This Factory Outlet Knits Socks To Order

Posted: August 03, 1986

The Sox Lady's Daughter on York Road in Furlong is a factory outlet in the best sense of that often-abused phrase. All the socks sold there are made a few hundred feet down the road in what can best be described as a boutique knitting mill.

SL & W Knitting has nine specially designed knitting machines in a building the size of a one-car garage. SL & W stands for Sox Lady and Walt, according to their daughter, Kathleen Barden.

Walt Rehm, a knitting-machine mechanic, started producing socks 15 years ago on two machines and his wife, Helen, went from flea market to flea market selling them under the Sox Lady banner.

Socks also were sold at the Bucks County factory, 3362 York Rd., Furlong, until three years ago, when the number of customers got to be too much for the limited parking there. That's when the Sox Lady's Daughter was opened just three driveways north.

SL & W's knitting machines, which have been modified by Rehm based on his 40 years of experience and early training under German knitting machine makers, are capable of turning out a wide variety of sport socks.

"The only thing we can't make is argyle socks," Barden said at the shop the other day. "We can't make socks with a name on them either," she added.

Among the specialized socks that can be ordered are some with "a loose top made of terry cotton with a special Spandex that is not binding at all," Barden explained. These are favored by a "lot of people with diabetes," she said.

Custom orders can be for as few as six pairs, Barden said, and often involve stripes or other color combinations.

The flexibility of Rehm's machines allow SL & W to capitalize on a fashion fad like the present one for "baggie top pushdowns" among young girls, according to Barden. Her shop is selling these at three pairs for $5. Elsewhere, she said, they are selling for $8 a pair.

Other socks sell for as little as three pairs for $4. Long-ribbed crew socks with fitted heels that come to midcalf ("We call them thigh highs," Barden said) sell for $5.75 for three pairs or $2 a pair. The Sox Lady's Daughter also carries extra long tube socks.

You don't have to go to the factory to know the Sox Lady's Daughter is a true factory outlet. Besides selling socks, Barden performs the last manufacturing operation in the store - turning the socks. This is done with the help of a simple wooden device called a turning board.

The socks are knitted inside out on the nine machines tended by Barden's husband, Gary. When they come off the machines there is a hole in the toe that has to be sewn closed by a seamstress.

Then it is up to the turning board operator to turn them right-side out, inspecting them as they are turned. Barden had 50 dozen to turn on the day her shop was visited.

Barden said she had been helping her parents in making and selling socks on and off for 11 years, since she was 14, along with a sister and a brother.

Besides socks, the Sox Lady's Daughter sells T-shirts in solid colors for $2.95 each.

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