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How To Thread Your Knitting Machine: For Superba, Singer, White and Phildar Double Bed Models.


Welcome to my series on the Principal Parts of a Superba Double Bed Knitting Machine. The focus of this post is to explain how to properly assemble and thread the Yarn Tension Guide.

If you have your Instruction Manual, please turn to the Threading Instructions shown on page 15. If you are without a manual then please read on.

Before threading the machine let us review the parts associated with the Superba Yarn Tension Guide and how it is assembled.

Superba Yarn Tension Guide Components.

Each Superba, Singer, White or Phildar knitting machine is sold with one of the following components that make up the Yarn Tension Guide.

Regardless of whether you have a single bed or double bed model, these parts are exactly the same.

There are four (4) components to the Yarn Tension Guide:

1. The Tension Head - you will see detail shots of the various parts to this component when I take you through threading.

2. The Yarn Rod: This supports the Tension Head and Feeding Guide.

3. The Feeding Guide: This guides the yarn coming from either a cone or ball into the Tension Head.

Lastly, we have the Yarn Tension Unit Stand. This also holds the row counter.

A word about cosmetic differences on Superba Knitting Machines. There are many. Colours and subtle variations abound as you will see in these photos and in a post I wrote regarding the various knitting machine models produced by S.I.T.

Personally I love that fuschia colour.

Persons owning a Superba , Singer or Phildar models produced in the late 1980's and early 1990's will recognize this style of Tension Unit Stand made of a flexible resin. They were not shipped with any machines sold in North America. So if you have one similar to that shown above and below, like I do, it means you purchased your machine in Europe.

Some Tension Unit Stands may be missing the row counter but these are easily attached. You can see two little holes in the photo below for attaching the row counter at a later time.

Those of you who purchased either the System 624 model and the System 9000 model of knitting machine may have also received a 4-Colour Yarn Changer. This accessory comes with an additional Tension Unit Stand, which you can see below right.

Here is my System 624 knitting machine with the colour changer and two Tension Units attached.

If you are like me and have two of every model produced, you then have access to a bevy of spare parts and accessories. Shown below are two of everything in the style shipped with White and Superba knitting machines sold in North America.

I thought I would include a photo of a Single Bed model for those of you with this version of knitting machine. The beauty with Superba machines is that regardless of what model you have, all these essential components are virtually the same and work on any machine, regardless of when it was manufactured.

Assembling The Tension Unit.

As per your instruction manual, you need to attach the Tension Unit Stand to the bottom of the knitting machine bed first.

If your machine comes with the style of Tension Unit Stand shown below, this uses a clamping mechanism to attach the stand to the machine frame.

1. Release the clamp by opening the lever all the way as shown. You can see my thumb holding the lever open.

2. Coming from behind the knitting machine, you will extend the the forward hooked edge of the Tension Unit Stand to the front of the steel support on the bottom of the back needle bed - figure A in photo below.

Once you feel that you have grabbed the front of this support, close the clamp on the Stand with your thumb. You should feel the back half of the clamp attaching itself to the steel section - figure B in photo below.

Here is a rear view of this process. The clamp is open and you can see the steel support. The hooked edge "A" is under the machine at the front of the steel support. You can clearly see the back half of the clamp "B" as it is readied into position. The Tension Unit Stand must be flush with the bottom of the machine frame and clamped tightly and firm.

Once the Tension Unit Stand is in place, you can take the Yarn Rod and insert it into the Stand.

The Yarn Rod has two notches extending slightly at each end. As per your manual, end "A" of the Yarn Rod has the notches closer to the end and this is inserted into the Tension Unit Stand.

Insert the rod into the hole behind the row counter and down into hold "B" for Double Bed Knitting Machine models. Hole "A" is for Single Bed Superba models. The Yarn Rod should not flop around but hold steady in place.

Next we attach the Tension Head to end "B" of the Yarn Rod.

Turn the Tension Head over and you will see where to insert the rod. Ensure it is inserted fully or the Tension Head will flop around whilst knitting and will cause damage to your knitting.

The green arrow in the photo below shows the position of the front of the Tension Head in relation to the middel of the machine or where the front and back beds meet. This is important for ensuring the smooth delivery of yarn to the machine carriages and the consistent formation of stitches.
With the Tension Heads in place and the rod inserted in the base, you can now attach the triangular shaped Feeding Guide.

The Feeding Guide clips onto the metal rod, snapping into place. There are two yarn clips built into the base of the Feeding Guide for you to clip your yarn to when not in use.

Adjust the height of the Feeding Guide relative to the yarn being used. These are designed to "guide" the yarn into the metal tension discs on the Tension Head directly above.

All machines were only shipped with one Tension Unit. I have more
than one machine so this view shows two units in use.

A Word About Yarn Weights on a Superba.
Yarn weights and choices for use on a Superba knitting machine are many and these machines offer the widest range of yarn weights one can use versus any other home knitting machine made. Of course a Superba excels at knitting fine coned yarns in the weight range of 2/30's. This is the most suitable coned yarn weight when knitting Double Bed Jacquard. But our machines are not limited to any one weight. Not by a long shot.

Below I show a Pearl Cotton, which would knit on a 2 - 2.75mm hand knitting needle. The Stitch Size setting when knitting on a Superba is 5. Centre is Zara by Filatura di Crosa and on the right is Pure Wool DK by Debbie Bliss, both Double Knitting weights of hand knitting yarn. Zara normally knits on 3.5mm - 4mm knitting needles. I knit with Zara on Stitch Size 10. The Pure Wool DK, not being as elastic as the Zara, I work on stitch size 11.

Finally I show below Berroco Ultra Alpaca which I knit on Stitch Size 12. Ultra Alpaca is a Worsted Weight hand knitting yarn knitting on a 4.5mm - 5mm knitting needle.

With this wide variation in yarn weights and effects we can achieve on these marvelous machines, one has to learn which Yarn Tension Unit setting to use. This takes time but use the guide that follows as a place to start.

Threading Your Superba Knitting Machine

Prepare your yarn(s) for knitting. If you are using a ball or skein of hand knitting yarn you must wind it first into a Centre Pull Ball or a Mini-Cone. Click on the link to see how that is done.

Below is a "Mini-Cone" of Lace Weight Mohair hand knitting yarn that I am using as an example.

1. Take your yarn tail...

and feed it through the feeding guide on the right...

NOTE: Your "main colour" is to be threaded through on the right side and any secondary yarns on the left.

2. Bring the yarn up behind the two metal discs on the right and pull the yarn through until you hear a click and that the yarn is in place.

What is going on behind? Let's show you using a photo taken looking down over the back of the discs.

The two silver discs are what provide the tension on the yarn as it passes through. Just behind these discs you can see a white piece of plastic protruding horizontally. This helps channel the yarn into the discs as the yarn on a machine travels at a very fast rate. There is an opening where this rear guide meets the green cap on the left. Slide the yarn through this gap by pulling forward - it should just pop in.

Next, looking at the two silver discs you can see a white dot in the middle. This acts as a guide to ensure the yarn does not pop out of place when knitting.

So when threading, you bring the yarn behind, pull through the first guide, through the discs and forward. It should be one swift movement. It helps to use two hands holding each end of the yarn in a loop with the yarn end at the top as you pull through the rear guide and discs in one motion.

3. Now bring the yarn end forward along the length of the Tension Head and through the first guide....and then carrying it up towards one of the plastic wheels on the flexible wire....

4. Grab the Take-Up Wire and Tension Wheel and bring it down close to the Tension Head and insert the yarn around the wheel from back to front.... ensure the yarn is sitting inside the groove on the wheel... hanging onto the yarn end release the Take-Up Wire and Tension Wheel.....

5. Now take the thread down to the last yarn guide below the wheel. This is the guide that extends over the centre of both needle beds...

Clip it in place on the side of the Feeding Guide. There are two little clips to hold yarns when not in use.

Threading A Second Yarn or Colour.

Recently I was knitting with two cones of the same yarn. This yarn is very fine and a single strand knits just fine but the resulting fabric is too sheer and light on it's own but doubled it knits up to a gorgeous fabric. I chose to knit this in Full Needle Rib (FNR).

I want to show you how to thread two cones separately and repeat the threading directions one more time. If you are anxious to try knitting Double Bed Jacquard in two colours, this is where and how you thread Colour B.

Below is the resulting Tension Swatch using this yarn, two strands in Full Needle Rib on Stitch Size 2, Bed Space 3 and the Tension Unit set at no.5.

You can thread two yarns - if they are of a fine to medium weight - through one yarn guide but you must watch the flow of the yarns through the Yarn Tension Unit. Also, you must adjust the Tension Unit Settings.

With the first cone threaded through the right guide, I simply thread the second cone on the left in the same manner...

Pass the yarn up into the feeding guide...

Holding the yarn tail on top, form a loop and pull through the tension disc guides and between the two metal discs..

draw the yarn forward past the Tension Guide Dial...

under the shaped yarn guide...

and upwards towards the Take-Up Wire and Tension Wheel...

bring the wheel down towards the Tension Head and place the yarn on the wheel - with yarn coming from back to front...

draw yarn downward - ensuring that yarn is in the tension wheel...

and thread the last guide...

before clipping yarn to feeding guide...

Tip: To prevent the yarn from accidentally unthreading in the event you let one strand go, knot both ends together, then clip.

If you have a second Tension Unit, you can thread one or two more yarns in the same manner. Even without a colour changer, this allows you to do stripes using up to 4 colours.

How The Yarn Tension Unit Works.

The Yarn Tension Unit performs it's job by providing a slight tension on the yarn as it moves through the metal discs ensuring that the yarn you are knitting with flows smoothly and consistently when knitting.

At the end of a row, once you have cleared the last needle working, the Take-Up Wire and Tension Wheel will move upwards, taking up the slack on the yarn until the needles begin knitting the yarn again.

Tip: New Knitters Pay Attention!
If you stop knitting for a period of time, check that these wires are not raised to an almost vertical position as shown below. Why? If they are then they cannot rise any further and not take up any slack. This results in loops of yarn formed at the edge of your knitting.

Before you begin to knit again, pull the yarn down towards the cone or ball....

The discs and wires should be a few inches away from the top of they Tension Head before you proceed.

The same can be said if you have the Tension Unit Settings too tight. Your edge stitches may pull very tight at the end of a row, so you know to then loosen the Tension Unit Setting to a higher number.

Tension Unit Settings.

The lower the number the tighter the tension. Number 1 is tightest and number 11 is loosest. And number 5 is just right....

No.5 is my default setting if the yarn is medium to light weight. If the yarn flows too freely and the Take-Up Wire and Tension Wheel are almost vertical even in the middle of a row, then I tighten up to 2 or 3. This was the case for the Lace Weight Mohair above or when I use a 2/30's Wool or Acrylic coned yarn.

I set the Yarn Tension Unit setting at no.2 for this Lace Weight Mohair yarn. This provided enough tension on the yarn as it feeds through this unit but not so much that it inhibits the flow.

For the Hairy Acrylic (that's it's name!) yarn I left the setting at 5 and it knit just grand.

Tension Unit Suggested Setting Numbers.
For very fine yarn set the dial on the Tension Head between 1 - 3.

For Medium Weight Yarns up to a 4ply hand knitting wool or cotton; setting no. 4-6.

Double Knitting Weight Yarns between 7-9.

Worsted and heavier yarns between 9 - 11.

Tip: To keep the Mohair free from lint and dust that will collect on your machine table or stand, I place the tube of the Mohair onto an empty yarn cone. This raises it off the table and also helps to stabilize it.

Please see the "How Do I ..." section on the top right of this page for additional instructions and information regarding the operation and maintenance of your Superba/Singer/White/Phildar brand knitting machine.

I hope you found this information helpful.


Patrick Madden.
Toronto, Ontario CANADA.