Knitting machines are a great investment for those who love hand knitting but don’t like the time it takes to finish a project. Your enthusiasm for a project probably only lasts until boredom sets in, some of us just aren’t capable of waiting that long for a project to be finished!
However, making the decision to hop over from hand knitting to use a knitting machine might seem like a big leap. At first, they seem like complex machines with bits and bobs, but with a little bit of knowledge and practice, they are fairly simple and easy to use.
The reason to buy a knitting machine varies for different people. Some people find they have a high demand for their knitted goods, while others find hand knitting becomes painful and tiresome after a while. Others opt to buy knitting machines because they want to spoil all their loved ones with all the knitted gifts possible.
One thing to note before buying a knitting machine is that you might not be able to create all the intricate stitches and designs as easily as you might think, but substituting these stitches for plainer ones is a way to achieve a much quicker-knit.
You will be able to create so many different knitted items, and save so much time while doing so!
First, let’s talk about what these machines are, and how they work. And then we’ll talk about the absolute best knitting machines you can buy!
What Is A Knitting Machine
A knitting machine is usually found in factories, but there are also knitting machines that are made for household use. These household machines are fun to learn how to use and can really help in making beautiful knitted items in a short period of time.
A knitting machine is used to make knitted fabrics but within a semi or fully-automated fashion. Knitting machines made for household use can be used to create a wide range of knitted items, such as blankets or jerseys, but saves the time and effort that comes with handknitting.
Knitting machines come in three gauges, stander gauge is used for thin yarn to make finer items, mid-gauge machines are for sport weight and worsted weight yarns, while bulkier knitting machines are for heavier yarns.
The knitted fabric created using a knitting machine is more even than that of hand knitted items. This is more noticeable when it comes to larger areas of plain stitches.
While plain stitches are easy to create using a knitting machine, more complex stitches such as garter stitch and other complex stitches require accessories such as a garter bar or finger manipulation. However, it still cuts off a lot of time from hand knitting.
What To Look for in A Knitting Machine
Different knitting machines are created to work with different yarns. The latch hooks on knitting machines are set and locked into position into the bed of the knitting machine. So it doesn’t matter the size of the yarn, the stitches will remain the same distance apart. Because of this, knitting machines cannot knit different size yarns.
Knitting machines also have a row of latch hooks, and these latch hooks are also set to accommodate a set size of yarn. Using a yarn that is too large will cause the latch hook to split the yarn.
It isn’t too difficult to match a hand knit gauge to a machine gauge. It might take a couple of swatches to get the right gauge, but it isn’t too hard. Knitting machines come with a dial with numbers 0-10, with 2 settings between the numbers.
This does not change the size of the needles or hooks. It is also impossible to measure the stitches on the machine, it needs to be removed and rolled up and down to snap the stitches. Once it has sat overnight, you will be able to measure the gauge.
If you are wanting to reproduce a hand knitting pattern, you might be able to rechart it using computer software that helps to convert hand-knitted patterns to machine patterns. It will take some time and practice to try to closely reproduce the gauge of hand knitting when using a machine, but it is possible.
When knitting with certain patterns, you need to measure the number of inches as you work. As you knit, it is easy to keep up with these measurements.
This is where it gets tricky when using a knitting machine, as it is not easy to measure knitting on a knitting machine as you do with hand knitting.
You will need to know your row gauge in advance to know how many rows you need to get to a certain measurement. You will only be able to tell the true gauge when the material has been rolled, pulled and relaxed.
This is why the row gauge must be matched to the pattern, so this is where it gets complicated with matching stitches and rows to the number of inches needed.
Types of Knitting Machines
To make it a little more complicated, there are different types of knitting machines to choose from, you just need to decide which one is best for you.
Flatbed knitting machine
This machine is used to produce flat pieces. You cannot use a flatbed knitting machine to make patterns in the round. Pieces made using a flatbed knitting machine usually have side seams to bring the fabrics together to finish the piece.
Flatbed knitting machines can come in manual, punch card or electronic designs. The manual machines require the person knitting to move the needles based on charts to get them into pattern positions.
Punch card machines have cards with different designs which instruct the machine to work differently.
Electronic machines have electronic pulses which instruct the needles to do something different. Punch card and electronic knitting machines are quick to use, whereas using a manual machine requires the knitter to stop after every row, check the chart and put the needles into pattern positions.
A ribber is an accessory that is attached to a flatbed knitting machine.
The most common technique used with is a ribber combination is ribbing like 1×1, 2×2, 3×5 and so forth. You are able to knit in the round using a ribber, but it does not have the same patterning functions that the main flatbed machine does.
When attached to the main bed, it cannot do more than one color per row, but the ribber allows for a large array of stitches to be used. You can create stitches such as plated rib and tuck lace, which are not done in hand knitting.
While there are some common stitch terms used for hand and machine knitting, and some that are exclusive to each, there are different terms used for the same techniques between hand knitting and machine knitting. You will need to understand both sets of terminologies to translate from the one to the other.
• Casting on is a term used for both methods that stays the same, with numerous ways to cast on for both. You can choose which way to cast on depending on the pattern requirements of what you are comfortable with.
• Casting off and binding off is quite different between hand knitting and machine knitting. Hand knitters work until there are 2 stitches on their needle, then slip one over the other to cast off. With machine knitting, you knit until the last row and using a latch tool, you chain stitch and bond off on the knitting machine.
• Decreasing stitches is a lot easier on a knitting machine, instead of matching casting off equally on either side on each row while hand knitting.
• Yarn over, which is usually used for lacework. When doing a yarn over for lace work on a knitting machine, you use a transfer tool to move a stitch off of one needle to move it onto the adjacent needle.
• Waste yarn or scrap yarn is used often in machine knitting.
When it comes to different stitches, it becomes complicated. Going from two needles to a full bed of latch hooks gets confusing. When doing garter stitch you turn the fabric over at the end of each row. The fabric on a knitting machine is never turned over, the latch hook just pulls loops away in each row. Because of this, flat bed knitting is defaulted to stockinet stitch.
Stockinet – Flatbed machines default to stockinet pattern, which makes it easy to finish a pattern just using this stitch.
Garter stitch – Garter stitch requires you to turn over the rows, alternating between knit and purl on either side. However, it is not so easily achieved on a knitting machine. While there are ways to recreate this on a knitting machine, it isn’t fast.
1. You could remove the fabric after each row and rehang the stitches over again, although this is really time-consuming.
2. There is a garter bar tool that can be used to be hooked onto the main bed, with the fabric pulled into the finger of the garter tool. The bar is turned and hooked back onto the knitting machine.
3. There used to be a tool called a garter carriage. It worked on normal gauge knitting machines. It was an automatic machine that would walk across the bed knitting and purling according to the pattern, however, it was noisy and slow to work with.
4. A ribber could be used to transfer the stitches to, in order to knit 1 row and then transfer back to the main bed to knit another row.
5. The latch tool can be used to drop one stitch onto and then be latched back on. It does work on the opposite end of the machine and you will be pulling the stitches through the opposite way. It is fine to use with a few stitches, but doing it through a while row is tedious.
Moss stitch – Moss stitch is accomplished by alternating between knit and purled stitches in a row. There are tools you could use to accomplish this stitch on a knitting machine but it is nowhere near as fast as you would be able to do it by hand knitting.
Alright, enough learning, let’s talk about the best machines that are actually available!
7 Best Knitting Machines
1. Addi Express King Size Knitting Machine
This is a slightly different knitting machine, but it has become a popular design with home knitters.
The set includes 46 needles, a needle holder, a decrease needle, 5 replacement needles, 4 base feet, 2 screw hooks to ensure stable table mounting and as well as a manual row counter.
The machine is suitable for a yarn count of approx. 4-8 circular knitting, and approximately 10 to 15-inch diameter for round knitting and 18-inch knitting for flat knitting.
Included is the Kingsize Pattern Book called Winding Instead of Knitting. The AddiExpress hook is also great to use with the machine when it comes to more complex crocheting and knitting.
This kingsize model is capable of larger knitting items with a wider range of knitted possibilities. It can be securely mounted onto the table for stable knitting. You simply need to turn the handle and the machine will begin to turn. Using the 46 needles, you will be able to create scarves and beanies in minutes, and jumpers within a few hours.
2. Silver Reed Studio Mid Gauge Basic Knitting Machine
This machine is great for beginners, it is cost-effective and easy to use. It is ideal for sport weight, double knit and 4 ply weight yarns.
The 150 needles have a 2 color yarn tension and a stitch dial of 1-10, it also has 2 side levers and a row counter. It really is a great choice for beginners and those who are looking for a lightweight machine that is easy to take around if needed.
It offers a quick and easy way to create stockinet fabric with a quick stitch. The machine is full of possibilities and allows you to turn your hobby dreams into real fashion.
The accessory box includes: crochet hook, 2 x clamps, transfer tools of 6.5mm, tappet tool, needle pusher of 6.5mm, latch needle, tapestry needle, a cast-on thread, cleaning brush, oil container, 5 x claw weights, scale set, row counter, carriage fastener, right and left tuck brushes and an English instruction book.
3. Singer/Silver Reed Fine Gauge Punch Card Knitting Machine
The longer needle bed helps to knit wider garments and can be used professionally. It is a 7 gauge knitting needle machine and can work with two other needle gauges, 5.6 gauge, and 9 gauge.
The needle beds make knitting really easy, and you can create a lightweight knitted fabric with fine to medium yarns. The unique drum mechanism lets you choose between various patterns in different stitch types with the needle selection.
This machine is more for those who use knitting machines regularly and to produce a high quantity of items, but it can be used for serious knitters at home. It gives great versatility with the different stitches and gauges to use, and punch card machines do make creating patterns much easier.
Singer is also one of the most reliable brands to use, so you know you will be buying a quality machine.
4. Weaver KH160 6mm Gauge Chunky Knitting Machine
This chunky gauge knitting machine is exactly what you need to keep your family up to date with all the best jerseys and jackets for winter.
The new needles have a pitch of 6mm, which is 4 gauge. The machine is for those who have become a little more experienced and familiar with using a knitting machine, but with some practice, you will be able to create a wide range of different patterns and styles.
It is an economical machine that helps you create knits and designs in no time with minimal effort. It does come with a few patterns already, giving you time to practice some knits and pieces.
The knitting machine comes in a convenient box which can be used to pack everything away when not in use, but let us be honest, you will be using this all the time!
5. Akozon Sweater Knitting Machine
The Akozon Knitting Machine is capable of creating many of the common knitting machine stitches such as stockinet, tuck slip, thread lace, fairlisle, knit weaving and plaiting. It has been designed for trouble-free and smooth operation. The machine is incredibly durable and will last many a knit.
The machine is a punch card run machine and accepts all punch cards from Brother, Singer, Studio and Toyota machines.
Using a ribber, it can also weave rib, fisherman rib, circular knitting as well as double jacquard. The main bed is similar to the Singer Studio 700 series, which allows people familiar with these machines to feel comfortable using the Akozon Sweater Knitting Machine.
It is a standard gauge knitting machine and is perfect for fingering and sport weighted yarns. The small 4.5mm transfer tools, cast-on-combs, 20 pattern punch cards, claw, ribber weights, and sock weight hangers all come included, fitted into a storage box that mounts neatly on the right side of the machine.
This machine is really versatile, and will fast become your best friend creating all the knitted goods you could imagine.
6. Singer/Silver Reed 24 Stitches Gauge Punch Card Knitting Machine
The unique drum mechanism helps with easy needle selection, helping you choose various patterns in different stitch types.
Stitches created with this machine include fairisle, tuck, punch, slip, lace, weaving, and plating. The cam lever makes producing patterns easy, up to 24 stitches wide and 60 rows long. Punch cards can also be used to create some wonderful designs using magic carns and point carns.
To add to the convenience, there are 20 blank punch cards are included, with fine lace carriage and knit contour attachment.
You can also knit with the half-boby knit radar contour which helps to eliminate the difficulty often found when shaping a garment.
This machine is great fun to use, with ease as well, and it makes knitting beautifully simple.
7. Weaver KH230 Knitting Machine Chunky Knitter
With a little bit of practice, you could be soon knitting tons of fashionable wooly items.
This machine knits chunky items, which is actually really in fashion at the moment. You can make some beautiful pullovers, vests, cardigans or whatever chunky knits catch your attention.
It is ideal for beginners thanks to its simple operation, making items in a fraction of the time.
Tackling the thickest arans and mohairs, it can produce tuck, skip, intarsia, plating, fairisle and cable stitches, simply and easily. Once you become proficient with using this machine, you can start using the attachments to create a whole range of individual patterns.
It allows you to create some of the most amazing chunky knitted patterns and designs, in such little time. You can practice creating patterns and designs on your own as well, as the machine is simplistic and really user-friendly.
How to Use A Knitting Machine
All knitting machines are different, with only a few basic procedures and methods to use between them. Here is a guide on how to use a manual hand knitting machine, which is a good start for a beginner.
What you will need:
- Tapper tool
- Transfer tool
- Needle selection tool
- Claw weights
Threading the machine
The yarn is always first placed at the back of the machine. The yarn is thread through the tension mast and through the eyelet, down through the tension dial, while the eyelet is in line with the dial and then the tension yarn. The yarn is then led through down to the carriage and wrapped around the clamp underneath to keep the yarn secure and in place.
Setting the carriage / casting on
The tension you choose on the dial will be depending on the yarn you use. The levers need to be in the correct place on the carriage, with the top 2 levers being triangles and the bottom being II. There are two ways to cast on.
• E-wrap cast on – For this, you need to make sure the carriage is on the right, working with 0 as the center of the knitting while bringing the stitches forward to D position. You will then bring the yarn from underneath the carriage and work with the immediate needle on the left, repeat this, place the yarn between the next 2 needles and pass it over the left, continuing till the last stitch. Be sure to cast these on loosely. Rest the comb on the stitches and pass the edge of the stitches until you get to the end of the right-hand side. Complete two rows and add weights to the combs to complete casting on.
• Comb cast on – This requires the needle selection tool and using 0 as the center point of your work, bringing your needles into D position. Take your carriage across, and the yarn will rest over the selected needles, while the comb catches the yarn between the needles. Return the carriage to the right using the comb. Place your weights and you are ready to get knitting.
You will now need to follow the pattern to create your knitted piece.
Make sure your carriage is on the right-hand side and you have your single transfer tool ready. With the tool, take the right-hand stitch on the needle to the left, and bring the needle out with the 2 stitches on the back of the needle. Take the yarn from underneath the carriage and close the latch, and use your thumb to take the needle back. The yarn placed on the latch will close the stitches together as 1. Repeat this until the last stitch where you break the yarn, thread it through the last stitch and fasten and secure.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding on a Knitting Machine
As there are many different knitting machines with different gauges and functions, it is always worth spending the time figuring out exactly what you need, and this will help you determine which knitting machine is worth buying. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
1. Do I need a knitting machine to knit as a hobby or for profit?
2. What types of items do I want to knit?
3. Do I want a knitting machine that is easy to use or one which I can learn more difficult techniques with?
4. Does the machine have readily available spare parts (super important!)
5. Have you tried the machine out?
6. Have you read reviews of the machine online to see what other people think of the knitting machine?
7. What is your favorite type of wool to work with, can the machine work with this wool?
8. Does the machine require a computer to work, and do you have one to use?
9. How much time do you have to spend on your machine? Remember it does take some up some space and packing it away over and over again is a bit of a mission.
10. Do you have a table for your knitting machine to rest on?
11. Do you know basic knitting stitches?
12. Are you comfortable knitting by hand?
13. What is your budget?
Even if you have to write it all out, these questions and your answers will help you determine exactly what machine would be perfect for you.
Knitting Machine FAQ’s
Can you use hand knitting patterns with a knitting machine?
Many basic knitting patterns can be used on knitting machines without being converted. Knitting machine patterns and hand knitting patterns look really similar.
There is a set amount of stitches to be cast on, the knitted pattern and then binding off. When using a knitting machine and there are several different rows and decreases and increases, you will also need to use stitch markers to help you keep your place.
The difference comes in with needle sizes, using a knitting machine you will see a needle range needed to match the gauge.
If you want to start using your machine knitter but don’t have any patterns, you can use some simple hand knitting patterns that don’t have any cables, lace or bubble stitches. There are some computer programs that allow you to change hand knitting patterns to machine knitting patterns and are fairly simple to use.
When it comes to ribbing, cables, and other complicated stitches, you will need to use the right accessories and tools to achieve these stitches. This is different from hand knitting but is easy to learn with help and tutorials.
What is a circular knitting machine?
Circular knitting, also known as knitting in the round, is a form of knitting that results in a seamless tube. Long circular needles are used to produce narrow tubes, great for making socks and beanies.
Specialized knitting machines have been created using individual latch-hook needles to create each stitch in the round. Circular knitting machines can also be used to make sweaters, with planned openings for armholes and necks being temporarily knitted with extra stitches.
These stitches are then cut to create an opening and stitched with a sewing machine to prevent them from unraveling.
Are there different types of knitting?
It can seem confusing because of all the different ways to knit, but there is only one type of knitting. The only differences are the stitches, techniques, and patterns. These can be used with different sized knitting needles and different weight yarn.
Is knitting or crocheting easier?
Both knitting and crocheting use a form of needle or needles and yarn to create items. Knitting is done using two needles with the stitches as loops. Crocheting is done with a crochet hook and the stitches look like small knots. It is considered that knitting is easier as there are only two stitches to learn – purl and knit, while crocheting has a wide range of different stitches to learn.
Knitting Machine Tips
1. Always take the time to knit a tension square or swatch in the wool you are planning to use to make your garment. Make it at least 10cm x 10cm with the pattern you will use. You will be able to test the gauge after it has rested for a couple of hours. You can even wash the swatch before to see what the finished item will wash like.
2. You could always opt for an easier and quicker stitch pattern and then decorate it with some embroidery and stitches after it is done.
3. Remember to oil your knitting machine regularly. This will mean that the carriage will move smoothly along the bed of the machine.
4. Use a small brush to de-fuzz your machine. This will brush all the small fluffy bits of wool from the crevices. You could also use a light vacuum cleaner to suck up all the fluff.
5. Yarn cones are better to use on knitting machines as they are waxed and tend to feed easily off of the cone. Cones of yarn also tend to be more economical than normal balls of yarn, this comes in handy when doing larger pieces on your knitting machine.
6. For the first few tries, especially if you are a beginner, avoid using yarn that is fluffy, bumpy or even cotton yarn. Use plain wool to practice.
7. Do not push your carriage too fast. This will result in you losing stitches or damaging your carriage if there is a jam.
8. If your carriage keeps jamming, it could mean that your tension is too tight. You will have to adjust the feed of the yarn to solve this. Go back to the loosest tension and tighten from there.
9. If you find your knitting keeps jumping off the needles, it could be a sign that the sponge is worn out. It could also be the wrong tension or the wrong yarn.
10. Before you buy your yarn, make sure to check that it isn’t too loosely twisted. The needles on the machine won’t be able to pick up the yarn properly if it is too loose.
Knitting Machines – Final Thoughts
So, in conclusion, a knitting machine is a great investment if you have lots of projects to work on but no time to get them done. Some of us can’t spend the time it takes waiting to make a jersey, we want them almost instantly, and that is where a knitting machine comes in to cut down working time drastically.
If you are making the transition from hand knitting to machine knitting, make sure you know everything you need to, the wool you need, the patterns to use, and practice, practice, practice!