What is a linker?
Making up knitwear can be quite a chore, and using a linker makes it a lot quicker. Linkers make a chain stitch, which is extensible so will not burst the seam when the fabric is stretched.
Domestic linkers can be operated by hand or have a motor. The most common make in the UK is the Hague linker, which is blue, and made in the UK by Hague. It can used on a table, or mounted on its own stand. When joining large pieces whilst working a table you have to be careful that the pieces don’t drag as the dial revolves as this is likely to effect the stitch formation and make the machine heavy to use. Using a stand means that larger pieces can hang down and revolve with the dial.
Hague type linkers make the stitch on the outside of the dial where the needle is positioned, and the chain on the inside where the looper is situated. A linker is a usually circular, and has a dial of spikes radiating outwards. These are called ‘points’ and as with a knitting machine, the number of points per inch is used to describe the gauge of the linker.
Linkers have large eyed, usually curved, needles and are designed to be used with a similar weight yarn to that in which the garment has been knitted, e.g. a linker with 5 points to the inch will take yarn of similar diameter/count to that used on a domestic knitting machine. The linker in this video has more points per inch than one intended for use with domestic machines; it is probably a 10-12 point model.
Linking different gauges of knitting
Obviously its not possible to have a linker for each of your different machines, or for hand knits, but the good news is that you can use a linker for different gauges of knitting. If the stitches are wider spaced than the points, spread them out so that not every point has a stitch; the chain will carry over the odd empty point. If the stitches are closer together than the points, it is a little more difficult as you have to double them up on the points, and to frequent doubling can lead to a gathered seam, so I wouldn’t recommend using a domestic linker for finer than 8gge knitting.
Before starting, hold the knitting up to the dial (remember that the circumference of the dial is smaller at the inner end of the points, where the stitches are made), and estimate how often you need to add a space, or double-up on a point. Make a note of this, and put the stitches up onto the points with evenly spaced gaps or double stitches.
Linking tips and troubleshooting
If the garment is knitted in a fancy of fluffy yarn, I recommend linking with a smooth, strong yarn of a suitably matching colour instead.
The tension of the chain stitch can be adjusted with a thumb screw, and it is important to use this adjustment to achieve successful linking. Put broadly, over-large and/or missing loops indicate loose tension, and skipping, dragging and stiff operation indicates too tight, but the only way to get it right is to practise on scraps of knitting prior to sewing the garment.
In very rare circumstances the timing of needle and looper can become disrupted, and it is impossible to get the linker to make stitches; the needle may break or bang into the looper, or the looper may be totally out of synch with the needle thrust. Although it is possible to adjust this yourself, unless you are very experienced with the machine and understand how the stitches are formed, I recommend sending the linker to Hague for repair.
Preparing your knitting
When preparing knitting for point-to-point linking the last row of main yarn knitting is not bound off; the stitches are left ‘live’. Before removing the knitting from the machine, 10-20 rows of ‘waste’ yarn are knitted, then the piece is knocked off the machine without binding off. When choosing ‘waste’ yarn, aim for a strong colour contrast in a yarn that is slightly thicker than the main yarn. A thicker yarn will open the last row of stitches, making it easier to insert the points, and a contrast colour helps the operator pick the correct row of stitches to catch onto the points. Try to choose smooth waste yarns; fluffy ones may leave contrast colour fibres when the waste is removed.
More detail about the video example shown above
The video above shows how to point-to-point link a double thickness, folded collar around the neckline of a garment. The collar in this example has been knitted across the needle bed of the knitting machine, with ‘live’ stitches left at both start and finish as follows:
- cast on with waste
- work 10-20 rows waste
- change to main yarn and knit the number of rows required for the collar outer depth e.g. 20 rows
- knit a loose tension fold row if you want one
- knit a second series of rows equal to the inner depth of the collar, e.g. 20 rows
- change to waste yarn
- knit 10-20 rows
- remove the knitting from the machine
See ‘Preparing your knitting’ for how to work the joining rows between main and waste yarn to facilitate easy linking.
Putting the knitting onto the linker
Before starting to put the collar and garment on the linker, check whether your linker makes the stitches inside or outside the dial, and position the piecs accordingly. In my example, the stitches are on the outside, the loops inside.
Put the open stitches of the inner edge of the collar onto the points as described in the video, (wrong side facing in this example), and then put the garment neck onto the points (right side facing the operator in this example). Finally fold the collar over the top of the garment neck edge, and catch the open stitches onto the points – make sure to align the inner and outer stitches so that the collar is not twisted.
Sew through the three layers, and pull the end back through the last chain to secure the linking. Remove the garment and unravel the waste yarn back to the main stitches. Take care on the last row, and if any stitches have been missed, catch them with a pin or a strand of waste yarn. I find those little safety-pin stitch markers very useful for this on domestic- machine knits.