Knit One, Empower Too! Preserving a Cultural Tradition One Sock at a Time
The cool weather has descended upon us here in Savannah, GA and if you're like me that means one thing, cold feet! As a knitter, I always start out the autumn season with the best of intentions that this WILL BE the year I successfully knit a pair of warm wooly socks. Ten years later I have yet to successfully "turn a heel" while knitting socks. It doesn't matter how many YouTube videos I watch or advice I get from other knitters, somehow the pesky heel of a sock has become my Everest, and yes, I am submitting! So, I set out this year to see if I could find a cooperative of knitters that could help keep my feet warm and toasty all winter long.
After lots of outreach I came across an amazing group of women from Azerbaijan that knit traditional jorab slippers and boy, oh boy, I can't wait to share their story and absolutely beautiful slippers with everyone. I actually connected with them last year, but their jorabs are so in demand I was unable to curate them for the store. I was determined that this season would include their hand knit items, and I am beyond thrilled we were able to work it out. I can guarantee a few things: you are going to fall in love with these women, go crazy for the colors and craftsmanship and yes, your feet WILL BE so warm! I hope you enjoy reading their story and as always, thank you for choosing to join us on our journey to advocate for ethical shopping.
Located at the heart of ancient civilizations, Azerbaijan has been invaded and fought over by many empires and rulers, including Alexander the Great, the Roman general Pompey, the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, and Russia’s Peter the Great. Russia’s imperial rule over this region began in 1723 with Peter the Great’s Caspian crusade and ended after World War I when Azerbaijan seized the opportunity to declare its independence. However, within two years of declaring independence, Russia again asserted its rule over Azerbaijan and the country was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union and governed under Communist rule for the next 70 years.
During the late 1980s, many Azerbaijanis were hopeful that independence would return as a result of the Soviet Union’s decline, but in 1990 Soviet troops invaded Baku, resulting in the deaths of more than a hundred civilians. In the end, however, Azerbaijan’s pro-Moscow regime grew weaker and by 1991, popular pressure led the country to break away from Soviet rule and declare its independence. Unfortunately for the next several years the country found itself engaged in a full-scale war with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region that continues to plague the country today resulting in thousands of refugees and cost 30,000 lives.
However, through the turmoil of conflict, the traditions and culture of the Azerbaijani people remain strong. One such tradition is the jorab, knitted socks that are a national symbol of the Azerbaijani culture. These multicolored socks with intricate patterns are traditionally knitted using 5 double-pointed needles (WHAT!) using wool or cotton. Each pattern is unique to the people and region where they are knitted and were traditionally made as part of a bride’s dowry.
Our newest partner, Azerbaijani Socks, is providing employment for women in rural Azerbaijan through the traditional craft of knitting jorabs. Their vision is to provide fairly paid, flexible employment for women through a craft that has continued for generations, and to provide a cozy, handmade, unique, quality product to sell outside of Azerbaijan. These socks are knit in their homes, allowing women to work from home and earn income for their families. Each sock is made with unique colors and designs and are a combination of high quality yarn, hours of labor, and modernized versions of traditional designs.
We hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look at the women we've partnered with through Azerbaijani Socks and hope you enjoy shopping our new collection of their beautiful items.