Brother KH860 knitting machine was released to the market in the second half of late 1970s (although, there are still manufactures who sell modern copies of KH860). It features 200 needles, positioned 4.5 mm apart. Thus, this is a standard-gauge knitting machine. It can pattern automatically using punchcards, inserted into punchcard reader. The maximum repeat pattern is 24-stitch. Thus, punch cards have 24 holes in a row. The punchcard reader translates the pattern to the needle selection mechanism. Using knobs, levers and buttons on the carriage, various patterns (like tuck, slip, weave, lace and fair-isle) can be created.
This machine as well as other machines with punchcard patterning capabilities can be purchased from my store.
This model can come under some other brand names. One machine I worked on is for some reason called SIMAC-Brother KH860… Strange but ok!!
The row counter is of a modern design and can actually be purchased new if a replacement is needed (available in my store as well).
The main knob on the carriage (similar to Brother KH840 knitting machine) has N-L, KC, SM and CR positions. 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.
I like the position of the settings on the knob on this model a bit better than on its previous counterparts (like KH830): the first is NL position (plain knit), then single motif (SM) and then carriage release. It makes sense to me to make the carriage release setting last. However, KH830 has a “carriage release” setting first. However, it is simply a matter of comparison and a habit. Often knitters do not have the luxury to knit on several machines and settle with whatever machine they can get. Thus, whatever a knitter is used to determines their preference.
Brother KH860 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, punchcards and lace carriage. Together with the mast, they fit into the lid of the case when not in use. The minor assesories are stored inside a built-in storage box also with a lid.
Minor assesories include transfer tools, extra needles, selection comb, claw weights, carriage lock, table clamps, etc. Brother KH860 is also equipped with an extensive set of single motif assesories similar to Brother KH890 but unlike its earlier punchcard counterparts (Brother KH830 and KH840). 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
I had the pleasure of working on Brother KH860 (see a video of my tests and a blog article dedicated to testing of that particular Brother KH860). It is a solid machine and despite being so vintage, it will still work for many years especially if kept in a controlled environment and serviced (cleaned and oiled) regularly.
The carriage has tuck, fair-isle (middle MC button), and part (for slip-stitch knitting) buttons as well as N/H and plain levers. 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. Unlike its earlier counterparts (Brother KH830 and KH836) and similar to Brother KH840, KH860 machine 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 sinker plate has a two-thread yarn holder. A standard mast is also capable of handling two different yarns at the same time.
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, assesories for the Brother KH860 include a plating yarn feeder. Single motif settings and assesories are also present in this model’s setup, unlike its earlier counterparts, which is not included in standard setups in earlier punchcard models, KH830 and KH836 models. I have not knitted a single motif on Brother KH860 yet and will update this post when I have an opinion.
Like most punch-card Brother knitting machines, Brother KH860 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 and KH88II.
- Transfer carriage: KA8300
- Intarsia carriage: KA8210
(+) 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.
(+) 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 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, KH840, 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 punch-card possibilities. Their patterning mechanism is somewhat different (they use patterning drums). The Singer/Studio/Silver Reed models are 210, 260K, 3XX series (e.g., 321, 326, 327, 328, 360K), and 700 mod, to name a few. Full list of all knitting machines with punch-card capabilities can be found in here.
I would recommend Brother KH860 machine to any knitters: beginners and advanced, hobbysts, artists and even small business production.
This is what I made while testing this machine.