A while back I asked for advice on buying one of those little hand-cranked I-cord knitting machines. I now present the outcome. This one is very definitely a boutique sort of item. Not everyone has use for miles of I-cord. I do.
I knit lots of baby booties using the pattern Ann Kreckel posted to the KnitList in the summer of 1995. The pattern is available at Woolworks.There’s a similar pattern in Taunton Press’ Knitting Tips and Trade Secrets. I make them as gifts for friends and family, or for charitable donation.
I don’t have any finished booties on hand right now and my sock yarn stash is in the storage cubby, otherwise I’d whip up a pair to photograph. I’ve modified the pattern a little bit, knitting the cuffwith fewer rowsso that it is more rolled than folded. I also like the look of I-cord rather than crocheted, braidedor longitudinally knitted ties. But I-cord is tedious. It takes me almost as long to knit the I-cord ties as it does to make a bootie, so I splurged on a gizmo to do it for me.
About three years ago I got sick of hand-knitting the ties. I looked at the Bond Magicord Machine, the Inox Strickmuhle, and a couple ofolder models I found on eBay.Both the Inox and Bond machines havechanged from the ones available at that time. Except for color, they’re now idential, both sporting little clear plastic sleeves surroundinga 4-hook needle bed.
My older version of the Strickmuhle has no sleeve, uses a different type of weight, and has a protruding arm to position the yarn feed:
Back when I bought this one there was a big difference in qualitybetween the Magicord and the Inox, with the Inox being much sturdier. Now they’re the same machine, so any differences will be in the accompanying documentation (if any).
You can see the hook-weight on mine(there’s a block of metal inside). On the newer modelsthe hook-weightappears to have been replaced by some sort of clip. Mine also came with a second slightly smaller collar (that’s the blue circle that you can see sticking up among the four hooks). In theory, the smaller collar should be used for fingering and 3-ply yarns, and the larger one should be used for sport and DK, but I’ve never found the two collar sizes to have any effect on ease of production or I-cord evenness.
My machine works best on fingering through DK weight yarn, with best results from sport weight (6 spi). I’ve forced some Cascade 220 worsted through it (5 spi). It worked, and I got I-cord that I later used in a fulling project,but I wouldn’t recommendit for worstedas a matter of course.There’s areal knack to using this toy, especially with heavier yarns. Starting a new cord can be especially trying.
I did pick up a couple of starting tips from the French language instruction card (it came with a French, German and English card, but my English card was missing) – When starting out, make a loop, then stuff the yarn end into the tube’s body. Hang the weight from the loop. Thenlay the yarn and turn the crank VERY slowly, skipping every other hook on the first round. You will be usingHook #1,Hook #3, then Hook #2 and finallyHook #4. After you get toHook #4 you can let the yarn feed without skipping hooks.The combo of constant weight on the dangling yarn, plustheskipping-hook row produces a nice even end and minimizes theun-caught stitchesthat can make starting a cord difficult.
Once acord is started, the thing does work quite easily. I often hand off my gizmo to one of my kids and have her crank out the required length. My weight isn’t as convenient as the spring clips, but I can move it up the cord if I need more yardagethan the 5-year old is tall. Ending off is easy. I snip the yarn and keep turning the crank until the cord falls through. Then I use a tapestry needle and the dangling end to thread through the cord’sfour loops. If I’m making bootie ties, I don’t bother making a two separate cords. Because starting is the trickiest part of operation I make a single cord that’s double long, plus a couple of rows – then snip the thing in the middle and bind off the two new ends.
Looking around, I see other people playing with these toys. Jenanne posted a summary of her experiments with the new version Bond and an Aran weight yarn (4.5 spi). Kate at Will Knit for Food also wrote about making I-cord from worsted weight yarns, then fulling it for bag handles.
Other than cost,limits on the weight of the yarns it can handle, the difficulty of holding the thing, the yarn and cranking all at the same time (I wish it had a table clamp), and some trickiness starting off a new cord, mybiggest disappointment is that the user is unable to alter the number of hooks being used. You get four-stitch I-cord. That’s all. One of the pre-1940s-vintage German-made all-metal machines I was tracking on eBay came with 6 hooks, and could be used with as few as two (sort of as a turbocharged lucet).
I also ran across the Hobby-Knit on eBay:
It looks interesting, but I couldn’t get anyone to confirm whether or not it could be used with a variable number of hooks. Also the very few of them that seemed to offered in operational condition were selling for upwards of $100. Much more than I could justify for such a trivial function.
If anyone knows more about this vintage toy, feel free to clue me in.