Here's how socks are actually made

Let's take a look at exactly how pairs of socks are made.
Christopher McFadden

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Chances are you are wearing a pair of these as you read this, but have you ever wondered how socks are made? 

If so, you are in for a treat. Let's find out how one of the most numerous items of clothing is made. 

making socks complete
Source: Interesting Engineering

Step 1: Preparing the thread

Socks start out life as reels of cotton or synthetic fiber, as you might have guessed. Depending on the socks in question, and their design, the thread chosen will vary widely in its thickness, texture quality, and, of course, color. 

Once suitable cotton has been chosen, the cotton reels are loaded into a special knitting machine specifically designed for the mass production of things like socks. The thread is then unspooled from the machine and guided around the machine as needed. 

making socks machine
Source: Interesting Engineering

Where needed, the thread then passes through a series of pulleys and other guiding components until being wound around a new reel specifically designed for the sewing machine in question. This is to ensure the thread arrives at the needles in a consistent and predictable manner. 

Step 2: Loading the sewing machines

For socks, special circular sewing heads are used that contain multiple needles in order to create the uniform cylinders that most socks consist of.

making socks sewing head
Source: Interesting Engineering

Each needle in the machine has its own reel of thread that is loaded into the machine by hand. Depending on the sock to be sewn, the thread can be the same color or a variety of different colors. 

The individual threads are then fed into the central cylindrical part of the machine where needles weave them into thread cylinders at lightning speed. 

making socks sock tubes
Source: Interesting Engineering

Once the basic sock tubes are ready, they are automatically removed from the machine, and one end is sewn closed to make the "toe" of the socks. Once complete, the partially finished socks are then dispensed into a special hopper ready for checking and batching by human workers. 

Step 3: Treated the fiber

Next, partially completed socks are stretched over frames and a layer of special paste is added to the sole areas of the socks. Treated socks are then fed through another machine to heat treat and fix the paste between the fibers. 

This is to toughen them in preparation for the extreme wear and tear these areas experience throughout the lifetime of the socks. 

making socks treatment
Source: Interesting Engineering

Once done, the socks are then created in more batches ready for the next stage in their manufacture. 

The next step is to take batches of partially finished socks and add them to a large washing machine. Here the socks are laundered. Once done, the socks are then removed and taken to the next stage in the assembly line. 

making socks qc check
Source: Interesting Engineering

Socks are then placed over doglegged lengths of metal to check ready for a quality check. Those items that pass the check are then piled together again in batches. 

Step 4: Pairing and packaging

With the socks now more-or-less complete, the next step is to pair them up. This is done by hand, and the socks are then folded ready for packaging and shipping. 

making socks pairing
Source: Interesting Engineering

Where required, inserts of cardboard are then added inside the socks to help maintain their shape when packaged. Next, small batches of pairs of socks are created and then secured together with labeling and a short length of sewn thread.

making socks packaging
Source: Interesting Engineering

With that, the socks are then ready for boxing and shipping out to customers. 

If you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at how socks are made, you might enjoy finding out how other clothing items are made

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