Problem 1: The knitting just falls off the machine without linking
It did this the first three times I tried to use it and I was so frustrated. I had a look online to find out whether other people had experienced the same problems. They certainly had; I found a few hits, but I didn't find anyone with the solution. One site suggested that I take the linker apart to clean and oil it. I did give it a good clean and oil, and that definitely didn't hurt, but it wasn't the solution I needed. The solution was much, much more simple than that...
What I had done, was miss the fabric guide. The linker instructions do mention (very briefly on page 4) that you need to, "pull the fabric a little bit to slide the fabric end into the fabric guide", but I don't think that this is made sufficiently clear. I imagine a lot of people miss this.
The first few times I tried, the knitting was in this position:
Look closely, you'll see that the white plastic fabric guide is in front of the knitting. This is where I went wrong. As soon as you try to operate the linker with the knitting in this position, it will just fall off of the machine unlinked. Here's what it should look like:
You see that the knitting is now going in front of the white plastic fabric guide and will then be in the right position for linking.
Problem 2: Irregular appearance of finished edge
Once I got it working I hit another little snag... but not such a big one. I found that occasionally the linker would miss a stitch. You can actually see in as you link, so it's easy to spot when this has happened. Look at this picture:
If you look closely, you'll see that two stitches are sitting inside the latch with the linker latch tool fully forward. At this point, the first stitch should have slipped off the back of the latch, but sometimes it doesn't. If it does this and you continue linking, there will be an unsightly lump on the cast-off edge, where two stitches have been linked at once.
If you keep an eye on the latches while you're linking, you will see when this happens. Sometimes giving the dial a slight wiggle, will be enough to knock the stitch off the latch. If this doesn't work, stop linking and use a tool to push the stitch off the back of the latch before continuing; it should only need a little nudge. Here's a picture of me using a tool to push the stitch:
Sorry it's not super clear!
Problem 3: Edge tension
Once linked it gives a nice neat finish. I have read other knitters commenting on this technique and I know that some people find the cast-off edge to be too tight, but I think it looks quite nice, at least on stocking stitch:
On rib, the finish really depends on the tension used. I've tried two extremes so, far, but I think the ideal might be somewhere in between. The first time, I knit the final row of rib on tension 8 and used my KA-8300 transfer carriage to move all the stitches to the top bed.
Unfortunately, the transfer carriage didn't work as well on such a high tension and I had to transfer a lot of the stitches manually. Once the stitches were all on the top bed, I just used the linker in the same way as for stocking stitch. I found the edge finish on tension 8 to be quite loose and not so neat, so I gave it another try.
On the second attempt, I knitted the final row of rib on tension 4. This tension worked well with the transfer carriage, and surprisingly still worked with the linker. The finish on this was a little tight:
When I say tight, the stitches don't pull in, but each stitch seems tight and there's a noticeable lack of elasticity. The finished edge is wide and looks like a lettuce leaf edge, which wasn't the look I was going for. Compare this with the first attempt:
The top one is the one first attempt on tension 8. While it lies flat and doesn't have the ruffled finish, the edge itself doesn't have such a neat look. Each stitch looks loose and floppy. I'd guess that tension 5 or 6 might give me the perfect balance... but I'll update this once I've tried it.
So I gave it one more go, this time on tension 6 and I think it's much better:
It's lying pretty flat, but the stitches are still quite neat and tight and the edge has retained a good amount of elasticity. The transfer carriage operated fairly well at this tension too, so it's a win-win.