How Shall I knit for Thee? Let Me Count the Ways Return to the book index on the hope page to shop
(c) 2013 Kathryn Doubrley

Sometimes people wonder about the relative merits of machine knitting, hand knitting and loom knitting. This recently came up on a group that I belong to. I do them all and here are some thoughts:

Hand knitting on needles and working on the loom are hand work. They proceed at a measured pace. Hurrying takes the fun out. But the enormous upside is that it is quiet, portable work with great tactile pleasure as the yarn moves through your hands. It is sociable work that is possible to enjoy while conversing with others. In my opinion, loom knitting is the quickest of the knitting skills to master and most accessible to those with any sort of disability including arthritis.

Machine knitting is quite a different animal. The fabric produced is the same [or can be--there are many fabrics possible with all knitting methods] but it is practical to knit on a much finer gauge on the machine than most of us have the time to do by hand. Machine knitting, once you are skilled, goes much, much faster. I knit DRESSY SUITS and intricate items on a knitting machine--something I would not undertake with any hand method. You can learn the basics of machine knitting in an afternoon but the expertise to make a suit or pants takes some real investment of time for most people to achieve. On the other hand, the machine is large and makes noise so machine knitting is a more solitary pastime. It also uses different muscle groups. And, like every kind of machine in the world, a knitting machine comes with expenses and maintenance needs as part of the package.

There are some real similarities between all the knitting methods, too. Conceptually, they are close to identical. What I mean is that stitches are actually formed in pretty much the same ways--loops of yarn being pulled through existing stitches to make more stitches--in every case. And once you understand the shape of a sleeve and how it fits into a garment, that is true for all garments of a similar style, no matter how they are knitted. The similarities mean that your 2nd and 3rd knitting skill may be acquired more quickly than your first because you are using the first as a building block and not starting from mental scratch. Also, motor skills are not identical but there is an overlap which helps, too.

A whole lot of whether a machine is worth the investment has to do with your personality. Do you like to see results fast--get an idea and have it come to fruition quickly? You'll love machine knitting. I also think that for production and sales, machines are a huge help. In general, the buyers don't know or care how an item was knitted and the machine is usually faster. Since knitting machine maintenance will mostly be your own responsibility, it helps if you are somewhat mechanically inclined. AND you must be willing to make a real investment in the learning process. I own quite a few knitting machines so obviously I think they are worth it. But don't get one if you are hoping for instant expertise or the ability to start making money this week. Won't happen. And how much do you really want to knit? I knit all of my own clothing, most gifts I give for any occasion, some clothing for others, some production knitting and design professionally. Ovbiously my machines are paying for themselves. But if you want 2 scarves a year the payback time would be a century or more. And when do you want to knit? If you have time to yourself that you'd like to use a machine is a good way. If you are working your needlework into odd moments while waiting to have your teeth cleaned and things like that, stick with a hand method.