The information on this page is to help you learn the ways knitting machines are used, help you to understand the differences among brands, and to give you an idea how machine knitting differs from hand knitting.
Hand Knitting vs Machine Knitting
When hand knitting with 2 needles, each stitch is formed and the finished stitch is passed onto the needle on the right so that the next stitch is ready to be knitted. With a knitting machine, there is a bed of needles and each one can carry one stitch. So, if your knitting machine has 200 needles on its bed, it can knit up to 200 stitches in a row of knitting. By passing the lock (also known as a carriage or cam box) over the working needles, a row of knitting is produced. Because you are knitting many stitches in quick succession, rows of knitting build up more rapidly than by performing these knitting motions by hand.
Knitting machines can use many weights of yarn. When deciding to purchase a knitting machine, it is very helpful to know the type of garments you would like to make; whether you are looking for a method to use the yarn you already own; or are you interested in knitting finer yarns that would be impractical to knit by hand. The spacing between knitting machine needles and the size of the needles is the determinant of the thickness of yarn you can use on any machine. As with hand knitting, needle size is correlated to the size of the knitted stitch. In machine knitting, the hook of the needle must be appropriate to the yarn thickness. Knitting machines use different needles to accommodate the many yarns on the market. But, each knitting machine can only have one needle size because of the gauge (needle spacing) of the machine itself. Thus, the needles on one knitting machine cannot be used on any other knitting machine.
Which Machine Uses Which Yarn?
Knitting machines are commonly referred to as Fine Gauge, Standard Gauge, Mid-Gauge, and Bulky. This generally correlates to the thickness of the yarn that each will knit. However, there are so many variables that specific answers are very difficult to get. Needle spacing and hook size are important factors. Passap knitting machines have needles spaced at 3, 5 and 10 mm. Brother and KnitKing machines are available in 3.5 or 3.6 mm (fine gauge) , 4.5 mm (standard gauge) and 9.0 mm (bulky gauge). Some other knitting machines are available in 6.5,7.0 and 8.0 mm and are called Mid Gauge machines. One need not think in terms of just those gauges: for example, it is possible to knit on every other needle or even every third needle. This can enable you to knit a heavier yarn that produces a stiffer fabric when knitted on every needle. The rule of thumb is whether a yarn passes easily through the feeding eyelet if an eyelet system is used. The Passap Vario knitter doesn't have feeding eyelets, and the yarn size limitation is then determined by the hook size of the needle.
For Passap's most popular machines, the E-6000 and the DM-80, the 5 mm needle pitch will knit up to a sport weight yarn. Please remember, that this doesn't mean it will knit every sport weight yarn, but if the yarn passes easily through the feeding eyelet, then you can likely knit it on these machines. Generally, the Passap Vario will knit from 500 yards per pound to about 4000 yards per pound. The Passap E-6000 and the DM-80 machines like yarns from about 1500 yards per pound to about 5000 yards per pound. The Passap E-8000 is happiest with 2500 yards per pound to about 8000 yards per pound. Remember that these are guidelines and are not guarantees!
There is no requirement that knitting machines must only use coned yarn. Yarn in hanks, balls and skeins can be used with knitting machines. Just make sure the yarn smoothly feeds from the center of the ball and your knitting machine will get along just fine!
Knitting machines give back what they are fed: very hard yarn isn't going to improve by knitting it on a machine. Poor quality yarn may be too difficult to knit because it has not been finished to pass smoothly through the knitting machine or is not twisted, but spun (spin direction also matters). However, yarns with very big bumps (slubs), or thick & thin yarns, may not knit successfully because the bumps are too big for the needle hook and the stitch drops, or as in the case of thick and thin yarns, it will not yield a good looking garment.
Terms You Will Hear
When learning about knitting machines or knitting machine parts, there is a vocabulary that can be very foreign. Here are some terms to help you understand our lingo:
Standard Gauge: Knitting machines with 5 mm or 4.5 mm needle pitch. Also known as 6 or 7 cut machines.
Bulky Gauge: Knitting machines with 9 or 10 mm needle pitch. Also known as 2 or 3 cut machines.
Fine Gauge: Knitting machines with 3.6 or fewer mm needle pitch. Called 8 or higher cut.
Cut: Generally means number of needles per inch on the needle bed.
Fair Isle: This is a type of knitting that originated in the Fair Isles near Great Britain. The term has come to mean any type of knitting that has a multiple color pattern knitted into the fabric.
Jacquard: A method to pattern in weaving that used a punchcard system. As knitting machines came to use punchcards to create patterns in knitting, Jacquard was used to describe a repeating pattern in knitting. This is also referred to as Fair Isle knitting.
Double Jacquard: This is Jacquard knitting on one face of a double knitted fabric.
Full Fashioned: Knitting that is shaped during the knitting process so that the finished piece has bound off edges on all sides.
Single Bed: This is a flat bed of needles. It produces jersey, or stocking stitch knitting. Some single bed machines have the ability to knit Fair Isle patterns.
Double Bed: This is a knitting machine with 2 beds of needles. It can do knit and purl stitches in a single row. Passap double bed knitting machines can pattern on both beds. The beds are in an inverted "V" so that the knitted fabric is formed with the yarn evenly tensioned between the beds. This is important because the elasticity of ribbing, for example, can be affected by bed distance and angle. Passap double bed knitting machines are fitted to their chassis at the factory, so that the bed distance is within a close tolerance for greater knitting consistency. The next two terms apply to machines that aren't Passap knitting machines:
Main bed: The single needle bed that has patterning capabilities.
Ribber bed: The bed that, when put with a main bed, gives the ability to make knit and purl stitches on the same row and is often used to make "cuffs" and "collars" on garments.
Strippers: The Passap double bed knitting machines knit without weights. A patented Stripper System pushes the stitches off the needles as they are knit. This is opposed to a weight dependent system that pulls the knitting from the needles. Depending on what you are knitting, Passap Strippers come in different shapes to facilitate the creation of the desired effect.
Lock: (Passap only)This is the mechanism that causes the needles to knit, slip or tuck as it passes over the needle bed. Also called a carriage
Carriage: This is also caled a Lock.
Cam Box: This is the same thing as a Lock or carriage.
Bobbles: Yes, knitting machines can knit bobbles. There are a number of ways to create them, and a Passap dealer can discuss this with you.
Cables: Yes, knitting machines do cables! This is hand manipulated technique you can learn from your dealer or machine knitting instructor.
Schematics: These are the drawings of garment shapes that are used to help a knitter see the individual parts of a garment. Usually included with your pattern.
Shaping features: Knitting machines use a number of ways to help you create the desired shape of a knitted piece. There are software programs that use a PC to design a shape and electronically transmit the information to the knitting machine. There is a built-in feature on the Passap E-6000 that enables a knitter to use any of about 1000 published garment shapes with any yarn, stitch pattern and knitting technique to make a garment to their unique desires and size. This is the Form Program. Also in use, but no longer available as a new product, is the Form Computer. It has the same function as the Form Program but was sold for use with the DM-80. Even older still, the Passap Forma, which used special paper for the knitter to draw their desired shape to scale for the machine to help the knitter create garments. In other machines such as the Studio/Singer, Brother/KnitKing, Toyota and others, it is called Knit Radar or Knit Leader.
Stands: Passap double bed machines require a stand. There are 2 models available. The Artisan mid-gauge comes with a stand. The Passap Vario, Brother and KnitKing, and Artisan standard gauge machines can be clamped to any horizontal surface and do not need a special stand. Artisan Mid Gauge model 70-D comes with a stand and a ribber unit.
What You Can Make on a Knitting Machine
Knitting machines can produce knitted fabric which has been shaped to the desired dimensions, like a sleeve, or it can make knitted yardage that can be cut and sewn with traditional sewing techniques and patterns. Double bed knitting machines can knit tubular fabric. You are most likely to know tubular knitting as socks or sleeves. There are other uses for tubular knitting, but socks are a big favorite.
Machine knitters have used their machines to make everything from sweaters, baby items, Christmas stockings, afghans, knitted suits, coats, socks and even art.
There are many knitting machines in use today. Each have their own features and benefits. Only a experienced knitter can help you select a machine that will fit your needs. We are available to answer your knitting machine questions should they arise. Judy has been a professional knitter since 1976 and has knitted on most knitting machines that are in use today and she will be happy to answer your questions although, please remember, her time is very valuable and telephone time is costly for us so please limit your telephone time to 5 minutes or less as she is in great demand. It is not possible to give knitting lessons over the phone, so please do not ask her to do it.
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