Machine Knitting Terms

Published June 2, 2016 by estherknit

Cone

Cables

Cables are a simple techniques by which stitches are moved from one position to another in the same row on the knitting machine.  This alters the order in which the stitches are knitted. Cables can be formed by manually transferring stitches to other needles on the appropriate row.  Although a complicated cable pattern can be labour intensive, cables usually work up quickly since the transfer is made on a small percentage of the rows.  It can be difficult to work cables wider than 3 x 3, however, since the fabric doesn’t usually have as  much give as hand knitting.

Carriage Release Dial

The carriage release dial has several settings.

CR is the position to turn the dial to when you want the carriage to come off from the bed without having to move the carriage to the end of the bed.

KCI engages the patterning belt (the black metal belt that begins to move with the carriage to allow selection of the needles when doing a pattern). KC1 forces the carriage to select the first and last ‘B’ needle on the main bed out into the ‘D’ position along with the needles that are part of the pattern.

KC When only KC is present on the carriage, then the above functions are performed by a selection under the carriage…see manual for directions.

KCII engages the patterning belt (the black metal belt that begins to move with the carriage to allow selection of the needles when doing a pattern). KC2 tells the carriage to select only those needles that are part of the pattern.

SM is the Single Motif selector and is used when you want to have your pattern knit only in a certain area of the main bed. It engages the patterning belt and must be used with the needle selector cams.

N/L is Normal/Lace.

Chunky or Bulky Gauge

Chunky or bulky machines are knitting machines with 9 or 10 mm needle pitch. These machines are known as 2 or 3 cut machines

Cast Off or Bind Off

To cast of is to close the knitting loops by using any one of a number of methods.

Cast On

To cast on is to begin by creating the first stitch or stitches, or to add a stitch or stitches.

Colour Changer

A colour changer is an extra tension arm sinker place assembly and a yarn holder for up to 4 colours which enables the different coloured yarns to be changed easily and quickly when knitting.  There is a single bed colour changer and a double bed colour changer.

Cut

Generally means number of needles per inch on the needle bed.

Double Bed

This is a knitting machine with two beds of needles. It can do knit and purl stitches in a single row.  Passap double bed knitting machines can pattern on both beds.  The beds are in an inverted “V” so that the knitted fabric is formed with the yarn evenly tensioned between the beds. This is important because the elasticity of ribbing, for example, can be affected by bed distance and angle.

Double Bed Colour Changer

The double-bed colour changer is similar to the single bed colour changer, except it’s designed to fit onto a double bed machine and work with the  combined carriage. Some models hold 4 colours, while others hold 6 colours. In addition, some require the knitter to manually select the yarns to be used in each row, while others work with the electronic machines to automatically select the colours according to the design pattern. This colour changer is necessary to  knit multi-colour rib, or jacquard, patterns.

Double Jacquard

Double jacquard is knitting with two colours in a row and knitted on a double bed machine with a double bed colour changer to change the yarns.

Fair Isle or Jacquard

Fair Isle or jacquard is knitting with two colours in a row and stranding the unused colour behind the one being knitted.  The main colour knits on needles in working position, and the alternate colour knits on needles in upper working position. Although only two colours can be used in any given row, these can be changed from row to row, giving you more options.  The knitter will want to choose a design that minimizes the floats on the back of the fabric.

Traditionally this stitch type is only two colours but you can use more than two yarns using a yarn colour changer.  The main needles are in working position and in upper position is the contrast yarn.  It is the equivalent for hand knitting but with a machine floats are eliminated with a double bed or Jacquard carriage.

Fine Lace

Fine lace is a textured fabric that is probably most similar to the effect you get when you twist stitches in hand knitting. It is worked in exactly the same way as normal lace. However, when a transfer is made, the stitch remains on the original needle while also being stretched onto an adjacent  needle. Thus, when the knit carriage is operated, there are “knit 2 togethers” but no “yarn overs” since no needles are empty.

The knitting machine produces holes in the material in a design.  One stitch is stretched over the adjacent needles.  Closest hand equivalent, would be a twisted stitch with 2 knit together without yarn overs.   For Silver Reed or any other knitting machine you need a lace carriage unless you tool this by hand.

Fine Gauge

Fine gauge machines are knitting machines with 3 or fewer mm needle pitch.  They are also called 8 or higher cut.

Float

A float is the carrying of yarn across the back or front of the fabric without weaving or knitting it in.  The term comes from weaving; 1863.

Fully Fashioned

Fully fashioned is the shaping of knitted fabric as it is being knitted.  Fashioning appeared in machine-wrought hosiery. This is a hosier term of 1923 or later.

Garter Bar

A garter bar is a metal comb like bar used to turn stitches. The stitches are pulled onto the bar and the fabric held on the bar whilst it is turned.

Garter Carriage

The garter carriage is used to form purl stitches on single-bed, standard gauge knitting machines. It has a separate, opposing needle, which essentially places the stitch into a purl position before knitting it and returning it to its own needle.  It has its own power supply and moves automatically, at a much slower pace than you can move the knit carriage. It has a tendency to jam and may drop stitches when using some types of yarn.

The garter carriage can produce a purl stitch at any position in any row, which means it can be used to produce ribbings, garter stitch, seed stitch, moss stitch, basket weave stitch, and other fabrics that depend on a combination of knit and purl stitches. However, the garter carriage can only be used with a single colour of yarn at a time, meaning it can’t produce Bohus-style knitting that combines both Fair isle with purl stitches in the same row. Some repair centres now offer a conversion attachment that allows the garter carriage to knit with two different colours in a row, but I haven’t used or seen this in operation. The garter carriage can also be used to cast on and off automatically.

Hand Manipulated Stitches or Hand Tooling

Hand manipulated stitches include twisting, wrapping, weaving, lifting, rehanging and transferring stitches to create textured fabrics. These techniques result in surface embellishments, puckers, relief patterns, gathers, ruching, bobbles, popcorn, pin-tucks, fringes, and trims, even beading. There is almost no limit to the variety a knitter can achieve.

Hanging a Hem

This is just a method of creating a finished edge or hem on a garment. The primary way of doing this is to use one of the cast on methods described above, knitting some rows and then placing the bottom stitches or “cast on stitches” back up onto the needles that are currently in use on the machine and then continuing to knit. Use the e wrap method above and cast on from 10 left to 10 right. Knit 24 rows. Now look at the stitches on the bottom of this piece of knitting. Place this bottom edge back up onto the needles 10 left to 10 right. You can pick up the whole cast on stitch by picking up both the front and the back strands of the stitch or you can pick up either the back or the front strand. This is personal preference. Just be consistent across your work.

Hold Buttons

When the hold button is in use the carriage will not knit any needles that are in the ‘E’ position.

Intarsia

Intarsia is coloured knitting where there are no floats on the reverse side of the fabric.  Each block of colour has a separate piece of yarn.  It is a manual time consuming technique. The knitter places each colour yarn on the appropriate needles before passing a special intarsia carriage over them. The yarns are threaded through special weights that hang down from the needle bed to help maintain good tension. On some machines, the knit carriage has a special setting so a separate intarsia carriage is not needed.  Intarsia is often associated with picture knitting.

Intarsia is the most labour-intensive of the manual techniques. The knitter places each colour yarn on the appropriate needles before passing a special intarsia carriage over them. The yarns are threaded through special weights that hang down from the needle bed to help maintain good tension. On some machines, the knit carriage has a special setting so a separate intarsia carriage is not needed.

Intarsia Carriage

The intarsia carriage is used to knit intarsia.  It places  all working needles into upper working position with each pass, so the yarns can be hand-manipulated easily. Some brands and models  have an intarsia setting on the knit carriage, so the  separate intarsia carriage is not necessary.

Knit Leader

The knit leader is a charting device that attaches to the knitting machine.  The pattern piece is drawn onto special paper, which feeds through the knit leader as the piece is knitted. It helps the knitter to increase or decrease at the appropriate time without having to make all the gauge calculations in advance.

Knitweave or Weaving

Knitweaving refers to a technique in which a separate piece of yarn, often heavier than the knitted fabric, is carried along and caught between stitches to produce an effect like weaving.  It is a stitch fabric similar in appearance to loom woven cloth.  A member of the stocking stitch family, with a contrast yarn held independently of its main structure. With knitwoven fabric, the purl side (usually the wrong side) is the right side of the fabric.

Lace

Lace is worked by transferring a stitch onto another needle and making the machine create a new stitch on the empty needle. This creates a hole in the fabric and it is the decorative placement of the holes that creates the lacy fabric.  Knitted lace is divided into two main types – simple and complex. Simple lace is formed by using the single prong transfer tool and complex lace is formed by using the multiple prong transfer tool if you are not using a lace carriage.

Lace Carriage

The lace carriage is used to transfer stitches according to the lace design. In some brands, the lace carriage both transfers and knits, while in other brands, the lace carriage only transfers and the knit carriage knits. Some models will include a lace carriage, while it must be purchased separately for others. You should make sure your machine can knit lace and that the lace carriage is compatible before purchasing one.

Ladder

A ladder is the effect of a dropped stitch in knitwear which causes the wale to unlock its loops producing a runged effect.

L Button

The L button is used for thread lace patterns and is not available on all of the machines. When in use the L button causes the carriage to knit only those needles in the B position with the yarn that is in feeder “A” while at the same time knitting all of the in work needles (B, D and E position) with the yarn that is in feeder B. Therefore some of the needles on the bed will be knit with both yarns at the same time and some of the needles will knit with only one of the yarns.

Latch Tool Cast Off; Latch Tool Bind Off

This is done using a latch tool. It cannot be done on a machine that does not have gate pegs. You have knit a piece of fabric say from needle #30 left to #30 right. Make sure the carriage is on the right. Pull all of the needles into the “E” position(‘D’ Singer Studio). Take the yarn out of the “A” feeder of the sinker plate so that it goes straight up from the machine bed and fabric to the upper tension unit. ** Your left hand should be placed on the needle bed so your thumb is on the butt of the most right needle. In this case it is needle #30 right. Your latch tool should be in your right hand. Hook your latch tool into the hook of needle #30 right. The two hooks are now together. Now using your left thumb which is on the butt of needle # 30 right pull that needle butt back to the back of the machine (“A” position). The hook of the latch tool that is in your right hand should get pulled through the stitch that is on that needle and the stitch should transfer over onto the latch tool. Take your left index finger and place it on the yarn that is going up to the upper tension unit and push the yarn down on the needle bed next to the butt of the most right needle that is in “E” position.

In this case it is needle #29 right. Using your right hand and he latch tool in it, grab hold of the yarn with the latch tool and pull the yarn through the stitch that is on the latch tool. The stitch should come off of the tool and a new stitch should be created on the tool (just like crocheting). Notice too that the yarn that created the stitch is wrapped around the gate peg. Place this stitch onto the next needle that is to be bound off. This will be needle #29 right. ** Continue to do this from ** to ** with each stitch until all are bound off.

Linker

The linker is used to cast off or bind off automatically.  It doesn’t do anything the knitter can’t do easily by hand. There are several different methods of binding off manually, in addition to scrapping off with waste yarn. The linker gives a firm, latch tool type of bind-off, and can be difficult to master. When the knitting is finished, the knitter removes the knit carriage, attaches the linker to the needle bed, and turns the knob until all the stitches are cast off. Open stitches can be dropped if the operation is not performed perfectly.

Lock

This is the mechanism that causes the needles to knit, slip or tuck as it passes over the needle bed.

Machine Gauge

The number of needles present in one inch of a needle bed is called the machine gauge.

Main bed

The main bed is single needle bed that has patterning capabilities.

Manual Techniques

Some of the stitch techniques are completely manual meaning that the machine doesn’t select the needles for you. The knitter must look at a graphed  design, select the needles after each pass of the carriage, and perform the manual operation before passing the carriage again. These techniques include intarsia, cables, and hand-manipulated stitches.

MC button

This button is used to knit 2 colour Fair Isle patterns. When the MC button is pushed in the carriage knits those needles in the B position on the bed with the yarn that is in feeder “A” of the carriage and knits those needles in the D or E position on the bed with the yarn that is in feeder “B” of the carriage. When the MC button is pushed in and there are needles in B position and D or E position on the bed of the knitting machine, you must have yarn in both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ feeder of the carriage or you will drop stitches.

Needle Bed

The Needle bed is the place where the needles are located or mounted in a knitting machine. The needles move up and down.

Needle positions

Each type of stitch is accomplished by using one of the four positions for each needle in conjunction with the different cam settings on the knit carriage. The four needle positions are

  • non-working position
  • working position
  • upper working position
  • holding position

Most of the stitch functions are fully automatic, meaning the machine places selected needles in either the working or upper working position with each pass of the carriage, according to the design pattern. Then the knitter needs to move the carriage back and forth to knit the fabric. These stitch functions are all exclusive of one another; that is to say, they cannot be combined in any one row (i.e. you can’t knit fair isle lace, although you can knit a fair isle body with lace sleeves).

Normal Lace

Normal lace is the machine equivalent of traditional hand knitted lace. Also called “transfer lace”, it requires the use of a special lace carriage in addition to the knitting carriage. When the lace carriage is passed over the needles, stitches in upper working position are transferred or moved to adjacent needles. Then, when the knit carriage is passed over the bed, needles with multiple stitches knit  normally (the equivalent of “knit 2 together”, and  needles with no stitch are cast on (the equivalent of a “yarn over”, creating the characteristic holes.

The Silver Reed/knit master is the only machine that can do this type of stitch and it is like the traditional hand lace stitch.  Another term is transfer lace because as you pass the carriage over the needle bed the stitch is transferred over to the adjacent needle (working position needles).  With the second pass back over, needles with no yarn on them knit in and the needles with stitches on them knit normal also.  With Silver Reed or any other knitting machine you need a lace carriage unless you tool this by hand.  In hand knitting this would be knit 2 together with a yarn over.

Part Buttons

When part buttons are pushed in the carriage will ignore any needles that are in the ‘B’ position. The yarn will pass in front of those needles making a small float for each needle that it ignores.  All needles in any other “in work” position will knit in plain stockinette stitch.

Picot Hem

Pull out into “E” position the needles that you want to use. Let’s say 10 left to 10 right. Push every other one back into the “A” or non-working position so that you are now only working on 10L, 8L, 6L, 4L 2L, 1R, 3R, 5R, 7R, and 9R. E wrap cast on these needles. Knit 10 rows. Pull the remaining “in between needles to the “B” position so that you are now going to work on all needles from 10L to 10R. Knit 12 rows. Hang a hem on every other needle (because that is all you cast on).  Continue knitting.

Plating

Plating refers to knitting with two strands of yarn that are held in such a way that one is in front of the other.  The main yarn knits normally, and the alternate yarn knits behind it simultaneously. This produces a “lined” knit fabric, which is useful if your main yarn is scratchy. The alternate yarn shows through a little bit, giving subtle colour variations.

Plating is where 2 different yarns are used to create one fabric with one yarn on the main side and the other yarn on the opposite side.  This is helpful if you knit something fuzzy and want a cotton lining to reduce allergic reactions or want a smoother feel against the skin.  You need to experiment with different yarns to decide if you like this stitch for your garments as sometimes the yarn does “peak” through each other.

Rib

A rib is a wale of plain knitting against purl wales or vice versa.

Ribber

The ribber is perhaps the most versatile accessory you can purchase for the knitting machine, and also the most expensive. The ribber is a separate needle bed that attaches to the knitting machine so that the two beds are closely positioned, perpendicular to each other. It has its own separate carriage that attaches to the knit carriage so that both beds knit simultaneously. Stitches on the main bed are knit and stitches on the ribber bed are purl. A plain knitting machine is often referred to as “single bed”, but with a ribber attached it’s referred to as “double bed”.  The ribber can be easily lowered out of the way any time the knitter wants to use only the single bed.

The ribber can greatly expand the types of knitting you can do on the machine. Obviously, it’s used to make many different ribbings, everything from 1 x 1 to 5 x 5 or more. By changing the settings, you can knit English rib or fisherman’s rib, which are thicker, more textured fabrics. By changing the position of the ribber at regular intervals with the racking lever, you can create zigzag ribs. You can use it to knit multi-color rib fabric (jacquard), which looks like Fair isle but without the floats. You can also knit a circular tube or a U-shaped piece of fabric twice as wide as the needle bed, although these can only be done in plain  stockinette.

However, the ribber is not capable of producing fabrics where the position of the purl stitch changes from row to row. This is because the knitter would have to hand transfer stitches from one bed to the other on every row, according to the pattern design, and this is too time-consuming to be practical. The ribber will also come with several specialized tools, such as cast-on plates, large and small weights, wire-loop and claw type weight hangers, two-eyed transfer needles, needle pushers, work hooks, end stitch presser plates, and fine knitting bar.

Ribber Bed

The bed that when put with a main bed gives the ability to make knit and purl stitches on the same row.

Selvage or Selvedge

The selvage or selvedge is the raw edge of a piece; the edges that were the first and last rows of stitches.

Single Bed

This is a flat bed of needles. It produces jersey, or stocking stitch knitting. Some single bed machines have the ability to knit Fair Isle patterns.

Single Bed Colour Changer

The single bed colour changer allows the knitter to thread up to 4 different yarns into the machine and easily switch between them without rethreading the machine, which can normally be threaded with only 1 or 2 yarns depending on the stitch technique. This is a huge timesaver when knitting multi-colour garments on the single bed, and almost necessary when knitting multi-colour stripes, Fair isle designs with more than 2 colours, multi-colour tuck stitch, or multi-colour slip stitch. However, the single bed color changer can’t be used on a double-bed machine, and vice versa.

Slip (or skip) Stitch

Slip stitch refers to a stitch which has not been knitted and the yarn has been passed in front of it lying on the wrong side of the fabric.  It is the machine knitting equivalent of slipping instead of knitting a stitch.  In hand knitting, it’s also used to do mosaic knitting.  As in tuck stitch, the needles in working position knit and the needles in upper working position don’t.  However, no extra loops of yarn are laid over the  needles in upper working  position, so when the needle finally knits, it’s a single, longer stitch.  As with tuck stitch, the yarn can be changed on any row to produce mosaic effects.

Slip Stitch Punchcard

Slip stitch patterns knit everything on the punchcard with holes.  The non-selected needles are the patterning needles.

Standard Gauge

Knitting machines with 5 mm or 4.5 mm needle pitch.  Also known as 6 or 7 cut machines.

Strippers

The Passap double bed knitting machines knit without weights. The patented Stripper System pushes the stitches off the needles as they are knit. This is opposed to a weight dependent system that pulls the knitting from the needles. Depending on what you are knitting, Passap Strippers come in different shapes to facilitate the creation of the desired effect.

Tension Dial

The larger the number the bigger the stitch. This affects the stitch width. Thus a larger number gives you less stitches per inch and a smaller number gives you more stitches per inch or centimetre.

Thread Lace

Thread lace is also called “punch lace”, thread lace is essentially Fair isle done with a regular yarn and a matching thread. Because the thread is so much thinner, it barely shows, making it appear that the fabric has lace holes in it.

This is the same as Fair Isle on the machine, but one yarn is thinner than the other and the difference between the two thicknesses produces that stitch variation, one of the yarns is very, very thin or clear.  The fabric you create actually has no holes in it, but looks like it.  It is also called punch lace.

Transfer Carriage

The transfer carriage is used to automatically move stitches from the ribber to the main bed (or vice versa) when knitting only 1 x 1, 2 x 2, or full needle ribbing. Again, this is easily done by the knitter manually when changing from ribbing to stockinette stitch. To use the transfer carriage, the knitter removes the knit and ribber carriages, attaches the transfer carriage, and turns the knobs until the  stitches are all transferred.

Tuck Buttons

When pushed in, the tuck buttons loop over, but do not knit those needles that are in the “B” position on the needle bed. Any other in work needles (those in D or E) will be knit in stockinette (plain) stitches. There are two tuck buttons. They are directional. If the left one is pushed in then the carriage will loop over any needles in the B position when the carriage is moved from right to left. If the right one is pushed in then the carriage will loop over any needles in the B position when the carriage is moved from left to right. When the tuck buttons are pushed in there must not be 2 or more needles, in the “B” position, that are next to each other. There must be at least one needle in either the D or the E position on each side of the B position needle if you intend on knitting more than one row.

Tuck Lace

Tuck lace is tuck stitch with certain needles out of work which gives an openwork effect caused by the ladders and a textured effect caused by the tucking.

Tuck Stitch

In tuck stitch the strand of yarn which passes the non-selected needle is taken into the needle head without knitting and held there for several rows before being knitted.  In tuck stitch, the needles in working position knit normally. The needles in upper working position don’t knit, but an extra loop of yarn is laid over them with each pass of the carriage. When these needles are returned to working position, all the loops on the needle knit in a single stitch, resulting in a textured fabric.

Tuck stitch uses only one strand of yarn per row, although it can be changed on any row for some interesting colour effects. A mosaic effect can also be created with this stitch.  Tuck stitch doesn’t really have a hand knitted equivalent that I’m aware of. In tuck stitch, the needles in working position knit normally. The needles in upper working position don’t knit, but an extra loop of yarn is laid over them with each pass of the carriage. When these needles are returned to working position, all the loops on the needle knit in a single stitch, resulting in a textured fabric. Tuck stitch uses only one strand of yarn per row, although it can be changed on any row for some interesting color effects and it is a lot like the Skip Stitch.

Tuck Stitch Punchcard

Tuck stitch patterns knit everything on the punchcard with holes and nothing with spaces.

Weaving

Weaving is actually a knitted technique using a backing yarn and a weaving yarn. The machine automatically places needles in either the working or upper working position according to the design pattern. The knitter manually places the weaving yarn along the needles in upper working position, and then passes the knit carriage over them. The backing yarn knits normally, but catches in the weaving thread on those needles, forming floats of different lengths on the surface of the fabric. The floats appear as a woven pattern on the wrong side of the fabric.

This stitch is an actual weave stitch as you are weaving into the fabric you are producing as you knit.  As you knit with the main carriage the background or main colour yarn knits and the weaving yarn (which should be thick) lies across the needles in working position and is weaved into the fabric.  You can get a Weaving Arm for your main carriage in the Silver Reed line otherwise you have to lay the yarn onto the working needles manually or switch out the weaving yarn from the left to the right side of the knitting carriage and visa versa.

Keep in mind that anything can be used for weaving, any yarn and to make sure you can see the pattern well, you usually use an ornate, brightly coloured or much thicker yarn.  Be creative as you like and if you are into felting, this is another way to add depth into the fabric.  Generally this is an easy stitch that looks complicated.  The main yarn catches the weaving yarn as all you do is lay the weaving ACROSS all needles or with the carriage.

Wrapping

To avoid holes forming between the stitches in holding position the first stitch of the working stitches, the yarn is wrapped round the first needle in holding position.  Wrapping is also a term used in knitweave.

Wool6

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