I want a circular sock machine (CSM)! Where do I start?
by Kathy Roletter (revised June 2020)
You’re interested in getting a circular sock knitting machine (CSM), but so far haven’t found one in your basement or attic? Some folks are lucky enough to inherit a family heirloom, but most of us had to buy one. So where to start? Take this short quiz!
(1) How eager are you to start producing socks?
- I want to learn quickly so I can crank out socks soon.
- I know there’s a learning curve so I’m in no hurry.
- I enjoy the process more than the product. Whenever! It’s a journey.
(2) How mechanically minded are you?
- I don’t care how my car is constructed, I just want to drive it.
- Knowing how things work is pretty interesting.
- I like to take things apart. Dirty fingernails don’t scare me.
(3) How much of a stick knitter are you now?
- I’ve never knitted by hand.
- I’m a hand knitter with some experience.
- I’ve knitted by hand and with flat-bed or other types of knitting machines.
(4) What’s your budget situation?
- I’ve got the funds to get whatever I decide on.
- I have a reasonable cash stash, but can’t spend top dollar.
- I really need to find a bargain.
If you answered with A’s, you don’t want to waste time, and you need a reliable tool to accomplish your goals. A brand new, works-right-out-of-the-box CSM is your best bet. You’ll pay top dollar, but this machine is precision-engineered, backed by a current manufacturer, and already adjusted to knit as soon as you set it up. Knitting experience will give you an advantage but is not a requirement. You’ll need to teach yourself how to use your CSM using the manual and online resources like YouTube videos, but at least you’ll know that the mistakes you make are operator error, not the machine’s fault. See the end of this article for manufacturers of new sock machines and their contact information.
If you answered with B’s, you’re patient, you want to understand how your machine works, and you already know how the knitted fabric is constructed. You’re not opposed to saving a few bucks either. You’re a great candidate for a used but recently manufactured sock machine. People sell them regularly through forums like eBay, Ravelry, Facebook, and Craigslist. Look for those (new) CSM brand names in ads and auctions. For various reasons, people sometimes sell a machine after having it for just a few years. Your best bet is a machine that is in good knitting and ribbing operating conditions. Ask the seller for a demonstration, a video or at least still photos of the machine in operation. Know that the machine may be broken in but may also need some adjusting or maintenance to get it working perfectly. No guarantees, so check out the seller’s credentials before you buy.
If you answered with C’s, you’re looking for an absorbing new hobby and you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty either! Disassembling, cleaning, repairing, and restoring a vintage sock machine is right up your alley. Doing the research to learn its anatomy and operation is an exciting bonus for you. If you already understand how knitting machines work, you’re really ahead of the game! You’ll want to scour the online ads as well as keep your eyes open at auctions, yard sales, flea markets, and antique shops. With patience and persistence, you may very well come across a real bargain. There’s tons of information and advice available on bringing that venerable antique back to life, and you’ll enjoy every minute of the hunt and the restoration. Check the end of this article for vintage sock machine brand names to scout for.
What will you have to spend? If you go for a new manufacture CSM, plan on $1800 to over $4000 depending on the brand, the model, and the accessories you choose. If you’re in the market for a recent but used machine, expect to spend about $1200 or more. If you’re patiently hunting a vintage machine that needs work, you can probably find something for less than $1000. In the latter two situations, everything depends on the condition of the sock machine as well as the seller’s motivation and reason for selling. I know someone who found an antique Gearhart in excellent operating condition for $5 at a yard sale (with the stand! really!). I’ve also seen a rare antique Tuttle go for over $5000 on eBay. The range of possibilities is huge!
Just remember that there is a definite learning curve with CSM’s. It takes some persistence and practice to reach the point of feeling comfortable with the machine so that you can consistently produce the socks and other items you want to make. Many people teach themselves from a manual, but most take advantage of online resources (videos and chat forums) and in-person learning opportunities such as crank-in classes, peer teaching, and personal instruction from mentors. See the list at the end of this article.
Manufacturers of new circular sock knitting machines:
425 Good Hope Street, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, 63703
email@example.comNeed to add info for:
Some CSM restorers who sell privately are:
Fred Hauck, 585-261-1271, sockknittingmachineenterprises.org
Pete & Deb Oswald (csmguru on Ravelry), 651-483-0991, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Thurman brnrnut on Ravelry), 406-357-3577, email@example.com
Pat Fly, Angora Valley Farm, angoravalley.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephanie DeVoe, Plum Cottage Crafts, www.plumcottage-crafts.com
(If you know of someone else to add to the above list, just let me know. I’ll be glad to add names & contact information.)
Also, check out the “CSM Sales and Swaps” group on Ravelry for sales from private sellers. Antique CSM names to look for: Gearhart, Legare, Home Profit Master Machine, Creelman, Auto Knitter, Harmony, Cymbal, Tuttle, Verdun, Griswold, Harrison, Imperia, and Franz & Pope are among the antique CSM brands you’ll find in the CSM world.