Punchcard Overview
Where to Start Knitting?
Which Card is Which?
Sources for Stitch Pattern Designs
Design your Own Stitch Patterns

The Basics

Automatic patterning with punchcards can seem almost magical. Let's dispel some of the mystery, learn the basics and take steps to punchcard machine mastery.

Properly Punched Cards

For overall designs (where the pattern repeats vertically) cards are joined in a loop. Using specially designed plastic clips the card will rotate as you knit and the pattern will repeat. In order for the design to be created correctly, the card needs to be punched (and aligned) properly.

  • When inserting the card, the ends will overlap. In order to keep the pattern continuous, 2 complete rows of holes are punched at each end of the card. With these extra rows, when the card is joined, the overlap does not interfere with the pattern design rows.

  • Also notice that there are slight notches in the sides of the card to allow for the joining clips. This helps prevent the clips from jamming in the punchcard mechanism

This card does not have the extra joining rows and the pattern will be interrupted for these rows

This card is punched (and joined) correctly. The pattern will be uninterrupted

Card Overlap

When joining the card, be sure to keep in mind the direction that the card will be moving. Overlap so the edge will flow correctly into the punchcard mechanism and not jam.


Design Orientation

If you are using an asymmetric design, be aware of how you are inserting the card. The final orientation of the design will depend on how you are knitting your garment.
  • Top down or hem up knitting
  • Right Side or wrong side facing stitch patterns
Test the design and the orientation of the card before starting your garment.

Some of the original punchcards had A-B-C-D markings on the card. Pattern instructions may have read "Insert Card 9B". This insured that you inserted the card #9 with the letter B at the lower corner and your design would match the pattern.

Stitch Multiples

Understanding Stitch Multiples or stitch repeats is necessary to:
  • Position a stitch pattern symmetrically on a piece
  • Prevent a section of the design from being cut off
  • Align a design element between pattern pieces
  • Use 8-12-24 stitch cards with different machines

The Differences Between Machines

The different brands of machines have different punchcard mechanisms. Although many cards are interchangable, lining up the first row of knitting can be different for each machine.

When you insert the card, the first row of the design "disappears" into the punchcard opening. You need to establish where the first row of the stitch pattern is located inside the mechanism.

Once you determine the location for your machine, mark your own line on your card so there's no guessing the next time.

Click for larger image

Identify Cards and Stitch Techniques

"I have a stack of cards and don't know what they are for". Learn how punchcards create stitch patterns and identify different cards and their uses

Test Yourself

Can you identify these cards?

Adapt Designs for your Punchcard Machine

Pre-Punched Cards In addition to the punchcards that came with your machine, you can often pick up card sets or collections from other knitters. Keep in mind the differences between the cards:
  • Not all cards are interchangable... check the size of the card, the number of stitches (12 or 24) and hole alignment with cards that came with your machine
  • If a card has been manually punched (not printed and part of an original set) check it for accuracy before using it in a project
  • Confirm the starting line for YOUR machine
Punch your own cards
  • Use hand knitting charts for your inspiration - convert them to 12 or 24 stitch repeats
  • Use Cross stitch or needlepoint charts, but draft them on knitters graph paper first
  • Explore vintage machine knitting stitch pattern books, Stitch World Books and machine manuals. There are sooo many stitch patterns that already exist ... why re-invent the wheel? Just keep in mind the stitch count for your machine (12 or 24 stitch repeats).
    Download copies of these vintage books here.

Online Punchcard Creator

Here is an open source program that creates simple punchcard designs from your images.

You can upload a 2 color image and it translates your drawing to punchcard format. The project creates a file that is designed to be used with laser printers. (The output is in SVG – scalable vector graphic format). But it can also be used to manually create punchcards.

Stitch Ratios

When creating your own stitch patterns, it is critical to keep your gauge in mind.
No matter what method you use, DAK, Pencil and Paper, or Punchcards, your success depends on understanding the ratio of stitches to rows.
Take a look at some before and after designs as they relate to the final knitting gauge.

Knitters Graph Paper is a MUST

Full Scale Graph Paper

Full Scale Graph Paper

Create full-scale knitters graph paper to plan your knitting based on YOUR stitch and row gauge. Accurately design intarsia, motifs or pattern shaping.

Knit It Now Graph Paper

Knit It Now Graph Paper

Enter your stitch and row gauge and print out customized graph paper to plot out your designs. Print as many pages as you need.
Try the Tool
When creating your own stitch patterns, in order to visualize your stitch design, it's important that you sketch out your idea on knitters graph paper. You need to work out the correct proportion of stitches to rows.

Punchcards are laid out in squares. Viewing a design on a punchcard will not give you an accurate representation of what the finished stitch pattern will look like.

Fix Mistakes

Don't Panic - Repair Punchcard Mistakes

Punching your own punchcards can be rewarding. Discovering a new-to-you machine knitting stitch pattern and bringing it to life is one of the many joys of machine knitting.

It’s easy to make mistakes, but just as easy to fix them … or alter a stitch pattern and make a new design!
  1. Cut a small piece of Scotch tape and paste from the back side of the card, blocking the mispunched hole.
  2. From the front side of the card, fill the hole with a cutting (punched out circle of card). This sticks on the tape pasted from the back.
  3. Cover with another piece of Scotch tape from the front
  4. If the piece of tape is too large and covers a part of the holes around the one being corrected, carefully re-punch these holes.

Every-Other-Needle Stitch Patterns

Modify a stitch pattern to be used when knitting over every-other-needle. Create the punchcard to mimic the original design, but only pattern over the needles in work.