3D Printing A Sock Knitting Machine

3D printing socks isn’t really a thing yet. You’d end up with scratchy plastic garments that irritate your feet no end. You can easily 3D print all kinds of nifty little mechanisms, though, so why not 3D print yourself a machien to knit some socks instead? That’s precisely what [Joshua De Lisle] did.

The sock knitting machine is a simple device, albeit one that takes up most of the build area on a common 3D printer. It’s properly known as a circular sock machine, and is capable of producing the comfortable tubular socks that we’re all familiar with. All it takes is a bit of yarn and a simple handcranking of the mechanism, and it’s capable of extruding a sock before your very eyes.

He steps through his various iterative design improvements, and shows us how to build the device using knitting machine hooks to handle the yarn directly. The device is also instrumented with a digital counter to keep track of how far along your given sock is.

Your friends at the pub might go running for the doors when you start explaining that you’re thinking about making your own socks. Don’t let them deter you; we’ve seen others tread this path before. Video after the break.

33 thoughts on “3D Printing A Sock Knitting Machine

    1. I knit my own socks too, but most gift socks start as machine-knitted tubes. My size-5-shoe, shortie-wearing daughter gets handknitted socks too, but not my younger son with the giant feet and preference for tall -ish crew socks.

  1. I wonder if this is actually comfortable. I tried to put on woolen socks, hand made, probably like this. They didn’t stretch really so they deformed, pretty much ruining them, when putting them on. Shop told me it was normal. So I’m not a fan of this type. I prefer the fine fabric merino wool socks. So comfy. It’s like having a cat cuddle your feet. Wool is so much better than cotton so that’s a huge advantage. It’s anti-bacterial, so your socks won’t stink, it wicks away moisture so less chance of blisters. It’s an amazing material. And I like sheep. I often stop on my way home from work, at a farm that has sheep, just to pet them. My hands get so soft from the lanolin.

    1. I built a 3d printed sock machine back in January and am now totally hooked on the socks I make. I haven’t worn a store bought sock since March. I mostly use Merino/Nylon blend yarn (though have also tried some Merino/Alpaca/Nylon which is crazy soft) and find them very comfortable. They’ve also gotten softer as I’ve worn them more. They do stretch out when I wear them – but a quick wash and line dry and they’re back to their original shape. I live in the desert and can also confirm that despite wearing warm wool socks on a 115f day my feet stay dry and blister free – and no stinky shoes.

      There is huge variation in yarn though. 75% Merino / 25% Nylon from 4 different sources will all feel and knit totally differently. I have one brand which is super super soft – but it matts big time, others that feel almost silky and some that are more what people expect when they think “wool sock” with a rougher texture. You really have to shop around and experiment to find what you like best.

        1. I actually built two. I shared my experience in a reddit post here: https://www.reddit.com/r/CircularSockMachine/comments/12qv26q/my_experiences_with_3d_printed_csms/

          But the one I liked is the “Mr. Roboto” design on thingiverse. However – while I was building it the Jeeping Jonny “for my mom 2” design came out which is a remix of Mr. Robotos and I would probably start there if I was starting over as it has a much simpler cam mechanism.

          As for yarn…All over the place. Just have to look for yarn of the correct gauge. Though – even then I found not all “sock yarn” is created equal. I can get “Patons Kroy” locally at Michaels – but even though its’ a #1 sock weight yarn it’s thicker than most and really pushes my machines limits resulting in a very tight knit even at the loosest tension. Cascade Heritage has some really nice sock yarns that are cheap and soft as well as tough. I also really like the Queensland Perth yarn I tried – but it’s rougher and warmer so I don’t wear those socks as often. I also experimented with some small batch artisan dyers yars and they’re nice…but pricey. simplysocksyarn.com has a huge selection and great prices. Lately I’ve been buying undyed yarn from knit picks and dying it myself which has been a lot of fun. Finally csmsupplies.com sells aktiv sock yarn which comes on big cones (which is nice since it means not having to wind it onto a cone yourself) at a great price – it’s a bit coarser and not quite as soft…but knits really well and is a great deal so really good to start with.

          1. I’ll have to ask Mum what she knits Dad’s socks with. She has mentioned that different mills have better wool for different projects. Bendigo Mills used to be one of her favorite but I’m not sure of the quality of late. Also depends on what the season is like. My Uncle and Aunt used to run superfine Merino on their farm up until about 10 years ago. A lot of the quality of the wool depends on environmental factors such as dust in the air and feed type. Generally you want to restrict the amount of protine in their feed as that will give a thicker wool fibre and therefor a coarser, less comfortable wool product. He used to aim for an average of 20um or less. So things like drought and available feed can change the quality of wool from season to season.

    2. Thick wooly socks are also hot enough that there is no time of year my feet would not be uncomfortable, even if they would not actually blister. So I always wear thin socks instead, especially but not limited to when wearing boots. I guess it’s also worth mentioning typical wool can irritate some people’s skin although I’m not one of them.

      1. Wool socks are so breathable and heat-regulating that it’s uncommon for feet to even sweat in them. It’s synthetic materials in socks -and shoes- that cause overheating and sweaty, stinky feet.

    3. You can use any thin yarn on a sock knitting machine, especially merino wool. I’ve seen socks knit on a sock machine knit with alpaca, cashmere, silk, soy and bamboo among other fibers. Some fibers make very soft sock that unfortunately wear out very quickly because they are so soft.

      1. That is so true. Mum once tried to spin cat hair but had to thicken it by blending with merino wool. It makes me wonder if there is a dual yarn machine that could use a different yarn for the sole for added wear resistance?

  2. I used to live in a town where, in the last century women used a larger version of this to make socks on their kitchen tables. A lot of WWI socks for troops were made using them. A common make was a Grizwold. Until last year I actual owned one and your 3D printed version is very close to the way it worked. A very clever project that works. The 3rd world could use these to make socks and other things too. Well done you!

  3. Check out Dean and Bean knitting machines on line. I have been seriously considering ordering. They make them with 3D printers in whatever color you want and have worked through their design so the the latest version can pearl and make ribbing. Doing their tutorials before I purchase.

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