Kate T Williamson, artist and illustrator

kate t williamson—a year in japan

By Patricia Belyea

NEW YORK NY  When the used copy of A Year in Japan arrived at my home, I gobbled it up. Author and artist Kate T Williamson filled her book with quirky vignettes and delightful illustrations about life in Japan that truly charmed me.

Below is Kate’s watercolor painting of a local tofu maker who pushed a cart down her street in Kyoto everyday at 12:30, ringing a cow bell. He was selling tofu that he’d made earlier in the day.

Tofu Maker illustration by Kate T Williamson

Instantly converted to a Kate T fan, I found her website and learned that she lived in New York City. Soon to be in the Big Apple, I made arrangements to meet Kate.

Kate attended my talk at The City Quilter, then we walked to Penn Station to enjoy a casual dinner together. Sitting outside on a warm spring night, I learned what Kate has been doing for the last decade since her book released.

First all of all, her stint in Japan was through a university scholarship where she could pick anywhere in the world and do almost anything she wanted for a year. Kate chose Japan—a place she’d always wanted to visit.

A meal in Japan by Kate T Williamson

After her Japanese experience, Kate returned to the US and started on her book. Working from her personal diary filled with watercolor paintings and observations, she refined her artwork and stories. This was a big project for a first-time author and illustrator. From start to finish, it took Kate two years to publish A Year in Japan.

Kate moved back home into her very pink, childhood bedroom. This spawned a second book: At a Crossroads: Between A Rock and My Parents’ Place.

Book illustrations by Kate T Williamson

In each book, socks starred in some of the illustrations. In fact, A Year in Japan devoted four pages to sock paintings where Kate wrote “Japan is sock paradise.”

Sock illustrations by Kate T Williamson

Her book on living at home and beginning to find her way as a young adult ended with Kate seeing a sock-shaped cloud in the sky. So gentle, insightful Kate did something very brave: she started a sock company.

Kate T Williamson starts a sock company

This Night, Kate’s petite sock company, makes the softest socks that stay up and don’t grab your legs. Kate has US-grown, ringspun cotton yarn custom dyed in North Carolina. Then the mill in her hometown of Reading, PA, knits the socks to her specs. A sock aficionado, Kate explains, “They are the perfect socks.”

This Night sock factory in Redding PA

A one-woman enterprise, Kate created a website where folks anywhere in the world can buy her high-quality, US-made, artist-designed socks.

This Night website

There’s no end to this story yet. Kate got married last year (yeah!) and she's working on a new season of sock designs.

If you want to buy some of the best socks in the world +click here

If you want to visit Kate’s website +click here 

Photos of socks in tree and Reading PA mill by Kate Williamson.


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110 comments


  • Kate
    Yes! :)

  • Kate
    hi Sherry––wow, that’s so neat! Thank you very much! Yes, I’m SO happy that there is a knitting mill left in Reading to make these socks! The outlets were very special back then. (Reading was the self-proclaimed “Outlet Capital of the World”––I remember when I was little, they often sold true factory seconds, and you had to check that one arm wasn’t longer than the other! :))

  • Kate
    Thank you so much, Marilyn! There will be some orange socks coming up this autumn! :)

  • Monica
    My favorites are always the socks with back stories — like the bears on unicycles or the rabbits on the moon. I love to try to imagine how the characters made it on to the socks to be immortalized. :)

  • Sherry T
    My favorite sock color is purple! I can’t believe how surrendipitous it was that I clicked on the Okan Arts link! My foremost love in the world is Japanese textiles and my favorite place in the world to visit is Japan. I went as a junior in college, and went back several summers in a row when my daughter taught in the JET program, and have gone back with my youngest daughter as well who loves to draw and also has drawers of cute socks we couldn’t resist getting for her! Would love to add Kate’s to her collection! How wonderful Kate has created her business using the old mills in her hometown! We used to love doing outlet shopping there in Reading when we lived in Pennsylvania some 30-odd years ago!

  • Marilyn Waite
    Oh to own A pair of mid-calf orange with yellow polka dots! I’m an autumn gal with a Halloween birthday! Love the socks idea. Congratulations on beginning such a business!

    Marilyn


  • Carolyn Duff
    So often my feet need cheering up, so, my favorite color for them is lime green!

    They have thanked me profusely when I adorn them with bright colors. And to
    see them so happy gives me a “boost” too. It’s so nice to do uplifting things for
    others.


  • Ellen Wong
    Socks of many colors! Goes with everything. Stripes are always good, but the more abstract the pattern the better.

  • Deb M
    My favorite color of sock would have to be navy. It looks great with cobalt or leaf dots!

  • Betty Leacraft
    My favorite color of socks are bright purple with turquoise.

  • Ivy
    One sock, two socks, red socks, blue socks ;)

  • Kate
    hi Vivian––that’s what I love about socks, too! It’s so nice to look down and see a bit of cheery color!

  • Kate
    Ooh! I like your color sense, Kat! :)

  • Kate
    Thank you so much! I hope it brings back happy memories of your own time in Japan!

  • Kate
    Thank you so much, Margaret! If you do, I hope you are pleased!! I am a serious sock person, too, and I worked with the folks at the knitting mill for about two years to develop what I consider the perfect sock: one with a comfortable band that stays up, soft cotton in just the right weight (substantial enough that they don’t seem too delicate but thin enough to fit into dress shoes), and interesting colors and patterns.

  • Kate
    Thank you so much, Mary!

  • Kate
    Yes! And I love that lilac makes me think of one of my favorite flowers! :)

  • Kate
    hi Pam––that’s really neat! I’d love to try knitting my own someday!

  • Kate
    Hedgehog socks! Those sound very cute!! :)

  • Kate
    hi Deborah––there’s some turquoise and lime coming up for fall! And as you can see, I also love geometric patterns and a little asymmetry as well! :)

  • Kate
    hi Janet! I am working on some multi-colored socks for fall! :)

  • Kate
    hi Che’usa! Nice to hear from you!

    Yes, I’m the same person! :)
    Hope you are enjoying your socks!!


  • Vivian Roop
    Red is the color for me. Brighten my day every time I look down and keeps me dancing!

  • Kat Chapman
    Maroon/brown or neon!

  • Charlene Cuhaciyan
    My favorite color of socks is…sock-color!

  • SOOZ
    my favorite color of night socks is black.they have micky mouse glove hands

    on them….looking forward to buying her book on a year in japan. I spent
    some time there and would love to recall that time by looking at her lovely whimsical
    watercolors!


  • Mary
    I love white socks! I know – boring. But I wear them every day, often changing mid day for a fresh pair

  • Margaret Witt
    I have always been a sock person. I am sow excited to try your socks as I have many problems with them. Cutting off circulation , drooping, seam hurting toes,so on and so on.

  • Lotta Gustafsson
    I love lilac! It bring brightness and happiness- two things I need more of in my life!

  • Wendy hill
    My favorite socks are striped!

  • Mary Cottrell
    Can’t wait to read the book on Japan!!

  • Pam
    life is short…so anything bright & surprising…I knit my own but I not in cotton!

  • Sue Arnold
    I love red socks! However, any socks with hedgehogs on them are the best! I also have some with bumblebees and the Golden State Bridge. . .

  • Deborah E
    My favorite color for socks has changed over time. In (and after) college, I liked red. Then I returned to my childhood favorite of purple. Lately, I’ve been buying more turquoise or lime socks. Regardless of color, I prefer my socks to be patterned—ideally, geometric patterns. I love that your polka dots are irregularly spaced!

  • Cynthia reed
    I love red and white striped socks

  • Kate
    Thank you so much, Michelle! :)

  • Kate
    Mrs. Plum, you are not alone! I haven’t made any tan socks yet, but there have been numerous requests! :)

  • Michelle
    Anything with blue – love the Bubble sock! Your water colors are lovely!

  • Kate
    I know what you mean, Chris––I wear patterns most of the time, but I have a pair or two of really crisp, clean white ribbed socks that always make me happy. (I think I bought them after watching Nights of Cabiria in college. Giulietta Masina wears white socks with sandals, and although I’m not sure I was ever able to pull this look off, they look really cute on her––if you scroll down, you can see them here): http://criterioncollection.blogspot.com/2006/01/49-nights-of-cabiria.html

  • Kate
    Those socks sound really cute! :)

  • Kate
    hi Susie Q––I love black and white socks, and I love geometric designs! Going to hear Patricia’s talk made me want to try quilting! (Although I feel like I might need a bit more space and a lot more patience!)

  • Kate
    Yes, everything does go with jeans! That’s one of the things I love about socks––that they are a special detail that’s not too “look at me” but just a hint of color that might peek out (kind of like an inner kimono layer). Happy to “meet” another sock enthusiast! :)

  • Kate
    Aww––thanks, Molly! :) I love triangles, too!

  • Kate
    hi Lydia––interesting! The grey ones are some of my best-selling socks, so you are not alone! :)

  • Kate
    hi Lori! Thank you so much!! And do you remember where that article was? I don’t think I ever saw it! :)

  • Kate
    Ooh! I love lime, too! That’s so interesting re: Kyoto––I hadn’t seen them with quilters’ eyes! :) That pattern is also an ancient Japanese pattern meant to represent fish scales.

  • Kate
    Thank you so much! :)

  • Lydia Reading
    In reviewing your socks, my eye went right to the grey ones every time. I guess it’s the grey ones! who knew?

  • Lori Morton
    My favorite socks are bright & fun!! But do have asst’d Blues, for times I need to be “quieter”! giggle… I LOVE SOCKS!!! :D Thanks for chance to win a pair!! Yay!

    I saw a news article on her socks…on the national news!! Probably 3 or 4 weeks ago!! She is AWESOME!!!


  • Amy L
    My favorite color of socks is lime green. And your Kyoto socks are half square triangles – a quilter’s dream!

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