Length: 21.5 cm approx., Width: 8.4 cm approx, Height: 10 cm approx.
Excavated from Christian burial grounds in the late Roman city of Oxyrynchus (now known as al-Bahnasa) during excavations by the Egypt Exploration Fund during the winter of 1896/7.
Historical significance: This is an important example of single-needle knitting, the technique thought to pre-date true (double-needle) knitting. The only example in the V&A's collections with ribbing in this technique.
A sock with big toe worked separately from the others, single-needle knitted in purple wool (dyed with red and blue dyes). It has a narrow 'tongue' at the front of the ankle, laced to the rest of the sock. There is one inch of ribbing at the top of the sock and the heel is shaped. The guage is 9 stitches and 12 rows per inch.
Before the technique of knitting with two needles evolved, textiles with a very similar structure and texture were created by a technique known as ‘single-needle knitting’. This sock, made in this method, was intended to be worn with sandals, as the big toe is shaped separately from the other toes. It was excavated from Christian burial grounds of the late Roman period, found in the present-day city of al-Bahnasa in Egypt.
This used yarn threaded through the eye of a sewing needle worked in the round through a series of loops. It was much more laborious and slower than knitting with two needles, as the yarn could only be worked in short lengths. Extra pieces of yarn had to be spliced on as the ‘knitting’ progressed.