How many stereotypes do we, as knitters, have to deal with?
Not just the ones we put on ourselves (like single-sock-knitters), but the ones left over from two centuries ago when wool, cotton, and silk were the only fibers available and everything was knit on ‘pins’ rather than needles.
I’m referring specifically to the stereotype where knitters sit in rocking chairs and create nothing but long woolen hose to the dual sound effects of clicking needles and creaking joints—those of the rocking chair and the knitter.
You know, in the decade since learning how to knit and in the thousands of yards of yarn used between my first CO and and my most recent BO, I don’t recall ever sitting in a wooden rocking chair to knit. Not that I never have—my memory is far from infallible—but it certainly isn’t my preferred place to sit and knit.
I like to knit two different places:
Place #1 is a huge, chocolate colored, overstuffed recliner affectionately nicknamed ‘The Blue Chair’ because its predecessor was, in fact, blue. Filled with enough creases, nooks, and crannies for me to lose every dpn I own, it’s warm, comfy, close to the TV for movie night, and within ear shot of the kettle so I can keep my tea hot. (The hotter my tea, the faster I knit. :))
Place #2 is a rather well worn office chair. Actually I’ve employed some tact in the previous sentence. The chair is worn out, a nice counterpoint to the blue chair. Equally brown, perhaps, but the plastic has cracked and peeled off the armrests revealing grey fabric, the foam padding long ago became an embossing of the shoulder blades and other features of the people who sit here, and the silver accents have chipped and scratched to a matte black in places. One asset, however, makes this my seat of choice: proximity to the internet. Yep, sitting here I can stream Youtube, Netflix, Hulu, Vimeo, iTunes, whatever I please to fill the 8 hours I need to finish a project which no longer bears the charm it had three weeks ago.
Not a lot of want for wooden rocking chairs then. Excepting this one.
Two clever Swiss students designed it for an exhibition focusing on low-tech factories. Watch the video below, and then I’ll get into how they did it.
So. Not exactly what your great-grandmother did then. More like what your great-grandfather might have done if he’d been an inventor-sort rather than a fishing-sort.
What we have here is a rocking chair with a scaffold built around it, and the scaffold holds a gear/pendulum assembly, a circular knitting machine, and a yarn cone. The yarn from the cone is passed through a couple different points to maintain tension before it is fed into the knitting machine. Normally, home circular knitting machines have hand cranks. A pendulum has been substituted for this, and every time it swings back and forth, it ratchets the gear and rotates the knitting cylinder one stitch. Easy peasy.
The tricky thing, as far as I can tell, is converting the knitting machine from a crank to a pendulum with gears. This isn’t shown in the video, unfortunately, but if you know someone with one of those mechanical bents, they might be able to figure something out.
To be honest, I saw a few flaws in this design. First, knit long enough and that tube of red yarn will be hanging in your eyes. I think I’d want mine altered so that the machine was mounted to the back of the rocking chair, or even underneath it. Second, it’s really slow. In fact, you can see that parts of the video were sped-up. Granted, this method allows you to knit with your hands or read a book while simultaneously knitting with the chair, but at one stitch per back-and-forth, even the modest rolled brim hat shown is going to take about a million times as long as just doing it by hand. Or by a normal circular knitting machine. Finally, given the height of the apparatus and the requirements for turning a heel on this type of machine, or working a ribbed cuff, or knitting anything other than a smooth tube of fabric become very difficult. If this rocking chair saw widespread implementation, knitting patterns could begin to look like this:
Gauge Speed: 1 back-and-forth every 1.7 seconds = 1 st
CO 60 sts.
Knit Rock for 8 inches 3 hrs, 2 minutes, and 3.4 seconds. *Have your very tall assistant decrease one stitch at the top of the rocking chair*. Continue knitting rocking for another 28 sts 47.6 secs, then rep instructions between * *.
And so on. 😀
Not sure how many knit hats you are interested in making in the near future, but if you are one of those knitters for whom the stereotype of knitting and rocking rings true, or if you’d just be interested in trying it on for size, then this is the machine I’d recommend. You could even pair it with the bicycle un-knitting machine and start a revolution.
You never know.