Machine Knitting

Kate Miller-Wilson
Machine Knitting

If you've always been interested in machine knitting but are a bit intimidated by the complex appearance of these devices, you aren't alone. Many knitters love the idea of quickly knitting beautiful designs, but they get nervous when they see dozens of knitting needles and complicated knobs. Also known as "spool knitting machines," these devices are actually very managable if you take the time to choose the right knitting machine for your needs.

Deciding to Knit with a Machine

Machine knitting and hand knitting are very different. Before deciding to invest in a knitting machine, it's a good idea to become familiar with the advantages and disadvantages that come with this equipment.

Pros of Machine Knitting

Machine knitting has the following advantages:

  • These devices make it easier to knit patterns that use multiple colors.
  • It's easier to maintain the right tension in your work.
  • When it comes to simple patterns, machine knitting is faster than hand knitting.
  • If you like to knit lace, you may find this process faster and easier on a knitting machine.
  • It's easier to take out rows of machine-knit stitches if you make a mistake.

Cons of Knitting by Machine

There are also a few disadvantages:

  • Some patterns, especially those that require mitered corners, can be a bit more time-consuming and tricky.
  • The width of your knitting machine can limit the size of your projects. You may have to sew several sections together to create a large afghan or blanket, for instance.
  • Simpler machines will not allow you to change stitches frequently within a pattern. Instead, you'll have to remove your work to make adjustments.
  • The equipment requires regular cleaning and maintenance in order to function properly.
  • Knitting machines are loud.

Choosing a Knitting Machine

Woman at knitting machine

If you've decided that machine knitting is for you, you'll need to look for the right piece of equipment to meet your needs. They come in several different sizes and allow you to create a wide variety of garments and decorations, from chunky cable sweaters and hats to fine lace curtains. Hobby-level knitting machines can cost as little as $150, but if you're interested in producing professional quality knitted items, expect to spend about $1000.

Where to Buy

You can find some knitting machines in craft stores and yarn shops, but the best selection is online. The following retailers specialize in this type of knitting equipment:

  • Angelika's Yarn Store offers professional quality knitting machines, accessories, and attachments, as well as yarn, patterns, and instruction books. This is a good place to find everything you'll need to get started in this fun hobby. This store is a certified dealer in Silver Reed knitting machines.
  • Amazon.com has a good selection of hobby-level pieces, including The Ultimate Knitting Machine and the Addi Express Knitting Machine. Both retail for under $200, making this a good way to try out a new hobby without making a major financial investment.
  • KnitWitKreations sells several types of professional quality machines. Although this site doesn't have an online store, you can purchase a machine without stopping by their Hudson Falls, New York shop. Simply contact the store for more information about buying the machine and shipping it to your door. This store sells new and used machines.
  • The Sew'n Knit'n Serge Outlet is a good resource for knitting machines in Canada. They sell new and used machines as well as accessories and yarn.

Factors to Consider

In order to select the right knitting machine for your purposes, you'll need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What is your budget? If you're working with limited funds, consider a hobby-level or used knitting machine.
  • How serious are you about this hobby? If you'll be selling your knitted items or doing a lot of knitting, consider a professional machine. If you're just curious about machine knitting and want to try it out, stick with an affordable, hobby-level model.
  • What are you planning to knit? Professional quality knitting machines come in several different gauges, so it's important to consider the type of projects you're going to make. For most projects, a standard gauge knitting machine is perfect. However, consider a fine gauge machine for lacy, delicate knits. A larger gauge machine can produce items that appear hand knit.

How to Knit by Machine

The process is different for each machine, but in general, you'll need to follow these steps:

  1. Using the appropriate size of knitting machine for your pattern, adjust the tension as the pattern specifies.
  2. Cast on the specified number of stitches by winding the yarn around the needles of the machine. Refer to the user's manual to help you do this.
  3. Knit the number of rows specified in your pattern. You may need to transfer the stitches in order to create a tapered shape, a cable pattern, or another modification.
  4. Cast off by using a needle to catch the stitches as they come off the machine. Finish the project according to the pattern.

Learning More About Machine Knitting

If you're interested in getting involved in machine knitting, there are lots of great resources to help you learn everything from the basics to more complicated techniques. You'll find information in books, online, and through machine knitting classes.

Books for Knitting by Machine

Several books give detailed machine knitting instructions and offer patterns for creating fun projects with your knitting machine. The following titles are especially popular:

Websites to Help

Several websites are dedicated to supporting crafters as they knit by machine. Whether you're new to this hobby or need to learn some advanced techniques, try out the following:

Classes and Lessons

Your local yarn shop or craft store is the best place to get some hands-on education about machine knitting. Talk to the attendants at the store to find out if they offer lessons. If not, they may be able to put you in touch with a local machine knitting enthusiast who can give you private lessons.

It Takes Research and Practice

If you're interested in machine knitting but not sure if you're ready to invest, try out the equipment at your local yarn shop. As with any new craft, lots of research and practice are really all it takes to get started. Soon, you'll be creating beautiful machine-knit garments and other items to give as gifts to family and friends and keep for yourself.

Machine Knitting