The 1970s/80s introduced garment shaping or contour devices or charting devices that provided visual pattern guides as an alternative to written instructions.
The Knitmaster version was called a KnitRadar or Knit Contour and the Brother version was called a KnitLeader. Some knitting machines had these incorporated into the main bed, but external ones could be purchased and attached (as shown above).
A set of Pattern contours came with the device in a range of sizes. The knitter chose the correct pattern to insert into the device. The device also included a gauge scale ruler and a set of stitch scales. A tension square was created and the gauge scale ruler was used to find a stitch and row number. The row number was dialled into the device. This controlled the rate at which the pattern turned when the carriage moved across the machine. The stitch number indicated which scale ruler to insert and this showed how many stitches should be cast on and when to increase and decrease. It is quite easy to use but you need to follow the instructions given in the machine knitting manual.
Users of the knitting software DesignaKnit have access to a range of garment shapes that can easily changed to suit any individual’s measurements. These can be printed out with a set of written instructions, or the software can give verbal instructions to be followed as the user knits. DesignaKnit software can be used with Silver Reed/Knitmaster, Brother/KnitKing and Passap knitting machines. Each machine needs the appropriate connecting cable. Software called img2track can be used with some Brother machines to create black and white picture knitting.
I have touched on the main parts of the typical single-bed knitting machine. These machines create knit stitches only. If you want to add purl stitches to a design or even do ribbed cuffs etc., then you need to add a ribber.
A ribber is a flat-bed of needles that is attached to the knitting machines with the needles in the opposite direction.
A ribber carriage is added to a ribber sinkplate. When you move the carriage on the main bed the ribber carriage is moved. Needles are arranged manually on both beds, but the ribber does come with a set of punchcards (for the main machine) that allows ribbed patterns to be created. The ribber can be removed is the user wants to knit only.
The ribber can be useful for Double Jacquard that does not have floats on the back of the knitting as you have with simple fairisle knitting (or Single Jacquard). Instead the ribber is used to create stripes of colour on the back of the garment.
The Passap Knitting machine is a double-bed knitting machine. This means that both beds are fixed and that the ribber carriage can create patterns. It is operated differently and can create amazing textured fabrics. However, it is difficult to see the knitting and thus rectify mistakes. As such it is not considered ideal for the beginner.
Toyota/Elan introduced the Simulknit ribber to enable patterning on the ribber carriage. Although Toyota is a rarer machine, this feature might be worth having if you can find one in good working order.
All this may sound daunting to the beginner, but now you should have a better idea of the many parts of a knitting machine. A separate blog will discuss accessories.
If you do a search for domestic knitting machines you will likely find a large range of second-hand machines that you can buy. In the next post I will discuss the questions that you need to ask yourself in order to decide which machine is best for you.