Brother KH836 knitting machine

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Brother KH836 knitting machine was released to the market at the end of 1970s. It is a standard machine with 200 needles, positioned 4.5 mm apart.  This knitting machine comes with a detachable row counter (which still can be purchased, for example, in my store), a 2-thread yarn mast and a 24-hole punch card reading mechanism for automatic patterning capabilities.

The machine comes with a standard set of assesories that fit inside a built-in storage box with an attached lid.

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The major assesories (lace carriage, cast-on combs, and extension rails to hold lace carriage or main carriage on the side of the machine), when not in use, fit inside the lid. Handle on the carriages (main and lace) fold not in use for easy storage.

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By using punch cards and by pressing these corresponding buttons, the machine can automatically pattern and knit tuck-stitch patterns, hold-stitch patterns, skip-stitch patterns, and fair-isle patterns (two color patterns are possible without any color changes). These buttons are tuck, part and MC (fair isle) buttons for this advanced patterning. Patterning is activated by attaching the carriage to the timing belt by turning the knob on the carriage to KC position. CR and NL positions of the knob on the top right-hand side of the carriage are for no patterning and carriage release functions.

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If the carriage does not seem to be working correctly, you can refer to this article on common problems with the Brother knitting machine carriages.

The machine is compatible with the following assesories:

  • Ribbers: KR810, KR830, KR850, KR900
  • Color changers: KHC820A, KRC 830, KRC900, KRC 1000E, KRC-1100M
  • Knit leaders: KL113, KL116
  • Garter carriage KG88. According to the manual, the rails for the garter carriage are already included. ( I did not test the Garter carriage on KH836)
  • Transfer carriage: KA8300

The retaining bar includes a long sponge strip, that needs to be replaced every 6-12 months depending on the use of the machine and the extent of oiling.

Brother knitting machines with punch-card patterning capabilities are often present in my store.

I had a chance to knit and pattern on Brother KH836 so I can first-hand judge its pros and cons. So, here they are.

Pros and Cons of Brother KH830 knitting machine:

PROS:

(+) Solid machine with plenty of replacement parts (including needles, cast-on combs, and row counter) on the used and new market.

(+) Plenty of resources online on how to use it.

(+) Automatic patterning with slip-, tuck- and fair isle stitches. Just insert the punch card and knit away. Can do weaving.

(+) Can handle two different yarns (of different colors, for example) at once without the need for a color changer.

(+) Compatible with a variety of add-on assesories like ribber, transfer carriage, garter carriage, knit leader, etc.

(+) A timing belt when using the machine in patterning mode makes the carriage slide a bit easier.

(+) The punchcard reading mechanism has an option to expand the pattern two times.

(+) Very well written manual

(+) The handle on the carriage folds nicely (on some older models it screws on) for storage. There is almost zero chance for the handle to be misplaced or lost.

(+) Built-in minor accessories storage box.

(+) Can be used with a garter carriage without the need to install the rails

(+) The carriage has several settings for pattern knitting and carriage release.

CONS:

(-) The repeat pattern is limited to 24 stitches. If you want more flexibility, electronic patterning of KH9XX series machines is the way to go.

(-) The sponge bar needs to be replaced regularly.

(-) If not stored/taken care of properly, it will rust.

(-) Buttons on the carriage are often stuck if the machine is not in use for prolonged periods of time.

(-) 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).

(-) Again, only if not used for prolonged times, the patterning mechanism might start misbehaving… The reasons might be: gunk/dirt, stuck pieces of yarn, incorrect engagement with the timing belt, incorrectly (too thick) selected yarn/tension, faulty needles, etc.

(-) 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.

(-) 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).

(-) 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 carriage has fewer settings for patterning options compared to the later models of knitting machines (like Brother KH840).

Almost all the cons refer to when the machine is not stored properly and are mostly related to machine maintenance.

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Brother KH836 is considered by some a slightly improved version of Brother KH830 knitting machine but I did not notice any differences between these machines with the exception of the color scheme and some accent shading. Also, the manual mentions that KH86 is equipped with a slightly different cast-on setup (a shorter section slides into a longer one making a full-bed-length cast-on comb). Additionally, the manual states that, unlike KH830, KH836 does not come with a default lace carriage and, as a consequence, with lace punch cards. It was a bit strange for me to learn because the KH836 that I worked on had a diagram on the lid with the lace carriage drawing on it. Oh well! Both machines are very great!!

Other standard Brother knitting machines with 24-hole punchcard-reading capabilities are KH800, KH810, KH820, KH836, KH838, KH840, KH860, KH864, KH868, KH871, KH880, KH881, KH890, KH891, KH892 and KH894. Models ending with “1” typically have a built-in knit leader.

Studio/Singer/Silver Reed also produced standard-gauge knitting machines with 24-hole punchcard-reading possibilities. Their patterning mechanism is somewhat different (they use patterning drums). The models are 210, 260K, 3XX series (e.g., 321, 326, 327, 328, memomatic 360K and mod360K), and 700 mod, to name a few.

Below are the images of what I knitted using punch-card Bother knitting machines.

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Happy knitting!

Don’t forget to check out the fun and beginner-friendly projects that can be done easily on any machine.