Ribbing attachment was developed to convert single-bed flat-bed knitting machines into double-bed knitting setups.
Thus, Brother KR850 ribber works on most standard-gauge Brother knitting machines released in the early 1970s and later. I am yet to find specific information (on the Internet and in old magazines) about when this ribber was first introduced to the market.
Brother KR850 ribber features 200 needles, spaced 4.5 mm apart. It fits the majority of the Brother Knitting machines of the KH8XX series (specifically all punch-card knitting machines with model numbers KH820, KH821, KH830, KH831, KH836, KH840, KH851, KH860, KH864, KH868, KH871, KH880, KH881, KH890, KH891, KH892, KH893 and KH894) and KH9XX series (all electronic machines with model numbers KH900, KH910, KH920, KH930, KH940, KH950i, KH950e, KH965, KH965i and KH970). I personally tested a KR850 ribber on a KH860 machine and knitted a couple of nice things on the setup (see my video showing Brother KR850 ribber working). Both ribbers and machines are available in my store quite often.
The installation/setup of the knitting machine is very easy, and in my opinion, a bit simpler than the installation of Brother KR830. The slightly improved design of KR setting plates makes it very convenient to insert the ribber bed into the knitting machine bed. (On KR830 these brackets are not stand-alone and are part of the e screws that are attached to the already-attached brackets on the Another advancement of KR850 over its older KR830 counterparts is that KR850 has a plating yarn feeder and a R carriage lock (it secures the main machine carriage to the main needle bed when the KR setting plates are inserted into the main needle bed so the knitter does not need to worry about removing these plats constantly).
All other assesories are pretty standard for all ribber setups: connecting arm, end stitch presser plates, table clamps, grip handle, cast-on combs, fine knitting bar, large and small barrel weights, wire-loop and claw-type weight hangers, spanner, work hook, spare needles, transfer needle (double-eye needle-like tool), 1/2 and 2/2 needle pushers. If you get lucky and find a ribber in the original packaging, all assesories fit into assigned slots on the Styrofoam.
The most important thing in setting the ribber is the optimum distance between the main bed and the machine. Below is a picture of what you should get if the ribber is properly positioned relative to the main bed. There are a lot of useful resources on the Internet on how to adjust the distance between the beds. Unfortunately, the manual does not cover it well.
If the distance is NOT adjusted properly, you will get missed stitches – something like I got (shown below). You will be puzzled why only every-other stitch formed on the ribber but the incorrect distance between the ribber and the machine will create all kinds of regularly-skipped stitches. The biggest problem is not even being able to notice the dropped stitches. It is extremely disappointing to find dropped stitches after you remove the fabric from the bed and cast-on comb.
The ribber is capable of knitting a variety of ribbing patterns (2×2, 1×1, 5×5, full rib on all needles, English and fisherman’s ribs) and U-shape stockinet panel as well as round (without a seam) stockinet tube. Can create interesting tucking patterns. All is needed is to change the positions of different knobs and levers.
One of the strongest features of KR850 is the so-called lili buttons. They allow knitting double-bed jacquard (DBJ), where the colored pattern is visible on both sides just in reverse but without the floats). There are lots of resources available on the Internet on this topic. This is considered a huge advantage of Brother KR850 ribber compared to its earlier counterparts. However, a color changer is needed to knit DBJ. Brother KR850 (in tandem with a knitting machine) will work with KRC830, KRC840, KRC 900, and KRC-1000E color changers.
The manual describes the functions of all levers and buttons how to use them as well. If you get lucky, you might get a ribber targeted to Japanese markets with all Japanese writing on the carriages. Don’t worry and just google for a manual online to find the English version and to decipher the meaning of the buttons.
Brother made other similar ribbing attachments like KR810, KR830, KR880, and KR900. The latter ones also have lili-buttons.
Pros and Cons of Brother Brother KR850 ribbing attachment:
(+) Parts can easily be purchased on the new and used markets.
(+) Replacement needles can be purchased on a new market.
(+) Well-written instruction manual.
(+) Very straightforward carriage threading (with yarn) process. It is more tedious on earlier ribber models (like KR580).
(+) The racking level allows to knit wavy-racking patterns.
(+) The retaining bar is a plastic bar (no sponge). So, just regular clearing is needed. No sponge to worry about.
(+) Unlike earlier models (KR5XX series), the connecting arm allows to movement of the main and ribbing carriage simultaneously. This tremendously decreases the movements required from the knitter as well as the possibility of making mistakes or problems with tension.
For all patterns, refer to the well-written manual.
(+) Addition of some advanced assesories, like plating feeder, R carriage lock, and KR setting plates.
(+) lili buttons to knit DBJ (but a color changer is needed).
(-) The first initial adjustment of the distance between the main bed and the ribber might seem tedious. However, there are numerous resources on how to do it correctly.
(-) Dropped stitches are easy to miss while knitting.
(-) Plastic components of the KR850 ribber, 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.
Having your main knitting machine assesories with a ribber will bring your knitting skills to the next level. Not only will you create beautiful ribbing on sleeves and necks but you can also knit wider panels and even socks. And a double-bed jacquard will blow your mind (once you master it)!! Just be open-minded because adding ribber also adds a level of complexity and a myriad of things to remember to do and to keep track of. But at the end of the day, it will only make you a better machine knitter.