Designers find inspiration for knitted socks in all sorts of places. Read the story behind PieceWork _contributor Mimi Seyferth’s “House of the Seven Gables Socks to Knit” project, which was featured in the September/October 2015 issue. She based her design not only on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s (1804–1864) novel but also on the original House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts.
Inspired by Hawthorne’s writing about knitting and his repeated references to gray knitted stockings, I designed a pair of socks intended to evoke the gables of the real House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts. Erected in 1668 for Captain John Turner, a successful sea captain and merchant, and later owned by Hawthorne’s distant cousin Susanna Ingersoll, the house provided the model for Hawthorne’s fictional The House of the Seven Gables: “a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst.”
In 1908, philanthropist Caroline Emmerton (1866–1942) purchased the house and worked with Boston architect Joseph Everett Chandler (1864–1945), a pioneer in the early-twentieth-century historic preservation movement, to restore the house, especially its steeply pitched gables. She then opened the house as a museum to support the work of the House of Seven Gables Settlement Association, a social service agency Emmerton founded to assist immigrant families in Salem. The House of the Seven Gables, now its own national historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, continues to operate as a museum in furtherance of Emmerton’s goals to preserve the house for future generations, to provide educational opportunities for visitors, and to use the proceeds from museum tours to fund social service programs.
MIMI SEYFERTH, an attorney, lives outside Washington, D.C. She first visited Salem, Massachusetts, and saw the House of the Seven Gables after her son’s college graduation in 2014.
The pattern for Mimi Seyferth’s “House of the Seven Gables Socks to Knit” is available in the September/October 2015 issue of PieceWork.