A laterally shiftable needle bar of a tufting machine, carrying a plurality of laterally spaced needles, is reciprocated in a vertical path for simultaneously inserting loops of yarn, carried by the needles, through a base fabric, the fabric being fed in a linear longitudinal path beneath the needles. Each needle has an individual looper below the base fabric, in registery and cooperating with the needle for engaging and temporarily holding the loop of yarn, inserted by the needle through the base fabric, as the needle is retracted.
During a first portion of a cycle of the needle bar, prior to the insertion of the needles through the base fabric, a needle bar shifting assembly shifts the needle bar laterally, in one direction or the other. Then, after the needles have penetrated the base fabric, the needle bar shifting assembly shifts the needle bar laterally in an opposite direction, so as to cause the needles to move the penetrated portion of the base fabric laterally out of its normal linear path and align the needles with their loopers beneath the base fabric for engagement of the loops by the loopers, as the needles are withdrawn vertically from the base fabric. The resiliency of the base fabric returns the shifted portion of the base fabric to its original linear path across the machine and the yarn inserting cycle is then repeated. By appropriate manipulating of the lateral shifting of the needle bar one or, indeed, a plurality of longitudinal rows of tufts are produced by each needle and its individual looper.