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How to Buy a Knitting Machine ~ Questions

A Place for Knitting Machine Enthusiasts

In general, there are two types or "categories" of knitting machines, Japanese manufactured and European manufactured.  Japanese machines do an excellent job of lighter knits, while the European machines handle a wider spectrum of fabrics.  Japanese machines include Studio (Singer), Brother, and Silver Reed, which are the ones I talk about the most on this site.  These fabrics include fair isle, lace, and knit-woven fabrics.  Also included in this fabrics list are the variety of simple stitches common to all knitting machines.  A Brother clone is now manufactures out of China called TAITEXMA, you can buy these new.

On the other hand, the European machines (PASSAP, for instance, is Swiss made) are designed to knit double-knitted (no floats) and textured fabrics. The majority of fair isle fabrics produced are usually destined for sewing machine use or cut and sew anyway.  I personally do not have any experience with these machines, but from what I understand they are the "Cadillac" of Knitting Machines.  Passap's are able to handle a wider range of yarn types than the Japanese models and embodies an amazing range of knitting capabilities.

PRICE LISTS:  I have price lists for each knitting machine by brand, so if you want to know what to pay for Brother you should look in that section under the page  "Brother Price List",  and the same for Silver Reed and the other brands.

The First thing to decide on is gauge: there are basically 4 different types of machines to choose from as far as gauge, which is the size of the needle and how close they sit together. It is probably one of the most important things to look at since the gauge of the machine that you buy will dictate what yarn can be used on it as far as types and yarn thickness.  All you need to do is look at what types of yarn you have used the most, look at the items you have knitted and that will be key.  You can then define your favorite yarn type and that will decide the gauge of machine you will want to buy because one machine cannot use all the different types of yarns there are out in the market.  There is a chart on this site that you can use that will help you understand what kind of yarn you use most of the time and which machine works best with that yarn.  I would also urge you to read the  yarn section  on this website because you will need to have a basic knowledge of yarn and the weight systems used in categorizing yarn to fully understand how yarn and knitting machines mix it up together.


1.    Fine Bed Machine (3.6mm) – 250 needle bed, with Ribber = 500 needle bed.  Uses very fine yarn, mainly lace work.  Used to produce very fine knit fabrics that are typically seen only in manufactured clothing but still have been a popular machine.

2.    Standard Bed Machine (4.5mm) – 200 needle bed, with Ribber = 400 needle bed, regular yarn and I would not recommend any type of thick yarn even on every other needle.  This knits a wide variety of yarns, everything from lace weight to sport weight. This makes for beautiful knitted clothing and sweaters, but not the typical heavy ski sweater.  It is a very popular guage but you might be surprised as to how close and small that needles are if you have never knitted on a knitting machine before.  This knitting machines is the most popular with multi-color work or jacquard knitting, skirts, pants and tops.

3.    MidGuage (6.5mm and 7mm) – 150 needle bed with Ribber = 300 needle bed, looks most like hand knitting, can use regular to thicker yarns.  These machines were designed to combine the best of the standard and bulky machines, meaning they could knit sport or worsted for greatest variety. I would say these are also very popular knitting machines, the most sought after and retain their value well.  I own and love this gauge knitting machine.   Silver Reed is known for their mid guage knitting machines. In addition you can purchase a less expensive plastic and metal knitting machine to try out before you invest in an all metal machine.  Just stay away from BOND "The Incredible Sweater Machine" and buy a Studio LK150 (or Brother KX350 or KX400, or PASSAP Vario).

4.    Bulky Gauge Machine (8mm, 9mm and 11mm) – 110 needle bed with Ribber = 220 needle bed, looks like hand knitting and can use thick yarns.  They are designed to handle worsted weight yarns to create sweaters that look like hand knits, but can also be used with sport weight or bulky yarns. This is your heavy ski sweater BUT I have also used finer yarn on this machine in a tuck stitch to create the illusion of lace or a lacy affect.  So for me, I used anything from sport weight to a heavier weight yarn.

So, basically Gauge is the size of the needle and how closely they are spaced which corresponds to which yarn you can use on the knitting machine. Certain size yarns work best with certain size or gauge machines and while knitting machines use a range of yarns within it's gauge, you cannot use all yarns out on the market on one type of machine.   Like I said before, probably the biggest dilemma you'll face is what gauge knitting machine  to buy and which pattern system you want to use, such as  DAK or COCHENILLE  (which is explained under  Machine Pattern Systems then choose your knitting machine brand and then which specific machine you would like in the brand of your choosing.  Also, do not confuse knitting machine gauge with yarn gauge, they are two different calculations, and do not use hand knitting needle gauge to compare with knitting machine gauge, even though both are in millimeters.

As you read in the area designated  
"Machine Pattern Systems"  there are basically 2 types of systems, Punch Card and Computerized/Electronic. Punchcard machines read a special piece of graph paper that has holes punched in it to represent the design to be knit and Electronic knitting machines have a computer on board that can be programmed, some are detachable.  There is a third system also, Mylar - which is like a cross of the  punch card and computerized, as the design is on special "Mylar" paper that is read by the computer.  The difference, besides ease of use, is that the latest electronic machines are capable of reading a design the full width of the needle bed and up to 999 rows. Punchcard machines are only capable of reading a graph up to 12 for 24 (with Passap 40) stitches wide per row, which limits the design choices horizontally. Electronic machines may also have garment shaping capabilities that tell the knitter when to increase or decrease.

Secondly you will decide what type of machine: Here you decide if you want a computerized, punch card or hobby machine.  For any newbie, who has never touched a knitting machine and is unsure about machine knitting, I urge to purchase a hobby machine.  There are several, Brother/KnitKing make 2 machines, PASSAP does as does Silver Reed.  DO NOT get the Ultimate Knitting Machine by Bond, they really are a crappy machine and really do not give you a solid idea of how a knitting machine works, and sorry to all you BOND users but that is how I feel. Choose from one of the following hobby knitting machines below:

  • Brother/KnitKing - KX350/390 or KX400
  • Studio/Silver Reed - LK140 or LK150
  • PASSAP - The Vario or Vario Big

OR, if you are ready to take a leap, you need to decide if you want a punch card knitting machine or computerized.  They work a little differently but the outcome is the same and if price is an issue, punch card knitting machines are less expensive.  I threw caution to the wind and got both, which I would not recommend just due to cost, but I do not regret it.  REMEMBER, there IS A LEARNING CURVE and it is much HIGHER with a COMPUTERIZED knitting machine.

Now you need to decide which manufacturer to buy from: I talk about the different manufacturers, the pros and cons, you can read those areas and you should be able to decide which knitting machine line you would like to buy from.

Once you know which line you are buying from, then you can decide on which specific knitting machine model within the line.  I also talk about all the different models of knitting machines in each line, what they do, how old they are, what yarns they use, etc...  Once you read about that you have then made an informed decision.

Once you have decided on which machine or machines you like, you move into the search of one and buying one, questions to ask when buying a knitting machine are below.  Also, if you find a great deal, like $200 or $300 for a well maintained punch card knitting machine I say get it and try it out, regardless of anything.  A well maintained hobby machine will cost you about  $200 - $300 anyway.  You will pay more for shipping, but you get an actual knitting machine.  I would stay away from the computerized ones though, unless you have the time, patience and energy to learn how to use it and know where to buy DVD tutorials if no lessons are available in your area, and they cost a lot of money.

This is a summary of things that you should be looking out for when purchasing a knitting machine:
2.    When in doubt refer back to #1
3.    Ask for the actual name and model number.  A lot of people are passing off Studios as Silver Reeds, which they are made by the same manufacturer but a much OLDER machine.  Silver Reeds can also be used; they have been around since 1991.  Ask for pictures showing the model number and NAME.
4.    ALWAYS ask for pictures of the model they are selling, not stock photos.  This holds true for any accessories and attachments.
5.    Make sure to get the sellers full name and address and phone number, that way if there are issues they can be resolved over the phone and NOT hidden behind email.
6.    If you can always pay via PayPal or another way to make sure you at least have a guarantee of delivery.  But, a lot of private sellers are not using PayPal as they are getting scammed by Buyers, so if they do not take PayPal do not think it is because they are trying to rip you off, call and talk to them.  
7.    DO NOT think that since you are buying from a dealer that they are being honest, I have been ripped off by dealers as well as people selling out of their own home.
8.    Used is – Used is – is USED!  It is NOT new; it can be nearly new if it has been used for one or two sweaters, other than that it is USED.
9.    Questions you should always need to ask, if they get irritated move on:

  •  When was the machine last cleaned?  This will tell you how they maintained the machine as I have received ones that were filthy, dirty and took a dozen rags and hours of my time to clean.  You can also get into issues if the machine has not been properly maintained.
  • If it has not been used in a while ask where it has been stored.  Moisture is not a friend of the knitting machine or dust.
  • When was the sponge bar replaced last and ask for a picture of it.  If it is really flat it is really old = not well maintained.  To replace just the sponge bars for the Ribber and Knitter, which you HAVE TO do, can cost over $100 with shipping.
  • Ask if they are the original owner, if not do they know if they were the second or third?
  •  Make sure they used oil specifically for the knitting machine otherwise areas will get gummy and cause issues.

10.    Follow your gut, if it does not feel right, do not get impatient and throw caution to the wind.  You will find your machine, think of it as an investment. 
11.    If in doubt, refer to #1.
12.    Do not get caught up in what it cost the person new 20 or 30 years ago, it has nothing to do with current pricing.  Current pricing is what the market bears and how popular the machine is.  For instance, I have seen the Brother KH910 Electronic Knitting Machine asking price at over $1,000, this is NUTS!  BECAUSE, it is a really old machine, it is not popular and it uses Mylar sheets for designs which is very outdated.  I would offer $200 to $250 for a really well maintained one, but I actually would not buy one at all.  Think of how a car depreciates, same logic applies here.
13.    Ebay is not a price point; it is a Rip Off point.  Let someone else pay the eBay price and if an offer is a consideration make an offer for the machine, not your wanting one right now.  I will say that you can find knitting machines at reasonable prices, but make sure it is the same machine in the pictures that you are getting.  I would trust very few vendors on eBay, check out the  
Vendors Section for trusted knitting machine sales.
The following are definitions to the levels of quality when purchasing a knitting machine:

Like New = Excellent condition:  8-9 out of 10, maybe you will need to dust it off only, it has new sponge bars, has been tuned up and thoroughly cleaned.  This machine should have NO YELLOWING - if it does and is not marked down move on or offer a lower price.  If it has yellowed it is because it has been left in a sunny place and this ages the plastic and makes it very brittle and this also means not great care was taken with the knitting machine.

Excellent = Good to Excellent condition: 8 out of 10, expect to clean it and maybe replace the sponge bars, but I personally do not think you should  at this level, unless they state new sponge bars expect to replace them at a cost of over $100.  Again, NO YELLOWING.

Great/Good = Good: 7 out of 10, expect to clean it and replace the sponge bars.  Some yellowing might be present.

Good = Middlin’ condition: 5- 6 out of 10 and expect to clean it and replace the sponge bars. Expect MINOR repairs and some yellowing.

Yellowing means age and age means issues and it also means the owner left the machine out in the sun and did not even take care enough to cover it.  Also, time, dust and moisture is not a friend to knitting machines.  Repairs are an issue as it can add up quickly, for example, just replacing the 2 sponge bars can cost you about $100 with shipping and if you need to repair the machine it will run into the hundreds.  With a yellowed machine 99.9% of the time you will have to replace at least the sponge bars.

I personally will NOT buy a machine that has yellowed as it makes me very nervous.  BUT, I have been conned and received a knitting machine that had yellowed (when they have stated there is no yellowing) and they ALWAYS had other issues.  I apply this rule to Accessories also.  People will argue with me over this issue, but for me the issue is more about how the machine has been treated in addition to the fact that it has yellowed.  You never know what you are getting with a used machine until you receive it, so I try to mitigate getting one in poor shape.

People will also argue that yellowing does not hurt the machine at all and it is a cosmetic issue.  Yes and No.  Cosmetically it looks like crap and yes you can use a concoction to take out the yellowing and bleach it to white again, that will ONLY make it look better.  The plastic, actually any plastic, that is left out in the sun to bake and change color means that it has eroded.  It makes the plastic very brittle and easily breaks.  Can you imagine having to buy a new case for your "just bought" knitting machine because two weeks into using the machine it cracked?  Especially the little plastic area at the bottom of the machine that you use to mount the machine to the knitting machine table or stand.  Those are big issues and is another reason why I do not buy yellowed knitting machine or accessories.  I am not talking about machines that come in the color yellow, I am talking about the beige-yellow color, you will know it when you see it.

Here is some information about what I have purchased machines for

Silver Reed Knitting Machines: I found an SK890 and bought it for $900, with the Ribber; I bought a SK860 for $400 and later the Ribber for an additional $350 and I also found another SR860 for $250 and a SK860 for $600, needless to say I bought the SR860 for $250; I bought my SK160 for $350 from a local fiber artist, so deals are out there on the internet, you just need to be patient and scout around.  All machines were in excellent condition and only needed the sponge bars replaced and just a little cleaning.  On the other hand I bought an SK840 from a dealer for $800 and it needed $300 in repairs, and an SK560 from a private individual for $400 and it needed heavy repairs, I won't even tell you how much as I got ripped off.  But I also bought a SK580 with ribber for $1,100 because it was like new and from someone I trusted so it was a clean machine, I do not think it was ever used as it still had the plastic protective cover on it.  I recently sold this machine and now only own my SK160/860, the SR860, EC1 and the special coupler arm to be able to use my SK160 with the ribber in addition to the SK860 carriage.

Brother Knitting Machines:  Brother punch card I have bought for as low as $200, but they needed sponge bars, neeldes and a thorough cleaning.  I bought a KH970 for $1,000 with the ribber and it was in excellent condition.  I have bought a KH960 for $550 and KH910 for $210 but it heavy repairs.

Bottom line, whatever you buy, whether a Silver Reed, Studio, Empisal, Brother, Toyota , Passap or any knitting machine, use the Internet to your advantage.  Find out about prices, get pictures, compare and then make an informed offer and don't forget about CRAIGSLIST, another source to find your knitting machine or to sell the one you have. ALWAYS expect to add about $200 in repairs, so consider that when making an offer.

I would suggest that if you are not sure about a knitting machine, then purchase a "USED" Silver Reed/Studio LK140/LK150 Knitting Machine for about $200 - $300 or the Brother KX350 or KX400 Convertible Machine.  The KX400 is a 4.5mm AND a 9mm machine.  The Silver Reed has a Mid gauge LK150 (6.5mm) and the easiest gauge to learn on prior to deciding what you want when purchasing a full metal knitting machine.  The Brothers I mentioned above are also a mix of plastic and metal and with the convertible you can try out a Standard size (4.5mm) AND a Bulky (9mm) gauge, the KX350 is a Standard (4.5mm) bed.  They hold their value, they ship well hence damage in transit is not an issue, they are MUCH cheaper to ship next a full metal very heavy knitting machine bed and if and when you do upgrade to a full metal knitting bed, you will probably still keep this one around as most people do.

While it is true that Buyers can get scammed, it seems that Sellers are being scammed more and more on the Internet just like Buyers are.  This is just a few things to keep in mind when selling items on the Internet or on Knitting Machine Yahoo Groups as a "Private Seller" and not a store.  More information about protection on the internet when selling and buying is in the section  
Internet Buying/Selling.

1.  DVD’s, Software and Lessons on VHS:  While PayPal is a great way to do transactions, Buyers can still rip you off by keeping these items for a period of time, as in weeks, probably copy them and then file a claim with PayPal when they are done.  Even if the outcome is that they return the items for a refund, they are still getting something for nothing.  This is especially true with DVD’s, Software and VHS Lesson Tapes.  You can opt NOT to use PayPal as a means of payment, and have a check or money order just with these items.  PayPal does not always see the whole picture and I know of people who have been ripped off with Buyers in this area.

2.   Make sure to get the same info on the buyer and a LANDLINE Phone number.  While it is no issue to ship to a PO Box you should get their home address, then you can file a complaint with their local Police Station for Internet Fraud and they will get a nock on their door.

3.   For high cost items, say anything over $200, a phone call could not hurt just to feel the person out and if something feels amiss just decline to sell to them.  Someone will buy your item for sale.

4.  If you want to you can also keep an eye out on other yahoo groups to see who the problem children are, they are the same ones who complain all the time no matter which group.  There are some mean and nasty people out there who just like to stir up trouble for something to do.  But, be careful not to pay attention to rumors.

5.  If you do get paid via PayPal, DO NOT Send the item until you have transferred the funds out of your PayPal account, which usually takes three days and you will get a notice once the money has been transferred into your checking or savings account.  Also, make sure you DO NOT ship until AFTER the date they have to require a refund, which I think is at least 30 days.  Explain this in detail to the person purchasing your equipment.

 6.  Contact the Yahoo Group Moderator if you sell from a Yahoo Group Site as they almost always will go out of their way to help you.
Unfortunately, there is little recourse to go after a buyer who is trying to figure out a way to scam you, especially through PayPal so SELLERS need to be careful also these days.