What is a Knitting Machine?

Sheri Cyprus

A knitting machine knits yarn automatically, after being set or programmed to knit a specific pattern. It saves time compared to hand knitting, but the machine knitter must still pay close attention to the machine, as slipped or tangled stitches are common. Yarn thickness is the single most important consideration when choosing a knitting machine.

Sport weight yarn is considered ideal for making children's clothes.
Sport weight yarn is considered ideal for making children's clothes.

If the yarn used in a knitting machine is too thick, the hooks that hold and knit the yarn automatically will split right through the yarn. When choosing a machine, the knitter must decide what kind of knitted items it will be used to make. There are three kinds of knitting machines: flat bed for lightweight items, mid gauge for mid-weight items, and bulky or chunky for heavy items.

Knitting machines vary by the gauge, or stitches per inch, of the final product.
Knitting machines vary by the gauge, or stitches per inch, of the final product.

A flat bed knitting machine has small hooks placed .45 centimeters (4.5mm) apart. These machines are good for Fairisle patterns, cables, and lace. Baby weight or sometimes even thinner yarn can be used. The thickest yarn that can usually be used on this type is sport or DK.

A knitting machine for mid-weight items produces garments that look the most like hand knitting. The hooks are placed 0.65 centimeters (6.5mm) apart. Sometimes baby weight or chunky yarns may be used, but not always. Common worsted, sport, and DK yarns usually work best, but check with the manufacturer's instructions.

A bulky or chunky knitting machine has hooks placed .9 centimeters (9mm) apart and is perfect for making heavy sweaters. Cables and Fairisle patterns usually work well. Sport or DK are the smallest weight of yarns that should be used on this type of machine, but will not work on some models. Bulky or chunky style yarns work best.

Although no machine made so far can replicate every hand knitting stitch, they do provide a fast, reliable way to knit products for home use or for sale. It is important to remember, however, that machine knitting is not necessarily easier than hand knitting. A knitting machine needs much more attention to detail than a sewing machine and can require regular untangling of caught yarn and pick-ups of slipped stitches.

Like hand knitting, sample swatches still need to be made for each pattern. Moreover, machine hook sizes do not coordinate with hand knitting needle sizes. Personal computer (PC) software is available to allow for custom patterns. The right machine for the right yarn is the key to choosing the best machine for every machine knitter.

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Discussion Comments


I was looking for a different winter project, and ordered a sock knitting machine. I had a little bit of experience with knitting, and had even made myself a couple pairs of socks. Before seeing this machine, I did not even know something like this existed.

The instructions were not too easy to follow and I found myself going online to find videos to help me understand the process better. I was successful at completing a few pairs of socks, but really enjoy sitting down with a pair of needles and doing it the old fashioned way.


I have seen knitting machines being advertised where you don't even need to have any knitting experience to make sweaters, afghans, etc. I am sure for many people, this has a certain appeal, but I think I would get frustrated fast.

I bought a little battery operated knitting machine for small projects and got frustrated because the yarn kept bunching up and getting stuck. If I knew nothing about knitting, I would not have known what to do. I can't imagine how much harder this would be if you were making a big project.


I have been knitting for many years and have given away many items as gifts for family and friends. One of my favorite ways to spend an evening is with my knitting needles.

I have seen advertisements for the brother knitting machine in one of the knitting publications I receive. If I was wanting to make a large quantity of projects to sell, I can see the advantages of using a machine. You could really save a lot of time, but I have never tried one.

I enjoy my knitting as a hobby, and think if I were to use a machine to produce many items, it would become too much like a business.

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