88-year-old Saskatoon man makes thousands of socks for shelters

Bob Rutherford has made more than 10,000 socks for shelters across the country.

Bob Rutherford has made more than 10,000 socks for shelters across Canada using homemade knitting machine

Bob Rutherford with his handmade sock-knitting machine. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC News)

It started as a dare.

Bob Rutherford's friend didn't believe the Saskatoon man could make a cheap knitting machine that worked really, really fast.

That's when Rutherford got to work.

The now 88-year-old used sewer tubing to put together two super-powered machines.

"It could be knitting at 90 stitches a second," he proudly said.

Rutherford goes through metres and metres of yarn while making his socks. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC News)

And the octogenarian has now finished making 10,000 pairs of socks with the machines for shelters in Saskatoon and across the country.

How on earth did he do it?

He puts it rather simply: "The wool comes in the door and I knit it."

Bob Rutherford's custom-made sock-knitting machine. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC News)

Rutherford started making the socks seven years ago.

"When my wife passed away in 2010, I felt the loss that everybody feels and had nothing to do," said Rutherford.

"[My son] said to me, 'If you want to help yourself, help somebody else.'"

He made the knitting machines years earlier, but had never really put them into action.

And so he got to work, knitting every week.

A huge spool of knitted wool tubing, ready to be made into comfy socks. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC News)

He calls the living room operation "Socks by Bob."

Rutherford emphasizes the socks aren't only his doing — he also has help of a few friends.

The group includes 92-year-old Glynn Sully, 85-year-old George Slater and "youngster" Barney Sullivan.

"He's a really young guy, 65 maybe," said Rutherford. "Very good company."

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Slater comes by once a week to help cut the long tubes of wool into socks once they've come off the knitting machine.

"Bob and I yak about things. And he's very good company," said Slater.

Just in the last year, they've made more than 2,000 pairs of socks.

It's the connection with the group that keeps Rutherford knitting.

"I think everybody has to have this. I think people have to reach out and touch other people. And I can do this by touching the socks," said Rutherford.

An example of the finished product. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC News)

In terms of the logistics of making the socks, Rutherford's son Scott helps raise money for the wool.

Custom Woolen Mills near Calgary also donates hundreds of kilograms of wool for the socks.

Rutherford says the socks have given him purpose.

"There's a lot of us, as we grow older, we sit at home and look at the wall with nothing to do.

"And Socks by Bob has given me that something to do," said Rutherford.