The History of Circular Knitting Machines

The History of Circular Knitting Machines: From Inception to Modern Innovation

The knitting machine in a circular setting revolutionized the textile industry from the moment it was invented, thereby setting the trend for a highly efficient and quality fabric production process. The history of such machines goes back as far as the 16th century, and since then, their design and function have gone through quite big strides throughout the centuries that followed.

Circular knitting, also known as knitting in the round, is a technique that produces a seamless tube of fabric.

Early Times: The 16th Century

circular knitting machine

The history of the knitting machine dates back to 1589 when William Lee, an English clergyman, devised the first knitting machine, called the stocking frame. But this knitting machine was not of the circular type; it was a prototype for future inventions. Here, Lee’s invention worked on a mechanical design to imitate the process of hand-knitting textiles, which helped in enhancing production speed.

The Birth of Circular Knitting Machines: 19th Century

The first real circular knitting machine was designed in 1816 by a French-born engineer, Marc Isambard Brunel. His idea comprised a circular needle bed, which allowed continuous knitting in the round and thus created seamless tubes of fabric. It was this breakthrough that benefited especially the hosiery industry. This invention gained popularity during World War I when thousands of socks were needed for soldiers. Today, knitting machines still use the basic design of barbed needles and a frame.

circular knitting machine

Technological Progress: 20th Century

In the 20th century, there were several developments in circular knitting machines. The performance of the machines increased drastically in the 1920s with the help of latch needles that were highly efficient and reliable as compared to the older needle designs. The computerization of the controls of the circular knitting machines occurred from the 1950s into the 1960s, which is automation-that is, the incorporation of the latest technology in machine design to churn out designs of even more complex natures at faster rates.

Modern Era: 21st Century Innovations

Recently, circular knitting machines are also highly advanced and designed with electronic patterning systems and automatic yarn feeders that assist in attaining high speed during operation. These machines help create basic hosiery and sophisticated knitwear in the fabric range.

circular knitting machine

Modern Plastic Circular Knitting Machines

Sentro vs Addi Circular Knitting Machines

Modern plastic-based circular knitting machines are considered one of the recent textile machinery game-changers. Designed with durable plastic, the new-age circular knitting machine is both lightweight and corrosion-free. Besides bringing down overall machine costs, the use of plastic helps in easing the maintenance needed by a machine. This is what has made plastic circular knitting machines highly popular in the production of synthetic fabrics: they guarantee high precision and consistency.

How Circular Knitting Machines Work

A circular knitting machine is a machine for making tubular or open-width form knitted fabric. That is with smooth sides. As the machine works, needles are coordinated enough to make yarns create loops, creating rounds of fabric with the format of a tube. Key components include:

  • Needle Cylinder: The cylindrical bed on which needles are mounted.
  • Cam System: Directs the needles during their knitting cycle.
  • Yarn Feeders: They feed yarns to needles.
  • Take-Down System: Pulls the knitted fabric down and away from the needle bed.

This advanced mechanism makes it possible to mass-produce seamless, high-quality knit fabrics at great speed.


The history of circular knitting machines testifies to human ingenuity and technological advances. From the early invention of William Lee to the computerized marvels now in use, these machines keep advancing, improving the manufacturing process in such a way that the textile industry keeps producing different high-quality fabrics.

Check my Shop for Circular knitting machine patterns:

sentro knitting machine patterns

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