History of

Evolution of the WHOLEGARMENT Knitting Machine

The moment the first glove came down the chute of his fully automatic glove knitting machine, Masahiro Shima had a revelation. He imagined the middle three fingers combined to form the body while the thumb and little finger became sleeves, and voilà a pullover is formed. Based on this discovery he was inspired to one day develop a machine that could knit an entire garment in one piece.

30 years later the world's first WHOLEGARMENT knitting machine was invented, making its debut at the ITMA trade fair in 1995, where it was proclaimed "The Magic of the Orient."

Continuous development over the next quarter-century was based on SHIMA SEIKI's dedication to its customers' needs, and the subsequent pursuit to eliminate waste—while nobody realized it at the time—led to sustainable manufacturing. Meanwhile the invention of SHIMA SEIKI's own SlideNeedle became essential to its commitment to quality through all-needle knitting using 4 needle beds.

Here we present a historical overview of WHOLEGARMENT knitting machines spanning 5 Generations, highlighting significant technological advancements for each.


World's First WHOLEGARMENT Machine

The 1st Generation WHOLEGARMENT knitting machine featured a conventional V-shaped needle bed. SWG-V featured a twin-needle setup with latch needles mounted in pairs that mimicked ideal 4 needle bed configuration using currently available technology.

As a dedicated WHOLEGARMENT machine it featured the latest shaped knitting technology to ensure the quality and stability required in the dimensional shaping of one entire garment at a time. These include DSCS Digital Stitch Control System, stitch presser, spring-type moveable sinkers and yarn gripper and cutter.

Twin needles

Twin needles


New Possibilities with 4 Needle Beds and SlideNeedle

The invention of the SlideNeedle finally allowed for commercial applications in 4-bed all-needle knitting of WHOLEGARMENT products. The SlideNeedle also increased the number of knitting techniques from 6 to 12, and opened up brand new opportunities for pattern variety in WHOLEGARMENT knitting.

The resulting quality and patterning capability finally put WHOLEGARMENT knitwear on the map as a viable alternative to conventional knitwear. The addition of the new pulldown device improved three-dimensional shaping, while i-DSCS enabled high-speed knitting even with delicate, difficult-to-knit yarns.

SHIMA SEKI's manufacturing model that combined this technology with its design system was awarded the 53rd Okochi Memorial Foundation Grand Production Prize.

4 needle beds

4 needle beds


Ultra Fine Gauge, High Quality Production

As the "MACH" designation suggests, the MACH2 series made significant improvements in knitting speed and productivity, thanks to its R2CARRIAGE system that allowed for quicker carriage returns. Split stitch technique allowed widening at the sleeves without empty courses, reducing knitting times.

i-DSCS+DTC enabled knitting of ultra-fine gauge, high-quality WHOLEGARMENT products.

Special SlideNeedles with large hooks enabled knitting at a tighter pitch for higher-quality fabrics as well. This set the standard for quality unique to SHIMA SEIKI's WHOLEGARMENT production.




Further Evolution with the Moveable Sinker

The fixed sinker of the MACH2X was replaced with a spring-type moveable sinker in the MACH2XS. The patterning range—especially of structures and other dimensional fabrics—opened up significantly and with higher quality.

The dual takedown device permitted knitting of short-sleeved items without the need for waste knitting, reducing time, cost and raw material for an even higher sustainability profile.

The compact MACH2XS103 could be installed in tight spaces, enabling production on the retail floor to support mass customization and on-demand production at "factory boutiques."

Moveable sinker system

Moveable sinker system


The New Standard in WHOLEGARMENT Knitting

Returning to the drawing board in pursuit of a higher standard in WHOLEGARMENT knitting, SHIMA SEIKI referred back to its original 4-bed machine—the SWG-X—to reset the benchmark even higher as the SWG-XR. With it, WHOLEGARMENT knitting is no longer limited to producing seam-free versions of conventional knitwear. An unprecedented variety of designs and silhouettes are possible and with even higher productivity, thanks to an additional knitting system in its lightweight 4-system carriage.

The new technology enables more expressive product creation, such as punch lace that can be knit without changing cams, super-3D patterns made possible with the renewed sinker system, and highly efficient intarsia knitting using auto yarn carriers.

SWG-XR is a sustainable, next-generation WHOLEGARMENT knitting machine that minimizes waste, while fulfilling both production efficiency and creative expression.

Punch lace pattern

Punch lace pattern

Business solutions with WHOLEGARMENT knitting, including actual case studies.