Research test 2: knitted socks

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There is an overview of this project and presentation on this page

This post is meant as an appendix for my talk at CAA UK today 23. Feb 2013.

Disclaimer: This is only meant as an overview of the subject of accessing data. I am aware that there is many more data resources out there. Please correct me if I have misunderstood your resource and enlighten me if I haven’t mentioned your resource.

This is the second in a small series of research tests to see how much information I can gather about an archaeological/historical subject/item using only the internet.

Why knitted socks?

Because I am a knitter and I love textiles and I am very interested in historic crafts, and I think that sometimes (just sometimes) you need to be able to use fun examples that are close to your heart <3

Let’s begin by looking for some knitted socks on the big old internet. If we google ‘knitted socks’ we get several results with titles suck as ‘learn to knit socks’ or ‘a simple knitted sock pattern for beginners. One of the top results when I do the search is ‘knitting 101’ from the great online knitting magazine

But this is not quite what I wanted to find when I set out to search for knitted socks. If I instead search for something like ‘historic sock knitting’ or ‘historic craft sock knit’ I get more specific results, but most are blog posts about the history of sock knitting. One though is for a pair of Egyptian socks in V & A Museum’s catalogue. They are not actually knitted socks but made from a predecesor to knitting called nålbinding (if you want to know more about nålbinding we made a lovely how-to on Historic Crafts when that was running).

So, now that I am in the V&A collections and looking around I will do a search for ‘knit socks’. This returns 156 results, 56 of them with images. All the older samples seem to be from Egypt. However, I am not planning to look at the geographical spread like with the pålstaves for several reasons. 1) I have already showed how to do this with the previous research, 2) Socks are textiles and are not preserved as well as bronze, therefore much fewer historic knitted socks have been saved. So let’s look instead at some other ways to reuse data.

V&A is a good place to begin when it comes to images and reuse of images. They have really thought of how people can use and reuse their images (see their getting started guide). They differentiate between low-res and high-res images.

To download a low-res image, right click the image and select ‘Save Picture as/copy image’ from the pop-up menu. You will then be able to save the image onto your PC or mobile device. V&A

The low-res images are: ‘Suitable for PowerPoint presentations and online use’. They can be used for: ‘Personal use: this means the use of a single copy of each image by one person for non-commercial research and private study.’ In comparison the high-res images can be downloaded through their smart downloading system where you again have to register yourself and inform them of how you wish to use the image. This seems like a perfectly fair policy and I like that it is made so clear on their website and if fairly easy to do without having to contact them directly.

If I want to continue to look for knitted sock related images on the internet there are two more places I would visit. One is Flickr’s The Commons where I find a only five images of knitted socks. One is from the State Library of New South Wales (somewhere I would never have thought to look if they hadn’t made it available through this platform) of Red Cross women knitting socks for soldiers in World War I. The second place is Wikimedia Commons which also returns some results, some relevant and some not.

What both these repositories have in common (apart from the name!) is that they contain freely licensed imagery. The difference is that while Wikimedia Commons contains imagery from private volunteering individuals and Flickr Commons contains imagery from cultural heritage institutions. Flickr Commons use the term: ‘No known copyright restrictions’ to make publicly held photography collection more available as in the case with the image of the Red Cross Women.

While I gather from all these image repositories that I can freely use the images for my research none of them clearly state whether I as a private individual can add these images to my private/research blog with the correct copyright statement. I think this is something that they should adress to that it is clear for the scores of bloggers out there where you stand. Can you use an image on your blog without feeling guilty and unsure.

The last issue with images is searching. Do you have to go to the different websites to search and then download each individual image. For V&A, yes! For Flickr, no! Flickr has a wonderful api which can be used for upload, requests and response.
The nifty Api Explorer allows you to create Restful Webservice url’s which you can use to retrieve different information from flickr in different formats (e.g. XML, JSON). Here is a link to the XML response of a list on photos I have on flickr in a set called knitted socks. All the methods in the Flickr Webservice are related so that I can use information from this result to call another method. In this example I will use the photo id to call the method.
[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157626173035618″]

If you want to know more about Webservices in the Humanities and try out the Flickr Api a good starting point is the Webservices Tutorial I made for a class at UCL. This links to a Webservice Transformer interface I created for the students to explain what Webservices are and how they can work.
Api Garden Flickr

The last type of data about knitted socks I want to look at now is texts, or rather primary sources. For this I will go to one of the most well known references to knitted socks in a historic document. I will go to the Vindolanda Tablets, and I will go to the online version 2. If I go to the index searcher and search for ‘udo’ I find tablet 346 which contains the much referenced item. Despite several claims of this on the internet the tablet does not mention (according to this reading) that the socks are knitted.
Screen Shot 2013-02-14 at 12.43.27

However, I still want to use this as an example to show again how this is built on Restful webservice. The url for the search above is:;pattern=udo

Check out the resulting XML here!

Just for good order – the Perseus collection also has texts that mention knitted socks.

More about historic knitting
If you want to know more about the history of knitting (which this post is not meant to cover) please have a look at my friend Helene’s post on this from Historic Crafts or for a more practical perspective my own interview of a historic hand knitter.