Knit a Pair of Contemporary Brewster Socks
In the January/February 2010 issue of PieceWork, our 4th-annual Historical Knitting issue, Jacqueline Fee recounts how she came to knit the Brewster socks, which were based on an original sock that was brought to her attention by her daughter. Here’s Jacqueline with more on “THE Brewster Stocking.”
Alerted to the existence of one handknitted stocking in the textile collection of the Pilgrim Society in Plymouth, Massachusetts, by my daughter, Nancy Cook, who was head of costume at Plimoth Plantation (1981–1985), I immediately went to investigate. Thought to have belonged to Elder William Brewster (1567–1644), the stocking was worked in either England or Massachusetts between 1620 and 1640. Made of wool, it measures 26 inches (66.0 cm) high and would have been pulled up over the knee and secured with garters.
The leg width measures 7 inches (17.8 cm) or 14 inches (35.6 cm) around, and the stubby foot, enhanced by purl rounds, measures 10½ inches (26.7 cm) from heel to toe. The stocking is seamless, and the entire length is worked in a single Circling Purl pattern from below the ribbed top to the beginning of the toe shaping. The pattern is a multiple of 6 stitches with a 6-round repeat.
After taking exact measurements of the original, I worked a reproduction stocking to a gauge of 7 stitches to the inch (about 3 stitches per cm) rather than the original 11 to 13 stitches to the inch (about 4 to 5 stitches per cm) in a Bartlettyarns lightweight 2-ply 100 percent wool yarn, oatmeal in color, on four double-pointed size 2 needles. Giving credence to the dreaded “second sock” syndrome, five years passed before I tackled its match, and that is why I have emphasized the “THE” in “THE Brewster Stocking,” as I wonder if it ever had a mate.
Jacqueline Fee is the author of The Sweater Workshop: Knit Creative, Seam-Free Sweaters on Your Own with Any Yarn (2nd Revised and Expanded Edition, Camden, Maine: Down East Books, 2002). The book has enabled thousands of knitters to enjoy complete freedom to work their own gauge with any yarn, handspun or millspun, to create sweaters of their own design.
To knit a pair of your own Brewster socks, download a copy of the January/February 2010 issue of PieceWork. For more historical socks from Jacqueline Fee, read our blog post “Re-Creating the Seventeenth-Century Gunnister Stockings.”