14 August 2006

The Chevy

Car Talk: Get to Know My '57 Chevy

This is the 1957 Brother Knitting Machine I bought on Ebay, now and forever after nicknamed "The Chevy." What a beautiful excuse to invest in some WD-40*, Liquid Wrench, an air gun, and steel wool -- all the sorts of things it's comforting to have around (though as a grad student in NYC I never exactly had a direct need for before). Anyway, with abovementioned tools in hand -- and those that came with the machine --I spent a blissful day or two reeking of oil, and managed to get it in sparkling, working order, except for one minor detail now in the process of being taken care of, known in its original form as the FELT BAR**. More on that below. I'm pretty proud of myself, as it arrived with the carriage sturdily jammed on a bunch of bent needles, though I otherwise have no complaints about the Ebay seller, who truth be told gave it to me for a song, even including shipping (the one downside to this beauty being its weight - it lives up to its nickname).

It came with only one missing part that I can detect, and even that I'm not sure of, as it isn't listed anywhere in the lists of parts in the instruction manual, so I'm deducing its presence on the original from the pictures and one mysterious reference to "gate pegs" mentioned nowhere else.

Speaking of the instruction manual, it's an entertainment unto itself. (NB: I do have it in PDF form, now, and can happily mail it upon request, although not necessarily right away, as I'm working from internet cafes while I'm in Russia. Special note to the person who wrote me about this many, many months ago and never received anything! I'm sorry! The planets were not aligned: my first couple mailings to your address bounced, then my laptop got stolen. I lost the original PDF and your address. But I re-scanned it and now have it, so please email me again!)

This photo, taken by the seller for Ebay, shows my baby before I scrubbed it to an even greater shine.

I don't know if Brother still makes them like this, but this baby is definitely a beaut. It came with extra needles still in their original paper envelope, but even the needles that got jammed in the carriage (for god knows how many years), eventually came out and even unbent right back into their original perfect condition with the help of a mere nudge from a needle-nosed pliers. With a little steel wool and a few drops of oil*, they, and the rest of the machine and accessories, look like new.

Now, I have just one remaining problem and a handful of outstanding questions. If you're on this page and have read this far, I'm assuming you must have some sort of abiding interest in knitting machines, may even own one yourself. Perhaps you can help.

**The problem: The FELT BAR (in later models known as the Foam Bar, as I learned from the kind folks at School Products, Inc[LINK], a store in NY that specializes in knitting machines and supplies) sits under the front of the needle bed and holds the needles firm, so you can pull them out to the knitting position and keep them there while you cast on. Or so I gather. You see, the Felt Bar wears down and needs to be replaced occasionally. The one I pulled out of this machine clearly was in need of replacement at least 40 years ago. Digging out the old felt and glue with a screw driver did some damage to my hands, let me tell you, but I'm left with a perfectly clean and serviceable metal bar in need of some felt. Or foam. My first trip to the hardware store resulted in some stuff that was too sticky and not nearly firm enough, but I have high hopes for the second trip to be taken soon. However, as this problem is going to come up again, I would much prefer to discover somewhere a lovely source of ready-made felt bars that would fit this machine. School Products showed me that the new models have a wider bar that won't work. Anybody out there have any leads or suggestions??

Answers to Outstanding Questions:

NEW: *This fact just in: Never ever use WD-40 on your knitting machine! Not sure why, but I have it on good authority that it can damage it very seriously. Damn!

This also just in: window insulation foam, available in strips at any hardware store, works very nicely as filler for the felt bar.


aastrikke AT yahoo DOT com

Above you see a scan of the first knitted swatch made on my knitting machine. Casting it on took over an hour, but knitting it took mere seconds! Until, that is, I started losing stitches and the carriage got caught mid-row and I gave up and decided it was a good time to learn to cast-off. The cast-off edge is the one you see at bottom in the photo - the large loose stitches on the top are the ones I cast on and knitted by hand, then placed on the machine's needle. There are seven rows of successful machine knitting.

1 comment:

Jennifer Morrissey said...


I can sew but knit, wit maybe. Anyhow, I just received as a birthday gift the exact model as your ’57 Chevy. The case contained several patterns but no user manual. Would you send me a copy of your manual in exchange for copies of my patterns?

Best regards,
Jennifer Morrissey