The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 23, 2014

Antique Sock Knitting Machine with Liz Rhode


The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — Issac Lamb invented the first domestic knitting machine in 1863 to make mittens and gloves. A few years later he purchased rights from Mr. Tuttle for his idea of mechanically knitting in a circle. Lamb’s company grew and eventually had facilities to manufacture knitting machines in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, Rochester, N.Y., and Perry, Mich. Other companies made knitting machines, as well.

By the end of the 19th century, home knitting machines, both flat and circular versions, were popular and expensive: A treadle sewing machine in Sears and Roebuck was priced at $15 in the 1890s, but more than $100 was charged for a knitting machine.

Liz Rhode will bring her circular knitting machine to Rural Heritage Day on July 12, at the Dale/Engle/Walker House. Liz’s machine is circular and dates from the early 1900s. It creates a pair of socks in a way similar to the first machines. Circular sock machines became more popular during World War I as the Red Cross and other organizations worked to help provide the soldiers with socks.

Civil War socks are Liz’s speciality. She uses a pattern that was shared during that era. The machine cut the knitting time from 10-15 hours for a pair of hand knitted socks down to 2 hours. This allowed more soldiers to be provided for by those still at home.

Liz Rhode will be among other demonstrations of fiber arts, which include spinning, weaving, lace making, luceting, quilting and sewing with a treadle machine at the annual Rural Heritage Day celebration of rural life at the historic Dale/Engle/Walker House, 1471 Strawbridge Road, (just off Route 192 west of Route 15) Lewisburg, hosted by the Union County Historical Society.  

For more information contact UCHS at (570) 524-8666 or info@unioncountyhistorical society.org and visit the website www.unioncountyhistorical society.org.