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Revolution of Socks and Sock Machines

Throughout history, socks have reflected the changing fashions, cultures and diversities of the time. Innovations in design and technology are significant to the development of functional, comfortable and attractive socks. This is thanks to the revolution of the sock manufacturing machine. Let’s see how socks and sock machines have developed through time.

Before the Industrial Revolution

Socks have been crafted and knitted by human hands for more than one thousand years. Although the true origin of knitting is not known, most historians consider Egypt to be the first to use the art of weaving, including socks. Ancient Egyptian socks, expected to date back to 100-350 AD were excavated using Radiocarbon to examine, in the Egyptian City of Antinopolis.

It can be seen throughout art and history that, around 900 AD, Vikings used woven clothes to wrap around their legs. In the middle ages, socks became popular in the upper class, influenced by King Henry the VIII who would wear a knitted stocking and later Elizabeth I who would wear a black sock.

Industrial Revolution – Horizontal and vertical moving machinery

The demand of socks had increased significantly by the late Middle ages. Socks knitted by hand could not fill the demand. William Lee revolutionised the Hosiery industry in 1589 by inventing the bearded/barbed needle. It moved in horizontal and vertical directions. It can produce faster than human knitters but the yarn had to be placed across the needles by hand. By the end of the 17th century, the yarn could be fed by operating one of two treadles with the right foot.

However, the sequence of the horizontal and vertical machines to produce the goods, made it difficult when steam engines provide only a rotary motion.

18th Century - Circular Knitting

In 1816, Marc Brunel invented a machine that can arrange the needles in a circular form. The circular sock knitting machine gained in popularity during the time of the American Civil war. The most important improvement was in 1878. Henry Griswold added a second set of needles, set in a disc horizontally to the top of the circular knitting machine, enabling rib knitting and the cuff or welt to the socks. Underwear had two functions in the 18th century which were hygienic and structural until the 19th century where underwear gradually evolved to be fashionable.

After 19th Century – Fashion + Functions

From the 19th century, advances in technology meant socks become a part of fashion, apart from World War I, where underwear shifted from fashion back to function. In the 1900’s, there were sub-culture’s; pop art provocation in the 1960s, blurring boundaries between genders in the 1980s and a second skin in the 1990s.

Today, it is widely acceptable to show underwear and use it to emphasise parts of the body that would not have usually been on display in the past. Sock manufacturing machines and yarns are still developing, making socks more than just socks by adding more functions to them, such as compression, waterproofing & socks for diabetics.

In the past, to produce seamless socks, we had to use human craftmanship to produce the seamless socks (hand-linked machine). Today, a knitting machine can produce seamless socks without human finishing (Auto-linked machine).

At K V Manufacturing, we use the latest technology with our Lonati (Auto-linked machine). Socks can be produced with extra functions/requirements with accuracy. What we can produce are as follows:

- Socks in plain fabric and standard or sandwich terry.

- 6 colours on the same course.

- Seamless toe.

- Contrast colour heel & toe.

- "Y" Heel.

- 168 needle count & 200 needle count

Please contact us for further information –

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