How Do Knitting Machines Work?

Source: Xdknitmachinery

According to the Sustainable Fashion Collective, hand knitting originated in the Middle East during the fifth century. Later on, it has reached Europe through wool traders. Yet, early knitters from Egypt actually did not use wool, but cotton fibers as their material. Ancient designs that they sew on it included Arabic blessings and symbols that would force out bad luck from their lives and businesses.

When the 16th century came, knitting machines were conceived. The stocking frame knitting machine was invented by William Lee in 1589.

Fast forward to the 21st century, knitwear has entered the mainstream fashion, recognized globally for its own sense of style. It has become one of the basic choices of all genders. Famous brands have been fabricating different types of knit clothing such as cardigans, dresses, sweaters, etc. The production has also been made simpler and faster through the circular knitting machine and other equipment.

Knitting and The Knitting Machine

Basically, the knitting process entails interlocking or knotting loops of yarn through needlework. When one loop structure is finished, the succeeding loops are intermeshed with the previous ones. Continuously, a knit fabric will then be created. Because the yarns are looped symmetrically, the fabric increases its elasticity property, the reason why it has been a wardrobe staple during winter or cold season.

Flat knitting or circular knitting are the methods employed in producing fabric via hand knitting. Now, let’s talk about knitting through the use of knitting machines. Bolstered on a needle bar, low carbon steel bearded needles are used for knitting via machines.

A presser bar shoves and presses the beards, then the needle bar proceeds forward as the open needles unblock the web. The weft or horizontal thread is settled on the needles, then it falls loosely afterward. The needle bar gets drawn back to pull the weft into the open needles. Next, the presser bar closes the needle loops and retracts the weft back to its position through the loops. As the needles unlatch, another row of loops is perched in it.

The Key Parts 

To further understand the nature of a knitting machine, let’s discuss its key parts very briefly.

The Needle Bed

A knitting machine holds a needle bed. This needle bed contains up to 200 needles that seem like little latch hooks. Depending on the operation, the needles can be positioned in four disparate spots: 1) working; 2) non-working; 3) upper working and 4) hold.

The Knit Carriage

Another key part is the knit carriage. This is where the switches are located. The knit carriage is a flat, shallow piece of plastic and metal with a shaft.

With these two integral components of a knitting machine, knitting is performed faster and more convenient– especially for batch knitting or mass production. The carriage and needles do the work, stitching tirelessly over and over again.

How They Work

Although you have a working machine, the knitter still has an important role to play. As the equipment automatically creates a couple of stitches in a short period of time, the knitter does the shaping by managing the number of needles at work in a specific period of time. To cut it short, the correct number of needles must be placed into the working and casting on portion of the machine in order to produce the desired garment or piece of fabric.

One row is knitted whenever the knit carriage passes over the working needles. The gauge has already been set beforehand so by this time, the knitter should know the number of stitches and rows that needs to be knit for each section or piece. As the process goes on, the stitched material hangs on the front of the machine, moving towards the floor. The rear side of the fabric faces the knitter.

In shaping a pattern, several methods can be used by the knitter in increasing and decreasing the number of needles at work. Additional needles moved into the working position at constant intervals is ideal when enlarging the sleeve from a garment’s cuff. In shaping the sleeve cap, the stitches should be moved alongside the working needles and the empty needles must be placed into the non-working portion of the machine prior to the shift of knit carriage.

The knitter can also decrease the row by putting the needles into the hold position. Lastly, on waste yarn, the garment or fabric is either cast or scrapped off. Waste yarn is used to prevent open stitches from untangling.


Absolutely, the knitting machine has provided colossal ease in the production of knit fabric and clothing. Stitches are produced very quickly and simultaneously. The patterns are designed effortlessly in a short amount of time. This is advantageous in the aspect of manpower. Although, there is still a limitation in terms of creating various types of stitches. The machine would require more accessories and attachments to pull off the intricate details and other designs of the fabric. Nonetheless, knitting machines have always been amazingly helpful in the manufacturing industry of textiles.