Saturday, 13 November 2010

shima versus silvereed - the battle of the machines

I have been thinking a lot recently about which techniques and machinery I want to use in my creative project, and thought I'd better start writing it down in order to make some sense of it.

There seems to be so many possibilities that it baffles me deciding in which direction to go. The lack of decision on a final product ultimately makes it difficult to decide what equipment to use.

At Uni we have domestic Silvereed knitting machines and Dubied Industrial machines. There is of course, the option of finding someone to lend me their Shima for a few days.....?

I have turned over the question of the Shima Seiki in my mind for some time now, and think that I have finally resolved my dilemma about the pros and cons of using one.

Having had the amazing oppurtunity of doing my BA at a University that gave me the experience of designing and processing work on this machinery, I feel that I can confidently say that this is not the correct route for me to go down with this MA, or most certainly not at this stage and time.
There are several reasons for this. Firstly, one of my main aims for doing my Masters is to develop a working practice/ sustainable business from whatever product I develop. Using a Shima is neither physically or financially practical for me. Having spoken to the Director of Textile Studies at my old University, and a Senior knit lecturer at Kingston the practicalities of designing and using a machine at another university are limiting.
I made enquiries at Shima Seiki UK about the possibility of owning the software programme, designing at home and then 'bureauing' out to a company to knit the designs, as there is in other textile disciplines. I was told that the software is not sold seperate to the machinery and if it was would cost about £26,000! So that answers that question! Also, as brilliant as this equipment is, it does not lend itself well to several of the techniques that I am keen to take forward...for example, the knitted pockets are achievable on the Shima, but it is an impossibility to stop the machine and open the bed in order to place things inside, as I have done on the Dubied.

So on to the Dubied. I have a love hate relationship with these machines. These days it is more love than hate as I have become more confident and familiar with their sensitive quirks! I definately want to make use of these machines as they can achieve beautiful quality knits, and work both finer and chunkier than the domestic machines available. They have a double needlebed which allows me to work on just the front, or just the back of the knitting and to close the beds and knit across both, allowing greater versatility in my work. However, they don't allow me to hold stitches easily, which is something I really need to be able to do in order to create 3D effects.

After completing Year 1 of my degree course at the University of Derby, progressing to working on a Dubied in Year 2 and then onto using the Shima in my third year, I had dismissed the idea of ever working on a domestic knitting machine ever again. That was until I visited Knit-1 in August, and whilst there brushing up my skills on an industrial machine knitting course, I was wowed by the work that was being produced on the humble domestic machine. I think I had been put off by all my first year dropped stitches and clumsy attempts at fairisle using horrid coloured acrylic yarn that I never pushed the boundaries beyond the 1980's home knit conotations and realised the full potential of the machine.

Ironically enough most of my research and experimentation into constructing three dimensional knitted fabrics begins with partial knitting or short rowing, a technique most easily achieved on the domestic machine through the use of the Russell levers /Holding button. This allows me to hold some of the stitches, whilst knitting on others, exactly as you would in hand knitting when stitches would be held by moving them to a seperate needle or stitch holder.

The other advantage to the domestic machine is that you can add the ribber attachment to create a doublebed machine. This is not quite as smooth as the dubied, but something that opens up possibilities of having two needlebeds and the holding button on one machine.

The other technique I am interested in experimenting with is turning the knitting on the machine. When you knit on a machine there is garter stitch one side and stocking stitch the other. By the use of a garter bar you can pull all the stitches off the machine, turn them around and (hopefully!) put the knitting back onto the correct needles to resume knitting. Therefore creating stripes of alternate stitches.
I found this brilliantly innovative site which shows me how to make my own garter bar out of a metre rule and some hair this space for the results.

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