Wednesday, 16 July 2014
One of the unsung heroes of the World War I, the knitting machine helped preserve the feet of the soldiers in the trenches and keep them fit for active duty. This documentary, The Wonderful Knitting Machine, directed by Rasec Ozal, talks about the knitting machine and its role in WWI, and includes a demonstration of how to make a sock on an antique knitting machine. Part 1 of The Wonderful Knitting Machine appears above while Part 2 appears below.
I will quibble with this documentary on one thing, though. In the video, the narrator claims knitters could make a pair of socks in a week. This might have been the average rate of production, but many knitters could and did knit socks much faster than that. One of my great-grandmothers, who was of an age to knit for WWI, could make a pair of socks in an evening.
Here is Part 2 of The Wonderful Knitting Machine.
Tuesday, 8 October 2013
To non-knitters, knitters may look like a monolithic group, but there are actually factions and camps within knitting because there are so many different types of knitting. One small but avid subset you'll find among knitters is antique sock machine enthusiasts. It's still possible (if challenging) to find, buy, and operate an antique sock knitting machine. In the video above, Shelly Hatton demonstrates how she uses her antique circular sock knitting machines at Maker Faire in Austin, Texas.
In a second video, Kenya Habegger, a sock machine enthusiast from Berne, Indiana shows us how her sock knitting machine works and also tells us something of the history of sock machines. During World War I, sock knitting machines were sold for about $11 and their operators were paid $0.05 for a pair. Habegger can make a pair of socks in 45 minutes. You can work out for yourself how much a machine operator would be likely to make in a day and how long it would take that machine to pay for itself.
For more information about sock knitting machine, check out this online sock knitting machine museum, or visit Angora Valley. And if you're very interested in sock machine knitting and would like to connect with other like-minded knitters, check out the New Sock Machine Society of America (which is an international organization despite its name), which has its own website and a Ravelry group.
Saturday, 2 March 2013
Artist Reina Mia Brill likes to create bizarre but cute creatures (such as those above, in a piece entitled, "If You Keep Making Faces") through a several step process that combines clay sculpting, painted, and knitted wire mesh made on antique knitting machines. As Brill states on her website,
I make creature sculptures that live in a children’s world. Part animal and part human, their lives are filled with mischief, insecurity, fears, and curiosity. Their story begins as a lump of clay which is slowly formed through my fingertips. After being bisque fired, colorful underglazes are painted on the surface. Once all the firing is finished, I pause, change pace and step back in time. Sitting down with my 1920’s and 1960’s knitting machines I decide how to transform the glazed surface with an unexpected texture, knitted wire. Colorful wire mesh is stretched and sewn over the hard clay surface for the actual skins and garments for the creatures. These old mechanical machines are truly precious. I love using them for a renewed purpose, which adds to the story and fabled world where my creatures reside.
You can visit Brill's website to learn more about her and her work and especially to see more of her fantastical knitted mesh creatures. Which I so want to see starring in an animated movie.