Brother KR580 ribbing attachment

Ribbing attachment Brother KR580 appeared on the market in 1966 to convert 8-push button knitting machines into double-bed knitting setups.

I had the privilege to work on the KR580 ribbing attachment and I had a lot of fun learning and exploring this vintage piece of knitting technology. That particular ribber is described in my blog.

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The ribber features 200 needles, positioned 4.5 mm apart. KR580 ribber can be coupled with KH5XX series knitting machines (I tested it on a Brother KH585 knitting machine). Since all Brother 8-push button knitting machines are very similar, I strongly believe that KR580 can be used together with KH552, KH583, KH587, KH588, and Genie KH710 knitting machines. I found one source that mentions that KR580 ribber can be used with the KH800 knitting machine (which I believe because the needles for the KH800 knitter are the same as for all KH5XX series).

I like how the various ways to knit ribbing are shown on the carriage itself. The ribber that I had experience with had writing in Japanese. I also like the levers on the sides of the carriage that move up and down – kind of a more intuitive way since the carriages for vintage knitting machines also have similar levers.

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The ribber comes with typical (to most other ribbers) assesories: barrel weights (the vintage look of which I simply love), cast-on combs, table clamps (two sets), and racking lever. With the exception of the cast-on combs, all the major assesories are unique and if you got ribber without them, it might be hard to replace.

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The minor assesories, like needle pusher, screwdriver, spanner, wire loop type, and weight hangers are interchangeable with other ribbers.

The handle screws on. The carriage moves independently from the main carriage: the knitting machine carriages move first, then the ribber carriage moves, and the ribber carriage latch on the yarn left for them to hand on. This is how the purl stitches form. Unlike vintage Brother KR580 ribber, the newer models for ribbers have a connecting arm. The reason it is called a “connecting” arm is because it connects the main and the ribber carriage and makes them move simultaneously.  In the case of the Brother KR580 (because of a more vintage technology), the brush arm assembly connects only to the main carriage. Thus, the ribber carriage needs a handle to move after the main carriage.

When I first tested this ribber, it felt a bit strange but overall I liked it: I could see right away which stitches formed and which were problematic. On newer setups (with ribbers Brother KR8XX series and Singer/Studio ribbers SRN321, SRP50/60), I sometimes miss the stitches that did not form correctly or were dropped until later or even until I remove the knitted panel from the machine.

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The racking level handle is flat, not cylindrical like in later KR8XX models (KR810, KR830, KR850, etc).

The picture below is an attempt to show how the ribber is being attached to the table: with the one table clamp (deep in the picture) with the reinforcing clamp. In newer models (of the Brother KR8XX series), a regular knitting machine is used and the side brackets already have the part that is included with the reinforcing clamps of the KR580 ribbing attachment.

Interesting that the ribber I had a chance to work with was selling for “only” $29.5 when it first appeared on the market. I used an online inflation calculator and in today’s money, it would be about $300.

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Pros and cons of ribbing attachment Brother KR580.

PROS:

(+) Replacement needles can be purchased on the new and used market. Brother KR580 ribber uses the same needles as later KR8XX models.

(+) The retaining bar is a solid plastic bar: no need to replace the sponge.

(+) The fact that the ribber carriage is moved after the main carriage was moved might be advantageous as it is easier to see whether all stitches formed as intended.

(+) Fits almost all 8-push button Brother knitting machines

(+) A significant advantage of this ribber relative to its later counterparts is that all major parts are metal (with the exception of some small knobs and levers). Thus, no UV damage and discoloration to the main parts (unlike later models, in which UV damage, aging and the resulting discoloration of carriage plastic panels, end-caps and top panel can be quite significant).

CONS:

(-) Rare model to find

(-) Compatible with only a small number of knitting machines

(-) Other than needles, replacement parts (if your ribber came without some) might be hard to find. However, not that many parts will go bad

(-) Some might find the fact that the ribber carriage had to be moved separately a disadvantage.

(-) Not compatible with additional assesories, like transfer carriage.

Overall, Brother KR580 ribbers are nice additions to the 8-push button Brother Knitting machines. However, Brother KR580 ribbers are hard to find but sometimes they can still be found in my shop.

If you purchased this ribber in a rough shape, check my article on the steps I take while cleaning and servicing ribbers, especially those showing some rust.

If you have a well-serviced ribber, check the steps I take while testing the ribbers.

Happy Knitting!


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