Like yours, my knitting time is very limited. And up until now, by "knitting" I meant "hand knitting, with needles". And if I don't have enough time to hand knit, then I certainly don't have time to machine knit – do I? Well, it appears that I'm going to have to make the time as machine knitting is really rather wonderful.
My immense enjoyment is due, in no small part, to the excellent teaching from members of the School of Textiles and Design, specifically in the knitting department (a university with a knitting department, now that's cool): Plenty of clear, practical demonstrations, supported by handouts, and lots and lots of time to play. There were no formal aims or objectives, just a general invitation to try to replicate each new technique and then play. No limits on the time dedicated to producing each sample or developing the new skill. And no limits on the yarn – it was all pretty brilliant.
Now, if this is sounding too childish for your liking, try replacing "play" with "research" in the above paragraph - it was just really, really fun research: Look how combining a change in colour exaggerates the shaping introduced by the tuck stitches.
See how using the same punch card can produce such varied results when changing the stitch pattern or colour way.
Look how I can make train pictures (okay, that was properly playing!).
We used punch cards to make our Fair Isle patterns and I confess, it did feel a little like cheating. I know that when we choose a specific design when hand knitting, we follow the colour changes and stitch pattern as set by the designer – and using a punch card is only one step further along this process – yet I somehow felt remote from the knitting. I wasn't responsible for the colour changes, the machine took care of all of that itself: I literally selected the two colours, put one behind the gate and left the other in front and knitted. Job done. Changing the second colour in-pattern required a little more user input to get the precise timing of the new colour to match the desired position, but after the initial adrenalin rush of getting that wrong and then right, it went back to feeling rather mechanical. Which, of course, it is.
The second panel of the same size but without the cabling (and without the tinking) took a little over an hour. Yes, I think I could find the time for machine knitting.
I'm genuinely delighted to have completed the summer school. I already had a knitting machine and I'm thrilled that I'm now able to use it and that some of the reasons for buying it may be realised. If I tell you that I've just purchased a second knitting machine, to knit chunky fabrics more akin to my hand knitting, then perhaps you'll have a better idea of the full impact that this course has had.
And a massive thank you to my parents for making this possible by staying with us to look after not just my boys, but all of us – and so very well indeed.