Circular sock machine revisited

About fifteen years ago I expressed an interest in circular sock machines (CSMs) and Mark informed me that we had one under the stairs. What?! Apparently when my parents moved from a very large house with lots of outbuildings to a much smaller house, we got all the things my mother couldn’t throw away or fit into the new house, which included the CSM! It was duly dragged out and then began a bit of a journey. I had to find out what parts it was missing (I have the original instruction book and even an invoice for wool from 1936), and set about acquiring said missing parts. From memory the yarn stand and top were imported from the UK. The book tells me that they would have originally cost 3 shillings and two and six respectively. I think I paid slightly more than that! I also had to get a buckle to attach to the knitting and which takes the weights so the knitting doesn’t jump off the needles. I had this manufactured somewhere, but pretty much everything else was there, albeit in some disarray. I managed to put the whole thing together and over the next few months I produced every component part of a sock, but never managed an actual sock. I was working full time and couldn’t invest a huge amount of energy on it, so in the end it went back in the box and under the stairs.

Fast forward to last week when I was contacted by Wendy who has CooramookCrankySocks on Etsy. She had found my name on a register of owners and she lives in Perth! I had to confess to having completely lost interest, but was happy to catch up and check out her machine. A date was made and I noticed that Mark had got the box out from under the stairs, which did make me laugh. Does he know me too well?

Anyway, Wendy is a delightful and generous lady. She makes socks for markets and her Etsy store and sells out fast, so needs as many pairs as possible, and I was aware that I was taking up her valuable time, but she really did rekindle my interest.

The minute I got home Mark unpacked the box. My heart quailed. I had bits everywhere!

I have the original wooden swift, cone winder (complete with wood worm holes) , plus sundry parts. There is no name on the machine, but Wendy and I think it’s an Imperia, described as follows:

Imperia Circular Knitting Machine – Triplex

The Triplex Imperia sock machine was commonly used to produce argyle stockings, saxony hosiery and fine knitwear due to its high slot counts.  The Triplex Imperia sock machine featured ribber dial and cylinder outfits of 36/72, 42/84 and 54/108.” I have those three cylinders with matching ribbers. I don’t have a date, but suspect it would have been manufacturered in the early 20th century.

I was keen to get going on a sock but it was impossible to crank the machine. I know it used to work as I had knitted that striped tube sitting behind the machine in the photo above. I called upon Archie and he declared it to be choked with old oil and dirt. I couldn’t even loosen the screws as they were so glued down. I asked nicely and he came and helped me. Read, took it apart, cleaned it and put it back together! I did help, in case you think I did nothing. He did note that it had probably not been cleaned for the last hundred years

It was slightly terrifying to see every component taken off, but I’m happy to say that he got it back together with not a screw left over. We cleaned it with Isopropyl alcohol, using every drop we had in the house, together with all the old toothbrushes. The liquid turned into mud so needed to be changed regularly. Then I used all my sewing machine oil, prior to putting it back together. All the needles were oiled, as well as the cylinder I wanted to use immediately.

All that remained was to try it out! I had to replace a couple of needles that wouldn’t play nicely, and, messaging with Wendy, I tweaked the position of the yarn holder. It looks good here, but trust me, I had a hot mess for a while! I can’t tell you how nice it is to have Wendy on the end of messenger – sort of like my personal CSM coach!

I thought you might enjoy the sound it makes. I’m going slowly as I’m checking that all the latches are open, but it can knit very quickly.

And yes, I’ve been at this all day, so now I’m in my pyjamas!

I’m just using some fine yarn from one of the Australian woollen mills. I need to make sure that all the oil has been mopped up before I put nice yarn on there. I also need to see if I can turn a heel and do a toe. Playing with the tension will be important too.

The wooden swift also needed to be repaired. I replaced a little bit of thonging at the end of the bars, and Archie helped me anchor it to the table as the clamp has gone missing. I will get a better clamp for it at some point.. It works like a charm and is so much nicer than my plastic one.

How lovely is this invoice?

So now I have yet another skill to master. Add it to the smocking and amigurumi and I’m going to be busy. Best of all I can now officially call myself “cranky” as these machines are known as crankers!


21 thoughts on “Circular sock machine revisited

  1. Your last several blog posts have been fascinating! How wonderful that you have The Machine Under the Stairs working again😍. I’m looking forward to further adventures!

    1. 😂 It’s so nice to have it out! Mind you my sewing room is looking very crowded now, I’m going to have to consolidate. Further adventures do await and I shall blog them! Thank you Kristen.

  2. Hello Sue! I enjoyed so much reading this blogpost. Not only am I interested in these old crankers – how lucky to have this extraordinary Wendy nearby -, but it was fun to see how Archie helped you out with these old parts and how Mark first predicted your next fad! It felt like I was there witnessing your family life!

    1. My menfolk are both patient and tolerant! I just wanted help undoing the screws but Archie was clearly interested in the machine and we had a lovely conversation about war work and the women’s role in it, because, of course, socks were knitted for the soldiers on these machines. It is so lovely that Wendy found me. Not only do I have a new friend, but a very knowledgeable and skilled one. We shall see if I ever manage a sock though!

  3. This is so cool. I love these old mechanical machines. One of my favourites is the old buttonholer attachment for my Singer Rocketeer machine – knocks any buttonhole done by my modern machine out of the park and much simpler to use I find. Thanks for the video of it in action. What a treat this post is! Can’t wait to see the socks you crank out. 😉

    1. Oh I have a collection of those buttonholers! Some also came from my mother but I found a couple from the 1960s in the rocket shaped plastic cases. I have a pink and a green. I am so pleased you liked the video, I couldn’t resist as I love the sound it makes. Thank you Liana.

  4. Just looking up other sock machines and came across yours. I love their histories, the old invoice caught my attention and I looked it up. The Old Rectory at Antony, Tor Point, is now a Care Home. Seems fitting for an old vicarage.

    1. Oh thank you for looking up that address Maggie, it’s so fascinating that the invoice was still in there, and I love the personalised message on it. I do wonder at the women who have battled with this machine prior to me!

  5. I have a hand knitting machine from 1873 in the Box that it came in it’s beating storage for many many years

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