October 2010


I’m tempted to build a display case for my 1925 machine, which has a stand. Right now, the stand is stored away and the machine itself is sitting in my curio. Its not really the best setting, I’ll admit, especially since I’m supposed to be the one most likely to exhibit the machine in its entirety.

So maybe I’ll build a display case… like the one here… if I can convince my wife that its not an eyesore to have in one’s living room. Speaking of where to put a knitting machine, here is an section from one of the brochures:

Quiet and Easy Running

The Gearhart Hand Knitter when in use is even quieter than most sewing machines. It can barely be heard in the next room. Its mechanical perfection and the skill put into its constructino, have made the machine a marvel of silent operation. Besides, it is light and easy to carry, weighing only thirty pounds, including the strong metal stand it rests on – almost ornamental in appearance. While it can be tucked away in an odd corner because of its compact size, it is not unsightly to have in your living room.

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Over the years, the machine evolved to a point where one could purchase a variety of cylinders ranging from 48 needles to 140 needles. A 48-needle cylinder would take very course yarn and would produce something similar to canvas. A 140-cylinder cylinder would take very fine yard and produce lace. That is quite a range of output from a single machine.

Realizing this, the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company settled on three basic outfits for sale, the Single, Double, and Triple Outfit. These options were related to the number of cylinders included with the machine, and quite naturally directed towards the beginning, intermediate, and advanced user. From a full-page spread published in 1925, we see the following information about this:

The Gearhart Hand Knitting Machine is offered with one, two, or three cylinders – a cylinder, so called, is that part of the machine which contains the knitting needles.

The Gearhart Single Outfit has one cylinder of 80 needles and is for those who want to make a limited kind of knitting – medium weight articles.

The Gearhart Double Outfit has two interchangeable cylinders of needles, one nearly the same as the Single Outfit cylinder, and the other having 100 needles for knitting lighter weight articles. [My Note: I believe the first cylinder would be either 60 or 72 needles, since this is a very common option on the machines in existence today].

The Gearhart Triple Outfit has three interchangable cylinders – one cylinder of 60 needles for heavy weight articles; one of 80 needles for medium weight articles; and one of 100 needles for light weight articles.

In order to be enabled to knit any type of knit goods, it would be necessary to have the Triple Outfit.

So, based on this, I would conclude that all other cylinders would be a special-order item. I have yet to see a 140-needle cylinder. But I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who has such a cylinder. Better yet, would you be interested in selling it? I would love to add this type of cylinder to the archives, alongside all the other cylinders in my collection.

There can be more to a stitch then just looping the yarn around each needle and cranking away on the handle. True, you can certainly crank out a sock in a couple minutes by doing this, but apparently, according to the illustrations below, some ambitious knitters were testing the limits of their ingenuity. And with good results, I must say!

Here are several of the Fancy Stitches promoted through the Gearhart Knitting Machine catalogs:

Hmmm. As I look at that nice knitted vest, I can’t help noticing that the model looks extremely similar to some pictures of my grandmother. I never met her, since she died in 1945. But, the resemblesce is very close… and she was Emory’s wife. As president of the company, he would certainly be in the position to have his wife model some of the goods manufactured with the Gearhart Knitting Machine.

Its nice to think that my grandmother was a catalog model, so I’ll go along with this idea until I discover the true identity of some of the models I see sprinkled throughout the various catalogs. Odds are, I’ll never know. So I’m happy thinking that this is my grandmother’s picture. Well, after all, this was a small company in a small town…

The title of this booklet is Do You Know that the Gearhart Hand-Knitting Machine Will Knit More Than One Hundred Different Articles?. To me, it is quite remarkable that the machine could knit an entire sweater; but then, as I think about it, the arms are just a long sock without the heel. and the flat parts are just more long socks which have been separated length-wise, and then stitched together.

The list goes on and on, complete with illustrations. Below is just the sock list. This list comprizes the front section of the booklet. The back section has all the “other” things.

Publish under the label of the Clearfield Knitting Machine Company, this booket came along pretty late in the company’s life. It would have been interesting to see how things might have proceeded if the company had emphasized all the “other” things that could be made with the machine. If I were a prolific knitter back then, or a sponsor to a small army of knitters, I’d be inclined to open up a retail store in some city along the lines of the custom tailor shops we see today.

Here is the lead-in for the booklet:

New and Proved Plan for Big Home Earnings

This booklet illustrates more than one hundred different types of knitting and almost as many different kinds of articles easily made on the marvelous Gearhart Hand Knitting Machine.

Every sort of knitting which used to be done in the old fashioned way with straight knitting needles, is now being done a hundred times faster by the Gearhart Hand Knitter. Not only faster but far more accurately and with a finer finish. The machine is a mechanical marvel – one of the really important labor-saving inventions of the later part of the last century.

It is simple to operate – easy to learn by following the latest and improved Instruction Book. In fact, there is every reason why anyone should quickly learn to produce any type of knitting on it.