Aukštaitija Red and White Stripe Socks by Donna Druchunas
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Aukštaitija Red and White Stripe Socks

July 2014
Fingering (14 wpi) ?
40 stitches and 54 rows = 4 inches
in stockinette stitch
US 0 - 2.0 mm
400 yards (366 m)
8" (20.5 cm) circumference & length cuff to top of heel flap 10" (25.5 cm) foot length from back of heel to tip of toe, or desired length

The heart of ancient Lithuania is Aukštaitija, the highlands, a large region of dense forests and beautiful lakes. Located in the northeastern part of the country, this is where the Lithuanian state first coalesced, as many different smaller tribes melded together and then, in the eleventh century, where the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was established. In this part of Lithuania, women’s red or blue socks with white stripes were made in two different ways: with separate yarns of the two colors needed to create a stripe pattern or with a single hand-dyed, self-striping yarn.

When self-striping sock yarns became popular at the end of the twentieth century, I assumed this was a newly invented dye technique. But when I was looking through Lithuanian National Costume by Anastazija and Antanas Tamošaitis (1979), I saw a pair of socks that were clearly hand-painted in a self-striping pattern in a black and white photo. The caption said the socks were white with red stripes. The woman wearing them had simple crochet linen shoes, called čempės, indicating that she was a peasant or a poor farm laborer.

The photo was from the late 19th century, but women in the rural areas of Lithuania wore these home-made shoes well into the 20th century, to the 1940s in some areas. After the second World War, leather and rubber boots were available to purchase in many larger stores.

Because these are clearly socks made for everyday wear, I used the simplest heel and toe techniques. For an interesting twist, however, I made the right and left feet different. One toe is made with a clockwise spiral and the other is made with a counter-clockwise spiral.