Twitter Knitter combines 40 year old hardware with modern social media

When presented with a vintage Empisal Knitmaster knitting machine, members of the TOG Dublin Hackerspace worked together to not only bring it back from the dead but to also add some custom hardware that allows for computer generated patterns.

At first the Knitmaster was in fairly bad shape requiring a few custom machined parts just to function.  It was originally designed to feed in special punch cards that mechanically directed the many moving parts of the machine (called “dibblers”) to knit patterns in yarn.  Using an Arduino, a number of servos, and a microswitch to detect when the knitting carriage is pulled across, this card-read system was replaced with a computer controlled mechanism that can direct the machine to print out images one row at a time.

Of course, you don’t get too many opportunities to name your project something as cute as “The Twitter Knitter”, so once the system was working, it was only a matter of writing some code to snatch tweets from the web and generate images out of the text.  Visitors of the Dublin Mini Maker Faire got to watch it in action as they posted tweets with a particular hashtag which the machine happily printed in yarn (as long as they weren’t too long).

Video demo after the jump.


  1. theTwiz says:

    Gee, you knit?

  2. Will says:

    Looks like they should throw a stepper and belt on that slider to fully automate it

  3. Jon S. says:

    That is a great hack!

  4. Hirudinea says:

    Could you encode binary data on a scarf and read it with a webcam? How about QR Code sweaters?

  5. kpreid says:

    Now I’m imagining a circular knitting machine printing decoded Hellschreiber signals.

  6. Spacedog says:

    Nice, props to TOG and Dublin 2600, I want a pixel-duck scarf next time I visit!


  7. Borgstr says:

    Nice. Love the revived hardward and machining your own parts, but the idea’s been done before:

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