Knitting Machine Rebuild Takes It To The Next Level

Those of us who to textile work may own a sewing machine and even if we’re really into it and have the funds, an overlocker. But there’s another machine in that field that few of us will have, and that’s a knitting machine. These machines have a sliding carriage over a long array of needles, and even the cheaper ones are way more expensive than for example a pretty decent oscilloscope. [Irene Wolf] has a Passap E6000 computerised knitting machine that is by no means an inexpensive one, and she’s made significant improvement to it by giving it new brains, a new motor controller, and replacing the mechanical rear needle bed with a set of computerised ones from the front of another machine.

In her write-up she goes in depth into the arrangement of sensors and electromagnets that operate the machine. She started with a lot of inspiration from a project at Hackerspace Bamberg, but used all the available Passap sensors as inputs where they had used only one. She has two Arduino M0 boards handling the inputs and a Raspberry Pi with control and user interface, and has posted some videos of the system in action one of which we’ve placed below the break.

We probably wouldn’t have had the courage to fearlessly hack such a high-value machine, and we’re particularly impressed by the result. The write-up is particularly interesting not only for the work itself, but for the detailed insight it gives to the workings of these machines. The best news – she’s not finished and there will be more installments.

While you’re waiting for more, remember this is by no means the first hacked knitting machine we’ve brought you.

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Knitting Software Automatically Converts 3D Models Into Machine-knit Stuffies

We’ve seen our fair share of interesting knitting hacks here at Hackaday. There has been a lot of creative space explored while mashing computers into knitting machines and vice versa, but for the most part the resulting knit goods all tend to be a bit… two-dimensional. The mechanical reality of knitting and hobbyist-level knitting machines just tends to lend itself to working with a simple grid of pixels in a flat plane.

However, a team at the [Carnegie Mellon Textiles Lab] have been taking the world of computer-controlled knitting from two dimensions to three, with software that can create knitting patterns for most any 3D model you feed it. Think of it like your standard 3D printing slicer software, except instead of simple layers of thermoplastics it generates complex multi-dimensional chains of knits and purls with yarn and 100% stuffing infill.

The details are discussed and very well illustrated in their paper entitled Automatic Machine Knitting of 3D Meshes and a video (unfortunately not embeddable) shows the software interface in action, along with some of the stuffing process and the final adorable (ok they’re a little creepy too) stuffed shapes.

Since the publication of their paper, [the Textiles Lab] has also released an open-source version of their autoknit software on GitHub. Although the compilation and installation steps look non-trivial, the actual interface seems approachable by a dedicated hobbyist. Anyone comfortable with 3D slicer software should be able to load a model, define the two seams necessary to close the shape, which will need to be manually sewn after stuffing, and output the knitting machine code.

Previous knits: the Knit Universe, Bike-driven Scarf Knitter, Knitted Circuit Board.

Electromagnetic Field: A Hacked Knitting Machine, Knitting The Universe

A large hacker camp attracts attendees from all over the world, and at the recent Electromagnetic Field in the UK there were certainly plenty of international visitors. Probably one of those with the longest journey was [Sarah Spencer] from Australia, and she deserves our admiration not just for her work but also for devoting much of her meagre luggage space to the installation she’d brought over for the event. In the lounge tent you could find the Knitted Universe, a map of the night sky with light-up Neopixel constellations covering an entire wall, and among the talks you could find her in-depth description of how  she created it by hacking a 1980s Brother knitting machine into a network printer.

She starts with a potted history of knitting machine hacking, leading to the use of an emulated floppy drive replacing the mechanical item used to store scanned designs on the original hardware. She took an existing hack for a 16-bit Brother knitting machine and re-wrote it for her later 32-bit model, and then created a web interface for it called Octoknit which runs upon a Raspberry Pi. We’re then taken through the operation of a knitting machine and her further adventures in reverse engineering the file format. She ends up with a dithered 4-colour image, but there remains a problem. On the Brother, colour changes are performed by pressing a button, so something to automate the process was required. This task was taken on by her husband, who created an Arduino-driven mechanical button-presser in what had become a team effort. With this in place her only manual task became a periodic adjustment of the weight that preserves the tension in the finished knit.

Finally she moves on to the Knitted Universe itself, which at that point had become something of a viral sensation.  Those of us who have created hacker camp installations will appreciate the volume of work that went into the piece, and she truly deserves the applause at the end of the talk. Watch it below the break, it’s a fascinating half-hour.

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Bike-Driven Scarf Knitter Is An Accessory To Warmth

Despite all our technological achievements, humans still spend a lot of time waiting around for trains. Add a stiff winter breeze to the injury of commuting, and you’ve got a classic recipe for misery. [George Barratt-Jones] decided to inject some warmth into this scene by inviting people to knit a free scarf for themselves by riding a bike.

All a person has to do is ride the Cyclo-Knitter for five minutes and marvel at their handiwork. By the time the scarf is finished, they’ve cycled past being cold, and they have something to hold in the warmth. Cyclo-Knitter is essentially an Addi Express knitting machine being belt-driven by a stationary bike. Power is transferred from the bike through large, handmade wooden gears using old bike tire inner tubes as belts. [George] built a wooden tower to hold the machine and give the growing scarf a protected space to dangle.

We love the utility of this project as much as the joy it inspires in everyone who tries it. Check out their scarves and their reactions after the break. We haven’t seen people this happy to see something they weren’t expecting since that billboard that kills Zika mosquitoes.

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Socks By Bob

No, this article is not about SOCKS4 or SOCKS5 or Proxies. It’s about real socks, the ones that go onto your feet. Meet [Bob Rutherford], 88 years old, who lives in Saskatoon, Canada. He and his gang ([Glynn Sully], 92 years old , [George Slater] 85 year old, and young [Barney Sullivan] 65 years old) have made 10,000 socks for shelters in the community and across the country. That’s almost 8 miles of socks. Last year alone “operation Socks by Bob” as he likes to call it, produced 2,000 socks.

So how did these 4 fellows manage to pull this off? Turns out that [Bob] has a bit of a maker spirit in him and he actually built a fast, cheap, knitting machine for the purpose of making socks. Using a sewer tubing as a base, the machines can knit at 90 stitches a second.

He made it a while back but it didn’t have much of a use in mind for it. Sadly, seven years ago his wife passed away, leaving him facing a void in his life. Following his son advice “If you want to help yourself, help somebody else”, he decided to start this project.

“There’s a lot of us, as we grow older, we sit at home and look at the wall with nothing to do! Socks by Bob has given me that something to do.” [Bob]

Nowadays the gang has 2 machines working steadily and, once a week, they cut the long tubes of wool into socks. Half the yarn is donated, the other plus shipping costs are raised by [Bob’s] son. The knitting machines look pretty awesome in action. See for yourself in the video below.

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Knitting In The Round

There have been a few posts on Hackaday over the years involving knitting, either by modifying an old Brother knitting machine to incorporate modern hardware, or by building a 3D printed knitting machine. All of these hacks are examples of flat knitting, and are incapable of making a seamless tube. Circular Knitic bucks that trend by using 3D printing and laser cutters to create an open source circular knitting machine.

Circular Knitic is an expansion on an earlier build that gave a new brain to old Brother knitting machines from the 70s. This build goes well beyond simple manipulation of electrons and presents an entire knitting machine specifically designed for circular knitting. It’s completely automated, so once the machine is set up, a giant tube of knit yarn is automagically created without any human intervention.

This isn’t the first completely open source knitting machine; OpenKnit can be made with aluminum extrusion, some electronics, and a few 3D printed parts. Circular Knitic is, however, the first circular knitting machine we’ve seen, and according to the Github is completely open source.

The creators of Circular Knitic, [Varvara] and [Mar] have been showing off their machine at an exhibition in Zaragoza, Spain called DOERS, where they’ll be knitting for the better part of six months. You can see some video of that below.

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THP Entry: All Yarns Are Beautiful

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There are a lot of builds out there that retrofit modern electronics into ancient knitting machines. The ability to print in yarn is very cool, but when you look at the total costs of these projects – especially the ancient Brother KH-930 knitting machines – these projects start getting very expensive. A much cheaper solution to these $700 knitting machines is the Brother KH-910 model, the first of its kind, and a machine that can be purchased for about $100. For their entry into The Hackaday Prize, [chris007] and [andz] put modern electronics into this slightly less capable knitting machine, turning what was once old junk into something with the same capabilities of a much more expensive machine.

The more expensive KH-930 and -940 knitting machines are fairly impressive pieces of technology, controlled with a floppy drive, and can be retrofitted with a serial cable to upload patterns. This is the basis of the Electro-knit and Knitic, but they simply don’t work with the Brother KH-910, a machine programmed with a primitive scanner and semi-transparent picture cards. It’s like the difference between punch cards and a disk drive, really.

[chris] and [andz]’s new controller for the Brother KH-910 is based on the Arduino, acting as a connection between a PC and the 200 solenoids and pins inside the knitting machine. That in itself is impressive – now, instead of being limited to 60-pixel wide yarn prints, the Brother KH-910 can use its full width, limited only by your arm strength and amount of yarn.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

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