Brother KH890 knitting machine was manufactured and released to the market in 1979. It is a metal flatbed knitting machine with 200 needles, positioned 4.5 mm apart. This is a standard gauge machine. It has the ability to accept patterns in the form of punch cards. The punch-card reader (which accepts 24-hole (in one row) punchcards) translates the pattern to the needle selectors and this is how various tuck-, slip-, weave-, lace- and fair-isle patterning is achieved. The punch card offers this machine a 24-stitch repeat pattern. These are wonderful machines and are often present in my store.
The original color combo was probably white/pink/brown but with time due to the plastic damage due to the exposure to UV, the plastic parts of the machine were yellow.
Other known names of KH890 include Palie A.
This model is probably targeted at the Japanese market judging by all the Japanese writing on the carriage.
Now about the specifics of this model and its differences from other Brother punchcard knitting machines.
The row counter is of a modern design and can actually be purchased new if a replacement is needed. The handle folds on the carriage. The main panel has two holders for tools.
The patterning capabilities are activated when the knob on the carriage is moved into the KC position and the carriage latches onto a timing belt. A timing belt also helps (if oiled well) to move the carriage more easily across the bed. The handle on the carriage folds when not in use.
The settings on the change knob are NL (for stockinet), KC (for pattern knitting and to engage with the timing belt), SM (for single motif knitting), and CR (to remove the carriage if it gets stuck). Unlike its earlier counterparts (like Brother KH830 and KH836), and like later punchcard models Brother KH840, KH860, and above Brother KH890 knitting has an additional setting on the change knob: SM, for single motif knitting. The manual explains how to knit single motifs using single motif assesories (long green bars), which are also included with the standard setup.
The machine comes with a standard set of minor and major assesories. The major assesories that are expected to be included are extension rails, cast-on combs, and lace carriage. Together with the mast, they fit into the lid of the case when not in use.
Minor assesories include transfer tools, extra needles, selection comb, claw weights, carriage lock, table clamps, etc. Brother KH890 is also equipped with an extensive set of single motif assesories similar to Brother KH860 but unlike its earlier punchcard counterparts, like Brother KH830 and KH840.
The minor assesories are stored inside a built-in storage box also with a lid.
The carriage has tuck, fair-isle (middle MC button), and part (for slip-stitch knitting) buttons as well as N/H and plain levers, which in combination with the KC position of the carriage dial, help create patterns on the knitted panels.
The retaining bar is metal but contains a sponge strip, which needs to be replaced every 6-12 months. The retaining bar with this sponge holds the needles in place. Without the retaining bar, the needles will be too wobbly and will lose stitches. The retaining bar is 0.5 inches wide and 41 inches long. Table clamps are more modern and are simple clamps without any bolt-like screws like more vintage models. Notice that this type of clamp for Brother machines somewhat differs from similar clamps for Singer/Studio/Silver Reed machines: there is no protruding top bracket in Brother knitting machines. Both the top and bottom panels are on the same level.
Unlike previous models, it comes with a plating yarn feeder. Single motif settings and assesories are also present in this model’s setup, unlike its earlier counterparts, which are not included in standard setups in earlier punchcard models, KH830 and KH836 models. I have not knitted a single motif on Brother KH890 yet and will update this post when I have an opinion.
Like most Brother punch-card knitting machines, comes with a punch-card holder rod. However, I often forget to insert it and use the punch card reader without that rod and without any problems
The sinker plate has a two-thread yarn feeder, like most Brother Knitting machines. The mast also has two springs and two slots to handle two yarns at the same time.
Unlike earlier models, like Brother KH830, KH836 and KH840, the standard sinker plate of Brother KH890 has rubber tuck-wheels, which need to be brought forward. It makes the tuck-stitches look more even and slide less from needles. I sometimes forget to move these wheels forward and the tuck pattern still forms.
Additionally, the carriage has settings (very small orange levers, called “end needle selection cams”) to setup whether the last two needles (one on each side) are selected automatically or not. Earlier models, like KH840, KH836 and KH830 do not have this option. Later models, electronic to the best of my so-far knowledge, instead have an extra KCII (in addition to KCI) option on the carriage change knob.
Another difference I noticed in KH890 from the Brother punch-card machines I worked on, is that the end caps are attached to the needle bed with metal screws through the metal plates inside the end caps – not with plastic rivets, which is more typical for Brother and Studio/Silver Reed/Singer knitting machines. It is, however, possible that this is a feature of just one model I worked on but I noticed this unusual difference. I personally like the metal screws since they are easier to deal with.
Another feature I noticed not present in earlier models, like KH840, KH836, and KH830, is the marks on the needle bed. I am not sure but maybe they are for the garter carriage (???) They are roughly positioned on the bed every 25 needles.
Brother KH840 is compatible with the following add-on assesories:
- Ribbers: KR810, KR830, KR850, KR900
- Color changers: KHC820A, KRC 830, KRC900, KRC 1000E, KRC-1100M
- Knit leaders: KL113, KL116
- Garter carriages: KG88, KH88II, KH88III but with some additions (of a special yarn tensioner and specks racks according to the manual) as well as with later garter carriage models KH89, KG89 II, KG93, KG93 III and KG95 & KG95 OMNI.
- Transfer carriage: KA8300
I had the pleasure of testing this machine in November 2023 and covered this experience in a video and blog entry. So, I, first-hand, had experience judging the pros and cons of Brother KH890 knitting machines.
(+) Solid machine with plenty of replacement parts 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.
(+) Already has built-in garter carriage rails and is compatible with a larger range of garter carriage models.
(+) 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. Almost zero chance for the handle to be misplaced or lost.
(+) Built-in accessory storage box
(+) The end caps are attached to the main body with the metal screws rather than with the plastic rivets. It might have only been the feature of the machine that I had a chance to work on. I am yet to see another Brother KH890 to make a definite conclusion. I consider it a PRO because plastic rivets are so much harder to remove if the end caps need to be attached (for example for clearing or if they broke). Metal screws straightforwardly go in and out. Plastic rivets also tend to break if removed/put it frequently or even break inside the plastic ends themselves.
(+) The carriage has end needle selection cams to setup whether the last two needles in the pattern (one on each side) are brought forward automatically or not. I find this option especially convenient for tuck- and slip-stitch knitting to make sure that the last stitches will not drop.
(-) The repeat pattern is limited to 24 stitches. If you want more flexibility, electronic patterning (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.
(-) 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.
(-) Not capable of knitting thread lace.
Almost all the cons refer to when the machine is not stored properly and are mostly related to machine maintenance.
Other standard Brother knitting machines with 24-hole punch-card capabilities are KH800, KH810, KH820, KH830, KH836, KH838, KH860, KH864, KH868, KH871, KH880, KH881, 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 punch-card possibilities. Their patterning mechanism is somewhat different (they use patterning drums). The models are 210, 260K, 3XX series (e.g., 321, 326, 327, 328, 360K), and 700 mod, to name a few.