Friday, March 13, 2009

Our Boys Need Sox

I've only knitted one 16-row pattern repeat on the blue baby blanket. Not much to report on that front. However, I did run across something during my web ramblings that's been occupying my mind. I thought I'd share -- 'cause that's how we librarians roll.

This picture appeared on The Shorpy Photo Archive this week and grabbed my attention. Click here for the blog entry and here for a much larger version. This always interesting blog features high quality scanned images of old photographs -- most in black and white -- culled from archives. They run the gamut of things people take pictures of -- ladies at dog shows, Civil War soldiers, newsies at the turn of the century, old buildings -- you name it. I enjoy scrolling the images in my feed reader, but this one really caught my eye.

The picture is of two soldiers and a nurse at Walter Reed General Hospital (now the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The date (1918) is from the end of World War II. And the guy on the left, with the help of the nurse, is making socks on some kind of contraption. I'm guessing this is some sort of occupational therapy, or perhaps a way to keep injured soldiers active in the war effort. That poor guy on the right looks like he needs all the help he can get. I can't imagine what kind of hell he's been through and I find it hard to look into his eyes. It looks like he's going to fling off that chenille robe and throttle the photographer. The striped garter-stitch thing to his right looks almost exactly like the second scarf I ever knit.

I'd never seen anything like this sock knitting machine before. I'm not exactly into the whole steampunk thing, but there is something kind of cool about these things, with their silvery needles and brass nameplates and chipped black paint. Maybe it's because they look like an old typewriter? I don't know. I kind of sort of want one of these.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not planning on giving up dpn-ing, two-circularing and magic looping. Handknitting socks is a joy that I don't plan to give up. But these machines are nifty. It's kind of like making ice-cream, I would imagine. Listening to the little clacks and cranking out a pair of socks in under an hour -- how fun is that? Plus, I imagine one would come in handy when we are in the grips of what my friend Tom calls "the monkey disease apocalypse" that he's sure is just around the corner. Surely people would let me into their bomb shelters or compounds if they saw that I could keep them in socks. Right?

Unfortunately, it appears that restored sock knitting machines seem to be on the steep side -- they're probably all being horded by survivalists. Still, I'm going to be on the lookout. I would love to see one demonstrated live and maybe take one for a whirl. In the meantime, I'll be scoping out this video made at last fall's Maker Faire in Austin.



  1. Ok, so about 3/4s of what you wrote about today intesrsecst with my blog-perusing world. Kind of funny. I love Shorpy! I pull pictures all the time and squirrel them away as potential reference material. You know those trucks that were on my blog a few weeks ago? I used a shorpy truck photo as the base! When I saw these dudes knitting, my first though was that the poor shell-shocked broken-bodied soldies werre being FORCED to kit socks! they sure didn;t look too happy about it. But it is a cool machine.

  2. Greatt post - I didn't know about Shorpy - what a great site! And the poor guy's eyes are sort of scary. I think sock making machines would be cool to have...but then I also think that it would lie around the house after the first couple of socks..

  3. It is time for you to return to Maryland, boyfriend - every year at the MDSW, a group of machine sock knitting enthusiasts bring their machines and demonstrate them. Come back!