It’s no secret that knitting requires practice, time, and yes, a little patience.
So while taking a few knitting classes and learning new projects help to evolve in the craft, sometimes all we really want is a little knitting fun without all the hard work.
That’s where knitting machines come in!
Knitting machines are a great way to enjoy all the yarn joy you desire while cutting down on time and intricate processes — you can make projects up to 20 times quicker with one of these babies!
We’ve put this in-depth beginner’s guide together to help you choose the best knitting machines including guidelines on how they work, which to buy, and lots of FAQs to make sure you make the perfect pick.
In a rush? Grab one of the quick picks below. They won’t do you wrong.
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Best knitting machines: Quick picks
Addi Express King Size 46 Needle Knitting Machine
- Top of the line brand and machine
- Flexible range of yarn weight capacity
Sentro Knitting Machine 48 Needle Smart Loom
- Cheap but very effective
- Finding the right seller may be tricky
- Includes tube and flat-panel modes
Smart Weaver 40 Needle Knitting Machine for Children
- Best knitting machine for children
- Surprisingly quality cranking
- Only works with lighter yarns
Guide to knitting machines
- What are knitting machines?
- Types of knitting machines
- What to know before buying a knitting machine
- Best knitting machines
- Best circular knitting machine: Addi Express King Size 46 Needles
- Best cheap knitting machine: Sentro 48 Needle Smart Loom
- Other knitting machine supplies and tools
- How to use knitting machines
- Knitting machine terminology
What are knitting machines?
Although they’ve been around for quite some time, it seems like it’s only been recently that home needlecrafters are discovering the benefits and fun of using knitting machines.
Knitting machines for home use are, first and foremost, a delight! These devices can be circular or flat and are used to knit garments and items of all kinds in flat or tubular forms with the help of a crank or carriage.
And don’t worry, knitting purists, this is not cheating!
While knitting machines call for different processes and techniques (more on this below), the main goal of using these is to increase speed while at work. They can also be a boon for crafters with arthritis or other issues with manual dexterity.
Indeed, a knitting machine doesn’t always allow you to achieve the intricate, detailed finishes and stitches you get with traditional knitting. However, it gets you creating all kinds of pieces like blankets, socks, beanies, and more in a short period.
If you’re familiar with traditional knitting, opting for a knitting machine is an excellent supplement. Still, you’ll have to be open to working differently and changing your perspective from your handheld knitting experience, which can be challenging at times.
For complete newbies, not having previous know-how may actually work to your advantage! You’ll be starting entirely from scratch and comparison-free regarding the different approaches to the craft.
Types of knitting machines: Circular vs flat bed
There are two types of knitting machines for home use: circular and flat bed, and although they can achieve similar results the designs are completely different.
Here’s a quick comparison of circular vs flat bed knitting machines to help you decide which one is right for you.
Circular knitting machines
Circular knitting machines are fixed-gauge machines and are the most popular because they tend to be easier to learn. These are primarily used to knit tubular pieces without seams.
Note that you can also knit flat panels on these devices, all you have to do is seam them together separately!
In this scenario, the yarn is weaved along the device’s rim, otherwise known as the needle bar. The needle bar consists of numerous plastic pins (commonly ranging between 22-48 needles in household models) that will secure strings of yarn and interlace them into knit form as you turn the crank.
Flat bed knitting machines:
Unlike circular knitting machines, flat bed knitting machines for home use are usually mid-gauge devices and are elongated, larger structures used to create flat knitted pieces. That said, you will be doing more manual seaming with this type of machine.
Latch needles are arranged on a flat steel structure called a bed. These can get very complex, but flat bed knitting machines for home use are more simplified and will come with a manual to help you set up.
As you slide your carriage (the tool that glides across the needles to create stitches), the latch needles will move forward; they will grasp a loop and take it behind the latch. The yarn then goes through the hook of the needle and as it is pulled back, forms a stitch. So each time the knit carriage slides over the entire bed of needles, a row will be knitted.
What to know before buying a knitting machine
As you start looking into knitting machines, whether circular or flat bed, it’s good to be aware of the pros and cons these devices may present beforehand:
- Speeds up work, whether cranked manually or with an extension/power tool
- Create more items at a quicker rate
- Can knit patterns with multiple colors
- Easy to manage tension
- Quick to remove rows if you’ve made a mistake
- Produces neat, uniform stitches
- Tuck stitches, plating, and knit weaving are easier to master
- Can knit both tube-shaped and flat panels
- Devices available for all budgets
- Steep learning curve
- Projects may not look as organic as handmade works
- Some stitches, such as garter stitches, are difficult to achieve
- Every knitting machine supports a limited range of yarn weights
- The needle pitch and gauge of your device can limit your project
- You may need to seam flat pieces together depending on your project
- Some devices may be loud
- Requires somewhat frequent maintenance and cleaning
Best knitting machines
Below you’ll find our top picks for the best knitting machines based on popularity, quality, price, and skill level.
Check out our brief glossary at the end of the article if you need some guidance on knitting machine terminology to get started — we hope this helps!
Best circular knitting machine: Addi Express King Size 46 Needle Knitting Machine
- Highest-quality machine on the market
- Versatile yarn weight options
- Cranks smoothly with minimal snags
- Somewhat loud
If you know anything about knitting machines, chances are you’ve heard of the top-rated Addi Express King Size knitting machine.
Addi is a prestigious German company with a longstanding legacy in the needlecraft supply world and takes the cake for the best knitting machines on the market. And this Addi model is no exception!
With 46 needles, this sturdy circular knitting machine is easily our top pick for most crafters. It’s appropriate for all skillsets and allows for circular and flat-panel knitting projects: ~35 cm (~13 in) in diameter for circular knitting and ~45 cm wide (~17 in) for flat knitting.
In addition, it’s suitable for yarn sizes 4-8, offering a flexible range of yarn weights to work with. That’s a much larger range that other machines on the market.
The set includes five replacement pins, metal clamps for table mounting, a needle holder, base feet, and an integrated row counter. Its sturdy, solid plastic structure is also prime quality, unlike the more toy-like materials found in most hobby knitting machines.
The company also has an ever-growing commitment to resource-friendly production, which is a plus if you actively seek environmentally conscious manufacturing.
Like other knitting machines, you’ll have to devote some time to the Addi until the craft becomes second nature. However, you’ll also receive an instruction manual, and can find lots of tutorials in multiple languages on the brand’s YouTube channel for support! Addi also offers a range of instructional books; you can check them out here if interested!
You can find the Addi Express King Size machine on Amazon for over $200, which seems to be the standard pricing for this machine; however, Etsy does have the same model for less than $200 and can be paid in installments.
The significant advantage of the Addi comes down to one word: quality. It’s built to last, can support a wide range of yarn weights, is compatible with crank adapters (can be plugged into electric power tools for extra speed), includes high-quality table clamps, and allows you to create tubular and flat knitting projects.
I would say that the only minor downside is that it may be louder than other models whenever cranking. However, this is a tiny detail considering the 5-star quality and features of this knitting machine.
Best cheap knitting machine: Sentro Knitting Machine 48 Needle Smart Loom
- Very affordable
- Includes all tools and materials
- Widely available
- Middling quality
- Many knock-off products online
- Suction feet prone to slipping
The 48 needle Sentro is undoubtedly the runner-up for the best knitting machine, high in demand for its affordability and practicality.
At a little over $60, this device is ideal for non-knitters and complete beginners and an excellent option if you’re looking for a complete circular knitting experience. While not as high in quality as the Addi model above, the Sentro absolutely gets the job done; it’s just more limited in features.
The lightweight set includes plastic crochet needles for casting on/off, an integrated row counter, crank, thread holder, tension, four skeins of yarn (basic quality), and a screwdriver.
Set up is easy: all you have to do is build in the legs and put in the suction cups to ensure steadiness while cranking — this is not as effective as table clamps, but works fine. While it works best for tubular knitting, this device also has a flat-panel switch.
This is a standard gauge machine, so weight yarn is more limited here; ideally, you should work with no more than 4 weight yarn. So if you’re looking to work with bulky yarn, this may not be the machine for you.
You might find some crafters online that have experimented with heavier yarn on the Sentro, but ultimately, it’s not worth the time as it will end up knitting at snail-pace and is likely to jam the machine for good.
Trust us, if you want to use heavier yarn, get the Addi.
When purchasing a Sentro, there is an important topic to touch on. Although this machine is an excellent choice, finding the right seller for purchase can get tricky.
There are lots of sellers advertising this product on Amazon for different prices (it’s hard to find anywhere else, really), which has led to customers receiving different versions of the same machine. This includes a number of sets branded “Santro,” “Miaoke,” “Awperex” or even with no label at all, instead of “Sentro.”
So, does this mean that you could be paying for a knockoff?
Yes and no. While labeling may be different and it’s totally understandable that you want the brand you’ve paid for, most of these machines are manufactured in the same place and are basically the exact same device.
To ensure you get an “official” Sentro, I suggest purchasing the machine from this seller as it’s an authorized retailer working with producers to sell on Amazon. Buying directly from the Sentro store on Amazon should also guarantee you get the real deal.
Despite this, this machine is really worth a shot if you’re a hobbyist trying out knitting machines for the first time and aiming to stay on a budget. You can also try the Sentro 22 needle knitting machine if you’re looking to do smaller projects.
Best flat bed knitting machine: Silver Reed LK150 Knitting Machine
- Premium device
- Supports almost every yarn weight and type
- Includes everything you need
- Not ideal for beginners
- Light, but quite large
Whether you’re ready to move on from a circular knitting machine or are looking to create more elaborate items, the flat bed Silver Reed knitting machine is definitely the product to go for.
This model happens to currently be one of very few flat bed knitting machines for home use still being manufactured and has been distributed under famous brands such as Singer and KnitMaster. Metal-bed alternatives cost twice as much or more, and can be nearly impossible to find online.
Despite its apparent complexity, this knitting machine is pretty simple to set up and includes a world of supplies: a needle bed, claw weights, table clamps, a carriage with a stitch dial, tension mast items, cast on combs, hand tools, oil, backup needles, ravel cord, and more.
One of my favorite things about this set is that it truly includes every single thing you’ll need — including a comprehensive instruction manual. Another perk worth highlighting is that it’s ranked as a mid-gauge device and, therefore, responds really well to almost every yarn weight.
Although knitting with all types of bulky yarn isn’t advisable, the Silver Reed is pretty much receptive to all kinds of textures and yarn weights such as sock yarn, fuzzy, natural fibers, blends, light worsted thread, and more. Keep in mind that you will not be making tubular knitted pieces on here, additional seaming will be needed in this case.
But really, if that’s all you want to do you should probably get one of the cheaper circular knitting machines above.
Although this knitting machine is ideal for larger, more complex projects (though not exclusively), there are details that are still more difficult to achieve and best done by hand, such as garter stitches. This device may require hand stitching techniques during projects, so while it can be enjoyed by complete beginners, it’s probably a better buy for somewhat experienced knitters.
Because this is more of a high-end, complete set in comparison to your typical circular knitting machine, this product is currently priced from $400-500 and higher, depending on the seller. You can see a white-labeled item on Amazon and another on Etsy (although only shipped within the US and subject to back orders).
However, as an undoubtedly a more versatile machine than the previous ones on the list, this is the buy to make if your goal is to experiment with a wider range of yarn weights to create more detailed, long-lasting knitted items. It’s quite large, but the plastic bed is remarkably light and stowable.
Best knitting machine for children: Smart Weaver 40 Needle Knitting Machine
- Kid-friendly, but good for adults too
- Surprisingly robust design
- Doesn’t support heavier yarns
- Usually white-labeled
- Need to take it slow
This circular, toy-looking knitting machine is, without a doubt, the surprise of the bunch!
While mostly marketed for children, this very simple, easy-to-use product is an amazing alternative for adults getting their feet wet in machine knitting. It’s a fantastic pick for a gift or to keep kids entertained with crafts and handmade projects.
Because it doesn’t really have a brand name and leans toward generic vibes, it’s only natural to feel a bit hesitant as to whether or not it’s worth the buy. However, compared to similar options such as popular knitting machines made by Singer or Prym, this one really hits it out of the ballpark!
This machine has a total of 40 plastic needles (shaped identically to the more premium Addi), includes suction cups for wobble-free knitting, a tension guide, a crank, and the option to select between tube or flat panel knitting modes. Because it’s not top of the line and not the largest in diameter, yarn weight should be pretty light. Nevertheless, considering what you’re paying for, it’s a really complete set.
Like most circular hobby knitting machines, the tension guide on this model is super helpful. However, if you do prefer managing tension with your hand instead, your work will stay pretty much intact which doesn’t always occur with similar basic models. You can expect very few tuck stitches here!
The most important thing to consider is that there’s a smaller needle gauge on this model, so this isn’t the machine to get if your goal is to knit larger-sized projects. It makes for a perfect sock knitting machine and an excellent tool to create headbands, ear warmers, baby beanies, and even small-sized amigurumi!
Another plus for this machine is that it’s pretty quiet when at work. Also, if you do want to work with a row counter, mind you, there isn’t one built into the device. If this does interest you, you can easily purchase a very inexpensive digital row counter online.
This is a surprisingly fantastic machine, whether for children or beginners wanting to explore the world of machine knitting from scratch.
Other knitting machine supplies and tools
While on your knitting machine ventures, there are several additional items to consider adding to your workspace to create and support your projects.
Here are a couple to keep in mind!
This tool is beneficial to quickly wind up yarn into perfect cakes with little to zero effort. This will help you keep your workspace organized and craft more efficiently. You can check out our top picks for yarn winders here for guidance!
Although not essential, yarn bowls really do help keep your skeins in place, avoiding them from getting dirty, unraveled, and with just the right amount of tension to knit away. We have a few suggestions for our favorite yarn bowls here to get you started.
This is obviously the prime tool needed for machine knitting and should be selected with criteria. Make sure to choose quality supplies when working on items you want to make long-lasting and, more importantly, according to the gauge of your machine. Most circular knitting machines, as fixed gauge devices, take 3-4 yarn weights.
While most hobby knitting machines do incorporate a row counter, unfortunately, these tend to start failing over time. An excellent backup is purchasing a digital counter. There are many available like this one that are inexpensive and easy to order.
Knitting machine adapter/extension
Getting an adapter is a great way to speed up cranking (even more!) on a budget. You clamp these pieces onto your crank and connect a power tool such as a drill to get the machine moving semi-automatically. While this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be going as fast as Flash, it will give your arm and wrist some rest. Make sure you buy an adapter that’s compatible with your machine. This one, for example, is designed for Sentro models.
While you use machinery to speed up your knitting, handheld items are still essential. A few quality crochet hooks can do wonders for finishings and embellishments you may want to add when you cast off. If you’re not familiar with these and want to learn how to use them, these are our suggestions of the best online crochet classes if you’re up for a few lessons.
Another item used to cast off that will be very helpful are bent edge yarn needles. Although any form of yarn needle will work just fine, one with a bent tip will work the best, especially if you’re doing lots of projects and want to work more efficiently.
How to use a knitting machine
So, how exactly do knitting machines for home use work?
Knitting machines may look complex and hard to understand at first, but the secret is that they’re pretty straightforward once you get the hang of things.
And you will; all it takes is a little practice!
We highly recommend that you check out a few video tutorials when first starting out, but here’s how to use a knitting machine in brief:
How to use circular knitting machines
Before starting, you need to clear your row counter — this will tally how many rounds you’ve done, especially when creating patterns or changing yarn colors.
It’s crucial to get the first row done correctly. This establishes the foundation of your entire project.
You need to thread your yarn through a specific needle before any other, which is used as a starting and ending reference for each completed row. You’ll have to leave a few inches of thread hanging into the machine’s center (see picture above) and keep the remaining skein on the side. A yarn bowl is an excellent accessory here!
Next, you’ll need to manually weave the first round of string in front and behind all of the needles in a zig-zag-like manner while gently winding the crank for movement. As you slowly work through the first row, you’ll notice that the needles will lock and secure the yarn. Once you’ve completed your first round, you’ll repeat this process, only now threading in front of the needles.
After completing the second round, you can set the string of yarn through the holder and place it through the tensioner. Then, you can start cranking carefully for 3-4 more rounds without using your free hand for support. When concluding these rows, you can begin to increase speed, turn the crank quicker, and knit away!
How to use flat bed knitting machines
To start, you’ll need to thread your machine through a vertical tension mast connected to the center of the device, where you’ll also make adjustments for tension.
You’ll then attach a sinker plate to the carriage and thread the loose end of the yarn from the tension mast through it. To create specific patterns, you can use a fabric comb to adjust needle positions on the bed before knitting.
Next, you’ll adjust the tension dial on the carriage (to regulate stitch size) and pull the carriage across the bed. To ensure your stitches stay in place as you work further, you’ll add weights on your first row to avoid pulling. You can also use a ravel cord to help you cast on with more ease.
As you gently work through your first rounds, you can start gliding your carriage back and forth and knit more freely and quicker once you see a foundation being formed.
Knitting machine terminology
Struggling with the names of parts and techniques for your knitting machine? Here are all of the key terms you need to know!
- Bulky gauge: Refers to knitting machines with 9-10 mm needle pitch.
- Casting on/casting off: Process of starting and completing your project (setting up/removing from the machine) with handheld tools and techniques.
- Carriage: The part of a flat bed knitting machine used to glide across the needle bed to form stitches.
- Crank: The handle you turn for movement in a circular knitting machine
- Fine gauge: Refers to knitting machines with a 3.6 mm or lower needle pitch.
- Gauge: Can refer to the number of stitches and rows per square inch/square cm. or the spacing between needles on a knitting machine. The closer the needles, the thinner the yarn the device can support.
- Knit and purl stitches: Two of the most fundamental knitting stitches. A knit stitch can be seen at the front of the fabric, whereas purl stitches are seen on the back. Therefore, the back of a purl stitch is a knit stitch and vice versa.
- Needle: A metal piece with a hook and a latch that secures and knits yarn.
- Needle pitch: The distance between needles on a knitting machine.
- Row counter: A tally counter to keep track of the number of rows worked, stitch patterns, increasing/decreasing stitches, etc.
- Standard gauge: Refers to knitting machines with 5 mm or 4.5 mm needle pitch.
- Tension mast: This vertical structure guides yarn and manages yarn tension into the carriage using a flat bed machine. A tension guide will also be seen on circular hobby knitting machines but are more simplified and limited.
- Stitch size dial: This mechanism is part of the carriage tool and defines the stitch sizes/width on flat bed machines. It’s also commonly referred to as a tension dial.
- Yarn weight: Refers to the thickness of different types of yarn. Your knitting machine will determine what types of yarn you can work with.
Who invented the knitting machine?
The first knitting machine was invented in 1589 by Englishman William Lee, known as the stocking frame, a mechanical knitting device used in the textile industry. It was the first machine ever created to replicate the movement of handheld knitting.
Is it difficult to use a knitting machine?
While knitting machines are practical for speed and working stitches with little effort, learning how to manage your device correctly and understand its functionalities may take some time. That said, all you need is a little practice and patience. Fortunately, tons of online tutorials and fellow crafters provide loads of information to help you through your journey!
How much faster is it to work with a knitting machine?
The average time would be 10-20 times quicker than you would with traditional knitting. This does, of course, also depend on your machine, yarn weight, and the size of your project. But there is no doubt that you’ll be saving a significant amount of time with a machine.
Are flat bed knitting machines better than circular knitting machines?
They’re different in the sense that they are best for different purposes. Flat bed machines allow for more elaborate projects and more stitching patterns. Since these devices also have more needles than circular knitting machines, you’ll be able to create larger flat panels in one go. However, whether you work with a circular or flat bed device, flat panels will always have to be seamed separately.
Do you need to know how to knit to use a knitting machine?
No, you don’t need to be a knitter to use a knitting machine. Previous knitting experience may help you work better with the machine, especially if you’re familiar with the lingo and techniques. However, knowing too much can also get in your way if you’re not open to adapting to a new knitting process. Mastering basic stitches can benefit you, especially when casting off your projects.
Is buying a knitting machine worth the cost?
Knitting machines are great tools if you never got into handheld knitting or don’t have the time to work on zillions of projects the traditional way. Knitting machines can be quite affordable, but even high-end models aren’t excessively expensive. If you plan on using your machine frequently, no matter which one you choose, it’s definitely an investment worth making to save time.
What can be made with a knitting machine?
So many things! Scarves, wooly hats, sweaters, Afghans, skirts, blankets, socks, gloves, leg warmers, etc. With flat panels, you’ll even be able to make bags, pillow covers, amigurumi, cardigans, and more!
The 22 needle machine seems narrow — is it worth it?
Yes! Depending on your goal and the yarn you use, this is a great machine that will get you making children’s scarves (or thinner scarves for adults), mittens, tube socks, beanies, and more. Also, don’t forget that you can also always use the flat panel mode to create larger items and seam them together piece by piece.
How do I know how many rows to make a hat, socks, or scarf?
You can refer to measurement and pattern charts to have an idea of what this translates into with a knitting machine. There are several online patterns you can refer to whenever starting a project such as this one.