Ohio Knitting Mills

1927. Werner Heisenberg unveils his uncertainty principle. The Jazz Singer becomes an instant hit, putting the inaugural nail in the coffin of silent films. And Charles Lindbergh pilots the Spirit of St. Louis in the first solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic.

That same year, in the then bustling metropolis of Cleveland, Ohio, the Stone-Rand family establishes Ohio Knitting Mills. Over time, the enterprise becomes one of North America’s largest knitting concerns, producing private label knitwear for a bevy of department stores. At its peak, the factory, which takes up nearly an entire city block, provides livelihoods for more than 1,000 workers.

Their growing company weathers the Great Depression. It endures the turbulent years of the Second World War. But, by the early 21st century, it falls victim to the accelerating pace of overseas production.

By that point, domestic knitting had largely been eviscerated, and Ohio Knitting Mills was unable to endure in the face of the brutal new realities that were afflicting the U.S. garment industry.

In 2005, the family sold the company–including its remaining equipment, its extensive library of samples and its patterns–to designer Steven Tatar. Steven’s vision was one of rebirth. He saw, in building on the company’s tradition of local manufacturing, an opportunity to make the Ohio Knitting Mills name live anew.

After some months of dithering over whether to purchase one of the company’s sweaters–here in Southeast Texas, a sweater is not nearly the universally needed garment it is in more northerly latitudes–I recently acquired one. It’s a forest green shawl collar sweater in Shetland wool. Neither too slouchy nor too slim, it’s the perfect autumnal companion, a truly exemplary piece of knitwear.

Its look is timeless. I could easily see someone 80 years ago wearing a sweater exactly like this. But it’s equally at home in a modern wardrobe.

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