Knitted fabrics are divided into two general types: (1) those produced by weft knitting, where one continuous yarn forms courses across the fabric; (2) those produced by warp knitting, where a series of yarns forms wale’s in the lengthwise direction of the fabric.
This form of knitting is very different from standard hand knitting; the earliest warp knitting machine was Crane’s tricot machine (England), built about 1775. In warp knitting, a yarn is fed to each needle from the lengthwise direction. A bar guiding the yarns to the needles can move from side to side, or to the front or back of the needle, so that the loops can be interlocked in a zigzag pattern. Very wide (over 400 cm, nearly 170 in.), flat fabric can be produced by warp knitting, at speeds in the order of 1,000 courses per minute, giving almost 3 m2/min (3.6 sq. yds./min). The two main machine (fabric) types are tricot and raschel.
Diagram of simple warp knit fabric.
Tricot warp knitted fabric: Tricot is a machine with one needle bar (spring beard type) and one to three guide bars, +0 3++most are two-bar or three-bar. The spring beard needle, accepting mainly filament yarns, has limited the depth of texture that can be achieved in tricot fabrics; some fine spun tricot, produced on machines with hybrid needles, was introduced many years ago, but does not seem to have taken hold in the market place. Tricot does not ravel, can curl somewhat, and has almost no stretch or “give” lengthwise but a little crosswise.
Raschel warp knitted fabric: Raschel is the other main warp-knitting machine. Fabric from these machines may be of any weight or thickness from lace to carpet; the one feature they share is a pillar-and-inlay effect; Wales like hand crochet chains forming the “pillar” with other yarns laid in to form patterns or the main body of the fabric, usually making up the right side. Raschel machines have one or two needle bars (usually latch, but may be spring beard), set horizontally on wide or narrow machines with 1 to over 30 guide bars. The multi guide bar types are used mostly for laces; most of our moderate-priced laces are knit on this type of machine. They do not have the depth of texture that the twisted Leavers laces or the embroidered Schiffli laces have. Powernet, knit on the raschel machine, incorporates elastomeric yarn to give one- or two-way power stretch for contour fashion Variations on raschel-type machines include crochet, ketten raschel, and Cidega machines. The latter, similar to raschel, can knit various fabrics side by side, and so is used for many narrow trims called “braids,” such as gimp and ball fringe.
Minor Warp Knits: Simplex is a machine with two horizontal needle bars and two guide bars, producing a double tricot type of warp knit in a fine gauge, with two threads to each loop. The needles in one bar are directly behind those in the other, in much the same way that needles in the weft knit interlock are aligned; like interlock, simplex looks like plain-stitch jersey on both sides. The fabric is very firm and stable, used for its greater firmness in lounge wear, uniforms, and gloves.