Sock knitting machines!.. ahh.. I know this may sound crazy, and quite honestly I was not sure as to whether this should go on my studio blog or not, as this is more of a ‘me’ thing. so.. no.. I am not going into the sock making business.. (at least not as far as I know!)
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Since first learning of these machines over a year ago, I have patiently (well.. my husband might disagree with that statement) been waiting for the right one to find me, during that time, I have read so much about them, and the history behind them appeals to me in a significant way.
In the late 1800’s and first half of the 1900’s, sock knitting machines were produced in many countries around the world. During war times, many wives/mothers were left at home, some struggling to make ends meet. the answer?.. the sock knitting machine. Women all over the world purchased these machines, and through the same company, purchased wool. After meeting company standards, they were in a position to sell their socks back to the company for a profit (a measly one I am sure) but a profit none the less. These machines, allowed women to work from home at their own pace and schedule, while still attending to the household and family needs. Those options were often few and far between. These machines offered women some independence, in a time when that was not common.
Last week, I contacted a gentleman who was selling one that had belonged to his great-grandmother. I just knew that this was the one for me! When asking about who had owned it, he told me that his great-grandmother, who had lived on the west coast of Norway, had been widowed early, and that this machine helped her keep her family afloat. It had been packed away in a chest in the mid 40s, and nobody had touched it since. So a few days ago, I went to pick it up.. and to my surprise, it had 3 set of cylinders with corresponding ribbers, some with knitting still on them. All of the pieces were there, and with a little tender loving care, I knew I could breath some life back into this beauty. I was giddy.. like a kid in a candy shop.. just giddy!
Upon coming home, I started to unpack all of the little packages… meticulously wrapped sets of spare needles, lustrous silk on bobbins, packaging from awool distributor (the predecessor to the company I now order from!) and an envelope. .. well.. the envelope… I poured myself a glass of wine, and tried to take it all in, deciphering handwriting and understanding the notes and handwritten charts with sizing information…. the more I read, the more I realized that the woman who owned and used this machine was not simply a woman who knit socks. She was a skilled artist, who used her equipment to the fullest of its potential. Her attention to detail and systematic approach to what she made is impressive in this day and age, let alone 80 years ago. Small sketches of garments, women’s sweaters, a child’s swimsuit, all with detailed instructions. I am in awe, and somewhat humbled..and honored to bring this small piece of history back to life.
Here is a before shot. I took apart every piece, slowly.. so I could remember how to reassemble it! Each needle latch has now been oiled, all the old lint carefully removed. It is just a lovely lovely thing! and now.. I need to teach myself how to make heels and toes on some scrap yarn before moving ahead and using my hand spun/dyed luxury fibres to make myself (and some loved ones) some decadent socks!.. think indigo dyed silk and cashmere.. ahhhhh.. I can hardly wait:)