Thursday, May 3

Anatomy of a punchcard

Often on the newsgroups we have newbies asking what card so-and-so can be used for, so I thought I'd do a post explaining it.

This card could be used for fair-isle, knitweave, punch lace or tuck stitch. Tuck stitch requires that there are no more than 1 blank in any column, ie that you can't have two blanks together on a row. The number of punched holes in between blanks is immaterial. Tucking has limitations on rows too (see below). 

Another card - this could be used for fair-isle, knitweave, punch lace. The centre of the motif would not work in tuck st.

This would work for fair-isle, knitweave, punch lace - might look a bit odd in punch lace though.

This is definitely a lace card - note that the card is mostly not punched. This is for a Brother machine - you can tell because there are blank rows in between punching. With lace, you cannot have two holes together. There are ways of creating two needles out at once, but you still can't have the holes on the same line, so you need to chart the pattern on graph paper and then work out what order to do the transfers in. There are little arrows that turn back on themselves every few rows (always an even number of rows). When this arrow reaches the top of your card reader you need to knit 2 rows with the main carriage, which is parked on the left. Prior to this, all the lace needles tend to return to B position with the last pass of the lace carriage to the right - so if you look for "all needles back" this tells you it's time to knit 2 rows. If this doesn't happen, you might be out of synch by a row or two!

Knitmaster machines use a replacement carriage for lace, not an auxiliary one, which means the extra blank rows are not required, so their cards are not interchangeable with Brother machines. Thus their cards are somewhat shorter for the same lace pattern and do not have the turning back arrows. Knitmaster cards have line 1 on the fifth row, and Brother/Toyota on the seventh, so that's a second check to make if you are not sure of the card. 

This card would be suitable for a motif, or an all-over fairisle, as it has a bird's eye backing which would control background floats. Note it has large floats in the glass and ice-cream area - it would be worth latching them up the back or tieing them up with a length of matching yarn as you go, to save time and tears later.

This is the ubiquitous tuck card - the pattern doesn't look like much, but it will produce a bumpy, almost quilted fabric. Note that there is a row completely punched every few rows. This ensure that the tuck loops are knitted off, and that they don't build up on the needle. All machines are different. Japanese machines can tuck for about 6 rows, although it depends on the thickness of the yarn and how much weight it can stand. With tuck you cannot have two punched blanks together on a row.

This is a double bed jacquard card. How can you tell? Because the pattern (a flower) is interspersed with negative lines for the background. If you have an electronic machine you don't need to use DBJ cards because you will have a conversion switch. On the Silver Reed it is marked XXX, on the Brother it is KRC (for Knit Ribber Changer).

Next post: definitions of different patterns for knitting machines. A work-in-progress, methinks


  1. Anonymous5:10 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this! As a Newbie, it was VERY helpful in understanding the punchcards! ;-)


  2. Anonymous9:34 pm

    Greatfully appreciated for this reminder, Lynne S

  3. mimadocken1:23 am

    Thank you for this wonderful Ah-HA moment.

  4. Anonymous11:03 am

    Thank you for this post. It helps a lot to understand the function of punchcards. Harry

  5. Thanks for the post, this helps quite a lot for me.

  6. Thank you, I do hope you find the time to continue sharing your knowledge of punchcards.

  7. Fantastic information! I asked the Machine Knitting Beginners Circle Facebook group how to understand what a punch card can do when I see it. Ie fairisle, tuck, slip, punch lace, weaving. They wisely referred me your page. Your blog is a fantastic resource. Thank you for taking the time to explain it to us newbies.


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