Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Knit Leader - Tools, Essential & Helpful

If you don't have a Knit Leader for your Brother machine, you can purchase one secondhand fairly easily on eBay, from a knitting-for-sale list, or from an online dealer who carries used equipment.  Or, perhaps you have a Knit Leader but haven't used it.  I hope my information will make you pull it out and give a try.

If you're inventorying yours or considering a purchase, a complete Knit Leader should contain the following:  a manual, a set of stitch scales, a ruler, a pen, a mylar sheet, the device itself, brackets to attach to the machine and guides to hold the mylar sheet.

If you have an incomplete one, you really must have the device and brackets (first pic), the stitch scales (second pic), and the mylar sheet (top of third pic).  Those are essentials.  I suppose a handy person could make brackets in a pinch, but it would be more difficult to make the stitch scales.  You could perhaps photocopy a set, make sure the copies aren't distorted by comparing them to the originals, and then glue the copies onto cardboard.  That's a lot of work.  The stitch scales need to be true to size, because the stitch scale for your gauge needs marks that line up with the stitches in your gauge sample.

If you have some other standard machine, and a charting device was never available for it, did you know you can still use a Knit Leader?  You'll have to click it forward a row each time you knit a row, though.

Toyota machines had the Knit Tracer.  This is essentially the same as Brother, except that it had a bigger mylar sheet, which is nice.  Studio machines had the Knit Radar, which is good, as well, but different enough that I won't teach it right alongside the Brother and Toyota versions.  Hope I can go through that later.

The mylar sheet is pictured in the third photo - rolled inside a rubber band.  Perhaps you will acquire more than one mylar sheet, as I have - they come in handy if you want to leave somebody's fitted pattern on it or if you want to sandwich a tissue pattern between two mylar sheets.
I also have a few items I purchased separately, or already owned, that I always dig out to use with the Knit Leader.  These are for tracing the pattern onto the mylar sheet.  First, I have a flexible curve for drafting.  You can purchase these at office supply stores.  You bend it as much or as little as you want, following a curved line, and you can trace a nice, gradual curve.  It's about a 1/2 inch wide, so with little fiddling, it can be used to draw lines and eliminate the seam allowance.  Sewing patterns have extra space along every seam, and you don't want all that extra for knitting.

Next item down in that photo is a cheap package of fine-tip dry erase markers.  I like having lots of colors.  The Knit Leader came with a black pen, which lasted a long time, and after that, I started using Vis a Vis transparency markers.  Those markers come in colors, have a fine tip, and are water soluble so you can get the marks of the mylar.  However, as the discount stores starting carrying white boards for peoples' kitchens, they also started carrying colored dry erase markers, which are quite nice for drawing on your Knit Leader, as long as you buy the fine tip ones.  Multiple colors are great for drawing in other sizes, or pattern variations like different necklines, or just reusing the sheet without erasing the old outlines.  However, I can't have too many pictures on my sheet, or I find myself following the wrong outline...I've made that mistake.

Do not ever, ever use a permanent marker like a Sharpie.  It's hard enough to get marks off the mylar if they've been on it for a while, but permanent pen marks are a major pain.

The last item is a pattern drafting ruler from the fabric store.  I'm not sure how long I've had it - many years, anyway.  I was always interested in drawing and modifying sewing patterns, and I've nearly worn this favorite ruler out because it has such a nice curve as well as a long straight edge.  It's great for armholes, crotch curves, and just generally tracing or drawing patterns neatly.

You might want some paper for drawing or modifying patterns.  As a pattern drafting nut, I have tried all kinds of paper, including the expensive stuff marked with dots and squares.  For tracing and most pattern drafting, I prefer cheap, plain white tissue paper, the kind you use when gift-wrapping.  For an absolute favorite pattern, one where you want to make a copy that will last through many uses, I have copied the pattern onto brown kraft paper or even sturdy interfacing.  


  1. Thank you, Diana. I've been thinking about purchasing KL for my bulky Brother. You convinced me! I will start looking....
    ~ Iryna

  2. Thanks for this series, Diana. I have had a Knit Leader for many months now and still haven't gotten around to understanding it.
    Your idea of having two mylar sheets to place a tissue pattern between is excellent. However, mylar sheets are a little thin on the ground over here, and expensive to post - could it be possible to just cover the tissue paper with a sheet of tracing paper, or would that put the KL off it's dinner?

  3. I haven't tried that, Jemajo. I usually just trace onto the mylar, since it doesn't take very long to do.

  4. Diana,
    I got KL116-E!!!
    Do you know the difference between "A" and "E" models?

    Mine came without the marker.
    I went to our local craft stores today, but couldn't find the markers you mentioned. Do you think these are the once that would work - ?

    Also, when I attached KL to my bulky it looks like it has a gap between machine and Leader.
    Would you please take a picture of how it should look like....

    Sorry for so many questions. Thank you!

  5. Sorry, I don't know the difference between the models. I have one of the very old ones and also one of the newer ones.

    Those markers will work, but the dry erase fine-tip markers are even cheaper (Amazon, BIC brand, about $4).

  6. Thank you, Diana. I guess, there is not much of the difference. Maybe the years of making... Who knows.
    OK, time to go to Staples or WM to find dry erase markers!

  7. I have not used the KT in a gazillion years, and coming back to it, I read the instructions….
    I drew my shape, and knitted a swatch 40 stitches and 60 rows.
    THEN I got out a big bundle of rulers.
    I cannot for the life of me work out what the numbers on it are referring to!
    Perhaps I am dumb.. yea, probably...
    Sometimes I pretend to be normal, but it gets boring....
    so I go back to being me!

  8. The rulers have numbers on the ends which correspond to the measurement of your 40-stitch gauge swatch. So if you gauge swatch measures 12.7 centimeters, which is the same as 127 mm, you go find the closest ruler to that.

    After you find the ruler, or stitch scale, you can lay it down right on top of your gauge swatch and the marks should be just the same spacing as your stitch size. This is a good way to double-check whether you have the right scale.

    Then, with the ruler inside the knit leader and the row gauge set using the controls, you are ready to go.

  9. Can somebody tell me how to use the knitleader with a bulky machine? I know about the stitches but can not figure out the rows settings. I do know how to use the knitleader in th standard machine but it doesn't work the same in the bulky. I'll appreciate someone providing some information.
    Cecilia from San Jose, California

  10. To use the knitleader with the bulky machine, you need the bulky stitch scales. They come with the Brother bulky machines. The bulky machines also have instructions in the manuals explaining what to do differently.

    Let's see, I'm doing this from memory - so consult the manual as well:

    The swatch is a different size - 20 sts by 30 rows.

    The Knitleader row tripper has two positions, and you change the position so the carriage hits it twice (have to have the trippers back on the carriage) and it advances 2 times per row.

    1. I know this is a long time ago but I am having the same problem and cannot find the appropriate answer. In the KL116 manual there is a Stitch Measure Scale Table for the standard rulers Nos. 1-20 surely to goodness there must be a chart for the the bulky rulers Nos.1-24. I realise it is probably me being ultra thick but I am not understanding any explanation given by anyone. HELP PLEASE.

  11. if you have marker that wont come off mylar use alchol. but test it on a corner first to make sure it doesnt take off the grid lines also

  12. I have a knit leader(the bulky rulers) and a Brothers KH260 machine. Where can I find patterns to trace? I've tried drawing patterns from a schematic supplied by the sweater designer, but it's not accurate enough especially for a set-in sleeve.

  13. Try using sewing patterns sized for knits, in particular Stretch N Sew patterns and Kwik Sew patterns.

    I studied pattern design and can draw set-in sleeves. Maybe I'll run a post with some of my "rules" for a set-in sleeve that fits; however, you don't really need to do all that work with good patterns.

  14. Hi Diana,
    I have a question, when i am using the knit leader, and the pattern is showing a decrease at the arms, do I do both sides? Or do I do one side, push carriage across and do the other side? I ask because, when I do it the 2nd way, by the time I get to the other side it now says I need to bind off more stitches than I did on the first side? I am not sure what to do?

  15. Betty, this happens all the time. Here's what you do: On the first row, decrease on the carriage side all the stitches you need to. On the other side, decrease one, because you don't have a yarn end. Knit across. Then decrease the rest of the stitches on the carriage side plus one on the other side because both sides are decreasing. Makes a smoother finish and avoids extra ends.

  16. HElP!! Please can you help me? I have tried over and over again to figure out this knit leader and I just don't get it. I spent half the day looking for a video on how to use it and there just aren't any out there :( The only one I found was just a bunch of ladies looking like they were as confused as me. So I heard or more like read that you were doing a video lessn on it, Oh I so hope it's true!!!!! Any way do you know of any videos out ther that I could watch to help me learn this? I can get it with a video as I learn so much faster and better by watching it done rather then reading how to do it. I am so frustrated!!! UGH!

  17. I recently purchased a Brother KH891 with the built in knit leader from Ebay; however, the mylar sheet, stitch scales and ruler are missing. I haven't been able to find them on e-bay. Do you know where I could purchase those?

    1. You might also contact several dealers who have a history of Brother transactions, for instance, Newton's Knits (they have lots of great spare parts), Custom Knits and Manufacturing, Knit Knack Shop, and others.

      You can also run a "need to purchase" ad on the Yahoo ForSale lists.

    2. Hi Kathie, I have the same problem, except I have the KH881, did you get anywhere finding the scales? I have since bought a very cheap knitleader KL116 to see if I can adapt it. I'm also going to see if I can scan and reduce the scales to see if they will work with the KH881. Anyone got any suggestions?

    3. You can order the half sized mylar sheets for the Brother 881, 891, and 341 from That same vendor also sells the sheets on ebay, but the price is much cheaper if you buy them from the website.

  18. I often seen this question: Which side of the Mylar sheet of the Knit Leader to draw? If you examine the Mylar sheet, you will notice that the permanent printing of the texts and grids were done on the glossy side. Thus, we should use the opposite and dull side to draw. It will prevent erasing the original printing texts & grids. Hope this helps.

  19. I'm so glad I found this blog! I'm just getting back into machine knitting after decades away. I had Studio and Singer machines, but I've never used a knit leader and am looking forward to trying it. So much of the headaches are just at the beginning, in the learning curve. After that, it should be easy! Also, now that so many machines are no longer being manufactured, it's a bit tough to round up all the things you need to get going. But, I'm still looking forward to it all. Cheers!

  20. HI Again, Having looked at all the info again I think the answer I am really after is how to set the ROW REGULATOR, do I just just the CM measurement, i.e. if my 30 rows equal 16.5cm or 165mm do I just set the regulator to 16.5?