Socks By Bob

No, this article is not about SOCKS4 or SOCKS5 or Proxies. It’s about real socks, the ones that go onto your feet. Meet [Bob Rutherford], 88 years old, who lives in Saskatoon, Canada. He and his gang ([Glynn Sully], 92 years old , [George Slater] 85 year old, and young [Barney Sullivan] 65 years old) have made 10,000 socks for shelters in the community and across the country. That’s almost 8 miles of socks. Last year alone “operation Socks by Bob” as he likes to call it, produced 2,000 socks.

So how did these 4 fellows manage to pull this off? Turns out that [Bob] has a bit of a maker spirit in him and he actually built a fast, cheap, knitting machine for the purpose of making socks. Using a sewer tubing as a base, the machines can knit at 90 stitches a second.

He made it a while back but it didn’t have much of a use in mind for it. Sadly, seven years ago his wife passed away, leaving him facing a void in his life. Following his son advice “If you want to help yourself, help somebody else”, he decided to start this project.

“There’s a lot of us, as we grow older, we sit at home and look at the wall with nothing to do! Socks by Bob has given me that something to do.” [Bob]

Nowadays the gang has 2 machines working steadily and, once a week, they cut the long tubes of wool into socks. Half the yarn is donated, the other plus shipping costs are raised by [Bob’s] son. The knitting machines look pretty awesome in action. See for yourself in the video below.

Wouldn’t it be great if we can get a guide on how [Bob] built his machine? For now, there is an open hardware circular knitting machine. It was a Hackaday Prize Entry in 2015, called Circular Knitic.

[Thanks Tania] [images Julianne Hazlewood/CBC News]


25 thoughts on “Socks By Bob

  1. i think this is awesome!! and yeah somehow it would be nice if there was more info’s on the machine but maybe also a nice homepage where ppl can donate wool or money to keep them going :)

      1. Youtube suggested a video on a Gearhart Sock Knitting Machine demonstration after watching Bob’s machine in action. Knowing almost nothing other than that, it looks like the mechanisms may be similar. Interestingly the Gearhart machine seems to be able to do heels and toes with lots of extra changes to it’s setup, so there may be a way to completely automate the system to churn out full socks. It’s at least a place to start researching!

        1. Ha!
          I watched that suggested video as well before googling “knitting machine needles” to see if a machine could be created – it looks relatively straight forward but it would require a cam and ring arrangement to move the needles up and down as required.
          (I thought the wikipedia page had a nice graphic on the steps of the process )
          The HaD IO project mentioned at the bottom of the article appears to use the same basic process but uses printed parts rather than the more sturdy version in the video.

  2. Holy means of production batman! This is great! This is the FUTURE. Single enterprise makers making ONE THING for ONE PURPOSE. All connected in a giant web of independent manufacture and healthy small enterprise.

    1. No.. It is the past of production.

      The future is rapidly approaching, and it involves robotics so expensive everyone rents their cars and domestic robots. People who’s income depends on their ability to drive a vehicle will no longer have jobs, and no matter what side is in – left or right – global treaties like TPP WILL be passed and local workers will have ever less to do with producing things they consume.

      There is about to be an explosion in exploitation of low cost labor. Just watch.

  3. While their effort is admirable, it seems to me that there are already very efficient sock making machines out there (likely in China) that could make socks faster and cheaper. But maybe that is not the point.

  4. Brings back fond memories when I lived in Portage La Prairie Manitoba when I was ~12 in the 1973 time frame and my 70+ next door neighbour would knit socks on a hand version of this machine for the Hudsons Bay in his basement. Mr Johnson a great mentor and conversationalist.

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