My First Foray into Machine Knitting

On the weekend, I purchased my first knitting machine – an Empisal KH680L.  For those unitiated, see pics below.  It was purchased from Myer, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane in March 1975 (I still have the original box with the sales stickers on it).

It is a lovely machine – they don’t make Empisals anymore – the company was taken over by Brother in the 1980s.  Brother doesn’t make knitting machines anymore either.  The only machines still in production are Silver Reed.

The only things my machine didn’t have was the clamps to attach it to its table (duh?)  and the instruction book (double duh!).  I managed to download one from at a cost of US$40.  Hmmmm…. – a necessary evil, I’m afraid.

The sponge bar needs replacing, but as it’s such an old machine, I couldn’t find a replacement so I found a fantastic tutorial on how to make your own sponge bar – which I will be doing this weekend.

So!  I finally got around to setting it up today, but darn it – couldn’t get it to cast on.  So, in desperation, I rang the Queensland Machine Knitter’s Guild for some help/advice.  Joan is coming around later today to help.

Here are some pics I took with descriptions below each one:

This is a close-up of the top of the case – closed.

The Empisal with its table.

The instruction book (the downloaded copy).

Close-up of the carriage without the handle or roller plate assembly.  Showing the tension dial in the centre and the knitting type selector buttons underneath.

The carriage with the handle and the roller plate assembly installed.

Tools, Top row – from L to R – carriage lock, (not sure what this is), set lever, machine oil bottle

Middle row, L to R – handle, needle cutter tool, wax roll

Bottom row, L to R – handle, two weights, row counter

Left Row, Top to bottom – transfer handle – 2 x 1, transfer handle – 3 x 1, transfer handle – 3 x 2, latchet hook, work hook

Right Row – top to bottom – spare needles, nylon thread (used to hold together 2 pieces of knitted fabric to enable a continuation of knitting without removing the first panel from the knitter)

Underside of carriage and roller assembly unit

Peaches and Creme coned yarn threaded into rear yarn tension unit – this was just for display as this Empisal does not deal with worsted weight yarns – the highest you can really go is DK weight (8 ply).

No rust on the needles.

Pattern selector buttons.

Row counter showing the tripper at top-left.

Top yarn tension unit showing tension dial.

29 Replies to “My First Foray into Machine Knitting”

  1. Hmmm, I wonder if Joan is SockJoan from Rav and QSWFA? She is an avid machine knitter and all round helpful lady, so maybe…

    Love you machine, it all looks like it has been very well looked after.

    I have a big cone of 2 ply yellow acrylic if you need something to practice with.

  2. Please let me know how you got on. I recently purchased an Empisal in fantastic condition from a Church garage sale. Ihave folowed the instructions, but I cannot getit to cast on either. I am a hand knitter who would like to try a new challenge.

  3. please let me know how to get in touch with the Qld Machine Knitters. i bought a singer 360 with a rib attachment from a lovely lady in Adelaide about 12 months ago. Guess what, last night I unpacked it, set it up and had a practice! Today is Good Friday 2009 and I wish the shops were open so I could buy more thin wool. I’m a kneedle knitter from way back and of course my stash of yarn is all bulky and fancy. Oh well…..early to bed to night, up early in the morning to drive 2 hours to Lincraft and Spotlight for a rumage thru their yarns and hopefully find some fine ply’s to continue practicing. Gosh, I cant wait to make a ‘real’ item….Fantastic! love it, now I’m on the hunt for 2 and 3 ply yarn, and of course some intsruction – i can do wonderful stocking stitch! My machines – $600 for both – came with all accessories, in their original boxes. Why did I wait soooo long to set it up and have a go……?

  4. I have the EXACT same model – my mother bought it for me on a whim after our local priest had given it away to the op-shop. He was a meticulous man, and I believe my machine is in superb condition… complete with original manuals, pattern books, yarn winder… everything!

    I’m trying to learn how to operate it now – the patterns in the book are gorgeous, and I desperately want to make them.

  5. Hi, just stumbled across your blog as I’m trying to learn how to knit on my knitting machine that I bought from a lady through the local newspaper here on the Sunshine Coast and I can’t get it to cast on either – did you get yours to work? If so, what’s the secret?? Do you know if there is a Machine Knitters Club here in Queensland and their contact details. Cheers

  6. Have had a brother machine for years that I picked up from a Trash and Treasure Day. Joan printed and sold me and instruction book, but I couldn’t get it to work either. Two years ago I went to the craft show in Brisbane and the Q.M.K. Club were there and I found a club close to me. My first meeting was very full on learning all these new sayings. The ladies are lovely, but, two years on I still have yet to make a decent garment. I have made small toys and small jumpers and practised different stitches, but there is so much to remember. I am still a member of the club, but will be unable to attend the monthly meeting now until July due to committments. I am hoping then that I can arrange for someone to come and sit with me at my machine and hopefully tell me where I am going wrong. Good luck with yours. There are quite a few clubs around. Cheers

  7. I have had a knitting machine just like this empisal for a long time and just decided to set it up and have a go on it. Just stumbled on this site while searching for informaiton on how to use it. I too do not have any instruction books and was wondering where to start. I used to have an old Matador which was so easy to cast on etc. but this empisal seems to be quite different. If any one can give me some clues it would be great. I think I might have to visit the website mentioned and download an instruction booklet too. I have the ribber as well together with all of the attachments weights etc…

  8. You seem to be the go to gal for information on the Queensland Machine Knitters. Do you have any details for the club?

  9. I have a few years using these machines and have a few different models. May I suggest you use a machine cast on method called “e-wrap”. This uses a knot to table clamp at one end opposite to knit carriage, yarn e-wrapped across needles to carriage end, place hooked wire bar and weights onto e-wrap yarn, thread carriage and tension mast and gently move carriage across needles. Another way to cast on can be to use a crochet hook suitable to your yarn ply and crochet a chain longer than you need for your needles. Place onto each needle a loop from the chain and when you have placed the required needles into position and hooked up the chain allow the extra chain to unravel. Continue from “place hooked wire bar” to “move carriage across needles”. A tip may also be to check pass buttons are not in use and move all selected needles fully out to D position before moving carriage. This supplies the needle with an open latch and the carriage as it passes puts the yarn into the open latch and weight also helps with forming a stitch.

  10. I am thinking of buying an Empisal knitting machine on e-bay, my Mum had one over 35 years ago, but cannot remember which model. Which are the models to keep away from & do they do garter stitch, as I mainly want it to use to knit for charity?
    Thank you

  11. Averil,

    I’m not sure if any models are any better than others. Basically, I would stay away from any model that has rust on the needles or is missing parts. Ask the seller as many questions as you can and ask for as many photos as you can. Even KMs which are only 20 or 30 years old may be in worse condition than older models – it depends on how they’ve been stored, how often they’ve been used and if they’ve been cared for. Oh! Don’t forget to check the Sponge Bar before you buy it if possible – this will need to be replaced most likely. If you’re on, there is a Machine Knitter’s Group for Aussies run by a very knowledegable lady in Rockhampton.

  12. I’ve had an Empisal/Brother KH680-L for many years, All the books are to hand except the manual which came with the machine. I’ve made enquiries from a knitting machine firm at Carlton Sydney and they have quoted me $49 plus postage for a new one. Apparently this is a big book and I remember the manual I had as being soft cover and not very thick. Can anyone give me feedback as to this please? After so many years I am ready to take up knitting again.

    Many thanks

  13. Margaret, I downloaded my manual from a website – forgot the name – just google ’empisal KH680 manual’ and see what you get. I paid $40 US.


  14. Whoever wrote this please reply to me as I am looking for someone from the Queensland knitting machine guild, if they exist, and Joan could be the person to help me. I have just googled this and not come up with one for Qld. I want to get a knitting machine and don’t know where to start?

  15. Hi All. I know this entry was from a little while ago.
    I am in Sydney and moving home in the next couple of weeks.
    I have two knitting machines FREE to a loving home. 1 is an Empisal similar to the above in good condition but no manual. The other a Singer of similar vintage, a little more used but with manual.
    I don’t want to just give these to Vinnies or throw them away. I want them to be loved and used.
    They were inherited but I have not used them.
    Please contact me for photos:
    Pick up only since they are pretty heavy.
    If you know of a forum or guild I could contact/donate these to please let me know, in two weeks they may end up at Vinnies and I’ll be very sad.
    thanks, Sara

  16. Just 2 years ago my mother-in-law got me attending her knitting clug ( it is held at her house in garage) My first machine was a singer (old) and now a impersil (old). I have to admit that the impersil is my favorite. I took 12 months off to renovate our house but now I am back into it and I am just starting to appreciate the fine workings of the machine. Every Tuesday I travel 52km on a dirt road which takes me over 1 hour just to get some lessons. They the club is coming up to 30 years and the oldest ladies are fanastic, me at a tender 53 is the youngest the oldest I think is in her 80’s. Finding instructions or patterns is not easy some times but each experience leads me wanting to learn more.

    1. Thanks for your comment Maxine. I have just got my Singer memomatic 322 back from ‘the shop’ – it was an as-new machine and now works like a dream – glides like butter after a thorough clean and degrease – can’t wait to get started after a month’s hiatus. My bulky empisal 150 with ribber also has new sponge bars and is working brilliantly – will be busy playing and making swatches for weeks to come – it really is addictive isn’t it? LOL!


  17. Did you know that you can redo the sponge in your pressure bar yourself, my father-in-law taught me, also how to give the machines a service. Replacement needles can be brought from any machine club as well as wool, tools, patterns,combs ect. I buy all I need from clubs, membership is very reasonable and the assistance you get is excellent. They have camps, presentation days (from other clubs), get different ideas and help. I also scan my old books and burn them on disks on the computer that way I always have a copy.

    1. Yes, MK orgs are great resources for help and assistance. The Queensland Spinners, Weavers and Dyers group runs classes and has a lot of experienced machine knitters. There’s an Australian Machine Knitters group on and there is a Qld machine Knitters – Joan Salmond is the one to go to for help and advice. She used to own a knitting machine shop at Stones Corner and still fixes old machines and sponge bars. I’ve had all my old machines serviced through her.

  18. I have one these machines in my possesion which I would never part with still in use possibly it is not as good a condition as yours but over the years I have used it quite a lot with Three kids ….I purchased mine also from Myer at Gosford in NSW…around 1976-1977…Still have all the tools and still using all the original needles….always oiling it when I pack it away …Just acame accross your site when searching for patterns…Hope you have loads of fun with it…… They just dont make things like they used to …. Sandra

  19. Dear Gabriel,after 10 years of not machine knitting I am about to retire from work and need to clean off my machines and start knitting again however I am in trouble with the first machine I found, I have Passap,Brother and Singer, you know how the grow???
    My 910 Brother was turned on and of course Blew up (that smell told me) and the little noise it made,I’m told its the capasitors and need to take it to Joan Salmond,you mentioned her name on your list but not her contact,I last visited her shop at Stones Corner.
    I now have a phone number 07 32652203 from the white pages but no answer from my rings.
    Also can you give me the name of the machine group on Ravelry you mentioned
    (The lady lives in Rockhampton)as I looked and their are quite a few.

    Many thanks Brian.

  20. Hi,
    I want to buy a brother knitting machine model KH860/272, with a ribber and lace attachments.
    Do any of u know of a knitting club in qld where i can either purchase a machine like this/or where they can help me with learning how to use such a machine.
    regards jan my contact is

  21. I am searching for a manual for this machine also! I do not wish to pay $50 for the pdf version from that website. Would anyone be able to email me an electronic version? I will make you socks? (Once I figure out how)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *