Je m’appelle Carol, je suis anglaise et j’habite en France. Je suis tombée amoureuse du Périgord depuis fort longtemps. En 2008, j’ai fait le choix de venir y vivre.

Je conçois et fabrique tricots avec des machines à tricoter vintage domestiques dans un atelier en France

shawls mohair

How I started knitting with a knitting machine

Hello, my name is Carol and I live in France. I fell in love with Périgord many years ago and in 2008 I made the choice to live here.

One Autumn evening some years ago now I drove to collect a great aunt from Bergerac airport and on stopping at a supermarket to buy some croissant, I saw a  notice for a  knitting machine.

Two weeks later I collected it from a woman trying to find a home for something she’d loved and used. 

It seemed a monstrous machine, a Singer almost unfathomable. So, after some time, I contacted Singer UK but even they had no manual, not for a model that old, they said.

I sometimes visit London and on Oxford Street in a large haberdashers ( John Lewis) I met a saleswoman who admitted that back in the 1980’s,  the ground floor had been covered with knitting machines for sale.  

That was in 2012 and now years later there is a clear resurgence in crafts and people worldwide are getting these machines back into use.

Back then, I found out from trial and error and the internet how to put the machine up.  It had ugly looking weights, a motor and a pin panel for patterns, dating before the electronic models.

Old machinery from a bygone life

Whenever I talked about knitting I found the subject could cross language barriers whether French-English or German or Polish.  It is a genre that can unite women and so often form conversations.  Knitting in a group chatting relaxing.  One day I was having coffee with an old friend of my mother’s and when we began talking about knitting she told me she regretted stopping using her knitting machine 30 years earlier when in her 50’s when her mother became ill and needed her help.

She told me how about how, living in a remote countryside village, she had perspired with the stress she had felt,  determinedly persevering with no help or lessons, until she was able to make clothes for her family.  It was still in the attic 30 years later.

Could I possibly have it? 

Possible jobs for the area

It arrived in my house when nobody else wanted it, a Passap duomatic SD. 

After finding an online manual in English to complement the French one, I was beginning to make headway. I imagined in an area with high unemployment it could offer jobs, a former industry in Sauveterre-sur-Lemance must have left expertise in the area.  I was also told of a knitting machine league in the UK and

Meeting experts in their retirement

I found there was a meeting of the Westbury Woollies near Salisbury, UK and I was happy to hear one woman there tell how she made a jacket in a single afternoon and wore it out that evening. While most of the Westbury knitters were well into retirement, I heard that a 16 yr old boy and his mother were learning. In this way, there were signs of a revival.

It was a long time before my machine worked well for me.   Ten rows and ten rows with ten stitches was a break through.  Not enough to impress the Westbury Woollies.

My machine had been  thirty years in an attic, the tension springs that guide the thread had seized up and I had to remember to feed it by hand. My samples were chewed up threads and my machine unflexible.  A bit of oil and glass paper helped with the springs. 

Getting a knitting machine to work

I bought new machine oil and dribbled it into the needle beds. I found more forums, manuals and even a cassette guide but most of them seemed to start from the point of assuming having a working machine.

I bought some spare needles and bobbins. 

Then after another winter when I took it out during long quiet evenings, I tried it with cotton. As it knitted this well I knew there was a thin thread that would knit and not jam.

So I understood what fingering was, and bought some ‘2/28’ and it stitched and I went through the manual, it was amazing, it worked.

Those amazing women knitters of the 1980s

At every stage I marvelled at the concentration of the women from the 1980’s who so calmly told me about the jjumpers they made. For me I had to learn to switch off any distractions and focus as one error could take hours to put right.  If I did not and made a mistake it took hours to put right.

Finally I had a machine that could actually make clothes. I could make a shawl but one day I would be able to make a garment. . 

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