Unexpected Color

Nancy Bush's Vividly Colorful Amish Stockings. A band of vivid cuff patterning against rich, warm colors are characteristic of Pennsylvania Amish women’s stockings. Photo by Joe Coca.

The 8th edition of Knitting Traditions just went to press, and it always amazes me how many new and intriguing stories our contributors are able to dig up from around the world—I’m constantly learning something new. I’ve been around long enough now to see five issues of the publication from start to finish, and each one of them is so special. If I had to pick a favorite, though, I would have to choose Winter 2011—a third of the issue is dedicated to fabulous colorwork. What’s not to love?

Nancy Bush’s pattern, “Vividly Colorful Amish Stockings,” has been in my knitting queue for a long time now. They’re based on the vivid knee-high socks that adult married Amish women wore hidden away under their modest, solid-colored dresses. In Galer Britton Barnes’s article, “A Glimpse of Color: Amish Wedding Stockings,” she shares the history behind them:

By 1870, in certain personal textiles, Old Order Amish women had begun to use color, perhaps as a means of self-expression or simply because they had a talent for colorwork. To the hitherto strictly brown men’s clothing, they added blue and black suits and shirts in muted lavenders, purples, and blues. In the privacy of their homes, their quilts took on vibrant colors, and the women learned to knit stockings with scalloped tops and bright color changes.

During the 1860s, the invention of aniline dyes brought about a revolution in color. The mill that produced what became known as Germantown yarns began selling a palette of chemically dyed yarns in much brighter colors than those produced by the vegetal dyes previously available. The brighter blues, deeper purples, reds, and pinks were instantly popular.

Knitting Traditions Winter 2011

These stockings are a perfect example of how traditional colorwork was used—to add a pop of color and artistry to daily utilitarian wear. Whether it’s an intricate yoke on a Fair Isle sweater or a pair of Latvian stranded mittens, colorwork brings joy to its wearer. Even if it’s just a secret pleasure that only they can see!

There’s a little bit of everything in this issue. You’ll find mittens, gloves, and cuffs; bags and purses, stockings and socks; edgings; quilt squares; shawls and scarves—45 projects in all! Immerse yourself in history with four years of Knitting Traditions, available in the Needlework Traditions shop.

Happy Knitting,