My Etsy pal & fellow blogger over at Knitted Gems writes:
"I've been knitting several hours every day. Yet, I feel like I am not making any progress on my Big Dipper Scarf..."
Since this ties in so nicely as an example of why I frequently turn to the knitting machine on my projects, I thought I'd show you her beautiful project & tell you how I would interpret this design & accomplish the project my way.
The 1st photo is, of course, the scarf in progress. The second photo is the finished scarf. Isn't it great? Nice choice of color & I really like the simple design concept. It really is distinctive.
Here's how I would interpret this design & bring it to completion in about 3 hours...
This is really the ideal project for the knitting machine because it's basically straight stockinette stitch & uses a relatively smooth worsted weight yarn. I personally haven't had much success machine knitting the very textural boucles, novelties, & handspuns without jamming up the works, so when working with those I'm pretty much committed to needles in hand for the entire project. In this particular project, I would choose to do most of the knitting on the machine & the handwork would be done at the end, adding the Big Dipper embellishment.
The machine I use for this type of project is the Singer LK100. It's considered a "hobby knitter" by the machine knitting crowd. It's a very basic machine, very inexpensive (I got mine off eBay for a mere $30) & dead simple to use. It has a tension adjustment & handles yarns in the sport, worsted, & chunky weights just fine, 'though I like best the finished result in the worsted weight yarns. My rule of thumb gauge for this machine in worsted is 16 sts & 23 rows = 4", but I can increase or decrease that a bit using the tension adjustment.
Using that 16 & 23 gauge, my "pattern" for this scarf would be: Cast on 20 sts. (for a 5" wide scarf) and then knit in straight stockinette stitch (*k1 row, p1 row) for 207 rows (36"). Bind off. Here's the beautiful part...I can do all of that on the machine in less than 2 hours! That's casting on - knitting - drinking a cup of coffee - knitting - answering the phone - knitting - going to the bathroom - knitting - binding off. (GRIN) This same scarf, knitted with needles in hand, would easily eat up 20 hours of my time, especially now with the worsening arthritis that's stealing my manual dexterity.
Now comes my favorite part - the design.
There's a couple of ways to add the Big Dipper design - duplicate stitch is one, but I'm not crazy about that technique on a scarf where you'd see carried threads or knots on the wrong side. I would suggest beads stitched on with a single ply of the yarn, a complimentary color of quilting thread, or the dreaded invisible thread that I personally find a pain to work with. Pearls would be nice & look very much like the finished project in the photo. Aternatively, a nice sparkly Swarovski crystal with that Aurora Borealis effect would be a good choice. I'd "audition" several bead candidates by laying them out & then standing back at least 3 feet to see how well each works. All that's left is to thread up the needle to attch the 7 beads and...Bob's your uncle...the Big Dipper scarf is ready to wear or sell or brag about. And, I'm off to cast on that yummy silk blend I just bought & have been dying to get my hands into.
Using a combination of machine & hand knitting to fly through these projects may not be everyone's cup 'o tea, but it works a charm for me. I highly recommend it for anyone who (like me) is into instant gratification or quickly becomes bored with some knitting projects & can point to a pile of UFO's (unfinished projects) in their knitting stash. It's also a great option to consider if arthritis is beginning to steal your mobility & preventing you from knitting as much as you'd like to. Like I said, it's been a godsend for me. It's made me more productive, unleased my creativity, & put real enjoyment back into my daily knitting.
If you decide to give machine knitting a go, I'd suggest starting with an inexpensive "hobby knitter" like the Singer LK100 or the Brother Incredible Knitting Machine. Both are inexpensive & simple to operate. Check out eBay to pick up a bargain. I saw an LK100 recently, new in the box, for less than $50 with shipping.