Like classic knitting burlesque


I could throw out the now ubiquitous term "knitting porn" but I wouldn't want to sully these amazing images that way. This is definitely high class burlesque.

My friend Bill did some consulting for a company in an old mill building in NH. Inside, they had this knitting machine.

It's a Vanguard Supreme, and I can't stop looking at it. Versions of it are still made today and it appears to be used for knitting things in the round.

If you are as smitten as I am, take a look at the rest of the peep show after the jump.

Couldn't you almost imagine this in the corner of a large living room, like a pot belly stove? Imagine how light would filter through it's mesh exterior. If Leo is reading this, don’t worry, I do NOT plan to buy myself one. I have no plans to become the knitting equivalent of Jeff Foxworthy, parking old knitting machines up on cinder blocks in the yard.

I'd really have to see this up close and personal to figure out exactly how this all works. I assume there are sets of hooks inside that knit and purl stitches, though it would be wonderful to watch someone set one of these up and get her going.

Here's a detail of the instruction and patent plate. From the looks of it, this machine hails from the late 30s or early 40s. It's amazing that the machine still stands, many years after the mills were converted to offices.

I’m sure the new machines work well and have their own charm but I love seeing this little slice of history.

Special thanks to Janet Levy and Bill Sconce for sending me the images. Images copyright Bill Sconce.


Woah. That is one very funky burlesque piece of machinery!

Wow. That thing would knit one hell of a garter belt.

I find it kind of amazing that the little thing I do while sitting on my couch in the evenings with just my own two hands can be replicated by that big honkin' machine. It seems almost contradictory but, really, it's different processes for different outcomes, I suppose.

I love the phrase "knitting burlesque". Still teasing, but classy!

I know right where that is! I used to live right near there, and Manchester used to have a HUGE sweater factory (Panera Mills I think) that my mom, as a kid, used to go to to get sweaters! Crazy!

I remember my dad describing a machine he operated (interning with his uncle for a summer) that did nothing but knit a big round tube of fabric, that would later be cut and sewn into sweaters or blankets or anything else. I just called him in to look at your pictures and asked if the machine looked similar; his response? "Sort of, but our machine was much, much bigger and more imposing." Now I really want to see the one he worked with! Can you even imagine?

I can almost guarantee that I would find a way to lose my finger in that machine.

I can almost guarantee that I would find a way to lose my finger in that machine.

Wow! That thing is fabulous!

Cool! My parents met at Pandora, a big sweater mill in Manchester. They both worked there. I love those old mills. I grew up in Manchester and they're just so much a part of my childhood. ~sigh~

I'm going to forward this post to my parents and see if they recognize this machine. Maybe they can describe how it works. They once explained the different kinds of sweater manufacturing they did. One was called "full-fashion", which was more expensive because the pieces were knit separatly. I can't remember the other name, but it was made of pieces cut from a large piece of knitted fabric.

The history of the Pandora mill is pretty interesting. A woman inherited it and ran it for many years. This was back when women didn't just go around running giant factories. I can send you the book, if you'd like.

Is there any way to find out which mill these pictures were taken in? Could it be from Pandoras?

Here is a photo of the original Pandora sign:

And this website has lots of great mill photos:

Have I mentioned that I love them there mills? :)

Oh oh Marnie, another thing for you to look forward to here in Oregon...the Pendleton Woolen Mills. OK, I haven't actually ever gotten yarn there but I did get a gigantuan bag of wool scraps that I braided into a rug. Or will get around to braiding into a rug one of these days.

What a wonderful historic piece. It looks like the knitting is done in a spiral fashion...

I finally got through your last six posts now that I am coming out of my Hawaiian stupor.

Re: pity party. Fear not. Caia is a fine Panda substitute for a few weeks and will be more than happy to give you love. You are also likely to be nearly suffocated by Townes and Tuna, who love all things new and yarn-bearing. If that isn't enough love and entertainment, you have ME for goshsakes. You couldn't find a cooler roomate. And I cook. :)

Re: new center-pull technique - genius

Re: possibility of retaining job - awesome. I think you'll need to "travel" to check in here.

Re: reading. Okay - we've been friends for how long and NEVER talked about books? I'm a book whore (your room is full of them and there are boxes full in the garage). Do you know about librivox? check that out on the net.

Re: that funky balancing contraption - I must try it.

Re: missing you. I will!

xox, J

I'm such a sucker for old machinery. I love the beauty of the engineering of machines like this one. If I spied it on the street, (like that would happen - I'm dreaming here!) I would somehow find the justification to lug the darn thing home.

Hi, I ran a commercial sweater mill in Wisconsin for 16 years. We had 16 circular knitting machines and 6 flat v-beds. These machines were several tons each and held up to 72, 2.5 pound cones each. We did not produce the hand made work of art like you do. We were much more basic and mass produced. We closed up due to imported garments in 1998. I actually bought two large sweater-strip knitting machines from Pandora when they liquidated in the mid 80's. I saw your web site while cruising for old photos of the machines I use to rebuild and operate. The Supreme machine that Bill found is the hulk that's left after having been striped down. That machine had a single needle bed which produced "Jersey" fabric. I was a yard goods machine, in that it ran continously with out any ribbing for a cuff or waist band. Sweater-strip machines actually changed stitch structure and type to knit the cuff/waist bands on to the body fabric. Each strip was separated by a special nylon that was later removed. Glad to find folks that appreciate the old craft. Chris

i actually have one of these machines in my warehouse. I was wondering if anyone could tell me how i can find out what it is worth. Please send me info at

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This page contains a single entry by Marnie published on August 6, 2006 11:40 AM.

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