How to Make a Sweater on a Knitting Machine. Hand Knitter’s Guide. Part II.

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How to Make a Sweater on a Knitting Machine. Hand Knitter’s Guide. Part II.

Last week I introduced you to the knitting machine and generally explained the mechanism of this tool. You can read it here – Part I. Today I am going to show you how I do the shaping and fix mistakes in my fabric. Again I want to point out that this is not the step-by-step tutorial on machine knitting, I am sure there are much better resources out there. My main goal is to introduce a hand knitter to this craft and maybe tempt him to buy a knitting machine 🙂

When I just got my machine, I felt quiet lost with it. Simple things that you do without thinking in hand knitting seemed completely undoable on the machine. And I guess this is one of the reasons why some people feel disappointed and discouraged with machine knitting. It’s helpful to refer to your hand knitting knowledge, but you should also realize that it’s not completely the same. It’s like crochet and knitting – these crafts have a lot in common, but each has its own aspects. So, the bottom line – do not expect machine knitting to be a speedy hand knitting’s twin.

How to Join a New Skein of Yarn on the Knitting Machine

For example, hand knitters usually don’t have any trouble to attach a new ball of yarn. But how to do it on the machine? It’s worth to mention that it’s better to use big cones of yarn for your machine, so you don’t have to change them very often. But I do just fine with my stash yarn for hand knitting. The most important thing to remember is that you always have to attach new yarn from the side where your carriage is. It’s better to leave a longer tail, than end up with unknitted (is it even a word?) last stitches.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

First of all I have to thread a new yarn. I do it just like I showed you in part one, the only difference is that I start from the opposite direction (when I thread it the first time I started from the machine, because I made the ribbing by hand and placed it on the needles bed). So after I go through all yarn tension guides, I end up with the tail in the yarn feeder of the carriage. I pull the yarn down and then I move the carriage across the bed, still holding the yarn tail, so it doesn’t slip away.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Then I tie two yarn tails (one from the first skein and the other from the new one). I’ll hide them both in seams later.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

So, the next question from you was – can the machine do the shaping (increases, decreases, bind off, etc.)? Well, I would put the question in a slightly different way – can YOU do the shaping ON the knitting machine? I accentuate this because I’ve seen and heard many comments with the note of disappointment – Oh, it’s machine knitting, I thought it was made by hand. I also read about this concern on Ella Gordon’s blog, she is a terrific machine knitter. Ella has designed beautiful pillows which she makes on the machine. In general people love her craft, but she mentions that once in a awhile there are ones that are disappointed and refuse to buy her creations because it is done BY the machine. Well, for me it is like saying – Oh, it’s not handmade, it’s done BY the needles. You see what I am saying? Machine is just a tool and your hands are the ones that are creating the fabric. Maybe it is the word itself – “machine” that confuses people. But as you will see, I do a lot by hand, some shaping manipulations take me even more time than in my hand knitting.

So. Shaping. Yes, you can do the shaping on the knitting machine. Basically, you can take any basic stockinette stitch pattern for hand knitting, try adjusting the stitch dial to get the recommended gauge and work from this pattern to make a garment on your knitting machine. You’ll have to “translate” some things to machine knitting reality, but overall it’s basically the same thing.

How To Decrease Stitches on the Knitting Machine

Once you are done with your numbers or if you are working from the pattern, you determined on what rows the decreases fall, you can start your shaping. This is the main tool that I use – Transfer Tool.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

To make a full fashion decrease (one stitch in from the edge), I push forward 3 last working needles. I take two end stitches on the Transfer Tool and move them one needle in.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

The last needle is left empty. You will push it to non-working position – one stitch is decreased.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

You will do the same on the opposite side. You can see there are two stitches on the second needle and the last one is left empty. It is basically the same thing as k2tog or ssk decrease in hand knitting.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

How to Increase Stitches on the Knitting Machine

I push two last working needles forward plus one empty needle.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

With the Transfer tool I place the last stitch onto the adjacent empty needle.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Then I pick the loop BELOW the second stitch and place it onto the empty needle – 1 stitch increased. I do the same on the opposite side. It’s basically the same thing when you do increase by knitting in stitch below in hand knitting.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

How to Bind Off Stitches on the Knitting Machine

I am making a modified drop shoulder pullover, which means that I will have to bind off stitches for armhole shaping. Bind off can be done only on the carriage side, just like in hand knitting you can bind off your stitches only on the working needle side.

I push forward 3 last working needles and transfer the last stitch to the adjacent needle. Important thing – the transferred stitch has to be under the stitch that was originally on this needle. Which means to transfer it, you have to lift the second stitch first, then place the last stitch on the second needle and then put the original stitch back on. Sounds awfully complicated, but it’s very easy when you are actually doing it. It looks like a regular decrease but you are not done yet.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

The empty needle is pushed back to non-working position. Two stitches on the last working needle are pushed slightly back behind the latch on the needle. The tread that is coming from the carriage is placed on the needle, holding the yarn, I push this needle back – two stitches slip off the needle – 1 stitch is bound off.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

I continue in this manner until all necessary stitches are bound off. For example, I need to bind off 10 stitches, so working in this manner I will eventually empty 10 needles.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Then I knit even necessary number of rows. Next shoulder and neckline shaping.

How to Shape Shoulders and Neckline on the Knitting Machine

Here is your hand knitting knowledge will serve you well. As you know you can shape shoulders in hand knitting by binding off stitches in steps or use short rows. You can do both on the knitting machine. I chose to do short rows, as they result in much smother shoulder line.

As in every short row shaping you don’t work x amount of stitches at the end of the row. Here it’s the same. Before working your first short row, you push the last needles (the number depends on the pattern or on your own calculations how many stitches should stay unworked for short row shaping) to the non-working position.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

You will make some adjustments on your carriage – your manual will tell you which ones – and knit the row. The last stitches won’t be knitted and the yarn will lay across them.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Do your remember that in short rows you do wrap&turn to avoid the hole? Here is the same story – you wrap the first (from the inside) needle.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

So, you continue in this manner, until you are done with short rows.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Neckline. You are left with x number of neckline center stitches. You can leave the neckline stitches open or bind them off. I prefer the second option, as the neckband looks much better later.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

You can leave the neckline stitches open or bind them off. I prefer the second option, as the neckband looks much better later.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Then you knit one more row on each shoulder – you will do it separately, as shoulders are divided by the neckline. And bind off shoulder stitches. You can also just take them from the machine and use three needle bind off later. Whatever you prefer.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

This is how I do the shaping on the knitting machine. I am sure there are other ways and I have a lot to learn, but I hope it was helpful for you to have a general idea what it looks like.

How to Fix Mistakes on the Knitting Machine

One more thing I wanted to tell you is how I fix mistakes. When you do machine knitting, it doesn’t mean that your fabric will be always perfect – sometimes you don’t watch the tension, or don’t notice the slipped stitch and so on. For example, here – you can see that something went wrong and I noticed it rows later. Oh, by the way these clamps are weights that pull your fabric down, so the stitches don’t slip off the machine.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

What I do is I unravel all the rows to the place where I made a mistake.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

And with the help of the usual crochet hook, I fix the stitches – one by one.

how to make a sweater on a knitting machine

Well, this is what I wanted to share with you on the machine knitting. I really hope I didn’t bore you to death 🙂 Then I do the same thing for front, sleeves, block, then I seam the pieces together and weave in ends – just like in hand knitting.

If after this overview a thought of buying a knitting machine crawled into your head, it will make me really happy 🙂 There are many reasons why you can be considering buying a knitting machine. As for me, I decided to get a machine, because I made a decision not to buy any knitwear in the store, but try to make everything on my own. Of course, it’s not physically possible with hand knitting, at least for me. The machine doesn’t consume any energy, it’s completely manually operated, I still get a handmade piece that I know where it comes from and I get to work with yarn, which is always a bonus. And it’s great for gift knitting! But can I tell you my secret number#1 reason for getting a knitting machine?! DRESSES. Yep, I am completely obsessed with dresses, especially crochet and knit ones. I cannot explain it, but there is some gravitational pull between me and knit/crochet dresses 🙂 It would take me forever to make all the dresses that I want by hand, but the machine opens new horizons! Here are some that I made on this machine. I made more, but before starting a blog, so they are not documented 🙂

You can also read about a professional machine knitter that I did the interview with. She’s been making her living with custom orders on the knitting machine for many years. Her story is truly fascinating – World Crafter. Tessa. Los Barriles, Mexico.

I am sure I didn’t cover all the aspects of machine knitting – it is just not possible. So let’s keep discussion going – ask me in the comments any questions that you are interested in and I’ll do my best to answer them! It would be also great to know your opinion about machine knitting in general!

Joining Yarn Along.


By | 2017-08-01T08:03:48+00:00 November 25th, 2015|Free Patterns and Tutorials, Machine Knitting, Tutorial|17 Comments


  1. mamasmercantile November 25, 2015 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    Fascinating. I would be worried about the cost of a knitting machine only to find that we were not compatible.

    • Alina November 25, 2015 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      That is so true! Even the simple knitting machine like mine cost around $400 and you should be really sure that you want it. That’s why it is important to read as much as you can on this topic. I’ve been saving for it and doing my research for almost a year – I didn’t want our family budget to suffer 🙂

  2. Corinne November 25, 2015 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    wow, this sounds quite complicated. I don’t know what I expected, but this certainly took away a lot of prejudices I had about “machine” knitting. You need to really understand what you are doing in order to get something wearable. Now I am even more impressed with your dress!

    • Alina November 25, 2015 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Corinne! Yes, you have to spend some time to get around the machine knitting, but once you get it, it becomes really enjoyable. Just like in hand knitting – at first you drop, twist, lose stitches and want to give it all up, but eventually you learn and can’t get enough of it.

  3. Andrea @ This Knitted Life November 25, 2015 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    You must have worked so hard on this post. So many beautiful photos.

    • Alina November 25, 2015 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Andrea! Saturday and Sunday were spent running around the machine trying to get the right angles 🙂

  4. Zeta November 26, 2015 at 9:07 am - Reply

    You had me thinking on buying one for myself since part 1! 🙂
    Looks complicated but I believe the time you spend on learning how to use it is totally worth it. Especially if almost everyone you know wants a dress like yours…!

    • Alina November 26, 2015 at 10:16 am - Reply

      Yay!!! Feel free to ask me any questions. If you decide to buy your knitting machine, I really want to help you to choose the right one!!

  5. Tien November 26, 2015 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Those dresses are beyond gorgeous! I was surprised to see how there are so many manual manipulations involved in machine knitting, especially in terms of finishing and shaping. Really interesting and I would totally label it a handcraft. There seems to be a learning curve involved just like with any craft. Thank you so much for giving us such wonderful insight into this process. Would love to see how those stripes were achieved, too, the next time you decide to machine knit a stripey dress 🙂

    • Alina November 27, 2015 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Tien! Stripes are achieved by changing yarn every 4 rows. I will try to show it to you in action next time I make something covered in stripes!

  6. Debbie November 27, 2015 at 11:45 am - Reply

    i wonder if i would miss the art of the knit. holding the yarn and needles, seeing the imperfections!!! regardless, this was a very interesting post, i had read part 1!!! the dresses are gorgeous!! i hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving!!!!!!!

    • Alina November 27, 2015 at 9:38 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much, Debbie! I hope you also had some holiday fun! Machine knitting doesn’t feel the same, of course, as hand knitting. And if I had to choose, I would definitely go with hand knitting. Machine knitting is definitely more result oriented, but the process is also very enjoyable, as soon as you get familiar enough with your machine.

  7. sustainablemum November 28, 2015 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Your dresses are amazing I can see they would take forever by hand. I remember looking at a vintage pattern book once it had a beautiful knitted skirt pattern, knitted with 2ply, for the smallest size you had to cast over 1000 stitches! If I had the room I would buy one my mum loved hers ;). Thank you for sharing.

    • Alina November 28, 2015 at 2:58 pm - Reply

      Thank you! Machine is definitely opening new horizons! I hope you will get it someday!

  8. Mary July 23, 2016 at 11:26 pm - Reply

    Do you know of a easy cardigan pattern for a Bond knitting machine. I’m a beginner so would like something very easy.

    • Alina July 25, 2016 at 11:58 am - Reply

      Hi Mary! Unfortunately I can’t help you with that. I don’t use machine knitting patterns myself, so it’s really hard to recommend you anything… I am sorry I can’t help you. You can go to Ravelry Machine Knitting group, I am sure there will be people who will give you some recommendations on patterns!

  9. Gayle S Pinchott January 28, 2019 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    Hello Mary,
    I have been wanting to make my own sweaters for years. I am a very slow knitter So the thought of being patient enough only to have it not fit properly would be beyond frustration. So…my sister has a knitting machine that she hasn’t ever used! I just may have to”borrow it” and hopefully I’ll fall in love with it like you have! The thought of making my own handmade sweaters makes me very happy. I’m so glad I found you and have enjoyed reading your posts!:)

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