brother, getting started, knitmaster, machine knitting, singer/studio

Which Knitting Machine shall I get?

If you do a search on the Internet for Knitting Machines, you will find a vast array of different types and prices that you can buy on the second-hand market.  For a beginner, new to machine knitting, this can be very overwhelming and confusing.  It It can be difficult to decide which knitting machine to buy as the answer is not simple.  No one machine can do everything so it might be a better question to decide which one to buy first.  And as a beginner, unless you know exactly what you want to knit, this should be one that is easy to use and has easily available spares, tools and accessories.

Several factors can help a person to decide which one to start with.

  1. Make
  2. Budget (condition, functionality)
  3. Gauge (which yarn to knit with)

Make

In the UK the home knitter will have a choice of about 5 makes of knitting machine.  There is the simple plastic Bond (Ultimate Sweater Machine). This is cheap but does not have a lot of functionality but might be a good starting point if you want are on a small budget and want to use cheap balls of DK wool from places like Aldi.   Here is a page with links to information about all the techniques that you can do on a BOND.  And here is site that has a lot of free patterns that you can download.

There are also the European machines known as Passap, Pfaff and Singer Superba.  The Pfaff and the Singer Superba (Phildar, White) are not common and not suitable choices for the beginner.  The Passap is a double-bed machine that works slightly differently so is not considered suitable for beginners but does produce lovely textured fabric if you have one that is working.  Here is a link to a site that has a number of Passap manuals and patterns.  And there are more patterns on Ravelry.com.

The website will focus upon the more common Japanese machines known as Brother (KnitKing in the US), Empisal Knitmaster/Silver Reed (also known as Silver Viscount, Studio, and Singer) and Toyota Elna.  Toyotas are cheap to buy second-hand but more difficult to get spare parts so is not really suitable for beginners, however, if you have inherited one then I suggest that you join the Toyota Knitting Machine FaceBook group and get help there.  Here is a link to the History of Toyota Machines with the different ones available. If you do have a Toyota machine, then you can still learn the basic techniques on this website. 

Budget

Many Knitmaster/Silver Reed and Brother/Knitking machines were manufactured in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s (some silver reed since then).  They range in price from an old machine, condition unknown of £50 or less ranging to a new machine with software of around £2000.  I am ignoring bundles which can include accessories like the ribber and colourchanger etc.  The price you will pay for a single-bed machine usually depends upon the following factors:-

  1. Age of machine
  2. Condition of machine
  3. Demand for the machine
  4. Access to spare and accessories
  5. Functionality

If you want a new machine then you only have the choice of 3 Silver Reed machines from Silver Viscount or one of their stockists. There are now some ‘brother’ type machines being made in China, but some think the quality is dubious. It will be interesting to see if they improve in the future.

If you want a different machine the you will be looking at getting a second-hand machine.  You can buy a reconditioned machine with a warranty from a variety of sources, my next post will highlight the best ones that I know.   If you can afford one, then this is a good choice for the beginner who wants the machine to work straightaway.

If you are on a small budget then you will need to look out for a second-hand bargain on the internet or in local charity shops etc.  The main problem will be the condition of the machine.  It may have been stored away and needs a good clean.  It may be missing tools and you will need to buy some more.  It may need repairs and this is extra cost.  Are you willing to do this yourself, or do you need to find someone to do this?   You will need to weigh up the condition of the machine (check any pictures, ask questions, try and see the machine before you buy) with the price being asked.

Most of the machines that still work were manufactured in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.  Over this period of time the machines new versions were developed that had more and more functionality, usually related to their ability to create different patterns.  These machines can also be divided into Manual Patterning, Punchcard Patterning and Electronic Patterning.  These terms were explained in the previous post.  

Manual machines are cheap and good for the beginner, but quickly become tiresome to operate.   Electronic machines are usually more expensive and will need electronics or software to operate.  The electronics are now very old and could fail so I would get a reconditioned machine if you can afford this.  DesignaKnit software and cables can be bought to work with many Brother or Silver Reed machines, but check first.  The software choice might not be the best for a beginner, but can be something to think about for your second machine.  A punchcard machine is the best choice for a beginner. They are more robust and reliable and offer a range of patterns and stitches to support your new knitting hobby.

The final part of the decision of which machine to buy depends upon the type of yarn that you wish to knit with or more specifically the thickness of the yarn.  No machine can knit the full range of yarns, if you want to do this you will need to buy more than one machine.

Home Knitting Machines can be divided into 4 types depending upon the thickness of yarn that it can knit.  This is known in the trade as the GAUGE.  This relates to the spacing between the needles (and thickness of needles).  The following table shows the type of machine, the type of wool it can knit and the names of the knitting machines that you should look for. (passap and pfaff machines are 5mm gauge).

Gauge

FINE
7 gauge
STANDARD
5.6 gauge
MID
3.9 gauge
CHUNKY
2.8 gauge
3.6 mm
250 needles
4.5 mm
200 needles
6.5 mm
105/140/150/160 needles
9 mm
110 needles
1ply, 2ply, 3ply
lace, fingering,
light fingering
2ply, 3ply, 4ply
fingering, sock
4 ply, DK, aran,
fingering, sock, sport, worsted,
(DK), aran,
chunky, bulky,
mohair
  Simple:

LK140
LK150 (plastic)
Simple:
Bond (8 mm)
Knitmaster/SR
LK100,
Zippy 90
Brother:-
KH230
Punchcard:Punchcard:Punchcard:Punchcard:
Knitmaster:-
F270
F370

Brother:-
KH120
Knitmaster:-
321, 323,
260, 360,
700, 740,
zippy deluxe,
Zippy Plus,
Silver Reed:-
sk280

Brother:-
KH860, KH881
KH836, KH890,
KH891
Knitmaster:-
MK70 (foldup)
SK160

Brother:-
KX395
(convertable 4.5 and 9 mm)
Knitmaster:-
SK120, SK121,
SK150 (steel),
SK151, SK155
SK160


Brother:-
KH260
Electronic:Electronic:Electronic:Electronic:
Silver Reed:-
SK830
Knitmaster:-
500, 550, 560, 580
Silver Reed:-
SK840

Brother:
KH900, KH910,
KH940, KH950,
KH950i, KH965,
KH965i, KH970
Silver Reed:
SK860


Silver Reed:
SK890

Brother:-
KH270
  • A great museum site for range of knitting machines can be found here.
  • A full range of knitting machines can be found here.
  • great historical list of Studio/Singer/Knitmaster machines and accessories here.
  • Info on Knitmaster range of machines and accessories can be found here.
  • Brother range can be found here and thoughts on range of Brother machines here.

If you want to buy new then you can choose from the simple plastic mid-gauge LK150, the SK280 standard gauge punchcard or the SK840 standard gauge electronic machine, all can be seen at www.silverviscount.co.uk along with available new accessories.

If you are buying reconditioned or secondhand, the fine gauge and mid-gauge machines are rare and command high prices.   For a beginner on a budget wanting a machine that patterns, the best choice is a standard gauge punchcard machine or a chunky gauge, although the latter are not so common. 

Personally, I have owned 5 or 6 machines in my lifetime and as a beginner I like my standard gauge punchcard machine as it is easy to use and punchcards are cheap.  I do not knit thicker yarns often and am happy to hand knit them.

The choice between Brother and Knitmaster/Silver Reed is not easy as they both knit the same types of patterns, Knitmaster/Silver Reed uses levers on the carriage, Brother uses buttons.  Knitmaster/Silver Reed parts are more easily available and old accessories work on newer machines.  Brother have different types of accessories but were more popular in the UK so there are more second-hand machines available.  Some Brother machines also have garter carriages that can create purl stitches.  Some of the Brother machines can be used with img2track software.  Knitmaster machines were liked for their lace carriages.

In conclusion I believe that Brother or Knitmaster/Silver Reed is the best choice for a beginner.  Punchcard machines are the best choice overall.  Standard gauge machines and 4 ply yarn patterns is the most common choice and the most supported.  However, if you want to knit with DK yarn then you may need to wait until a suitable machine comes along or buy a simple LK150 new.

If you are still unsure find out if there is a knitting machine club in your area and go and see some machines.  Do a search on YouTube for knitting machines to get a better idea of how they knit and how easy or difficult they are to use.

Remember that you do not have to find your ideal machine straight away, the machine that you begin on can be resold so that you can find your ideal machine once you have a better idea of what you want to knit.

Here is an interesting YouTube video about choosing machines.

My next post discusses the best places in the UK (some with international delivery) to get your first machine.

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getting started

A Brief History of Machine Knitting in the UK.

A very early knitting machine was created in 1589 by an English clergyman called William Lee for knitting socks/stockings in the 16th century.  However, Queen Elizabeth did not want to put hand knitters out of work and so William went to France who supported the idea and slowly the sock machine spread and developed throughout Europe.  This type of sock machine is a circular type of machine not the flat-bed home knitting machine we recognise today.

Vintage Sock Machine

Knitting was encouraged during the two world wars in the 20th century and knitted garments became fashionable during the 1950s and 1960s when a range of simple home knitting machines and synthetic yarns was created that were affordable.  Girls were taught to knit at school and knitting was seen as a useful skill not just a hobby.  Machine Knitting continued to develop and expand a range of punchcard and then electronic machines appeared manufactured by Japanese (Brother, Empisal Knitmaster/Silver Reed and Toyota) and European (Singer/Superba and Passap) companies.  

Unfortunately, knitting became unpopular in the late 1980s as knitwear was being mass produced at cheaper prices. These garments could be made cheaper abroad and the UK garment industry suffered decline. Knitting machine manufacturers, yarn makers and magazines struggled to survive.

Unfortunately, knitting became unpopular in the late 1980s as knitwear was being mass produced at cheaper prices. These garments could be made cheaper abroad and the UK garment industry suffered decline. Knitting machine manufacturers, yarn makers and magazines struggled to survive.

Today knitting has seen a resurgence coinciding with the growth of the internet and the general interest in DIY crafts.  Natural fibres have become easier and less expensive to collect and produce.  People are sharing their knowledge and patterns on the Internet and KALs or Knit-A-Longs have become popular and have helped to spread techniques amongst a wider audience.

Machine Knitters are still a minority within the community of knitters, however, a lot of younger people are getting interested in learning this skill. Unfortunately, there is now a limited choice in new machines with only Silver Reed left from the main suppliers of home knitting machines in the UK. 

Silver Viscount Reed SK280 punchcard

Most machines that can be bought on the Internet are now very old.  The very old, and the very rate are difficult to service and maintain as there are fewer spare parts.  However, there are still places that service and sell many of the old machines in good condition and these can be found on the Internet.  More knitting yarns and patterns are now becoming available for knitting machines.  It seems that 2019 is a good year to start learning.  Especially as entrepreneurs in China are now starting to manufacture and sell spare parts and accessories for Brother and Silver Reed machines.

Further information about the history of knitting machines can be found at these links:-

If you are still interested in machine knitting then my posts on what is a knitting machine? and which knitting machine shall I get? will be useful to read.

getting started

Should I learn Machine Knitting?

This was the question I asked myself a couple of years ago and you may be asking yourself the same question.

I had a list of reasons why I wanted to learn to machine knit and how it would be of value to me, but I also had some concerns mainly relating to Affordability and Difficulty.

Instead of creating one long post here I will address the two concerns of cost and difficulty the next post, In this post I will present my thoughts about the value of machine knitting.

Will I get any value out of Machine Knitting?

I think it is important that you do have some idea of why you want to machine knit, otherwise it is likely that will give up at the first hurdle. Your reason why could be as simple as you have just inherited a knitting machine from an elderly relative and you would like to know what it does or as challenging as I love knitting and would like to learn how to design my own garments with a professional finish that I could sell. Mostly it will because you like being creative, making things and the idea of machine knitting appeals to you either as a creative hobby or as a means to knit more quickly and professionally.

You might find that using a machine is easier than hand knitting. It certainly is faster once you and your machine are in harmony. It is more difficult to do this socially as you need to have space to set up the machine and table. And this is difficult to transport to a meet-up. Decide what you want to knit and then decide what machine will do this. This blog will focus upon the flat-bed home knitting machine. Later posts will give more details about different machines that you could find in the UK.

In this post I list some of the reasons why I wanted to learn machine knitting. I am sure that some of these reasons will be similar to yours. I would love to know why you started to machine knit. Please write them down in the comments.

My Reasons for Wanting to Machine Knit.

  1. I am a crafty person and I am learning to hand knit and crochet so why not learn to machine knit as well.
  2. I love the idea of making my own clothes that fit me better than the garments I buy, especially as I am short in body and arms.
  3. I like learning new skills and the idea of learning how a knitting machine works appeals to me.
  4. I have time on my hands and I want a new challenge in my life.
  5. Hand-knitting can be a bit painful on the joints so a knitting machine could alleviate this pain (or give me different pains!)
  6. Hand-knitting can be slow and I would like to make things more quickly on a machine
  7. I would like to create more professional looking garments.
  8. I like the idea of using a machine to create my own designs and patterns or even recreate patterns that I see online.
  9. I have an old machine that I bought years ago and some old wool and since I now have no money it is time to learn to use it or get rid of it.
  10. As I tried to figure out how to get the old machine to work, I discovered a whole new world of machine knitting that excited me and I found that I loved learning about all the different machines, accessories, patterns, techniques, software etc. and wanted to learn more and more.

So these are my reasons. What are yours? Please tell me in the comments below.

knitmaster, machine knitting, Uncategorized

2019: A good time to learn Machine Knitting

Hi, I am Carol and live with my cat Jenson. Finding myself with time on my hands and needing a challenge, I decided to learn the old art of Machine Knitting. I have been researching into machine knitting, learning what I can and looking for bargains. I am recording my progress, good and bad, in this blog for me and anyone else to learn from. I am also creating a contents list of useful posts to act as a beginners guide to machine knitting.

I used to knit and crochet when I was young, but stopped once I started work, probably because I had less time but more money to just buy my clothes. Now without unemployment, I have decided that 2019 is the year to get to grips with my long term ambition to add machine knitting to my list of crafty hobbies. My dreams are full of beautiful garments for me and my family (hoping this will come true). However, I now have to do this on a tight budget.

I bought and used 3 knitting machines in the 1980s. I had a Bond knitting machine, a Singer 90, and a Knitmaster 370. This fine gauge machine was bought second-hand. I had to go up to Scotland to get it. Unfortunately when I tried to use this machine in 2017 it got damaged and I found it difficult to find spare parts cheaply because of its rarity. I also found the lack of fine knit patterns and information a problem. So, in 2018, I started to look for a machine more suited to a beginner on a budget. It took some time but I did find some great bargains and now have a Knitmaster 700 punchcard and a Knitmaster 550 electronic and a range of interesting accessories and old cones of yarn. I found that the punchcard was simpler and easier to used and therefore more suitable for a beginner. After spending time learning the basics techniques, I created a simple jumper for my mum for Xmas. This got me hooked and now I am ready to fully embrace this hobby and expand my skills.

I want to make this site a place to hold all the useful knowledge and resources that I come across. This will help me to refer back to this knowledge in a quick and easy way. I hope to add information about knitting techniques and some basic patterns. I will also add blogs about my progress and the garments that I am making.

I am hoping that the knowledge and wisdom that I acquire may also prove useful to any other beginners that come across this information. I know that there is a HUGE learning curve to using a machine. Just getting the machine to work can be a problem, especially with old second-hand machines.

So let the adventure begin!