Knitting Traditions from Around the World: One Woman’s Quest

Irene Waggener’s global travels inspire her spinning and knitting classes—including at this year’s SOAR event—her patterns, and even a book!

Debbie Blair Mar 1, 2024 - 5 min read

Knitting Traditions from Around the World: One Woman’s Quest Primary Image

Irene Waggener (shown at left) and some of the spinners she met in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. All photos courtesy of Irene Waggener

Irene Waggener is a storyteller and world traveler. Her goal? To research and document knitting traditions around the world. To gain an understanding of what life is like in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains, Irene spent three years researching, observing, and interviewing the women who spin wool into yarn and the shepherds who use that yarn to knit socks, pants, and other articles of clothing using patterns that have been passed down from their fathers, and their fathers’ fathers, and so on, for generation after generation.

In Timloukine, in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains, it is the men who do the knitting. Several of the women Irene visited shared socks that had been knitted by their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and cousins.

In her resulting book, Keepers of the Sheep: Knitting in Morocco’s High Atlas and Beyond, Irene shares patterns from the High Atlas shepherds she worked with to record their practices and adapt their patterns for a wider audience, as well as patterns that she re-created from historical accounts and artifacts. She is currently living in Yerevan, where she is working on a new book about knitting in Armenia. Her blog and social media reveal a fascinating look at the sheep, spinning wheels, knitted socks, and more that cross her path as she travels the world.

Left: Irene’s Sampler class at this year’s SOAR event will showcase techniques from Armenian Knitters (left), while students can learn spinning and knitting techniques from the Moroccan High Atlas in her Intensive class (right).

We are excited to welcome Irene to teach at this year’s SOAR event October 6–11, 2024 at the Heritage Hills Resort in York, Pennsylvania. Her Intensive class, From Wool to Socks: Spinning and Knitting in the Moroccan High Atlas, will take students through the process using High Atlas spinning and knitting techniques. Irene teaches this class with encouragement from her knitting teachers Hussein Mardi and Muah Ahasali, who collaborated with her to create the book, Keepers of the Sheep: Knitting in Morocco’s High Atlas and Beyond. It is their hope that others will be interested in learning about these spinning and knitting techniques that are no longer being practiced as widely as they once were.

And in Irene’s Sampler class, Knitting Socks: Techniques from Armenian Knitters, students will learn how to knit socks in the style popular with Armenian knitters from Hadrut. Though the old designs are no longer as fashionable as they once were, some women still use older techniques for knitting toes and turning heels. Knitting has a long history among the Armenian people; socks were a particularly important knit item that were made by women as gifts and as part of their dowry. In this class, students will learn how to knit socks in the style from Hadrut—socks are knit from the toe up. Irene teaches this class with encouragement from her teachers at the Hadrut Children's Development Center in Yerevan, Armenia.

Learn about all of the class offerings, including those from other world-class instructors, on the SOAR website. Then come join in the fun this October. Don’t delay—slots for this popular event fill up fast!

Read about Irene’s experiences in the High Atlas Mountains, plus find a pattern for socks based on the “Old Sock” pattern she learned from the shepherds, in the Spring 2024 issue of Spin Off.

And learn more about Irene and her travels at You can also find her on Instagram @waggens_ho.

Debbie Blair is the associate editor of Spin Off magazine. A lifelong crafter and avid reader, she finds her happy place reading and relaxing next to a mountain stream.