Blog hop and socks

BLOG HOP!

I was invited to a blog hop around the world by mazzaus from Australia. Her blog Local & Bespoke is varied with great photos, and always interesting for someone who likes sewing, dyeing, spinning, silk worms. Thanks for inviting me, M!

Here are the three questions I have to answer before I hand over the baton to the next blogger:

1. What are you working on? I’m a spinner, but also a knitter, and occasionally I nalbind, weave bands on an inkle loom or cards, and I also sew. I’m quite fond of tapestry crochet! Right now I’m on “vacation”, which means I’m “resting” after a very intense spinning period that lasted for three and a half years. During that time I studied for the Certificate of Achievement in Handspinning in Online Guild, and the master spinner title in my local guild Björken at Stundars. Now I prepare fleece for spinning, I spindle every now and then, sew clothes, knit, and try to figure out the secrets of card weaving and learn more about inkle weaving. I will continue my work with wools from six Northern Short Tailed sheep, a work I started when spinning for my master spinner title.

2. How does my work differ from others? This is a difficult question. I’m a quite ordinary spinner. I like spinning in the old ways, i.e. I don’t much care about spinning art yarns. I love looking at them and admire the skills of some of the spinners, though. I love spinning and textile history, but that’s not unusual either. For me  spinning is much more than a hobby, even if I don’t spin for trade any more. I spun dog hair for customers for more than a decade. So, I don’t think my spinning differs from other spinners’ with the same interests as me. I spin many kinds of fibers, but mostly wool. I spin on supported spindles, top whorl spindles, I can spin on bottom whorls but prefer top, old wheels, new wheels, electric wheels. I prepare my fibers myself, or buy them readily prepared. I sometimes dye both wool and yarns. But different? No.

3. Why do I create what I do? An urgent need! I have felt this need ever since the beginning of the 80s when I touched my first fleece. I became obsessed very quickly. Every day teaches me something new about fibers and yarns.

And now I hand over the baton to TexasRanger, who lives guess where…  Have a look at her blog Deep in the Heart of Textiles! Like Mazzaus, TexasRanger takes beautiful photos, and she writes about many aspects of textiles. If you scroll down a bit you find her colour fastness test, which is quite interesting to me. I have a few natural coloured yarns sitting in a window since spring, waiting for me to see what the bright spring and summer sun has done to them.

SOCKS

I have mentioned one of the small museums in my municipality many times. Myrbergsgården has more than 5000 textiles, mostly from the late 19th century until WWII. This summer they showed knitted and crocheted items, and yes, the Nordic Knitting Symposium visited the museum and I think most of the knitters loved what they saw. I’ll show mittens and caps in another post, and the Vörå sweater will also have a post of its own. Today we’ll have a look at socks.

The socks from Myrbergsgården below are all knitted between 1880 and 1920.

Stripes
Stripes
Stripes
Stripes
Zig zag
Zig zag
Zig zag
Zig zag
Now it gets more difficult!
Stripes, honeycomb and colour work, stranded, plain
Beehive
Honeycomb
IMG_4640
Honeycomb
IMG_4604
Entrelac
Entrelac
Entrelac
Colours!
Colours!

These socks were mostly knit by countrywomen who didn’t have written patterns. They borrowed a sock and tried to knit a similar one. That’s the way we get varieties and new patterns, new versions of old designs. I love that way of knitting socks, and that’s how I do it most of the time, even if I sometimes use a written pattern also. I’m a dedicated sock knitter. I have a sock (or two or three or four…) on the needles all the time. I don’t really need to knit socks, I could buy them if I wanted to.

But the countrywomen in old times couldn’t buy socks. They had to knit them, and often to spin the yarn too. They made the work more fun by using colours and different designs. Most of the socks shown here are for women and young girls. At the end of the 19th century women still wore long skirts. Imagine them lifting the skirts every time they stepped over thresholds or climbed stairs! You could see the beautiful socks then, and also a glimpse of the legs. They sometimes made the needles themselves, too. These jumper needles are made from bicycle spokes by a husband for his wife during WWII, to be seen in a museum in Kokkola:

Knitting needles
Knitting needles

The foot was often knitted in plain grey or brown wool yarn. It was common that new foots where knitted when the old ones couldn’t be darned any more. I don’t know what yarns all of these socks are made from, but I’m sure many of them are hand spun. The bright white and red socks in the first photo are made from commercial cotton yarn.

The sturdy work socks were usually handspun grey wool of a coarser quality, like these from the Stundars museum:

Work socks
Socks drying on the mantle piece in Stundars farm house

I’m quite amazed by the beautiful, skilled knitting in all socks shown in this post. I love the colours! You can see that anilin was popular at that time. We do love pink, don’t we? I also love the clearly defined stripes. I think I’m going to abandon the self-striping yarns and go back to the old way of knitting.

The honeycomb (I’m not sure what to call that stitch, please comment if you know!) combined with stranded knitting is very interesting. It was popular in some parts of Finland at that time.

Have you tried entrelac in socks? I have, once, and I had to frog it. It’s not easy even if you have a well written pattern. When the organisers of the Knitting Symposium first asked me to come and teach, they wanted me to teach entrelac socks. I said no. I’m not a very avid knitter, and the thought of teaching entrelac socks scared me. I will try to knit a pair once more to see if I can understand it better, because I sometimes use entrelac in sweaters and that doesn’t scare me at all. The sock in the close up has fewer stitches in the squares in the ankle part, the others seem to have the same amount in the upper part also.

A few decades later, in the 1940s, Norwegian influence like star designs can be seen in Finnish socks. Later still, in the midst of the western world’s boom of self-striping yarns, lace and intricate cables, a thorough book on plain socks was published in Finnish in 2009. It’s called Sukkasillaan (“sock-footed”), and I’d be surprised if it won’t become a classic. If you know the basics of sock knitting, it’s easy to be as creative as the women who knitted the socks in Myrbergsgården and Stundars.

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10 comments

  1. Heidi

    I love the pictures of all those wonderful socks, there’s such simplicity, clarity and beauty in those traditional stripes in the first two photos, and they make a beautiful collection together. I’m all inspired now – Kiitos Barbro!

  2. TextileRanger

    I get taken in by new trends, but then I look back at the beauty of traditional objects and think that there is no improving over them! This is a gorgeous collection.
    And thanks for the pass of the baton!

  3. Susan

    Yes, those socks!!! Simple stripes but it is the colour combinations that ‘grab’ me. Thought I had commented on this post already but what I had been doing was to go on a blog journey starting with Local & Bespoke 🙂 What fun. Thank you!!

  4. Marilyn

    Wouldn’t get lost in the snow with some of those bright colors! I can see I have to spend more time reading this. What wonderful socks.

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