Friday, June 5, 2009

Field Trip - Rockford, Hometown of the Sock Monkey

Did you know the sock monkey has a hometown?

Yes! It's Rockford, Illinois which is about 50 miles from my place, as the crow flies. I'm bringing along someone to keep me company on this trip. Casimir will be riding shotgun. Nobody rides in my car unless they're buckled up.

Join us on our adventure to the Sock Monkey Museum in Rockford. Ok, there isn't actually an entire museum devoted to the sock monkey but there is a large exhibit in the Midway Village Museum complex.

The Farmer asked me to make a stop at the bank, after which I headed up Randall Road towards the tollroad. Traffic. The monkey hates traffic.

It was making him very nervous. It's a good thing I know all the backroads. After a quick u-turn we were on our way.

That's better.

There's a large representation of an old vintage postcard at the entrance to the exhibit hall. Remember these?

The sock monkey exhibit pays homage to Rockford's industrial past. Here's one sitting on one of the old knitting machines.

This machine knitted back and forth, producing a flat piece. This meant that the sock would need to be seamed together. A seam in a sock in annoying. In 1873 John Nelson invented a knitting machine that would make socks without seams in the toe or heel. He helped to start the Nelson Knitting Company, and his invention made Rockford a leader in the sock knitting industry.

Later they dipped the heel in red dye to distinguish their product from others that were being produced.

At this point the It's a Small World Rule is put into play. The Nelson Knitting Company went through a number of acquisitions, the Rockford plant was closed and the Red Heeled socks are now made in Osage, Iowa. One of the very first blog friends I made was Kelli at Sugar Creek Farm in Osage, Iowa!

No one knows who made the first sock monkey doll. I count myself as being a fairly creative person but I cannot imagine looking at a pair of socks and saying, "Oh, I'll make it into a monkey. With a huge red mouth". Honestly, baboon is what comes to mind. Here are some very early sock dolls.

There is a great deal of controversy over this matter because no one has been able to find the missing link between these dolls and the monkey.

Casimir decided to try his hand at acting over at the Sock Monkey Puppet Theater.

Yes, he's very tiny and a very bad actor.

These monkeys are so clever.

Sock monkeys from all walks of life are displayed.

We moved on to the next exhibit which invited you to try your hand at milking a fiberglass cow.

Casimir decided to give it a shot.

As you can see, he's lacking some backbone and needed to be propped up with my faux snakeskin wallet. He was not successful, not a drop in the bucket. Who am I to talk because I couldn't produce a drop either. Perhaps Heidi will give me lessons when I visit her dairy farm later this summer. Heidi??

Casimir and I were pooped from all that walking but we met my sister in Belivdere for some pie.

She shared her Key Lime pie with him. (A pie review another day).

On the way home we ran into Sanford and Son.


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Another giveaway! Yes, it's crazy.

Please leave a comment and tell me your own personal sock monkey story. If you don't have one, make it up. We have creative writing teachers and professional authors who read this blog, so make it good! These won't be graded, it will be the usual rabbit-out-of-a-hat style drawing.

Here's what will be given away (in the order the names are drawn).

- A Sock Monkey Wooden Nickel . Who knew there was such a thing? There is, and this is your chance to own one.

- A Sock Monkey postcard. In the tradition of my Post Card Projects, I will send one lucky winner this lovely post card.

- Two Pairs of Rockford Red Heel Socks complete with directions to make your own sock monkey! And yes, if you win I expect you to make the darn thing.

- Casimir, the 4-1/2 inch tall Sock Monkey. Yes, I am finding Casimir a new home. It's not that I don't love him, I do. He's a good traveling companion but at 4-1/2 inches he's too tall for my purposes. My intention in making Casimir was to fashion a monkey that would fit on my daughter's key chain. I used the crochet cotton I had on hand and it's larger than the designer intended. (Her sock monkey is only 1-1/2 tall). So Casimir will find a home and I will find some smaller crochet thread.

Contest ends 6 p.m. Central Standard Time on Sunday. Winners announced at the Monday morning staff meeting which will be held at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant (virtual location of your choice).

Good luck everyone, and thanks for traveling with me on yet another adventure!


Heidi said...

HOW COOL! You are are going to regret asking to learn...... *wags finger at Sue* I cant WAIT till you get up here! Sue from Florida is going to be sending me the dates that she is coming up so we can kind of negotiate when/how things will work. I AM SO EXCITED.. can you tell - should I say it again? I AM SO EXCITED!!! *starts to do the chicken dance* NOW look what you have done!! LOL

Thirkellgirl said...

I always wanted a sock monkey, but it was a step-too-far in my crafting abilities. I've always looked at the sock-monkey socks in the Vermont Country Store catalog. (Is that enough of a story?) If you don't get that catalog you *have to!

I didn't realize you were so close to Rockford! When we were driving to take dear daughter to college in Wisconsin Rockford was our stopping-place both out and back. I think we missed all the scenic parts, though, as we mostly hit the motels, Starbucks, and Cracker Barrel (and some "clock tower" from afar...). If I win I want the staff meeting in the Rockford Cracker Barrel (or "Snacker Apparel," as our warped daughters call it...)

Significant Snail said...

Casimir is adorable, and you are certainly talented. I'm glad he got to go on a trip to learn about his ancestry. I have three sock monkeys: two basic and one girl. The girl has blonde braids and a lovely dress and pinafore..and little felt shoes. I never owned one growing up but always admired them. I found mine at an estate sale several years ago.

LydaBabes Going Ons!!!! said...

Way too cool!!! I am born and raised in Ill and I didn't know Sock Monkey was from Illinois. I lived in the southern part and when we'd go to Chicago every one thought we were from the deep south with our accent....

I hate to say it but I never had a sock monkey. I always wanted one. Other kids had sock monkeys and I was so envious of them. I finally got one when I was 16....a special boyfriend got him for me. We called him monkeymonk.....he went everywhere with us on dates. But as everyone knows 3 is a crowd. So I finally dumped the boyfriend. monkeymonk and I had great fun then. We would hop into my Studebaker Lark and off we'd go to the all these exciting places. Drive in movies, he was such a gentleman, homecomings, and dances. He was a wild man at the dances..... But to my dismay we parted ways....someone stole him. Till this day I look every where for monkeymonk and hope he found a good home and someone is still loveing him and taking him places. I miss my Monkeymonk.....

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I've never owned a sock monkey, but being a collector of cute miniature things of all kinds, I am charmed! Love the photos of the little guy posing in various spots of interest. Love your humor!

Piecefulafternoon said...

Well - my favorite sock monkey story is about one that a group of internet friends made. We had a contest to name her - and she is now Lucy Threads - our group is called Loose Threads. She travels from house to house - and at each house she has to have something new made for her. She has a tiny quilt, earrings, hair and a necklace. She hasn't visited me yet - but if I win and make a new sock monkey she will have a friend to play with when she gets here.

Jody Blue said...

I never had a sock monkey as a kid, my brother had one. Last summer his daughter came for a visit she LOVES sock monkeys so I had the stuff(ing) ready so she oculd make her own. Let me tell you they are not easy to do! Since she stuck to it and finished it I decied to make her this
for her birthday! She loved it, so do I if I weren't over 40 I'd make one for myself!

BellaDella said...

This post makes me smile so much. How funny. And thank you for showing that vintage postcard. I am working on a save the date card for an event at work and that is great inspiration.

Have a great weekend.

martina said...

I've never had a sock monkey, now isn't that sad?
If I did have one, it would be named....Sockrates!

Jody Blue said...

I for got to say that my MIL (mother in law) gave me a store bought one for Christmas, sits on a childs chair kinds behind my Bible reading chair--poor fellow has to sit back there-he's no match for an 85 lb labradoodle that has a sock fetish (rarely shews them just likes to get one and stand in front of you tosay here I am now pay attention to me)

Amber said...

sock monkey was savagely eaten by a miniature poodle named Fe-Fe when I was about 9. I cried and cried, but I never got another one. His name was sockszillion.
On the other note, I have never milked a cow, but I have milked a goat... but thats another story...

Kitty said...

A Christmas tradition in our house is that everyone gets a pair of socks in their stocking. This past year I bought sock-monkey socks for my husband but they were soon confiscated by our daughter who crafted them into a sock monkey. I never had one as a child, but now we have one visiting until my daughter moves out. Enjoyed the trip and glad Casimir got to go along and keep you company.

Leann said...

I'd wanted s sock monkey for years and then one year my Sweet SIL gave me a kit to make one. I made it that very night and he has been sitting in my antique high-chair ever since.

But, you've inspired me to give him some new scenery:)

Enjoy your weekend!

Ang. said...

I am ashamed to say that even though I grew up close to Rockford, I had no idea that Rockford Socks came from there!

I still have the sock monkey that my Grandma made me when I was a little girl. It was one of the many handmade gifts she made all of her grandkids for Christmas. That monkey has sat upon my bed or dresser ever since I received him. And, yes, even as a 40-something mother of 4, that monkey still adorns my dresser!

Sadie said...

I actually have a sock monkey story, well, not so much of a story really. My mom gave me one when I was pregnant with my first daughter, about 8 years ago. It's a girl sock monkey, she's cute :) They'd make such a pair!

Lucky you, ya get to go visit heidi! Have fun learning how to milk, you'll have so much fun! I need her to teach me how to make bread, lol.

Annette said...

I love sock monkeys and made two for our grandsons. I had no pattern and no red-heeled socks but did the best I could from photos on the net. I dressed them in little t-shirts and shorts. When the boys arrived (aged 6 and 3) I proudly thrust the monkeys at them. They shrank away..."Scarey monkeys!"

Mogsie said...

I scared the heebie jeebies out of my eldest daughter with a sock monkey ~ many many years ago (nearly 26!) up shot of the story is that I snuck up on her, and had the monkey say "hi" ~

BAD thing to do...I don't think she has forgiven me to this day.


Nancy said...

When I was 5 my mother made me a sock monkey. I was so excited until it was time for bed. I was so scared of that monkey at night. Flash forward 25 years. Now I am married and have a 5 year old daughter of my own. I proudly give her my sock monkey and she screams all night. Poor little monkey had to live in the closet for years! Now he is old and worn,but he proudly sits on my daughter's top shelf.

ingasmile said...

I love, love, love the little sock monkey and so does my little 7 year old! We read the whole story of your field trip together and he wants me to make him a little sock monkey (I don't know how to crochet)



That's not Sandford. That's Jethro.

Marfa (formula for a life) said...

Speaking as a 40 year old sock monkey, I must say that I’m impressed with that exhibit. However, it’s a shame that they don’t have any personal stories. Why didn’t they interview any sock monkey? How come there is no video of Geraldo Rivera holding a sock monkey baby? Do you know how many of my friends and family have gone missing in dryers everywhere? I used to have a twin! Then one day we were put in the laundry together, I came out, she is still missing! Darned jeans, I’ll bet she’s inside a pocket. How come there is no mention about the eternal debate, were we created by an intelligent being? Or did we develop as a natural selection from pantaloons and long johns? I know, there’s the missing link between the long johns and the socks, but perhaps one day a seamstress or crafter somewhere will figure it out. How about lint? That is a sock monkey’s pet peeve! I hate lint. It makes me look old! Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you, thank you for blogging about us the sock monkeys.

jmmyndlnd said...

I love the sock monkey, I like minature things the smaller the better, and I also like the socks. Love your blog, I have to catch up on the weekends cause it's too hard to read it during the week since I work, but it's worth the wait. Linda B.

Steph said...

I never had a sock monkey, but the first gift I ever recieved from a boy was a sock puppet. Does that count? lol

Farmchick said...

Alas, I have never owned a sock monkey....but, I think Casimir is rather handsome. Love this post.

Mary said...

my best friend lives in Rockford and one day at work at the Michaels there she met a lady who works at and has made most of the monkeys for the sock monkey museum. They are all named and she asked permission to name a monkey "aleda". She was taken by her name and there were no monkeys there named Aleda yet.

Thanks for the tour as I've not gotten there yet.

Brenda said...

I love sock monkeys. I had no idea that Rockford was th home of the sock monkey. I have made several as gifts for nieces and nephews, but I saved the best and biggest one for myself. My hubby even sleeps in sock monkey boxes.

Liz in PA said...

OK..........hope I win!

I have a very good friend and she used to knit Sock Monkey Stuffed Monkeys for a Church Craft Sale.

One time I sent for a pattern to the Company.....and I received the pattern and a tiny miniature little sock! You would need more than a few to complete a Sock Monkey Doll.......wonder where I put that little gem?

Great post about the Sock Monkey History!

Liz in PA

Jan said...

Loved the pics of your field trip to Rockford...a dream destination of mine, too!

I made my first sock monkey about 18 months ago...her name is Miss Millie. Next came Dusty, then Lucky...Betsy, Skippy, Mike and Molly and on and on it went until now I'm on number 110!

I keep about a dozen monkeys here on Sock Monkey Ranch. Miss Millie actually owns the ranch, Dusty is her ranch foreman and he's sweet on Miss Millie, but too shy to tell her, Betsy is the ranch cook and...well, you can read it all for yourself at

Don't forget to have a peek into Miss Millie's Diary and Dusty's Journal...I think I see a romance blossoming!

Casimir is too cute. All the sock monkeys here on the ranch think so. Please send him our kindest regards.

Resident Grandma at Sock Monkey Ranch

sugarcreekfarm said...

Fun field trip! Those socks are indeed made here now, at Fox River Mills. They're on the edge of town & I can see their factory from our second story :)

Lynne said...

I feel lonely and deprived. Here in the U.K. we don't have sock monkeys; don't actually know anything about them. Do they have a story? I shall make myself some sock monkeys. Ahhh! Sweet!


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