HNW - Arab roughly 10th century knitted socks

Dick Eney dickeney at
Sun Aug 2 12:26:29 PDT 1998

On Sat, 1 Aug 1998, Curtis & Mary wrote:

> Tamar/Dick Eney wrote:
> > 
> > I meant, the only European colored-pattern knitted sock; I am aware of the
> > Egyptian and Arab blue and white patterned knitted socks!  Seeing them
> > close up at the Textile Museum last year was a thrill, as I could check
> > the gauge myself.
> > ============================================================================

 OOoooh!  And what was the gauge? and are they the same socks from
Egypt that are in Rutts booK????details, details, please!  I have several
skiens of handspun cotton, including two homegrown natural colors and
would like to try a pair of those toe socks for my daughter that wears
sandals almost year round. 

Yes, they are the same ones.  The gauges varied. The heaviest texture was
about 12 stitches per inch, like thin string.  The finest texture was
about 16 stitches per inch, a trifle heavier than modern machine-made
cotton socks. There were some in between those gauges; most were 14-16
st/inch.  The heels were done with purling done while the sock was being
made, unlike the pointed heels of the 20th century Turkish socks in Folk

(My best effort to date was a sample at 12 st/inch on size 0000 needles
using JP Coats cotton Knit-Cro-Sheen.)

The little child's sock with the two antelopes (one horned, one not) next
to a palm tree was in the heavier texture and was the least worn; this is
the one somebody speculated might have been an 'offering' rather than for
wear, but the design is so perfect for a child's sock, I think it just
didn't get worn a lot.  I mention it because there was a really neat
little designer's trick used:  the sock was enlarged a tiny bit just where
the back of the antelope was (perhaps to allow for the beginning of the
calf muscle), and there was an increase-one inside the curl of the raised
tail.  This allowed the legs and body to be precisely evenly rectangular,
while the tail got that little bit extra to make it curl nicely.  Since
the design is blue and the increase is in the white background, it isn't
at all noticeable. 

The two antelopes face the palm tree on the front of the leg, and another
two antelopes (design repeat) face the palm tree on the back of the leg; 
there is also a palm tree between the tails, on each side of the ankle. 
As is typical of Arab socks, the jog in the pattern is on the inside of
the ankle, along the trunk of the palm tree, where it doesn't disturb the
pattern much at all. 

The blue indigo dye varied irregularly, implying the dye didn't take well
on the cotton yarn (which I have read is typical with early cotton
dyeing). Still, it was possible to distinguish some deliberate choice of
dye lots, in my opinion.  Some dye lots were almost black, others were sky
blue.  Most socks had some of each.



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