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What is Machine Knitting?

Kay Paddock
Kay Paddock

Machine knitting is the use of either a manual or electric machine to loop yarn together to make clothing, crafts and knit creations more quickly than if done by hand. A knitting machine can be anything from a handheld spool that creates a simple knit tube of yarn to a large electric machine with hundreds of hooks. Electric machine knitting requires the knitter to program the machine to knit a certain pattern. This is done through a card that's inserted into the machine or by using a computerized programming system.

Hand knitting with knitting needles is a fiber art that dates back about 600 years to Western Europe. Hand knitting is still popular, but machines are available to speed up the process for both hobbyists and for commercial knitting applications. Machine knitting has many similarities with hand knitting, such as basic stitches and terminology. But long-time hand knitters often find that learning the different types of knitting required by a machine can take several weeks to months to master.

Woman posing
Woman posing

Machine knitting is more complicated than using straight knitting needles. The knitter must attach the yarn to each hook and monitor the machine closely as it operates to avoid dropped yarn and tangles. One of the biggest drawbacks of machine knitting is that the many hooks and moving parts mean that it's easier for a stitch to slip or something else to go wrong.

A person who wants to learn to machine knit first has to choose an appropriate machine. Manual knitting machines include such things as small wooden or plastic spools with several pegs on top. These are very basic and popular with children because you only loop the yarn over each peg in a pattern to produce a knit tube. The type of machine most knitters use is a long, mechanized piece of equipment with a row of hooks. A machine can have dozens to hundreds of hooks, depending on the size.

One drawback to machine knitting is that the machines can't reproduce every single stitch. Each machine also can't use every type of yarn or create every pattern. The hooks on a knitting machine are set a certain distance apart, so some complex stitches can't be done on a machine at all. Before purchasing a machine, a knitter needs to decide the most typical sizes of yarn she'll want to use.

Avid machine knitters and those who create a variety of products to sell often own more than one machine. Many people also use a machine to quickly create large sections of such items as sweaters and afghans. Then they hand-knit the more decorative or complicated portions of those items that couldn't be easily done through machine knitting.

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