The idea of creating printed Merino wool socks has been floating around at Smartwool for more than a decade, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that the technology was available to print on socks in the U.S.A.
Socks made in the U.S.A. using the finest Merino from around the world are the heart and soul of Smartwool. As one of our core values, we are steadfast on this commitment.
“Remaining in the U.S. was really important to us,” shares John Ramsey, Smartwool Director of Sock Development. “We didn’t have the means to develop the technology ourselves, but we kept looking at print manufacturing companies to see if anything could be modified to print on a sock. We were always looking, always keeping our eyes open for a solution.”
We partner with a family-owned mill in North Carolina known for its skilled craftsmanship. When we discovered the right machine to print on wool socks, we jumped on the opportunity and placed the order. The machine arrived at the factory with a twist, the instructions to operate it were in Chinese.
“Unfortunately, the technician who was set to arrive for installation and training could not make it to the United States. This presented its own set of challenges,” shares John. “We basically had to translate the manual and put many hands on deck to figure out how to run the machine. But by going through these steps we have a much deeper knowledge on print, specifically on Merino.”
As you might expect, there aren’t many similarities between knitting and printing. We faced a massive learning curve with print, but dove right in. It was a brand-new world waiting to be explored.