Knitting Machine History

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Knitting Machine History

Post by Admin on 8/1/2016, 12:55 pm

Here are some historical tidbits on the knitting machine, submitted by Kit:




A little history about knitting machines for stockings;


Rev. William Lee a clergyman at Calverton, is said to have developed the machine because a woman whom he

was courting showed more interest in knitting than in him (or alternatively that his wife was a very slow knitter).

His first machine invented in 1589 produced a coarse wool, for stockings.


William Lee's stocking frame was remarkable, because it was an invention of a complete new machine.

He was a British inventor of the first knitting machine.

Lee's model (1589) was the only one employed for centuries, and its principle of operation remains in use.

The invention is related to the state-of-the-art in other machinery of the time.

Queen Elizabeth refused to grant a patent for it, saying

"I have too much love for my poor people who obtain their bread by knitting garments, to give permission to this

invention, will lead to their ruin, by depriving them of employment and thus make them beggars"

Her suggestion was; if Mr. Lee had made a machine that would have made silk stockings, than I had been

somewhat justified in granting him a patent for that monopoly. Only a small number of my subject wear silk stockings.


It took Mr. Lee about 10 years and he had his machine for silk stocking ready in the year 1598, and although

the queen was very satisfied with the result, she still declined to issue a patent.

His sponsor and friend Lord Hunsdon died in 1596 and Lord Burghley, advisor to the queen died 2 years later.

Than the queen herself died in 1603. What to do now ?


Eventually, he moved to France with his brother James, taking 9 workmen and 9 frames.

He found better support from Henry IV of France, who granted him a patent and was actively involved in every

aspect of economic life.

Lee began stocking manufacture in Rouen, France, and prospered until, shortly before Henry's assassination

in 1610, he signed a contract with Pierre de Caux to provide knitting machines for the manufacture of silk

and wool stockings.


Life in France was hard and frightening, the handcraft workers agitated for the return of the old ways of working

by hand and cruel episodes were enacted in the towns.

He had to pay higher and higher fees for registration with the guilds and restrictions were imposed on national

origin and religion.

The climate changed abruptly to the worth's nightmare on the king's death and despite moving to Paris,

his claims were ignored and he died in distress, alone in a hostile land in 1614.

Most of his workers returned to England and his loyal brother James brought the looms back to England.

He was able to set up workshops in London. So ended the dreams of William Lee.

for more info, see:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Lee_(inventor)

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