All About Knitting Machine Patterns

The great advantage of machine knitting is that you can turn out finished knitted goods much more quickly and with perfectly even stitches. The downside is that the machine knitter is more restricted in the choice of patterns than hand knitters are. Before you look at machine knitting patterns think about what your machine is designed to do.

How do you find the right pattern for your machine?

Whether you have a simple hand-cranked round machine, a single flatbed machine, or a Swiss-made Passap, you must begin by considering what your machine can and cannot do.

  • Gauge: Each machine can accommodate only a narrow range of yarn weights. If you have a mid-gauge machine, avoid patterns that call for either very fine yarns or chunky and bulky ones.
  • Required techniques: Every machine knits in stockinette. The simplest machines can’t do anything beyond that—not even k2,p1 ribbing. Choose a pattern that fits your machines’ capabilities or be prepared to do some of your project by hand.
  • Machine type: If your machine is computerized or takes punch cards, it can do Fair Isle and intarsia knitting. If your machine is simpler than that, look for patterns with solid colors and stripes
  • Patterns: If you have a European machine like a Passap or a Pfaff, focus on European patterns. Your machine is much more versatile than a Brother or Singer flat bed, but it also works differently.
What is the advantage to vintage patterns?

Most Japanese flatbed machines were made from the late 1960s through the 1990s. If that’s the kind of machine you have, you’ll have the widest choice if you look at vintage patterns. They are usually less expensive, and sometimes multiple patterns are put together in money-saving pattern packs. Old machine knitting magazines are not just fun to look through. They are a great source for machine knitting patterns.

Why do some knitting machines take punch cards?

Punch cards bring machine knitting up to a whole new level. Your knitting machine has about 200 needles that knit the same yarn at the same time. Punch cards "tell" needles how to knit in a pattern so your machine can knit Fair Isle, intarsia and lace. You can learn how to make patterns with punch cards by imitating the graph charting used in hand knitting patterns. Transfer a favorite design to your knitting machine or create your own! Computerized knitting machines can also work these kinds of designs, but some machine knitters still prefer to make their own punch cards.

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