sock of the week no.12

It’s impossible to have been a knitter over the past couple of weeks, and not to have noticed that knitting men have featured in the news. . . . Mainstream perceptions of our craft and its gendered connotations notwithstanding, men have always knitted – and – like the women hand-knitters of rural and working class communities, what was most often on men’s needles was a pair of stockings. So here are some industrious and creative stocking-knitting men for today’s sock of the week . . .

Stocking knitter from Annibale Caracci’s Li Arti De Bologna (1646) (album published posthumously). Victoria and Albert Museum.

Who doesn’t envy the nifty, portable yarn holder sported by Annibale Caracci’s peripatetic stocking knitter?

The shepherds of France’s (then) poorly-drained Landes region were often depicted knitting stockings on their stilts . . .

Walter Geikie, Working a stocking from Etchings Illustrative of Scottish Character and Scenery (1841). British Museum

Like Scottish women, men of rural and working class communities in Scotland routinely knitted stockings to augment their household incomes during the winter months . . .

The same was true in Wales, where the “last stocking knitter” of the town once famed for its Welsh stockings – Bala – was said to be this man, Edward Lloyd.

Stocking Vendor from Paul Sandby’s Twelve London Cries (1760)

Sailors were among the many working men who routinely knitted in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – the disgruntled discharged sailor from Paul Sandby’s London Cries is presumably hawking the work of his own hands about the city streets to supplement his income.

Sandby’s depictions of working people and their clothing is my current eighteenth-century obsession – I’ll perhaps say more about him another time!

As our bluestocking club draws to a close this Sunday, I’m retiring sock of the week (though the series may well return at some point in the future . . . watch this space). I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring the fascinating and varied history of socks and stockings with me over the past three months!

PS – you’ll find all socks of the week to date neatly gathered together into their own wee sock drawer here!