This is my book report on “Fancy Feet, traditional knitting patterns of Turkey”

Because of Bob’s posts and Ron’s subsequent mention of Anna Zilboorg I was inspired to borrow “Fancy Feet, traditional knitting patterns of Turkey” by Anna Zilboorg from the San Francisco Public and I have to say it has knocked my socks off. (If you live in the USA and your local library doesn’t have anything by Anna Zilboorg, chances are that your library belongs to a consortium of libraries and may be able to get it from a participating library.)

It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

There is a picture of a pair of Turkish socks on the cover and they look like something out of Tolkien. Or maybe from the Middle Ages. A caption beneath one of the many beautiful color photos in this book says, “The pointed toe and triangular heel distinguish a traditional Turkish stocking from its Western counterpart.” And boy howdy, do they!

Though these socks are multi-colored stranded pieces, to my eye they seem very different altogether from Fair Isle work. Where the colors in Fair Isle seem to dove tail and blend into each other, the colors in these Turkish socks can contrast with each other quite loudly but not stridently.

Here are some bits from the book jacket. “...Figure and ground frequently interlock and balance each other, making it difficult to determine which is which. As a result, your eye dances between the two, and the interplay of color between figure and ground becomes more dynamic. Even common patterns such as stars and triangles appear fresh and new in these designs.

“Despite their visual complexity, Turkish patterns are surprisingly easy and satisfying to knit. Many of the patterns are built from just a few small units, and others are composed of only two or three different rows. The natural rhythms and repetitions that characterize these patterns are quickly learned by your fingers, almost before your mind can comprehend them...”

And here’s the dirt on Anna Zilboorg herself, “Anna Zilboorg is an Anglican solitary living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Her manual work is dyeing yarn and knitting clothing for craft shows. In the past, she has reared children, taught literature at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made quilts in Appalachia, and served as a housemother for homeless young men in New York.”

And finally as a practitioner of PK (the Portuguese knitting method) I was amazed to see in the dedication (“To my Turkish sisters, who have given me more than I could have asked for, more than they could have imagined.”) a picture of a Turkish woman knitting with the yarn around her neck. That strengthens my belief that the Portuguese got this method from the Arabs when the Iberian peninsula was under Islamic rule from the 8th to the 14th century.

If you have an interest in sock knitting and/or stranded knitting, I think you would find this book well worth your while.

Disclaimer: I haven’t actually read this book yet. I only got it out of the library today but was so blown away by just leafing through it that I felt like I had to say something quick.


Bill's picture

I wish you had gone to this years Stitches could have met Anna Zilboorg!
an amazingly gracious lady...

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Anna Zilboorg has been a great influence on me since I first learned af her many years ago. Not so much for socks and/or other knitting, but just her philosophy of life and the approach to it. And yet, the influence on knitting is there because of the approach to life and the creative process. Great woman and person. I hope to meet her some day but that is totally up to Fate. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

bobinthebul's picture

Hmmm...I have a friend coming from California on the 22nd...maybe I can order a copy of this book and have her bring it to me. (On the other hand, I have friends whose mothers and grandmothers and one father does this stuff, so I need to take advantage of that too!)

Tom Hart's picture

It's a beautiful book. And it's got a lot of pictures of some really beautiful socks but the collection of photos that you just posted is equally as beautiful. So on that score I'm not sure you'd see anything really new in it. But it does have pages and pages and pages of charts, though. For that reason I think I'm going to buy it. (If it's still in was published back before the turn of the century in 1994.) But if you know people right at the source who are actually making these socks, that's better yet.

Tom Hart's picture

There has been a discussion in the PK Ravelry group about Anna Zilborg's book and "Ixtab", who's done some really excellent PK videos on YouTube, commented about it. She said that Anna Zilborg's book is actually not that good and that "Ethnic Socks and Stockings" by Priscilla Gibson Roberts is actually a lot better. The book is out of print but I've requested it via an inter-library loan from the San Diego Public Library. When it gets here I'll post about it. In the meantime if you're interested in this topic go to the "pk fair isle socks? does anyone?" discussion in the Portuguese Knitters group on Ravelry to read Ixtab's lengthy comment.