This article is for the information of those of you who would like to invest in a knitting machine, but are new to the machine knitting scene. While this section is a trifle long, it will be to your interest to take the time to read it.
In selecting your Knitting Machine and making your purchase, you will have to make an informed choice. The information below (plus some advice from a friendly dealer, perhaps) will help in this direction.
Primarily, your choice will be made based on the type of knitting you wish to do: i.e.: lightweight knitting, heavy weight knitting, different types of knitted fabrics, patterning, etc.
The type of knitting you want to do will influence your choice of machine on which to do it.
Knitting Machines are no great mystery. They do what they are designed to dothey knit. Basically, they do exactly what a pair of knitting needles can do. But because they automate the process, they are able to produce the finished product much, much faster, and into the bargain, create knitted fabrics of a complexity far beyond the scope of hand knitting capabilities.
In general, there are two types or “categories” of machine, Japanese manufacture and European manufacture. Japanese machines do an excellent job of lighter knits, while the European machines handle a wider spectrum of fabrics.
Japanese machines include STUDIO (Singer), BROTHER, and SILVER REED. These machines generally knit lighter weight fabrics. These fabrics include “fair isle” with floats (which are the little strings strung across the back of the fabric) lace, and knit-woven fabrics, which are of special interest to the sewing brigade in general. Also included in this fabrics list are the variety of simple stitches common to all knitting machines.
On the other hand, the European machines (PASSAP, for instance, is Swiss made) are designed to knit double-knitted (no floats) and textured fabrics. The majority of fair isle fabrics produced are usually destined for sewing machine use.
PASSAP is an excellent example of the European machine. Able to handle a wider range of yarn types than the Japanese models, it also embodies an amazing range of knitting capabilities. PASSAP, in fact, is often referred to as the “Cadillac” of Knitting Machines.
A Knitting Machines “gauge,” or needle size, determines its capabilities. The different gauges are: “fine” for thread-like yarn “standard” (the most popular) for machine weight yarns “mid” for normal weight and knitting yarns “bulky” (sometimes called “chunky”) for very heavy hand-knitting yarns.
All manufacturers make machines in all of these gauges.
Unfortunately, gauges are not interchangeable. It is impossible, for instance, to knit a bulky yarn on a standard gauge machine. Reason being, the needles on the standard gauge machine are too close together, and the hooks of what are called the “latch needles” are too small for larger yarn. Conversely, fine yarn knitted on a “bulky” machinewhich can be done, but who would want to?will come out looking like a hair net!
There are 3 basic components which go to make up a working Knitting Machine, and these are as follows:
(1) THE MAIN KNITTING BED:
This forms the very heart of a knitting system. The main knitting and patterning functions are here. Hobby Knitting Machines and knitting frames do not have “ribbers” (which make double-knitted fabrics with no “floats” on the back) have only a Main Knitting Bed. “Ribbing,” however, can be reformed manually, through the use of “knitting frames.”
(2) A SHAPING DEVICE:
Machine knitting, in one way, is the very opposite of hand knitting. Hand knitters will try to match the yarn gauge in a purchased pattern, or alternatively calculate out the pattern the “hard way.” Machine knitters, on the other hand, will knit a sample or two, and select the sample they want to followthe gauge is already determined and selected on the “shaping device.”
The knitter will usually draw the garment at about half scale on a sheet of paper, and insert it into the shaping device. The gauge in rows and stitches is selected, and the shaping device automatically gives specific row-by-row shaping instructions.
Once this garment “template” is drawn, it can be re-used at any time. Compensations are made by the shaping device for any change in gauge. The shaping device is a simple device to use, and saves an incredible amount of time, not to mention greatly reducing the risk of error.
(3) A RIBBING BED:
This devices matches the size and number of needles of the main knitting bed, but is minus the patterning capability. Primarily used for ribbing, the Ribbing Bed greatly expands the capabilities of the Main Knitting Bed.
Made possible is double-knitted fabric (no floats, yet!) along with literally hundreds of different textured/ribbed fabrics.
All 3 of the foregoing are necessary, for efficient machine knitting. Some of them may be dispensed with, but you will not want to do that, as it increases the workload exponentially.
Many accessories exist that will either make short work of tedious tasks, or will make it possible to knit many highly specialized types of fabric.
One excellent example is “intarsia” or “block” knitting. If, for instance, you wanted to knit a very large Bugs Bunny in many colors, you can purchase an “Intarsia Carriage” to knit it.
There are others. Just what do you want to do? Chances are there is an Accessory for it.
The most advanced models are electronically controlled. Some are even available with built-in tutorials, which means they can practically teach you how to machine-knit as you go. PASSAP was one of the leaders in this field.
“Electronic” actually refers to the patterning system. Output on a standard, non-electronic “Punch Card” machine, for instance, is limited to the width of the punch card itself, usually 24 or 40 stitches. If the number of stitches does not divide evenly, the pattern can not be successfully knitted.
Electronic machines are completely free of this problem. The only limitation for fabric width is the number of needles available on the main bed.
An electronic stitch pattern can also be manipulated in many ways: you can make it wider, higher, turn it upside down, even reverse the colors, etc. The possibilities are many and mind-boggling.
There are many knitting machine Programs on the market, for use with your Personal Computer. With these, it is possible to design shapes, stitch patterns, etc.. Such programs will even download the information into your electronic knitting machine.
DesignaKnit at http://www.softbyte.co.uk/ is one of the leading programs. A download Demo of the program is available.
PASSAP has its own Creation6/Form6 program to design both stitch patterns and shapes which can be interactively knitted on their E6000 machine.
If you browse the Web, you will find other manufacturers putting out similar programs.
There are many good, used Knitting Machines to be had from reputable Dealers. These are usually trade-ins from people who are upgrading.
The Dealer will check out the machine completely before offering it for sale, refurbishing it and replacing worn parts etc. A limited warranty is usually given also by the Dealer.
CAUTION! Be wary of buying a used machine “as is” from the “For Sale” section of a newspaper or magazine or the Internet. Particularly if you are not Knitting Machine knowledgeable. Seek a professional opinion before buying.
If you do not know what to look for, a dealer will usually check out such a used machine for you and charge a nominal fee, and also give you a quote on any necessary repairs. If the machine is not worth repairing, he will tell you so.
We have generalized quite a bit in our article to keep things simple. However, a specific recommendation for a good machine might be in order, for those of you aiming at quality output.
Our recommendation for an ideal system would be an Electronic machine with Ribber. (the Shaping Device is actually built in on PASSAP electronic units and is an accessory for the manual DM-80 and DM-S models)
The Passap E-8000 is the ultimate Electronic, Motorized, Knitting Machine. It is primarily used for knitting fabrics for “Cut and Sew” operations.
When controlled by your Computer’s software program, the results are quite unbelievable.
This unit can have a different pattern on each of the two beds. As each bed is 47 inches long, that is 120 cms – 383 needles.
Other features include fabric take-down rollers electrically driven; a fully automatic, electronically controlled 4 colour changer. The central control and processing unit stores over 180 knitting techniques and 400 ready to use stitch patterns.
This particular machine, of course, is state-of-the-art.
However, for those of you with less to invest, a Punch Card machine with Ribber and Shaping Device can be as versatile as an electronic unit, but with the limitations on the stitch pattern width, of course.
The latter is a good choice for budget-minded machine knitters!
Either one will open the door for Machine Knitting adventure.
A trip to your local Library can be very worthwhile in mining for information. Enquire of the Information Desk for books on Knitting Machines, and you will reap a good crop.
In particular, ask for any book by author HAZEL POPE on the subject of Machine Knitting
Another excellent reference work is The Prolific Machine Knitter by CATHERINE CARTWRIGHT. If your Library does not carry it, it is worth buying for a personal reference. Should be obtainable from your local Book Store, or an on-line source.
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