For success with any craft, it takes focus, planning and practice.

If you've been discouraged with your machine knitting, don't blame the machine or the craft.

Invest the time to ensure
with your next knitting project.

TL;DR (too long didn't read)

I apologize for the length of this post ... I got carried away! (Can you tell I'm passionate about machine knitting?)
Click on the sections of interest below ... where are you making things harder for yourself than they need to be?
Please comment below if I've missed something. Share your experience with other knitters

1Plan Ahead

Planning ahead goes a long way to success.
I confess, I often put off making a decision about hems/ribbing when starting a sweater. I get all the knitting done. I'm excited to finish (and wear) the sweater, but i have hems with waste yarn. I can't remember the original thought and inspiration and I'm stuck picking up my hand knitting needles of crochet hook
  • Gather/organize all of your tools. (Why waste time looking for that pesky double-eye needle in the middle of a project?)
  • What cast on/bind off or hem method are you planning? If your pattern recommends a specific technique, practice it before starting your sweater
  • What stitch pattern/ combination of stitch patterns? (if combining stitch patterns, you should swatch twice)
  • What edge finishes? (this determines the shaping method plain/fancy you will use Full Fashioned increases/decreases or simple increases/decreases)
  • Buttons or no? (how many? which side?)
  • Seaming method (if you are going to be seaming with a sewing machine, have the right color thread available. Is your garment yarn strong enough for seaming? Can it be plied for a less bulky seam?)
  • Do you have enough yarn? (there's nothing worse than sweating this out at the last minute)
  • Plan your knitting time (schedule) ("Rome wasn't built in a day" Trying to knit an entire project in one day just leads to disaster. Make a plan and plan to knit both sleeves in the same session. If you need to "tweak" the shaping instructions a bit, you're more likely to remember to repeat the "tweak" on the second sleeve today, than next week.)
  • Have you read and do you UNDERSTAND the pattern?(No matter what patterns you use, get a mental picture of how each piece is constructed and plan the techniques syou will use to shape the pieces. will you use full -fashion increases and decreases? how is the neckline shaping written?)

2Understand your machine

Think of your machine as a tool for creating your sweater.
You wouldn't drive away in a rental car before checking where the turn signal and windshield wipers are. (not to mention the volume on the radio)
If you haven't done more than knit swatches, it's critical that you have a basic understanding of what all the buttons and levers do on your machine
  • Tighten the clamps
  • How's the sponge bar? (if you replace the sponge bar, re- swatch for your project)
  • Record the tension settings (both mast and carriage setting)
  • Has the machine been oiled recently? (It's best to oil before starting a project and not in the middle of a project - it's possible to impact gauge)
  • How to you set your machine to hold? (useful when shaping necklines)
  • How do you operate the automatic patterning (punchcard or electronics) Edge stitch selection
  • Is the yarn flowing smoothly from the mast? Lint can build up and gum up that mechanism Blog: Tension Mast Tips
  • Are all of your tools handy?
  • Consider the limitations of your machine. Hand manipulating a large amount of garter stitch will not contribute to your success. Consider combining hand and machine knitting. The goal is to get the results you want quickly. If picking up hand knitting needles makes a section easier and faster ... just do it! (Your machine is one tool, everything doesn't have to be done on the machine)
Bottom line, when you start knitting your sweater, you want smooth sailing. Understand your machine and make sure it's in tip-top condition

3Choose the Right Yarn

Be sure to work with your chosen yarn in advance to confirm that it is appropriate for your machine and for your project (Don't get part of the way through a project and realize that you chose a "problem yarn" that breaks, splits or Biases )
Obviously you are going to swatch, but try some stitch transfers to see if it is going to be tricky. Some yarns (like cotton) have no stretch or they are loosely twisted and are difficult to hand manipulate.

Have you washed your swatch like you will treat the final garment? Nothing worse than spending hours knitting something beautiful to have it fall apart, stretch or pill when washed.

Washing will also reveal if the yarn is color-fast. I once knit a hot pink and white striped sweater. After Wet Blocking , it was hot pink and pastel pink stripes.

Does your machine "like" the yarn? Cotton, thick 'n thin, and slippery yarns (and yarns with no stretch) can be problematic for some machines. Better to find out before you start your sweater. Sometime loosening up the tension can help. But why struggle through an entire sweater with problem yarn?
Donate it, use it for hand knitting, consider using it plied with another yarn or for Lay-In | Knitweave .

4Tension Settings

As mentioned previously, some yarns can be "difficult". Play with different tensions before making a decision about your final stitch and row gauge

Create a "Get Acquainted Swatach" and see how your machine likes the yarn and determine the tension you like best.

If you suspect the yarn will be problematic, dress the get-acquainted swatch to see the final results.

5Recognize sweater styles

What's the difference between the styles, drop shoulder, set in sleeve and raglan?
By being able to identify the basic shape of a sweater we can make more intelligent pattern choices.

None of these styles are "better" - it's all personal preference

To keep from being disappointed with your finished sweater, spend your time knitting the armhole/sleeve style you prefer.

Knit it Now Dynamic Patterns offer a wide variety of styles. Use any knitting inspiration PLUS a Knit it Now 'Perfect Fit' Dynamic pattern to knit your perfect sweater.

6Body measurements vs Finished Measurements AKA "Ease"

No matter what patterns you use, it is important that you take into consideration body measurements vs finished measurements also know as Ease

Knit it Now patterns are based on finished measurements. When you are knitting, your bust measurement is less important than having the sweater large enough enough to go around your body.
Not only should there be enough "fabric" to go around your bust (upper arm, hips, etc) but it should be comfortable. That's where ease comes in.

The amount of "perfect" ease is up to you The best way to determine how much ease you like is to measure garments that you wear and are comfortable. My skinny daughter in law may want to show off her curves .. I'm past that point in my life. Instead of my sweaters hugging my curves, I want them to skim over the lumps and bumps. I add more ease to my sweaters than hers.

7Swatching and Gauge

No matter what you want to knit, knitting a gauge swatch is NOT OPTIONAL!

Without knowing Gauge :
  • How do you know how much yarn you need?
  • How are you going to know if the finished item will fit?
  • Determine if you are even going to LIKE the resulting fabric
  • Try out the chosen stitch pattern, maybe it's too tedious... learn this BEFORE starting to knit
  • Dress the swatch and check for shrinkage, pilling, fading
  • Save time by knowing AHEAD if the yarn will knit easily

8Understand and practice techniques

Read the pattern

Understand the techniques needed before you start knitting

Knitting patterns can be cryptic. If your pattern includes terms you don't understand, look them up in the Knit it Now Glossary
  • Abbreviations like "COBH"
  • How do I bind off and decrease on the same row
  • How do I decrease 3 stitches in the same row?
  • What does "scrap off" mean?
Why create a beautiful hand-manipulated hem and knit to the armholes, then try to figure out how to shape the rest of your sweater? Read, understand and PRACTICE techniques that may be new to you.

9 Dedicated Knitting time

Schedule uninterrupted knitting time.

Turn off the TV and eliminate distractions when possible (although some knitters report they can multi-task)

Set a practical goal for finishing (a sweater in one weekend is too ambitious)
  • Day 1: Planning
  • Day 2: Swatching
  • Day 3: Read and UNDERSTAND the pattern
  • Day 4: Practice techniques
  • Day 5: Knit the sleeves
  • Day 6. Knit the back
  • Day 7 knit the front(s)
  • Day 8: Blocking
  • Day 9: Finishing

If you have more time on the weekends, plan Days 5, 6 and 7 (the actual knitting) for Saturday and Sunday.

10Protect your back

Machine knitting is a physical activity. "It's OK to eat that cookie ... I burned lots of calories knitting"

Get comfortable at your machine

Position at the machine is most important. A good chair, stool, or bench, etc. is essential. But that is no good if it doesn't give you the ease and comfort you want for knitting!~ Norma Sweet

With the right alignment, the change in movement of the carriage with knitting on the machine is amazing. You will know when "it's just right". You as a knitter have greatly added to your knitting pleasure!!!

11 Seaming and finishing

You've beautifully executed the knitting instructions in your pattern.
Now is the time to add the finishing touches. These can make or break your project.

  • Blocking
    Blocking Methods:
    • Toss the finished item in the dryer with a damp towel.
    • Lightly steam each piece into shape laying flat (using the pattern diagram for dimension
    • Laboriously use Blocking Wires to shape each piece and wet block or steam to size
  • Bands
    Bands are an ART not a science. Pick up the correct amount of stitches, so the band lays flat and covers the edge of the knitting without rippling or stretching
  • Buttonholes
    Even though they are "just holes" care should be taken to keep buttonholes neatly finished and sized correctly ( to fit the buttons)..

    The best way to do this is to PRACTICE before starting to knit your sweater. Use your garment yarn to determine the correct size and method for your project.

  • Hems and Ribbing
    There are many, many options for finishing the hems of your sweaters. Consider adding a decorative hem instead of ribbing.

  • Seaming
    No matter what seaming method you choose (hand sewing, crochet or even on the machine) it's important to take your time and focus on perfection. Seaming: - stripes match - edges are even, ribbing matches

Practice, practice practice! Put those swatches to use .... practice finishing using your swatches
The difference between "home-made" and "hand-made" depends on the FINISHING!

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Yanna O
 Apr 11, 2023
The difference between "home-made" and "hand-made" depends on the FINISHING! This is absolutely true, and I try to follow the finishing guidelines all the time. There are so many approaches that you need to learn to make your pies look perfect. Yanna Ostrovskiy