Getting Started with the Ultimate Sweater Machine

Yes, this thing is awesome.

I thought I’d share some pictures of the USM for those of you that are curious as to how it works, or those that might have a USM but aren’t fond of the (very!) dated video that comes along with it. Warning to those of you that have slow connections – this post is heavy on the pictures.

Here she be, the USM:

As you can see, it’s pretty wide – about three-and-a-half feet – and that’s without the extension kit added. The bed has 100 needles, which means I can knit up to 100-stitch rows.

To get started with the USM, you need to use some of the nifty cards that come along with it. There are four green ones and one yellow one:

You use the green cards to put the needles in what’s called “holding position,” where the needles are all the way forward. Each green card pushes forward fifty stitches, so theoretically you don’t even have to count.

Then you attach the hem. What’s a hem, you might say? See that long black thing in the picture below? That’s the hem. It has four metal rods in it to weigh down the knitting.

You hang the hem on the needles like so:

Before you proceed to the next step, you must make sure all the latches on the needles are open. Can you spot the closed latch?

Using the little one-pronged tool, or whatever it’s called, makes opening those latches a breeze.

You will want to run elastic thread through all of those open needles, and weigh down each end with a clothes pin. (Yes, the USM came with clothes pins. Love it! The only things I needed that weren’t in the kit were scissors and a tapestry needle.)

Once you have the elastic thread on there, you fold the hem over the elastic thread, making sure the hem rests on the thread and NOT the needles, and push it back toward the machine.

You’re ALMOST ready to knit that first row. It’s time to pull out that yellow card. You remove the green cards and replace them with the yellow card. You use the yellow card as a guide and push the needles back, using the green card, so that they touch the yellow card. This is called “forward working position.”

I promise – it’s almost time for that first row of knitting!

Now, we introduce the cartridge. The cartridge comes with different plates that determine gauge – different plates correspond to different needle sizes. Since I’m using a worsted weight yarn, I am using the 3 plate. (You could also use 2.5).

I just realized that I don’t have a picture of how the yarn is threaded through the cartridge (you’re probably thinking there are enough pictures already!), but I’ll take one when I do my next USM project.

Now the magic begins. You thread your cartridge, and holding the end of the yarn, you knit the first row by moving the cartridge from right to left. (On the next row, you go left to right.) There’s a clackety-clack of the needles, and much excitement. For all the setup, the knitting goes FAST.

This is what I had before I began heating up Leo’s bottle. It’s five rows:

In the short amount of time (maybe five minutes?) it took for Leo’s bottle to warm up, the knitting turned into this:

Sixty rows! By the way, this is a great time to talk about how great the row counter is. No one wants to count rows, but if you’re doing increasing or decreasing, it must be done. This gadget does all the counting for you!

Once you’ve bound off (which I had a little trouble with at first, but then I realized the cartridge needed to be on the left side) you have to remove the hem by CAREFULLY snipping out the elastic thread. Since you have live stitches, it’s best to thread some waste yarn through the stitches before you remove the hem so the whole thing doesn’t unravel. This is the (very clearly unblocked) finished piece:

Ta-da! That’s a 50 stitch by 61 row piece of fabric!

I’m already fantasizing about a simple sweater vest for Leo/Craig (like this one from Severina that I promised Craig ages ago), afghans for Christmas, and a million little purses for the store (Etsy and EDG Emporium).

Now I’ve gotta tend to Leo.

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7 Responses to Getting Started with the Ultimate Sweater Machine

  1. Holly says:

    I have a deep and secret (well, I guess not anymore) longing for a USM. I love stockinette! So jealous!

  2. Kristin says:

    Holy instant stockinette, Batman!

  3. eek! fun!i have a great money making idea for you.

  4. Monique says:

    Great pics! LOL. You are right about the video. Isn’t it time to make another one! Geez! I used to have a USM and had lots of fun with it. I have since upgraded to heavy metal. Hope you have as much fun. Looking forward to seeing your machine-knit projects.

  5. Anonymous says:

    HiSomeone gave me your link, I wanted to know how the row counter fits and what to do with the little spring as there are no fitting instructions and it was loose in a box, had it years but never used it. Love your use of photos, I’m deaf and can’t work out videos etc.

  6. Paula says:

    I have a Bond USM and I love to knit sweaters by working the front, back, and sleeves on it, then I join them on one circular and finish up the yoke for either a raglan or seamless hybrid (As in “Knitting Without Tears” by Elizabeth Zimmerman). Then I seam the sleeves and body. It’s also easy to do the ribbing on the USM, doing the 2 x 1 ribbing. This machine gives me the best of both worlds, being able to knit the boring sleeves and body on the machine, and then hand-knitting tops of sweaters. It’s a great machine.

  7. Annette says:

    I recently purchased the machine off EBay and I already broke a needle…Do you know how to go about replacing it?

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