The spring beard needle is formed from one piece of thin wire. One end of the needle is drawn into thinner dimensions and is curved to form a hook. The flexible outer side of the hook can be pressed against the stem of the needle to close the hook for sliding a formed loop off and beginning a new loop. In 1847 Matthew Townshend invented a different type of hook known as the latch needle, which has come to be the most widely used type of needle. Its operation s similar to that of the spring beard needle, except that instead of having to mechanically press the flexible wire of the needle closed so that the forming yarn loop will not slide off, a latch closes to hold the yarn in place.
1. The old loop is held on the stem of the needle. The latch is open (a).
2. The hook grasps the yarn to begin forming a new loop (b).
3. The needle falls, the old loop rises, closing the latch of the needle (c).
4. The old loop is cast off (d and e).
5. The needle tises, and the new loop slides down to the stem of the needle, pushing the latch open again, and the needle is ready to repeat the cycle (f).
|Loop formation in knit fabric|
Yet a third type of needle, the compound needle, is used almost exclusively for warp knitting. The compound needle has two components, a tongue and a hook Its motion is as follows:
1. The old loop encircles the hook; the tongue is in such a position as to leave the hook open.
2. Both tongue and hook rise; a new yarn is fed to the hook.
3. Both tongue and hook descend, but the tongue descends more slowly, thereby closing the hook.
4. As the needle descends, the held loop slides off, forming a new loop.
5. The needle returns to its initial position, the hook ascending more rapidly, thereby opening the hook again.
For weft knitting with either needle type, a cam system provides the action for lifting the needles as the yarn is fed in. A small projection called a butt is located at the bottom of the needle. The butt is held in a groove formed by a system of cams or shaped pieces. The movement of the butt in the grooves between the cams causes the needle to rise and fall.
The engaging by the needle of a new piece of yarn is called feeding. Devices called feeders are located to introduce the yarn to the needles. The number of feeders can vary, but obviously the more feeders a machine has, the higher will be the speed of fabric forming on the machine, since each needle produces a loop each time it is activated and if many needles are activated more frequently, many courses can be formed at the same time.
Another important element of some knitting machines is the sinker. The already formed fabric may need to be controlled as the subsequent knitting action takes place. A thin steel device called the sinker may be used to hold the fabric as the needle rises, support the fabric as the needle descends, and push the fabric away from the needle after the new loop has been formed. Sinkers are generally mounted between the needles. Some machines, however, do not use sinkers but instead use the tensions placed on the completed fabrics for control.