Knitting Machine True and False

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Knitting machines are a bit of a mystery to the uninitiated. Before buying your first machine, check these common misconceptions.

  • You can only knit fine yarn on a machine

    Most knitting machines for sale are the standard ones, with a metal bed and 200 needles set 4.5mm apart, which can easly knit any yarn from 2 ply up to about 7 or 8 ply. For 8ply yarn, unless it's a particularly thin and soft 8ply, you might have to use every second needle to get a loose enough fabric.

    There are also bulky machines and extra fine machines, less common than standard 4.5mm, and much more expensive. There are also double bed machines (ribber is built in) which have 5mm needle spacing, such as Passap.

  • I hate casting on and off, so a knitting machine will help there

    Knitting machines don't cast on for you, nor do they cast off. You do that manually just as you would for hand knitting. (The manual shows you how.) When you're knitting the rows to make the fabric, that's when you get the speed. The garment pieces are created so quickly that you won't mind a few minutes casting on and off and sewing the pieces together. Machines are not magic, and this is still a hand craft. Your time and effort goes into design and beautiful finishing of the knitted pieces.

  • You can produce multi-coloured fabric without floats using a machine

    There are various techniques for producing fair isle type designs. Some of these techniques produce floats, and some do not. It has little to do with the type of machine, more the technique chosen. All punch card machines produce a fully automatic fair isle. It has floats. It's very easy to do, and looks and feels wonderful. Other techniques which are only a little harder can avoid floats, but that might not be the kind of fabric you want for a project.

  • Knitting machines need electricity to run
    TRUE and FALSE

    Generally, no, they don't use electricity at all, they are purely mechanical. But...

    You can buy modern machines which have electronic patterning (instead of punch cards), but you still move the carriage across by hand.

    For any machine you can get a large heavy expensive frame and motor, which grasps the carriage and moves it back and forth for you.

    There is an accessory called a garter carriage, which is powered by electricity as it goes along the machine bed like a robot and knits each stitch individually, both knit and purl stitches. (Don't confuse this with a garter bar, which is a long metal tool for picking up and moving stitches manually)

  • All knitting machines come with a ribber and a shaping device

    These were usually purchased separately. If you then buy the machine, it might have those and other accessories thrown in. There were a couple of models that had built in shaping devices, but not many.

  • Knitting machines consist of a needle bed, a carriage, and not much else

    Basically true, but there are a few small components that you really do need to get with it if you want to use it for knitting.

    A simple punch card knitting machine, like the Brother and Singer models we often see, always comes with several parts:
    * the machine bed,
    * the carriage that passes across it (including the metal sinker plate that fits onto it),
    * the tension mast assembly (2 metal rods, one with tension disc knobs and antenna looking things),
    * a set of 20 punch cards, one or more manuals,
    * a little plastic tool box containing hand tools and many other things that are essential,
    * a lid that holds the components and fits onto the bed forming a carry case.
    And in the case of Brother machines (and the older Empisal):
    * a lace carriage also comes as standard,
    * and two long cast-on combs will be stored in the lid.
    Both the main carriage and the lace carriage have plastic handles which can be removed for storage and therefore might be located separately. A properly packed machine will have a little piece of metal (found in toolbox, documented in manual) fixing the carriage to the machine bed to stop movement.

    If the smaller components, like the tools and accessories in the little box, or the basic 20 punch card set, are being sold in separate auctions, stop and consider. Is the seller someone who doesn't understand what you need with the machine in order to use it properly, or are they simply trying to make more money by splitting it into several purchases? You can't tell whether you're going to win all or some of the auctions. If you have any other way of obtaining the separated (or missing) pieces, factor that cost into the price you are willing to pay.


    See the related Guide:
    Knitting Machines
    for more information on choosing a knitting machine


    Thank you

    More info will be added later, so check back now and then. Suggestions are very welcome. I don't sell machines, so this is just to share knowledge for the good of all.

    If you were pleased to find this Guide, do me a favour and click on the YES vote below. Happy knitting! :-)

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