In Paksworld, as here, clothing quality and style is determined not just by personal taste, but by wealth. Wealthy people can “slum down” in cheap clothes, or rough clothes, if they want to, but they can also afford fine clothes in a variety of fabrics, up and including “bespoke” clothes made especially for them. Poor people now wear cheap mass-made garments, but in the past, though they were limited in both the amount of clothes and the materials available, they could make clothes sturdy and hard-wearing–and fitting the individual, if “fitted” was considered desirable. Durable definitely mattered–the kind of farm family Paks came from did not have a closet full of garments for anyone. Garments that wore out in one place would be cut down for someone else; knitted garments might be unraveled, the sound yarn salvaged to knit something else. Socks were darned, of course, and so were small holes in other garments.
Here are socks made from three different brands of modern yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, Plymouth Yarns Galway Nep, and Ella rae Classic. Would Paks have worn something like this?
The yarns were produced in Peru, Romania, and Turkey, and the actual source of the wool was not given. The middle yarn includes 5% “neps” (different colored flecks) of polyester yarn; the other two yarns are 100% wool. No, Paks would not have worn socks like these. There’s no “Superwash” wool in Paksworld (the treatment doesn’t exist), nor polyester yarn from which the flecks in the Galway Nep yarn are made. The colors are not a problem, however. Purple dyes are known, as are blue and red dyes. Notice how “limp” the superwash yarn socks are; they actually have too much drape. The other two yarns are of a type that might be found on Paksworld at the high end of the yarn market: both commercial knitters and people in larger towns and cities would be able to buy already-spun and dyed yarn, and thus knit (and wear) finer socks and other garments.
Paks’s family lived well north of the Honnorgat, in higher, hilly country looking somewhat like the Yorkshire Dales. Her mother spun and then wove a rougher, less even yarn, and Paks learned to knit socks, mitts, caps, etc. from this kind of yarn. She is not an eager knitter, but she’s a competent one, both at making socks and darning them, as that scene with the doorkeeper in Chaya proved. Although the sock design I developed for my feet might have been used in Paksworld (probably was, someplace) I expect most toes would not have been asymmetrical, since socks wear longer if not always worn on the same foot.
The Herdwick yarn socks finished (unblocked) on the kitchen floor, with the left and right foot shapes showing. This kind of yarn would definitely be available to hill farmers with sheep. Handspun, it would be slightly uneven (the machine-spun yarn I bought isn’t perfectly even either.) This sock design is simple and designed for practicality, with a reinforced heel flap, reinforcement continued under the ball of the heel (a serious wear area) and asymmetric double-decreases to shape the toe. Paks would have made the ribbed cuff/leg longer, and so would most farmers. And on the feet, these socks with their hairy yarn make the feet look bigger:
Note the little “knob” (more visible on the right) where the last stitches have been pulled together (purse-stringed) to close the toe. There’s a more elegant way, Kitchener stitch, to close a toe but I find it annoying and time-consuming, and I would bet dollars to doughnuts that most home knitters–especially the hardworking poor–pulled the stitches together just like I do. The knob is not hard and has yet to bother my feet in shoes.
This is basically the sock Paks would have grown up with, when she wore socks at all–and the kind of sock used in the Duke’s Company as well, though taller, covering more of the leg for protection. Also, both the Duke’s Company and other military organizations often had the yarn from which their socks were made custom-dyed. Many servants would wear socks of this type…undyed wool. Masons, carpenters, leatherworkers, farmworkers, etc. would most likely wear this kind of sock. The color varies with the fleece, of course, and if a household bought yarn spun by others, and could not afford dyed yarn, they could have a choice of this mottled brown-cream-gray, a darker all brown/black, or a lighter cream color. Garments might be knit of it, or woven into fabric to make it.
People with a social role to uphold–the more prosperous merchants and their families, the rich nobles, and in some cases the upper servants in wealthy or royal households–would not wear these socks “0n the job”, though as mentioned before, a rich person might choose these socks for their warmth and durability if out hunting or traveling in wet cold weather. Their socks would be made of finer, smoother, softer yarn, of a color that suited their employer (if a servant) or their pleasure (if the rich person.) A well-to-do merchant family, like the one Arcolin married into, would have soft-wool socks for all, including children like Jamis, and might well purchase some or all ready-knitted.
Kieri and his captains purchased socks knit to order (dyed to match the Company maroon, made to fit them) suitable for wearing under tall boots.) In the country–up north in winter–Kieri and the other captains wore the heavier, bulkier “country” socks except when riding. Some of the soldiers, those brought up in a city, bought and kept a pair of “city socks” for visits to the city when they weren’t in uniform. Fancy socks certainly do exist in Paksworld–usually saved for special occasions–festivals, weddings, and the like. Paks may, at this point in her life, have a few softer, colored socks–gifts, or even something she bought–but her everyday socks will be hard-wearing and practical.
She might even have a pair like looked something like this:
If she did, the socks probably came from Lyonya, known for its green dyes.
Modern knitters have a much broader choice of yarns and patterns and colors. I know some who rave over subtle dull shades that, to me, are…boring. As this shows, my color palette is “bold.”
This is two years’ sock production, more of it in 2013 than in 2012 (when I was just learning–and also three of the pairs are short socks, the ones in the lower right. (There’s also the first pair, now out of service for age and poor fit–it was red.) Paks would have no use for short socks to wear with sandals or sneakers, but some people in Paksworld do make simple (not bright-colored striped) short socks to wear with low shoes in hot weather. Knee socks (which I haven’t tried yet) are common in the Eight Kingdoms, and less common in Aarenis except among soldiers. Greaves over socks don’t wear holes in the skin the way they can do worn “bare.”
(And if you think this post, ostensibly about socks in Paksworld, is just an excuse for the author to show off…I won’t argue with you. <grin>)