Piecework – Mid-Century Argyles

More than 65 years ago, my grandmother sat in her room at Colby College, a small liberal-arts school tucked into the middle of Maine. Curling her feet beneath a wide skirt, Kathy used the light from a nearby window to wind yarn for a special project, its browns and tans matching the bricks of her dorm.

Photos by Gwenne Oberg.

A native of Ohio, Kathy bucked tradition to attend classes halfway across the country, only returning home a few times a year. As she sat missing her family, she opened up a Columbia Minerva Easy to Knit Socks pattern book to a diamond argyle pattern and cast on 68 stitches to make a special pair of socks for her father.

Later, in both a new century and a new millennium, I flip through the pages of Kathy’s 1955 pattern book—the exact copy that Kathy held in her hands when she was not too much younger than me. My Grandma Kathy still has the pair of socks she knitted for her father, and I wear them when I visit her in Maine. I think of her argyle socks, as well as the longer history of argyle patterns, as I wind yarn to knit my own warm, colorful socks.

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