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It's beanies, gloves, and sock season

Yarn and knitting needles

A few mornings ago, I walked out onto my back porch to drink my cup of coffee. One step out and I turned around. I went back inside to grab my hoodie and put on a pair of socks. Finally. Cool mornings and chilly evenings have returned to Western North Carolina.

I love this time of the year. While I have friends who moan the fact that winter is around the corner, I look forward to wrapping up in cozy clothes and sitting in front of a flickering fire. As a lot of winter clothing is made from fuzzy yarn, I thought it would be fun to learn more about this twisted fiber and how it relates to fashion.

It is believed that the idea of using “yarn” to create clothing has been around for over 20,000 years. During this early time, “string skirts” were made by the primitive and painstakingly slow process of rolling plant fibers between palms or against thighs to create a kind of “string.” When the string was long enough, it was twisted and tied together forming a garment of sorts.

With the invention of the spinning wheel, the manufacturing of yarn became much faster. No one knows exactly when the spinning wheel was introduced; probably sometime between 500 and 1000 AD. The early models evolved from having spokes with holes in the ends to wheels with rims and then later to flyer wheels. Foot treadles were designed to free the hands from turning the wheel.

The spinning wheel made it possible to produce yarn fiber at rates up to 100 times faster than before. This led to increased availability and a lower cost of fabric. This development also led to an unplanned and fortunate outcome. As cloth became more accessible, the focus shifted to the paper industry. As paper manufacturing developed, paper became more attainable, resulting in more books, higher education, and the birth of a democracy.

Yarn is now made from fibers ranging from wool to cotton to rayon to acrylic and to everything in between. The fuzzy aspect of yarn is what keeps us warm because the tiny fibers brush against our skin. Crocheting and knitting are extremely popular hobbies. Websites such as as well as bloggers offer both free patterns and patterns for sale. Patterns for shawls, afghans, dolls, and clothing are plentiful.

The classic beanie is enjoying a renewed sense of street style chic. Of course you can wear a beanie with casual clothing, but it is also trendy to wear a beanie with high fashion garments. To wear this quintessential cold-weather hat, pull the beanie over your ears and most or all of your forehead. The bottom edge should end just above your eyebrows. It is stylish to place the hat at a downward angle toward the back of your head.

For your hat to make a statement, wear a color that contrasts with your hair color. The “slouch beanie” has extra length at the crown making it loose and a bit droopy. If you don’t want your slouchy beanie to look slouchy, simply fold the bottom band to create a snug fit.

Once a absolute fashion must—a lady would never leave her home without a pair—gloves remain an essential wintertime accessory. Today’s gloves are not as “fine” as the gloves of the past when even young girls wore them. I remember owning a pair of white, wrist-length gloves with two small pearls sewn onto the side. Modern gloves are however just as practical. Gloves are available in a variety of lengths.

Casual gloves usually hit at, or just above, the wrist. Formal gloves are typically 13 to 14 inches long. At one time, these long gloves may have had a row of buttons requiring a hook to fasten them. Some long gloves had ruching at the sides allowing them to be lengthened or shortened by stretching them up or by pushing them down.

Gloves are available in a wide variety of fibers with wool and cashmere being the warmest. They are also available in leather, suede, and of course plastic—for washing dishes. Today’s gloves are embellished with fringe, embroidery, and flounces. Gloves may not be the all the rage they once were, but they will forever be a flattering and nice ladylike accessory. And of course, they will keep your hands warm.

I confess. I have a sock fetish. Take me to a department store and I will always go by the sock selection to see what is new. I have a sock collection adorned with everything from patterns of the Stars and Stripes, polka dots, bunnies, and ballerinas. Socks are fun and “in fashion.” Once only worn by children or with athletic shoes, fashion socks can now be worn with slides, sandals, and even pumps. When wearing this look, it’s important to wear a thin, short style.

Balance is important to avoid looking too kitschy. The fashion rule to follow is: the crazier the sock, the simpler the shoe. The easy answer to this dilemma is to wear boots. No one will ever know what crazy socks you are wearing. It will be your little sock secret. :)

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