New knitting machines offer features such as multiple needle sizes, yarn winders, lint removal and error detection. Punchcard and electronic pattern readers are also available to instruct the machine to switch needles according to a specified design. Electronic readers provide more flexibility in stitch choices, pattern rotation and scaling.
The type of projects a knitting machine produces depends on its needle size, which is also known as the machine's gauge. Knitting machines are sold in standard-gauge, fine-gauge, bulky-gauge and mid-gauge models, as of August 2015. Most modern knitting machines can perform a variety of stitches, such as lace, punch-lace, fairisle, knitweave and tuck. Yarn-winding accessories feed a steady flow of yarn into the machine while eliminating extra slack.
Standard-gauge knitting machines have 200 needles with a 4.5-millimeter pitch. A standard machine can handle a wide assortment of yarns to knit light- and medium-weight sweaters. A bulky-gauge machine is required to make heavy clothing and thicker sweaters. Bulky-gauge knitting machines have 114 needles with a 9-millimeter pitch. Fine-gauge machines use needles with a 3.6-millimeter pitch for yarns up to four-ply. Mid-gauge machines have needles with a pitch of 6.5 or 7 millimeters to handle both light-weight knitting and heavier worsted-weight yarns.