knitmaster 550 electronic machine
Brother/KnitKing,  getting started,  knitmaster,  Knitmaster/Silver Reed

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

Gauge

Which gauge you buy is determined by the thickness of yarn that you wish to knit with. No machine can knit all thicknesses of yarn. In fact most serious knitters will have more than one type of machine.

Typeno.Yarns
FINE rare1 ply, 2 ply, 3 ply
STANDARDlots2 ply, 3 ply, 4 ply
MIDrare4 ply, DK, Aran
CHUNKYa fewDK, Aran, Chunky

Fine gauge and mid gauge machines are rare and therefore command a higher price in the second-hand market. You will need good eyesight or a magnifying glass to use the fine gauge machine. Mid gauge machines are now proving the most popular gauge of machine to search for as they will knit 4 ply and double knitting, the most popular type of knitting machine yarn.

Standard gauge machines will be the most commonly found machine and can use the cheaper industrial yarns. They also have a wider range of accessories such as weaving attachments and lace carriages.

Chunky gauge machines can use a range of hand knitting yarns (thicker) but it may be difficult to find ribbers and tools.

Accessories such as ribbers, lace carriages, garter carriages, will not work on different makes and different gauges of machine.

List of Machines for each 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 (Knitmaster MOD 700) as it is easy to use and blank punchcards are cheap to buy.  I can always hand knit thicker yarns, but may consider a chunky machine in a few years time.

Budget

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

New Machines

If you want a new machine then you only have the choice of 3 Silver Reed (Knitmaster/Knitking type) machines from Silver Viscount or one of their stockists.

There are now some ‘Brother’ type machines being made in China called Teitexma and the quality is improving. More information can be found online here. There is an interesting blog about the machine here.

The price of new knitting machine will be about £800 for punchcard and 1200 or more for an electronic (that will only knit). You will need to add DesignaKnit Software and cables for an extra £500 and a ribber for about £600.

If this is beyond your budget then you can find cheaper options on the second-hand market.

Second-hand Machines

Reconditioned

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.   They will range from £200 to £700 for a punch card machine. If you can afford one, then this is a good choice for the beginner who wants the machine to work straightaway. If you are having a machine delivered then check that they know how to pack a machine properly and have insurance in case anything goes wrong.

Local Charities and Online

If you are on a smaller budget then you will need to look out for a second-hand bargain on the internet (e.g. eBay or Gumtree) or in local charity shops etc.  The price should reflect the condition of the machine, but this may be difficult to tell. If the machine has not been used for some time, the sponge bar will have decayed and therefore you cannot test the machine to see if it works nor will you be able to see images of it being used.

When buying online, you need to look closely at the available images to assess the condition. See if you can spot any cracks or broken parts. Ask the seller questions if you are unsure, but often they are selling for a relative and may not know. Check that machine comes with all the manuals and all the tools. Go to www.machineknittingetc.com and find the operation manual for the machine. This should give a diagram and list of all the tools that come with the machine. If something is missing ask the seller if they have it, otherwise you will need to buy it and the price should reflect an incomplete machine.

I also suggest only buying from somewhere that you can pickup. A knitting machine has to be packed very carefully and only a professional supplier will know how to do this and have insurance. If you buy a machine on eBay and it is broken or incomplete, and this is not given in the sales information, then you should be able to get a refund.

An old machine may have been stored away and will need a good clean and a new sponge bar. I have a posts that describe how to do this. It is something that you will need to do on a regular basis to make sure your machine runs smoothly.

Punchcard or Electronic

Most of the machines that still work were manufactured in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.  Over this period of time, machines were made with more and more functionality. Punch card machines were popular and the easiest to operate. By the end of the 1980s though, electronic machines were being developed. The electronics circuit boards have not lasted well and it is likely that you will need to find someone who can repair them. It is still possible to buy the pattern controllers to run the machine, but it is probably easier (though more expensive) to buy knitting software and cables and run the machine from your laptop.

An old manual machine can be tiresome to use and I would suggest that you only buy one if you are interested in old machines. A punchcard machine from the 1980s 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.

Make

Only China is manufacturing knitting machines today. I will now give more information on each of these makes of machine.

Accessories: Garter carriages (purl stitch) are only available for Brother machines and not Knitmaster machines. Brother accessories were often made for a particular machine and might not fit other machines even of the same gauge. Knitmaster accessories would fit most machines of the same gauge. Later Knitmaster/Silver Reed machines has the magic glide carriages that made knitting easier and also had single pass lace carriages.

Chinese Machines

China took over the manufacture of Silver Reed (Knitmaster/Studio) machines and spare parts, and fortunately you can still find stockists in the UK.

It is now possible to import a Artisan or a Taitexma knitting machine. There are three types being made:-

  • The TH860 Standard Gauge is like the Brother KH868
  • The TH260 Chunky/Bulky gauge Punchcard is like the Brother KH260
  • and the TH160 Mid Gauge is like the Silver Reed SK160
  • they are also making Ribber Attachments and Accessories

These machines, however, need to be imported and you will need to make sure that all the import duties are paid etc. Some UK distributors might start to appear over the next few years.

The Chinese Taitexma TH-160 mid-gauge machine is a 6mm gauge machine which becoming popular because this will knit DK and Aran and Worsted yarns. There is also a 6mm ribber than can be used with the machine. There is an interesting post about this machine on Dayana Knits website.

Bond

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.

European Machine

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.

Japanese Machines

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. 

The rest of this page will focus on the Knitmaster/Silver Reed, as this is my preferred machine, but will include information on the Brother/Knitking as this is the most common type of knitting machine found in the UK.

Knitmaster vs Brother

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.

Best machine for beginner

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 mid-gauge 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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