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Knitting and Knit Fabrics


Knitting is defined to be the formation of fabric by the

intermeshing of loops of yarn. Unlike weaving, which requires two
yarn sets, knitting is possible using only a single set of yarns. The set
may consist of a single yarn (weft knit) or a single group of yarns
(warp knit).
In weft knitting, the loops of yarn are formed by a single weft
thread. The loops are formed, more or less, across the width of the
fabric usually with horizontal rows of loops, or courses, being built up
one loop at a time.
In warp knitting, all of the loops making up a single course are
formed simultaneously. Thus, the lengths of each vertical column of
loops, the wales, increase at the same time. Figures 3.1 and 3.2
illustrate the weft knit and warp knit structures.
The knit loop may be characterized by its geometry or by the
way in which it is viewed by an observer. Geometrically, an open
loop is one in which the forming yarns do not cross at the bottom of
the loop. In a closed loop, yarn crossing takes place. Open and closed
loops are illustrated in Figures 3.3 and 3.4.
The concept of face and back loops requires an observer. If the
loop formation seems to be toward the observer, then a face loop is
formed. If the loop formation seems to be away from the observer,
then a back loop is formed. Although face and back terminology is
not well-defined it serves a definite purpose in the characterization
and analysis of weft knitted structures. Figures 3.5 and 3.6 illustrate
the face and back loop characterization.


Needles and Knitting Action

In both warp and weft knitting, the principal mechanical
elements used to
Figure 3.1: Weft knit structure
Figure 3.2: Warp knit structure
Figure 3.3: Open loops

Figure 3.4: Closed loops

Figure 3.4: Closed loops
Knitting and Knit Fabrics 83

form loops are needles. In modern knitting, three major

needle types exist. The most common type of needle, used
in both weft and warp knitting, is the latch needle, illustrated in
Figure 3.7. The latch needle, developed in the mid-18005, is so
named because it can be closed using a latch which is activated
without any special assistance during the knitting process.
Figure 3.8 illustrates the movements of a latch needle as
it forms a knit loop. In the running position the held loop
rests on top of the open latch. Clearing occurs as the held
loop slips off the latch and onto the stem as the needle moves
upwards. A downwards movement enables the needle hook to
engage a new piece of yarn; this is known as feeding. As the
needle continues downwards the latch is forced to close under
the influence of the held loop. Knockover occurs as the held
loop disengages from the needle. Following knockover loop
pulling occurs and a new knit loop is formed. The needle must
now return to the running position to complete the cycle. It
should be noted that the held loop remains at the same height
during the cycle; this is essential otherwise clearing,
knockover and loop pulling would not take place. Control of
the held loop is usually achieved by the use of sinkers or by
the application of tension to the fabric. Note also that the
fabric leaves the needle away from the hook. This is true for all
needle designs.
The spring beard needle, or, simply, the bearded needle, is
the oldest and simplest of the needle types. The bearded
needle, illustrated in Figure 3.9, does not have the self-
closing feature of the latch needle. Like latch needles, bearded
needles are found in both weft and warp knitting.
Figure 3.10 illustrates the loop forming sequence of a
spring beard needle. The held loop is shown, initially, just
below the tip of the beard in the running position. An upwards
movement by the needle repositions the held loop further down
the stem, at which time a new yarn can be fed to the needle,
i.e., feeding occurs. The needle moves down until the newly
fed yarn enters the hook. An auxiliary element, known as a
presser, closes off the hook to enable the held loop to leave
the needle by deflecting the beard tip into a recess cut in the
needle stem. The moment when the held loop is securely
located on the outside of the beard is known as the landing
position. As the needle continues downwards knockover and
loop pulling take place after which the needle returns to the
running position to complete the cycle.
The newest of the needle types, the compound needle, is
found almost exclusively in warp knitting. This needle,
illustrated in Figure 3.11, is so named because it consists of
two distinct elements, a hook and a tongue. The purpose of the
tongue is to act as a closing device for the needle.
Figure 3.12 illustrates the loop forming cycle of a
compound needle. The held loop is shown resting on the
needle stem in the running position. The hook and tongue
elements move upwards so that a new yarn may be presented to
the hook and feeding occurs. Both elements descend,
although at different velocities, which causes the tongue to
close-off the hook. Thus, the held loop is free to leave the
needle (knockover) and loop pulling occurs. The needle now
returns to the running to complete the cycle. As the needle
returns to its starting position, the hook and tongue elements
once again move at different velocities resulting in the
opening of the hook.
Figure 3.7: The latch needle
Figure 3.9: The bearded needle
Figure 3.11: The compound needle
9® Fabric Forming Systems

The three needles considered above, while differing in design, have the
following points in common:
(1) Hook — to take and hold the newly fed yarn
(2) Hook Closing Mechanism — to allow the held loop to leave the
(3) Stem
(4) Control Butt — for individual or collective movement.

Sinkers are thin steel elements which are, on some knitting machines, placed
between each pair of needles. Their purpose is to control the fabric movement
during needle activation. Included in this is the holding of the fabric as the
needle rises, supporting the fabric as the needle descends and oushing the fabric
away from the needle after the new loop has been formed. The design oT a sinker
varies according to its application as may be observed in Figures 3.13 and 3.14.
There is, however, a certain similarity that can be observed in all sinkers as
they all perform approximately the same function.


Weft knitting and weft knit fabrics can be classified as single or double
depending upon the number of independent needle sets required to produce
them. Although both bearded and latch needles can be found in weft knitting,
the vast majority of weft knitting is done using latch needles. With this moti-
vation, only latch needles will be used to illustrate weft knitting. However,
it should be kept in mind that fabrics such as fully fashioned sweaters and,
more importantly, knit fleece fabrics are often formed using bearded needles.

Single Knitting
Single knitting is weft knitting in which one set of needles is used. The
needles are arranged in a needle bed which may be either linear or, as is most
often the case, circular as shown in Figure 3.15. The needles are mounted in
grooves, or tricks, cut into the needle bed. The number of tricks per inch of
needle bed determines the cut, or gauge, of that machine. In weft knitting
gauge is most often expressed in terms of needles per inch (npi).
When sinkers are used in single knit machines, they are mounted in tricks
cut into a separate sinker bed and the sinker bed is mounted in such away that
the sinkers and needles are able to mesh together as illustrated in Figure 3.16.
Naturally, the number of sinkers and needles must be identical.
Knitting is achieved by a combination of vertical needle movements and
horizontal sinker movements. To understand how these movements are con-
trolled it is useful to reexamine Figure 3.16. It should be noted that both the
latch needle and the web-holding sinker are provided with butts. In mounting
needles and sinkers, these butts protrude from their respective tricks and are
engaged by positive cams. Figure 3.17 shows a section of needle cylinder and
Figure 3.16: Latch needles and web holding
• Figure 3.17: Section of a needle cylinder and sinker ring
96 Fabric Forming Systems

sinker ring with cams and yarn feed in place The movement of the needles up
and down is the consequence of the needle butt following the groove in the cam
system. The sinker movement is achieved in the same manner A more detailed
outline of the needle cam system is shown in Figure 3 18
Circular weft knitting machines come in two possible arrangements In
some cases the yarn creel, feeders and cam systems are stationary while the
cylinder, including the needles and sinkers, and the fabric take up system ro-
tates Such a system, known as a rotating cylinder system, is the most common.
When the cylinder is stationary and the yarn creel, feeders and cam systems
rotate, the system is said to have a rotating cam box A typical circular knitting
machine is shown in Figure 3 19.

Stnqie Knit Fabrics

The simplest of all weft knit structures is the single jersey, illustrated in
Figure 3.20 It is composed entirely of face loops (or entirely of back loops).
The single jersey stitch, or basic structural unit, is, therefore, one face loop
(or one back loop)
The single jersey structure exhibits the following characteristics
(1) The appearance of the face and back differ
(2) Extensibility widthwise is approximately twice that of the length
(3) The edges of the fabric tend to curl or roll
(4) A run (collapse of a wale) will occur if a cut or exposed loop is
stressed The direction of collapse can be either from top to
bottom or vice versa
(5) 1 he fabric can be unravelled, course by course, from either end
(6) The fabric thickness is approximately 2 times the diameter of
the yarn used

Single jersey, being a single knit, is made on machines with one set of
needles The sinker top machine is the most common type of single jersey ma-
chine There are a large number of single jersey machines in place in the U S,
estimated at over 20,000 These are in a variety of cuts and diameters, producing
both underwear and outerwear, plain and fancy fabrics Recent trends are to
finer cut machines, up to 28 cut, in piece goods diameters 26 to 30 inches,
and with a high productive capacity, up to 5 feeds per diametral inch This
high productive capacity is due to each needle being capable of independent
control allowing many feeders to be placed around the circumference of the
machine Each needle thus produces a loop each time it undergoes activation
and many courses may be formed simultaneously

Double Knitting
Double knit fabrics are weft knits which require two needle sets to be
produced For circular machines, the second needle set, the dial needles, are
located in a needle bed whose tricks radiate outward like the spokes in a wheel.

Figure 3.18: Typical cam system for a single knit-single jersey

Figure 3.19: Circular weft knitting machine
Figure 3.20: Single jersey
100 Fabric Forming Systems

The needle bed is positioned over the cylinder with the dial needles at right
angles to the cylinder needles. Figure 3.21 illustrates the relationship between
dial and cylinder needle sets.
In the case of flat bed machines, the usual configuration is to place the
needle beds so that when viewed from the end, they form an inverted "V."
Machines of the type illustrated in Figure 3.22 are classified as vee bed machines.
Independent of the needle bed geometries as described above is the relative
positioning of the needles within one bed with respect to the needles in the
other. This positioning is termed the gaiting of the machine. If the needles are
aligned, as in Figure 3.23, so that, if cleared, the needles of one set pass through
the spaces between the needles of the second set then the machine is said to
have rib gaiting. If, on the other hand, the two needle sets may not be cleared
simultaneously, as in Figure 3.24, then the machine is said to have interlock
gaiting. Gaiting is important because it affects the knitting sequence, and,
therefore, the resultant fabric properties and production rates (see below
1 x 1 rib versus interlock).
Because two sets of needles are used, it is possible to produce structures
having an identical appearance on both sides.

Double Knit Fabrics

The simplest double knit fabric produced using rib gaiting is the 1 x 1 rib
fabric. It consists of alternate face wales and back wales, where a face wale is
composed entirely of face loops and a back wale is composed entirely of back
loops. The needles used to produce these wales are usually of the same design
and most commonly of the latch needle types. The numerical designation of
a rib fabric gives the number of face and back loops in the repeat. Thus, the
1 x 1 rib structure, illustrated in Figure 3.25, has a repeating stitch consisting
of one face loop and one back loop, plus the connecting yarn.
This fabric has the following characteristics:
(1) The appearance of the face and back are identical.
(2) The extensibility of the fabric widthwise is approximately twice
that of single jersey. The lengthwise extensibility is essentially
the same as in single jersey.
(3) The fabric does not curl at the edges.
(4) A run will develop in the fabric if an exposed loop is cut, as is
the case for single knits, except that the direction of collapse
will be from top to bottom only.
(5) The fabric can be unravelled course by course but only from
the end last knitted.
(6) The fabric thickness is approximately twice that of single jersey.
The simplest fabric produced on an interlock gaited machine is called,
simply, interlock, an illustration of which is shown in Figure 3.26. Close ex-
amination of this structure reveals that it is composed of two 1 x 1 rib fabrics
locked together. This interlocking phenomenon exists because of the knitting
sequence necessitated by the needle gaiting used.
Figure 3.2"U Cylinder and dial
Figute 322: Vee bed machine
Figure 3.23: Rib gaiting
Figure 3.24: Interlock gaiting
Figure 3.25: 1 x 1 rib
Figure 3.26: Interlock
Knitting and Knit Fabrics 107

The characteristics of an interlock fabric are summarized below:

(1) The appearance of the face and back is the same.
(2) Extensibility widthwise and lengthwise are approximately the
same as single jersey. In practice, interlock will most probably
be more firm and rigid overall than single jersey because it is
usually knitted tightly.
(3) The fabric does not curl at the edges.
(4) A run will develop in the fabric the direction of which will be
from the end last knitted. An interlock fabric will run less freely
than single jersey or rib structures.
(5) The fabric can be unravelled from the end last knitted. Two
yarns must be removed to unravel a complete knitted course.
(6) The thickness of the fabric is approximately twice that of single

Interlock is made on cylinder and dial machines which differ from rib
machines. The difference is that each needle bed is equipped with two different
types of needles, long and short, being set out in alternate tricks around the bed.
In each case, opposite a long needle in one bed will be a short needle in the
other, as may be seen in Figure 3.27. These two lengths of needle require two
separate cam tracks both in the cylinder and in the dial to activate them. These
cam systems are arranged such that only the long needles (cylinder and dial)
knit at the first feed and only the short needles at the second. This alternating
sequence is repeated all the way around the machine. (Note: Two feeders are
required to knit a single course.) Figure 3.27 shows the needles and their asso-
ciated yarns during the manufacture of the interlock stitch. This represents
the one repeat of interlock produced by the two knitting feeds.

Purl Knit Fabrics

Purl fabrics are characterized by having both face knit loops and back knit
loops in one wale. The 1 x 1 purl stitch consists of one face loop and one back
loop intermeshed in a single wale. Since the purl structure has both face and
back loops in the same wale, it is usually made on machines fitted with double
hooked needles. Figure 3.28 shows the cross section of the knitting elements
of a purl machine. The two needle beds are set at 180 degrees to each other
(in a straight line) with the gap between straddled by the double ended latch
needle. The needle is activated by one of the two jacks which lie one in each
needle bed. Figure 3.28 illustrates the transfer action which occurs as the needle
passes from the control of the one jack to the other. The needle can thus knit on
either bed to produce face and back loops in the same wale. The transfer action
can be initiated by a jacquard selection device for the production of fancy
Purl machines are either flat bed or circular. The flat bed variety are usually
known as links-links machines. The circular type have two cylinders, one above
the other, and are thus referred to as superimposed cylinder machines.
Figure 3.27: Knitting sequence for interlock
Figure 3.28: Purl knitting elements
110 Fabric Forming Systems

Purl fabrics can be manufactured on certain rib machines (dial and cylinder)
which are fitted with special needles to facilitate loop transfer. This is not the
main purpose of rib transfer machines, however, and the production of purl
fabrics on them would be secondary to the production of other products.
The simplest purl, the 1 x 1 purl is illustrated in Figure 3.29. The 1 x 1
purl exhibits the following characteristics:
(1) Same appearance, face and back (simitar to the back of single
(2) Highly extensible in all directions. Approximately twice as
extensible as single jersey in the length direction because of the
lengthwise fabric contraction which occurs to form the course-
wise ribs. Figure 3.30 represents a vertical cross section of 1 x 1
purl illustrating the mechanism of fabric extension.
(3) The fabric does not curl at the edges.
(4) The fabric will run in the wale direction starting from either end.
(5) The fabrib may be unravelled course by course starting from
either end.
(6) The fabric tends to be two or three times thicker than single
1 x 1 purl is used in end uses which utilize its great length extensibility
and good width extensibility. Two principal end use areas are golf sweaters and
infants' and children's wear. In both cases, easy extensibility is important
and in the latter, the ability of a garment to "grow" lengthwise with the child
is a definite advantage.


In addition to knit loops, tuck and float loops also constitute very impor-
tant elements of knit fabric structure. It is the judicious combination of these
three elements that allows the formation of a wide range of knit fabrics.
Both tuck and float loops are produced by modifying the yarn-to-needle
relationship existing in the normal knitting sequence. The modifications are
achieved by altering the profile of the clearing cam in the standard cam system.
(1) Knit Loop — The basic loop, the knit loop, is shown in Figure 3.31.
The shape of this loop is relatively independent of the loop length and all knit
loops will be similar in shape to that shown in Figure 3.31.
We have seen previously that the knit loop is produced by clearing the old
loop below the latch (by raising the needle) and feeding a new yarn into the
(2) Tuck Loop — A tuck loop is formed if the needle is raised only par
tially by the clearing cam so that the held loop does not clear but rises suffi
ciently for feeding to take place. This results in two yarns being held in the
hook (the held loop plus the new yarn which will form the tuck loop), as shown
in Figure 3.32.
Figure 3.29: 1 x 1 purl
Figure 3.30: Extension of 1 x 1 purt
Knitting and Knit Fabrics 113

Figure 3.31: Knit loop

Figure 3.32: Tuck loop formation
Knitting and Knit Fabrics 115

At the next feed the needle will go through a normal knitting cycle and
both loops will clear and latch and, eventually, knockover together. The tuck
loop is typically shaped like an inverted "u" and is more open at the neck
than a knit loop because it is not pulled through another loop. The appearance
of a tuck loop in the fabric is shown in Figure 3.33.
(3) Float Loop - A float loop is produced if the needle neither clears nor
is fed a new yarn, i.e., the needle remains at the run position. Thus while ad-
jacent needles form a new loop, the needle making the float loop merely retains
the held loop. This can be seen in Figure 3.34.
If the needle forming the float loop goes through a normal knitting cycle
at the next feed then the appearance of the float will be as illustrated in Figure
Tuck and float loops represent the main ways of modifying fabric structure
to achieve diversity. Although each affects the properties of knit structures in
a number of ways, the major effects can be summarized as follows:
A tuck loop makes a basic knit fabric:
(1) Wider
(2) Thicker
(3) Slightly less extensible
A float loop makes a basic knit fabric:
(1) Narrower
(2) Thinner
(3) Much less extensible
In addition to these structural effects, both tuck and float stitches lie be-
hind associated knit loops and so can be used to hide unwanted yarn In this
manner complex designs produced by selectively hiding colored yarn from the
fabric surface can be created. These structures are known as Jacquard knit
Multiple tucks and floats are possible, but the maximum number of consec-
utive tucks or floats either vertically (on the same needle) or horizontally
(across adjacent needles) is limited for structural reasons and is fewer than 10.
It should also be noted that no fabric can be produced entirely from tuck
or float loops and that a basic fabric of knitted loops is required.


Stitch Notation
The purpose of stitch notation is to record in a readily understandable
form the layout of the loop, or loops, which form the basic repeat of a particu-
lar structure. It is usual to show just one repeat of the structure (sometimes
referred to as the structural unit cell). If more than one repeat is shown then
the highlighting of one repeat is recommended.
Weft knitted fabric may be represented by using any one of two stitch
notational systems. In this text only one of these systems will be considered,
namely, the diagrammatic method, because it is relatively easy to understand
Figure 3.33: Tuck loop
Figure 3.34: Float formation
Figure 3.35: Float
Knitting and Knit Fabrics 119

and it offers considerable flexibility, an important feature when developing

more complex fabric designs.
In the final form the notational system will provide exact information
concerning the knitting sequence at each feeder on the machine. As previously
mentioned, it is normal practice to represent just one repeat of the structure
and it is assumed that this sequence will be repeated around the machine until
all feeders have been programmed.
In the diagrammatic system dots are used to represent needles in the ma-
chine. In the simple case of a single knit machine adjacent dots represent ad-
jacent needles in the machine, with each horizontal row of dots representing a
group of needles at the individual feeder.
If the structure requires more than one feeder to produce a single repeat
then additional rows of dots are drawn above the first, to represent the same
needles as they pass by each additional feeder.

Feeder #1 . . . .

When dealing with fabrics made on two sets of needles (double knits) an addi-
tional row of dots must be drawn at each feeder to represent the second set
of needles. The position of dots relative to one another is used to indicate the
gaiting of the needles. Labelling the rows of dots to clearly identify the two sets
of needles is strongly recommended.

Feed #1

For multiple feed structures additional pairs of rows are drawn directly above
the first.

Rib Gaiting Interlock Gaiting

D . . . D . . .
Feed #2 C . . . Feed #2 C . . .

D . . . D . . .
Feed #1 C . . . Feed #1 C . . .
A modification to this system uses lines instead of dots to represent the
needles. The advantage of this is that needles of different length may be repre-

A modification to this system uses lines instead of dots to represent the

needles. The advantage of this is that needles of different length may be repre-
sented by lines of different lengths. For example: 1 set of needles, needles set
out 2 long, 2 short

Using the dots, or lines, to represent the needles, basic loop configurations
are indicated as in Figure 3.36.

Weft Knit Fabrics

In diagrammatic notation, the four fabrics-single jersey, 1 x 1 rib, simple
interlock and 1 x 1 purl—are represented in Figure 3.37.
Some common derivatives of single jersey, incorporating tucks and/or floats
are shown or described below.
"" (1) LaCoste® — Often made with cotton yarns and used chiefly for
sportswear because of its "cellular" appearance. LaCoste® is
shown in Figure 3.38.
(2) Design effects by floating and knitting — Two or more colored
yarns can be knit into a patterned fabric which is basically plain
jersey. A needle will knit the yarn which is to appear on the
face of the fabric, but will float the remaining yarn, or yarns,
to the back of the fabric where they are hidden.
(3) Accordian type fabrics — To produce large designs, it is essential
to bind potentially long floats of yarn into the structure without
causing them to appear on the fabric face. This is achieved
using a combination of floating and tucking as shown in Figure
(4) Laying-in — Extending the principle used in accordian fabrics,
it is possible to bind yarns to the back of plain jersey fabric
using tuck stitches so that this yarn never knits. This is achieved
using a combination of floating and tucking as shown in Figure
Since the laid-in yarn never knits, it is possible to use a wide
variety of yarns for this purpose, particularly very thick soft
and relatively weak yarns. Fleecy fabrics for use as sweat shirts
and dressing gowns are made this way.


The rate of fabric production is usually calculated in terms of linear yards

Figure 3.36: Stitch notation-diagrammatic form
Figure 3.37: Stitch notation for simple weft knits
Figure 3.38: Stitch notation-LaCoste® knit
Figure 3.40: Laying in in a weft knit fabric
126 Fabric Forming Systems

(or meters) per unit time. (Note: A linear yard is a measure of fabric length and
independent of fabric width.)

Course density is a fabric parameter and is used as a measurement of loop

size. It is normal to express the course density in terms of courses per inch (cpi)
or courses per centimeter (cpcm).
The number of courses produced per unit time is a function of the fabric
structure, the number of feeders on the machine and the machine speed in terms
of revolutions per minute (rpm) or traverses per minute (tpm).
The efficiency (i?) is calculated by obtaining data concerning machine
running time and downtime.
Example: A single jersey fabric is produced on a machine having 32
feeders and a rotational speed of 20 rpm. If the fabric being produced
has 28 cpi calculate the production (yards) over a 4-hour period
if the machine is usually stationary for 3 minutes each hour.

= —r- = 32 courses/revolution

Courses/4 hours = Courses/rev, x rpm x min/hr x 4 hr

= 32 x 20 x 60 x 4 =
153,600 courses/4 hours
Efficiency = 17 =■ -^r = 0.95
153,600 x 0.95
Production = ---------rg---------
= 5,211.4 inches = 144.76 yards/4 hours


Warp and weft knitting are similar fabric manufacturing processes in that
they both utilize needles to form and intermesh loops. The main difference
between these two systems lies in the manner in which the yarn is fed to the
needles. In weft knitting a single yarn end may be fed to all the needles and
knitting progresses around, or across the machine. In warp knitting, however,
each needle is supplied with a yarn (or yarns) and all the needles knit at the
same time producing a complete course at once.
A general view of a warp knitting machine is shown in Figure 3.41. In com -
mon with weft knit machines, there are four basic zones:
Figure 3.41: Warp knitting machine
128 Fabric Forming Systems

(1) Yam supply

(2) Knitting elements
(3) Fabric takedown
(4) Fabric collection
Unlike weft knit machines, the great majority of warp knitting machines
(over 99%) are rectilinear, i.e.. straight needle bed, not circular. Thus they are
tsd from warp beams and make fabric which is knitted and collected in open
width, not tubular, form.

Major Machine Classification ,

Tricot Machine: A tricot machine is a warp knitting machine which uses a
single set of spring beard or compound needles. The fabric is removed from the
needles at approximately 90 degrees.
Figure 3.42 shows a cross section of the knitting elements found on a tricot
Raschel Machine: A Raschel machine is a warp knitting machine which
uses a single set of vertically mounted latch needles. The fabric is removed from
the needles at approximately 150 degrees.
Figure 3.43 shows a cross section of the knitting elements found on a
Raschel machine
Simplex Machine: A simplex machine is a warp knitting machine equipped
with two sets of spring beard needles. The fabric is removed from the needles
vertically downwards between the two-needle beds
Figure 3.44 shows a cross section of a simplex machine.
Two-Needle Bar Raschel: The two-needle bar Raschel machine is a warp
knitting machine equipped with two sets of vertically mounted latch needles.
The fabric is removed from the needles vertically downwards between the two-
needle beds.
Figure 3.45 shows the cross section of the two-needle bar Raschel machine.
Note: In all four of the figures mentioned, the view shown is that
obtained when looking from the side of the machine. When one
needle is illustrated it is assumed that there exists a whole set of
similar needles which cannot be seen because they are all exactly
aligned. This situation !S also true for the guides and sinkers.

Knitting Elements
Warp Beams: Yarn is supplied to the needles in the form of warp sheets.
Each individual warp sheet is usually supplied from its own beam, which may
consist of several section beams, as shown in Figure 3.41.
The number of beams used on a machine is normally equal to the number
of guide bars.
Guide Bars: The guide bars extend across the complete width of the ma-
chine and their function is to wrap yarn around the needles (i.e., feed). Each
guide in the guide bar is usually provided with a single end of yarn. Warp knit-
ting machines are usually equipped with two or more guide bars. (Note: Each
guide bar has its own warp beam.)
Figure 3.42: Tricot elements
Figure 3.43: Raschel elements
Figure 3.44: Simplex elements
Figure 3.45: Two needle bar Raschel elements
Knitting and Knit Fabrics 133

The guides themselves are essentially thin metal pressings through which a
hole has been drilled to facilitate threading. The guides are usually mounted in
leads one-inch wide to ensure accurate guide separation. These leads are then
attached to a horizontal bar to complete the guide bar assembly, as shown in
Figure 3.46. in general, the more guide bars a machine is equipped with the
more complex the fabric it will ptoduce.
During the knitting cycle the guide bars experience two modes of move-
—A forward and backward movement in which the guides pass
through the needle spaces and carry their yarns to the opposite
side of the machine.
—Sideways movements on the hook and reverse sides of the needle.
These control the wrapping of yarn around each needle and the
repositioning of the guides for the following knitting cycle.
The sideways movements of the guide bars are controlled by a
pattern chain, mounted on a pattern drum, and located at one
side of the machine. Each guide bar has its own pattern chain
which enables independent lateral movements to occur.
A guide bar pattern chain is built up from a series of links, with two links
being required to produce one course. Successive links in a particular chain
differ only with respect to their heights which enables the guide bar, with which
it operates, to be displaced different distances to the left or right. Figure 3.47
shows a series of links and Figure 3.48 illustrates the relationship between the
guide bars that pattern chain and pattern drum.
Needle Bar: Needles, either mounted individually or in leads, are clamped
to the needle bar which extends across the complete machine width, as shown
in Figure 3.49. The needle separation is normally equal to that of the guides and
must also be accurately controlled.
In Figure 3.49 very little needle design detail is shown because any one of
the three types of needles may be used.
Sinker Bar: Sinkers are positioned between each pair of needles in the
needle bar and provide for fabric control during loop formation. The sinkers
are normally mounted in leads to ensure correct spacing and to reduce vibration,
see Figure 3.50.

Warp Knitting Action

In order to produce a warp knit fabric, the movements of the needle bar,
guide bar(s) and sinker bar must be fully synchronized. The needle movements
required to produce or knit stitch have been discussed previously and are the
same for any type of knitting. However, because the warp knitting needles are
mounted on a needle bar, they are not capable of independent movement.
Therefore, every needle across the needle bar undergoes the same motion at the
same time.
The independently controlled guide bars have two distinct motions, a swing-
through motion serves to put the guide bar in position for the lapping motions.
The overlap, in which the guide bar moves laterally in front of the needle, is
Figure 3.46: Guide bar detail
Figure 3.47: Warp knitting pattern links
Knitting and Knit Fabrics 139

the feeding motion and must occur during the feeding portion of
needle activation. The underlap, in which the guide bar moves
laterally behind the needle, allows the yarn to be part of different
wales thereby producing a coherent warp knit fabric. Usually, the
underiap allows the yarn to be fed to a different needle than the
one from the previous course.
Because of the differing systems the guide bar movements
are timed differently in the two systems—tricot and Raschel—but
the basic principles remain intact. Figure 3.51 illustrates the guide
bar movement in relation to the needle movement for a Raschel
machine with one guide bar.

Comparison Between Tricot and Raschel

Over the years tricot and Raschel machines and the fabrics
they produce have developed along two clearly definable lines.
The reasons for this divergence are many but one of the most
important is that related to needle design.
Traditionally tricot equipment has been supplied with a set of
spring beard needles and Raschel with latch needles. The
relatively simple design of a spring beard needle resulted in the
manufacture of fine gauge machines while Raschel machines,
equipped with latch needles, tended to be produced in coarser
The demand for fine, even yarns for use on tricot machines
could not be adequately satisfied by conventional spun yarns
and as a result continuous filament yarn was used almost
exclusively. Raschel machines, on the other hand, being
produced in coarser gauges, were well equipped to handle spun
These and other differences between these two systems are
summarized in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1: Comparison of Tricot and Raschel



Needle type spring beard or compound latch
Machine gauge fine 28-32 npi coarse
16-18 npi
Yarn type filament spun
No. of guide bars few 2, 3 or 4 many
6,8, 12-48
Fabric complexity simple complex
Speed fast 1,200 cpm slow 600
Machine width wide 168 inches narrow <
100 inches

It should be pointed out that in recent times the traditional

differences between the fabrics produced on these two systems
has become less distinct. Increasingly, tricot machines are being
equipped with 4 guide bars and being supplied in coarser gauges.
At the same time, similar equalizing changes have occurred in the
design of Raschel machines.


Point Paper Notation

Warp knitted structures are composed of vertical wales of
loops, each wale
Figure 3.51: Guide bar movements
Knitting and Knit Fabrics 141

being produced by a single needle. The overlap movement of the guide bars
provides the yarn fpr these loops.
If each thread guide always worked with one needle, then the result would
be vertical rows of loops, or chains, with no lateral connections, and no fabric
would be formed. To form a fabric, therefore, each waie must be connected
to its neighbor. The connections are provided by traversing the guide bar be-
tween overlaps, so that their threads wrap around different needles at differ-
ent courses. These movements, known as underlaps, determine by their direction
and distance the structure of the fabric produced.
Since it is the underlaps that decide the structure of the fabric, some form
of notation must be used in order to record the movements of the guides for
design purposes. Such a notation system must show the design pictorially,
must show up points of construction, and must be easy to translate in terms
of guide bar threading and pattern chain construction.
The movement of the guide bars is plotted on point paper which is paper
with small dots placed equidistant to each other. Each horizontal row of dots
represents the needles or needle bar at one course of the fabric working up the
paper from bottom to top for each successive course. The path of each guide
is shown by drawing a line around the dots as if looking down on the needle
from above. If a line is drawn for each threaded guide, the design of the fabric
may be built up.
The fabric shown in Figure 3.52 may be shown in the notation as follows'
(1) Guides swing back through the needles, as in Figure 3.53a.
(2) Guides move sideways to pass yarn over the needle, i.e., they
make their overlaps, Figure 3.53b.
(3) Guides swing forward through the needles to the front of the
machine. Figure 3.53c.
In order to make a fabric, the guides must now make an underlap so that
the threads may lap around another needle. On the point paper, however, the
plot must be transferred to the second row of dots, to show that the first course
of loops has been completed, and knitting of the second course is commencing.
This is shown in Figure 3.53d.
The plot is thus continued as follows:
(4) Guides swing through the needles. Figure 3.53e.
(5) Guides make their overlap, this time in the opposite direction,
as in Figure 3.53f.
(6) Guides swing forward, Figure 3.53g.
In order that the method may be simplified in practice, lines are smoothed
out and arrows omitted; thus, the plot shown in Figure 3.54a is drafted as shown
in Figure 3.54b, and if repeated for more courses, appears as in Figure 3.54c.
The lapping movement on point paper not only shows the movement of the
guides on the machine, but also gives a diagrammatic representation of the path
of the yarn in the fabric.
If the same needles are lapped as before, but in opposite directions, the
result is known as a 1 x 1 "open loop" structure as shown in Figure 3.55a. An
Figure 3.52: Half tricot
146 Fabric Forming Systems

open loop is formed when the underlap is made in the same

direction as the preceding overlap and a closed loop is formed
when the underlap is made in the opposite direction of the
preceding overlap.
The notation process may be extended to cover more than
2 adjacent needles, and a 1 x 2 lap is shown in Figures 3.55b and

Single Bar Fabric

Warp knitted fabrics, in which all the yarn follows exactly the
same lapping movements, are normally made with a single
guide bar controlling the yarns. These structures are known as
single bar fabrics.
As a class these fabrics have little commercial importance
because of their low cover and lack of stability. Therefore,
these structures will be ignored at this time.

Two Bar Fabrics

The use of two guide bars gives a wider scope for patterning
than is available with single guide bar fabrics, and these fabrics
form the basis of the commercial trade, using continuous filament
materials in most cases. There are, however, several important
basic technical features, illustrated by the use of two bars, which
must be understood and which form the basic technology of
warp knitting. These are as follows:
(1) If the underlaps of the two bars move in
opposite directions,
the loops will lie straight in the fabric.
(2) If the underlaps of the two bars move together
(in parallel),
loops will lie at an angle in the fabric, the
direction of inclina
tion depending on the direction of movement of the
(3) If a large underlap is made by the front bar with a
short one on
the back bar, the fabric will contain widthwise
(4) If the underlaps of the front bar are over 3 or 4
needle spaces,
the technical back of the fabric will be of a lustrous
(5) If a large underlap is used on the back bar and a
short one on
the front bar, with the bars moving in opposite
directions, a
rigid and stable fabric will be produced. This is
due to the fact
that the back bar underlaps will be trapped in the
center of the
fabric by the front bar underlaps, thus restricting
the yarn move
(6) The underlaps of the front bar will appear at
the top of the
technical back of the fabric.
Figures 3.56, 3.57 and 3.58 illustrate the structures of
three standard fabrics, namely, full tricot, locknit and reverse
locknit. In each case the technical back has been illustrated.
Using the six points listed above, the following observations
can be made:
(1) In all three cases, the guide bars are moving in
opposition and, therefore, the wales in the fabric
will be straight.
Figure 358: Reverse locknit
(2) The large front guide bars underlap present in the locknit fabric
will cause it to have the greatest widthways elasticity.
(3) The locknit fabric will also be more lustrous than the other
two structures.
(4) The most stable fabric will be reverse locknit.
By further modifications to the lapping movements of each bar, additional
structures can be produced. The behavior of these fabrics will depend upon the
size and direction of the underiaps and overlaps and also their position, relative
to one another, in the fabric.


To determine the rate of fabric production in the case of warp knitting,

certain machine and fabric parameters, similar to those in weft knitting, must
be known. These are:
(1) The number of courses produced per unit time (course/min) —
This may be varied on any given machine to suit any set of
knitting conditions; for example, it is usual to run a machine
at a slower speed if the yarn in question has a low breaking
strength. This parameter is controlled by the rotational speed
(rpm) of the main cam shaft where one course is produced per
cam shaft revolution.
(2) The course density in the fabric (cpi or cpcmj —
(3) The number of needles in the machine — This can be obtained,
given knowledge of the knitting width (inches) and the machine
gauge. The gauge of tricot machines is expressed in needles/
inch, while that of Raschel machines is expressed in neeales/
2 inches.
(4) The efficiency of the process —

Needles knitting = needles/inch x knitting width (inches)

Example: A 168-inch, 28 gauge tricot machine runs at 1,100
courses/min. The fabric has 58 courses/inch and 60 wales/inch
in the final state and the process efficiency is 0.92 (92%).