Knit Nancy Bush’s Amish Socks

The brightly colored band of patterning on the cuffs of Nancy Bush’s “Amish Stockings and Socks to Knit” delights the eye. The socks were based on the handknitted Amish socks and stockings from the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania. Like the Amish socks that inspired them, Nancy Bush’s interpretation are knitted in the round and shaped for a good fit.

amish socks

A band of vivid cuff patterning against rich warm colors are characteristic of Pennsylvania Amish women’s socks. These socks, echoing the colors, shape, and patterning of two pairs of vintage stockings, are knitted in the round in warm sportweight wool yarn. Photo by Joe Coca.

In the companion article, “A Glimpse of Color: Amish Wedding Stockings of the Nineteenth Century,” contributor Galer Britton Barnes explains how nineteenth-century Amish women came by such vibrantly colored yarns for their socks and stockings.

  • “During the 1860s, a revolution in color occurred with the invention of aniline dyes. The mill that produced what became known as Germantown yarns began selling a palette of chemical-dyed yarns in colors that were much brighter than the colors of the vegetal dyes previously available, as the stockings from this period found in museums and private collections reflect. The brighter blues, deeper purples, reds, and pinks were instantly popular. The mills so close by would have made mill-end yarns cheaply and readily available to the Amish women. The color changes and apparently random selection of color in some scallop-topped stockings of the period hint that the yarns used were varied or perhaps limited, as mill ends would have been. It’s also possible that the knitters created fingering-weight yarn by unraveling the plies of the popular worsted-weight Germantown yarn.”

Download a copy of PieceWork’s March/April 1997 issue to read the rest of Galer Britton Barnes’s fascinating article and cast on to knit a pair of your own colorful Amish socks. Included in the instructions for Nancy Bush’s Amish socks are variations for knee-length stockings as well as shorter socks. Read more about Nancy Bush and historical socks in our blog post “Rediscover a Classic: Nancy Bush’s Folk Socks.”


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