Knitting Machinist

The Job and What's Involved

Knitting machinists or knitters - often called frameworkers in Scotland - work the machines that turn natural or man-made yarn into fabric or garments.

There are many different kinds of knitting machines. They are often sophisticated and computerised, and can be programmed to automatically produce a certain type, quality and size of material. Machines can produce either long lengths of tubular or flat fabric for making into clothes, or fully-fashioned items of shaped knitwear.

Knitters make sure their machines have a supply of yarn, look out for any problems and carry out routine cleaning. If the machine is not running smoothly, they may deal with minor problems themselves or report faults to a technician.

Large manufacturers may have hundreds of machines operating at the same time. Each knitter is responsible for the consistent and efficient running of a number of these.

Smaller, specialist manufacturers may employ knitters to produce individual items that take a certain amount of handcrafting. In this type of work, knitters need to be more skilled at programming, setting up and operating the machines themselves.

Knitting machinists normally work around 37 to 40 hours a week. Some companies operate shift systems, with two or three shifts a day. Overtime may be available and it is often possible to work part time.

Most modern factories are well-lit and spacious, but knitting machines can be noisy. Dust extractors are used to keep the air clean.

Knitters in charge of a number of machines move from machine to machine during their shift. Knitters working on one machine may have to sit for much of the time. Occasional lifting may be required.

Many knitters, particularly those working on the larger machines, wear protective clothing. This may include ear defenders, overalls and safety footwear.

The starting salary for a knitting machinist may be around £9,700 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Fabric, garment and hosiery manufacturers tend to be concentrated in certain areas of the UK. The Midlands, Yorkshire, Leicester, Nottingham and Scotland are the largest commercial areas.

The textiles industry has suffered a recent decline in jobs due to increased automation and competition from abroad. However, there are still good opportunities for knitters, with a shortage in the industry at operator level.

Jobs tend to be advertised in the local press and in Jobcentre Plus offices.

Education and Training

There are no specific entry requirements to become a knitter, but employers prefer people who can show they can work well in a team and concentrate for long periods.

There is an Apprenticeship in Textiles, leading to an NVQ/SVQ in Manufacturing Textiles at Level 2. There are also optional qualifications in health and safety and first aid.

An Advanced Apprenticeship is also available, leading to an NVQ/SVQ in Manufacturing Textiles at Level 3. Apprentices in Yorkshire may attend the Textile Centre of Excellence on a day-release basis to complete the Technical Certificate in Textile Studies (Level 3). Entry is with four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), preferably including English, maths and science. There are similar arrangements in other areas.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most employers train new recruits on the job. A new knitter may work alongside or shadow a more experienced colleague.

Some companies encourage their staff to work towards vocational qualifications, such as an NVQ/SVQ at Levels 1 and 2 in Manufacturing Textiles. Subjects covered include product design and fault diagnosis. These qualifications may help workers to progress within the industry.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Knitting machinists should:

  • Be good with their hands.
  • Have good eyesight and normal colour vision.
  • Be able to operate complex machinery.
  • Be able to work quickly and accurately.
  • Be able to concentrate for long periods of time.
  • Have computer skills to operate certain types of machinery.
  • Be able to work under pressure.
  • Be able to work with others.
  • Be aware of health and safety regulations.
  • Be creative, if their job involves hand-crafting skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

Experience is the key to progressing as a knitting machinist. An experienced knitter may supervise a team or production line, or move into quality control. Some become instructors.

Get Further Information

Skillfast-UK, Richmond House,
Lawnswood Business Park,
Redvers Close, Leeds LS16 6RD
Tel: 0113 239 9600

Textile Centre of Excellence, Textile House,
Red Doles Lane, Huddersfield HD2 1YF
Tel: 01484 346500

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