Orion Hand Knitter

I’ve been after a vintage double bed knitting machine for a while now. I wasn’t bothered what make it was, Singer, Twinmatic, Girotex, Orion, I just wanted an old one that I could do up and get working again. I have been tempted by a few before but the snag has always been that they are collection only which rules them out for me as I rarely have access to the car. Last week I had a look on Ebay and found an Orion for £18 with no bids on it and the seller offered postage by courier. I looked at all the photos and from what I could see it seemed to be in good condition so I bid on it. I won, I was the only bidder.

The machine arrived a few days later and it was in very good condition apart from being a little grubby. It is an Orion Hand Knitter Model No. 2. It was packed in it’s original box but was missing the cast on combs and side weights. I wasn’t too concerned about that as I have ribber cast on combs for my Knitmaster and was sure they would work with this machine (they do) but I emailed the seller just in case she had them. As it turns out she didn’t have them.

Anyway, I stripped and cleaned the machine and spent much of yesterday putting it back together. I tested it out last night but for some reason the carriage on the front bed kept jamming.

This morning I stripped the front bed again then re-assembled it. Well I don’t know what I did differently but now it works! It does have the occasional jam but I can put up with that.

I did have to repair the plastic globe that holds the yarn but the seller had pointed out that it was broken and all the bits were there so it was just a case of glueing it back together.

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There is a manual so it made it easier to figure out how to set the machine up though it is a bit vague in places – I did swear at it once or twice!

The samples I knitted aren’t very good, I think I need a bit more practice!

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I’m really pleased with this machine but I don’t think I’ll have chance to play with again until after Christmas.

Also included in the box with the machine was an insight to the lady who originally owned it (not the person I bought it from) . There are two notebooks filled with hand written patterns and other notes. Having had a quick look at them it’s obvious that the lady was selling the things that she knitted. The names of the people she was knitting the garments for are written at the top of each pattern. There are lists of the different yarns she used, tension measurements, how much she charged (pounds, shillings and pence) – it makes fascinating reading! One of the books  is dated March ’66.

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Between many of the pages of the books were notes written on scraps of paper, letters and ball bands.


There were also some hand knitting patterns, a couple of machine knitting patterns and lots of patterns torn from magazines. There was part of a Stitchcraft magazine dated October 1945!



This lot will keep me occupied for ages. I’ll have to have a good look through it all and see if I can find out more about the lady who used to own the machine.

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33 Responses to Orion Hand Knitter

  1. Jewel Nelson says:

    Wow! Archaeology!

  2. leenrue says:

    I am so happy for you, this is a great find and learning machine about more then just the machine I am sure the person who owned it loved it as much as you love reading and learning about it. have a great time with it. Mary

  3. Carol Muller says:

    What a great find…another heirloom rescued…to be loved! Sounds like you’ll be having some fun in 2015!

  4. what a great find. love the historical stuff

  5. josie says:

    Oh wow, that’s amazing. So lovely to see a vintage machine brought back to life. Some real history there in the handwritten notes and patterns. Thanks for sharing another inspirational blog post. Looking forwards to hearing more about this machine after Xmas if you get the time. The knitted samples are very nice indeed.

    • susyranner says:

      I haven’t even worked my way through a quarter of the stitch patterns, I’ll be posting my favourites when I get time.

  6. Yvonne Ziser says:

    This is what I call a “me Xmas pressie” Susan. It is a rare find and knowing you,you will bring it back to it’s former glory.Have fun with it.
    Wishing you a very Merry Xmas and a Happy Knitting New Year! Yvonne

  7. Morag Walker says:

    Hi Susy
    It was great to read your story about the Orion. My dear Mum used to have a machine like this but I don’t know where it eventually went. It’s great to see it working again. It was a lovely machine and did some lovely patterns. Well done you for £18.
    Best wishes for Christmas and New Year & Happy Knitting. Morag

    • susyranner says:

      It is a lovely machine and I’m so pleased that I managed to get it working.
      Merry Christmas to you too.

  8. Else says:

    My brother ribber used to jam until I discovered some needles that were just a little different than the rest. The Orion looks lovely, and those books, they make me drool 😉

  9. linda says:

    You could write a book lol.’ Diary of a Knitting Lady’
    Happy Christmas x

  10. I love it! I’ve never seen a machine like that, I’m totally intrigued 🙂 Can’t wait to see the magic you do with it. Happy reading… what a treasure trove you have there 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  11. theknitwit says:

    This was a great read and sounds like a great Christmas present for you. Your perseverance yeilded pattern samples that suggest in no time flat we’ll all be reading about hour Orion adventures. The notes and patterns and original packaging was over the top! Congratulations. Merry Christmas and a Happy Knitting New Year. BTW, what did you use to clean the machine?

    • susyranner says:

      Merry Christmas to you too.
      I cleaned the machine by dipping an old toothbrush in water then into some soap powder. Then I brushed the needlebed with it. After that I put it in the bath and sprayed it with the shower head!

  12. Maureen says:

    Tried responding to this on my cell phone while we were away but it didn’t show up. What a great buy and all the records that came with it would be totally fascinating to read.

  13. Vee says:

    Don’t you just love these golden oldies? I bought a Passap 201 c/w ribber and pattern books. It was from the mid-50s, and I could tell from the address labels on the books that the owner was in the Canadian Air Force and which bases they lived on. I bought the machine from the second owner who never used it. It took me six months of researching but I did manage to contact the original owner/operator who was, imagine my surprise!, a man!! He was purchasing his wife a sewing machine at the dealer’s shop when he saw this machine and purchased it, and he was the one who did all the knitting on it, and made the custom cabinet to house/use it. He was a wonderful person delighted to share the story of the machine. He gave it up when he and his wife downsized to a seniors facility. Alas, it has sat languishing since then. This is my year to use it. Thank you for sharing your stories.

    • susyranner says:

      You must have been really determined to find the original owner, your persistence paid off!

  14. Stephen McCulloch says:

    Hi guys
    Wow a wonderful story. I have just purchased my first knitting machine, a Passap E 6000. Its till on the way here by road freight. That was such a bargain, however there is an Orion on the market at the moment at next to nothing price. Still in the original box by the look of it. I was hesitant, not knowing much about these machines. Mum used to knit on her Empisal PB8 when we were kids,( never forget that fire engine red polo neck ) I’m 53 now, so some time back. Thank you for showing your first samples. Wow I didn’t know it was capable of such beautiful work. I have just contacted the seller.
    Thanks once again.

    • susyranner says:

      I hope you manage to get the Orion. I think I’ll set mine up again and have another play with it.

  15. tessm says:

    This looks like great fun. I just picked up a vintage Swift-O-Matic and I am wondering how much yours cost to post, because mine is built like a tank and it’s HEAVY!
    Mine didn’t have a manual — any chance I could pay for a copy of yours? I know it’s not the same model, but any info would help me out at this point.

    • susyranner says:

      I honestly can’t remember how much the postage was but the machine is quite heavy.
      I already have the manual scanned, you can download it here

      Hope this helps.

      • tessm says:

        Wow, great service! 😉 Thank you so much for pointing me to it and wish me luck!

        • susyranner says:

          You’re welcome and good luck!

        • Stephen McCulloch says:

          Hi . A seller here in South Africa just weighed a machine believe it or not in the original box at under 20kg . I’m told its complete but who can tell.
          Judging by the samples shown above . Buy Buy Buy I’m trying to come up with the cash to buy the one available this side. Still dealing with a deep cleaning of the passap I bought. Wow how can people let such an awesome machine go to ruin. Fortunately a deep clean will make a huge difference. Such a shame though.
          Happy knitting

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