on a handy rack within easy reach!

She showed me some of the things she has made over the years. Fine, fine yarns, and complex overall stitch patterns. Lightweight, multicolored knits. Mosaic patterns. Multi-directional cables. "Oh here's a little thing I designed for a class I was giving." Things you probably wouldn't even think of doing by hand. Knife-pleated knitted skirts. Tailored jackets and slacks. Stupendously complicated intarsia florals, with each blade of grass separately colored and shaded.

I may be a back-as-close-as-I-can-get-to-the-sheep hand-knitter myself, but I can certainly appreciate and respect what Auntie-knitting-magician can do with her amazing machines. She's a virtuoso.

Clack on, Auntie-knitting-magician, clack on!


Bess said...

Oh you lucky thing to have such a treasure in your family. Off and on I've been sorely tempted to bring one of those things into my house and make it my friend. Imagine having an aunt who could walk you through the steps. Lucky gal.

2 rooms devoted to knitting. Sigh.

Two Cables and a Frapp said...

How fortunate you are !!!