Singer MemoMatic 321 knitting machine

Singer MemoMatic 321 knitting machine appeared on the market in 1972. It is a standard-gauge knitting machine (which means the needles are 4.5 mm apart) with 200 needles. It can come under other brand names, like Studio and/or Silver Reed.

It features flat metal bed with 200 needles, located 4.5 mm apart, which makes this machine standard-gauge. It also has a punch-card reading mechanism for advanced and “automatic” patterning using tuck, slip and fair isle. This mechanism accepts 24-hole cards. The pattern from the punch card is transferred to the pattering drums, which then establish the selection of the corresponding needles through the intricate mechanism of the carriage.

Unlike its later counterparts, it does not come with built-in knit-leader. The handle is permanently mounted on the carriage and folds for easy storage.

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This model comes with white body with yellow/orange accents on the carriage, end-caps and pattering mechanism cover. Plastic components from the 1970s did not have UV-protection additives in them and often come discolored when exposed to sunlight due to UV damage.Thus, the accent color hue might be in the yellow-dark orange range. The row counter is built-in: zero changes of its being lost. Also, it is convenient that the row counter is in the middle of the machine (not at the end like in some later models).

I personally worked on two Singer MemoMatic 321 knitting machines, one of which was for Spanish-speaking customers.

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Unlike Brother machines with the corresponding buttons on the carriage, the carriage of the Singer MemoMatic 321 knitting machine has a dial allowing for the selection of the tuck, slip, stockinet, punch-lace and knit-in (aka fair isle) settings. On the

I came to liking the patterning mechanism with patterning drums that Singer/Studio/Silver Reed knitting machines have as it seems a bit more straightforward to me compared to Brother punch-card knitting machines with its pins and strips.

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Singer MemoMatic comes with a standard set of minor assesories. Unlike its later counterparts, no single-motif assesories are included with this model.

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All assesories fit into a stand-alone tool box with a matching lid. This model does not have a built-in storage box (as later models, Singer 360K and Singer 700, do). It also does not have a built-in tray to put tools during knitting (like Studio mod. 326 does).

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All major assesories (tension mast and a sinker plate) fit inside the lid.

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Table clamps are simple but, unlike Brother knitting machines, they have a distinct protruding top bracket. Brother knitting machines have both bottom and top brackets on the same level.

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Singer MemoMatic 321 can additionally be accessorized with a cast-off linker (a small carriage), YC2, YC3, YC5 and YC6 color changers, AG20 intarsia carriage. Ribbing attachments that can be used with this machine are SRN321, SRP20, SRP50 and SRP60. They work well with the machine and RT1 transfer carriage. Stand-alone knit leaders that will work with Singer MemoMatic 321 are KR6, KR7 and KR10.

The retaining bar is metal and contains a long spongy strip. The whole assembly is often called a sponge bar. This sponge needs to be replaced every 6-12 months depending on usage frequency and how often and heavily you oil the machine. Without the retaining bar or with an old (and very flat) sponge the needles will be too wobbly and will lose stitches as well as damage your needles and even a carriage.

Unlike Brother punchcard machines, Studio mod.326, similarly to other knitting machines with patterning drums, have so-called side racks. They prevent the machine from mispatterning if the carriage is moved a bit past the main bed. The side racks help to maintain the drums in their patterning state. The original side racks are made from rubber, which with time crumbles, and the parts detach from the main bed and decompose.  Honestly, these side racks are only needed for full-bed knitting, where the carriage indeed can go off-track.

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But even when knitting on a full bed, the carriage can be slowed down at the end of the bed and a knitted panel to ensure that the patterning drums do not go past the main bed and the pattern will be preserved even without these side racks. So, in a way, these side racks expand the main bed. However, the side racks can be replaced. They are available in my store.

The plastic end-caps for Singer MemoMatic 321 appear to be NOT interchangible with other models. So, when I received a machine with busted end-caps, I had to improvise and ended up 3D-printing them.

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The end caps are available in my store for purchase as well.

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Singer knitting machines with patterning drums, like this model, often have very specific problems. Some of them (together with their solutions) are outlined in my other article.

The needles for Singer MemoMatic 321 are slightly different than for other Singer and Studio punch-card machines. I have not tested yet whether mode traditional needles will fit Singer MemoMatic 321 model. I will update this article when I do. In the meantime, if you are also unsure, get some needles from my store.

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I worked on two Singer 321 knitting machines and I have first-hand knowledge of their pros and cons. So, here they are.

Pros:

  • The patterning drums make it very easy to move the machine. They engage with the punch card mechanism very nicely without much noise.
  • The manual is very well-written and I was able to follow the instructions with ease and to learn all the techniques.
  • Replacement needles are available on the used market. New needles sold for Silver Reed knitting machines might fit as well.
  • The tools are pretty standard and are pretty interchangeable with other models. All tools fit into a storage box that fits onto the main bed under the lid when the machine is not in use.
  • I found that putting this machine to storage and opening and closing is much easier than multiple brother machines I had a chance to struggle with. There is a very clear schematic on the cover with the order of how to place the parts together. I found this extremely helpful as putting these machines away is often a big frustrating struggle.
  • Can be accessorized with numerous attachments
  • Built-in row counter, which is in the middle of the bed (not on the side like in some later models).

Cons:

– No built-in knit-leader.

– Plastic components of the machine, including plastic parts on the carriage, end caps, and others are prone to discoloration due to exposure to sunlight even through the window. Thus, please cover your machine with a thick curtain or a towel to prevent further sun damage.

– The absence of a timing belt (like on Brother punch-card machines) makes it a bit harder to push the machine especially if knitting on the full bed. However, still not too bad.

– The patterning drums get stuck in not in use for prolonged periods of time. To avoid this problem, clean the drums regularly and oil them lightly.

– Yarn and fiber might roll around the patterning drums and their axes. To avoid this, inspect the drums frequently.

– No built-in intarsia capabilities

– The repeat pattern is limited to 24 stitches. If you want more flexibility, you will need an electronic kitting machine, like Studio/Singer models 500, 511, 550, 560, 580 and Silver Reed knitting machine model SK840.

– The sponge bar needs to be replaced regularly.

– End caps are not interchangible with other models. They are pretty unique. 3D printed replacement parts are available for purchase.

– Needs to be stored properly otherwise the machine will rust.

– The standard set of punch cards is somewhat limited. Knitters who want other designs will need to punch their own (a quite tedious process if done by hand and a step-learning way if done by Cricut or similar automatic cutters).

– The tool storage box is not built-in. Easy to lose. Also, the plastic for these boxes is somewhat not sturdy so it crumbles and breaks easily because of its age. The lid for this toolbox is also not attached to the toolbox: also easy to lose.

– End-racks are rubbery and deteriorate and crumble with time. It needs to be replaced once in a while.

I am very fond of Singer MemoMatic 321 knitting machines since they are great machines for both advanced and beginner knitters. They are easy to use, fold, and store. This and other models of Singer/Studio knitting machines are often available for purchase in Etsy store.

Singer also has similar models of knitting machines with punch-card-reading capabilities without (model 210) and with built-in knit-leader:  260K, 3XX series (e.g., 327, 328, MemoMatic 360K), and MemoMatic 700 mod, to name a few.

Punch-card knitting machines from Brother with built-in knit leader are KH871, KH881 and KH891. Brother knitting machines without knit leader are KH800, KH810, KH820, KH830KH836, KH838, KH840, KH860, KH864, KH868, KH880, KH 890, KH892 and KH894.