Handcranked? What Do You Mean?

I'm asked many times what do I mean by handcranked socks so I thought it was time I give a brief explanation.  Handcranked socks are those done by hand cranking a circular sock knitting machine.

One of the things I love about these machines are its history: During World War I, the Red Cross launched a civilian campaign to help with a sock shortage being experienced overseas. Poor footwear coupled with the cold, wet conditions in the trenches were causing the soldiers to have serious problems with their feet. A fungal infection called trenchfoot could rapidly turn to gangrene if left untreated in those conditions. Wearing extra socks helped a bit, but they were in short supply. Since socks weren’t being mass-produced like they are now, it fell to knitters to make up for the shortage. However, even a fast knitter can only make so many socks in a week.

Enter the sock machine: An experienced sock machine knitter can crank out pair after pair, often averaging a pair an hour. Sock machines and supplies were distributed to women who would commit to making at least 30 pairs of socks per week for the war effort. In turn, they were allowed to keep the machines after the campaign was over.

After a while, many of these machines sat unused for years, gathering dust in attics and barns across the country. In recent years, a renewed interest has brought many of these machines out of retirement and back into service.  In fact, there are a few companies that have started producing reproduction circular sock knitting machines.  I have both antique and new machines which each have their different advantages.

Below is a short video of my antique machine, knitting a lovely pair of Merino wool socks.