The art and process of forming fabrics by looping a single thread,

either by hand with slender wires or by means of a machine provided

with hooked needles, is called knitting. Crocheting is an analogous

art, but differs from knitting in the fact that the separate loops are

thrown off and finished by hand successively, whereas in knitting the

whole series of loops which go to form one length or round are

retained on one or more needles, while a new series is being formed on

a separate needle. Netting is performed by knotting threads into

meshes that cannot be unraveled, while knitting can be unraveled and

the same thread applied to any other use. Knitting is really carried

on without making knots; thus, the destruction of one loop threatens

the destruction of the whole web, unless the meshes are reunited.

The principle of knitting is quite distinct from that of weaving. In

the weaving of cloth the yarns of one system cross those of another

system at right angles, thus producing a solid, firm texture. The

great elasticity of any kind of texture produced by knitting is the

chief feature that distinguishes hosiery from woven stuffs. The nature

of the loop formed by the knitting needle favors elongation and

contraction without marring in the least the general structure of the

goods. Builders of weavers' looms have at times endeavored to secure

this elastic effect by certain manipulations of the mechanism of the

loom, but as yet nothing approaching the product of the knitter has

been made. The elastic feature of a knitted texture renders it

peculiarly adapted for all classes and kinds of undergarments, for it

not only fits the body snugly, but expands more readily than any other

fabric of similar weight.

=Knitting Machines.= There are various machines for knitting. The

circular knitting machine produces a circular web of various degrees

of fineness, and in sizes ranging from a child's stocking to a man's

No. 50 undershirt. The circular fabric made in this manner has to be

cut up and joined together by some method to make a complete garment.

The knitting frame for producing fashioned goods makes a flat strip,

narrowing and widening it at certain places so as to conform to the

shape of the foot, leg, or body. These strips then have to be joined

by sewing or knitting to form a garment. Fashioning machines are

indispensable for knitting the Niantic and French foot, and also for

the production of stripes, fancy openwork, and lace hosiery.

All plain machines of any class produce only plain knitted fabrics,

while ribbed machines make only ribbed fabrics. Still, many garments

in their make-up include both kinds of knitting; therefore, many

machines produce only certain parts of particular garments. In the

case of half-hose there is frequently a ribbed top, or in underwear a

ribbed cuff, and these may be made either of circular web or full

fashioned. In each case the ribbed portion is first knit and then

transferred to a plain machine, and being placed upon the needles is

worked on to the rest of the garment. In some instances the heel is

made by the machine working the leg, though there are numerous

knitters specially designed for turning out only this particular part.

Among other knitting machines in modern use are the drawers machine;

machines for hose and half-hose with apparatus for making the instep,

finishing off the toe, splicing or thickening the heels, etc.;

machines for producing the bottoms or soles of hose separately, and

also the instep separately; circular stocking machines for producing a

tubular web afterwards cut into suitable lengths for all varieties of

hose; circular sleeve machines, circular body machines, as well as

circular web machines for making both body and sleeves of undershirts,

jerseys, sweaters, etc. Special machines are also made for knitting

both plain and ribbed plaited goods, that is, with both sides wool

while the center is of cotton, or with a silk or worsted face on one

side and the back of an inferior yarn. In the form of auxiliary

appliances are produced many kinds of stitching machines; circular

latch-needle machines for plain ribbed, mock seam, and striped goods;

steam presses; hose rolling machines; hose cutting and welting

machines, and many other accessories to hosiery manufacture.

At present fully one-third of the knit underwear used in this country

is of the ribbed description. It is made in all the materials that

the older flat goods are composed of, including silk, silk mixtures,

linen, wool, lisle, and cotton. Rib work is ordinarily stronger and

more lasting than plain. It is also invaluable for many purposes on

account of its tendency to contract and expand in the direction of the

circumference without altering its length. This feature makes it

indispensable for tops to socks and wrist work for shirts, mittens,

gloves, etc., and for the production of heavy garments such as

cardigans and sweaters. The expense of knitting rib work is higher

than plain knitting, owing to the fact that the machines cannot turn

out so great a quantity within a given time.

The formation of the rib in knitted goods is unique in its principle.

The effect is produced by reversing the stitch. In place of making the

stitch work appear entirely upon one side of the fabric, as in plain

work, the needles are so arranged that every alternate row, or two

rows alternately, are reversed, thus making both sides alike. Plain

work is done with a single bank of needles, while rib work requires

two banks, the function of the second one being to pull and loop the

yarn in an opposite direction, thus producing a thicker and more

elastic web.

Double work in knitting consists merely in running two threads where

one is commonly used. The work is done readily and with but little

extra cost for labor. Coarser and heavier needles are required, also a

wider gauge for the needle cylinder. Fancy effects in double work are

produced by running two colors instead of one. The tendency is for one

thread to twine about the other, thus making attractive

double-and-twist work. Lumbermen's socks and like goods are often

knitted on this plan, though for the most part double work is for the

heels, toes, and soles of ordinary hose.

=Stripe Knitting.= The process of striping knitted fabrics is

accomplished automatically by a system of changing the yarns when

delivered by the feeds. Circular machines knitting a tubular web

cannot be utilized for this purpose, hence the work is done on

fashioning or stocking frames. It has only been within recent years

that makers of knitting machinery have been able to offer machines on

which more than one kind of yarn could be knit at one time. There are

now in use, however, machines that will readily knit several colors of

yarn at the same time.

=Knitting Cotton.= A variety of loosely twisted, four-ply cotton yarn,

dyed in various plain and mixed colors, employed for knitting hosiery,

tidies, mats, etc., by hand. It is numbered from 8, coarse, to 20,

fine, and commonly put up sixteen balls in a box, each box containing

two pounds, manufacturer's weight.

=Knitting Silk.= A loosely twisted silk thread of domestic manufacture

employed for knitting mittens, stockings, and other articles by hand.

It is also much used for crochet work. Knitting silk is put up in the

form of balls, each containing one-half ounce of thread. It is made in

but two sizes, No. 300, coarse, and No. 500, fine; each ball of the

former number contains 150 yards of silk; of the latter 250 yards. No.

500 is manufactured only in white, cream, and black; the No. 300 is

fast dyed in a great variety of colors.

=Hosiery Manufacture.= According to the particular method by which

socks and stockings are made, of whatever kind, quality, or material,

they are classed as cut goods, seamless, or full fashioned. Of the

three methods of manufacturing the first named is the least expensive.

Cut goods are made of round webbing knitted on what is called a

circular knitting machine. The web has the appearance of a long roll

of cloth about the width of a sock or stocking when pressed flat. The

first operation consists in cutting off pieces the length of the

stocking desired, these lengths, of course, being the same (unshaped)

from end to end. The shaping of the leg is effected either by cutting

out enough of the stocking from the calf to the heel to allow part to

be sewn up and shaped to fit the ankle, or by shrinking. In the

heeling room where the pieces next go, the cutters are furnished with

gauges or patterns that indicate just where to make a slit for the

insertion of the heel, generally of a different color. When the heel

is sewn in, the stocking begins to assume its rightful shape. The toe

is now put on and the stocking is practically finished. In the case of

socks the final operation consists in attaching the ribbed top, which

tends to draw the upper part of the leg together, thus causing it to

assume a better shape. The final work includes scouring, dyeing, and

shaping. The cost of making cut goods is less by a few cents per dozen

than when knit seamless. While some very creditable hose are produced

in this way, yet the existence of the heavy seam is an objection which

confines them to the poorest class of trade. Cut goods are made in

all sizes and kinds for men, women, and children.

Seamless hose are made on a specially constructed machine which

produces the entire stocking, but leaves the toe piece to be joined

together by a looping attachment. On half-hose the leg is made the

same size down to the ankle, but on ladies' hose the stocking is

shaped somewhat in the machine. Seamless hose are not, strictly

speaking, entirely seamless, inasmuch as all stockings made on a

circular knitting machine must have a seam somewhere. There must be a

beginning and an ending. In the case of the stocking the ending is at

the toe, and the opening left can only be closed with a seam. In some

mills this opening is automatically stitched together on special

machines; in others, girls do it by hand with needle and thread.

Neither by machine nor handwork can the opening be closed with exactly

the same stitch as that made by the needles of the power knitter.

However, the seam is of small proportions, and when the goods are

scoured, pressed, and finished the presence of the seam is a minor

item, as it neither incommodes the wearer nor mars the appearance of

the stocking. Seamless goods are made in a great variety of qualities,

ranging from cotton half-hose at fifty cents per dozen to the fine

worsted stockings at $6.00 per dozen. A notable and very commendable

feature of seamless hose is the socket-like shape of the heel, which

fits that portion of the foot as though really fitted to it. As far as

comfort and fit are concerned, the manufacture of seamless hosiery has

now reached such a degree of perfection as to bring it second only to

the full-fashioned variety.

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. The toe is produced in the

same way, and the shaping of heel and gusset is brought about in like

manner. Hence, the goods are called full-fashioned, because so

fashioned as to conform to the proportions of the leg and foot. Hose

and underwear made by this method are knit in flat strips and then

seamed either by hand or machine. Generally special machines are used,

which take up and complete the selvedges, thus avoiding objectionable

seams with raw edges.

The knitting frames used for making full-fashioned goods are large,

intricate, expensive, and slow in operation; they are difficult to

keep in order and require skilful operators. The largest ones knit

from fourteen to eighteen stockings at once, using as many as four

threads of different colors in the production of patterns. The first

operation consists in knitting the leg down to the foot; then the legs

are transferred by expert workmen to another frame which knits the

foot. Next they go to another department where, with the aid of a

special looping machine, the heels and toes are stitched together.

Then the stockings or socks are handed over to expert women operators,

who seam up the legs on a machine especially adapted for the purpose.

After being sorted they are taken to be dyed, boarded, stitched,

dried, and finally subjected to heat and pressure to give them a

finished appearance. It usually requires two weeks from the time the

manufacturing operations begin, for a stocking to emerge from the

factory in a finished form. Full-fashioned hose are made in all shades

and grades of silk and cotton, in lisle thread, and in all kinds of

cashmere, merino, and woolen goods. They are likewise knitted plain,

ribbed, and with fancy stripes and embroidery effects. In the United

States there are numerous important plants engaged in the production

of full-fashioned goods, while large quantities are annually imported

from Germany and France.

=Finishing Process.= When socks and stockings are taken off of the

knitting machines they present an unfinished appearance, being loose,

puckered, dirty, and generally shapeless. Scouring, dyeing, shaping,

and pressing serve to improve their looks, and these finishing

operations constitute a distinct branch of the industry. While still

in a moist state the hose are shaped. This is effected by the use of

forming-boards made of wood and about one-half of an inch in

thickness. The sock or stocking is carefully stretched over the "form"

while damp, and then placed in a heated chamber and allowed to dry.

The goods assume the shape of the wooden "form," and will always hold

it if the work has been carefully and thoroughly done. After they have

been taken from the drying chamber and the boards removed the hose are

pressed between heavy metal plates or rollers, looked over for

defects, and when boxed or bundled are ready for market.

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