Roman Egyptian Period 1st Century AD
Having been fascinated by this Manchester Museum sock since the late 1980s I was very curious as to how it was constructed. When I first saw it up close, I believed it to be knitted with two needles, worked from the top to toe.
However, from later experiments using Cross Knit looping I have been able to produce this pair in the one needle technique which is called variously Tarim Stitch and Coptic Stitch. This method is a precursor to knitting with two needles. I believe this pair are a closer replica to the Manchester item 983 than those I have previously made.
The method of cross knit looping is worked from the toe upwards, with one needle. Very fortunately I met Anne Marie Decker who is an expert in Nile textile methods on Facebook. Please visit her blog Nalbound.com for a comprehensive account of these Coptic Socks. I adjusted my sock pattern with information generously supplied by Anne Marie.
Recent work by Dr Joanne Dyer a scientist in the British Museum’s department of scientific research, has developed multispectral imaging to establish which dyes were used in this style of sock; madder (red), woad (blue) and weld (yellow) .
The Coptic Socks found, tend to be mono coloured for adults, but striped in many colours for children. The colours are achieved with a combination of madder, woad and weld dyes as in the example in the fragment below found in the Bolton Museum collection.
I experimented with dyes from Wild Colours, but the results were not quite what I wanted, I struggled to get a deep enough colour yarn. So I bought pre-dyed yarn from the very excellent dyers Medieval Colours who were able to match my requirements.
Overall, I am very pleased with the outcome of this project and wish the little socks a happy new life travelling in the History Wardrobe collection.