November update

Dear Readers

Last month I promised you some captivating reading and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with our centre four pages this month. It tells the remarkable story of a circular knitting machine and its owner. The machine is restored and in full working order, having started a remarkable journey almost 100 years ago in Essex. Milissa Ellison Dewey has researched and written our fascinating story and she lives in America with her husband, Alan. Master Turner Alan is originally from Hull in the North East and he’s the world’s foremost restorer of antique chess sets and spinning wheels. Together, they’re superheroes of the spinning world and are the fibre-tool restoration couple known as Bobbin Boy. Milissa has one of the world’s largest research collections of circular knitting machines. They range in age from the early 1870s and come from 13 countries, including many from the UK. She now has about 80 circular machines, as well as ten or so rigid ‘V’ bed models. Whenever possible, she tries to identify machines with known provenance as it’s the machines, together with the folk who struggled to find the money to buy them, that are of equal interest. Thank you so much Milissa for all your historical research, which has brought one of this country’s knitting machines to life.

I’m pleased to have heard again from Carole Dunkerley, whose Father Christmas hat pattern was a huge success in our December 2018 magazine. Lockdown has given Carole lots of knitting time and she’s been busy making an assortment of knitted ‘heads’. They can be attached to all manner of items such as gift bags, key rings or a Christmas tree. If you’ve run out of time to knit garments for everyone, they’ll be thrilled with a personalised gift bag and you’ll find Carole’s happy collection on Page 27.

Another alternative that’s homemade and original could be one of Bill King’s cards. Uncover a wealth of possibilities in your stash of oddments. The fabric to make 80 or 90 cards will soon be knitted with eight single motifs across the width of the needlebed and Hobbycraft has 50 plain white cards and envelopes for £5.50. Bill tells us what to do and how to do it on Page 52, so you really can knit something for all your friends and family this year.

In this issue, I always remind you that we need to turn our attention to the kitchen in six weeks’ time. This year, though, I’ll not worry if I haven’t made the cake. Carole has come to the rescue with a last-minute recipe and it’s on Page 12. A drop or two of whisky is essential, but it will be the ‘merriest’ cake you’ll ever make! Until next month, cheers!

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October 2021 update

Dear Readers

It’s been a happy month, with a steady flow of news that clubs are starting face-to-face meetings again. There are lots of changes in Clubline and our Clubs Directory and I’ll include full details next time that Middlesex Machine Knitters has a new name and new venue. Members used to meet in Hounslow, then kept in touch via Zoom when Covid-19 appeared. They were planning to go back in September, but had a problem with the venue so have found somewhere new in Ealing, West London. This has needed a name change as well. They now call themselves West London Knitters: Machine, Hand & Other Textile Crafts. They’re meeting at the Open Ealing Art Centre at Unit 14 Dickens Yard, School Lane, London W5 2TD. It’s easy to get to by public transport and there’s a car park nearby. Meeting times have also changed to the second Friday of the month, from 1.30 to 3.30 pm. For the most up-to-date details, contact Elaine Cater at info@elainecater.com or call 01305-852255.

Similar news came from Janet Shuttleworth in Christchurch. You may remember me telling you that Carbery Machine Knitting Club had closed and I was especially sad, after a long association with the club and its support for the Bournemouth show. Their new name is Dorset & Hampshire Coastal Machine Knitting Club and members will meet on the first Wednesday of the month from 10.00 am to 12.00 noon. The new venue is St Catherine’s Hall at 17 Marlow Drive, Christchurch, Dorset BH23 2RR. For up-to-date details, email Janet at jan.knitting@outlook.com

Lots of clubs have enjoyed Zoom, but you’ve all told me that seeing each other in the flesh is wonderful. There’s no hugging (of course!) but meeting in person feels as if things are returning to a new ‘normal’. I’ll include full details for Ealing and Christchurch in Clubline next month, along with updating our Clubs Directory. There are also some gorgeous samples from Ealing. In the meantime, do contact Elaine or Janet direct for their latest news.

Next month, the magazine goes out to subscribers on 4th November and it will be time to mention that the ‘annual event’ in December will be just seven weeks away. I’ve promised many of you that I’ll include a selection of your most popular requests. However, if it’s one time of the year that passes you by, you’ll be spellbound reading the remarkable story of a restored circular knitting machine and its owner, who lived in Essex and achieved financial miracles using it. Karin Rogalski has been knitting for us once more and we’ve an Alison Dupernex design. Do join me again next month and, until then, knit happy!

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December 2021

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September 2021 update

Dear Readers

This month I’m acutely aware that my letter to you each month is turning into an obituary column. However, I can’t ignore the fact that one of our greatest fibre artists and machine knitters, certainly in my lifetime, has died and I can find almost no record of her passing. My friend Susan Guagliumi gave me the sad news that Susanna Lewis has died. It seems Susanna had surgery for an aneurism that was apparently successful, but heart complications followed and she died on 15th July. Susanna was born on 1st November 1938, lived and worked in New York, but she was an extremely private person so that’s one possible reason why I can find no obituary elsewhere.

I met Susanna at a Metropolitan Show in Bournemouth, back in 1986. Machine knitting was on the crest of a wave and I’d just started to publish and edit MKM. Susanna was a guest speaker and in the UK to promote her new and now legendary book. It was published by Lark Books, together with co-author Julia Weissman. She signed my copy of ‘A Machine Knitters Guide To Creating Fabrics’ and I’ve lasting memories of a softly spoken, but amazingly talented fibre artist. It had taken over five years to develop and write this important book and I don’t know of a knitted fabric that’s not included.

Susanna’s work is displayed in many museums and galleries in America and she was one of that country’s first generation of machine knitters. Already well-known in 1971, she wanted to settle into one technique to create fabric and bought her first knitting machine. She spent four years learning to knit, because she went through the machine manual very methodically. She often said that almost everything she knew and taught was in the owner’s manual. At the end of four years, she could make a domestic knitting machine do anything she wanted.

By 1993, Metropolitan had a new home with Carol and Mark Hocknell and I took over publishing To & Fro, with masses of help and support from Hazel Ratcliffe as Editor. Susanna guarded her copyright fiercely, but most graciously gave To & Fro an exclusive two-part article to publish on Split Mitres, incorporating techniques she’d included in her book. In the world of domestic machine knitting, she was way ahead of her time and the work she created is simply without equal. Susanna and Julia included the following dedication at the start of their book and it’s written for all of us.

“For all knitters and fiberists of the past and present, whose love for their craft has inspired the continual evolution of skills and techniques, and whose use of the craft helps us see beauty and meaning in the continual evolution of life. They provide the heritage and legacy for the knitters and fiberists of the future, so that they too may experience the thrill and joy of discovery, understanding and creation; in turn to promote communication and understanding in oneself, and between people and cultures worldwide.”

“My self-concept is as an artist,” she said, “and I use the knitting machine as a tool in creating art.” May your work live on Susanna, to bring joy and inspiration to future machine knitters all over the world. Thank you for your immense legacy and we’ll always remember you.

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November 2021

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August 2021 update

Dear Readers

This month, many of us around the world have had to endure temperatures we never imagined were possible, so you may think the heat has gone to my head when you see a pattern for fingerless gloves in Stash Box. In the UK, at least, the heatwave has subsided but winter in the southern hemisphere starts on 1st June and ends on the 31st August. It’s perhaps why the pattern on Page 37 has been the most requested in a long time and, before too long, we’ll also need it in the UK. The feature on Page 52 has also been a ‘hot’ topic of conversation amongst knitters using Japanese machines, who feel totally confused by our Passap Special articles. I’ve often included the quick table of lock conversions, but it’s time to explore the workings of Passap and Japanese machines more deeply. As you’ll see, it’s the first of three parts and the other two will follow on.

Plating is another mystery topic for many machine knitters and I giggled as I remembered Joan Lafferty arguing the toss about the spelling. Whether your manual calls it, ‘plating’ or ‘plaiting’, it’s all the same thing! We’ve an in-depth look at the technique for Brother and Silver Reed machines including the LK-150, together with the chance to try it out by knitting an easy gilet design from Alison Dupernex.

Many of you will know that I’ve been very close friends with Hilary at Busy Bee for most of the time she ran the business with her mum, Barbara. We’ve seen our children grow up together, but life has dealt Hilary and her family more than its fair share of knocks. Hilary lost her mum in April 2011, then decided to close Busy Bee Basics and retire in July 2017. Now, just a few years later, Hilary’s husband David has sadly died. In the heady days of machine knitting, David kept the home fires burning whilst Hilary and her mum travelled up and down the country from one show to another. He looked after their daughter Laura and saw her blossom into a wife and mother. We included photos of Laura and Liam’s wedding in our January 2019 magazine and they’ve been the happiest of families, especially since welcoming baby James into their lives. Hilary had Laura by her side at the hospital, as David slipped away peacefully. Their few short years of retirement together had been very happy and to lose him so soon has been a tragedy. Hilary, Laura and David’s remaining family and many friends are devastated and Hilary must now face the future on her own. There will be some consolation in sharing fond and loving memories with Laura, Liam and James as he grows up, of a loving husband, wonderful dad and grandad. Rest in peace David and we send our sincere condolences to Hilary, her family and all their friends at this very sad time.

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October 2021

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July 2021 update

Dear Readers

I’ve spoken to many of you this month and there’s been lots of activity, but not much of it has involved sitting at a machine. It seems that knitting rooms are being turned back into bedrooms along with gardens and conservatories rearranged, to welcome family members not seen for a very long time. Everyone is really looking forward to meeting up again, but we usually give up our knitting rooms at Christmas, not in the summer! Right now, a lot of unused and unwanted tools and equipment needs a new home and most of us are reluctant to simply throw it away.

It’s a while since I mentioned them, so let me remind you about TWAM, short for Tools With A Mission. It’s a Christian charity that collects unwanted tools and equipment. Items are refurbished and sorted into kits that, today, go to five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. They work in close partnership with local grassroots organisations. To get someone started, a knitting machine kit will include a machine, a bag of yarn, patterns, useful items and accessories. Similarly, a sewing machine kit will include either a manual, electric or treadle machine plus cottons, needles, zips, buttons and other haberdashery. There’s a constant need for things we no longer need that others would find incredibly useful. Why send tools not money? Simply because you’ve to keep sending money, but one tool kit can provide work and a sustainable livelihood for life.

TWAM has a national network of volunteer collectors, who will either pick tools up from you or act as a drop off point. There’s also an ongoing need for tools from gardens, garages and workshops plus computers and IT equipment. The list is comprehensive so visit the website to see what’s needed, find your nearest volunteer collector or refurbishment centre. The head office is at 2 Bailey Close, Hadleigh Road Industrial Estate, Ipswich, Suffolk IP2 0UD. They’re open Monday to Friday from 9.00 am to 4.30 pm but with Covid restrictions in place, you must ring first. Their number is 01473-210220 or email post@twam.uk Instead of a trip to the tip, make TWAM your first port of call and help others to help themselves. Until next time, enjoy the sun when you see it, or be washed away by the rain as I am right now!

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September 2021

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June 2021 update

Dear Readers

It’s been a good month, as news begins to trickle through that clubs are planning to meet up again. The lockdown isn’t over, but we’re starting to see light shining at the end of a long dark tunnel. We’ve begun to add changes to our Clubs Directory, but it’s going to be a few months before the list will be anything like up-to-date. As soon as you’ve any news, do please let me know and I’ll update everything as quickly as I can.

 Last month’s Dream Machine feature has brought lots of response, as many of you want to knit a baby’s shawl. I’ve included one for Silver Reed, Brother and Toyota machines and you’ll find it in Dear Anne on Page 12. The centre square isn’t the problem, it’s how to shape the mitres at the corners of the border. There’s not much coned 3-ply white acrylic to be had these days, but Uppingham Yarns has a high bulk 1-ply acrylic in Optic White. It’s ideal for a baby’s shawl, as the yarn is soft and machine washable. This 1-ply 2/28 Nm yarn, also known as 2/30s, was previously on big 1265 gram cones and the 17,710 metres went a long way! We can now buy it on 250 or 500 gram cones. It’s been tried, tested and well-loved by machine knitters for years, so you can’t go wrong. Knit two strands together for a 3-ply thickness and three strands will make a lovely 4-ply fabric. There’s a huge colour range and you’ll find details on the website at www.wools.co.uk or call 01572-823747.

One of our two Designer Special patterns this month is from Beverley Ward, known to us all as the designer and name behind In-Ex. Beverley and I have been friends since the heady four-day Nationwide Shows. I remember visitors flocking to her stand for her latest patterns and one design in particular was a firm favourite. You’ll find it on Page 31 and I can guarantee that those of you who bought a Shadow Pleated Steaming Kit will be rummaging in your knitting room to dig it out. Sadly they’re no longer available, but using it will give Beverley’s lovely top a superb finish. I can’t thank her enough for sharing it with us and do catch up with her at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BeverleyWardDesigns

My final thank you this month is to our own, wonderful Bill King. He’s stretched his imagination and extended his iconic Gold Star top to give a longer, more draped silhouette. Tie it in any number of ways, or leave it to fall into graceful points. His design is on Page 41 and if you thought you knew how to knit cables, I guarantee that Bill’s Masterclass feature on Page 56 will open your eyes a little wider. With clubs starting up again, there’s growing confidence that our freedom to meet and mingle is set to return, so let’s all smile and knit happy!

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May 2021 update

Dear Readers

It won’t be long before you read the sad news on Page 9 that David Hilton has died. He survived Phyllis for just six months and I’d spoken to him recently, so the news was as much of a shock to me as it had been to members of his family. Whilst we all thought that Phyllis and David sat for much of their time in front of knitting machines, they actually spent lots of evenings doing jigsaw puzzles. David also loved playing cards, especially at Christmas or when they enjoyed a family Sunday lunch. At the last Bournemouth Show, David came to see me on the Friday evening. He’d phoned earlier in the week and I arranged for the huge number of garments Phyllis and David had made over all the years to be donated to Julia’s House children’s hospice. Their designs were then used to raise funds to provide support for families caring for children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions. Even then his health wasn’t good, but he made several taxi journeys to bring in all the beautifully kept garments.

David cared for Phyllis at home until his amputation meant she had to be moved into a care home with vascular dementia. Although they spoke on the phone, his health problems and Covid-19 restrictions meant that they were unable to see each other again before she died. It was a truly sad ending for a devoted couple and I’m pleased to have spent the time I did chatting to him. One thing never revealed is their generous financial support for the Bournemouth Show. Even when they no longer came as exhibitors, they’d pop in for a few minutes with a contribution in a ‘plain brown envelope’, but specifically asked that it wasn’t made public. Now they’ve both passed, I’d like to record my personal thanks for their unwavering support and may they together rest in peace.

There’s one other important thing to mention this month and it’s the very special offer you’ll find on Page 23. Nina Miklin has slashed the price of her Cesari and Maestro cashmere blends to just £42 for any 350 gram cone. There are assorted colours and qualities in the offer and she’s also including free postage and a free PDF pattern for you to download. While stocks last, it’s a great opportunity to buy a cone of beautiful yarn at such a low price. There are also unwelcome big price rises in the pipeline for many of the yarns sold by suppliers who support the magazine. They’ll no doubt start to come through at the end of May, so don’t be caught out by waiting too long to stock up.

Finally, I’d like to pass on my sincere thanks to all the contributors who have helped me to put this issue together. With summer on the horizon, hopefully better days are ahead for us all so, until next month, knit happy.

NEXT ISSUE – July 2021

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April 2021 update

Dear Readers

What a mixed bag of emotions there’s been for me this month and your first port of call must be our Clubline Special, bringing you the happy news that two Australian knitters, in the same club, were born within four months of each other a hundred years ago. The club is Macknit, the New South Wales Machine Knitters Association (http://mkansw.org.au) where Passap expert Fay Butcher has had a long association. I’ve received their quarterly Newsletter for years and I’ve many happy memories of times spent with New South Wales knitters at Metropolitan’s Dream Week. Dorothy is slightly older by four months and it’s only recently that she’s stopped entering shows. She’s a fantastic knitter and her baby garments are exquisite. She’s also a beautiful lady, who never takes anyone for granted. She’s as camera-shy as I am, so we’ve just a small number of photos of her. Dorothy’s 100th birthday fell on the day of their monthly meeting so they celebrated on the day, but she couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about! You’ll see her in a photo talking to Judy Schultz, President of the Newcastle Club.

            Pat is the younger of the two and still drives. Like many of us, she’s yet to find the notes she made to finish a garter carriage cardigan she started four years ago, which now only needs one sleeve! She’s sent us some lovely memories of things mothers taught their children years ago, which will give us all a giggle. For sure, Dorothy and Pat have filled every second of the 52,560,000 minutes of their lives. I’m truly grateful to Newsletter Editor Margaret Tulloh, Dorothy and Pat for their kind permission to share this story.

            Much closer to home I’ve the sad news that two knitters, many of you will know, have recently died. The first is Denise Turner, who became a great friend. Many of you will have seen her name on our letters’ page, or received items you needed with just a letter ‘D’ at the end of a short message. If she had it, she’d give away any number of things such as patterns, spare needles and instruction manuals along with passing on endless information. News of the second death has only just reached me in time to include now and it’s the sad passing of Ann Noble, from Donington Knitting Club. Over the years, Ann and I became good friends and we met up once a year at the Nottingham Show, to catch up with life and living. I hope to contact club members and include a little more next time. There’s also a third very personal loss for me, of a lovely lady who was born in the same year as Denise. We never met, but we shared the same name and she always called me the Knitting Lady. All three had hearts of gold and may they now rest in peace. Until next month, enjoy the spring sunshine and knit happy.

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June 2021

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May 2021 new subscriptions

This is May 2021 and our latest issue

NEW SUBSCRIPTION If you’d like a monthly subscription to the magazine, no money will be taken with your order and it will start next month with the June 2021 magazine, to be mailed out to subscribers on Thursday 6th May. If you’d like to start with this May magazine, please buy it as a back issue.

March 2021 update

Dear Readers

Welcome to the 35th birthday issue of MKM and you’ll find articles and designs from many popular names in machine knitting, all doing our best to fly the flag for our craft. We’ve some lovely designs from Anne Baker, Sue Booth, Heidi Cleary, Susan Guagliumi, Bill King and Nina Miklin, along with the start of a great project for our toy box. Iris Rowe has designed and knitted a Noah’s Ark, with Mr and Mrs Noah to keep the menagerie of animals in order. It’s been a huge undertaking and all the little ones will love it.

I’ve recently had a great conversation with one of our subscribers. She runs a care home in West Yorkshire and as a Christmas ‘thank you’, she knitted cardigans for all her staff. She started by hand knitting the ribs, then whizzed through the stocking stitch on her LK-150, using a pattern from the magazine. Everything was fine, except for one member of staff whose size needed more stitches across the Back than the number of needles available. First we’d a short discussion about knitting the ribs first, or at the end and she always knits them first. She then puts the stitches onto the machine, but this time she decided to insert a panel to make the Back wider, so she hand knitted more stitches for the larger size. Using the normal DK tension, 15 extra stitches gave her three much-needed inches. To knit the Left Back and then the Right Back, she picked up stitches starting at each end and added an extra stitch at the centre for making up. When it came to knitting the panel, she replaced the stitches to use the purl side as the right side. Having added an extra stitch at each edge for making up, she mattress stitched the panel in place. She used a lovely heathery shade and it looked like a gorgeous design feature, because you simply couldn’t tell it had been inserted. It’s a lovely idea to pass on, instead of knitting a more usual back in two halves, with a centre seam or adding a chunk of extra stitches at the sides.

My giggle of the month came from another subscriber living in Cheshire, who asked how I was coping with Tier 4 lockdown in the south. My usual reply is that the drawbridge was raised and the portcullis lowered a year ago but, following on from his suggestion, I’ll make sure I don’t overfeed the crocodiles swimming around the moat! Machine Knitting Monthly has the most amazing readers and each one of you has played a vital role in keeping the magazine alive. My very sincere thanks to you all, for your enduring help and support over the years; I simply couldn’t do it without you. Knit happy!

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May 2021

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