Thursday, April 5, 2018

Great War historian wears replicated historic Great War socks

My epic sock project has come to a close.20180404_172228 crop

I only blogged about this once even though I’ve been working on it since last October. Do pop over there if you want the full backstory. The short version is this: a grateful Scottish mother handknit a pair of socks for an American medic who cared for her son in France during WWI. The medic was a graduate of Gettysburg College (where I now work), and those socks stayed with his papers which were donated to the College Archives after his death. I studied them a bit and recreated them with modern yarn. They were made for Dr. Ian Isherwood, a local historian who specializes in memory and the Great War, who wore them for a lecture he gave yesterday. The lecture was in support of an exhibit mounted for the centenary of the war’s end.

I think we can agree that Ian is a very dapper sock model!20180404_172320 crop

These socks took a loooonnnnggg time to knit because working on 1.75 mm needles was hard on my hands. The tips are especially pointy and if I worked with them for a long time, I got pin pricks on my fingertips that quickly became wounds (perhaps fitting for this recreation). My solution was to put myself on a quota of four rounds per day. This meant they were slow going, but my hands thanked me. I was surprised t what a difference a quarter of a millimeter can make. I make socks on 2.00 mm needles all the time with no problem, but 1.75 mm is a whole new world.20180324_161351

I searched for thin enough sock yarn for a long time, and I’m still not thrilled with the result. This is 85% merino and 15% alpaca, and the alpaca contributes some sagginess to the final garment. However, if any man on this planet will wear sock garters with his dressy, hand wash-only socks, it is Dr. Isherwood! (Well, he’s probably a close second behind Franklin Habit.) He also knows how to hand wash a delicate wool item.

I worked the toes just as the historic socks were made, with a 3-needle bindoff at the tip. It’s weird to my 21st century eyes, but the recreation is true. The heel is good old eye-of-partridge stitch, which is my favorite heel flap stitch anyway. I use it all the time. It has the same strengthening effect as the regular heel stitch that looks a lot like ribbing, but it creates a much thinner fabric:20180324_161359

More notes are on my Ravelry page if you want to make these. The stitch pattern is very simple. The hard part was working at this scale with modern materials.

I just started another pair of “regular” socks on 2.0 mm needles and they feel like they are flying off the needles by comparison. Everything is relative…


  1. I love those excellent socks and the touching and interesting story behind them!

  2. Love these so much. I'm going to look at your notes...