MachineKnitting

SuperbaKnit, my White 1602, and Old Electronics

My most recent obsession became, like so many machine knitters, reversible double bed jacquard. I loved it. I needed it. I had to produce it. DBJ on my Singer 360 is nice, but stripes on the back are just…not as nice as reversible. I learned that maybe a Passap could do it, but I can’t afford a Passap at the moment, and I think I would need to learn another language to understand them. I somehow stumbled across the information that a Superba double bed machine could also do reversible jacquard, and having never heard of Superba before, set out to read everything I could about them like an insane person.

Reading about them turned into wanting one, which turned into trolling Kijiji like a maniac. Nothing. Nothing in all of Canada. This only made them more desirable, like a rare gem! I learned they are branded various names – Superba, Singer (in France/Europe/UK), Phildar, and, in North America, White. I realize this is confusing, since in North America Singer sold an entirely different kind of machine. The Singers sold here are Japanese made, the Singers across the pond are French made by Superba and look totally different.

Eventually I discovered one for sale, a White 1602 selection box model, but of course the selection box has a broken belt. (Spoiler alert: the last of these machines was made in the 1980s and they all pretty much have broken belts.) It’s been a problem for a while since all the replacement belts are now gone, pretty much. But, lo and behold, a guy in Germany is producing them now by 3D printing! Neat! OK, so I was determined to buy and fix this machine. If it doesn’t work, there is a way to bypass the electronics, but I was so optimistic it was going to work.

Well, fast forward to me and my husband staring into this pile of crumbling ’80s plastic, and yeah, we can’t fix it. I mean, we probably could, but how much time do we want to put into this bad boy? Or him, really, since my soldering skills turned out to be really bad. Not much. It’s just too time consuming for something that would then eventually break again.

So anyway, that leaves hacking the machine. It’s a pricier option, to be sure, but someone much smarter about these things than myself has figured out a way to connect these beautiful old machines to a computer and control the patterning from there. What a time to be alive. I know you can also do that with the electronic Brother machines, and for cheap, so my choice became pick up a cheap old Brother and learn that and hack it, or keep the Superba and buy the more ready-made expensive hack and go from there. It’s more expensive, did I mention that? But that jacquard, you guys!!! And I already have the machine.

In reality, my 360 punch card machine is a beautiful mechanical machine, and probably does enough, but it has its limitations. Once I sat down to the White (can I just keep calling it a Superba, since that’s who made it?) and pushed the carriage, I felt like I’d been pushing a ton of bricks on the Singer. The carriage glides across like a feather. And it’s very pretty and interesting looking, and not something you see every day, at least around here. And made from aluminum so it’s about 300 times lighter than the Singer with ribber. (Seriously, the 360 tips over my table, the Superba doesn’t.) It knits a wider variety of yarns than the 360 does as well – up to DK, where the 360 has a hard time with anything heavier than UK 4ply. So in theory, if the newly hacked Superba were to do all the things I think it will be capable of, I would really have no need for the 360. Although I’m worried fancy lace will be harder/not even doable on it. Parts are harder to find. But no sponge bars! I only have a standard transfer carriage, not the fancier one. But I could find that later. It doesn’t have a colour changer. But do I need one?

AHHHH! Stop the madness!!

I have been driving myself crazy over this for a couple of weeks, and finally decided. I have the Superba here, I love it, and I’m going to hack it and make it sing. I “could” hack a Brother, if I could find one for the right price, but I don’t know that they’re all that different from my 360 in what they produce. If I’m going to go fully hacked, it’s going to be the machine that does something different. So there it is. My SuperbaKnit package is on the way from the Netherlands as we speak, and I’m going to be like a kid on Christmas when it comes. Maybe it will be on Christmas, in fact. I am planning to sell the 360 if all goes well and this makes it obsolete, but if not, maybe I’ll just keep it and turn it into a “table for two” style machine with the 326 that’s hanging out here!

… You see how this happens?

I’m going to have 50 knitting machines.

-Heather

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