Brother Profile 551 knitting machine is a standard gauge machine (with the space between needles equal to 4.5 mm). It was released to the market by Brother in 1960-ies. No other brand names exist to the brest of my knowledge.
I have no idea why these earlier models are called “Profile” and why later models started being called “KH”.
It features metal bed with 200 needles. The cast and the lid are lightweight metal so are the end-caps of the case. Additionally, the end-caps are not plastic (like later Brother knitting machines) but metal, which makes them more robust and less prone to breaking (especially during shipment and transport) and UV-exposure damage.
Comes with a typical minor set of assesories (stitch transfer tools). Heavy-duty metal cast-on combs also come as part of the standard setup.
Included is also a clip-on tool storage/stand thingy and a clip-on row counter.
The carriage handle can be completely removed (screwed on) for storage. The handle fits inside the case (there is an allocated space for it).
The carriage has tuck, plain, and part buttons. The holding cam levers have positions marked I, II, and III. Buttons on the carriage are used for fair-isle, tuck, and part-based patterning. Holding cam levers in the position I are used for basic knitting: all needles in B and D positions (fully extended) will be knitted. Refer to the manual for knitting with cam levers in II and III positions. But the general rule is that II position for needles in C and D positions as well as for tuck knitting or/and knitting only on one side of the knitted panel (i.e., for neck shaping). when cam levers are in III position, normal knitting occurs only on needles in the B position.
If your carriage does not seem to be working correctly, you can refer to this article on common problems with the Brother knitting machine carriages.
Additionally, the sinker plate has a special bracket to hold the yarn better. Some of the sinker plates for the Brother Profile 551 machines I refurbished did not come with one.
Mast can accommodate 3 threads (of different colors, for example) simultaneously.
The retaining bar needs a sponge strip. The sponge needs to be replaced every 6-12 months depending on the usage of the machine and the amount of oiling. The retaining bar is 0.375 inches wide and 41 inches long.
Table clamps are S-shaped, unlike later Brother knitting machine models. The head of the “S” is smaller than for similar ribber clamps.
The needles are unique as they have a slight bend near the butt part of the needle. they can be purchased on the used marker or in my store.
Its patterning mechanism is push-button. There are four (4) buttons. Once the buttons are pressed, the corresponding needles will be moved forward by rotating the ratchet tool to SET position. This action selects the needles and pushes them forward. Watch it in my video ( I refurbished four Brother Profile 551 knitting machines to date, check out my other blog for more info) – the mechanicals of it happening is simply fascinating!!! By rotating the ratchet to OFF position, all buttons become unpushed.
However, patterning involves not only pushing the correct buttons but also some buttons on the carriage itself.
Brother KH551 knitting machine models also come under the Jones name.
Replacement parts are available only on the used market.
Brother Profile 551 knitting machines do not come with a lace carriage. Brother Profile 551 knitting machine can be matched with a ribbing attachment KR551.
Sometimes I have Brother Profile 551 in my store for purchase.
Similar 4-push button machines are Brother KH531.
Pros and Cons of Brother Profile 551 knitting machine:
+ Carriage is very light and slides very easily
+ The bed is narrower than other machines – which makes it more compact
+ …and makes the machine lighter than other similar models
+ relatively easy to deep clean – all parts are solid and straightforward to insert/assemble/disassemble; the machine is fully mechanical
+ The needle count is engraved on the bed – so these slippery and constantly in-the-way paper liners showing the needle count won’t annoy you by constantly sliding and getting lost.
+ Threading the yarn is a bit more intuitive and straightforward in my opinion
+ Built-in capabilities for handling 3 different yarns; only mast though – the carriage can only accommodate two yarns simultaneously
+ The hard case is a combination of fake leather and plastic, which makes it not only look neater and nicer than other machines but also more durable.
+ A significant advantage of this machine relative to its later counterparts (pushbutton, punchcard and electronic knitting machines) is all metal parts (with the exception of some small knobs and levers). Thus, no UV damage and discoloration to the main parts of the machine (unlike later models, in which UV damage, aging and the resulting discoloration of carriage plastic panels, end-caps and top panels can be quite significant).
- The push-button mechanism helps to select the needles but for every row, you need to change the needles selected (basically turn the ratchet tool to SET and OFF). It might be tedious and you need to keep track of the correct order.
- Some might find the machine too simple – yes, it has only limited patterning capabilities. However, with manual needle selection and yarn manipulation, the possibilities are endless, which is kind of a big plus to artists and hand-knitters who just transitioned to machine knitting and not ready yet to give up the feeling of satisfaction of hand-manipulating the stitches.
- Parts are only available on the used market.
- Unique needles that can only be purchased on a used marked
- The sponge strip in the retaining needs to be replaced regularly.
Brother KH551 is compatible with only a handful of various add-on attachments. Brother KR551 ribber is one of them.
Overall Brother Profile 551 is a very robust mechanical machine that will continue to serve knitters for years especially if kept indoors with humidity and temperature control. If you are interested in purchasing this miracle of engineering, check out my store for this and other machines.
This machine is excellent for somebody who wants to simply knit blankets, or scarves or for people who find punchcard mechanisms and electronic mechanisms too overwhelming. It is also an excellent machine for beginners since it is very robust and simple.
Also, you don’t even need to use patterning. Just find a thin self-striping yarn and knit by a simple stockinet stitch like I did to create this wonderful sweater for myself!!
Other 4-pushbutton knitting machines similar to Brother KH551 are KH511, KH521, and KH531.
If you like this type of patterning mechanics but would like versatility, check out the Brother KH800 knitting machine: it has the same ratchet-based needle selection mechanism but it is actually punch-card based (thus, more unique needle combinations with 12-stitch repeat).
A bit simpler patterning is offered by 8-pushbutton knitting machines, like Brother KH585, Brother KH588, Brother KH710, just to name a few.