A Melting Pot of Sock-Knitting Techniques

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This quote from the Emma Lazarus sonnet “New Colossus” is engraved on a plaque mounted on the lower level of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. You may ask yourself, “What does the Statue of Liberty have to do with sock-knitting techniques? She isn’t wearing any socks.”

No, even she knows socks and sandals are not a good look. Yet this iconic symbol of American freedom is what many sock knitters saw as they immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island in the early part of the twentieth century. These sock knitters brought with them little more than what they could carry—but the sock-knitting knowledge they had was priceless!

Today’s knitters are fortunate to pull from the ensuing “melting pot” of sock-knitting techniques from around the world and blend techniques for shaping heels and toes without much thought about whence they came. But we here at PieceWork crave to know more—we adore sock history! Within our pages you’ll find sock patterns inspired by the historical originals—honoring the traditional sock-knitting techniques from far and wide.

Dixie Falls based the design for her “Socks to Knit and Crochet” on a pair of Italian socks from the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

Dixie Falls based the design for her “Socks to Knit and Crochet” on a pair of Italian socks from the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Photos by Joe Coca.

Dixie Falls based the design for her “Socks to Knit and Crochet,” featured in PieceWork’s September/October 1996 special Ellis Island issue, on a pair of Italian socks from the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Knit with a lovely wool-silk blend yarn, it includes an intriguing combination— crochet stitchwork on the cuff with a knitted foot. Andrea Wong’s miniature Portuguese stocking with a Portuguese Spiral Toe was based on socks made by Doña Maria Felismina Pereira in Serra D’Ossa, Portugal. Featured in PieceWork’s January/February 2017 issue, Andrea reminds us, “The more that people appreciate this traditional knitting, the less likely it is that the tradition will be forgotten.” We couldn’t agree more!

Andrea Wong’s miniature Portuguese stocking with a Portuguese Spiral Toe based on socks made by Doña Maria Felismina Pereira in Serra D’Ossa, Portugal.

Andrea Wong’s miniature Portuguese stocking with a Portuguese Spiral Toe based on socks made by Doña Maria Felismina Pereira in Serra D’Ossa, Portugal.

The variety and exquisite details—not to mention the cultural heritage—of sock-knitting techniques from all corners of the globe are what make sock knitting endlessly fascinating. And knitting is made all the richer by those who came before us—with little more than their knowledge of knitting socks to share—a wonderful gift indeed!

Happy sock knitting!
Elizabeth


Find more socks from around the world in the pages of PieceWork!

 

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