One top tip that The King of Spare Parts gave me on Monday was that you’re not supposed to leave the sponge/needle bar in your knitting machine. Really? To be honest that was news to me. Do you leave the sponge bar in your knitting machine?
With the old bar in place the needles sat up slightly
With the new bar in the needles sit flat
As you can see from the pictures mine needed replacing as it was nearly 30 years old and the needles bounced upwards which can lead to them getting caught in the sinker plate.
While we’re on the subject of tips here’s one from me. Unless your machine is brand new don’t pick it up by the handle as the plastic can become brittle over time causing it to break and your machine will hit the floor with a sickening thud.
If you’ve got any other top machine knitting tips let me know by adding a comment below and we can pool our knowledge.
There’s nothing more horrifying than the smell of burning and last Friday’s episode with my Brother 950i knitting machine was, for me, the stuff of nightmares although it provoked endless chuckles from our builders. “Your knitting machine is broken?” *Cue builder-type cackling to the power of four*…….yes yes, ha ha very funny. Wouldn’t be laughing so much if the kettle was broken would you?
Anyway on Friday when the ‘great unmentionable’ happened I made a desperate Commissioner Gordon-type phonecall to Doug at Heathercraft and arranged to take the machine over for him to work his magic and bring her back to life. Faygate is a hamlet tucked away in the West Sussex countryside and it’s here that you’ll find the Heathercraft Knitting Machine Centre. The business is run by husband and wife team Brenda and Doug Bristow with Brenda responsible for all types of tuition from knitting machine to DesignaKnit & Fittingly Sew and Doug (or as I’m going to call him from now on The King of Spares Parts) taking care of all manner of repairs and spares.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got there on Monday afternoon but walking (ok struggling slightly with poorly machine clenched in my arms like a sick child) into the workshop was like entering an Aladdin’s Cave where every manner of knitting machine happily goes to die. I have never seen so many spares waiting to be re-used. Sinker plates, carriages, circuit boards, yarn tension units, brushes, hook weights, claw weights, (ok you get the picture) from all manner of brands including Brother, Passap, Toyota, Silver Reid et al were spread – no packed – around the room. All it takes for them to find their way to their next owner is one desperate phone call then they’re dispatched to an ever grateful knitter – or in my case the desperate knitter to turns up at the shop for Doug to work a miracle.
As he rightly diagnosed it was the capacitor and to be honest, I can’t complain. I’ve had 27 years of use out of it after all. After removing 3 screws and a couple of plastic rivets he whipped out the foul smelling object and soldered the new one in place while I wandered, slack jawed around the room taking photos. Sam said he’d never seen me so happy and that may seem a little sad but I was like a pig in the proverbial. The repair took around 15 minutes and whilst I was there I picked up a new sponge bar, some brushes and spare needles for the main bed. Well, nothing’s too good for my baby.
Since Brother stopped producing knitting machines and supplying spares it’s become increasingly difficult to find parts for machines like mine. Yes of course there’s Ebay but men like Doug – who can actually offer practical help in addition to the parts – are as rare as hens’ teeth. When I contacted Steel’s in Brighton (who would have been nearer) and explained what had happened I got a surly “don’t touch 950i’s anymore – too old”. So I’ll definitely be adding The King of Spare Parts to my little black book because in the event of another machine emergency his will be the first number I call. (Oh yes he also sells brand new and second hand machines too)
When we moved into this house back in July I knew that the ‘kitchen from hell’ wouldn’t be staying. Well I really only have to endure it for a few more weeks as the builders started working on the downstairs extension on Monday. Hooray! They’re a lovely bunch, turn up when they say they will, they’re polite, WORK and actually clean up before they leave at the end of the day. (Yes we’ve had past issues with bad builders – who hasn’t?)
Speaking of work for the first time since moving to Brighton I’ll be taking part in the Artist’s Open House weekends in May and have been getting a little stressed that up to now no work has materialised. That was until yesterday when I had a fantastic day researching materials and techniques for a new collection of ‘ready to wear’ accessories that I’m really looking forward to producing. So today I pulled my beloved Brother 950i knitting machine out of it’s hiding place under my desk, the plan being to knit some test swatches and try out some construction techniques. If you follow my Instagram feed (@jeanettesloan) you’ll have seen my posts showing me cleaning my machine and knitting on it for the first time in …let me think….let’s just say it’s been years. I’ve owned this machine since 1990 when my parents bought it for me from John Lewis on Oxford Street. It’s like my baby. No-one else touches or uses her. When we’ve moved house no-one lifts her apart from me and I still have all the mylar sheets, pens, tools (intact) and cast on combs all with straight teeth, in fact the double bed ones even have their wires! (Take note every BA knit/fashion student I’ve ever taught).
The first sample was going so well, she even read a mylar sheet without stuttering and then it happened. …That popping sound…. Then the smell of smoke.
Given the age of the machine I knew it could happen and shouldn’t have been surprised. It looks like the capacitors have gone – well she is 27 years old – so my work plans for the day have been abandoned.
The good news is that thanks to the Guild of Machine Knitters’ website I’ve found a lovely man called Doug in Faygate (near Crawley) who should be able to fix her on Monday. As for the rest of the day I’m off to make a fish pie for dinner. Let’s hope I can read the recipe through my tears…..
Despite it officially being Spring the weather is filthy down here today. It’s grey, windy and wet and all I want to do is snuggle up under a blankie in front of the fire and knit.
I try not to let this foul weather get me down but the endless lack of blue sky is really beginning to get to me. The builders start work on the house tomorrow (that means the kitchen from hell will soon be a thing of the past) but even shopping for a new kitchen can only lift my mood for a little while. Thankfully though there was a little ray of sunshine. A beautiful bunch of flowers that I received from my lovely friend, textile artist Ealish Wilson. Originally from the Isle of Man but now based in San Francisco we met when studying at Heriot Watt Uni for our Mdes in Textile Design and in fact if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have met the entertaining Mr Sloan. So whilst I’m enjoying my flowers, the fire and swatch knitting for a new design pop over and have a look at her website. Her work explores a number of techniques including printing, pleating, smocking, photography and digital manipulation with final applications ranging from cushions and scarves to bags and large scale art pieces.
The reason you’ve not heard a lot from me over the last week is because I had a busy and stressful week that was thankfully peppered with the odd joyful moment that kept me from falling into utter panic. Back in the days of the old brain the design commission I was working on would generally have taken me less than a week to knit, then translate into written pattern instructions with charts for submission to the appropriate magazine. However with the new brain it turns out that even knitting one of my own designs whilst enjoyable, was also exhausting and frustrating almost in equal measure.
The design in question is a simple slash neck sweater in mosaic and purl stitch texture and it was originally designed last March (I think) before the brain squatters were diagnosed. Having decided on a simple, easy to wear silhouette I was really looking forward to getting started. Having cast on and knitted the first few repeats I thought I’d got the hang of the 16 row pattern. Then of course I’d lose where I was or just rock on for a few rows forgetting to decrease when needed so back I’d go, rip, rip, ripping it out and cursing under my breath. Damn brain! It took longer than planned and took more yarn than requested due to a definite difference between Rowan’s old denim and the new definitely skinnier-in-the-fingers ‘Original Denim’. (Just a word of caution, if you’re planning on knitting a vintage Rowan Denim design using the newer yarn take the time to swatch before you cast on for the garment).
By the time I’d finished sewing it up over a year after it was originally submitted although I’m happy with the results my lack of confidence issues mean there were lots of nagging doubts whilst I was knitting and praying that the commissioning magazine is equally as pleased. Oh and that it fits ok.
It was only once I’d cleared the decks and finally posted the garment off that I could truly, truly relax. I’m not sure in what issue of the The Knitter it will appear but here’s a little sneak peek of the lovely purl and mosaic textures.
We all have a favourite yarn, season, stitch, technique or colour don’t we? For me the yarn would be anything deliciously soft and expensive, the season would be winter, the stitch would be mmm…you know I’m not so sure, I guess it depends on my mood. As for colour it would have to be orange…..or pink…..or better yet a combination of both. So it’s a little strange to have so much blue yarn sitting on my desk this week.
I like blue but I don’t LOVE it…. unless it’s a really vibrant turquoise bringing to mind warm tropical breezes, cool rum cocktails and soft white sandy beaches. In general blue tends to leave me a little cold and it although it doesn’t feature largely in my wardrobe there are some notable denimy exceptions. I mean who doesn’t wear denim in one form or another?
As for the fate of all this blue yarn, the chunky baby alpaca is for a friend’s surprise birthday gift that I’ll be hand knitting tomorrow. The variegated sock yarn is for Sam’s ribbed scarf that will be machine knitted later today and the denim yarn is for a magazine commission that’s been lingering around for a while. (I was due to submit it last year but got waylaid by the brain squatters). I’ve loved working with Rowan’s Denim since I was a student and am definitely looking forward to knitting with it again. Not only can you machine wash it at 60ºc but it can also be tumble dried so it’s pretty indestructible plus it ages beautifully with every subsequent wash which adds wonderful character to the garment. This for me makes it a classic and a winner.
The week started off a little wobbly yesterday but I’m hoping I’ll catch up as my diary is pretty full.Thankfully though it’s a good mix of work and play and to get me in the mood I’m going to start by listening to The Mighty Wah! whilst I work
What story will be told by the yarn you’re using this week?
I’m really enjoying this blog challenge but have to admit that some days are a more of a challenge than others when it comes to writing a post. It’s been a bit of a strange week for me, one moment I’m mentally focussed and the next my brain ‘flatlines’ when it feels overloaded (I’ve been working with a tech editor on some designs completed before my operation – now there’s a strange headspace to try and get back to). The one thing that is giving me more enjoyment than ever is the actual process of knitting. The click of the needles, the snaking of the yarn through my fingers and the wonderfully repetitive process of in, over, round and out as stitch after stitch is created. There have been a few periods over the last couple of years when I really thought I’d lost my passion for a craft I’ve loved for so many years and as a designer I felt unfulfilled, unsuccessful and uninspired. It’s probably quite common for people whose living depends on their creativity but it’s also very unsettling not knowing when (and if) your mojo will make it’s return.
Well in my new mindful habit of living in the moment I am embracing my newly returned mojo and following wherever it leads me. Let’s hope it sticks around for a while