Wednesday, 31 May 2017

My earliest knitting machine

The previous post shows the advert for a machine of this type. I was away when preparing that post and have now got the machine out of store and revelled in  its simplicity  and the ingenuity of its design. I just love it. 
The machine in its original box

I have hoovered it thoroughly, gently wiped the wonderful green enamel and put ballistol oil on the knitting mechanism
The machine bed. 
Note the ends- the numbers represent the tension, a simple 'blob in a dent' system which works amazingly well. 
Very simply the machine works by enabling  the 'gate pegs' to come out by  moving the inner slider to the opposite end of the carriage, the yarn is placed in the resulting horizontal groove, the other slider is moved along and the yarn is pulled towards the needle bed. The stitch formation action is completed by moving the front lower section around in a specified circuit ( towards you and round away from you ) and then you are ready to begin again. 

I was very lucky in that I had in the box, 2 cast on combs and a bristle brush; clear instructions accompanied by photographs on how to work the machine ; instructions on knitting garments ; a supplement of fancy stitches and a superb double sided advert describing clientele suited for using the machine - including 'war wounded men'! 
I have knitted samples on the machine but not an item yet! 
I have owned it for several years (35?) - it was bought at a local auction . One has just been for sale on eBay for £300- which is a LOT more than this cost ! ( I don't know if it was sold for that!) 

The interesting thing to me is finding out more about the machine. Further research of my  own and help from a lady in the Vintage Knitting Machine FB group has established:

The machine was made in Italy. 
The first  model came out in 1938, it seems without the end tension dials
The model I have went by many other names' the miniknitter' being a common one, it seems to be model 2 - having the end tension dials. 
It was made between 1949 and 1959, so it looks as if my machine is about the same age as me! 

The lady (Pia) who has provided some of the extra information is the proud owner of one of these machines as well as a Passap ST120. She believes that the Passap is older still as it has some wood contained in the machine. The sliders in the Lanofix  are clearly made  from early 'plastic'. 

Again if you know more about a Lanofix Miniknitter machine then do get in touch. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Mousa Cushion

In the redecoration of our lounge we decided to incorporate a unit in the  under stairs area. Our  expert local carpenter, who likes a challenge, exceeded our expectations with the unit he came up with. We have purchased some firm foam for the seat. I made an undercover for this from white curtain lining ( from the stash!). This also  gave me a trial run for the actual cover.  The following morning I decided  the undercover was too wrinkly and needed tightening. Hand stitching enabled me to get a really neat tight finish. So the planning and trial meant that making the actual linen based cover went well with no re-doing! 

Then it was time to provide the seat with lots of cushions. We bought a lovely avocet  one from John Lewis- avocets are my favourite bird, Cley bird reserve being a good place to see them. 
But wherever we looked we couldn't find any more suitable ( to me) cushions. I thus decided that the only way to have a set of cushions  that I liked was to make them. 
So for the first of a series of cushions. 
The front has been cut from a Mousa tee shirt that we bought for DH when in Shetland. We went on the Mousa boat one evening on a summer visit to be there for midnight and experience the storm petrels coming back to the broch. It was an experience we really enjoyed and will never forget and recommend it if you get a chance to do this too. 
The tee shirt had never been worn and if I could use this as a cushion front we could see it everyday and be reminded of Mousa. I backed the teeshirt material with iron on interfacing to stabilise it. I didn't really want to use the black Teeshirt fabric for the reverse of the cushion. 
On searching through my stash I noticed that there was sufficient fabric to use from the bridesmaid dress from our wedding ( 1974!). This was just the blue used in the Mousa artwork on the Teeshirt. The fabric was fine stripy satin and embroidered lawn, so I backed this also with iron on interfacing. At this stage the cushion looked good but incomplete.
 I decided it needed an edging in blue to also pick up the blue from the print. So, this time looking in my yarn stash I came up with some variegated fibre that looked promising. I made i-cord with the help of the knitting machine and then hand stitched it round the edge to complete the cushion. ( Apologies it was very hard to get a good image, it is square - honest!)
I love this and am pleased that we have such a personal cushion with nice memories. 
Now to make the next cushion. This one is already started ! It has a lot of hand embroidery, but like the first one it tells a personal story. It will take some time to complete, perhaps for the third cushion I will try some machine embroidery! 

Saturday, 13 May 2017

A machine knit item from the Great Exhibition of 1851

I've already written about a few of the items that really intrigued me in the V and A 'Undressed: A brief History of Underwear'. This is another ( and the last I shall write about). It was a machine knit man's long sleeved machine knitted undershirt. It was made in Britain and as I noted  above was in the Great Exhibition. It was labelled 'The Soltanello' - or perhaps 'sottanello'. I haven't been able to find any more information about it, even though the maker is given - 'Capper and Walters'. What I couldn't really  believe was that it was machine knitted at that time. 

If you know me well, I have a 'weakness' for machine knitting and own a couple of more vintage ones than I knit on myself but 1851 seemed a long time ago to have knitting machines that knitted this fine as well. 

So I set about a little discovery to see what I had missed. I knew the date given must be correct - this is a V and A exhibition after all. So this is a summary what I have found out. 

1589 William Lee invented a stocking frame which depended on the use of a spring and a bearded or barbed needle. The yarn was placed over the needles in a frame. This method was unchanged for the next 200 years.

1657 the Worshipful Company of Frame Knitters was incorporated

1849  latch needle ( much as we use today) patented by Matthew Townsend in the UK and James Herbert in USA

In the 1860's Pastor Isaac Lamb developed the first V bed flat knitting machine

1867 a  Mr Lamb in Northville Chicago developed an 84 needle machine weighing 15 lb and by the 1890's Lamb machines are noted as being used by home knitters throughout the world.

1924 Japan claims Masako Hagiwara invented the first knitting machine aimed at home use. This still required the yarn to be laid across the needles. I am unsure when a carriage took the yarn over the needles as in domestic machines in use now. 
I have been given the following information from ladies in the FB group for vintage knitting machine owners:
1956 Knitting machine had no tension arm
1958 Passap machine had a tension mask and carriage. 
So it looks as if the moveable carriage came in 1957/8 ish! 
Again any further information would help here! 

I have a vintage Lanofix machine that knits in this way, ie the wool is placed over the needles.  It was designed as a portable machine and the advertising with mine shows a gentleman in a wheel chair with the machine sitting on the arms. This would be World War II. It appears my machine may be one of the first models which dates from 1938 but I need to try and cross check this - very exciting. 
This is a poster for it - it seems it have had different names in different countries.

So knitting machines were available in 1851 but I don't have a clear idea of what the one knitting the undershirt might have looked like. I have tried to search the official catalogue of the Great Exhibition and found an entry that would have been good to see - an actual knitting machine! This was made by Eastman New Jersey - I think they were also connected with Photography. But so far I have drawn a blank on a drawing or photo. 

I have tried to cross check the information above. I apologise if any of it is incorrect. Please let me know if you have anything to add to this or if you have an image that I could see of the actual knitting machine that was in the Great Exhibition of 1851.