I want a circular sock machine (CSM)! Where do I start?
by Kathy Roletter (revised August 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 mostly A’s, buy a new machine. ($1600 to $5000+)
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. Plus replacement and accessory parts are available. Hand 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, in-person instruction, 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 mostly B’s, you’re a candidate for a used or refurbished vintage machine. ($1000+)
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 or a vintage machine that the seller can show is in good working order. People sell them regularly through forums like eBay, Ravelry, Facebook, and Craigslist. Look in ads and auctions for brand names like Autoknitter, Chambord, Creelman, Cymbal, Erlbacher, Franz & Pope, Gearhart, Griswold, Harmony, Harrison, Home Profit, Imperia, Lamb, Legare, NZAK, Tuttle, Verdun, or Victoria (to name a few). Your best bet is a machine that is in good knitting and ribbing operating condition. 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 mostly C’s, consider a project machine that needs work. ($300+)
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 local and 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.
The above price ranges are rough estimates.
Everything depends on the condition of the sock machine as well as the seller’s motivation and reason for selling. I met someone once who found an antique Gearhart in operating condition for $5 at a yard sale (with the stand! really!). I myself stumbled across a NIB 1924 Gearhart (still unpacked!) in an antique mall for $285, and a friend of a friend nabbed a Home Profit at an auction for $100. Some people find them in family closets or attics for free. A few years ago, an antique Tuttle sold for over $5000 on eBay, and a new Tuttle repro (the LT150) goes for about the same price. 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 and in-person learning opportunities such as crank-in classes, peer teaching, and personal instruction from mentors. While you’re contemplating your possible purchase, start viewing YouTube videos, reading CSM chat groups on Facebook and Ravelry, and attending CSM gatherings or crank-ins if you can.
Manufacturers of New Circular Sock Knitting Machines
Some Restorers Who Sell CSMs
Plum Cottage Crafts, www.plumcottage-crafts.com
(If you know others to add to the above list, email firstname.lastname@example.org to add names & contact information.)
As the popularity of these circular sock knitting machines has grown, numerous people around the world have become available to refurbish and sell old machines as well as to provide goods and services related to the hobby. The list is ever-growing and changing. The best way to find these helpful folks is to search for individuals, groups, and pages on Facebook, Ravelry, and eBay. Online browser searches also yield results. Use search terms like CSM, circular sock machines, sock knitting machines, or the brand names listed above. There is a wealth of advice and assistance from other CSM enthusiasts as close as your laptop or phone!