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How To Make A Knitting Machine Needle Retainer Sponge Bar Part 1: Remove The Old And Clean For New

Knitting machine sponge bars are not cheap.

By the time you add in taxes or shipping, they can easily cost over $25. Multiple this by a few machines plus matching ribbers, add in the fact you should change your bars every few years, and it quickly becomes cost efficient to put up with a bad one. You cross your fingers and hope the beast works well enough. It usually won’t.

I needed a simple, inexpensive solution that would be as identical as possible to the original sponge bar.

Why Make Your Our Sponge Bars?

Considering our beloved machines can last for decades, while foam is unlikely to live past the age of 5, having a way to make a new needle retaining bar can mean the difference between a working machine and one that must be trashed. Most dealers, when you can find one, only carry bars for widely used and “current” models – that means Brother, Knitking, Studio, Singer, and Silver Reed made since the mid 1980’s.

After making almost a dozen sponge bars out of different types of sheet foam, fusible interfacing, and readily available water based glue, I’m here to tell you it is relatively easy and well worth your time. They work great, look just like the ones you can buy at retail, and cost less than 50 cents in materials per bar.

If there is any downside, it is that your $10-15 investment in foam and interfacing will make over 30 bars. Even I don’t have that many machines. If you belong to a guild, consider a Sponge Bar Party to use it all up with friends.

Tools For Cleaning

To begin, you will need a few tools. I used a razor blade to cut each end of the material from the plastic clips, a flat tip screwdriver to scrape dead foam, Goof Off to dissolve old glue and permanently stuck foam, and a pair of gloves to protect my hands. Q-tips, toothpicks, and paper towels scooped up the mess.

When we get to the next post, you will need a marking pen, ruler, packing tape, steam iron, razor blade or rotary cutter, and a cutting surface. That’s it.

If you don’t have Goof Off, try generic lacquer thinner from your local hardware store. Denatured alcohol, though great for cleaning machines, was worthless for me in removing old sponge bar glue. My can of Goof Off cost $3.98 at Lowe’s and will clean several dozen bars.

How To Clean


sponge bar cut loose old foam materialTo start, take a razor blade and slice through the foam down to the metal bed on both ends.

Don’t worry about the foam under the plastic clips. It can stay there.

Now pull off as much of the icky foam and top material as possible. You’ll get about half of it. The rest will be stuck.


sponge bar scrap out old foam with screwdriverWith a screwdriver, scrape at the remaining dead foam. If the sponge bar is really old, its texture in spots will seem moist and rather disgusting.


sponge bar scrap old foam edges with screwdriverThe foam loves to cling to the side walls. Use the screwdriver here as well. Don’t worry, you won’t be able to get it all off by scraping alone. Clean it as best you can.


sponge bar goof off and rubber glovesYou will want to do this next step outside in a well ventilated area. With gloves on, dribble the Goof Off into the tray and let it set a few minutes.

A little Goof Off goes a long way. DO NOT fill the tray with it. All you need are enough drops to soak into the stuck glue and be totally absorbed.


sponge bar goof off and toothpick loosen gunkThe remaining foam and glue will start to dissolve and turn it into a jelly like mass. The hardest part is waiting the few minutes for the Goof Off to do its thing.

If you start to poke at it with a toothpick too soon, you will fight the liquid and it will seem like it isn’t working.


sponge bar goof off and q tip for final clean upAs the metal bar gets cleaner, switch to Q-tips moistened with the Goof Off for a final cleaning.


sponge bar use paper towel to collect gooAs the jelly like mass accumulates, dump the goo onto a paper towel. Make sure you dispose of everything outside.

I use a plastic grocery bag and leave it open for everything to evaporate before putting it in the trash can. Goof Off is flammable. Please read the can for safety.


sponge bar shiny and cleanYour bar is now clean and shiny and ready for new foam.

Next post we’ll cut foam to size, glue it in the bar, apply fusible interfacing, and secure the ends with a small piece of packing tape.


Continue on to Part 2

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July 18, 2008


1 Mar { 07.19.08 at 7:11 am }

Hi Kathryn,
Thanks for this. I just bought sponge bars for my Brother 260 and 970 at $30 each. Next time I think I’ll give your method a try. Might be a good club project. Looking forward to part II.

2 Sonia { 07.28.08 at 5:50 am }

Thanks so much for your very quick response. My husband will really appreciate the very good instructions and photos for your method. Plus the added feature of saving money. Sonia

3 Clarisse { 07.28.08 at 12:39 pm }

Very nice tutorial and great pictures :) I mostly have Toyota machines and although I can still purchase new sponge bars for them, I learned to rebuild them too. I found that Avon Skin So Soft bath oil works terrific at disolving the old gunky glue and is safe to use in the tub. I clean out any residue with Dawn dish soap and a brush. Works great. Anyway, thanks for posting up this tutorial.

Clarisse >^..^<

4 Kathryn { 07.28.08 at 2:29 pm }


I never would have thought of that – what a great tip! I actually have some. The next bad sponge bar that enters my house will definitely get a treatment with Avon Skin So Soft. It certainly is less harsh than the Goof Off.

Now that I think about it, what I have is the white lotion. Is the bath oil a different product?

5 Regina Philbrook { 08.17.08 at 8:14 am }

Thank you, I needed help in what to do with my sponge bar, I bought a
sponge bar on the net and payed 26.00 for it, Plus postal cost of 23.00 , It
was to long for my Brother 950i and the sponge was to thick, I am so happy that I found you website. Thank you Regina

6 Sammie { 09.05.08 at 7:08 pm }

You are so right. One KM is not enough! That is why I just another KX 350. Now I have to find a sponge bar. It doesn’t have a metal bar. Can one make this type?

7 Kathryn { 09.05.08 at 8:21 pm }


Check out Marzipanknits blog entry on making a 350 sponge strip. She is also considering using my method and just fusing interfacing to both sides.

8 Have A Yarn » Blog Archive » My First Foray into Machine Knitting { 02.11.09 at 6:43 pm }

[…] but as it’s such an old machine, I couldn’t find a replacement so I found a fantastic tutorial on how to make your own sponge bar – which I will be doing this […]

9 connie { 09.18.09 at 7:01 am }

I was looking for replacement sponge bars. Haven’t used my machine in several years, the sponge is dead. I found your site. I am thrilled to know how to refurbish my old ones. I’m getting excited about knitting again.
Thank You

10 Elaine { 01.23.10 at 8:44 am }

You just made my year!!! My aunt gave me her 25 year old Brother knitting machine, purchased in Japan with an interestingly translated manual. I’ve been trying to cast on with very, very limited success for hours. I read the manual over and over, looked at YouTube videos, and was about to give up. Then I happened across your blog and realized what you described is what’s going on. I pushed out the sponge bar to find that there is no sponge left. The sponge was flush with the metal edges. No wonder it wasn’t working! Thanks for this tutorial. I’m so excited about making a replacement.

11 mary e stewart { 03.16.10 at 1:13 pm }

Thepellon I bought doesn’t work can’t find Stacy’s interfacing here and the nearest JoAnns is fifity miles away. I have e’d you before but your answer went to spam mail I think!!! is there anywhere I could order some? thank you.

12 Michael Gardner { 03.18.10 at 4:52 am }

Could you send me all the informations on how to repair the sponge bar?

Thank You

13 jarrod { 04.01.10 at 2:07 am }

RE; Sponge Bar

I have made a few sponge bars usuing this method and they seem to work fine. Worked with the KH 710 KH 858 KH881. I found the sponge needs to be quite dense and not too soft to work well.

Regarding the sponge for the KX390/395 I found a fine plastic stip from a model shop and glued the sponge to this and then used it to replace the sponge only original. The plastic stip made it easier to thread into the machine as the sponge only type proved very difficult to thread into the narrow space. The KX390 works well with the sponge fitted (sponge side down as in the standard guage machines). I would imagine this would work for teh KX350 too.

14 Yoshie Tartar { 04.08.10 at 3:05 pm }

After cleaning the sponge bar as above method, I used rubber foam weatherseal 3/8″ wide self stick tape which I bought from Home Depot. I used it on my 881 Knit King machine and it works fine.

15 Lynn { 04.30.10 at 9:47 pm }

Thank you so much. My sister and I both made new sponge bars last night and they work a treat. Wendy has the Knitmaster 260 and I have a Studio 360. We can’t believe what a difference this has made to the performance of our machines. You have saved us about £2o each. (more money to spend on patterns and yarn).
Once again a big THANK YOU from the both of us.

16 Pam { 05.07.10 at 11:30 pm }

Thank you from Australia!! I got rid of my previous knitting machine thinking it was useless, the needles would jam and bend when i tried to use it. But got another that suffered the same problem!! But now i know the sponge bar was what was wrong with it!! I’m sure to enjoy many years of happy knitting!!

17 Claudie (in France) { 12.31.10 at 11:53 pm }

Like you, I make myself the new sponge bar

18 Elseline in The Netherlands { 01.14.11 at 7:31 am }

Terrific! It works perfectly. Thank you so much for the instructions. I hadn’t used my Toyota knitting machine for 17 years. Now I want to knit for my grandchildren and the needles got jammed. After replacing the sponge bar it works great again.

19 joan kissell { 02.08.11 at 11:25 am }

How is the sponge strip suppose to be, foam touching needles or ribbon ?? I used 1 layer of header material and it is too thin, the needles still “Flop” I got 3/8 x 3/16 foam and put ribbon on one side and will sew that to the header material I already put in and pull that thru. I`ll let you know tomorrow if that one works. Joan K.

20 madeleinemary { 04.14.11 at 1:14 pm }

Hi, I read your instructions with interest. As my machine is so old the glue holding on the foam strip had completely dried out & I could scrape it off easily. I bought some ordinary sticky back draught excluder &; stuck it on, securing each end with a dab of superglue which I pressed down well so that it slipped into the machine easily. Result – a machine that works perfectly now! Many Thanks! I shall look forward to more tips with interest. MM.

21 Mildred Browne { 05.18.11 at 3:03 pm }

Great information, Thank you for publishing how to make your own sponge bar for knitting machine. I’ll give this a try since I need at least three.
M B from Georgia

22 lorrwill { 06.26.11 at 9:24 am }

Your clear explanations, patience and generosity are absolutely commendable. Thank you very much for this information!

23 Merlene Johnson { 11.02.11 at 10:39 pm }

Hi to all machine knitters I have just resumed knitting after a few years and after refreshing all the things I once knew thought I would let you know what I used for my sponge bars. I found weather strip which you can buy from Bunnings works a treat after cleaning you only have to peel off the backing strip and away you go as it is already sticky. I hope it will save you some cutting it works for me I have been doing it for years and it is cheap.

24 Maskinstrik | Pearltrees(new comment) { 01.23.12 at 1:35 am }

[…] How To Make A Knitting Machine Needle Retainer Sponge Bar – Part 1 | knittsings If you start to poke at it with a toothpick too soon, you will fight the liquid and it will seem like it isn’t working. […]

25 tracey(new comment) { 01.27.12 at 6:53 am }


could not get the home made sponge bar to fit in my knitmaster 323, used 1cm spong followed instructions it was just too tight to push back into machine, managed to get it in for the first 10 needles they simply would not move back and forth.

I assume it needs less depth to sponge??


26 tracey(new comment) { 05.23.12 at 1:33 am }


after buying sponge from diy places i could not get any to work in my 323 knitmaster machines, a friend told me about a sponge seller on the web i bought some from them and it worked perfectly, i didnt use glue the sponge was pre glued and cut to size

this is where i got it from

the ebay seller is zuusco

I was grateful to your thread but maybe the diy places around me dont sell the right stuff i dont know but this seller was really helpful and it cost me less than £5 per machine so I am a happy knitter

27 Raquel Reyrs(new comment) { 06.26.12 at 7:32 pm }

Hi I just found this wonderful site I have three knitting machines which none work properly I have a brothers kh-864 which is my first machine and I have not used it for many years because as soon as i bought it my husband pass away and i stop working with it and left it in the closet. But I will be retiring soon and i want to start to knit again so that i can have my own business in crafts. i bought another machine which is a genie 710. but it will not cast on and i just bought a kh-950i with the same problem. so i ask arount in the internet and i was told that it could be the sponge bar so i did a little reserch in the internet and found that the sponge bars are expensive. then i found your site thank you very much, for all the information you have given all of us in yoursite all i need is to find here in puert rico a place to buy the nessery materal i would,
Best Regards

28 raquel(new comment) { 06.27.12 at 10:32 am }


29 raquel(new comment) { 06.30.12 at 9:31 am }

hi ijust would like to see more information on how to attach the ribber to my kh-950i. thanks
best regards

30 Madknitter(new comment) { 05.10.13 at 8:13 pm }

Just want to thank you sooooo much for the excellent site on how to fit a new sponge bar. You have put so much work into it. I managed to get some green foam 1.2cm thick and I purchased enough for 15 replacement sponges for just $11.00. I am so thrilled.

Can I just ask you to change a small typo (which confused me at first) in the following paragraph. in the second line I believe you mean 6mm NOT 6cm – thanks. Also to cut time and effort, I ironed my material on before I cut the strips – this meant only measuring and cutting once.

The foam typically comes in two types and two thicknesses: high density-green or low density-beige, 1/2? or 1/4? (1.3 or .6cm). The latter is too thin so use the 1/2? (1.3 cm). If in your area 3/8? (1 cm) sheet foam is available, I would definitely try it as well. It wasn’t available where I live. Regardless of thickness, when you buy your foam, buy a length that will accommodate your longest sponge bar. For me that was my Brother Bulky machines. Four feet (122 cm) is plenty long enough with a bit extra to allow for mistakes.

31 David Lyster(new comment) { 09.13.13 at 7:31 pm }

I have just finished replacing my Needle bars thanks to your great information. I live on the Gold Coast in Australia and purchased 50cm of 1cm foam and same amount of material this should give me max of 50 bars but even 30 bars its only cost $1 Aud. to do.
One thing I did was used wire wool to polish the track to remove any stubbon left over gunk.
Once again thank you.

32 Pat from Kent, England(new comment) { 01.23.14 at 8:47 am }

Thanks for the advice! Brilliant!

In Britain, to dissolve the gunge I used “Sticky Stuff Remover” from Lakeland. After scraping off the remnants of the foam (the bar may be 20 years old!) I dribbled a little along the length of the bar, left it for 10 minutes, scraped, repeated twice – and it’s clean, shiny, metal. Then wash & dry DO protect hands from the sharp edge of the bar with a pad!
Now to fix foam & ribbon – couldn’t get interfacing!

I’ve been given about 4 old Brother std. gauge machines (including a 950)- + ribber, some in bits – & loads of accessories + magazines, etc. I think there are a few Passap & Knitmaster bits, too. I have a faulty 881 of my own, as well. I shall try to sort out 200 good needles between all of them & get 1 working.

Does anyone know if there’s a source of needles for garter carriages, or the 2 brackets to connect a ribber to the main machine, please?

Good luck to all of us in our efforts! (I need it.)

33 Sunny(new comment) { 02.13.14 at 1:42 pm }

Oh My Goodness!
I wish that I found this before I purchased a new sponge bar that I ruined because the size was incorrect. I have a Brother Convertible KH 400. I ordered from a company that assured me that it was the correct size. It wasn’t and I wound up totally obliterating it when I tried to install it into the machine. I thought that weather stripping would work and your post confirmed my suspicion. It fits perfectly!

I used the following…

– Frost King Rubber Foam Weatherseal (Black) 3/8′ Wide, 5/16″ Thick, 10′ Long
from Home Depot … It has a 5 year Guarantee!

– 1 Roll of Celebrate It 360 Ribbon 3’8″/ 10 Yards from Michaels

– Aleene’s Turbo Tacky Glue from Michaels

The total spent for the materials was $6 and the materials will yield me 3 sponge bars. $2 per bar is great compared to the $15 spent on the one I bought and destroyed. If I want more, I only have to buy more weatherseal which is $2.57.

Since my machine doesn’t have the metal bar, I glued ribbon on the sticky side of the weatherseal and again on the opposite side. To make my life easier, I made the ribbon approximately 4″ longer than the weatherseal on both sides and both ends. The extra ribbon is what I used to pull the foam through the machine. My machine has plastic bars and metal plates underneath that can be a little difficult to navigate. The extra ribbon makes this a lot easier. I’m leaving the extra ribbon on the sponge bar because I figure that when it needs to be replaced, all I’ll have to do is pull the extra ribbon to slide it out easier.

Thank you so much for your post.

34 Catherine(new comment) { 06.28.14 at 11:18 am }

God bless you, I had set aside my machine for years out of frustration, not knowing what else to do with it. After trying so many things to make work properly. Finding your web site is a blessing, I went out and got some foam, since I had all the other items at home already. Following your instructions, my machine is kicking girl. Thank you, thank you. God bless you, in Jesus name.

35 Danny(new comment) { 08.31.14 at 8:32 am }

Thank you so much that tip was brill I thought it was going to have to go in the bin. Now coz what you have said it is working and better. Many thanks Danny

36 Queline(new comment) { 09.15.14 at 10:23 am }

I am from South Africa where knitting machines are very rare and you feel like someone with an antique item when you own one! I have a “full house” Empisal double bed – card reader, 6 colour changer, knit radar etc etc. I knitted by hand for years, and decided to get a kniiting machine on ebay. Got a bulky Empisal as well! For years I tried to figure out why my “fancy” machine did not knit properly, until I read this amazing and helpful site! My home restored sponge bar was worn for appox 4 years of knitting and I never realised this! Must admit I did not know anything from machine knitting, taught myself. My machine was all rusted up and hubby restored it and thought thus the reason for not properly knitting. As for my punch cards not being available in SA, I managed to create my own from year calendenders as the most sites they are available on does not deliver to SA. Thanks again for all the help!

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