Knitting Machine Hacking

I really enjoyed using Designaknit last trimester, so I looked into buying a machine that had capabilities to use it, but they were way out of my budget! On one of the Machine Knitting Facebook groups, I learnt about AYAB (All Yarns Are Beautiful) - an open source programme that, when combined with an Arduino device, can hack older knitting machines so that you can programme them with a computer!

So, I bought a secondhand early electronic knitting machine from eBay, and the Arduino interface from America, and waited a couple of weeks, then set out to remove the 1980's circuit board and replace with the AYAB interface. Luckily, it was really straightforward and didn't require any soldering, and my laptop recognised the device straight away. I used the 'stripes' pattern from a Designaknit swatch made last trimester as a trial.

This worked really well, although I have to be a slower, more patient knitter than I am used to, as the interface has to register every row  you have to wait for an orange light and a beep to let you know you can proceed! It does automatically select the needle at the end of each side to ensure the edge is nice and tidy however, which is a feature that Designaknit lacks. 

I soon realised that AYAB treats stitches as pixels - a black pixel on the row tells the interface to select the second colour for that needle. The test image I imported was a little blurry which confused the machine, so I reduced the image to pixel level on Photoshop, then drew over the lines to end with a design that was just black and white, rather than several shades of grey.

This test was much more successful and produced a swatch that I would like to develop into a garment. I used some Shetland yarn I had in my studio that are the same colours as the final design, this is so I don't waste my precious naturally dyed yarn! There will of course be some differences in gauge, drape and hand feel, but I feel that working this way to develop a prototype should aid the design process.

I felt like this design would work really well as a cropped boxy sweater, so the next stage is to design a pattern, and make the pixel design repeat successfully.


  • AYAB. (2018) All Yarns Are Beautiful. [online] Available from: [Accessed 1 February 2018].
  • Burns, R. (2018) AYAB Setup 1-7 [photograph].