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Welcome to our first lesson in sock history! While we’ve talked about socks for historical costuming (three times!) in the past, we were focusing primarily on which socks we carry that can most accurately represent much older styles of sock and stocking. Today we begin a new journey through time, but on this journey we’ll mostly be taking a look at actual sock artifacts, and the stories behind them. So, to start this series off right, let’s take a trip way, way back to the earliest surviving pair of socks…
Currently housed at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, these socks were made at some point between 250 and 420 AD. They were then excavated in the 19th century, in the burial grounds of ancient Oxyrhynchus; a Greek colony in central Egypt. Made for wear with sandals, these socks have a split-toe design, much like Japanese tabi socks. They also feature a roll top, and appear to fasten at the front of the ankle with ties.
These socks were fabricated from 3-ply wool yarn, and their fibers and brilliant red color have held up incredibly well over the years, probably due to the location of Oxyrhynchus on a canal system off the Nile, rather than on the banks of Nile itself. The area surrounding the city, which contained ancient garbage dumps and burial grounds, was gradually buried in sand, where it remained arid and undisturbed for over 1,000 years, as it wasn’t subject to the flooding of the Nile. The dry conditions preserved the artifacts of these sites, making Oxyrhynchus an important window into the ancient world.
But the most fascinating thing about these socks isn’t their tabi-style toes or long lasting red color – it’s the way they were fabricated! While they appear to have been knitted, they were actually made using a much older means of fabric creation, sometimes called “single needle knitting” or “nålebinding” as it’s known in Danish (and yes, this is what the Vikings used). This technique involves the use of a single, flat needle with an eye, akin to a flattened darning needle, and requires that the needleworker combine many short lengths of yarn together as the garment is made, unlike two-needle knitting or crochet, where one may use an indeterminate length of yarn. The fabric created is very similar to knitting, and like knitted materials, it is quite stretchy, allowing for a close fit.
While we definitely don’t have any ancient or nålebound socks, we do have some red split toe socks, if you’re interested in recreating this look! Try them in wool or fleece, or take to the internet to find modern nålebinding tutorials! We’d love to see what you create!
First, we have a few styles to help show off your bike pride with bright colors and charming gears.
Long Cuffable Scrunchable Socks in Hunter
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