Review: Ultimate Sweater Machine

“When she was good She was very, very good, But when she was bad she was horrid.”

How many of you have not heard that quote before? Hm? Show of hands…good. That little excerpt infiltrated my brain the first time I tried the Ultimate Sweater Machine. When it worked, I wanted to marry the thing. We’d have little children together–Intarsia, Alpaca, and George. But when the machine didn’t work well, I wanted to throw it out the second-story window then beat the smashed remains with a baseball bat until every ounce of plastic was pulverised into a lumpy goo. But I’m really not that violent. Really.
(Everything else is behind the cut, if you don’t see a link)


Setting up the machine for casting on.

In addition to the basic pieces to run the machine, the Ultimate Sweater Machine comes with a free skein of yarn, a pattern book, helpline phone number, and how-to video. So of course the first thing I did was watch the video. The production quality of the video is not that great. In fact it looks like a couple people filmed it in their basement, but it actually gets into a lot of information, from setting up your machine to running it to trouble shooting.After the thrilling (and informative) video, I began to play with the free yarn. I worked up about 50 rows with 50 stitches in less than 5 minutes. Then stitches fell off. I needed to go to bed anyway so I frogged the piece. It took me longer to wind the yarn I used than to knit it.

The following Sunday, the Husband had tennis. So I thought I would take the new yarn I purchased to make my first knitting machine scarf and whip it up while he was gone. I would wow and amaze him with the speed. You know it didn’t work out like that, don’t you.


Look, Ma! I cast on a row!

My first attempt was…pitiful. The passing-thingy (technical term) constantly became stuck over the needles. By the way, the passing-thingy is the purple thing in the pictures. You move it back and forth over the machine and it pushes the hooks forward and back making stitches. If a stuck passing-thingy wasn’t bad enough, I was dropping sitches left and right and had to frog a few rows too often for my taste. It was awful and I was close to tears. The few rows where I was successfull was quite fun. But for two minutes of fun, there was about twenty of frustration.

I recently learned that when I become frustrated, to just walk away. When I approach the project from a fresh start, it all goes better. Plus, stopping before meltdown prevents me from throwing the object of frustration into the street with oncoming traffic.


About 5 minutes of knitting (without issues).

So with a few days off, I tried again. I had been thinking about my problems with the machine and devised a strategy. First, I would rewatch the troubleshooting video. A wise step, because while I remembered most of the tips, there were a few I had forgotten. Second, I would pass the passing-thingy slower than I had been. And it worked. I still had a couple problems, but not nearly as many before and it was comparable to hand knitting issues. In less than 30 minutes before work one morning I knit up over a third of my scarf with very little problems! I did need to frog about 20 rows but that was only because I didn’t like how long one color section was. At this point, I was seeing rings and honeymoons with my machine.


Getting close to done. What’s it been? About 45 minutes?

Then in another 20 minutes, I finished the scarf. I think I took more time casting off with what they call the back stitch cast off than actually knitting up the scarf. All I had left to do was the seaming, weaving in ends and tassels or fringe or whatever you wish to call it.


What the video calls back stitch cast off. I’ve also seen it called the sewing cast off. Or something like that.

Overall, I like the machine. There’s this amazing zen-like rhythm to it and while I’m passing the passing-thingy back and forth I find I become quite calm. This is much like when I knit (not when I’m frogging or messing up mind you). I love the action for the sake of the action not to win a race. Will the machine ever replace my knitting? Nope. It can’t do everything as easily as I can by hand. Quicker, but not necessarily easier. As far as I can tell, garter stitch is nonexistant while ribbing requires dropping stiches. I can do cables, but again, I’d need to drop stitches. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be easy if I kept at it and practiced. On the plus side, Fair Isle and Intarsia are both very possible and seem easy to do. And increase and decrease are easy to do.

 

You do have to weight down the knitting from what I can tell so I’m not sure how it will affect fibers with memory or fibers that stretch easily. I have seen that it can be done, but have yet to try it. Something to look forward to.


Hot off the presses.

So all-in-all I love it. My little machine is not a bad tool to have on hand. I can make potholders, scarves, sweaters, and so many other things in mere hours. Definately a gizmo to use for some of the projects on the list. I think it just needs a name.

And finally, scarf specifics. I used Caron Simply soft in black and gray because it was cheap and soft. There was no intended receiver of the gift, but since there are a few too many flaws I don’t feel right selling it or giving it away; however, flaws are good for the Husband so it seems to be going to him!

As modeled by the Husband. Bonus points if you know the anime reference. And then of course we need a close up shot.

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52 thoughts on “Review: Ultimate Sweater Machine

  1. That’s a great review. The scarf looks good too, and your husband has a positively charming face. I don’t think I’d leave him for the machine. Maybe just mess around with the machine from time to time, but stick with the man with the blue and white face … he looks like a classic.

    ~firefly

  2. You have a way with words! I love reading your reviews because they are very… readable. *grins* And I can’t wait to meet the machine. Will you introduce us properly?

  3. That’s it! I have one bad hair day and everyone gives me a hard time *sniff* I think the baseball hat makes me look distinguished.

    -The Husband

  4. Excellent Laughing Man nod (from Ghost in the Shell, of course) have you seen the second movie they put out a while ago? Just visually stunning :)

    I just got a knitting machine too, mostly for whipping out some shells for a friend doing a fashion line and scarves like these. Great job!

  5. Good review!! I’m thining of getting a kntting machine and was just searching it out on the net. I have so much yarn to use up!!(I’m not allowed to acquire any more until I use up what I have and was going to utilise the machine to whip up some kitty blankets for Furry Friends!!

    • I took up weaving on a triangle loom,, uses about 325 yards of yarn, good way to use up various combinations of left over yarn.. who am I kidding,, I recently purchased wool yarn from Weavingsouthwest.com what beautiful colors,, and the textures.. gee can you tell I”m hooked on that web site/store.
      I am also thinking of purchasing a knitting machine..

  6. I was wondering? Can you make socks on it? ive been on you tube and have seen little british ladies with there knitmasters pumping out the socks, yet i cant seem to find anyone on a sweater machine making socks. Is it possible, or am i going to have to learn to make socks by hand?

    • Would you happen to have any links? I, too, want to make socks on my Ultimate Sweater Machine, but haven’t found anything clear on how to do so. Thanks!

  7. Ok, so I bought this machine because I have decided to make everyones christmas present this year. I crocheted a few blankets and then decided to give a knitted afghan a shot. I started with the trial piece…wound up trying to do a scarf. OMG the curling is insane. I don’t know anything about how to hand knit…casting on has yet to be accomplished, but the scarf itself is beautiful in that all the stiches are even and I got through most of it without a dropped stich. Most of the sites say use ribbing on the ends. Not sure how to connect my pieces…I am not far from relisting this on ebay. Any help you can offer?? And how do you wrap you knitting in the hem…the only time I dro pstiches is when my hem gets to the ground but I can’t seem to get it to wrap up. HELP!

  8. As Jill mentioned, the curling is about to do me in. Two of us each bought a machine with high hopes. The curling ends are making us reconsider our recent purchase. One of us is a pretty experienced hand knitter and I am just a newbie. Speed was a factor in buying this but if this edge curling issue cannot be solved, back these machines go to Michaels Craft Store. Anyone have any suggestions????? Thanks

    • I bought this atrocity this week. For me it’s the worst purchase I think I’ve ever made in my life. Mine will be going back to Michael’s! It jammed, dropped stitches and I followed the instructions to the letter. I don’t have the patience for it. Back to my KnIfty Knitter..no dropped stitches, no jamming, and perfection every time.

  9. To answer a common question:

    The knitting machine makes stockinette stitch by default. The nature of stockinette stitch makes it curl. The only way to fix it is to seam it into a tube or add something on the ends (like garter stitch or crochet edging) to force it flat. The machine does not do garter stitch and ribbing requires dropping stitches so I imagine it would be difficult. Hope this helps.

  10. Actually, it’s not difficult to do a garter or moss for only a few stitches, and dropping stitches on the machine is not the same as dropping them in hand knitting. I’ve made blankets with a moss boarder and it goes fast. You just have to keep in mind that while some things take longer to do on a machine, on the whole, the project goes faster than hand knitting. Don’t forget that there is a learning curve for the machine just like for anything else.

  11. Hi…am thinking about buying one of these little jammys. I know how to use a sewing machine, but it has been years since I knit and frankly, don’t remember….could I jump into this with the Ultimate Knitting Machine, or does one need to at least have a little experience with knitting?

    Thanks!

  12. I love my machine. I had a hard time working with it at first, but now I am getting the hang of it. I drop stitches here and there but I can pick them up and keep on working. I made an afghan with little time. I can knit by hand but it takes me forever. The knitting machine makes it so easy. Your review was great!!!!

  13. I wish I read this before I ran out to but this contraption today. It will come in handy for a hand knit project I first need to knit up and shrink (Rowan denim yarn) but another big hope was I could finally knit a Doctor Who scarf because…well-there’s just no way on earth I am knitting 17 feet of garter stitch by hand…If I can figure out how to knit it in stocking stitch without the ends curling (impossible I’m sure), I may have it or will forever yearn for a Doctor Who scarf LOL!

  14. My son gave me one for Christmas. I knit two rows and everything stopped. My wife said let me try. She’s been knitting ever since. YOU HAVE TO READ EVERY
    WORD! I scanned and missed some important tips. The learning curve is steep! Keep trying. The nice things the 300 400 $ machines do for you, the USM makes you do by hand… It does work and nicely if you don’t cuss it.

    Gordon

  15. thanks for the review and quirky ghost in the shell reference… highly amusing! I’m considering getting one of these and i’m more inclined now

  16. Good review. I just bought my machine, have had it for 4 days and already broke a needle! Any idea how to replace that?

  17. You can buy needles from Bond Ameica web site. How did you break the needle?!! :-) I have had mine for a few years, but don’t get to use it a lot now. I can hand knit, but this is easier in the long run. Good Luck with your project.

  18. I was thinking of buying this product but before I do I was wondering if you can double your yarn in this machine. I have been hand knitting and loom knitting for about a year now and I love using two different colored yarns when knitting. Can someone help me out with this question. Thanks!

  19. I´m thinking about buy Ultimate Knitting Machine. I have tons of Kniftty Knitters and I think this is the next step. Your review helps me a lot and I´ll be really carefull about see several times lessons video ;).,and I laugh a lot about your Husband word with cap letter, that was brilliant. A lot of thanks and blessings from Spain.

  20. Don’t do it!! I wanted to break it. It kept jamming and dropping stiches. The thicker yarn I like to use got totally stuck and I kept dropping stiches. It’s going back to the store tomorrow :( I was so excited about it too

  21. Just got one and put it together. I followed the directions exactly. Even without any yarn in the machine, with the needles in the working position after removing the yellow card, the carriage does not clear the needles. The needles are too high in some spots. The machine is on a flat , level table with the proper overhang, clamped down. The needles just jam. I think maybe the fact that’s made from plastic, the plastic does not hold its shape and therefore wont hold a tolerance. Or else mine is defective. Add yarn for maximum frustration.

  22. Does anyone know a good place to purchase the Silver Reed LK150 or another kitting machine that’s better than the USW. I found one place with a price that isn’t too bad but they wont take any returns. For $400, I can’t afford to not be able to return it if it doesn’t work.

      • No, I never got it to work. I returned it and bought a LK150. It’s works beautifully but the curling has made me lose my enthusiasm for machine knitting. I have not been able to figure out how to make other types of stitches either. One problem is I’m a beginner and I find all the symbols and stuff very difficult to understand in stitch patterns.

  23. I think I’m losing my mind. I just spent all afternoon with the USM, having looked forward soooo eagerly to its arrival all week. I knew it might be tricky to get it to work, but I have watched the CD, read the book, and practiced for hours, and I can’t get past a single row. The carriage jams constantly, and at best goes for about 20 stitches before leaping off the machine. Is mine defective? Also, is that spongy thing under the green plastic strips that keep the needles down supposed to be there? My needles are incredibly diffcult to move, even though I lubricated them with TONS of silicone spray.

    • You are not crazy. See my comments below. Same exact experience with two different machines. I wonder if it’s time to give up on the Ultimate Sweater machine and either go back to hand knitting or consider the Silver Reed LK150. Good reviews on that one, but pricey and no dealers near me.

  24. If you look at the comments chronologically, they seem to go downhill with not a single positive comment after December 2010. I bought my machine retail at a national craft chain store, and failed to notice that the box had been opened before. A piece of the green bar over the needle bed had popped up and the sponge strip under it was sticking up. I removed the bar, pushed the sponge strip back down and replaced the bar. I followed the booklet and video on setup faithfully and couldn’t complete a single row without jamming, same as Sue said in January 2011. (I wish I had found this website before buying the USM) Because the store cashier said I could return or exchange my purchase, I did just that, thinking that the problem was that I had bought a returned item.

    The next machine came home in a sealed box, and the pieces inside were also in sealed bags. Never used. I followed the instructions again, checking each step before going on in the setup video. Waxed the carriage plates, made sure the yarn wasn’t impeded from unwinding (put it in a box behind the table where it could be pulled out easily) and aligned yarn in the slots on the carriage. Gently but firmly pushed the carriage across the bed and no matter how I tried, ran into the backs of needles that refused slip under the carriage so they could be routed through the channels inside. The carriage would slip over some needles and knit them, then suddenly bang into the back of a needle that it couldn’t clear. Needles were in working position, everything checked out, but there was constant jamming of the needle backs.

    I thought it might be me, and left the project to come back a day later several times, starting with setup every time, in case I missed something. These instructions aren’t rocket science, and I think I followed them to a T. But I just CAN’T make this machine stop jamming.

    I returned the second machine to the store, where they very graciously refunded my purchase price. But I went back to the shelf where the USM was on display. There were two boxes there, obviously opened and used. I peeked inside one, and saw unraveled yarn and opened plastic bags, evidence that someone else had tried and failed to use their machine, and returned it. Not a scientific survey, but evidence that others are having trouble with the USM.

    I think that something happened in the manufacturing/design of the latest batch of the USM since 12/2010, with the negative reviews since then. Both of my USMs were manufactured 1/17 2011, and maybe that group has a problem. At least before 12/2010, there were a mix of positives and negatives. To have two machines with exactly the same jamming problem points to a design issue. Maybe the old ones work and the new ones don’t. Anyway, I echo Sue’s desire to try a Real knitting machine. Maybe I’ll see if I can swing the price of a LK150. I don’t see complaints about that machine.

    • Thanks, Eileen, for reassuring me about my sanity! That’s an interesting theory about the pre-and post-12/2010 manufacturing process. One thing I don’t understand is why they would let those green strips with the sponge underneath pop up so easily — surely one long piece would have been more effective.

      Sounds like we all covet the LK150. Maybe I can persuade my husband to get it for me for Xmas. He’s a little confused about why I want to spend my free time yelling at a piece of plastic.

  25. I find that I’m having much better luck with baby yarns and skinny yarns like boucle (spelling?). I’m having a horrible time with plain yarns like red heart super saver. It has gotten better the more I’ve worked with it. I too have frequently shouted colorful words I wouldn’t say at church at it but, Its slowly growing on me.

  26. I keep having the same couple of needles/hooks that don’t seem to knit properly. It’s not that they are dropping stitches, but that they are not knitting all the way. Any advice?

  27. I have made dozens of afghans with my USM, even doubles with 2 machines bolted together. The only way to manage afghans once they approach the floor is by rolling them up and securing them with long knitting needles woven into the “roll” from each side. Just adjust as you knit. I purchased my machines in 2010 and find that if I tighten them down too hard the carriage tends to “jump” off. You also have to learn the right amoung of downeard pressure to use.

    • I tried to buy an extension for my machine and they never worked. The machine would jam every time. You are lucky! My machine is from 2004

  28. Hi I have a knitting machine and I am looking for a long hem that fit s over the needles could you help me fine a long hem and short hem for knitting machine. Thanks

  29. Does anyone know how to prevent the carriage from jamming on the USM? I am making an afghan and the needles keep shaving off the underneath of my key plate. Is there a place to buy only one key plate? The last time I had to buy a complete set. This is very frustrating.
    Thanks.

  30. I wanted this machine so bad. Couldn’t seem to figure out how to do it the old fashion way. So my husband got it for me last Christmas. The worst gift ever. So frustrating. No gift should make me so unhappy. Keeps jamming, dropping stitches.Just HORRIBLE. I did manage to make a few hats last year, loaded with mistakes. Figured I give it a try again this year, I have been trying a couple days to just get past the waste yarn to start a hat. I give up. you know where you can put this piece of garbage.

  31. I bought the USM in 2009. I found the “idea” of it wonderful, but the frustration was not so wonderful. I too watched the video numerous times, re-read the instruction book over and over again. I did understand it and had a few good moments with it, but was mostly disappointed. This week (4-4-16) I made the decision to purchase the LK150. It has not arrived as yet, but am excited to use it. After reading numerous reviews it seems that the additional cost may be well worth it. I appreciated reading all of the reviews here…. I didn’t feel so inept after reading them.

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