Friday, August 16, 2013

More on Eastern Cross Stitch (Coptic Socks)

There are at least 2 ways to rapidly and effectively produce ECS. Use of short DPN with a long knitting sheath has already been mentioned.

The other is knitting with hooked needles as done by the shepherds in Southern Europe. See for example, Mary Thomass.  This is also a very powerful technique for producing ECS. It is not as fast as DPN, but it is easier when one is walking, or may be interrupted.  If I was sitting knitting, I would use the DPN.  If I was likely to be interrupted, I would use the hooks. The hooks are more suited to multi-tasking.

The two methods favor different kinds of errors and hence different kinds of anomalous stitches.  In either case, the anomalous stitches are not similar to the errors found in uncrossed kitting as produced by modern knitting techniques.  To the modern knitter,  such  anomalous stitches  are counter intuitive.

The modern knitter assumes that such the anomalous stitches must be the result of nalbinding.   One can nalbind the object without bothering to determine if the original object could in fact be “knit”. And proving that the original can be knit does not prove that it was not produced by nalbinding.  All knitting such a sock proves is that there is a faster way to produce that lovely sock fabric.

I am amused at how many modern knitter reject (without trying) the eastern cross stitch as having "No Advantage".  Amazing that a technology would survive for 1,500 years with no advantage.  I expect that modern knitters reject ECS because it is very functional and requires effort.  

It is worth noting that replicas of the Coptic Socks produced by nalbinding do not contain some of the anomalous stitches seen in the original objects.  To me this suggests that the originals were being produced rapidly, likely as  commercial objects.   And, in the original, some of the anomalous stitches are exactly where I tend to drop stitches when knitting that pattern with short, sharp DPN.  Again consistent with someone sitting &  knitting (a professional knitter) rather than a multi-tasking mother.   Some of the anomalous stitches in the original look exactly like my repair of the dropped stitches. 

I like the pattern for socks. It makes a nice heel and a very neat gusset.  I very much wonder why Nancy Bush did not include it in her book on Folk Socks.  She does mention the Coptic Socks.  I like to wear socks with sandals, and the Coptic sock makers seem to have worked out all the details.  That kind of working out of details only comes from long, long experience.  Not just one life time, but generations of incremental improvements.

Such a long experience with socks is at odds with NB's timeline of knitting.  However, long experience makes sense if "pilos" could also refer to knitting. I do not trust translators to understand all of the possible meanings of a word. In particular, Hesiod comes a time following extraordinary upheavals and trans-humance in Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, Sinai Peninsula and North Africa.  In such times, words acquire and lose meanings. 

Knit socks would have been an enabling technology for Alexander the Great or even Datis.  Come on.  They were good spinners.  They had enough leisure to create art and do science.  They had pointy sticks.  And Hesiod is about the time the Greeks started getting steel needles from Anatolia. 

Many a time, I have looked through inventories of archaeological site artifacts, and what strikes me is that there are a lot objects categorized as  "awls" that look like broken DPN.  I ask, "Did you do a wear mark analysis ?", "Do you have a knitter in the group that has used a knitting sheath?".  The Answer is always, "No.".


Marlowe said...

Why are you attacking Nancy Bush now? Is it your intention to attack all knitters who are better known than you? Some of those you attack have spent their professional lives studying textiles and the techniques employed to produce them, taking into account the surviving records whether it be written documents, tools recovered at sites, oral history, etc. for you to assert that they are wrong or lazy is uncalled for and hateful.

Aaron said...

I commented on something that NB chose not to discuss---

And you attack me! Think about the language that I used and the language you used!