Saturday, July 26, 2008

Folk Socks

The other recent book acquisition which has been livening up my breakfast table reading is “Folk Socks” by Nancy Bush. I had been smitten by the Welsh Country Socks at Mustaa Villaa and have you seen Bryony’s neatly-cabled Chalet Socks? (Ravelry link) Lovely!

But I hadn’t expected to find so much local history in this book! Nancy writes about the 18th century sock-knitters of the Aberdeen area, fleshing out the comment I had read in the old Statistical Account of “my” parish while doing family tree research for my Australian lady:

“The people are in general industrious; but the knitting of stockings, which is here carried on to great extent, is too sedentary an employment, and is often hurtful to the constitution.”

Yup!

It is fascinating to me that I only took up sock-knitting when I moved to the farm, and that this occupation is so embedded in its history. In the archives, I found the Barony Court records for the 1720’s. My farm tenant is mentioned several times for the non-payment of rent and other dues to the landowners, including “4 heer of tweyned yarn”. Does anyone know what a “heer” might be? I am assuming it is some sort of weight or length of spun yarn. I am afraid the tenants of this farm were habitual debtors! They also seemed to get involved in disputes over access to the bog to cut peat... I love local history!

Elsewhere in the book I read about the origin of the term “Bluestocking” and how the common people used woad or indigo to dye their socks blue. Another connection to the past! My ill-fated weedy woad plants self-seeded and I am going to get a dye “harvest” this year after all – woo hoo! So many connections with the past!

But for now I am finishing off the second socks for both of the above pairs. Long overdue, the sock love has returned!

I do fear I might have to sign up for Fyberspates' self-striping sock club...

3 comments:

RooKnits said...

What fab history.
Ditto to the sock club.

Helen said...

'Heer' seems to be a unit of length used for linen and wool, about 80 yards. See http://members.aol.com/JackProot/met/spvolas.html and http://www.onlineunitconversion.com/ell.Scotland_to_heer.html and http://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/units/dictH.html

Old units of measurement often varied from place to place or between the item being measured so I'm a bit suspicious about the uniformity shown here: perhaps they're all using the same source. Anyway, it gives you an idea.

Bryony Ramsden said...

Oooo, that's really cool to read about all the history stuff :)

And also, you make me blush :) But yes you should sooooo sign up for the self-striping club. It looks delicious :D