We do most of our work on four Empisal double bed knitting machines. These steel work horses haven't been manufactured in years: ours are 30 - 40 years old, and all second (or third or fourth) hand. It's been really gratifying to put them to work again.
We also have one new machine, a plastic bed one made by Silver Reed, which is used to knit with heavier yarn, especially cotton.
THE KNITTING PROCESS
When they hear "knitting machine" people sometimes imagine that we programme something and press a button and the machine does the rest. On the contrary: while machine knitting is much, much faster than hand knitting, it is still an extremely hands on process. There is no electricity involved, only focused, time consuming, manual person power. There is no mass production: garments and accessories are produced one at a time, with care and attention from one of our team. The machines can be temperamental beasts, so both mechanical and human glitches can slow down the process. Fortunately knitting can be unraveled, so there is no such thing as a mistake that can't be reversed!
Most garments are knitted in pieces: the front, the back, the sleeves, maybe a neck band. Once the knitting is completed, the pieces have to rest for a while: they get stretched while on the knitting machine, and need a few hours for the fibres to recover.
Then it's time to steam: every single piece is given an attentive going over with a powerful steamer to further relax the fibres and coax the pieces into their final shape and dimensions. No pressure is used: just the power of hot steam and patience!
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
Once steamed your garment is ready to be put together. For this we use a combination of a linker (a weird looking, old device that's kind of like a sewing machine for knitting), and hand sewing. All garments need at least some hand finishing.
Labels get attached at the same time and by the end of this - voila! - your garment is ready to be packaged and shipped off to you for many years of happy wearing.