Back to the Beginning by Donna Druchunas
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Back to the Beginning

Knitting
July 2017
Fingering (14 wpi) ?
32 stitches and 36 rows = 4 inches
in stranded colorwork
US 2½ - 3.0 mm
600 yards (549 m)
Circumference: 7 [8, 9] inches/19 [21, 22.5]cm Foot Length: Adjustable to fit
This pattern is available for free.

These toe-up socks are a tribute to the early knitters who invented and developed our beloved craft in the Middle East. Like so many things we often take for granted (the wheel, geometric art, the magnetic compass, many surgical instruments, algebra, and the number zero among them), knitting was born in the Cradle of Civilization.

In the Middle East and the Ottoman Empire, knitters traditionally made toe-up socks that were often looser fitting and thicker than the socks made in northern Europe. These socks were often worn under leather sandals that were less form-fitting than the shoes worn in colder climates to the north. Knit with elaborate colorwork, the socks were also often less stretchy as well. The leg length varied from short anklets and mid-calf socks to knee-highs. The toe was started with a small rectangle or a two-sided cast on, which allowed the knitter to begin knitting in the round immediately at the tip of the toe. The foot was worked straight with no shaping, and in most cases the heel was added after the foot and leg were finished. There was no calf shaping and knee-high sock legs were sometimes covered with layers of felt to serve as a type of boot leg. Garters made from ribbons tied on below the knee held up the un-shaped socks. Because the shoes were less fitted, many of these socks were more like what we would consider slipper socks today. In fact, the socks were worn indoors as slippers and in some areas, two pairs of socks were worn together: an inner undyed sock with stockinette stitch on the foot and lace or cables on the leg would be worn inside a larger colorwork slipper sock that served as a house shoe when leather slippers were removed at the door upon entering the house. The sole of these outer slipper socks would be patterned as beautifully as the rest of the sock.

Let’s celebrate the birth of knitting and the contributions of the Arab world to our daily life as we knit these socks together.