Stocking frame, c 1770.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This knitting machine, although made in about 1770, is similar to the original frame invented by Reverend William Lee in 1589. Knitting, when a surface is made by interlooping a single thread with itself, is the second principle method of fabric manufacture. A knitted cloth is extensible in every direction, and will fit the body in a way imposible with woven fabric. The original stocking frame of 1589 was a remarkably complicated machine for its time and employed, for the first time, the spring needles and other devices still used today.