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Best Knitting Machines

Updated October 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 57 Models Considered
  • 9 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 105 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best knitting machines

    Last Updated October 2018

    From cozy hats and gloves to baby blankets to lightweight sweaters, there's a knitting project for every season. But learning to knit takes time, not to mention the time it takes to complete a knitting project even once you're proficient.

    A knitting machine, however, can speeds things up. While they might make knitting easier, nobody ever said selecting a knitting machine was straightforward. You'll find a range of factors to consider, including the type of knitting machine you need and the gauge.

    If you need some help to cut through the jargon and find your perfect knitting machine, you're in the right place!

    Read on for our full guide to knitting machines and, when you're ready to buy, check out our five favorite models.

    Some people who hand knit still choose to use knitting machines for finer knits, since knitting such fine garments would take a huge amount of time by hand.

    Why buy a knitting machine?

    Knitting machines aren't for everyone, but they have their diehard fans, too. If you're still on the fence about knitting machines, here are some reasons you might want to buy one.

    • Machine knitting is much faster than hand knitting, so a sweater that would take you weeks to knit could be ready in days, or even hours.

    • Manual knitting machines can help beginners get a feel for hand knitting.

    • Knitting machines are good for people who don't have the manual dexterity for hand knitting — for instance, young children or people who suffer from arthritis.

    • You can get much more polished results from knitting machines — once you've mastered your machine, expect perfect patterns.

    • Fine gauge knitting machines create extremely fine knits that you could never achieve by hand.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some electronic knitting machines can do multi-color knitting without having the change the yarn.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some manual knitting machines require you to move the yarn by a tool or hand, whereas others have a crank.

    Types of knitting machines

    Punchcard knitting machines

    With punchcard knitting machines, you must insert a special card that tells the machine which pattern to follow.

    • Pros: Some people find them simpler to use than electronic knitting machines. They don't require computer access or special software, and can create very fine and fairly complex knits.

    • Cons: Pattern width is limited to the width of the card, after which it must repeat. These machines use fairly archaic technology, and punchcards could easily be misplaced.

    • Price: Around $100 to $200.

    Manual knitting machines

    Manual knitting machines or knitting looms may be circular or straight. They still require a fairly large amount of user input, but are great for beginners.

    • Pros: Easy to use, and don't need to be plugged into a computer. Basic models are very inexpensive. Some models can create flat knitting as well as tubes for hats or similar items.

    • Cons: Some models limit what you can make, and are not significantly faster than hand knitting. Also, some, don't produce results as neatly done as other types of machines.

    • Price: From less than $20 for a basic model, up to around $100.

    Electronic knitting machines

    Electronic knitting machines attach to a computer via USB to download patterns.

    • Pros: You can edit and create your own patterns using computer software, and these machines are more versatile than other types of knitting machines. They can tackle truly complex patterns.

    • Cons: Most models still require the user to move the carriage by hand, so they're not fully automated. High-end models can be pricey, and may require some computer literacy.

    • Price: From $100 for basic models, up to $1,000 or more for professional-level machines.

    Electronic and punchcard knitting machines can usually tackle a number of stitches including slip, tuck, knitweave, and fairisle.

    Knitting machine gauges

    Most punchcard and electronic knitting machines are single gauge, meaning you'll have to consider which thickness of yarn you'd like to knit with and stick to it. Knitting machines may come in the following gauges.

    • Chunky gauge: Chunky gauge knitting machines have needles 8mm to 9mm apart, and are designed for making chunkier knits using double knitting (DK) yarn, Aran, mohair, and other bulky yarns. The results from chunky gauge machines are probably the most similar to hand knitting.

    • Mid-gauge: Mid-gauge knitting machines have needles 6mm to 7mm apart. They can create anything between sport weight and medium weight knits.

    • Standard gauge: Standard gauge knitting machines have needles 4.5mm to 5mm apart and usually use 4-ply yarn. This gives a smooth, neat finish, similar to what you might get from store bought knitwear.

    • Fine gauge: Fine gauge knitting machines have needles 3.5mm or 3.6mm apart. They use only very lightweight yarns, and can be used to produce fine, lacy knits. This is the least common knitting machine gauge.

    EXPERT TIP

    Tension is very important in knitting, as tension errors can cause flaws in the pattern. If your knitting machine has a tension dial, always make sure it's on the correct setting.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Chunky knitting machines are best for making thick sweaters and cable knit items. Their construction makes them capable of handling heavy knitting requirements.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Knitting machine materials

    The body of most knitting machines is made from plastic. Lightweight, fairly sturdy, and inexpensive, this is a sensible choice. The bed or needles, however, may be made of either plastic or metal.

    High-end knitting machines tend to have a metal bed, as it's more durable and can help facilitate more intricate patterns.

    Basic and mid-range models usually stick with a plastic bed, which — while not as hard-wearing as metal — is perfectly serviceable.

    The only difference between regular yarn and yarn that comes on cones for machine knitting is that the latter may be oiled, making it less likely to catch in a knitting machine.

    Tips

    • Not many manufacturers still make punchcard or electronic knitting machines, so you won't have as many options for these, unless you buy a used model.

    • Some knitting machines come with a lace carriage for crafting intricate knits — but you won't find these on manual or chunky gauge machines.

    • You can find knitting machines geared towards children, which can be a great intro to knitting for kids who don't yet have the patience or dexterity to hand knit.

    • Even if you choose an electronic knitting machine, you'll need to cast on and off by hand, so some manual knitting knowledge is required.

    • Depending on the style of knitting machine you choose, you're likely to eventually need replacement parts, so it's worth checking to see if they're readily available.

    • If you want to knit in the round, a manual machine will achieve this much more cheaply than a double-bedded electronic model.

    • Steam your machine knitted items once completed to help secure the stitches, and to get a smoother finish.

    • Electronic and punchcard knitting machines must be kept well-oiled or they may start to stick and jam.

    If you're serious about machine knitting, it's worth splashing out and going to the high end of your budget when purchasing a knitting machine. Basic machines are inexpensive but are really just for fun or for occasional use.

    FAQ

    Q. Can a knitting machine deal with complex patterns?

    A. This really depends on the type of knitting machine you own. Some models can deal with complex patterns, but most manual machines are fairly limited. Even fairly high-end electronic models may require a double bed in order to make ribbed knitwear, although you can manipulate the stitches into a ribbed pattern by hand, if you know what you're doing.

    Q. Can I use the same yarn in a knitting machine as I would for hand knitting?

    A. Knitting machines use basically the same kind of yarn as you'd use for hand knitting, however, some machines need the yarn to be wound on a special cone. You can purchase yarn that's already on one of these cones, to make the job easier for you, but otherwise you'll need to transfer the yarn onto the cone either by hand or using a yarn winder. Some yarns — such as those with a loose twist — aren't extremely well suited to use in a knitting machine, as they can get caught or separated.

    Q. Are knitting machines easy to use?

    A. While it's easier to knit with a machine than it is to knit by hand, there's still a fairly steep learning curve. Knitting machines are relatively easy to use, but don't expect to produce an intricate sweater your first time around. Each knitting machine works differently, so make yourself well-acquainted with the instruction manual before the first time you use your chosen model.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bob
      Bob
      Writer
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jeff
      Jeff
      Editor
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

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