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[Whats the difference?]

Q: What is the difference between hand knitting and machine knitting?

A: A heck of a lot of time.  You can knit up a sweater in an afternoon on a machine & sew the pieces together that same evening - or spend weeks, nay, months, completing the same item by hand.

For me, though, there is no alternative to machine knitting because while I can crochet with an excellent tension whatever the hook size, I cannot hand knit for the life of me - no ability to keep to a tension or even to keep the yarn on the needles.

For those of you who do wonder at the difference - machine knitting falls into different slots: 

  • Chunky or bulky machines will knit up thick yarns at a rapid pace & a project can be completed within hours, the same day. A punch-card or electronic machine will give you the choice to add patterns; fair-isle, motifs, lace, weaving, tuck & slip, by slipping in a card or entering a number.  Which is far easier than selecting by hand on the basic machine - although one has to add that on chunky machines there are not so many needles as on the standard machines, the needles are themselves chunky, therefore selecting by hand is not such a difficult task.  I used to own a basic chunky machine, but being used to using electronic knitting machines made me impatient with it and I got rid of it as soon as I could.
  • You may be under the illusion, as I was once upon a time, that a chunky machine is ideal for knitting with mohair. Wrong. The yarn will catch on ALL THE NEEDLES along the whole length of the bed on EVERY SINGLE ROW and you will spend most of your time pulling the work down and wondering if there is something, anything, that can stop the snagging.  If you ever do finish a piece, you will see that the “hairy” lengths of the yarn have been knitted in with every stitch - making it one very long job of brushing it all out. AND, I hasten to add, unravelling mohair which has been hand knitted or crocheted, is far easier to do than if it has been knitted on a machine as all that snagging on the needles meant exactly that, that every stitch is going to get snagged with itself and with the stitches that follow.
  • Standard 4.5 gauge machines are absolutely excellent for knitting with fine yarns, from 1 ply to 4 ply. There are yarns on the cone which are specifically for knitting machines which have been pre-waxed (which comes out in the first wash). Balls of ordinary knitting yarn are not the same ply, they will be far thicker & your normal tension rules do not apply - you will need to do test swatches for each type of yarn that you buy - and slot in a wax piece which the yarn will pass as you knit.
  • Nothing compares with knitting up the pieces for a sweater, skirt, dress or children’s clothes during the afternoon & spending the evening sewing the pieces together. With any knitting machine you can complete a project in a day - if that’s what you want to do. Which is what I generally like to do but, since going over to knitting afghans, each project can take me the best part of a week or more - well, to be honest there, I usually knit all the pieces within one day but end up trying hard to find the light to sew them together - in competition with my husband who likes to watch tv in the dark & I am not one of those people who you will find on the porch in a rocking chair singing to myself while I sew.  I wanna watch the box & sew at the same time.
  • The fair-isle charts are the same. Which makes me think I should alter my charts for hand knitters by using an alternative colour for every other row - BIG THINKS that may be easier for everyone to copy the charts.
  • A standard knitting machine has 200 needles across the bed, which means that I am able to design a huge single pattern.  Unless I design 2 more huge patterns I am stuck with the repeat for making an afghan as in my opinion an afghan (or couch throw, whatever) needs to be a fair size. A chunky knitting machine cannot knit up a pattern this wide solely because it does not have enough needles.  Knitting my 180 stitch wide cat fair-isle afghan by hand may well be completed a lot easier by using thick yarns & big knitting needles, sections which measure long and wide and thereby not needing to knit 3 lengths as when using a standard knitting machine & 4 ply yarn.
  • Which means, in essence, that hand knitting possibly wins for the end result as my interest in designing my big afghan was to have one single huge pattern.  The hand knitter may only need to use one or two of other patterns for a border design to add to the width of the afghan.
  • Yet - at the same time, nothing, absolutely NOTHING, beats the amount of knitting you can complete in a day on a knitting machine & the whole lot is done with an even tension!         

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