Brown: Machine knitter shares fast knitting skills at City Knits
When most of us think of a person knitting, we imagine someone sitting with needles in hand and a ball of yarn at their feet that slowly unwinds as they form stitches one at time, creating a piece of stretchy fabric. Seldom, if ever, do we picture a person sitting at a rather large piece of machinery, filled with metal hooks, making back and forth motions along a line of positioned hooks, creating knitted rows almost at the blink of an eye – in other words, a machine knitter.
Michelle Goodhand of West Bloomfield is a machine knitter. For about the past 20 years, she’s been cranking out beautifully knitted garments and accessories, yet, she knows machine knitting is occasionally viewed by hand-knitters as “cheating.”
She says, “Sometimes that’s the reaction until they actually try it, and discover that it’s a whole new skill set, and it’s just a different way of accomplishing the end goal. It’s like, if you’re going to sew a dress, would you use a sewing machine, or would you stitch the entire dress by hand?”
Goodhand has taught machine knitting to about 50 individuals, mostly through local yarn stores interested in selling the machines. “That’s what City Knits is doing now with Silver Reed (Knitting Machines),” she says. City Knit’s store manager, Amy Houghtalin, is offering 10 percent off on machines ordered by Wednesday. Goodhand says the machine, the Silver Reed LK150, is easy to use, and it handles sock- to worsted-weight yarn. It’s also very portable, and one of her “go-to favorites.”
About Goodhand’s teaching skills, Houghtalin says, “I own five knitting machines and I’ve been trying to teach myself for years how to use them. In three lessons, I’ve learned more from Michelle than four or five years of searching YouTube or books.”
Goodhand’s classes for beginners at the spacious Harrison Township yarn shop are set for Jan. 18 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.) and Jan. 23 (1-3 p.m.). “Our first class – learning to cast on, increasing (and) decreasing, the basic skills required for machine knitting – is $25 for two hours, and that’s a group lesson. We can accommodate six people per class. Everyone brings their machine, and it’s a hands-on. It’s not just a demonstration.”
“Most people are hand-knitters and they want to learn something new to add to their repertoire of skills. It’s addictive because we can knit something faster, or because we can try something new. Instead of spending four weeks to knit a sweater, we can do it in a day, or two, depending on the stitch pattern. We made a plain stockinette, long-sleeve sweater in four hours. That was one that didn’t have finished edgings or ribbings.” And because machine knitting is “addictive,” Goodhand says, “I’ve never had anyone that’s been in a class quit.”
A prolific knitter who prefers natural fibers, Goodhand knits daily at home. “I currently have nine machines set up with each one doing a little something different. It has to do with the size of the hooks/needles on the machine, and how far each is spaced from the other. The hook has to accommodate a particular thickness of the yarn. The skills involved are not difficult, but there certainly is a learning curve – just like learning to hand knit, there’s a learning curve. I wouldn’t say it’s any more difficult, I would just say it’s different.”
Unlike a lot of machine knitters, Goodhand admits she just has enough hand-knitting skills to “finish a garment and do a ribbing so that the edges don’t roll.” She says, “My hands are pretty arthritic.”
And, like hand-knitting, Goodhand believes machine-knitting has made a definite comeback in recent years. “I would say it’s back pretty strongly,” she says. “It’s like everything else – it’s kind of cyclical.”
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit Crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, email@example.com or facebook.com/ DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact City Knits (26050 Crocker, Harrison Township) at (586) 469-9665 or cityknits.com.