Playing with Machines Again

Brother Knitting Machine KH 800

Brother Knitting Machine KH 800 in action

My Mom was given a knitting machine by a friend who was cleaning out her basement, it sounded kind of fancy.  I offered to teach my Mom how to use it, but our recent get-togethers were focused on other things (eg. I am expecting).  When she came over to help me bake traditional Slovak Easter foods for the holiday, I figured I could at least set up my Knitmaster and show her the basics.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts and on the associated info page, my Knitmaster is a very humble sort of knitting machine.  It’s a standard gauge (meaning it can handle lace-weight through DK), but it’s functionality is limited to plain stockinette unless you are willing to do some very tedious hand-manipulation.

I had considered upgrading to a punch card machine last year, but I really couldn’t justify the expense.  My humble Knitmaster was an eBay bargain at $46 including shipping.  I’d likely have to pay at least $500 for a gamble on a basic punchcard machine.  Spare cash being limited as it often is, I gave up on the idea after a few months of Craigslist and eBay stalking.

So last week I showed my Mom the wonders of machine knitting on my Knitmaster.  I demonstrated various techniques on a piece that started as an attempt to machine knit a baby cardigan.  She also got to try out casting on, binding off, and basic rows.  My crafty buddy Emily also stopped by and got to try out the knitting machine.  Emily is a scientist by trade, so I think the precision and mechanical nature of the knitting machine were intriguing to her.

The next day I got a call from my Mom.  Maybe it’s the impending grandma-hood and the baby sweater I was trying to create, maybe it’s the fact that my Mom just won a circular sock knitting machine from ebay, or maybe it was the fact that my machine is kind of simple and her machine was a bit more complex.  Whatever the reason, she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  She asked if I would like to swap knitting machines with her!  So the pic above is “my” new Brother KH 800 Knitting Machine, “on semi-permanent loan to my collection” as we like to say.

So far, I am thrilled!  The Brother Knitting Machine had been in a friend of my Mom’s yarn shop, then it was given to another friend of hers who does charity knitting but apparently never got into the knitting machine aspect of production knitting.  A basement needed cleaning, the machine went to my Mom, and voila!  A free upgrade for me!  It is in fairly good shape (a few needles are missing, apparently swapped out and moved to the ends when bent).  It has a lace cartridge and takes a 12-stitch punchcard.  Alas, the couple of books that I have accumulated on knitting machine patterns are for 24-stitch punchcards, but I think most can be modified.

Compared to my Knitmaster, there are a lot of pieces to set up on this machine.  Flipping through the PDF manual I found online, I was able to figure out most things.  I am slowly building up my abilities with the new functions.  I like making hemmed edges on it – the cast on is so easy it feels like cheating!

The only major difficulty I am having so far is that the punchcard mechanism is not “reading” the cards correctly.  Some of the needles that the card says should be selected are not selecting – I can do it manually, of course, but that sort of defeats the purpose.  The PDF manual is missing some pages, but it doesn’t appear that it ever had a page that detailed troubleshooting the punchcard.  Hopefully internet research will help, but I may be relegated to taking things apart and seeing what happens.

I’m heading for a day-long knitting workshop this weekend with my crafty buddy Emily.  A couple of classes and a vendor area… Watch out now – I’m heading into the danger zone!

Until next time, keep those needles (and needle beds) clicking…

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9 thoughts on “Playing with Machines Again

  1. I have the opportunity to purchase a KH800 at a great price. I am a beginner, but I have a lot of yarn and want to make scarves. Do you think this is a good starter machine?

    • It seems to me like this would be a good choice. I have seen easier set-up directions, but I do like how the instructions guide you through different tasks to get you familiar with the basics. I was able to find the instruction book online, if yours does not happen to have it.

      Scarves would be a great project to work on a machine, especially since you can play with your punch cards on this machine. Scarves make a great test project to try patterns. But keep in mind that this machine is called a “standard” machine and probably can only knit up to a light DK weight. And maybe only sock weight, I haven’t really tested it fully yet. So it will only help you stash-bust if that’s the kind of yarn that you have a lot of already!

      • Thanks for the feedback. Hopefully, the yard is the right weight. I bought it in Japan years ago. I was going to make an afghan, thus the huge quantity. Life got in the way and I think a knitting machine would go more quickly once I get the hang of it. The plastic ones don’t seem to have a great reputation, so getting a real one seems to be a good route to take.

      • I’m definitely still learning about the KH800, but let me know if you run into questions. Maybe we can figure it out together!

  2. I too got a KH 800 and am wondering how to use the punch cards (it came with none). I would appreciate any help. I was told it was a work horse machine and you could use paper for cards but I don’t know how!

    • I have seen blank 12-stitch punch cards on eBay occasionally, and you might be able to use plain paper although you will need to look for a good reference example. Or you might get lucky and find the original ones that got parted from their machine on eBay or a knitting-machine accessory seller. Just be sure to look for 12-stitch sized ones which are less common than the 24-stich cards. For the pre-made cards, there is a card with punched holes and a card that explains how all the settings need to be for that card. If you are punching your own card, you will probably want to pick up a book of machine knitting stitches but keep in mind that most of those are for 24-stitch machines so you will have to look for patterns where the repeat can be cut in half.

      The manual that came with the KH800 has a pretty good introduction to how to use punch cards. There are a lot of levers and buttons to toggle depending on whether you are doing a plain, tuck, or lace stitch pattern. If your machine didn’t come with a manual, all the Brother manuals seem to be available free online.

  3. Hi does anyone have a manual for the kh800 that that could email me with?? I have just been give. One and not sure exactly how it works

  4. Hi
    I have a working kh800 but the lever that allow to switch to punch card work is lost, and really impossible to find a new one.
    Could you please post some photos (or send email) of this lever so i can try to find an artisan for *build* a new one ?

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