Friday, 3 February 2017

Machine Knit: new discoveries: meeting and rejuvenating mechanical machines: Singer Silver Reed 321 360

Oh how I do love learning new things!
One of the factors inherent in a craft that requires machines made around 40 years ago, is that they will require maintenance.
I adore my Singer 321, the model came out in 1972 and I believe they are so numerous in Australia as they were sold with Singer sewing machines. My mum remembers her very talented crafting aunt creating many garments on her knitting machine back in their heyday.

I have made many a swatch on my trusty Singer 321, it's a lot like hand knitting for me, I simply enjoy the process of making. A finished object is nice, however it's the formation of stitches, discovering what can be done and discovering new techniques, that give me great enjoyment.

My next search was for a ribber, to double the size of my 200 metal stitch bed and allow me to venture into the world of circular knitting and ribbing. Did anyone say "SOCKS" ;)
Of course, it never rains, but it pours, and after a few months of keeping my ear out, I spotted not one, but two machines with ribbers for the right prices. Of course I investigated them both ....
One was another Singer 321, this one a smidge younger than mine and with a rather fetching red highlights.
The other was my 'dare to hope for' machine, a Singer 360.
She's plainer than her older cousin, having been released as the last fully mechanical model in 1980 before electronic machines came out around 1982.
Both machines had spent quite a number of years sitting in garages, so they were in falling apart cardboard boxes, grimy, stiff and not looking their best.
My 360 even had the main carriage stuck to the main bed with a deteriorated piece of plastic and none of it's cams' rotated.

Did I mention my love for learning new things? I also adore cleaning - not tidying!, but removing grot and getting stuck things spinning again.

Armed with the internet, paper towel, cloths, a stiff paintbrush (or two), a bottle of methylated spirits and white spirit, some 3 in 1 oil, a set of screwdrivers and a healthy dose of enthusiasm,
I set to work.

SPOILER ALERT - Yes, they both are restored and knit, tuck and slip beautifully. The 360 looks like living up to it's name to knit through 360 degrees, as it's ribbing is perfect.
The 321 is now named Susie and has found a very happy home with Sew Jillian
Photo heavy details now follow.
Doesn't look too bad - but those cams didn't budge!
The flat sponge bar and the edge pieces that were sticking the carriage to the main bed
First thing that everyone will mention is the sponge bar.
These long metal strips are meant to have a strip of foam on them that will press the needles down into the bed and allow them to hold their position. Without a sponge bar, they flop around and when in D position, they can dislodge and fall out. Sponge bars deteriorate over time, more rapidly when they've been in storage (or so I've heard), so in short, every machine that's not been used for a while will need a new one.
A new functional spongebar in my 321
aka what it 'should' look like
You can see the piece that looks like a long narrow strip of cardboard in the photo of my 360 above? That's a flat sponge bar. Under the fabric layer was a mess of sticky gunk that crumbled and required a screwdriver to scrape out and goof off to completely remove.
Obtaining a replacement sponge bar is, interesting. There are suppliers, however many of them would rather not ship to Australia (and postage isn't cheap for a 120cm long piece of metal). Fortunately both sponge bars had intact metal, although the 321's plastic end caps have deteriorated and will need replacing.

The most common DIY replacement available is weatherstripping. I took the advice of experienced machine knitters and purchased the Raven brand RP14B extra thick 12mmx12mm self adhesive version. One packet was enough to do both sponge bars.
The ribber has an original plastic (not sponge) bar, however the 360's is unstable in D position, so it may need one of these in the future.

There are tutorials online for inserting the weather strip sponge. I then used iron on interfacing to provide the fabric topper which protects the sponge.
I did try glue and ribbon first, but that was messy and I might still have some glue on some needles (don't ask...)
Ta da!!
pretty good for a first go. Weather strip, interfacing and tape
Reinserting the sponge bar is quite straight forward, providing you don't try to put it in upside down.... The sponge goes down and the metal goes up.
Hold the needles down on the main bed as you slide the bar back into it's hole, you can see the orange tip in the main bed as it approaches the raised needles at 6.5.
While the sponge bar was out of the machine, I removed all of the needles from the main bed and soaked them in methylated spirits. I soaked the needles from the centre separately from the two ends. this enabled me to replace the end needles in the centre and vice versa. I was fortunate in that only a few needles overall were bent and required replacing.

Needles, the bottom 2 have soaked in metho while I wrestled with the carriage
Now, armed with copies of each machine's manual, it was time to get to work on the carriages...
Manuals can be found as free downloads on this amazing site: Machine knitting etc dot com
Seriously, it's brilliant!

Both (all) Singer/Silver Reed Japanese metal bed mechanical machines are essentially the same.
Step one, remove the handle from the main carriage, it will be held on with screws in the side. Keep them together ;)
Then remove the stitch selection dial. It will have a little clip holding it in place, this is important for when you need to clip it back in at the end. I found holding it under tension with a screwdriver when I reinserted the metal selector was necessary.
321 with cover dismantled. The grey plastic also comes off
360 with handle removed
360 showing spring clip
Now you can see the cams that are vital to the machine's function. Don't attempt to remove them, and most definitely don't attempt to dismantle them.
(unless you know what you're doing, in which case, you're already familiar with this bit!)
321 ready to clean
Look at the yellow gunk, this is old oil that we're about to remove with white spirit.
If you spot any fluff or thread, remove it.
360 ready to clean
I painted everything liberally with white spirit on a stiff paintbrush.
Well, all the metal bits anyway. It took less time than I thought before the cams began to start to budge, then more working the spirit into the mechanisms and attempting to spin the cams, until they spun freely, quite quickly and without resistance, yay!!

I wiped off whatever excess I could see and did a little happy dance.
Next I re-oiled anything that moved, white spirit is amazing, but very, very drying and if they're not re-oiled, the cams will seize again.
Now its simply a matter of reversing the steps and putting all of the pairs of screws back into the holes from whence they came.

And voila! All it needs is the regular maintenance steps as outlined in the manual. Vacuum or squirt air +/- a brush along the main bed to remove any dust and fluff, oil the main bed and set up to knit some test swatches!
Job done!



  1. So awesome! You did such a lot of work for me, I am completely humbled. I'm frightened just looking at this and knowing I've yet to even unbox the ribber. I felt it better to learn the basic machine before befuddling myself with the ribber. I'm going to enlist the help of the hubby to restore that ribber though. I'm terrified of ruining something as I'm not too mechanically minded. Post is bookmarked! xxx

    1. I had fun! Thanks for being my excuse to nab both machines!
      ;) I've only just unboxed a ribber, after nearly a year - spoiler alert, it's much simpler than the main bed and complements it nicely. Take your time, they store well under beds ;) I'll put a post up on my adventures for you, and I'm always on speed dial x
      There are lots of moving parts, and it's a steep learning curve, but it's not rocket science - you've got this! xx

  2. Brilliant! Just followed you over here from your comments on my (ages-old) posts. I have another machine in the shed which is in terrible condition (bed is rusted), I think it's a 321 so if you need parts let me know - no promises, but I can dig it out and see what's salvageable...

    1. Thanks Kate. I might be in touch, the 321 is missing the weaving arms which perplexed me. I love your posts and am very glad I didn't have to remove the drums! There was a moment when I was afraid I might have to do as you did....
      And DH has pointed out that I really must get on board with the knolling - he'll always be knolling...

  3. Brilliant ... I have the 360 and I absolutely love it ... it's like you said the making ... it's just a different kind of making. So curious to see what you'll make. The knit it now site has a pretty good ebook on machine knitting socks :)

    1. Ohh, Thanks for the recommendation! I'm being good and consolidating walking before I run, skip and dance ;)
      The 360 is a beautiful machine, I'm really enjoying playing with it, and learning the knit contour - I don't have the original patterns/outlines but I've downloaded the online ones and have been plotting the steps from my walk through pattern.
      I've made 2 sleeves for a drop shoulder jumper so far with the ribber and main bed. The Sweater Blank from the Craftsy class. I've also joined the machine knitting beginners circle group on Facebook who have a KAL, I wish they were around last year! And my local guild are wonderful for inspiration and support.
      I have dreams of hybrid jumpers.... and socks, wonderful warm woollen socks!

  4. Wow you are so clever. I wouldn't know where to start. Enjoy using it now you've done all the hard work. Louise x

    1. Thanks Louise, I'm really enjoying using the machine, it's quite a soothing and rewarding process. It was a fun challenge to get both of them working, I really do like getting rid of years of grot ;)
      and the internet is a wonderful place - there's so much information hiding and waiting to be discovered; someone, somewhere, will have done something similar that I can use to approach my challenge, it's rather reassuring ;)

  5. Lovely lady... there is a ribber in my garage that goes with your machine. Would you like a back-up? It's yours!

    1. ;) You are really the most wonderful friend. Without your generosity I'd have never discovered this fascinating new hobby. Eternal Thank You's for enabling me ;)


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