Q: What is a knitting machine?
A: knitting machines are usually long flat "beds" of needles with a carriage that is pushed by hand.
In the past some knitting machines were made of round metal cylinders and turned with a crank. All knitting machines are instruments
with which to make the act of knitting take less time.
Because knitting machines are operated by hand and because hand seaming or finishing is required at
the end, machine knit articles are often labeled "hand-knit."
Knitting machines are sometimes referred to as "knitting looms" or "knitting systems."
Q: But I like the relaxation of knitting by hand. Why would anyone want to knit with a machine? Isn't that cheating?
A: Knitting with a machine can be a relaxing diversion from ordinary life, just as handknitting is.
Machine knitting was never meant to replace handknitting. There are some things that can be done by hand that can't be done
with a knitting machine, but also many things that the knitting machine helps you explore that can't be done with two hand-knitting
Sometimes we say machine knitting is an advancement of the craft just the same way an electric Skill
Saw or Jig Saw is an advancement over a hand saw. There are times when a hand saw will do the trick better than the power
saw, and vice versa. Such it is with knitting.
People who haven't seen knitting machines before sometimes make the comment that it is "cheating."
Was grandma cheating when she traded in the needle and thread for a sewing machine? Her garments were still hand-made with
all the same tender-loving-care and time honored skill of being a seamstress. She still had a lot of time invested in learning
the craft and designing garments. Some machine knitters like the fact that knitting large pieces of fabric takes less time
so the spare time can be devoted to designing.
People who knit do so because they love the feel of yarn. They love to touch and appreciate the softness,
texture, and weight. A machine knitter will still get that satisfaction. Machine knitters handle the yarn and knit fabric
just as much as hand knitters do. It is just done in a different manner.
Q: Can I combine hand knitting and machine knitting? Or crochet? Or machine embroidery?
A: Yes, yes, and yes. Hand knit garments are seamed by hand, and so are machine knit garments. Many
machine knitters will use their hand knitting skills to embellish seams or collars. Machine knit garments can have crochet
collars or trim embellishments. Garments knit by machine or by hand can be embroidered on (using the appropriate backing)
with our modern embroidery machines. Look for a picture of a knit cotton nightgown that has a machine embroidered monogram
on our "Practical Knitting Series" pattern page.
Fiber arts are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Sales of yarn and knitting equipment grew
more than any other craft & hobby segment except for scrapbooking in 2006. We have more resources and technology at our
fingertips than ever before. Experiment! Combine! Let you imagination run wild!
Q: What is a knitting machine gauge? Which machine do I use for heavy handspun yarn?
A: Knitting machines are assigned a gauge based on the size and pitch (distance apart) of the needles.
The most common type of knitting machine was traditionally a standard gauge, 4.5mm. Today many knitters are opting for larger
gauge knitting machines to handle thicker yarns.
Here are the gauges:
Fine Gauge, 3.6mm for very fine yarns and threads
Standard Gauge, 4.5mm the most versatile, for fingering and sport weight
yarns, can also use heavier yarns every-other-needle
Mid-Gauge, 6mm, 6.5mm or 7mm the best of both worlds... capable of knitting
sport weight, 4 ply and worsted weight yarns
Bulky Gauge, 9mm exactly twice as big as the standard gauge, this creates
a nice hand-knit look
There are some instances where machines of other gauges were manufactured. They include the "Bulky
8" (8mm), Bond ISM and USM (8mm), Passap E8000 (4.23mm), and Vario (10mm). Knitting machines manufactured in Europe (Swissknitter,
Superba, White, and Passap's other than the E8000) are 5mm.
You need to know what gauge of knitting machine you have before you attempt a pattern.
Most patterns tell which gauge of machine they were written for.
Q: I've heard that knitting machine companies have gone out of business. What will happen to machines that need
A: The industry has changed. Other industries change too, for example General Motors discontiued the
Oldsmobile car line after over a hundred years. That doesn't mean it was a sub-standard product, and it doesn't mean the Oldsmobile
vehicles aren't serviceable. It also doesn't mean that there will be a shortage of cars.
In the past few years several knitting machine companies have ceased doing business, but there are
two new knitting machine companies importing machines for North America. If you put it in perspective, the same changes happened
in the 1970's. In the 1960's there were knitting machine brands called Juki, Swissknitter, Strick Matador, Profile, Speed-o-Knit,
Corona, Superba, and others. If you look hard enough, you can still find parts for these machines. We have parts in stock
for 11 different brands of knitting machine, some of which haven't been manufactured for over twenty years. We even have an
"archive" of other vintage knitting machines and accessories, such as a tiny flat machine made in Portugal in the 1940's.
Q: What about those round machines that people are talking about? And does that mean I can't make socks on a
A: Round sock knitting machines (sometimes called CSM's, or Circular Sock Machines) continue to be
popular with knitters and fiber artists looking to expand their craft or desiring a new challenge.
Most CSM's were manufactured in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Today they are collectible and there is a national organization
of collectors who clean and refurbish the machines and enthusiasts who use the machines for making unique socks and other
items. Carole has even written patterns specifically for Round Sock Machines.
Some owners of round sock knitting machines are interested mostly because of the fun of owning and tinkering with an antique
piece of equipment, rather than actually using them to make large quantities of socks. Some round machines are rare. A proud
owner says that she has the original Bill of Sale with her antique round sock machine, and the original sale price was approximately
$42. Now she says a similar machine sells on Ebay for almost $1000 regardless of condition.
So why aren't round machines mass produced anymore? Remember that just because the modern machines are flat doesn't mean that
they only do flat knitting. All modern (flat) machines on the market today are available with ribbers except for the plastic-bed
hobby machines sold at discount stores. A knitting machine with a ribber can do tubular knitting, U-shaped knitting, ribbing,
and more... so it is definitely possible to do socks on a modern flat knitting machine.
Recently there have been developments in the world of circular machines. An enthusiast in New Zealand has begun manufacturing
new Circular Sock Machines based on the original plans of the Autoknitter company. And in Cape Girardeau, Missouri PeeWee
Erlbacher began manufacturing machines in the style of the original Gearhart machines with the help and encouragement of Carole
here at Rocking Horse Farm and others in the knitting machine field.
For more information about round sock knitting machines, check the separate page on this website.
Q: Are there magazines to learn more about machine knitting?
A: There are several good magazines, including Machine Knitting Inspiration and News & Views in North
America and Machine Knitting Monthly in the UK. We sell current newsstand copies of most of these at our store.
Q: What does the carriage do?
A: The carriage is the device that sweeps across the main needle bed. The carriage (sometimes called
K Carriage (K=Knit) to differentiate it from accessory carriages like G Carriages or Lace Carriages) is pushed by hand. Yarn
is threaded through the carriage, which has a tension dial to tighten or loosen the stitches, and knobs, buttons or levers
that tell the carriage to knit in stockinet, fairisle, etc. or leave stitches in hold.
The process of knitting on a machine (as simplified as possible):
As the carriage is moved accross the bed of latch hook needles, magnets under the carriage open each latch so yarn can
lay in the hook. A stitch is formed when the magents cause the latch to close on the yarn threaded in the carriage while the
previous stitch slides off the front of the needle. Brushes push this stitch down and out of the way, while other magnets
push the needle back so the new stitch is in the hook ready to be knit off during the next pass of the carriage.
(Okay, does that make sense? Now the best part... think about how fast all of that happens! Especially
when knitting at a rate of 60 rows per minute on a bed of 200 needles! It boggles the mind.)
The underside of the carriage is the only part of a knitting machine that needs to be treated
with a lot of care. The rest of the machine is quite sturdy and can handle a lot of wear-and-tear. The underside of the carriage,
however, has lots of magnets, wheels, brushes and levers held in place with tiny screws. If the carriage is causing problems,
look at the underside and see if any levers are stuck, or if something is stuck to a magnet.
Q: What is a ribber?
A: A ribber is a separately available unit for doing ribbing with a knitting machine. It is a bed of
needles the same length as the machine. All knitting machines currently on the market (with the exception of the Silver Reed
LK150 and Bond machines) have a ribber available. Using a ribber allows a person to do all sorts of rib stitches seen
in fashion designs: 1x1, 2x2, 1x2, full needle, and fishermans; as well as pile stitch, drop stitch lace, double
bed jacquard, and circular knitting. Ribbers can be removed for flexibility when using the main bed.
Before ribbers were made available, machine knitters perfected a type of "mock rib" that can be done
without the ribber. Mock rib does not have the same elasticity as true ribbing. G Carriages do mock ribbing, but again the
G Carriage ribbing does not have the same feel as true double bed ribbing.
A five-part series of articles called "Working With Your Ribber" was recently featured in the Rocking
Horse News. The series covered adjustments and maintenance, cast-ons, and brand compatability.
Q: What is a G Carriage?
A: The Garter Carriage was a separately available attachment manufactured for the Brother and KnitKing
brands. They are not manufactured anymore and there is a limited supply of parts. Garter Carriages (G Carriages) can create
the look of knit stitches and purl stitches in the same row of knitting. Their slow "walking" motion across the needlebed
led to the nickname "Turtle."
On the knitting machine repair service page of this website, it says that we offer cleaning and repair
of G Carriages primarily to customers who purchased their machines from our shop. This is to make sure that we have enough
supplies to keep our loyal customers knitting. Parts of G Carriages that require attention are the needles, brushes, gears,
and motors. The motor of a G Carriage will probably need to be replaced after several hundred hours of use. Evidence of a
motor needing replacement is a buildup of carbon around the motor housing.
G Carriages knit with one strand of yarn at a time. A conversion kit was offered to allow G Carriages
to knit with two strands of yarn. This is often called a "2 Color Conversion G Carriage."
For the most complete information about G Carriages, as well as a list of all models manufactured
and their compatibility with Brother & KnitKing machines, purchase the book "G Carriage Tips, Tricks, and Techniques,"
Q: What is an Intarsia Carriage?
A: The Intarsia Carriage is a separately available attachment for most knitting machines that aids in the knitting
of geometric and argyle designs, but also ideal for any multi-color large designs (sometimes called "picture knitting"). The
Intarsia Carriage takes care of the long floats that would appear on the back of the fabric. Several colors can be knitted
in one row without floats.
The manual for one particular model of Intarsia Carriage gives these instructions: 1) Cast on and
knit with the K Carriage before you start the Intarsia knitting. 2) Take the yarn out of the Yarn Tension Unit and the yarn
feeder. Then place it at your feet. 3) Place all yarns you want to knit at your feet. You need to prepare yarns according
to the times you want to change them. 4) Take the K Carriage off the machine. Now you are ready to do Intarsia knitting.
To knit with this particular Intarsia carriage, place it at the opposite side of the yarn end. Set
up extension rails if necessary. Set the tension dial on the Intarsia Carriage to the same setting as what was on the K Carriage.
Hang weights. Move the Intarsia Carriage across the bed to align all needles into proper position (D for Brother/Knitking,
C for Artisan 245, Silver Reed, Singer, Studio or Toyota). Make sure that all latches are open. Lay the yarns in the hooks
of the needles from the side of the carriage. (If the latches are closed, the stitches will drop!) Move the Intarsia Carriage
slowly while holding the yarn ends lightly with your free hand. And continue as such...
The Brother/KnitKing 965i machine had Intarsia capability built right into the normal carriage, hence
the "i" part of "965i." This eliminated the need for a separate Intarsia Carriage.
Q: What is a Linker?
A: There are two kinds of products known as linkers.
One is a stand-alone machine that has a round cylinder of needles that a piece of knitting will be
hung on. The second piece of knitting is hung over the first and the linking machine will seam the fabric together.
The other type of linker is a small carriage-type accessory that "walks" across the knitting
machine bed. This linker provides a quick, neat cast-off edge, or it can be used to join two pieces of knitting.
Q: What is a Rib Transfer Carriage?
A: The Rib Transfer Carriage is a separately available accessory for most knitting machines that moves
all the stitches on the lower bed (ribber) to the main bed. This is done quickly without the danger of dropped stitches that
can happen when transferring stitches by hand.
Q: What is a Lace Carriage?
A: Some knitting machines require a special carriage to do stitches called "traditional open stitch
lace" or "fine lace." Some knitting machines have the capability built into the regular carraige. Read the manaul to find
out each machine's capability.
Q: What is a Knitleader / Knit Tracer / Knit Radar?
A: These are all different names for the same type of charting attachment. Before electronic machines
with built-in charting capability and before charting software like DesignaKnit or Design-A-Pattern, knitters used charting
attachments to help them knit garment pieces quickly and accurately without having to follow a written pattern. Garment
pieces are drawn onto a plastic sheet, which is fed through the attachment. The attachment sits at the back of the
knitting machine bed, and a striker hits it each row (just like the row counter) causing it to turn and show the
knitter exactly what to do for each row. For example, it will give the instruction for the number to cast on, increase,
decrease, cast off.
Studio, Singer, Silver Reed, Knitmaster and Artisan machines call the charting attachment
a "Knit Radar." Brother and KnitKing machines call the attachment a "Knitleader." Toyota and Elna machines call their
charting attachment a "Knit Tracer." Passap machines call it a "Forma." They all serve the same purpose.
Q: What purpose does the Sponge Retainer Bar serve?
A: Each machine and most ribbers have a Retainer Bar of metal and "sponge" foam rubber,
all except some hobby or antique machines, and the Brother/KnitKing ribbers which have plastic retainer bars that don't need
to be changed. The knitting machine or ribber manual should describe which type of retainer bar should be used. Early
machines sometimes referred to this bar as the needle presser bar; or sometimes as the "felt bar" because some bars used felt
instead of foam. An example of this is the vintage Brother 341, according to my research.
The purpose of this bar is to put some tension on the needles so they don't flop up and down during
use. The retainer bar needs to be replaced if needles don't "bounce back" when lightly pressed down. The best indication of
a poor retainer bar is the occurrence of a lot of dropped stitches. That means it is time to change the sponge bar. Always
insert the sponge bar with the metal side up.
Sponge bars have a shelf life. Most informed people say that with normal use they can last about
5 years. With heavy production knitting or with no use at all they seem to deteriorate faster. We suggest that when
people store their machine for several months or more they take the bar out and set it on top of the needle bed.
The trouble is the foam itself, foam rubber only lasts about 10 years before being completely disintegrated.
Some things that make foam last less time are direct light, heat, humidity, smoke, extreme dryness (a wind-parched desert).
There is a strange trick that some people recommend: when they discover the bar to be a bit less puffy, they say they lay
it IN the sun for a short time (hour, 1.5 hours) and the foam pops up and they can use it again for a year. Well, the reason
the foam pops up is because it is cooking, and, yes it will expand a bit (and therefore put the tension on the needles
again) but the damage done to the foam is severe and the benefit isn't great enough. We don't recommend this idea.
Another situation some knitters find themselves in is that some machines (like the Bulky 8 from
Toyota or KH120 from Studio/Silver) have unique size bars and finding new ones is impossible. And even if you found an original
sponge bar that had never been used, the age of it would mean it was useless. In this case we tell our knitters who have Bulky
8's that they need to buy weather-stripping from a hardware store and try to make their own bar, using the existing metal
piece of the bar. This is NOT AS GOOD as the real thing... people have read online that making your own sponge bars
is a cheap alternative to buying them... and that is simply BAD ADVICE according to non-biased machine repair people
and technicians. Naturally the manufacturers say it is a bad thing to do, but private repair people who aren't connected to
any manufacturers agree. Two unfortunate scenarios have occurred with home-made sponge bars: insertion of the
sponge bar into the machine before the glue had dried, requiring complete disassembly of the bed by a repair technician; and
the weatherstripping leaving flakes of matter inside the bed as the weatherstripping deteriorates over time, also requiring
complete disassembly of the bed by a repair technician.
Without the proper type of sponge bar, there is more wear on the needles and the bed itself. People
who make their own sponge bars may find themselves replacing a lot of needles and carriage brushes. If you've made the investment
into a quality knitting system, why use substandard materials to maintain it?
Q: My pattern says I should put all needles in E position. My machine doesn't have E position!
A: Needle positions are labeled (from rear of bed) A, B, C, and D on Artisan 245, Silver
Reed, Singer, Studio, White, Toyota and Elna knitting machines; and A, B, D, and E on Artisan 70D, Brother
and KnitKing machines. Therefore needles in hold will be in D position on a Silver Reed, but in E position on a Brother. You
must know which kind of machine the pattern writer was writing for before you attempt the pattern.
Q: Do you have a recommendation for a new MK for a first machine? I'm a weaver and spinner, and want
to knit commercial yarns as well as handspun.
A: First, a basic overview of the machines.
There are several knitting machines on the market that are called "hobby knitters." They include the
Bond machines, Brother 355 or Silver Reed LK150. These machines are considered "mid-gauge" machines because they have needles
bigger than the normal machine but smaller than the largest machine needles. They range in price from $199-349. The Brother
355 and LK150 have a yarn tension mast, so it automatically feeds yarn. The Bond machines do not, the knitter holds the
yarn to knit. All knitting machines come with an instruction manual that will get a person set up and knitting. People
particularly comment on how good the Brother 355 manual is, especially the basic "knitting machine technique" portion.
Artisan has two machine models, a standard gauge (4.5mm needles) with ribber or a mid-gauge (7.0mm needles)
with ribber. These machines have metal beds and yarn tension feeder units. Prices range from $799 (mid) to $999 (standard).
The mid-gauge also comes with a fantastic stand.
Silver Reed has the advanced technology machines, many of which are able to connect to a
laptop for designing capabilities such as scanning a photograph to knit out in fairisle design. They have fine gauge 3.6mm,
standard 4.5mm, and Mid 6.5mm machines. These are all sturdy metal bed machines with yarn tension feeder units and row counters.
The Mid-Gauge machines are $1489 with electronic capability, or $845 for mid-gauge non-electronic. The non-electronic machines
are upgradeable to be electronic patterning machines later.
Be aware that "electronic" machine simply refers to automatic selecting of needles for patterning,
they do not knit by themselves.
There are also Bulky gauge machines (9mm needles) manufactured by Artisan. They use the
"punchcard" system for pattern selection. The machine is modeled on the machine formerly known as the Brother KH260. The Artisan
Bulky 260 is always sold with a ribber. We also usually have several used bulky machines available for sale.
For the purpose of knitting handspun yarns as well as commercial yarns I would recommend a Mid Gauge
machine. If a person is seriously interested in knitting handspun yarn, There are two that we have had happy customers with.
The first is the Artisan 70D mid-gauge with ribber & stand for $799 It is a good value and does many versatile stitches.
Also, we consistently have favorable responses to the Silver Reed Mid-Gauge SK160.
The price is $845 for the machine, and it can be upgraded to be compatible with a ribber or to be electronic later. (Some
dealers try to sell the machine and ribber immediately as a set, we allow people to buy the machine first and then decide
if they want to purchase the ribber later!) We have sold these machines to people who are raising alpacas and sheep, who spin
their own yarns and knit them on this machine. These machines also handle commercially available skein or cone yarns fantastically.
If a knitter wants to use commercial yarns, a bulky machine will not do as well with sport weight or baby weight yarns.
The mid-gauge is sort of the best of both worlds.
Q: Is there a book or video you recommend to first-time knitting machine owners?
A: There are several things we often recommend to persons getting started with machine knitting,
always with good results. There is a "beginner video" for knitting machines, in VHS format (45.95 +s/h) or DVD format (37.00
+s/h). We have both in stock ready to ship all the time. We describe it in our catalog this way: "Everything you need to know
to get your machine up and running, with tons of techniques for the basic beginner to hints even the expert can learn from.
This video has been highly recommended by instructors and dealers around the world. There is enough generic information for
the video to be useful to owners of every brand of machine. Everyone should watch this video!" This video was produced by
the Silver Machine Knitting Institute, one of the largest producers of knitting machines in the world. Machines manufactured
by Silver were sold in the US with labels such as Studio, Singer, White, and Knitmaster; and are still available as the brand
name Silver Reed. (It can also be noted that the Artisan standard gauge is manufactured using these same Silver specifications,
to make it seem identical.) I've watched this video and the person speaking talks about the machine in a manner in which to
explain the differences with other brands of machines, so it wouldn't really matter which machine you were trying to learn
about. The video includes such things as explaining all the parts and pieces, all the workings of the carriage including Tension
settings and all the dials, selecting an appropriate yarn, casting on the machine, doing all different types of stitches,
binding off, finishing garments (seaming), and more. There are other videos on the market but we consistently recommend this
Regarding books, we always recommend the book that has always been referred to as the "knitting machine bible." The real name
is "Guide to Machine Knitting Techniques," and it is published by the Silver Knitting Institute who has been manufacturing
knitting machines longer than any other factory in the world. The well-illustrated book goes way beyond the techniques covered
in any manual, but in a reader-friendly way. Topics (for both the machine & ribber) include: Cast on/off, Decrease, Increase,
Partial Knitting, Waste Knitting, Holding Stitches, Replacing or Reforming Stitches, Folding Line, Yarn Mark, Buttonhole Technique,
Manual Joining, Closing Stitches, Hems, Trims, & Pockets. UPDATE------This softcover book is now only available in a package
deal with a CD of stitch pattern designs for $79.00 +s/h. Another website advertises the book separately for $36.00, but upon
trying to order it, it appears as "out of stock." We would offer the book separately if we were able to, unfortunately we
can't order them separately from the company.
Other books we have on hand to sell to persons new to machine knitting are:
"My First Pattern Book," by Charlene Shafer, $15.00 +s/h. Patterns for nice items suitable for any beginner.
"Beginner's Corner & Tool Tips," by Barb Kapraun, $15.00 +s/h. The title says it all.
More videos and DVD's:
Four areas are covered: Knitting the Garment, Sewing up the Garment, Blocking the Garment, and Fitting the Garment. This 95
minute tape is chock full of hints and techniques from Thelma's many years of experience custom knitting and teaching. Instructor:
Thelma Viers. 95 minutes.
VHS Format: $55.00
DVD Format: Not Available
GENERAL KNITTING TECHNIQUES
This tape features instruction on Brother/KnitKing machines showing the following topics: Casting-on, Increasing, Decreasing,
Cast-off Edge, Finished Cast-off Edge, Taking off the Stitches, Partial Knitting, Binding off Stitches, Seaming, Cables, Tension
Swatch, Cord Knitting, Buttonhole, Finishing. Approximately 60 minutes.
VHS Format: $54.00
DVD Format: Not Available
BEGINNER KNITTING TECHNIQUES
Designed with the first-time machine knitter in mind. Topics covered are: getting familiar with the machine and general maintenance,
selecting yarns, three cast-on edges and three cast-off edges, as well as hems, using waste yarn, increasing, decreasing,
and partial knitting techniques. Instructor: Donna Seitzer, using Brother/KnitKing machines. 60 minutes.
VHS Format: $49.95
DVD Format: $49.95
Q: I'm new to machine knitting and eager to get started but I'm having trouble casting on.
Machine Knitting is an enjoyable pastime and shouldn't be frustrating. But sometimes it seems
as if the cast-on described in knitting machine manuals isn't always easy to follow. We've had the best experience using the
following cast-on, suitable for ANY knitting machine even if the manual doesn't describe this cast-on method:
Do this method for a permanent E-wrap cast-on:
1. Pull selected needles all the way out.
2. Place carriage on the right.
3. Starting with yarn at the left, loop the yarn around each needle, from left to right, counterclockwise (as if handwriting
4. Push loops back to stems of needles, close to the sinker posts.
5. Thread the carriage.
6. Move the carriage across needles to the left.
7. Hang cast-on comb and weights. Always hang comb immediately for best results, not after a few rows.
8. Continue knitting.
If problems persist, check the condition of the knitting machine and carriage. Ask yourself some troubleshooting questions:
Does the sponge bar have firm, fresh sponge?
Has the carriage been lubricated and is it free of any excess fuzz or lint?
Do all the brushes and wheels on the underside of the carriage move freely?
Are all the levers and settings on the carriage in the proper position for cast-on?
Are the needles in good working order, or are the latches difficult to open and close?
Is the yarn easy to pull off the cone or ball?
Does it flow freely through the tension mast and yarn feeder?
Does the take-up-spring on the Tension Mast pull the excess yarn out of the way so a loop doesn't form on the side of the
carriage? (Take-up springs can be replaced if they don't function properly.)
If skein yarn is being used, has it been wound into a somewhat loose ball?
Is the yarn too thick or of poor quality making it unsuitable for machine knitting? Does it have enough elasticity?
Is Knitting Machine Wax or Yarn Spray needed to help the yarn flow freely through the Tension Mast and carriage?
Is there a problem with static electricity?
All of these things can cause problems with the cast-on or general knitting.
Please note that the information on this page is editorial and is correct to the best of the author's knowledge.