Where fiber art, inspiration, and words meet.

Circular Machine Knitting

I’ve been looking at Circular Sock-knitting Machines (CSMs) for years and could never justify the expense – they’re usually in the $1500-$2000 range for a used antique and buying one new … well. Dean and Bean 3D print them for under $1k (or you can print your own), but I’ve heard that a metal machine is the best way to go. There are several manufacturers that make new metal machine, including Chambord, Lamb, and Erlbacher – production times and price vary.

A round black machine with a gold colored handle with a ring of red where the needles are, and with a tube of mint green knitting on it
The addiExpress King Size Knitting Machine

The year before last, I gave in to temptation and bought not a CSM but an addiExpress King Size Knitting Machine with the intent of making hats and infinity scarves and tubes of all kinds. I even got a drill attachment for it, which allows you to use a power drill to turn the handle of the machine faster than a human hand can. I dove in and made several infinity scarves as tests.

Here’s where I should say I have daydreams about having a stall at a local farmer’s market with finished knits and handspun yarn. The problem with these daydreams is that the reality of pulling that together is overwhelming for me, so it remains a daydream and not an actual thing where I have an LLC and am a responsible small business paying taxes and doing scary paperwork. But tools? I can handle tools and making easily.

Back to the Addi Express. It’s made of plastic and the clackety clack of using it was making me wish I had CSM to make socks with – not chunky hats and infinity scarves and tubes. I would rather hand knit those things. So I sold my machine and made a new friend in Polymorph Dyeworks out of Manassas, who I chatted with at Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival (SVFF) last month; at that time, she still wanted a CSM also. And she told me she had to take apart and clean the machine I sold her – horrors! I don’t think either of us used it a whole lot, so I was a little surprised. (But take that with a grain of salt because I’m no expert and admittedly didn’t do enough to learn more about the machine.)

So I’ve been checking all my usual haunts online for reasonably priced used CSMs. Hell, I was really waiting to have the guts to spend about $2k on something, which apparently has happened this fall since I got a 24″ table loom at SVFF. Used CSMs are bought & sold in several groups on Facebook and on a few web pages that look like they were designed in 1999 and updated on an undiscernible schedule – I just can’t justify buying new.

A hard-to describe metal machine similar to the Addi Express except all the parts on this machine are exposed, including the needles. The base of the machine is painted black, with various silver dials and parts, a silver cylinder painted red on the inside with hooks that look like tiny latch hooks
An antique (probably 1920s) Canadian AutoKnitter

Dear Reader, I found a deal. A whopping good deal in a Facebook group. A woman in Pennsylvania, about a 90 minute drive from me, posted her Canadian Autoknitter for $850, which is a too-good-to-be-true price for an AutoKnitter. I immediately sent a message to claim it, thinking that the worst that could happen was an unfruitful drive through western Maryland and south central Pennsylvania.

A tall rectangular box with "The Auto Knitter Hosiery Co. LTD. Montreal, Canada" stamped on the side
The wooden box the machine was shipped in

Ky and I drove up last Sunday to take a look and make the purchase and when I say I lucked out, I really lucked out. The seller is maybe in her late 60s and was downsizing her fiber equipment. She had the machine out and demonstrated to me that it turned and was functional. She showed me two extra cylinders (the thing that holds the needles and the way you determine the size), one with 80 slots for needles, one with 60 for making kids socks, and the corresponding 42 slot ribber to go with the 60 slot cylinder. She also included the stool her husband modified for her to mount the machine on. And, best of all aside from the machine and all the extras, she included the original wooden box the machine was sent to her in, which I’m pretty sure is the original box for the machine.

Two cylinders with channels on the outside for the needles and two flat circles that fit on top of the cylinders with starburst-like channels for shorter ribber needles
The two extra cylinders, the ribber and an extra ribber plate (probably not the right part name)

I crowed about my find on Instagram and instantly one of my friends there, treveera, pointed me to CSM Love, Karen (Ramel) Taylor. Karen has a ton of very helpful videos. I watched this one twice – once on the couch and once in The Yarn Office with the machine, pausing the video to take the machine apart and clean it.

I got the machine working! I learned how to cast on using a bonnet – it’s not a baby bonnet, but looks a lot like one; it’s a tube or a flat piece of knitting finished with a picot bind-off and the woman I bought the machine from included two in all of the tools and extras. The loops slip over every other needle on the CSM, then you thread the machine with waste yarn, crank a few rows, and then join in your actual yarn that you’re making a sock with.

Two knitting bonnets with large, obvious loops around the edges, the mint green one on the left has hot pink knitting attached to it
The Cast-on Bonnets

Except I didn’t get that far because I didn’t properly oil all the parts. I did another search and found another video and have now properly oiled machine. I even oiled the needles, although I’m not sure I should have … anyway, Karen of CSM Love makes bonnets that have a picot edge with jump rings attached to them so they’re infinitely reusable, unlike the all-yarn bonnets above whose yarn loops are starting to split so it was hard to tell if I had it properly on the needle. I could have made my own – CSM Love has instructions and jump rings are easy to come by – but aside from wanting to support Karen, I just find myself not really interested in making my own, which is strange for me. Anyway …

I need one more supply to get up and running: a yarn cone winder. The CSM came with the original cone winder, but it’s missing the gasket/band that makes it work. I did find a website just now that has replacements – Angora Valley. However, I ordered a drill attachment and cones from Dean and Bean and await their arrival. It turns out it’s pretty important to have your yarn in cones for smooth operation of the machine.

I really lucked out with this find!


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