Casting on with the Mill.

Knitting on the Prym Knitting Mill Maxi is remarkably quick and easy when you get the hang of it, but there are a few things to bear in mind. The instruction guide is easy enough to follow, but nothing can replace practice and learning the kinks in the machine.

  • Casting On/Off: I find the best way to get a clean edge is to cast on a contrasting colour to the wool you’ll be knitting with and knit a good ten rows before switching to the wool you want to knit the piece in. Then when casting off do the same again: switch to a contrasting colour, knit ten or so rows and then remove the wool from the guide and crank the mill until the piece falls off. Then pick up the first and last row of the piece on a needle or stitch holder and rip out the contrasting wool.
  • Guage: you need to pull out a good few metres of wool from the ball and let it hang loosely underneath or pile up next to the yarn guide. Then when casting on make sure that the wool is not too tight and all will be fine.
  • Speed: this is something that definitely comes with practice, the most important things are to ensure that there is plenty of wool loose and to crank the handle at a consistent rate. Then you can gradually crank faster until you are getting eight rows a minute or so.
  • Weighting: longer projects need a lot of space because otherwise they get caught up underneath the mill, the guage is ruined and the machine starts knitting the same stitches again and again until you end up with one long stitch that covers several rows – this can be fixed, but it is always best to avoid it.

And, of course, practice. The only way to really get the hang of the mill is to use it, then speed can really pick up.

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How to rescue arcrylic knitwear from the Accidental Spin Cycle.

I mentioned earlier that although slightly hardier than wool, arcrylic can be destroyed just as completely with the wrong care. It can, in some circumstances, be rescued. I shall now recount one such circumstance.

After feeling pretty ill, I did all the laundry on a 60 degree (centigrade) wash to make sure that any bugs were properly killed. Unfortunately, my handknit arcylic patchwork quilt was killed, too. Well, not quite. The fibers fused together and the spin cycle pulled all the stitches (previously a nice, thick garter stitch) into a thin, misshapen material that ressembled cling-film in its aesthetics, comfort and insulating properties. I was not amused.

However, I was not willing to give up (it is a lovely blanket) and I searched online – it was at this stage that I realised that there are not so many sources on the internet of advice on arcrylic knitwear and how to save it.  How to handwash, yes, but not how to undo the damage done.

Adapting advice aimed at vintage wool knitwear owners, I soaked the blanket in lukewarm water in which I had dissolved the leftover dregs of an assortment of hair conditioners and three capfuls of fabric conditioner (I have since realised that synthetic fibers probably don’t get all that much out of hair conditioner, but hey – I could certainly do no more damage than was already done). I then spread it out in the shower (new-builds don’t have baths, but I would have prefered to have put it in a bath) and left it soaking in its shallow pool of highly scented conditioning goo for a few hours.

Next came the rinsing, which consisted of turning the shower on it (cool water setting) and leaving it to rinse thoroughly for about half an hour, with occasional light swilling and massaging so that the slightly fused fibers came apart. Then I turned it out onto a few towels, rolled it up like a Swiss Roll with the knitwear as jam and stood on it, forcing out the excess water. Finally, I laid it out on the hallway floor and spent a good hour lining up the rows of garter stitch so that it was thick and fluffy feeling again.

And I waited.

Three days later, it had dried completely and I was amazed. It had regained most of the springiness and fluffiness that garter stitch has pre-spin cycle and it felt much, much softer. I believe that the heat had not been the issue, but the spin cycle on the washer had been the main culprit – pulling all the stitches tight and drying them like that.

So as for advice, I suggest that if you need to wash arcrylic at a high temperature, 60 degrees (centigrade) is the absolute furthest frontier, and that so long as you handwash it in a bath and don’t agitate or pul the stitches too much, then it will survive such treatment. Of course, if you can avoid it, not machine washing or hot-washing knits is always the best way to do things.

Hello, internauts!

This is my first ever blog post. Isn’t it exciting? I plan to blog about the Prym knitting mill Maxi I recently received. It is a wonderfully simple (if ocassionally temperamental) machine, but with a bit of imagination and a habit of making stuff up as you go along (which is easily acquired) I think great things can come from it.

The first thing to note is that it really likes arcrylic wool, which is handy because arcrylic is my favourite, too. It’s versatile, doesn’t scratch and can be given to anyone regardless of fiber allergies/preferences. It is also cheap, abundant regardless of the quality/range knitting shop you’re in, and can be washed with relative ease and less fear of shrinkage than other wools. Although – disclaimer here – you can ruin it in other ways, which I’ll have a little rant about later.

Secondly, guage is not adjustable as far as I can tell, it knits a big guage regardless of the weight of the wool and regardless of how tight you keep the wool feeding into it. But the size of the things that come out of it can be adjusted by the type of fiber you put in. 100% wool does not stretch as much as arcylic, I have yet to try 100% cotton but I imagine this would be the case, too, as I knitted a baby hat in a cotton/wool/arcrylic blend DK and it came out big enough for a 6month old. However, arcrylic stretches prodigiously, especially certain kinds, Patons DK stretches to fit anyone and so with the number of stitches used for the baby hat and a little added length, the guage stretches to fit my adult head very comfortably.

Finally, for now, the machine is very quick when you get the hang of it – but it takes some getting used to. At first, particularly with panels, I wondered if I wasn’t better off just knitting by hand (where my decade’s history in knitting lies), but with a little perseverance and ten frogging sessions I made a very successful and comfortable tube beanie. Then things took off, my projects got faster and neater and within a fortnight I was making christmas knits faster than I could ever have hoped by hand. As the machine doesn’t do binding on/off the edges are live, which allows for my colourwork or lace cravings to be quickly and easily met on a project that would otherwise have taken weeks of stockinette.

I’m off, for now, but I will be back to blog some more, so have a nice day and happy knitting!