Priscilla's Armenian Socks

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 seven 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.

Priscilla Gibson Roberts's reproduction of a nineteenth-century Armenian wedding sock.

The most recent issue, January/February 2013, 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.

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.