The Bond knitting machine is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or you hate it. I love it.
It was invented in Britain in 1981 by Roger Curry.
I bought mine some time in 1983 and had knitted my first jumper within a week of first taking it out of the box. I’m still using that machine now, 30 years later. I took to it straight away, the instructions were easy to understand and the machine worked perfectly from the start. It is made of good quality, sturdy plastic in a burgandy/mahogany/brown colour (don’t know how to describe it) which doesn’t feel at all flimsy and after all this time still works as good as the day I bought it.
The first time I heard any derogatory remarks about this machine was when I went to a machine knitting shop in town (which has long since closed down) and explained to the woman that I had just bought a knitting machine and asked her advice on which yarn to buy. She asked me what sort of machine I’d bought and when I enthusiastically replied “a Bond” I was immediately deflated when she said haughtily, “oh well, that’s not a proper knitting machine.” Boy, did she make me feel stupid. I bought a cone of double knitting but I never went back there.
A few years later a woman who I worked with at the time who also had a Bond asked me if I wanted to buy hers from her as she had bought a more expensive metal bed machine. I bought it for £30. It is one of the blue Bonds which is exactly the same as my first Bond in all but the colour.
I knitted many, many jumpers on those Bonds. I did a lot of fair isle and intarsia and always felt proud of what I had produced and the machines never let me down.
About 10 years ago I was browsing in a charity shop when I spotted a boxed Bond ISM (Incredible Sweater Machine). I had a quick look in the box and everything seemed to be there so I bought it for the bargain price of £5. When I got it home and had a good look at it I could see it had hardly been used. Once I set it up I could understand why.
The first thing that was different was the way the machine was put together. The original Bond came fully assembled in a long box, with a long, metal rod holding the sections in place. The ISM, if I remember correctly, came in two seperate pieces, with smaller rods holding the sections in place and a nut and bolt to hold the two pieces together. I think that’s how it was. I do remember tightening the nut and bolt thinking that the machine would be able to move out of line. I didn’t like that set up at all. I also thought the needlebed didn’t seem as sturdy as the originals were.
Next was the carriage, it was terrible. The plastic was so flimsy compared to the original. It seemed to be really poor quality and I wasn’t impressed at all. I set it all up to knit but couldn’t move the carriage across without it catching the needles. I messed about with it for ages. I had used a Bond machine for about 20 years so I knew how it was supposed to work, how on earth was a new user supposed to manage? I just couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t knit. Then I had a really good look at the carriage. The front of it looked just the same as the original with the hole for the yarn to slot into but below that on the underneath part there was a strip of red plastic. The original carriage does have a thin strip of grey plastic in the same place but this red piece seemed to be thicker. It was this red plastic piece that was catching on the needles and causing the carriage to jam. I removed the plastic piece and the carriage moved across and knitted perfectly.
However, knitting with this ISM wasn’t the same as with my original Bonds. It felt as if I was using a toy and that if I applied any pressure it was going to break. The quality was far inferior and I was really disappointed with it. I sold it on ebay.
My Bond came with four clear keyplates numbered 1-4. Later the clear green dot keyplates were produced which were double sided and gave you half sizes. These new keyplates also have what were described as ‘bounce bars’ which, according to what they said when they described them in the Bond Magazine, were designed to stop the needles moving out of line. I bought a set of dot keyplates and I have to say that I find them worse to use than the original ones. I found that if the needles are ever so slightly out of line they hit the bounce bars and the carriage comes to a standstill until you push the needles back into line. With the old keyplates it doesn’t seem to matter if the needles are slightly out of line, the keyplate will line them up as it passes over them.
I have never seen a Bond USM (Ultimate Sweater Machine) in real life, only in photos and videos but if it is the same quality as the ISM I can understand why a lot of people don’t take it seriously and think of it as a toy.
Having said that, there are many, many people who love their USM and produce wonderful items on it, so it can’t be that bad, can it?
People say there is a learning curve with the Bond and that it can take some getting used to. I didn’t find this to be true at all, I was up and running with it as soon as I took it out of the box. 30 years later and I’m still using my first machine.
Despite having more expensive metal bed machines I will never get rid of my Bond. I still love it for it’s simplicity and ease of use.
I’m sure there will be many of you who don’t agree with my opinions about the newer Bonds but I can only speak from my experience of using the ISM – maybe I just got a bad one.
I would love to hear what you think about the Bond.
Talk to you later,