Happy Feet

Cotton Knit Stocking

I’d always assumed these stockings were hand knit, just because they were made of cotton and had fancy stitches.  But since reading the 1914 book Textiles by William H. Dooley, I think they may be machine-made after all.

“Full-fashioned hose are produced by means of complicated and expensive knitting frames, which automatically drop the requisite number of stitches at the ankle so as gradually to narrow the web down and give the stocking the natural shape of the leg, ” he writes.  Check.  ((I love how he is careful not to split the infinitive.)

“”The toe is produced the same way, and the shaping of the heel and gusset is brought about in like manner.”  Check.  (And I’m going to have to find ways to incorporate “in like manner” into my conversations.)

He goes on to list the steps.

  1. knit the leg down to the foot (14 – 18 could be knit at once, and up to 4 colors could be used)
  2. have “expert workmen” transfer the leg to another frame
  3. knit the foot
  4. transfer the product to a special looping machine where heels and toes are stitched together
  5. transfer the stocking to “expert women operators” to seam up the legs on a special machine
  6. optional step – dye
  7. stretch the stockings over wooden forming boards to dry into leg shapes
  8. use heavy plates or rollers to heat and press the stockings to give them a finished appearance

I never noticed a seam in these stockings, but after reading this I looked for one, and sure enough, there is a barely detectable seam up the back of the leg.  Each stocking also has a little shell button on the top, and a hand-sewn cotton tab on the inside to support the button.

Inside of the stocking, showing the seam and button tab.

Knitting Machine 1915

I think I’ll stick to regular needles.

So it took at least 4 machines and many workers to create this pair of stockings – and that’s AFTER the cotton was  grown, picked, ginned, carded, and spun into yarn.  I’m glad they lasted a century.