Knitting Machine Maintenance Tips

Here are some tips that I hope you machine knitters find helpful.  I sure wish I had found these when I first started.  Maybe they were out there but if they were then they sure were hard to find.

The general idea here is maintenance in order to keep the machine running smoothly.  My number one issue with my machine is, and has always been, the blessed thing jamming up, often when I’m 3/4 through completing a project;  you know, the most annoying possible time.

I’ll go through the most obvious ones first, and then move onto the ones that apply to when things have gone wrong.


Even with a 100% functioning machine, it’s entirely possible to jam your knitting.  The short answer here is “It’s all about the tension” - for a given ply of yarn that is.  (And for that matter, the type of yarn you’re using.)  My advice is to follow any provided guides (Mine was ‘hand-typed’ on a sheet and stuck to the inside of my manual) but if in doubt, start on the loosest tension, remembering that for every machine I’ve seen, the number on the tension dial really refers to ‘looseness’, so start at 10.  Knit at least 6 rows before you make any conclusions.

If all goes well, try increasing the tension until it feels difficult to move the carriage back and forth.  It really should be smooth and almost effortless when it’s working properly- you should be able to use one hand to make the motion.



Knitting Machines don’t always work 100% - mine surely didn’t!  I did mention that it only set me back $25, didn’t I?  Incidentally, it’s such good value (and I’m enjoying it so much) that I’m currently considering paying another $50 to order another one of exactly the same model, only in part form, just so I have a spare of all parts).  So, what can go wrong?

One of the simplest things to check for is dodgy needles (I think of them more as latch hooks).  My machine did have a single bung needle- the latch part of one had rusted shut, so I simply swapped it out for one of the new ones that (fortuately) came with the spare parts.

Now here’s the one that gave me the most grief.  I’d replaced my sponge bar, oiled all the parts that should be, trimmed my brushes and still my carriage was jamming.  And weirdly it would only happen travelling from right to left.  Here’s what was wrong.  See that screw there?

It was loose.

Yes, a veritable cliché, my knitting machine’s carriage had a screw loose.  What is interesting though, and hopefully helpful to you, is how I found it.  Sure, I could have just checked each screw, but what I did instead was(without any yarn in play, or even the sinker plate attached) run the carriage in the offending direction across just a handul of needles, noting when the jamming was occuring.

What this told me was the exact point in the mechanism where the friction started, and this led me to the offending cam, held in place (not adequately) by the screw in question.

What’s noteworthy about these screws is that once they come loose, it isn’t always straightforward to tighten them again.  I found I had to turn the carriage upside down so that my screwdriver was pointing up, and this seemed to give whatever nut-like widget (hidden from my view) the nudge it needed to catch on the screw and tighten.


Happy Days!

I can’t tell you the joy I felt when I found this- not only because my machine was working smoothly once more, but also because I know how to fix it again should it happen in the future.

And it has!  - But only once again, and even though it happened halfway through a woolen scarf, I was able to fix up the carriage and continue.


First Knitting Machine Scarves

Here is a collection of photographs of my first run of machine knit scarves.  None of them have been blocked as of yet so they tend to roll up a tad.


Scarf the First

I used blue and white cotton threads to create this effect.  Notice that on some rows there are ‘errors’.  I use inverted commas there because the effect is quite pleasing, so let’s think of them instead of ‘pleasing mutations’.


Scarf the Second

Here is a similar effect using red and brown cotton.  I like using cotton by the way because my knitting machine is mid-guage and thinner yarns allow me more options; in this case for example to use more than one strand.


Scarf the Third

In this scarf I’m using an open weave (probably not the correct term, but that’s what issues forth from my lips when I see it) by bringing forward only some of the hooks.  Specifically, I brought two forward and left three back.

Here’s a closeup of the pattern.

Knitting Machine

Given the fact that a pair of iPhone headphones costs around $35 (and the supplimental fact that they seem to break at the slightest provocation) you’ll understand my excitement at the fact that I spent only $25 on this Empisal KH-90 knitting machine.

I know how to knit by hand and do enjoy that a great deal, but there was something very appealing about a machine that could make this easier.

Also, I figured that even if I failed completely to make it work, it could still be slapped up on a wall somewhere as art, darling; much in the same way that some people do with old piano innards.

It came with no manual and so I found one on a popular auction site. While I waited for that to arrive, I found some manuals online for other models, and these were of some help- many aspects of knitting machines are generic. I did manage to get some basic ‘swatches’ made but it was tough going.

Later I realised that tension is everything- once I established what setting to use with a given ply, things went a lot more smoothly.