More Fun Sock Machine History
Thousands of soldiers fighting in the trenches in France were badly crippled by ‘trench foot’, a fungus infection of the feet caused by standing for hours in cold, stagnant water without being able to remove wet socks or boots.
Dry socks were important to the health of the troops; If untreated, trench foot could turn gangrenous. Before the time of antibiotics, it was necessary to amputate the infected part to save the life of the soldier.
Trench foot could be prevented if the soldiers were able to dry their feet and change socks several times a day.
Although it looks a bit like a tin can with a crank, the circular sock machine really did play a vital part in helping win the war.
At the outbreak of World War One in 1914, commercial production of stockings was still not widespread. Most stockings were produced by hand for one’s own family or friends, or sold as a cottage industry. Only a lucky few had a home version of the circular sock knitting machine.
While a fast hand knitter could produce a pair of socks in a week, a circular sock knitting machine in the hands of an experienced knitter could produce a pair in 40 minutes!
A firm in Rockford, Illinois was the first company in the world to manufacture socks commercially, but by 1904 this firm produced only 5,400 pairs of sock a day.
Once the need for socks for the troops was recognized, the home front mobilized. Each of the 7 American Red Cross Division was expected to provide 55,000 pairs of socks within three months for the war effort, plus mufflers, vests and gloves.
The International Red Cross arranged for the purchase and distribution of wool and patterns to civilian knitters, set up knitting rooms and gave away circular sock knitting machines to home knitters who would commit to producing a minimum of 30 pairs of socks for the war effort.
It requires 400 yards of yarn to produce one pair of socks. In September 1918 all American yarn retailers were ordered by the War Industries Board to turn over their stock of service yarn to the Red Cross.
A primary source of this information is an article by Paula Becker, August 17, 2004
Sock machine history
Originally called the "stocking frame," the knitting machine has a longer and more involved past than most people might imagine. The invention was ahead of its time and helped shape the course of events at pivotal moments in history. Though some of its past is undocumented, the knitting machine has had a powerful impact on the world.
Other People Are Reading 1. Theories/Speculation o Popular belief has it that William Lee, a clergyman in 16th-century Britain, was enamored of a young lady who was always knitting. In his view, she was so busy knitting that she had no time for him, so in 1589 he invented a knitting machine.
His machine could make wool garments, including stockings, which were a clothing staple worn by both men and women. He applied for a patent from Queen Elizabeth, but she thought his machine-made garments were unattractive and denied his request. He went back to work, refining his design for years until his machines could make fine silk stockings. He re-applied, but again the Queen denied his patent, this time concerned about putting hand-knitters out of work. Lee then traveled to France to seek support from King Henry IV.
There is no evidence showing Lee's involvement in the clergy or the woman who caught his fancy, but there are grains of truth corroborated by historical documents.
2. Documentation o A partnership agreement dated June 6, 1600, names Lee as the inventor of the knitting machine. It also establishes his business relationship with George Brooke, who would help finance the commercial production of the machines. Unfortunately, this partnership ended in 1603 when Brooke was arrested for treason and executed.
The accounts of his denied patent applications can't be confirmed, but there are records in 1605 and 1609 of Lee trying to establish his invention in London. He was never successful, and in 1612 there is a record of him in Rouen, France. The last mention of Lee in France was in 1615, and it's believed he died there soon after.
3. History o The Industrial Revolution was the catalyst for getting cloth-making machines into factories. In 1864, William Cotton of Leicestershire, England, improved on Lee's original design and introduced the new engine to manufacturers. Later in the 19th century, people began to use power with the machines. Soon circular knitting machines appeared, able to knit in a tube shape.
Advancements in the 20th century allowed for new and different types of knitting machines, and speedier ones as well. Present-day machines have programmable computers and can produce almost any pattern from any type of fiber.
4. Significance o Lee's original 16th-century design featured hooked needles instead of the traditional straight, pointed needles of hand knitting. The hooked needles were effective and efficient, and are still used in modern knitting machines today.
Effects o Despite having been invented two centuries before, the knitting machine played a large role in the Industrial Revolution. Lee's invention acted as a stepping-stone, letting other inventors build off an existing design rather than have to start from scratch, and this caused quicker progress.
Who Invented the Knitting Machine? By Laura Jensel, eHow Contributor , last updated December 17, 2013
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