Friday, November 16, 2007

Some Eastern Mediterranean Socks

Deborah added a clarification about the quote I used from Knitting in the Old Way:

It could have been either of us by philosophy, that's for sure, but those words are Priscilla's. Most of the book is Priscilla; I just contributed enough over the three years we were working on the expanded version that Priscilla said, "Your name should go on the cover, too." So there it is.

We both have Japanese-influenced aesthetic and practical ideas.


Marie asked if the sweater was slightly A-line.

It is not A-line, at least not deliberately. It does have a slight flare in the photo. That could be due to the way I posed the sweater. Or, it could be because of the seed stitch border. The border is slightly wider than the rest of the sweater because I wasn't in the mood to change needle size or use fewer stitches.


The sweater is indeed warm and cozy. I've worn it already. We've had some very cool weather this week.

I'll probably start another sweater soon, whether or not I start another shawl. I am mulling two or three options.

Option 1 is a round-yoke sweater with color patterns.

Option 2 is an Aran-style sweater from some white yarn I have. I'm attracted to a stitch pattern in a Kathy Zimmerman design that appeared in Knitters magazine several years ago. It has vertical columns of a fish- or trellis-like cable pattern on a seed stitch ground. Of course, I'd merely steal the stitch pattern concept and use it with my own gauge and shaping ideas. I might not even use that exact same cable; I might well replace it with an OXO cable.

Option 3 is a gansey-type sweater. I've been looking through Rae Compton's book on ganseys. There are a couple of sweaters in there that really appeal to me. One is the Campbeltown sweater that she gives a pattern for. It consists of columns of simple rope cables separated by ribbing (note a theme?). The yoke and sleeve tops are in basket stitch, which is Compton's name for moss stitch. There are some similar sweaters shown elsewhere in the book, from Robin Hood Bay and somewhere else I can't remember.

An aside: I wish someone would republish this wonderful book, along with Compton's other ethnic knitting book.

There are other ideas simmering in my brain, but the above three are the ones I'm most attracted to right now.

I might have to actually do some swatching to see how well different patterns show up in the yarns I'd like to use for a sweater. Oh, yeah, and get an approximate gauge, too. I tend to use the sleeves as my gauge swatches, since they are usually more accurate. I mostly do swatching to find a needle/fabric/stitch combo I like.


As most of y'all probably already know, Priscilla Gibson-Roberts published a book on Ethnic Socks and Stockings. It features socks from eastern Europe, western Asia, and the Mediterranean area.

Reading Knitting in the Old Way reminded me of this, and I dragged out some old eastern Mediterranean socks to photograph and share. I don't know exactly where these came from or how old they are. They are most likely from either the early 1970's or the late 1950's, given how they came into my possession. They are probably from somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean region, though I don't know which country or ethnic group/tribe they might be characteristic of.

The photo above shows the top/front side of the socks. As you can tell, they mostly feature simple stranded-color patterns. The foot shows some very small areas that use a third or fourth color. I didn't turn them inside-out to check out what kind of stranding or intarsia-in-the-round methods were used.

The red dye is not colorfast, alas, as I discovered when they got wet once. The white areas are really white, not pink. The other colors are black, red, purple, green, and orange.

The colorwork and stitch evenness are not all that expert in their execution. I don't care; I like them anyway.

The above photo shows the bottom of the socks. You can see the pattern on the soles. The heel (an afterthought heel) is done in black and white. The bottom part of the heel (foot bottom) uses a different pattern from the top (back of heel). You'll see that detail in the small photo to the left, wherever it happens to turn up. The bottom part, shown above, consists of diagonal stripes of black and white. The other side has vertical columns of black and white which also contain single stitches of the opposite color.

These socks were knit from the toe up. The heel stitches are knit downwards, from the foot/leg to the point of the heel.

To the left is a photo of the back side of the sock. You can see the heel pattern on this side of the sock. You can also see the bands of color patterns that make up the sock in slightly better focus than the first photo shows.

These color bands only use two colors per round. I like the way the patterns are simple yet effective. Green, purple, and orange turn out to work well together. The use of a different color in the middle round of the pattern motif ends up making the pattern look more complex than it is.

There are vertical bars at the edge of the pattern bands for the purple/orange spider-like patterns. Front and back look the same -- two spiders with a bar on each side. The diamond motifs continue all the way around.

To the right is a close-up photo of one of the diamond motif bands. What this really shows is the yarn and the general knitting technique. I'm pretty sure the colored yarn is wool. It is scratchy and coarse. The white yarn does not seem to be the same. It could be cotton, but I don't know enough about the possibilities and how to distinguish between them.

The socks show distinct vertical lines that were probably where the knitter transitioned between dpn's. Some areas of stranding aren't all that clear and distinct.

I can't remember the exact gauge on these socks. It's something like 6 stitches per inch.

The photo to the left shows the top of the sock. It's in the black wool yarn. I think it's a couple of rounds of purl stitches followed by a loose cast-off. The yarn ends are left to float free. They are united in a loose overhand knot on one sock, but separate on the other.

I took some other photos, but I won't upload them right now. They show various parts of the sock in slightly more detail.

I love these kinds of ethnic socks and other ethnic knitting. I wish I had more. I appreciate Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' efforts in documenting some of the techniques and patterns used, both in Ethnic Socks and Stockings and the occasional articles in the various knitting magazines. She's not the only one who has done that, of course. Betsy Harrell's Anatolian Knitting and Anna Zilboorg's Fancy Feet are other good compendiums. One can find bits and pieces in other sources, such as occasional blurry photos in books on folk arts of various regions.

There are blogs with great photos, too. One of these days I'll go searching and compile a set of links. For example, Marcy shows ethnic knitting, including the wonderful NATO Latvian mitten collection. Joy is currently living in northern India, and sometimes includes photos of people wearing various handknits. And so on.


Deborah said...

Priscilla has more socks to document; we're all hoping her health lets her do so soonish. Thanks for all the detailed photos of your socks. What fun!

The Doily Underground said...

I hope that Priscilla's health will allow her to do so! I love her studies of ethnic socks and other ethnic knitting.

Thank you for your kind words!