Guest blogger series | The joy of the knitting machine

by Admin on 05/11/2011

in Community + Creativity, Guest blog series2 2011, knitting+crochet+yarn

Tegan Rose & Lara Cameron run the textile design and print studio, Ink & Spindle, located in inner city Melbourne. Their focus is on sustainable, ethical & local production.

Thanks Kathreen for asking us to guest blog today! Very exciting.

Lara & I had a chat about what we should write about & decided that if you wanted to read about us, you could do so on our blog or Facebook page. So instead I’m going to tell you about a fun, non-Ink & Spindle thing that has been happening after hours here in the studio this year!

Knitting. Machine Knitting to be precise!

And we have the raddest machine knitting crew around…

Backstory: My mum taught me how to hand knit when I was very little. We lived on a property in South West Victoria, with no TV, far away from anything or anyone that wasn’t a cow or sheep, so I spent my childhood following my parents around, probably loudly complaining about being bored. As a consequence of that I learned how to do a lot of odd things. From catching yabbies with my bare hands, to making candlestick holders on a lathe, to knitting. Not that knitting is particularly odd. Though it was maybe 1990 and I was around 6 years old. I have no idea what other 6 year olds were doing in 1990, but they were probably having an ace time playing Guess Who or Hungry Hungry Hippo (I always wanted, never had, those games – deprived child, I know), probably not hanging out in the garden with knitting needles.

So as you can probably already tell, I have a little trouble staying on topic at the best of times… ok – KNITTING! You see, I could decide on, plan and begin a project no worries. But finish one? Rarely. I have very distinct memories of my step-dad telling me – throughout my childhood, probably every time I picked up my needles – that I needed a knitting machine. I had no idea what one was, but he would describe one to me and tell me how his mum had one when he was little and used to knit all his clothes on it. And how great they are. And how I’d absolutely LOVE one.

But it was all just a bit too abstract and complicated for my brain to get a handle on without ever actually seeing one in action. But I always remembered about the mythical, amazing knitting machine.

So last October, when my lovely friend Suzie said she had just aquired a knitting machine and it was totally awesome, my immediate response was: FIND ME ONE TOO. So she did.

Less than 2 weeks later I was sitting in the home of the President of the Machine Knitters Association of Victoria, having a lesson on how to clean, care for and (thankfully!) use my new, highly confusing, complicated, beautiful and retro looking Singer 888 from 1960-something. I excitedly called my step-dad on my way home and told him it may have taken 20 years, but guess what I just bought? Hilariously, he couldn’t remember ever telling me I needed one.

But yay! It was fair to say my new machine was totally overwhelming, and also super exciting. Mostly overwhelming. I could make scarves – because they’re rectangle. But I needed lessons. Pronto.

The cool thing was, that Suzie dove head first in to the land of MK’ing and got involved in different groups like the Brunswick Novices Group and the Aussie Machine Knitters – Suzie was also experimenting like crazy with yarns and talking to people who had been knitting forever and generally doing all kinds of really awesome stuff… but best of all, through her our little crew of newbie MK’ers (who also needed lessons, pronto) developed and Suzie organised us a semester of classes with the hugely knowledgable Angela. [You can read about Sooz’s machine knitting journey on a previous guest post here. ed.]

Lara and I quickly volunteered our studio to host the classes, as we have a big long table perfect for the machines & really love that we can share our studio space with other creative and like-minded people within the Melbourne/handcrafted/local community.

We spent the next 6 months learning, practicing, making mistakes, doing homework (my step-dad scored himself a very unattractive birthday beanie which, I have it on good authority, he loves) then our beginner classes came to an end…

Have to say I felt quite bereft when our monthly Friday night MK classes stopped! (Yes, Friday night. I had to laugh when I turned down invites from my 20-something friends to all kinds of ace gigs/parties/bars because I was much too busy… attending knitting class.)

Again Suzie came to the rescue. Now we had learned just how to use our machines, we wanted to learn more about technique and garment construction. Suzie got us Brianna. Brianna has an amazing knowledge of machine knitted garment construction and generally I think is pretty brilliant at all things textile related.

Brianna spent the whole day yesterday teaching the crew all kinds of nifty tips and tricks, not just how to knit a super cool cardi. Which, yes, I am totally wearing today. That’s how great knitting machines are – in one day, even learning a new thing (so we were really slow) and we all have a spanky new cardigan.

To conclude: My step-dad was right. They really ARE awesome. Go get yourself a knitting machine and someone to teach you how to use it – build your own crew of MK newbies and a wardrobe of handmade garments!

xx Teegs

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