Despite their reputation for being a distinctly 'boring' present, here at Selvedge couldn't think of a better surprise than receiving a lovely pair of socks as a gift. Who doesn't appreciate a pair of practical and beautiful socks to warm ones toes in the winter months? In that spirit, we've rounded up some of our favourite knitted socks (and gloves) from the Selvedge World Fair 2021 to provide some inspiration for your gift list, whether it be for the loved ones in your life, or yourself!
We couldn't mention socks on the blog without talking about Irish dyer Kathryn Davey. She works with natural fibres – wool and Irish-woven linen – and creates her dyes from plants, creating a character and subtly that draws people to them, and to the process of creating them. ‘I try to keep sustainability to the forefront of everything that I do,’ she says. ‘It’s a gentle process. Everything goes back into the earth.’
Image: Kathryn Davey, Knee-length Naturally Dyed Pure Wool Socks in Blush
Based on traditional designs, these knee-length socks (available in 'blush' or undyed 'stone') are woven from 100% natural Jacobs wool. Once woven, the socks are prepared for dyeing by a method known as scouring. Scouring is a process of removing any oils, waxes or residue that may coat the fibre and impede the absorption of dye.
After the socks are scoured they are then soaked in a natural mordant solution. The word “mordant” comes from the Latin “mordere”, which means to bite. Just as the word describes, the mordant helps the dye bite to the fibre ensuring the colours are strong, clear & long lasting.
Image: Kathryn Davey, Knee-length Pure Undyed Wool Socks in Stone
Once the socks have been scoured and mordanted the dye baths are prepared. The colour is extracted from the plant material by soaking the plant in water and adding heat until the dye is released. The socks are then added to the dye bath and soaked for many hours until the desired colour is achieved. The process takes anywhere from 6-10 days depending on the shade.
Wool socks are naturally warm and insulating, keeping your feet warm in colder weather. Wool can absorb a high amount of moisture before feeling "wet" & maintains its insulating properties even when damp. The fibres are naturally antibacterial, breathable and odour resistant making these the perfect socks for colder seasons.
Image: Kathleen Oliver / Sweet Tree Hill Farm, Shepherd’s Socks: Ombre Stripes Duo with Red
These Shepherd's Socks from Sweet Tree Hill Farm are a rare piece of clothing. They are knitted on the farm where the wool is grown, one at a time on an antique sock machine that dates back to 1910. Kathleen Oliver raises Shetland and Gotland sheep, heritage breeds that are from the Northern Short Tail group with Viking beginnings. She designs yarn from their wool and uses the yarn to knit socks, either undyed, utilising the subtle natural colour of the wool, or hand dyed by Kathleen.
Each pair comes with a little bobbin of extra yarn, should the need for darning arise. These socks are truly old school tradition in that the wool was minimally processed to preserve the softness, durability and comfort of the natural wool.
Image: Tomoko Yamanaka, British Alpaca hand made gloves
Tomoko Yamanaka is a UK-based knitwear designer from Japan. She has had her design studio in Hampstead London for over 15 years. In 2012, she started her winter "British Alpaca Project" knitwear collection using only 100% British alpaca wool. Each winter she designs a collection of knitwear, sometimes collaborating with other makers, such as a sock factory Corgi in Wales, or the very old weaving mill Francis Moore in Yorkshire. This season, Tomoko is working with weave designer Mika Hirosawa to make hand woven scarves.
Tomoko only uses natural undyed colours and enjoys the process of designing yarns and mixing fleece to create different natural shades. These British Alpaca gloves were knitted using a domestic knitting machine, the creamy colour and black pinky finger coming from two different kinds of alpaca fleece.
View all products created by artisans from the Selvedge World Fair 2021 here.