It was so cold yesterday that a warning was issued by The Government Itself.  That sounds dramatic, but Environment Canada puts out alerts, watches and warnings all the time. I believe the phrase used in last night’s warning “Warning: Frigid arctic air may cancel Nickelback concert.”

Anyways, it’s a holiday today, had a wonderful sleep in. My big mystery project is done. Well, not 100% but the hard part is done.

And now, just in time, I have a new toy. I have been (idly) thinking about knitting machines over the last few months. As if by fate, one arrived on Saturday, via a friend of a friend of a friend’s mother.

It’s a cool old machine. I’m not sure how old, but it has that wonderfully solid metal construction that I associate with really good sewing machines. Very little plastic. Tidy diagrams and manuals. Each component has its place in the box. There is a even a diagram inside the box lid for how each piece should be put away. I love this kind of machine.

However! When my friend dropped it off, she warned me that something was amiss. The machine was not working as it should: some plastic gears that should be turning were most definitely not.

Without the internet, I would have had to look up a repair shop in the yellow pages. But, oh joy of joys, I found a complete service manual for this exact machine online. Not a user manual, but a full-on service manual, with every component illustrated and labelled and step-by-step instructions on disassembly, adjustments, and repairs. This was an incredible find; there is lots of mixed information about knitting machines online, but it varies in quality, and the machines are all slightly different. And this machine, and Elna EK2300, has many aliases. It has been distributed as a Toyota, Singer, Studio and Silver Reed.

The problem, I could see, was with the “patterning” or “memory” drums. These little drums (and they really do look like drums) have little metal prongs that can flip up or down into one of two positions. (I just read the Alan Turing biography, and the concept of using only two states for a mechanism, in other words, a boolean, is fresh in my mind. It all starts with 0’s and 1’s, yes or no, off or on). The main drum and the sub drum are synced up by gears, and the gears need to spin freely. At the beginning of the evening, they barely moved. Before I found the service manual, I looked for answers online half-heartedly; even if I could take it apart, even if I could put it back together, how could I get the drums to go from frozen to “spinning freely”? Here’s a picture of the carriage innards, just before I’m about to take a drum out. You can see the drums top left.

Knitting Machine

The first trick was finding that service manual. There are so many tiny screws and components, and they need to removed in a particular order to get at the drums, that guessing would have been a disaster. Like defusing a bomb: I’ll just try cutting the green wire BOOM. The second trick was to warm the parts with a hair dryer. A small amount of oil at the base of the drum had congealed so much that the drum was fused to the metal plate, and couldn’t be removed even after all the right screws and nuts and washers were taken out. Warming it softened the goo just enough to get the drum off.

After a good clean, I put the drums back, and carefully reassembled and oh joy, they now spin freely.

Knitting machines are completely new to me. I don’t know if I’ve ever looked at once closely before. Although they loop the yarn together the same way that hand-knitting does, they are completely the opposite of hand-knitting in terms of the mechanics. So many moving parts, and a whole new terminology. I’m going to post about the actual knitting as I go. I have managed to cast on and knit a few rows, but there’s much more to learn here!

Knitting Machine