Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sock Monkey Madness

Sock Monkeys are making a comeback, but where are they coming back from?

I never knew or heard of sock monkeys as a kid. In fact, I didn’t know what they were prior to 2004 when an eBay customer requested a miniature sculpted sock monkey

A sock monkey is a stuffed toy puppet handmade from an old sock. The traditional monkey is made from a gray working sock with white heels and red stitching

The exact origin of the sock monkey is unknown; it is believed to have originated in the Victorian Era when the ‘stuffed animal’ craze swept the European nations.
The sock monkey settled itself into US history with the invention of Swedish immigrant John Nelson’s sock knitting machine. What started out as a gray knitted working sock soon became the foundation for the homemade sock monkey.

The Great Depression left many families unable to purchase new toys for their young children. And so came about the explosion of the sock monkey. The traditional working sock from Nelson Knitting Mills, Rockford, Illinois, became the primary starting material for the traditional sock monkey, and a comfort to young children in these trying times
In 1932 Nelson Knitting Mills added red stitching to the heel of their socks to set them apart from other sock companies. This red addition is the source of the iconic red mouthed gray monkey.
These monkeys became so popular, that in 1951 a sock monkey pattern and instructions were included with every package of Nelson Socks.

The sock monkey has come and gone many times since then, reappearing in children’s books, cartoons, and toys of many other forms

I love sculpting these little monkeys. What started out as simple gray miniatures soon grew into jewelry, trinkets, and collectibles of many sizes and colors.

I sculpt my ‘fabric’ monkeys from a mixture of Premo and Granitex Sculpey Polymer Clay. The Granitex clay with its special embedded fibers give my monkeys their realistic ‘sock-like’ effect

See additional Sock Monkey products in my Artfire Shop

But today's Sock Monkey goes even farther

Here are some additional sock monkey items sold by some of my friends on Etsy


  1. I had no idea about the history of sock monkeys..thanks for sharing. I love your sock monkeys!
    Thanks for sharing my sock monkey invitation and gift tags!

    heehee..how many times can I say sock monkey.

  2. This is a wonderful blog! You are a very smart girl!

  3. Ann Mooney who has written most of the current sock monkey books was a frequent guest on the Carol Duvall show. As a show producer, it was my job to write "bits" for SM (as he was known to his friends and co-workers!) He's always been pretty popular in MY world! I still have the sock monkey Carol gave to me.

    Becky Meverden also made him many times on our show and I have a few of her SM creations... one watches me brush my teeth! The neatest sock monkey I've ever seen was in glass bead form. He was made by Lezlie Bellanger as a gift to Carol and he was stunning!

  4. Duh, Becky was also a polymer clay artist...

  5. Very interesting to learn the history of sock monkeys! I love all of the different creations!

  6. Very interesting and cute :) I had never heard of sock monkeys growing up.

  7. can I just shout I LOVE LOVE LOVE SOCK MONKEYS!!!

  8. Leah you write the best blogs! I want to make a sock monkey now!

  9. Like you I never knew about sock monkeys, but definitely an interesting history on them! They're making their way back into people's hearts and collections. The items you listed are beautiful!

  10. I used to love sock monkeys when I was little.

  11. Omg, those little sock monkeys are soooo cute! :) Great history lesson!

  12. I LOVEDDD this post Leah!!!! I just want the old instructions picture to open up bigger!!!

  13. Thank you everyone I do love sculpting these monkeys

    and Borneo I made the old instructions open onto a new page just for you

  14. Great post! I never knew where the sock monkey came from . Yours are adorable!