PieceWork has been publishing a special theme issue on knitting for several years now, and it has become an annual best seller. It has even spawned a spinoff, Knitting Traditions, likewise a crazy success. Fascination with our knitting roots seems to know no bounds.
So after all of these years, you’d think all this historical knitting content would just become a blur. Not so, though. Every issue seems to stir up an unforgettable, poignant story, a technical tour de force, a wacky side trip into places we never knew knitting went.
The January/February 2013 issue of PieceWork, for instance, contains an interpretation of the oldest known pattern for knitting socks. The pattern was unearthed in a 1655 edition of a general household book of recipes, or receipts. It’s plain, it fits oddly (baggy, requiring garters), but it’s such a strong link to what knitting was 350 years ago that you’re glad to know about it. [For more about the 1655 stockings, see our blog post “A Pair of Stockings from 1655.”]
What will stand out most in my mind, though, as years go by, are Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ Armenian socks. I will always think of it as the “Priscilla’s Armenian socks (PAS)” issue.
The source sock she worked from is a very fancy wedding sock from the mid-nineteenth century. The leg is wildly colorful with floral and geometric pattern bands, the instep framed with a wide fancy border. But turn it over and you will gasp. The sole is covered in rows of tiny red birds. A flock! The effusive design work, the meticulous execution, the sheer whimsy of this sock will live on in your dreams.
I will probably never challenge myself to knit such a thing, but I can certainly imagine including that perky little bird, or a row of them, on a plain sweater. But whether I do or not, the “PAS” will be part of my knitting inheritance. I encourage you to take a look.
Updated August 20, 2018.