Used Knitting Machine Buying Guide

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Used Knitting Machine Buying Guide

Knitted fabrics have been used for hundreds of years all around the world. They are the third major class of fabric, after woven and nonwoven fabrics. Knitted fabrics are commonly used in sweaters, coats, and socks. Knitting is a craft that is taken up by many people. Patterns are easily available, and in its most basic form, all one needs are needles and yarn. However, knitting is a time-consuming process.

The first attempt at developing a knitting machine to make the task easier was made in the 16th century. Today there are several kinds of knitting machines available. The principles used are surprisingly similar to the first knitting machines. Modern machines, however, have quite a few conveniences that the earlier models were missing. Buyers looking for used knitting machines should know what the different types of knitting machines are. They should also know how to choose a used sewing machine that can be used for some time. Finally, buyers should know where and how to purchase a used knitting machine.

The Differences Between Hand Knitting and Machine Knitting

The main difference between hand knitting and machine knitting is the increase in speed when using a machine. However, depending on the complexity of the pattern and the type of machine being used, there may not be much of an increase in speed. Knitting machines generally produce a more even texture than hand-knitted fabric. First time users of knitting machines have to spend some time learning how to operate the machine correctly. With correct operating knowledge and technique, it is possible to replicate most hand knitting patterns accurately on a machine.

Types of Knitting Machines

The way in which knitting machines work has not changed much since the machines were first made. Today's machines, however, may be controlled electronically and have a range of features that were not present on the earliest models. Buyers should select a machine carefully. Knowing and understanding the features available, and which machine knits the desired size of yarn, are essential to making an informed choice.

Knitting Machines Based on Type of Control

An essential part of knitting is the creation of patterns in the fabric. This is done by changing the type of stitch pattern at the correct location as the fabric is knitted. There are three different ways this is done in modern knitting machines.

Type of Control



User moves needles into position

Needles need to be rearranged after each row manually

Punch card

Uses punch cards

Different punch cards enable the use of different needles

Faster than manual pattern setting


Electronically controlled

Patterns can be set through a computer

Faster than manual pattern setting

Electronic machines have a more complicated learning curve as compared to manual or punch card knitting machines. However, they require less physical effort to operate. It is simpler to learn how to operate manual machines, but they are more time-consuming to operate.

Knitting Machines Based on Shape of Fabric

There are two main shapes of fabric created through knitting: flat fabrics, and circular fabrics. Each type requires its own arrangement of needles on the knitting machine. Machines that are made to make flat knitted fabrics cannot be used to make circular ones and vice versa.

Flatbed Knitting Machine

Flatbed knitting machines produce flat pieces. This is the most common type of knitting machine used by hobbyists. Flatbed machines may be manual, punch card controlled, or electronically controlled. With the addition of a "ribber", a flatbed machine can also produce ribs.

Circular Knitting Machine

Knitting machines that have a circular bed instead of a flat bed are called circular knitting machines. They produce tubular fabrics. Circular knitting is also called "knitting in the round". Circular knitting also differs from flatbed knitting because there is no seam.

Types of Needles Used in Knitting Machines

The needle of a knitting machine is the principal part of its loop-forming mechanism. There are three types of needles used in knitting machines. Each type serves the same function: to hold the yarn in place as the carriage moves over the needles, causing the movements required to produce the next stitch.

Type of Needle

Characteristics and Features

Spring needle

Needle has a hook with an elongated shape

Sometimes called "bearded needle"

A "presser" forces the hook into a groove on the needle

Common in machines that have warp knitting action

Finer gauge

Simpler operating mechanism

Less expensive needle

Latch needle

Hook of the needle opened or closed by a latch

Common in machines that have weft knitting action

Latches are self-acting

Coarser gauge

Complicated mechanism

More expensive needle

Compound needle

Consists of a hollow rod with a hook and a latch

The latch moves in a groove to close the hook

Flatbed knitting machines usually have latch needles. Spring needles are more commonly found in circular knitting machines. Needles may break during use and over time. Replacing these needles is something that users should learn how to do. Buyers of used knitting machines may also have to replace some broken needles before use.

Knitting Machines Based on Gauge

The gauge of a machine is one of the most important factors when choosing a knitting machine. The "gauge" refers to the space between each needle in the knitting machine. This space defines the type of garments a particular knitting machine can produce. For example, a machine with a broader gauge is better at producing thick, bulky fabrics.

Gauge of the Knitting Machine

Needle Spacing (mm)

Type of Garment or Fabric Produced

Standard gauge machine


Knitted suits

Lace curtains

Mid gauge machine

6.5 to 8


Long vests

Children's clothes

Garments look and feel like hand knitted garments

Bulky machine


Heavy sweaters

Finer gauge machines have smaller hooks while bulky machines have larger hooks on their needles. Even if the gauge of a machine seems to be large enough for a particular thickness of yarn, the needles may not be. Using thick yarn on a standard gauge machine may result in the hooks splitting the yarn. This makes the next row impossible to knit. Buyers should note that it is not the type of yarn, or the type of garment that determines the gauge of knitting machine to choose. It is the size of the yarn that is most important.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Used Knitting Machine

There are several factors that buyers should consider before purchasing a used knitting machine. Buyers should carefully consider the following:

  • The type and size of yarn to be used
  • The type of garments they plan to make
  • Any physical disabilities that can make manual operation difficult
  • The amount of time available for learning how to use a knitting machine

These factors can narrow down the list of eligible knitting machines considerably. Once buyers have a list of possible knitting machines, they should research each model thoroughly. Buyers should consider the following factors when researching individual knitting machines:

  • Whether the model is currently in production
  • Whether parts are easily available
  • The availability of manufacturer support for the model
  • The availability of training or lessons to properly use the machine.

Buying Used Knitting Machines on eBay

Buyers looking for used knitting machines online can choose from many different kinds on eBay. Buyers can use the search bar on eBay's home page to quickly search for a knitting machine. The search bar is also available on other pages on the site. If search results are too broad, buyers can narrow them down by adding more descriptive keywords to the search term. For example, a search for "standard Brother knitting machines" lists all the standard gauge Brother knitting machines and accessories currently available on eBay. Some used knitting machines may require some parts to be replaced before they can be used. Buyers can look for these parts on eBay as well.

Knitting machines are relatively expensive investments, even if bought used. Before committing to a purchase, buyers should ask sellers if they have any questions regarding the knitting machine. They should also review a seller's return and exchange policy in case the knitting machine does not function as expected.


Knitted fabrics have been used to make garments for hundreds of years. Knitting is a time-consuming and labour-intensive process, and the first machines to make it easier were developed in the 16th century. Knitting machines not only make knitting faster, they also produce finer fabric. There are several types of knitting machines available with different features. Buyers should know the different features available and what factors to consider before choosing a used knitting machine.

One of the most important factors to consider is the size of yarn that buyers intend to use. This determines the "gauge" of the machine. Other factors buyers should consider are whether they prefer manual, punch card, or electronic machines, and the type of fabric the machine can produce (flat or tubular). Buyers should avoid machines that are no longer supported or in production. They should also consider training or lessons, since the learning curve for knitting machines can be quite steep. Buyers can find a range of used knitting machines on eBay.

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