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Knitting Machine Latch Hook Needles & Needle Positions: For SUPERBA, SINGER, PHILDAR and WHITE Brand Knitting Machines


Welcome to my series on the Principal Parts for the Superba Double Bed Knitting Machine. This post focuses on
Latch Hook Needles and Needle Positions.

About Double Bed Knitting Machines Made in France.
S.I.T./Groupe Superba of Mulhouse, France produced and marketed knitting machines world-wide under various brand names so the information I am providing in this post applies to owners of home knitting machines with the following brand names and/or logos printed on their Double Bed model knitting machines:

® The Superba brand was distributed all over the world and the model numbers include Superba S40, S46, S47, s48, System 624, System 9000.

® The White brand was distributed only in North America and includes model numbers 1402, 1502, 1602.

® The Singer Company** distributed home knitting machines in Europe produced by S.I.T./Superba. Many models and colours were produced including Memomatic & Singer Freestyle Models 600, Memo II, Singer 2310 - 2340, Singer System 624 & 9000.
(** In North and South America, the Singer Company distributed home knitting machines produced by the Silver Reed Company of Japan - a completely different style of home knitting machine and operating system. The information here is for Singer machines made in France.)

® Phildar is a French textile company which retailed S.I.T./Superba knitting machines in their Phildar Yarn Stores throughout France and Belgium. Models included the Phildarmatic D120, D140

It does not matter what colour your French Double Bed Knitting Machine is, how old or what model you have. All these machines are engineered using the same Anodized Aluminum Frame and all use the same style of Latch Hook Needles.

To keep things simple I prefer to use the name Superba.

Why I Knit On A Superba.
I received my first Superba Knitting Machine four years ago and I find myself using this brand to the exclusion of all others. I hand knit as well as machine knit and a great advantage of the Superba is it's ability to knit such a wide range of yarn weights using every needle. This allows me to match my personal hand knitting tension using my favourite 4Ply, Double Knitting (DK) and even some Worsted Weight hand knitting yarns. Coupled with the ability to create fine gauge lace and beautiful Jacquard fabrics and Weave thick, textured yarns makes the Superba Double Bed model simply the best knitting machine I have ever used.

This is my friend Linda modeling this cute little "Shrug" I knit on my Superba Double Bed using Fleece Artist Kid Silk 2 Ply; a gorgeous hand dyed Kid Mohair/Silk blend that is a Double Knitting Weight. This yarn is exquisite and creates the nicest fabric with great drape and has wonderful stitch memory considering the high silk content. The equivalent hand knitting needle size is a 4mm for most of the hand knitters who have made this item. This shrug was knit using the Pushing Down Wheels in 2x2 rib and it was a joy to knit.

Below is a shot of the Shrug fastened with a Mother Of Pearl Shawl Pin.

Obviously the Superba Double Bed model you have has it's own special appeal or maybe you were gifted with one and are curious as to what the machine's potential is. I can assure you - plenty!

As with any other skill, machine knitting has a learning curve all it's own. It has a language it shares with hand knitting but how this is expressed differs greatly. Machine knitting uses it's own abbreviations, technical terms and then there is the machine itself. To achieve positive results, one must learn the names of all the machine parts and be able to identify and use them in a coordinated fashion.

Before I received my first Superba, I already knew my way around a knitting machine. I knew all the stitch techniques, how they were formed, how to knit garments. I had knit on every major brand of knitting machine and had three of them in my collection at home. Obviously this made my experience of knitting on a Superba a very pleasurable one. Not so for everyone else!

In joining various knitting lists on the internet I started receiving emails from people desperate for information on how to operate their Superba's. That led me to creating this blog and sharing information with other owners of French Double Bed Machines.

I am well aware that the Basic Instruction Book for these machines can be frustrating to read and use. Details of key components or the explanation of techniques are poorly written - or not explained at all! So I thought I would present the basic information in a way that relates to how you are going to knit and what you need to understand before you begin.

For new Superba, Singer, White and Phildar owners or knitters who are setting up their machine again after many years in storage, I ask that you read the following four posts to prepare a surface to set up your machine on and additional set-up information before beginning to knit. In order you should read:

The next step is to see how to attach your knitting machine to a table:

Once you have the machine set up, you
MUST give it a good cleaning using this information:

Finally, inspect and replace any bent or broken Needles on the machine bed. How To Replace A Needle Tutorial

For those of you without a Basic Instruction Manual, I have added a complete copy onto the Yahoo Groups SuperbaWhite website. There are also Instruction Manuals uploaded in the group database for the various electronic models. You have to join this group first. Once you are accepted, you can go into "Files" and download and print the manual. The file format is Adobe pdf . This is the link to the SuperbaWhite group:

Note: This post deals only with the "Principal" parts of your machine as outlined in the Instruction Book and does not include information regarding Electronic Stitch Programmers.

Let's get started...

How A Superba Knitting Machine Forms Stitches
The most significant Principal Parts of our Superba Knitting Machines are the Needles and the Carriages. The two work in complete unison. The Needles require the Carriages to move them into various positions and to deliver the yarn when forming new stitches... let's see how this is performed using the most basic machine knitting stitch: Stocking Stitch...

**Please Note**: on a Superba the Front Bed is always raised when knitting on the Back bed...these photos were taken with the Front Bed lowered to show stitch formation. 
1. The Back Carriage is ready to knit a row from right to left and the selected needles are resting in Working Position No. 1...
Note: It is the Carriage on a home knitting machine that passes over the selected needles and manipulates the needles to form stitches. It is also the Carriage that carries and delivers the yarn to the waiting needles.
2. Our working yarn is threaded into the Carriage Yarn Feeding Guide...
3. The Carriage is set to perform Stocking Stitch using Stitch Size 12 for this weight of yarn...
4. As we slide the Carriage across the needle bed, needle cams located on the bottom of the Carriage begin to raise and lower the needles into their 3 main knitting positions used when forming stitches...
5. I have highlighted the Needle Working Positions. We observe the carriage moving the first needles on the left from Position no.1 (green) forward to Position no.2 (pink). This is where the previous stitch on the needle slides behind the latch hook...the carriage then continues to raise the needles to Position no. 3 (blue) - forcing them through the brushes to ensure the latches open to receive yarn...
6. The Carriage then lowers the needles back to Working Position No. 2 so that the yarn guide can lay the yarn across the open latches...
7. The Needle Cams at the opposite end of the Carriage then force the needles back down along their channels, pulling yarn from the carriage to a specified length ***this is controlled by the Stitch Size Dial on the Carriage *** and this where your Superba forms the length of new stitches while knitting.
7a. At the same time the stitches from the previous row slip over the closed latch hook and off the needle...

8. The carriage knits the last stitch and having returned all needles to Position no. 1, it is ready to knit the next row...
(If you have never seen a knitting machine operate, the steps I just outline take the machine 2 seconds to complete!)
Observing how our machines form the most basic of stitches should give you insight into the considerations one must make when learning to knit on a Superba.

The Key To Successful Machine Knitting

There are six aspects to Machine Knitting always working in tandem that you must learn and consider when beginning to knit. These create successful knitting results:

Your Choice of Yarn Fibre and Yarn Thickness...
Choice of Stitch Technique...
Needle Arrangement...
Stitch Size Setting...
The Amount of Tension on the Yarn...
and Weight Distribution.

Before any of these factors can be considered and executed, you need to know the Principal Parts and understand the function of your Superba Double Bed Knitting Machine ...

Superba Double Bed Knitting Machine Principal Parts:
Latch Hook Needles and Needle Positions

Your Knitting Machine itself is designed to sit on a table or stand with exactly 1/2 of it's base or footprint extending over the edge of the table. This allows room for the knit fabric we create to descend unobstructed.

Looking at the machine from the side we recognize that there is a symmetry of machine parts happening on both sides. This symmetry is present in all Superba Double Bed models.

The machine bed is comprised of two Anodized Aluminum needle beds facing one another in an inverted "V" formation known as a Double Bed configuration.

Superba Knitting Machines are also referred to as "Fixed" Double Bed Knitting Machines as these needle beds are shipped permanently attached.
The next major part to your machine are the Needles themselves.

Your Superba knitting machine creates stitches using Latch Hook Needles. These needles are made from hardened steel and are quite durable.

CAUTION: Be mindful of the sharp hooks on the ends of the needles. They can cause serious harm and a knitting machine should not be left uncovered around small children.

The Needles are comprised of three sections: the LATCH, the HOOK, and the HEEL. Now the manual says "Heel" and I use the term "Butt". The important thing to know is that these three sections are crucial to the smooth operation and performance of your machine.

The needles can become damaged or worn with use and you must monitor their condition at all times. A bent or damaged needle is a major culprit in a machine that is not forming stitches correctly. Check them often!

The Superba Knitting Machine has 180 latch hook needles embedded in each aluminum frame known as a Needle Bed.

Along the length of each needle bed, the needles are spaced 5mm apart and housed in individual
Needle Channels.

At the edge of each Needle Bed are rows of metal teeth called
Flow Combs. When our needles are in working position the Flow Combs act as a dividing line between each needle or stitch.

Furthermore, they are crucial to the formation of stitches as your machine uses the Flow Combs as a leverage in forming stitches ...

The individual Stitch Sizes our machines can create are formed in part by the Flow Combs...

This spacing of the needles defines the overall "gauge" of your machine - 5mm gauge - which is an indicator of the weights of yarns it may knit with and the range of fabric it can produce.

The needles on your machine travel at very high speeds and to help minimize friction while moving back and forth in their channels they are held in place by two discreet parts: the Retaining Wire and the Retaining Spring.

The Retaining Wire and Spring work in tandem to provide a light tension on the needles, so they will slide back and forth without causing too much friction, and ensure that they will stay in certain positions on your needle beds without moving on their own.

Which leads us to our next topic:

On our needle beds there are four (4) specific needle positions we are concerned with as shown in the schematic from page 11 of the instruction book .

The four main needle positions as viewed on the Back Bed (BB)...

and on the Front Bed (FB)

Along the side of the Front Bed there is a Needle Position Guide for easy reference when selecting a needle position.

Over time you will recognize these needle positions at a glance and you will learn which position to move the needles to when doing a specific technique like a Closed Edge Cast On or Short Row Shaping for shoulders and necklines.

In order, the four Needle Positions are...

This is the lowest position for your needles on the needle bed. The needles in this position are considered inactive or non-working. When the carriage is passed across the needle bed, the needles will be bypassed and not knit.
Back Bed view.

Front Bed view.

When you begin to knit, you will select a certain number of the 180 needles resting in non-working position to knit with. Position No. 1 is where you move the needles to when setting up for different stitch techniques.
The Back Bed view...

Working Position No.1 on the Front Bed...

Non-working needles in Position No.0 are bypassed by the carriage. You can see an example of this in the photo below showing a 2x2 Rib needle arrangement with a view of the Front Bed.

Also this arrangement below which is set up for working with the Garter Lace Transfer Carriage. This is how our knitting machines create simple stitch techniques using these two needle positions.

When in Position no. 1 the tips of the needles or the "Hooks" are aligned with the edges of the Flow Combs.

In this position the stitches are sitting in the Hook of the needle and if one wants to, you can easily access a stitch for transferring when shaping a garment or creating stitch techniques, like transferred Lace, by hand.

And unless the settings on the Carriages are set a certain way, the Carriages will always return the needles to Working Position no. 1, leaving the needles ready for hand transfer, transfer by the Garter Lace Carriage or to knit another row.


This position is used mainly by the carriages for creating stitches as the yarn is laid in the needle hooks by the carriages when knitting rows. Stitch techniques such as single bed Fair Isle or double bed Jacquard are created using this needle position as the main colour is knit from needles pushed to postion No. 2.
Position no. 2 is also recommended by the instruction manual in several instances - with the stitch sitting behind the open latch - to ensure stitches will knit through. I do this just after transferring or decreasing.

TIP: Learn to observe your knitting and be aware of where your stitches are situated on the needles. When you have your needles in position No.2, the stitch is either sitting on top of the open latch or just behind it. This depends on if you are using weights or the right amount.

If the stitch is behind the latch, that means it is in danger of slipping off the needle, especially if you move the needle slightly. This can result in a dropped stitch as shown below. Beware!

Learning The Hard Way: Every knitter has experienced or will experience the joy of yarn breaking while knitting a row. In addition to learning how to pick up dropped stitches, you will also learn how to rip back the row you just knit and repair the damage done by the yarn break. In doing so your needles will come into this "Caution Zone" of Position No.2. Observe your stitches carefully and move them back to position one when possible to prevent dropping further stitches.

This is the highest needle position for the needles on your needle bed.

This is described as a "holding" position because it is used primarily with an advanced garment shaping technique called "Short Row" shaping or "Partial Knitting". This technique is used when knitting the heels on socks, inserting gores on skirts and primarily for shaping necklines and shoulders on sweaters.

You may be used to shaping garments by decreasing stitches and casting them off as you knit. The result of these traditional methods is that you get "steps" along the shoulder and neckline. Not very attractive and does not make for a clean, polished look to your finishing.

Short Row Shaping technique allows you to knit selected needles in Position No. 1 while holding or not knitting needles in Position No.3. The stitches you no longer want to knit remain on the needles in Position No.3 while you continue to knit those in Position No.1.

This technique removes the "steps" that are a result of traditional decrease methods. The result is a cleaner, smoother look to the finished garment and creates a subtle shaping to follow the curve of a neckline or the slope of a shoulder, as shown in the photo below.

Position No. 3 for use with Two Colour
Fair Isle or
Jacquard Stitch Techniques

Note: Be advised that this needle position cannot be used for garment shaping when knitting the stitch techniques Single Bed Fair Isle or Double Bed Jacquard as the needles we push to this upper position will be automatically knit back to Position No.1 by the carriage when using these stitch settings.

The other primary use of Holding Position no.3 on a Superba is to knit the contrast or second colour when we work Fair Isle or Double Bed Jacquard stitch techniques.

Using the needles in this manner makes it possible for your Superba to knit two colours at the same time in one row, creating colourful knit fabrics.

This is how these great knitting machines produce reversible and double sided Jacquard fabrics as shown in the photos above and below.

Position No. 3 For Use When Casting On or Casting Off Stitches

You will also use Working Position No.3 on your Superba knitting machine frequently for different Cast On and Cast Off methods including the e-Wrap and the Long Tail Cast On aka Double e-Wrap methods.

Here I have my selected Front Bed Needles in Position No. 3, ready to begin an "E-Wrap" Closed Cast On technique.

In the photo below I am am doing the same Cast On but this time you can see my needles in Position No.3 arranged on both beds for a 2x2 rib.

Please keep in mind that both the front bed and back bed carriages have buttons on them to control all three active needle positions and when the needles are knit. These are the Needle Return Buttons or NRB's. We will review these further on.

I wish to take a moment and show you some photos of combined needle positions that you will encounter as you begin to knit on a Superba.

I use both Position no.2 and no.3 when I want to ensure that stitches on my needles will knit. Examples of when this has to be done are when I have just transferred a group of stitches from one needle bed to the other using the Garter Lace Carriage or by hand. You will discover that some yarns require very little weight to knit with but when you have doubled the number of stitches on a needle, there may not be enough weight on the stitches for the next row to form correctly. When possible, pushing your needles to Position No. 2 or No.3 will ensure they knit through. This is because you have moved the two stitches on the needle behind the latch, and the Carriage will be able to slide the needle easily, pulling the new yarn through both loops.

This next photo shows how you will encounter needles in Positions 2 and 3 while shaping a neckline using the Short Row shaping method. In machine knitting lingo this is also referred to as "Partial Knitting". It is where you will work one side of the neckline, then come back to the beginning of the neck and repeat the neck shaping on the opposite side. This is how you get a hole in the centre to slip your head through.

In these photos, I have just completed knitting the left half of the neckline and shoulder. Previously to this, all the stitches on the right were in Holding Position No.3. I am about to begin shaping the right half, and so I move the needles I wish to knit with from Holding Position No. 3 to Working Position No. 2. When I knit a row with the carriage, only those stitches in Position No.2 will be selected to knit by the carriage.

In machine knitting when we want to remove our work from the machine and close off all the stitches permanently, we perform the technique called "Casting Off". There are many ways to perform this.

When I do a Latched Cast Off technique to remove my knitting from the machine, I will push my selected needles to Position No. 3 then back to Position No.2. This sets the stitches behind the latches on the needles...

. . . and the Hook of the next needle to be bound off is in the perfect spot to receive the stitch from the previous. To ensure a flexible yet firm edge, I push the empty needles forward to Position No. 3 in the process before moving on to the next stitch.

I end up with all my needles in Position No.3 before removing the bound off fabric from the machine.

That about covers the topic of Latch Hook Needles and the needle positions on a Superba Double Bed Knitting Machine. As you gain confidence in working at your Superba Knitting Machine all of this information regarding needle positions will become second nature.

This series on Principle Parts continues as I review:

Lot's to share and learn.

I hope you found this information helpful and Happy Knitting!

Patrick Madden.
Toronto, Ontario CANADA