Last week I finished the socks I was knitting for my boyfriend. I made these socks twice before.
He specifically asked me for plain Icelandic socks in a natural colour. You see these are not to be normal house socks, these are to be Viking socks!
Let me backtrack for a bit. Ever been to a reenactment/living history fair? Think fields filled with tents of people recreating whatever time period they’re into. There’s people wearing period-correct clothing, made using period-correct crafts and resources, doing period related activities and making music on period-correct instruments. Now, my boyfriend isn’t a die-hard reenactor, but he does enjoy visiting living history festivals every now and then, and he’s been gathering a wardrobe of late iron-age to early viking age clothing.
The one thing missing in his wardrobe has always been the shoes. This summer he started working on a pair of Iron age shoes, although the project went in hibernation when his graduation and new job came up. Now, in addition to the above, he’s also quite the fan of Viking saga’s and medieval legends, so when he saw an announcement that one of the winter fairs was going to have a “Vertelþing”, or, a storytelling contest, he signed up immediately. Only when his participation was confirmed, he realised: a) he still needed to finish his shoes an b) they were woefully unsuited for winter. So that’s where I come in. He was in serious need of a pair of thick woollen socks!
I choose my beloved Icelandic Lopi, which is both perfectly warm and conforms to the look and feel of the kind of thing he wanted. There’s a few things to say about the historical correctness of these socks. First of all, medieval clothing needn’t necessarily be natural, bland, grey or brown colours. As many natural dyers know, there’s a wide range of bright colours to be made with natural dyes that have been available for centuries. According to several sources I found however, socks were usually made using undyed wool, while the dyed wool was reserved for more prestigious garments.
Now for the obvious: did Vikings knit? No, they did not. Or, at least, no evidence has thus far been found to prove it. They did used Nålebinding, a craft similar to but predating both crochet and knitting. Archaeologists without proper knowledge of needlecrafts have often mistaken nålebound finds for knits: although the technique is quite different, the result looks remarkably similar to the untrained eye. Because of this, knitting seems to be close enough to produce ‘Viking socks’ that are comfortable to wear, simple to make and look convincing. My boyfriend isn’t super particular about the period-correctness (hence “not die-hard”), and he likes warm feet so he’s very happy with these socks. It helps that my boyfriend cannot needlebind, and I am not motivated and/or keen enough to learn it.
Finally I want to mention that I’ve been participating in my first ever photo challenge on Instagram. Those of you who follow me there will have noticed that it undoubtedly increased the amount of posts from me. It is a crafty photo challenge in the days leading up to Christmas. Each day has a theme, and participants post sewing or knitting related photos in accordance with that theme. I’ve seen these challenges before, and enjoyed browsing through the pictures posted there, but wasn’t convinced I could keep up with posting everyday. Most of these challenges take a month, but this one was a lot shorter, so seemed a good way to test my endurance. There are only a couple of days left but you can see what I’ve been posting on my Instagram profile or in the daily photograph widget in the sidebar.