Sunday, October 3, 2010

ASK DIANA: A old, idle machine found me. What shall I do?

Did you inherit a Japanese machine, or find one at a garage sale, or rediscover one in your darkest closet?  Home knitting machines were extraordinarily well-built, and chances are, you've got a treasure.  Let's create a plan of attack!

Figure out what machine you have and locate a manual.  Yes, you can find a manual!  Google the machine and model number.  Study the charts at some dealer sites to find out what machines are similar.  Ask the people on the lists for help.  Check eBay.  

Use the manual to inventory the machine and see if you have all the parts.  Make a brutally honest assessment about the condition of the machine, the actual value of the machine, and the practicality of spending time getting it working.  I personally will not spend my valuable time on a machine that is rusty or any incomplete machine built before the punchcard era.

You can find out the value of machines pretty quickly by searching completed listings in eBay.  

Replace the sponge bar.  There's no sense in trying to get a machine to work with a bad sponge bar, because it won't work correctly.  You can order one by mail or you can rebuild any sponge bar if you still have the metal plate. There's a set of detailed instructions over at 

On the fabric presser (the piece with wheels and brushes that screws on the carriage), make sure all the wheels and brushes spin freely.  If they don't, remove them with a crosspoint screwdriver (always use the tool that best fits the part), and clean under them.  They tend to clog with a chunk of fuzz or yarn, and you can't clear them well without removing the screw.

Vaccuum and brush the machine to eliminate dust and fuzz.

Check the machine carefully for bent or damaged needles, and replace any bad needles.  Check the gate pegs and straighten any that are bent.  If the machine is still grubby, clean metal parts with sewing machine oil and elbow grease.  Clean plastic parts with a rag - I like to dampen the rag with silicone spray, but use that for the plastic only, not for the needles and other metal parts.

The oil that came with the machine is fine for lubricating it, or a light sewing machine oil.  Do not use silicone spray or heavy oils.  Oil along the needle bed lightly and oil the moving parts on the underside of the carriage. Put the needles in B and run a few rows without yarn to loosen things up, then wipe off excess oil.  Remove the carriage, then push buttons and move levers while watching the underside of the carriage to make sure nothing is frozen.

Finally, spend a little time in the manual and make sure you know how to thread it correctly (this varies from machine to machine).  Run the machine with very thin yarn and start working swatches, following its manual, in order.  


  1. You are truly amazing! I have used an USM for a while and just purchased a KH-891 with the KR-900. With your guidance, videos and replacing 3 needles I am up and knitting. Only issue I have is the proper table. So, I have searched hi and low for a "proper" knitting stand and finally found one on line at All Brands, should be here in a day or two. When it arrives the ribber will finally be anchored correctly. Also, awaiting your book and DVD I purchased from you.

    Question: Why do I never see tension settings for the yarn feeder? Any rule of thumb you can offer?

    Thanks a MILLION and please don't stop!

  2. On the upper tension feeder, my rule is just to have it as loose as possible - just tight enough so the take-up springs draw up the yarn at the end of rows and help avoid edge loops.

    And, I use wax most of the time.