We always think of knitting as something we do by hand, with two needles and not much else. But we all also have store-bought sweaters, items that we know can't have been knit the traditional way. If there weren't some faster, more automated way to make knit work, we wouldn't be able to afford store-bought sweaters. This is where knitting machines come in. But knitting machines aren't just for clothing companies. Anyone can own a knitting machine (or two) to increase their own knitting repertoire.
Why work on a knitting machine? While the end products may look quite similar, hand knitting and machine knitting are not the same thing. A lot of patterns and techniques will translate seamlessly, though not all of them will. Some things a machine can accomplish better, like jacquard knitting. Also, with its set stitch size, a machine will produce an evenness to a project that is hard to replicate in hand knitting. Plus, the obvious, it?s quite a bit faster!
A knitting machine reminds me of those old school credit card imprint machines. It's a bed of a series of latch hooks (usually around 150-200) that the yarn is looped through. The carriage acts like the slider on that imprint machine, sliding over the entire bed, working stitches as it goes. Then it slides back the other direction to knit the next row. Much like with knitting in the round, the work itself is never turned, so the default stitch is stockinette when each row is set to knit.
Because knitting machines have set stitch sizes, they won't all work with all yarns. If you want to use a bulky yarn, you need to have a knitting machine with a bulky gauge. So you shouldn?t pick a knitting machine based on what kind of projects you want to make, but instead based upon the type of yarn you intend to use. There are 3 general sizes: a fine gauge, standard, and bulky. For someone who wants to make machine knitting a serious hobby, it would be reasonable, even expected, to have more than one knitting machine.If you are interested in buying one, there are a lot of things to consider. Some machines are electric. Others use punch cards to set out your pattern. Regardless of the type, knitting machines can run around $1500. Though cheaper knitting machines fall closer to the $500-700 range; still not that cheap. There always seem to be knitting machines available for sale on ebay and close-out websites.
When knitting on a machine, you're still overseeing the entire project. You can't just set the machine and walk away, so don't feel like you're somehow cheating if you use a knitting machine. It's still all your handiwork, just done in a different way.