Introduction: Socks the Old Way on a CSM

The CSM, or circular sock machine is a knitting machine that knits in the round. You can make socks, scarves, hats and mittens. In fact with a lot of practice you can make flat pieces that can be grafted together to make sweaters and such. Though its a machine, its far from automatic.

The machine I'm using for this Instructable is a Canadian machine. A LeGare 400 dating back to the 1800s. I found it in pieces, seized up and rusty. It was dumped into a wooden box that sat as a decoration, in a restaurant my wife and I liked to stop at now and then. With all the other bits and bobs in this place I'm surprised I saw it. I talked with our server, she said the owner had begun selling some of her collection of oddities. She felt that the owner may be ill as well. I told her to ask if she would be willing to part with it. I left my number and actually got a call back. The owner said it was handed down 4 generations but hadn't been used for more than 50 years. I purchased it for $200. The restoration story is for another day.

Making a sock is a very involved process. It requires lots of explaining, many pictures and quite a bit of video instruction. I'll try to explain in the picture sections exactly what to do. If you're having trouble following the process the videos will help enormously. You don't have to watch them if my instructions are enough for you.

I put 12 videos together and put them at the end of my Instructable. If you prefer not to read my rather detailed instructions the videos may be more to your liking. They begin at step 41. I hope you enjoy!


A circular sock knitting machine with all it's attachments



A stitch marker

Cotton cord

Darning needle large enough to fit the yarn


Step 1: These Are the Tools

In the first picture you will see the tools. A stitch marker. Two sizes of hook and latch inserts that I'll call needles because they do the knitting. Some extruded mesh, mine are garlic bags. One has yarn knitted onto it from the last sock I made. I use this to start the knitting before I begin using the actual sock yarn. Above those is a pile of weights and a buckle that will attach them to the sock. This keeps tension on the stitches while the needles move through them. The needles are in the plastic boxes. Beside the boxes of needles are three heel weights. Mine are made with copper pipes and forks. I filled the pipes with lead and attached forks to them. The forks only have two teeth and they are bent just beyond 90°. They will hang from the knitting to aid in creating the heel and toe. Beside them are two wooden handles one with a hook and latch needle inserted into it the other just a portion of the hook and no latch. These are used to move stitches around or help pick up a dropped stitch. The next item is a cloths pin. I use this to hold loose tails of yarn when I begin and end my knitting. Then my glasses. The small spool of cotton cord will be used to remove the sock when complete. It also holds the stitches while the toe is stitched closed. The darning needle I use to close the toe is stuck in the spool of cord. The scissors are self explanatory. The large round device with slots machined into it is called a ribber and is part of the actual machine. A ribber creates a purl stitch. The leg and top of the foot of this sock will be ribbed. That gives the sock it's stretch. In this set up I will knit two stitches then purl one, a fairly common pattern in sock knitting.

The next picture is the main part of the machine and two large cones of yarn. The yarn is a light weight 80% wool and 20% nylon. I use two strands and let them ply together as they knit. With two different colors you end up with a random pattern. As tension varies between the colors they move from the inside to the outside of the sock. I find that they pair up pretty decent though. I do make socks without pairing colors this way some I stripe at the top and change heel and toe color but for this Instructable I'm going with the random thing in white and brown.

Step 2: The Cylinder Setup

The cylinder is set up with every third needle removed to start. A spring encircles the cylinder. It rests in the groove an inch or so down from the top edge. This spring holds the needles in place when there are no stitches on them. There are marks on the cylinder at the half way point. A previous owner has made cuts in the divider of needles in those locations making it easy to find the half way mark even in the dark. I leave a needle on either side of these positions when I set up the needle positions. This keeps the ribbing on the top of the foot centered when the heel and toe are created. I have added white paint on two of the needle dividers. This divides the half of the cylinder closest to me into three equal sections. These will be used when creating the heel and toe. You can see in this picture the white paint markings of the thirds.

Step 3: Let's Begin

This step is called casting on. Place the mesh into the cylinder as evenly as you can hooking it over the needles. You want all the latches to be open so keep an eye as you go. Hang the stack of weights leaving the buckle piece aside for now, Just slide the hook through the mesh that's hanging below the machine. Poke it through just above where it's knotted. Now string the yarn from the other mesh extrusion through the mast that is suspended above the cylinder. The mast is pictured in the fourth picture. The brown and white yarn won't be in the mast yet. Just string the yarn that's attached to the other piece of mesh through and pull it down to the machine. Feed it through the yarn guide as seen it the second picture. Now slowly crank the machines handle clockwise. This will start the outer ring of the machine turning counter clockwise. The yarn guide travels with this ring. Parts within the ring raise and lower the needles while the yarn guide lays the yarn into the open needle as it rises. It gets captured by the hook and the latch will close as it gets drawn down through the mesh. Once you've turned half way around stop and hang the mesh on the needles that weren't available when you began. There are always a few needles in the down position. Now continue cranking. I like to pause while I pull some of the knitting that's unraveling from the yarn supplying mesh. Then I crank until I've used up the slack. Pause cranking, pull to unravel, crank, pause, pull, crank, and so on. When I get near the end of the unraveling yarn I stop and pull the last bit from the mesh. Set the now empty mesh aside. It will be used to start the next sock. Now knit the remainder stopping at the right hand half way point. leave a decent tail of the casting on yarn and pull it into the cylinder. If the tail is to short it could unravel from the sock and cause grief.I leave a foot or more, better to stop cranking and have lots than to try just one more turn and run out.

Step 4: String Up the White and Brown Yarn

With these large cones of yarn I had to create a larger/taller yarn mast. It requires a little bit different configuration when I start stringing it up. When my yarn hits the half way of the mast it becomes normal. Through the two vertical pins through the sheet metal mechanism and down through the two horizontal fingers. The sheet metal piece will be important when creating the heel and toe. Until then it does nothing.

Step 5: Starting the Sock

As you can see in this pic the cast on yarn is held by the needle located before the half way point. The socks yarn is fed through the yarn guide, held in place with the clothes pin and resting in the first needle after the half way point. Leave a tail of the socks yarn about 4 inches long inside the cylinder. Twist it together with the cast on yarn and clamp them together with the clothespin.

Step 6: First Round Knit and Knit in Tail

Knit one round, knitting Just past the first stitch of the sock's yarn. Put the stitch marker into the first stitch. Now remove the clothespin and pull the tail of sock yarn into the knitting area of the second stitch and guide it while you slowly knit the entire tail into the stitches.

Step 7: Knit 20 Rows and Hang Hem

Now continue to crank until you have created 20 rows. Then remove the weight hanging below the machine from the mesh. Carefully pull up on the stitch marker and rehang the stitch onto the needle that knitted it. That would be the first needle past the half way mark. Being careful not to pull other stitches from their needles, roll the seam of the cast on yarn and the sock yarn up to the top. Now you have access to the first row of stitches.

Step 8: Rehang the Hem

Now rehang all the stitches of the first row knitted to the needles that knitted them. There will be a few needles in the down position. We'll get to them shortly.

Step 9: Add Weights

Now add the weights again and press down on the rehung stitches to snug them up.

Step 10: Crank

Remember there are two stitches on each needle so be careful. As you start slowly cranking keep an eye on the stitches being knit to make sure latches open. If the stitches start to rise, push them down making sure the stitch is successful. Crank until the needles that were previously in the down position are available. Remove the weights again and hang those stitches as well. Now rehang the weights and snug up all the stitches. I just run my finger around the inside, sliding against the needles and stitches. Now crank until the yarn guide is at the left hand half way mark.

Step 11: Add the Ribber

At the left hand half way mark stop cranking. Feel with your left hand inside the cylinder near the left center point. There is a finger of metal behind the knitting. On the bottom of the ribber there is a u shaped piece of steel that needs to rest against the finger beneath the knitting. As you slide the ribber into place assure that these two pieces are touching. If the ribber disc can't be rotated clockwise you have succeeded. If it turns lift the ribber and try to align it again. Once it's installed correctly every other groove of the ribber disc should line up with an empty space in the main cylinder. There is a little play due to the sock being sandwiched between the two metal pieces. On top of the ribber disc there is a mechanism that rotates freely. Turn it clockwise until it stops. There is a metal drive pin that it will bump into. The ribber is now ready to knit. Now its time to add the ribber needles. They are the shorter ones. At the right hand half way mark we'll begin. Add an opened ribber needle to every slot that aligns with an empty cylinder slot. Now as you crank around one rotation you continue to add ribber needles. Once one rotation is complete all ribber needles are installed and there is one stitch on each.

Step 12: Crank Away

This is where you get a a bit of a mental rest.

Crank out 70 rows. Actually stop at 69 so we can set up for the heel.

Step 13: Heel Setup

At 69 rows we need to set up to make a heel. The spring that holds the cylinder needles in place has a resting point on the outer housing of the machine. The spring can be stretched away from the cylinder and held in place on this ridge. We need to line this spring holder up with the left hand half way point. I use the little tool with no latch to grab the spring and pull it onto the rest. Now there is access to the empty cylinder slots. Half of the ribber needles will now be removed. To do so we will transfer their stitches to the longer needles and set them into place in the now empty cylinder slots.

Step 14: Remove Half of the Ribber Needles

To remove the ribber needles, a long cylinder needle has to take its place. By hooking a long needle to the short one you can pull the stitch back and forth. This transfers the stitch from short to long. Now the long needle slips into the empty space on the cylinder. As these needles are transferred the cylinder must be turned. This moves the suspended spring to a new location so more transfers can be made. Once the rotational portion of the ribber is directly between the one third markings on the front of the cylinder stop cranking.

Step 15: Stop Advancement of the Ribber

Once the ribber has entered the area where the needles have been removed it needs to be idled while the heel is created. All that's required to do this is to remove the drive pin. Now the ribber will just sit in place as the cylinder rotates.When the open spring area reaches the right hand half way mark stop removing ribber needles and replace the spring to its location on the cylinder. The snap of the spring can cause the newly installed needle's latches to close. Check them before proceeding any further.

Step 16: Lift Back Half Cylinder Needles

To create the heel, the outer housing needs to rotate to the back half of the cylinder. Without knitting the needles located back there. Now that we have idled the ribber we have taken care of half of the problem. To stop the cylinder needles from knitting they need to be lifted out of play. When you pull up on the needles they are still held in place by the spring that circles the cylinder. The needles are now above the area that pulls and pushes them up and down.

Step 17: The Heel Begins

Now the sheet metal piece on the yarn mast in conjunction with a weighted hook help create the heel. The weighted hook allows the cylinder to move forward and backward without loosing the tension on the yarn. The sheet metal piece stops the yarn from sliding backward while this is going on. This probably makes no sense yet but we have to knit backward and forward in the half of the cylinder closest to the operator to create a pocket that will be a heel or toe. As the yarn guide moves forward and back in the rear half of the cylinder it pulls and then lets go of it's tension. Without these attachments tension would be lost and stitches would fall off needles.

Step 18: Add Weights

I made these weights. Copper pipe with caps and connectors filled with lead. Forks with bent tines are attached. All designed to pull down on the knitting while creating a pocket that will become a heel or toe. Hang the forks into the knitting of the sock. Space them out in the half of the sock closest to you. Hang them about 5 rows down from the needles.

Step 19: Move the Lower Weight

This weight is almost touching the floor. If it touches and you don't notice stitches will start to fall off. That is such a nasty thing to happen. You can try to redo the stitches with a hook and latch tool and replace the weight or just give up. Starting over sucks. Keep an eye on your weights. Now we incorporate the buckle to hold the weight. You don't want to poke the hook through the knitted sock. To install the buckle, hold it by the eye. That's the hole that the weights will hang from. With the eye to the top grab the piece at the bottom that pivots and swing it open. Now slide the sock into the opening. Raise the buckle as high on the sock as you want. Now close the opening and pull the eye section down and hang the weight stack in the eye opening.

Step 20: Turn the Heel

Making the heel is referred to as turning a heel. The first step is to raise the needle at the right hand center mark as shown in pic 1. This will anchor the yarn so we can knit backward. Crank backward to knit past the left hand center marking. This is the first row of the heel. Now lift the first needle located before the center mark of the left hand side. Now there is an anchor to allow cranking back in the other direction. The series of pictures shows the lifted needles and the first stitch on each side. Continue this procedure of lifting needles and cranking forward and back until you reach the one third markings. As you proceed the forks will need to be raised and the ones in the right and left zones will need to be moved closer to the center. The right and left weights stay fairly close to the outer working needles so every row knit puts them further from where they need to be. I normally move them every three to four rows. You get a feel for it. If there's not enough weight on the knitting you'll see the stitches start to lift when knit. If they get too lose the stitch can lift high enough to hold the latch open and the stitch will not be completed.

Step 21: Turn Back

Now that you have reached the one third markings, the heel is half way complete. It's time to work it back in the opposite direction. The yarn guide should now be on the left hand side of the cylinder. Now lift an anchor needle as usual but also push down two needles on the right hand side of the cylinder. be careful to keep the latches open or you'll drop a stitch. Not a good thing at this point. Now crank, knitting through those two lowered needles.

Step 22: Working Our Way Back

Once the first crank of this process has been made an anchor needle must be raised before returning to the left. This will be one of the two needles you had just pushed down. Now before turning back to the left side, push two needles on that side down. Now crank through them, raise one as a new anchor and push two down on the other side. Continue this process until you reach the half way mark on the left side. Remember to watch your stitch tension and move the weights accordingly.

Step 23: Half Way Mark the Heel Is in Place

Now the heel has been created and the foot needs to be made. Replace the ribber drive pin. make sure an anchor needle is lifted before continuing to crank out the foot. When you reach the right hand half way mark undo the yarn tensioner on the yarn mast.

Step 24: Foot Time

Begin cranking the foot. As you do this, push down the rear needles to put them back into play. Crank out 44 rows.

Step 25: Prepare for the Toe

Now that the foot is complete , the toe is next in line. As row 44 is complete the spring rest must be set up at the right half way mark. The spring must be pulled onto the rest and the rear ribber needles need to be replaced with cylinder needles. When that is complete, replace the spring and check that all latches are open. Now remove the ribber so you can see better while creating the toe.

Step 26: Toe Set Up Time

With the ribber removed, a new view is opened up. This makes the creation of the heel easier to see. Pull up the rear needles. Now raise the weights in prep for the creation of the toe.

Step 27: Set Up the Counter Balance Weight and Create the Toe

Set up the counter balance and create the toe just as you created the heel. Lift and turn until you reach the one third markings then lift one drop two turn, lift one drop two turn etc, until back to the left side's half way marker. Its more interesting now that you can see the toe being formed.

Step 28: Remove Finished Sock

Now with the toe complete, Its time to remove the finished sock from the machine. Grab the yarn at the top of the yarn mast and pull it down to your lap. Now cut the yarn at the yarn mast. This is the piece you stitch the toe closed with. After doing this a few times you'll get to know how much extra yarn it takes to close the toe.

Step 29: Attach Cotton Cord

Pull the yarn into the center and out of the yarn guide. Wrap the yarn and set it inside the sock. Thread the cotton cord through the yarn mast and thread it through the yarn guide. put the cotton cord through behind the last out of play needle it will act as an anchor. Twist the sock yarn and cotton cord together and clip them together with the clothes pin.

Step 30: Cast Off the Machine

As you crank press down on the raised needles on the back of the cylinder. Careful to keep the latches open. Crank until the cotton cord is used up. Stop before the last inch or so of cord is used.

Step 31: Remove Sock From Machine

Now that the cotton cord is almost done, remove all weights. Take the clothes pin off as well. Reach inside the cylinder from below and gently pull down on the sock while slowly cranking to remove the finished sock. Don't pull to hard, we want the stitches to remain stitched.

Step 32: Pull Cast on Yarn Tail Out of Sock

Find the area where the cast on yarn began and pull out the tail. Pull on the tail to see the direction it is knit in. turn sock and pull at the half way mark toward the direction the tail was pulling. The tail should pull out leaving half the socks hem disconnected. Now pull some of the disconnected cast on yarn to find the direction of knit and pull the rest of the tail out freeing the cast on yarn and mesh from the sock. Set the mesh aside to start the next sock.

Step 33: Set Up Machine for Next Sock

Now that all the tools are free, remove every third needle to set up for the next sock. make sure to start by leaving a needle on either side of the half way mark.

Step 34: Kitchener Stitch the Toe Closed

Tuck the tail of cotton cord into the toe. With the darning needle threaded, stitch down into the first stitch to the right of the last stitch knitted. Follow the direction of the cotton cord and stitch up through the next stitch. Now stitch down through the last stitch knitted on the left and following the direction of the cotton cord stitch back up through the next stitch on the left. Continue stitching from side to side closing the toe. Follow the direction of the cotton cord.

Step 35: Half Way Done

This is how it looks at the half way mark.

Step 36: Last Stitch

When making the last stitch. Sew through to the back of the cotton cord so it can be removed without getting tangled in the yarn. Now unravel the cord and pull it free of the sock. If you accidentally sewed through the cord while closing the toe it won't slide free of the sock so pull gently when removing the last row. If it stops moving don't pull harder. Turn the sock inside out and find the spot it's stuck at and cut the cord. Not the yarn!

Step 37: Wrap It Up for Later

Wrap the cord for the next sock

Step 38: Stitch to the Inside of the Sock

The tail end needs to stitch into the inside of the sock to be sewn in.

Step 39: Sew the Tail In

Once the yarn is inside the sock, turn it inside out so you can sew in the tail. I like to weave the tail into the rib. Weave it up then back down and cut it off.

Step 40: Done

That's a beautiful pair of socks.

These must be washed by hand or using the gentle cycle on your washer. Then hang them or lay them flat to dry.

I have 20 pair so I can do a small load of just socks on gentle once and a while.

They look nice on the line. When the line doesn't look so nice, sock hangers in the basement have to do.

The next 12 steps contain the video portion of my Instructable. I hope you enjoyed my rather epic sock knitting tutorial.

Step 41: Casting On

Step 42: Crank Out Hem and Knit in the Tail

Step 43: Rehang the Hem

Step 44: Installing the Ribber and Cranking Out the Leg

Step 45: Remove Half of the Ribber Needles and Raise Back Needles

Step 46: Set Up Tensioner to Make the Heel

Step 47: Hang the Heel Weights and Crank Out the Heel

Step 48: Reset Ribber, Back Needles and Weight Then Crank Out the Foot

Step 49: Remove the Ribber

Step 50: Make the Toe Then Cast the Sock Off the Machine

Step 51: Remove the Cast on Yarn and Inspect the Sock

Step 52: Kitchener Stitch the Heel Closed and Remove Cast Off Cord

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