Selection of Turkish hand knitted slippers. Photography by Joost Kolkman.
The Textile Research Centre (TRC) in Leiden, the Netherlands, is celebrating the humble hand-knitted sock. Socks & Stockings, A World Full of Surprises, looks at the stories behind this most unassuming of garments, from the one metre long socks of Tajikistan to the embroidered socks of Germany and the slipper-like socks of Turkey.
Woollen Turkmen socks from Iran, 1999.
Alongside examples of hand knitted socks from around the world, showing different techniques, patterns and colour combinations, the exhibition includes silk stockings found in a mid-seventeenth century shipwreck.
Knitted about 380 years ago, the stockings discovered off the coast of Texel in the north of The Netherlands, became the focus of a special project led by Chrystel Brandenburgh and the Huis van Hilde archaeology centre. In collaboration with the Textile Research Centre (TRC Leiden), a group of experienced knitters used their skills to study and remake these stockings.
The exhibition is curated by Lies van de Wege, collection manager at the TRC and a highly experienced knitter. It considers the enduring popularity of sock knitting and darning at a time when socks are so cheaply available to buy. For example, the online knitting community Ravelry offers almost one and a half million sock patterns.
On loan, especially for this exhibition, there is a group of Norwegian socks from knitting expert, Annemor Sundbø, and a group of ‘Sock Madness’ competition socks from Karin Koopman, with some socks from the Haastjerepjeforum on the Ravelry site.
The TRC collection of textiles, garments and accessories includes items from all over the world, from the Andes, via Zanzibar, to Japan. The collection now includes some 19,500 items and is still rapidly growing. The objects are used for research, teaching, exhibitions and publications.
Socks and Stockings, A World full of Surprises, Textile Research Centre, Leiden until 19th December 2019
Blog post by Kate Grinnell