Posted by: Leslie | November 16, 2008

Turkish knitting, and a long-forgotten library book

Several years ago, back when I was still a fairly new knitter, I started working on some patterns from a book called Hats On! by Charlene Schurch. In a few of the patterns the author makes reference to a book of Turkish sock motifs that she adapted for hats and sweaters, though she never names the book itself.

In contrast to stranded colourwork designs from Scandinavia or the British Isles, which feature quite distinct and separate visual elements, Turkish knitting shows the Islamic influence of interlocking motifs that flow down the length of the knitted item, usually emphasising diagonal lines:

There are a few rare and highly sought-after books of Turkish knitting motifs out there, one of them being Anatolian Knitting Designs by Betsy Harrell, another is Knitted Stockings from Turkish Villages by Kenan Özbel. Both aren’t really pattern books per se, but more collections meant to document and preserve the incredibly complex and beautiful motifs created by Turkish folk knitters. Both are also, unfortunately, long out of print. I’ve kept my eye out for them over the past couple of years but have never had any luck getting my hands on a copy, as libraries don’t seem to have them and used copies tend to go for $80 and upwards.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to check out the Fine Arts library at Penn. The textiles section is disappointingly tiny, but as I searched for knitting titles I found this: Türk köylü çorapları by Kenan Özbel. That would be the book I mentioned before, albeit in the original Turkish rather than the English translation. I couldn’t believe it and quickly snatched up the book before anyone else could get it (not that I needed worry, since the stamp in the back revealed the last time it was checked out was seventeen years ago). I’m fairly certain this is the book used by Charlene Schurch for her Turkish motifs, as they are all pictured in it in stocking form. It’s really an amazing book, with both photographs of actual knitted stockings (such as the one I showed above) and illustrated charts of motifs:

With my grad/professional student status I get to check out library books until March 30, 2009; kind of a strange and arbitrary date but that gives me plenty of time to go through and select some motifs to adapt into hats, mittens, and yes, socks. I’ve begun working on one for a hat and plan to put it up on this blog as it progresses.

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Responses

  1. Nice to see this Turkish art in your blog. I`m also Turkish. My grandmother -in Turkey- knows different motifs.
    Beatifull!!

    Greeting,
    from Holland

  2. I love Turkish designs, and it’s a beautiful book. Makes me wish I spoke Turkish, but I’ve been able to figure the names of most of the motifs with a dictionary. Does your grandmother knit socks/stockings?

  3. A book you might enjoy is:

    Folk Designs from the Caucasus

    This book was published by Dover Publications in 1974. It is based on the original publication of 1961, Azerbaidzhanskii Kovyor. This book is no longer in print, but if you find a copy, get it. The kinds of designs presented are very rare and difficult to find. There are 451 lovely motifs to choose from, including many border designs.


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