Don’t put your old socks in the trash! Create something fun with your cast offs. Sock monkeys have been around since the Victorian era but their appeal is still as strong today as it was in the 1800s.
What is the Origin of Sock Monkeys?
The Victorians were in love with traveling to far-flung countries where they encountered wildlife they hadn’t seen before. A favorite animal was the monkey, and it didn’t take long before the arts and crafts movement began making soft toy monkeys for children. At home, this fashion was copied by creative mothers who made sock monkeys from old hand-knitted socks. Those who were short of resources regularly re-purposed everything they owned with nothing going to waste.
In the same era, a Swedish gentleman living in the USA named John Nelson built and patented a knitting machine that knitted socks. As the first machine to mass-produce socks, it put Rockford Illinois on the map. In 1880, improvements to the machine meant that the first seamless socks were produced and they were hugely popular. In 1932, a red heel was added to the sock to give it a trademark and differentiate the original product from fakes.
During the 30s and 40s, new fabric was very hard to come by, so using old socks to create monkeys for children grew in popularity. The red heel of the Rockford seamless socks were used as the mouth giving the sock monkey large, red lips. Each monkey had its own personality which gave them their charm. Stuffed with old pantyhose or rags, buttons were used for eyes, outfits were added and noses were stitched from left-over wool. As the fashion for making sock monkeys surged, the Nelson company began adding instructions for the toy with each pair of socks sold.
Today, the oldest sock monkeys are collected and treasured, and new ones are still created every day by crafters. The originals were grey and white, but there’s no reason why they can’t be striped, polka dotted or covered in flamingos! Why not have a go at making your own smiling animal – it’s a great way to stop old socks reaching landfill.