Knitting machine punch card patterns

Knitting machine punch card patterns DEFAULT

One of the best qualities of machine knitting is speed. You can knit a large fabric in a very short time. If you have a punch card machine or other electric patterning devices, you can knit patterns very quickly. One popular technique is Fair Isle. It is just 2 color knitting. I will show you how I design the standard punch card and how to knit it on a Brother knitting machine.

Free punch card pattern download — animal prints

Free animal PDF pattern download: Click Here.

You can use this chart for hand knitting, or punch your own card with these patterns. This will fit the Brother standard and bulky punch card knitting machine, and the other 24 stitches wide punch card knitting machines such as a Singer.

Watch our YouTube video for the animal print punch card

Punch card pattern design for machine knitting- Leopard and Zebra

You can get some blank punch cards, second-hand punch (I use “handy punch”), and the connectors (small plastic pieces to connect the beginning and ending rows) from eBay.

My first process is to look around the internet to find some inspirations. Overlay a piece of tracing paper on top of the blank punch card and start some pencil sketches.

I use standard 24 stitch wide punch cards. It has 60 rows. You don’t need to use all 60 rows. Just cut off the extra rows, and punch the last 2 rows so the beginning and the ending rows will match.

After sketching, I color it black so it is easier to see the design.

To make sure the pattern will be continuous, I roll up the punch card both ways so the pattern will match at the beginning and the ending rows, and left matches right columns.

The point is to design the pattern so the top pattern is continuous of the bottom and the left is continuous of the right. If you are designing a single motif and not care about the continuous pattern, you don’t have to worry about this step.

Place the sketched tracing paper below the punch card and hold it against the light source, you will see the pattern location. Just mark the pattern with a color pencil or pencil.

Punch holes with your handy punch. There are several types of punches you can buy. Even the cheap one works well.

How to knit a Fair Isle pattern with a punch card on a Brother knitting machine

First, we have to insert the punch card to the device by turning the dial on the right side.

Connect the beginning and ending 2 rows together with a connector on each side. Now it creates a continuous pattern.

Move the lever to the lowest: red dot for pausing the punch card advance.

Thread the main yarn (background) to the right side of the mast, and the secondary yarn (pattern) to the left side of the mast. Clip the secondary yarn to the mast first. We do not need it yet.

Pull out as many needles as you like. I pulled out from L36 to R36, so I have 3 repeats of the 24 stitch pattern.

Cast on any way you like (I use e-wrap), and knit a few rows of plain stitches.

Park your carriage to the left side.

Set the carriage to KC (engaging the patterning belt), and move the carriage to the right. Needles are selected.

Turn the dial so the punch card starts with row 1.

The lever stays in the red dot (Not advancing the punch card).

Thread the second yarn to the B slot in the carriage. (Slot A is for the main color yarn).

Push the MC button on the carriage for standard gauge Brother machine. For Brother bulky machine (KH260), push the upper MC button.

Now move the lever from the red dot to the green triangle in the middle.

Now, we can knit back and forth until the length you like.

Don’t forget to add weights, and move the weights up as needed.

You will start to see the pattern forming. Remember this is the back side of the fabric.

Binding off

When you are ready to bind off, cut and remove the second color yarn first.

Change the carriage dial from KC to NL in the bottom for plain knitting.

Punch card lever is back to the red dot.

Knit a few rows of plain knitting and bind off any way you like. Or knit a few rows of waste yarn and take off the machine.

The backside will have floats. To minimize the length of floats, you can punch more holes in the middle of the blank squares.

Final leopard animal print knitting sample off the machine.

Don’t forget your free PDF download by Clicking Here.Even if you do not machine knit, you can use the chart for hand knitting or cross-stitch.

Happy knitting!


A number of variables need to be considered when adapting punchcard patterns for use on electronic knitting machines. These images pertain to Brother use, but the principles are shared between KM brands. I will add more information as time goes on. Online free downloads for magazines, manuals, etc. may be found at
some additions of late include designs in 12, 18, and 30 stitch repeats in addition to the familiar 24 and 40 ones, and to help with interpretations of symbols:  Japanese symbols for machine knitters 

Punchcard collections for all brands @ needles of steel 

For a later post including information on scanning and editing published designs electronically see

As the transition was made from manual machines to push button, and then to punchcard selection systems, the early collections included diagrams of symbols familiar to hand knitters, and interestingly worded text that disappeared or was reduced in later punchcard books. I am presenting information in the order in which it appeared in this particular collection’s paper version, I have not found this volume in the above-mentioned sources for free download. Images are gathered from more than one source, so there is some repetition of information


Punchcards may be used to guide one for hand techniques, here a version of e wrap is used on selected needles for weaving effect, the diagram on the upper left is for a different fabric. Punchcard may also be used to help track twisted stitches, cables, and rackingThis is a 2 carriages patterning operation, lace extension rails must be used, with each carriage disengaged from the belt while the other is moving across the knitting and back to its resting place. 


Below each punchcard, the repeat is identified in numbers for stitches and rows. The cards presented are the minimum length required for the card to roll smoothly within the reader when joined for continuous knitting (at least 36 rows). Electronic knitters may isolate the individual, smallest repeat, draw only the squares that appear as white in the cards, enter them via mylar or download, and use color reverse.

Skip is aka slip or part. These cards would work for tuck stitch as well, may even tolerate elongation, depending on yarn thickness.

Opposite cam buttons are in use, the fabric changes appearance depending on which of the 2 stitch types is forward, so if instructions with cards are to be followed, then the starting side for the attern in this instance should be COR. Both tuck buttons (or slip) may be used as well, for a different fabric. If the tuck or slip texture is created over an even number of rows (2, 4), changing colors for each paired row sequence can create some interesting color patterns with very short floats akin to planned mosaics and mazes. 

The fair isle patterns below are actually poor choices in terms of float control, pushing its limits. It is usually recommended that floats be no wider than 5 stitches, and even then, they may have to be controlled to make the finished garment easier to wear. 

Brother only produces a transfer lace (as opposed to studio simple lace, where the carriage transfers and knits with each pass of the carriage). The lace carriage is the one advancing the punchcard. The knit carriage does not select needles, but rather, knits 2 (or more) plain knit rows

Lace card markings, including those for fine lace: in the latter, stitches are transferred and shared between pairs of needles, best knit in a light color, with smooth yarn so the surface texture becomes more noticeable.

Lace point cams may be used on the punchcard machine to create vertical bands of lace. This is also achievable on the electronic by programming for knit stitches between vertical (or horizontal bands).

Tuck (left) and weaving (right) may be combined with lace. In these fabrics both carriages are selecting needles, so extension rails must be used. The two-column on the left of the cards indicate movements for the lace carriage on left and the knit carriage on right. Straight arrows indicate single carriage passes, curved ones 2.

Yet another fabric using 2 carriages selecting needles for patterning

Here the “openness” is created by having the appropriate needles out of work, creating ladders in those spaces. Some interesting results can be obtained by transferring the recommended out of work needles’ stitches to the ribber. “air knitting” can help with verifying proper needle placement is in use

to match the location of the out of work needles to markings for punchcards, which are often given with lines delineating 0 needle position, the image will need to be mirrored horizontally

THREAD OR PUNCH LACE is possible only on machine models that have 2 buttons in mc position The thicker yarn knits along with the thinner one where there are unpunched areas or white squares, the thinner yarn knits alone where the punched holes or black squares occur, with the thicker yarn floating behind it more information on this fabric 

Suitable for tuck and possibly tolerant of elongation as well:

Punchcard machines mirror motifs when knit. This may not be noticed when copying small repeats, but it becomes more evident in larger ones. For knitting on the 910, the supplied motif would need to be mirrored when programmed to retain the intended direction. With other machine models, one needs to know whether the “image” on the card will appear on the purl side, matching punchcard pattern and needle selection, or the knit side, thus reversing it. 

Here are 2 FI samples: the one on the left is fairly evenly distributed, so little if any difference is noticed, the one on the right sends the biker to a different forest

reversal of lettering

When you think that that is all sorted out in your head, there are these in slip stitch, the direction of stitches matches, because the purl side is used, images are reversed on the knit side.  

the mirrored punchcards the punchcard change knob has selections for single motif and pattern knitting (KC)

the 910 has settings KC I and II, KC II cancels end needle selection, while in punchcard machines this has to be done manually if the pattern stitch requires it. One such example is when any patterns are made with needles out of work. End needle selection would make the needles on each side of the empty space select forward and create a knit stitch. In tuck or slip, that would be an out-of-pattern knit stitch, in FI, a vertical line of the color in the B feeder would appear along on each side of the OOW needles.

Ribber settings and symbolsfor Brother machines 

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How to design your own Fair Isle punch card for 2-color machine knitting - Brother 881

Punchcards and patterncards

Machine knitting is one of the disciplines included in the Knitting & Crochet Guild 'umbrella'. Those without experience of machine knitting may assume that the machine does it all by itself but nothing could be further from the truth! Although a machine is used, this is just the creative tool, like the hook for crochet or needles in hand knitting. In all the disciplines it is the person using the tool who decides on design, patterns and methods. Even in machine knitting shaping and special stitches are often done manually to achieve the exact quality and finish needed for the project.

Punchcards were first invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1798 for his weaving looms. They evolved over the years and were adapted for use on the domestic knitting machine. The punchcard selects the needles to create the pattern (just like the idea with the Jacquard loom used in weaving). The number of stitches controlled by the patterning system has increased over the years with standard pattern sizes of 8,12 and then in 1971 to 24 stitches which became the most popular stitch pattern width for some years.

24 stitch punchcard patterns can be broken down to pattern widths of 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 12 stitches increasing the design possibilities. The discipline of 24 stitches would seem to be restrictive but in fact if it is looked on as a challenge to the knitter's creativity the number of patterns which can be created is infinite.

Unlike the charts for hand knitting, a punchcard does not always represent the pattern which will be knitted. This is because the punchcards shows the needles to be worked but the knitter can use additional features of the machine to add texture or complexity in the stitch.The exceptions to this are the Fair Isle and thread lace patterns. The Fair Isle setting on the machine allows two colours in a row to be knitted with one yarn in the back feeder and the other in the front feeder. The thread lace setting using a fine yarn in one feeder and a thicker one in the other reproduces an attractive lace pattern which copies the punchcard but with much smaller floats than those in the fairisle fabric. The simple geometric type cards (every alternate needle on alternating rows and blocks of punching) can, by using the different machine settings, create surface patterns which bear no relationship to the original punchcard.

The term Patterncard has been used to distinguish the single pattern repeat grids (of the proportional grids on the electronic machines) from a punchcard (which needs sufficient length to be able to wrap around and join if you want to knit continuously in the pattern).

In the 1980s electronic knitting machines were introduced. Initially the patterning system used Mylar sheets with a 60 stitch wide pattern facility. The patterns were marked on the sheets with a special pen in the proportional grids. It was no longer necessary to fill in the complete sheet. One pattern repeat was all that was needed to knit the pattern. The machine could then be programmed to knit the pattern across the width of the needlebed if required. A pattern could be any width the knitter wanted within the 60 stitch discipline. However, with the variation keys to double the width and length of a pattern or use the negative key, it was possible to control the whole of the 200 stitches on the needlebed.

In the 1990s models were introduced which had 555 built in patterns. The Mylar sheets were discontinued. The ability to control the whole needlebed created many more design possibilities. It is possible to pick out any section of a patterncard and use it as a repeat pattern. As with a punchcard not all the designs shown on a patterncard will produce a recognisable design unless the knitter has the knowledge and understanding to control the machine.


Punch card patterns knitting machine

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Machine Knitting - Punchcard Information

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