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1 Knitting Machine Types
The knitting industry as a whole can be divided into four manufacturing sectors, these are:
fully fashioned, flat knitting, circular knitting and warp knitting. Within the wool industry both
fully-fashioned and flat knitting is widely used. Circular knitting is limited to certain markets
and warp knitting is seldom used.

1.1 Fully Fashioned Machines
Traditionally these machines produce plain “classical” styled wool knitwear by producing
panels that are shaped to style “Fashioned” during knitting. After knitting the front, back and
sleeve panels are linked to form the garment.

Fully Fashioned machines are sometimes referred to as straight-bar, flat bar, “Cottons Patent” or
“Cotton machines” due to patents that were given to William Cotton way back in the mid 1800’s.

Bearded needles are used which are set into a straight-bar in a long
row and the entire bar is reciprocated by rotary cams which causes
the knitting action. The knitting yarn is laid across the width of the
needles which is simultaneously followed by the sinkers/dividers,
which push the yarn firmly against the stem of the needles ready for
loop formation.

Generally Fully Fashioned machines only have one set of needles and
therefore can only produce plain knit fabric, making it necessary to
produce the welts/cuffs on special ribbing knitting machines. The ribs
are held on “running-on” bars and are either transferred on to the Fully Fashioned machine by
hand or automatically depending on the age of the machine.

The patterning capability of Fully Fashioned machines is limited to plain knit fully fashioned
panels. Machines with stitch transfer and intarsia capabilities can create the well known
“argyle” styles.

The gentle knitting action of these machines allows the use of delicate fine count woollen spun
yarns and also enables the machines to run faster where possible giving good knitting efficiency.

The gauges of Fully Fashioned machines range from a relatively course 9gg (needles per 1.5
inch) through to a super-fine 33gg,

1.2 Flat Knitting Machines
Sometimes referred to as “Flatbeds” or “V-beds” due to the nature and arrangements of the
knitting beds where two opposing needle beds are positioned so that the upper ends form an
inverted “V”. Needles slide up and down the beds in slots known as “tricks” and in this case
the gauge refers to the number of needles per 1 inch.

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The carriage or “cam box” traverses across the needle beds and selects needles to be knitted as
it reciprocates side to side. The carriage effectively raises and lowers the needles on both beds
simultaneously as it passes over them, depending on the desired pattern. Needle bed lengths
can vary from 1.0m to 2.2m width and each is designed for a specific task or purpose.

What makes these machines so versatile, apart from the virtually unlimited patterning capacity,
is that the stitches can be passed from one bed to the other and the beds can be moved
linearly in relation to each other. This not only allows panels to be shaped, but it also opens up
extensive patterning possibilities using stitch transfer, like those used in “Aran” style sweaters.
Furthermore parts of the garment that are normally added during make-up such as pockets,
collars, trims, V-necks, etc, can now all be knit as an integral part of the panel.

Advanced technology has now made it possible for complete garments to be knitted on the
machine, without the need for any making-up. The technique of complete garment knitting is
done in one of two ways; either using an adapted version of a V-bed, or by using a special
machine that has four needle beds.

1.3 Circular Knitting Machines
There are many types of circular knitting machines which produce long lengths of tubular
fabric and quite often they are manufactured with very specific end uses in mind.

1.3.1 Single Jersey Machines
Single Jersey machines are equipped with a single
“cylinder”, about 30 inch diameter, of needles that
produce plain fabrics (single thickness).

Wool production on single jersey machines tends
to be limited to 20 gauge or coarser, as these
gauges can use two-fold wool yarns which will give
spirality-free fabrics. An additional inherent
feature of wool single jersey fabrics is that the
fabric edges tend to curl inwards. This is not a
problem whilst the fabric is in tubular form but
once cut open can become so if the fabric is not
finished correctly.

Other single jersey based machines include:
Terry loop machines; the basis for fleece fabrics
which are produced by knitting two yarns into the same stitch, one ground yarn and one loop
yarn. These protruding loops are then brushed or raised during finishing creating a fleece fabric.

Sliver knitting machines are single jersey machines that have been adapted to trap a sliver of
staple wool fibre in to the knit structure.

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1.3.2 Double Jersey Machines
Double jersey machines are single jersey machines with a
“dial” which houses an extra set of needles positioned
horizontally adjacent to the vertical cylinder needles. This
extra set of needles allows the production of fabrics that are
twice as thick as single jersey fabrics.

Typical examples include interlock based structures for
underwear/base layer garments and 1 x 1 rib fabrics for
leggings and outerwear products. Much finer yarns can be
used as singles yarns do not present a problem for double
jersey knitted fabrics as the “double layer” construction works
to cancel out the residual torque between the face and
reverse sides, the net effect being no spirality.

2 Common Wool Knitted Structures

2.1 Single jersey
This is the simplest of all knitted structures and is formed by the inter-meshing of a number
of loops from side to side and top to bottom. Sometimes referred to as “plain knit” or
“stocking stitch”, the construction is extensively used in the wool knitting industry.

Single jersey fabrics characteristics:-

• single sided
• thin/light-weight
• fast and efficient production
• edges curl, difficult to handle
• partially unstable, stitch distortion

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2.2 Rib fabric
The term “rib” covers a broad range of knitted structures from: 1x1, 2x1, 2x2,. The simplest
rib fabric is a 1x1 and this is formed using 2 individual beds of needles whereby yarn passes
from one bed to the other alternatively.

1x1 rib fabric characteristics:-

• double sided fabric
• thick/medium weight
• high width stretch/recovery
• balanced structure/fairly stable.

2.3 Interlock fabric
This is quite similar in construction to the rib fabric as 1x1 rib is knitted alternately on
opposite needles and it requires two knitted courses or traverses to complete one entire
knitted row. Interlock is very popular on circular machines.

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Interlock fabric characteristics:-
• double side fabric (same face and reverse)
• thick/heavy weight
• good width stretch/recovery
• balanced structure/very stable

2.4 Milano fabric
Milano rib, milano jacquard, ½ milano and full milano, are quite similar in construction. The
Milano structure combines the 1x1 rib with an additional single-bed-only row which helps to
control and minimise width stretch and hence stability.

Milano fabric characteristics:-
• single sided fabric
• thick/medium weight
• limited stretch recovery
• reasonably balanced structure
• fairly stable
• suitable for jacquards.

3 Fabric Quality
The term “fabric quality” in wool knitwear can describe the nature of the fabric density (cover
factor) and the number or types of faults within the fabric; it can also refer to the quality of
the wool fibre itself.

3.1 Fabric Density
The structure of a knitted fabric has a large influence on the fabrics’ characteristics and can make
them better or worse. Stitch density is directly related to the “loop length”, which is the length of
yarn contained in one complete knitted loop, and this is adjusted on the knitting machine.

Loop length affects:-
• stitch density/fabric density
• fabric weight and fabric cost
• fabric dimensions and panel size; shaped knitwear
• dimensional stability; relaxation and shrinkage
• physical performance; pilling, burst strength

There is a definite correlation between the wool yarn count and loop length of a fabric and
this can be defined as the “cover factor”. The cover factor hence determines the handle,
drape and performance of the fabric. Just as the yarn type dictates the optimum loop length,
this in turn dictates the gauge or knitting machine required to knit the yarn

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Typical example of yarn count/machine gauge relationship
M a c h in e T y p e G auge Y arn c ou n t N m
9 9 / 2 - 1 2 /2
12 1 2 /2 - 1 7 / 2
S tr a ig h t B a r F u lly 15 1 3 /2 - 2 0 / 2
F a s h io n e d ( N .B .
18 2 0 /2 - 2 8 / 2
G a u g e is n e e d le s p e r
1 .5 in c h e s ) 21 2 2 /2 - 3 2 / 2
24 2 8 /2 - 3 6 / 2
27 3 2 /2 - 4 0 / 2
3 2 /2 - 4 /2
5 4 /2 - 9 /2
V - B e d F u lly 7 1 0 /2 - 1 4 / 2
F a s h io n e d ( G a u g e in 8 1 2 /2 - 1 7 / 2
n e e d le s p e r in c h ) 10 2 0 /2 - 2 4 / 2
12 2 4 /2 - 3 2 / 2
14 2 8 /2 - 3 6 / 2
8 1 7 /2 - 2 4 / 2
10 2 2 /2 - 3 6 / 2
12 2 8 /2 - 4 0 / 2
14 3 2 /2 - 4 8 / 2
S in g le J e r s e y C u t &
18 4 0 /2 - 3 0 / 1
S e w ( G a u g e in
n e e d le s p e r in c h ) 20 4 8 /2 - 3 2 / 1
22 2 8 /1 - 3 6 / 1
24 3 2 /1 - 4 0 / 1
26 3 6 /1 - 4 4 / 1
28 4 8 /1 - 5 5 / 1

3.2 Fabric Faults
Fabric faults can be attributed not only to the knitting, but also the quality of yarns and
dyeing and finishing.

Typical fabric faults found in wool knitwear are:-

• cockling or loop distortion
• fabric spirality
• yarn irregularity (thick/thin yarns yield thin stripes) and neps create small lumps like
• barrè (horizontal stripes/bands cause by unequal loop lengths on adjacent rows/feeders)
• contaminated yarns (coloured fibre/vegetable matter)

4 Methods of Garment manufacture
Garments can be manufactured by 3 different routes, some of which are more suitable to
wool products than others.
• fully fashioned (shaped knitwear)
• cut and sew
• complete garment

4.1 Fully Fashioned Shaped Knitwear
Shaped knitwear is engineered to size and shaped at the point of knitting; it is very distinctive and
easily identifiable by the “fashioning marks” which normally run parallel to the garment seams.

The welts and cuffs are knitted as an integral part of the panel, leaving only the collar to be
added during garment make-up. The garment panels are assembled using “cup seaming” and

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“linking” where usually the garment sides, sleeves and underarms are cup seamed and the
shoulders and collars are linked. The difference between linking and seaming is that with linking a
stitch per stitch joint results whereas cup seaming stitches the edges of the fabrics together.

4.2 Cut and Sew
The cut and sew technique is by far the simplest method of garment construction whereby
individual panel shapes are cut to size from panels (V bed or flat bed) or from a long length of
fabric or cloth (circular knitting machines).

The benefits of the cut and sew route include; ease and speed of knitting of fabric, total
consistency of cut panel sizes and relative ease of garment make-up. The downside is that
the seams have to be over-locked prior to sewing or linking to prevent the exposed stitches
from laddering. This produces a seam that is relatively large, bulky and unsightly.

The cut and sew route is not widely used for wool knitwear production, the material wastage
(up to 25%) and perceived “lower quality” image makes it less appealing.

4.3 Complete Garment Knitting
The garments are essentially the same as normal fully fashioned, except there are no real
seams holding the garment together. The “complete garment” is made by knitting the front
panel, the back panel, back and sleeves simultaneously as three fabric tubes on the machine;
1 large tube in the middle (body) and 2 smaller ones at either side (sleeves). These “tubes”
are made up of a continuous spiral of yarn that has been formed into stitches and each of
them is being knit at the same time with a separate cone of yarn.

These tubular panels are shaped just like any other piece of fully fashioned knitwear and
eventually all 3 panels become “one” to create the finished product. All welts, cuffs and
collars are knit at the same time and hence the garment comes off the knitting machine
almost ready to wear.

Virtually all of the work being by the knitting machine itself means that there are large labour
cost savings.

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