The Wonderful World of Sock Monkeys!

Archive for December, 2011

Time to meet Monkey!


Another introduction to a coworker’s vintage sock monkey this week. Kara’s mom made “Monkey” for her in the early 1970s when she was two years old. Her mom is a phenomenal seamstress and during her 4H sewing days won lots of ribbons at the Nebraska State Fair for her projects. I really like Monkey’s embroidered face, which is great for a little kid – no buttons or other trim to come off and accidentally be swallowed.

One of the awesome things about Monkey are the photos Kara has of him from when she was little. Like so many of our moms did when we left for college, Monkey was packed away into a box with other childhood playthings. A few years ago while Kara was going through these boxes, Monkey was found and happily reunited with his owner. Unfortunately, some nasty critter was less-than-kind to his arm and part of his tail while he was in storage. After some surgery and restoration, he’s good as new, even though he’s now an amputee. We decided it sounded a lot more noble and gave Monkey good street cred to say he’d lost his arm in the infamous “Playground Wars” of the 1980s.

Aunt Molly, Monkey and Gertrude

Monkey joined Aunt Gertrude and Molly on the work table and kept us company for awhile – they look great together!

Kara and Monkey with her dad - Christmas 1973

Kara and toy friends, including Monkey - 1974

Monkey is a fighter! Now an amputee, he still has a cheerful outlook on life -

Monkey looks on as Kara opens one of her other favorite childhood presents - an orange acrylic crocheted shawl - 1973

Introducing Robert!

Welcome, Robert!

This month I’ve been working on PNB’s annual production of “Nutcracker”, which has been a pretty decent way to spend a December. Perry, one of the young ballerinas from the Professional Division asked me if I’d make a sock monkey as a Christmas present for her dad. She was so sweet about it I had to say yes, even though I probably should have just said “Bah, humbug!” and continued working on the other dozen projects that needed to be completed before Christmas.

Part of her request was to give the monkey blue eyes like her dad and a winter ski hat. I really didn’t think it would be a problem, figuring I’d just make a fleece hat for the monkey by shrinking down the human-sized pattern I already had. Wrong! I always seem to forget the proportions are crazy for a sock monkey, and in the case of a ski hat, you can’t really pull it down on the head because there’s not much crown and it’s so soft. I kept fitting it and cutting it down, and after more than an hour, was satisfied with the result. Just to make sure it stayed on, I stitched the hat to its head, and gave him a scarf to match. Perry was thrilled with the finished monkey and said it turned out exactly like she was hoping it would. As with every sock monkey, it had to have a name, so we named him Robert, after Perry’s dad. Naturally, it’s perfect for him.

I’d been thinking I wanted to create a “basic sock monkey” that wasn’t wearing a labor-intensive, detailed costume. I liked the result of this monkey too, and now that I have the hat pattern right, believe Robert will represent as my official, basic spokes-monkey model. Robert can be customized with different eye or hat colors – he’d look great wearing the colors of your favorite college ball team!

A visit from vintage sock monkeys

Aunt Molly, left and Gertrude, right - lifetime friends!

I’ve been working on a couple of monkeys on my breaks at work, which has initiated a lot of interest from those I work with and loads of sharing their personal sock monkey memories. Lots of people had them when they were kids, but lucky for me, a couple still own their monkeys and promised to bring them to work for show and tell.

My coworker Stephanie told me she had two monkeys when she was little, and really wanted me to see them. She loves these monkeys and is really happy she’s held on to them for more than 50 years. “Gertrude” and “Aunt Molly” were gifts from her grandfather in the mid 1950s, when Stephanie was about four years old. “My grandfather worked for the Adler Hosiery Company in Cincinnati, and I think he bought them from somebody at work who made them.” Aunt Molly was named for one of her favorite aunts, and she couldn’t remember why she named her Gertrude. “I guess he just looked like a Gertrude to me,” she said. At one time Gertrude did have an outfit, but Stephanie told me it’s been gone for years.

These two girls are charmers! We set them up in the middle of the work table, gave Gertrude a sprig of holly to put her in a holiday mood, and they kept us company for several days. I love the pipe cleaner glasses on Aunt Molly. I’ve been wondering

Aunt Molly and her great glasses

how to do glasses for one of my monkeys in progress, and now I know! And Gertrude has a really interesting face – it’s actually another toe end of a sock that has been appliqued on to the sock body. Another great idea and gives Gertrude so much character.

Gertrude has the best face!

Enjoy the pictures of these sweet holiday visitors…..

The sock monkeys and me in print

Earlier this summer when I was the featured “New Visions” artist at McCaw Hall, the Seattle Opera blog featured some photos of my sock monkeys and a story about me. I was pretty chatty when they interviewed me, and there’s a couple of pretty good quotes – check it out here. You may notice they’re called sock puppets – I wasn’t allowed to call them sock “monkeys” because the term “monkey” could potentially offend opera patrons. Go figure…..