Knitting machines are anything but new. The 1801 Jacquard loom, an ancestor to today’s knitting machines, was the first programmable system to use punch cards. However, they are certainly due for an update. Punch card machines are still used today, along with systems that use printed patterns generated by CAD systems, and a few that connect to PCs to read patterns directly. Learning to use the design tools and the machines takes some effort; a lot more than sitting down at a computer and printing out a photograph or drawing.
Photo: Tekla Perry
Kniterate’s founders think it’s time that machine knitting became as easy as printing. They have developed Photoshop-like software for designing knitting patterns and a knitting machine that reads the patterns from an SD card. The company plans to sell its US $2500 system to schools and maker spaces, aiming it at people who might want to create, say, a scarf with a special design for a friend, but aren’t committed enough to knitting to buy and master a more traditional hobbyist knitting machine (which generally costs under $1000).
Company founder Gerard Rubio says he discovered 3-D printing in 2009 or so, and built his own 3-D printer from a kit. Then he went to fashion school, where he had access to punch card knitting machines. As a school project in 2014, he designed a knitting machine kit that could be built by hobbyists, launching it as the OpenKnit project. Kniterate, introduced this month at the HAX hardware accelerator’s demo day, evolved from that system. Rubio and lead engineer Shane Rogers explain how Kniterate works in the video above.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 30 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.