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Socks Rule

Feb 1, 2012

When it comes to historical textiles, socks usually get short shrift. Lace-edged tablecloths, gowns, uniforms, dolls, and other special occasion pieces are saved and put away, but socks are worn and used until they’re worn out and used up.

Albanian double socks, such as the pair shown here, paired a highly embellished outer sock with a simple inner sock. Photo by Dominic Cotignola, courtesy of Bankfield Museum.

It takes a special collector to visit a foreign country and come back with something as pedestrian as socks as souvenirs. Edith Durham was such a collector. On her travels through Albania and other Balkan countries in the early twentieth century, Durham collected all kinds of traditional clothing. Among the many garments and textiles she brought back to England and donated to the Bankfield Museum in Halifax, Yorkshire, are a treasure trove of beautifully embellished socks and slippers. Sock knitter, teacher, and designer Donna Druchunas visited the museum and was enthralled by the footwear on display.

Donna Druchunas's Kilmeni Socks, inspired by the "inner socks" found in the Edith Durham Collection. Photo by Harper Point Photography.
In the areas Durham visited, the shoes were thin leather (Durham referred to them as sandals), so two pairs of socks were needed to keep out the chill. Providing an extra layer of warmth inside shoes, the outer socks served as slippers when shoes were removed indoors. Embellished with crochet, embroidery, and stranded knitting, the outer socks were a riot of color. The plainer inner socks had longer cuffs and unadorned feet. “The foot of the inner sock is worked in plain stockinette,” writes Donna, “with decorative ribbing or lace on the cuff.”

Worked in a sport-weight wool yarn, these over-the-knee stockings by Deborah Newton are intricate yet rustic, and are sure to keep you warm. Photo by Harper Point Photography.
In the Spring 2012 issue of Sockupied, Donna writes about her visit to the museum and shares photographs of some of its most exquisite socks. She also reimagines a pair of inner socks from the collection with a twist for contemporary knitters. Like the Albanian socks that inspired them, the Kilmeni Socks are worked from the toe up with an unusual swirl toe and an afterthought heel. Donna omitted the traditional Bosnian crochet technique to close the heel, and she extended the lace pattern down the instep.

This issue of Sockupied has plenty of modern classics, too, with techniques for spectacular socks. Deborah Newton imagined the kind of stockings a bride might wear on a chilly morning and designed lacy Frost Feather Stockings. Debbie O’Neill thought of a children’s game and designed the pool-busting Leapfrog Socks. With six designs and seven techniques, this issue of Sockupied will keep your fingers flying on your own sock journey and your feet warm.


Featured Products

Kilmeni Socks Knitting Pattern

Availability: In Stock
Price: $5.50


Inspired by the inner socks worn by Albanian men in the early twentieth century, these start with an unusual swirl toe.


Frost Feather Stockings Knitting Pattern

Availability: In Stock
Price: $5.50


As intricate as the ice crystals on a wintry windowpane, these lovely stockings will keep you warm on the coldest day.


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