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Knit Magic!

A friend recently asked me to make leg warmers for her daughter. Because I am naturally lazy, I looked for the easiest possible way to do this. Rummaging in my closet, I came up with a potential solution.

Behold! The Knit Magic! The finest toy knitting machine that 1974 had to offer!

Yes, with the turn of a crank, you too can produce a wide variety of harvest gold acrylic tubes! The machine came with yarn in typical 70’s shades. It also came with some powder blue knitted puffs, so clearly it had been used. Somewhere there’s a woman in her 40’s who remembers this machine with a wistful smile.

Make Tubes 'N Panels!

Make tubes ‘n panels! There’s a switch you can flick on the machine to convert it from knitting tubes to knitting flat. However, since the only stitch it makes is stockinette, and stockinette curls like crazy, there’s not a lot of advantage to switching to panels.

Not a lot has changed in toy knitting machine technology since 1974. Or since 1874, for that matter. I still really want a sock knitting machine. Check out this fantastic video of a restored 1924 Gearhart. It’s not a toy, clearly, as it makes heels and toes and even does ribbing, but basically, the principle is the same. However, unlike the $2000 it would cost to get a brand new or restored sock knitting machine, mine cost $1.50 at a garage sale. Or, if you’re a sucker like me, $7.50 off eBay.

Of course, you get what you pay for.

“I just want to say one word to you — just one word — ‘plastics.'”

There’s a crank you turn on the side that causes the cylinder to rotate, pulling the yarn into the machine over a series of hooks which knit the fabric. Because this is a child’s toy from 1974, the handle is stubborn and pops a bit. Of course, it’s still much, much faster than me churning out a tube with my needles by hand.


At the Mother’s Day sale on Sunday, I picked up a bargain bag of yarn from Charlotte Yarn. At right, a tube knitted out of Sandnes Smart superwash wool. It only took about five minutes to knit this. However, I’m not at all sure it’s suitable for legwarmers in roughly size 4T. The yarn’s kind of thick for legwarmers – at least, I think so, I haven’t seen any in 20 years – and the weave feels kind of loose. I might add a little ribbing to the ends and send it to my friend to see if it fits properly. If it does, great! But I have a feeling that there’s no shortcut to good quality.

Originally, I got this machine for three reasons: kitsch value, novelty scarves, and dyeing.

Kitsch value: check! It’s definitely kitschy.

Novelty scarves: check! The scarf at left was cranked out in about ten minutes and given to my daughter. Yarn courtesy of .

Dyeing: Well, not yet. I’m hoping to make this part of the next dyeing day. I’ve got some ideas to try out, and this little baby’s going to play a key role.

So, there you have it. Adventures with a 1974 Mattel Knit Magic. Fun’s where you find it, and I found it for $7.50 on eBay.

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  1. May 13th, 2008 at 14:21 | #1

    That’s truly excellent. I’m frankly amazed that it still works!

  2. May 14th, 2008 at 13:21 | #2

    Ooh! More toys for dyeing day! I can’t wait to see what you have in mind.

  3. June 30th, 2011 at 16:57 | #3

    Was getting ready to throw my daughters (42 years old) knit magic in the garage sale until I saw what you were making with it. I’m going to give it a try also. Christmas scarfs for everyone. Thanks for the information. Kathryn

  4. lsolcher
    July 13th, 2011 at 19:37 | #4

    @Kathryn Langdon
    I had a knit magic in my youth and am looking for one for my 6 year old who is frustrated in a knitting class. Would you consider selling it?

  5. June 15th, 2012 at 16:04 | #5

    How fun! My mom found mine her closet or something and gave it to me. I vaguely remember it (but my name is on it in my own writing)…I don’t know if I received it new as a gift or picked it up at a yard sale (though I’m the right “vintage” I’m 39). My kids (ages 10, 6 and 2 1/2) all want to give it try so I’m trying to figure out how to make it work, since of course the instruction book is missing.

  6. June 15th, 2012 at 19:36 | #6

    I found a link to a .pdf file that has the instructions. It might be helpful! http://service.mattel.com/instruction_sheets/7830.pdf

  7. Amy
    July 15th, 2014 at 07:33 | #7

    where do I buy the Knit Magic?

  8. September 23rd, 2015 at 07:35 | #8

    Amy, I got mine from eBay. They’re not being made anymore, but you can still find similar knitting machines made by Addi.

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