Tuesday, 24 November 2009
I have been re-working this pattern for Knitted Mitten and Bracelet, Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, Volume 51, August, 1855, pp. 169-170 which can be found at
I used the same wools as before (vintage Beehive Moorland and Morehouse Farm Merino Lace) on 2mm/0US dpns for the cuff and bracelet, and 2.25mm/1US for the hand.
The pattern suggests a “bracelet” for the wrist but does not include instructions for one. I looked at and tried out several patterns for ruffles and frills (which is what the Bracelet really is) from periodical patterns of the 1850’s-1880’s and found one that comes close in words to a ruffle in the “frill” pattern for a Legging for a Lady or Child by Mrs. Jane Weaver, Peterson’s Magazine, Volume 50, No. 3, September, 1866, pp. 205-206. The frill pattern is on page 206 but it does not resemble the illustration of the one on the Legging:
It also does not resemble the bracelet in spite of its similarity to the six row pattern for the ruffle of the 1880’s Night-Cap in Double Rose-Leaf Pattern, published in Weldon’s Practical Knitter, Twenty-Sixth Series: (http://historyknits.blogspot.com/2008_07_01_archive.html Scroll down to July 15th, 2008.)
The nine row Peterson’s pattern, due to the combination of knit and purl stitches in each set, produces a rather flat edging. I first knit this frill on 4.50mm/7US needles in Nature Spun Worsted (so I could really see the stitches, and then on 1.75mm/00US in Nature Spun Lace Weight, and it came out completely flat in the heavier yarn. The white Morehouse Farm Merino Lace on 2.25mm/1US needles sample was more delicate but needed encouragement to stand up or buckle. It still did not really resemble the tight, rippling Bracelet of the 1855 mitt pattern which is interesting as the increase method resembles the Weldon’s frill/ruffle pattern except for the combination of knit and purl stitches in each set (which provides the flattening effect), the added number (usually two) of non-increase stitches in each set of increases (there are more in the Peterson’s) and the repeat rows of non-increase rows.
The grey Morehouse Farm Merino Lace sample is the Peterson’s pattern with only one non-increase row in between the increase rows. There is less flatness but still not as much ripple as in the Weldon’s pattern.
In conclusion, the Weldon’s ruffle pattern (on the brown mitt here) from the 1880’s most closely resembles the illustration of the Bracelet of 1855 which leads me to believe that the Weldon’s pattern is a basic ruffle pattern that was in use for quite a few decades throughout the 19th century since the 1855 pattern’s writer assumed it was a technique that was generally known and there was, therefore, no need to include it with the pattern for the mitts. The search continues, however, to find it in print in a publication from an earlier part of the 19th century.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
The history of Halloween has interested me since childhood. I have always loved stories of ghosts, haunted and spooky places. No horror, gore or violence - just the mystery, legends and general autumnal atmosphere and glorious colours associated with this season.
For some years, I portrayed an 18th century witch at an annual fun-filled, campy Halloween festival. Knitting, of course, had to be part of the act. I found large orange plastic needles (19mm/35 US) to whose ends I glued the decapitated heads of small plastic dolls. With their now messy hair and eyes that opened and closed, the dolls’ faces now took on a rather stunned and confused expression.
I then knit a scrappy piece, complete with holes and dropped stitches, out of Silver Berrrocco yarn which shimmered in the lantern and candle light. At the Halloween event, dressed in ragged 18th century clothing, I would ask the children if they liked my knitting. Some would say yes but when they said no, I informed them (in a suitably crackly voice) that I once knew two little girls who didn’t like my knitting but “I dealt with them!”, as I furiously knit, making the dolls’ heads move up and down and those eyes flutter all of the time. This would produce laughter, some of it nervous, from the children.
I am not, however, reprising the Halloween role this year so I decided to decorate a pointy black hat with the witch’s knitting, all sewn on with nylon invisible thread.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory (1806-1808), J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851)
Oil on canvas, 1708 x 2388 mm frame: 2181 x 2860 x 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856
Tate Gallery, London, England
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Dominque (Guillaume Dominque Jacques) Doncre (1743-1820)
Oil on canvas; 91 x 77 cm
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Arras, France
I have mixed reactions to this painting. I like it very much because it dates from one of my favourite decades in history and of clothing, and it contains knitting with visible needles. What I do not like about it is the fairly flat quality of the furniture and hangings. They are simple, and look worn and old. The face, clothing (wonderful pleating on the bodice) and the knitting have been addressed but like the partially knit stocking, the painting seems unfinished to me. Like many paintings of knitters, the subject appears to have been interrupted in her work but her expression is calm, almost contemplative, as if she has put her knitting aside for a few moments and is now holding a pose or turning her face a certain way for the painter. She does not look annoyed as does the serving girl in another one of my favourite knitting paintings:
I have tried to find out who Madame Lepage was but without success. Did she live in Arras? Was her family or husband active in the textile business since her gown is the most vivid part of the painting? It captures the viewer’s attention at once and the eye (unless one is a knitter) travels upwards from it to the face. Her powdered hair speaks of a fading fashion but her gown is an indication of the future. Her straight-backed pose is unlike those flowing, vibrant ones of her contemporaries painted by
Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun or some of the sensuous classical poses of Jacques-Louis David’s ladies. Why did she, perhaps a lady of some social standing, choose to be painted with her knitting? Did she come from a humble background? Is this a post-Revolutionary statement that shows a person of position who is connected to the common people by doing her own knitting or did she just enjoy knitting and so wanted it to be included in her painting or is this a message that she is industrious? The ball of wool and the knitting certainly have pride of place in the painting; the garter stitch edge/welting of the stocking lies on the subject’s lap, facing the viewer and at least a third of the stocking is on the four fine metal needles which, pointing upwards and bisecting each other become a functional part of the painting, forming a V shape which is repeated above in the neckline of the gown and framed by sideways V shapes in the position of the arms on either side. The subject is ultimately set in an oval (in this image, at least; I have not seen the original) which, with the puffed up, rounded hair style and full folds of the background hangings, ultimately softens those mirror sharp angles of the sitter’s arms and gown’s neckline and the knitting needles in her lap.
I am reminded of another favourite contemporary (1791-1792) work by David:
The subject in this painting wears infomal clothing, and sits sewing beside the cradle of her child, without any decorative furniture or background detail at all although this painting is considered unfinished. Unlike Madame Lepage, Madame de Pastoret barely pauses in her work and, characteristically, looks the viewer straight in the eye. How I wish the latter had been knitting or had some evidence of it included in the painting, such as an open workbox with wool and needles spilling out, perhaps, on the floor beside her.
NOTE: The link to the painting of Madame de Pastoret and Her Son is courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago® by URL: www.artic.edu/aic. I also recommend reading more about the life of Madame de Pastoret.
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Saturday, 29 August 2009
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Here are two kinds of knitted undersleeves (literally, worn under indoor clothing) from the mid-ish 19th century. Both are knitted flat or back and forth, and then sewn up.
The first photograph shows one set still in progress on HISTORICALLY INACCURATE NEEDLES but the only ones from my vast collection that gave me the correct gauge/tension. This pair, the very full sleeve ones, were improvised from the daguerreotype below, with the upper arm ribbing and bands from tighter fitting patterns I have seen and making the lower puff very large so as to show under the wide, open sleeves of the top garment or dress. This set was knit from the wrist up. The wool is Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted (Scarlet (2 skeins) and Silver Sage 1 skein) on 4.0/6US needles with a gauge/tension of 6.50 stitches/inch in the full part of the sleeve and 6 stitches/inch in the ribbing. The same size needles were used throughout.
The second, closer-fitting pair are from an original pattern ( Knitted Under-Sleeve by Mrs. Jane Weaver in Peterson’s Magazine, January, 1859, Volume XXXV, No. 1) which called for two sizes of needles (“1 pair steel knitting needles, common size, 1 pair bone knitting needles, small”) I had to use the larger sized needles throughout but still did not, however, achieve the puffs as shown in the original illustration, especially when wearing them (see below.) This set was knit from the upper arm down to the wrist as directed in the pattern. Brown (for the puffs) and crimson (ribbing) “single zephyr” wool was suggested in the original pattern. The wool for this pair is Morehouse Farm Merino Lace (Midnight (2 skeins) and Natural White (2 skeins) on 2.75/2US needles with a gauge of 9 stitches/inch on the puff parts and 10 stitches/inch in the ribbed parts.
Monday, 17 August 2009
This is the second pair of these gloves that I have knit. The words on the half-fingers mimic the tattoos on Joe Plaice’s fingers in the film, Master and Commander - The Far Side of the World (2003.)
I made the first pair, in the round, from the wrists up but the letters did not knit evenly. Same colour scheme and both in Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted. The letters were swallowed up in every other row which may have been due to their having been knit in the same kind of wool or knitting the lettered fingers flatly (the stitches came out slanted on every other row.)
This is the second pair, knit from the fingers down to the wrist (fingers and hands in the round) with fingering weight wool in an Aubrey-Maturinesque appropriate choice of “wine-dark” maroon. This wool was purchased about 30 years ago in New York and comes from my stash. The letters are knit in the heavier Nature Spun Worsted so this time they would stand out against the fingering weight.
Although the letters appear distinctly in these gloves, the S did not really knit up clearly; it looks more like an E. I did not like knitting from the fingers down (I also dislike toe up, neck and crown down knitting) as I felt as though I was swimming against the tide all of the time. In spite of all of that effort and all of the knitting going in the same direction, there is also a slight scar around each finger at the join rows to the hands.
Friday, 7 August 2009
Viennese Domestic Garden (1828-30), Erasmus Ritter von Engert (Austrian, 1796-1871)
Oil on canvas, 32 x 25 cm.
I love this painting for its light, cool summer garden and, of course, the quasi-invisible knitter tucked away in the lower left corner, working on what looks like a stocking. The overall effect is elegant as is the woman's cap and grey gown. I also like the fact that she is knitting and reading at the same time, something I enjoy doing whenever the knitting is easy enough to just follow with my fingers.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
Working on these caps reminded me of the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The first one (pumpkin) I knit was too small, the second (white) was too big and the third (burgundy) was just right (scroll down to see all of them.) The pattern, Half Cap for Wearing Under a Bonnet, is from Exercises in Knitting by Mrs. Cornelia Mee, 1846. It is knit back and forth on spns but needs dpns (preferably longer than sock or glove ones) or a small circular for the final stage. Mrs. Mee’s patterns are fairly reliable; I have knit quite a few things from this book and the few mistakes I have found I have put down to typographical and not constructional knitting ones, and are thus easily fixed. As usual for this era, no gauge or tension was given. This pattern calls for “Pins No. 14” (modern 2mm) which used for the first cap but it came out very small and so became a child’s size. The white and green adult size was knit on much larger needles, 4mm, but that one came out too big, I then went down to 3.5mm for the third rendition, took it off the needles after I did the first section with the ribbon run-through and the main body of the back and measured it against the white and green cap. As there was very little difference in size, I went down to 2.5mm needles, and this time the cap looked juuuuuu-st right. During all of this needle hopping, I experimented with and used the same brand of needles, Aero. More on that subject in a future blog entry.
Sunday, 19 July 2009
The pattern for this variously called cap, hood or bonnet comes from Godey’s Lady’s Book, February, 1861.
This project was a KAL in the CW-Needleworkers Yahoo group this year and since I have sworn to stash-bust, I am happy to report that this project ate up three Lilac and a bit of one White skein of Morehouse Farm Merino Lace. The knitting needles were 2.75mm/US 2 and a 2mm crochet hook for the looped edging. The knitted gauge/tension is 9 stitches/1".
I had to knit the bonnet/cap/hood twice. Following the instructions in the original pattern resulted in an object half the size of this one, more like a 1960’s dolly bird's headscarf. For the second attempt, I kept to the same size needles but doubled the number of all of the rows in the pattern. This meant that I began with 480 stitches instead of 240 but luckily the pattern decreases four stitches every right side row and the knitting is simply all garter stitch with the four sets of eyelet rows so it is diminishing all of the time. Nevertheless, this is a tedious knitting project, especially with such fine wool.
I cannot really crochet so the wavy edges look ragged to me. I am sure a crocheter could have whipped around the bonnet/cap/hood's edges in a trice but they took seven hours to do (with lots of ripping, tears, chocolate and several dvds of my favourite science fiction series for stimulating high energy(apologies for bringing in a contemporary/futuristic element.)
The ribbons are deep navy blue.
Monday, 13 July 2009
The Wine Shop by Phiz (Halbot K. Browne (1815-1882)), A Tale of Two Cities, Book II, Chapter XVI [Still Knitting],(1859), by Charles Dickens, (1812-1870)
"No crowd was about the door; no people were discernible at any of the many windows; not even a chance passerby was in the street. An unnatural silence and desertion reigned there. Only one soul was to be seen, and that was Madame Defarge--who leaned against the door-post, knitting, and saw nothing." (Book I, Chapter VI)
Once again, we have the knitter who apparently sees (or hears) nothing. Twice over as the following paragraph ends with the same nine words. Leaning against a door which equals fading into the background is often how knitters are perceived. I have mentioned Miss Marple before and here is another, seemingly, uninvolved knitter, lost in her work. Phiz's rendition, too, portrays a woman looking at her knitting although the accompanying text in the chapter describes Madame Defarge receiving compliments about her knitting, discussing it and composedly "looking at him with a smile while her fingers moved nimbly," all in the midst of a situation of espionage and she never drops a stitch or loses count of the chilling project on her needles.
More importantly, the knitting never stops in this novel, features in the titles of three of the chapters but is symbolic in far too many ways to discuss in a short post like this one. Perhaps another time as now I have to get back to my knitting!
Saturday, 11 July 2009
The Garment is comfortably stretched out beside me, listening to Post Captain (its favourite Canonical tome, of course) as I knit “the woolen roll at the top.”
Monday, 6 July 2009
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Friday, 12 June 2009
Wensleydale knitters from The Costume of Yorkshire, 1814, illustrated by George Walker (1781-1856)
This is one of my favourite images of knitting. I love the colours and the clothing (old and new styles of the time.) It also has sheep, and it dates from near the end of my era of speciality. The gentle, calm scene is, however, a contrast to the activity of the knitters who, are, no doubt, not engaged in a leisurely but rather, an economically necessary business. Spare a thought, then, this weekend for those who came before us and had to wield needles whereas we now mostly knit for the sake of pleasure and art.
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
Thursday, 28 May 2009
'Must I put on silk stockings?...Was I to put the silk stockings over my worsted ones, sure the hole would not show: but then I should stifle with the heat.'"
Master and Commander, Chapter Six
While The Garment was growing apace and outstripping me in height by more than a foot, I knit these stockings for a change of pace. I am still working on the life-size blue stockings related to the above quotation but these were a test pair for some future mini-stockings. They are long enough to go over a mini-person’s knee, have the welting/garter stitch rows at the top, the long, square heel with a three-needle cast off, a gathered toe and a seam/purl stitch up the back (see the flattened-out stocking on the left.) I have also embroidered “S M” in red embroidery cotton (standing in for silk) at the top of the stockings although not in cross-stitch as I am doing on the life-size pair.
The stockings measure 5" long from top to sole and are one inch wide at the calf. They were knit with Morehouse Farm Merino laceweight wool on 1.50 mm needles. The gauge/tension is 13 stitches to the inch.
The photograph of these stockings, ironically, refuses to open up in a larger version when clicked on.
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
I have knit with all kinds of materials from sewing thread to shredded strips of fabric and plastic bags. We live in a great age of knitting; the choice of yarns, strings, wire, etc., is limitless. No matter – I always yearn to return to pure wool. It is what I learned to knit with and grew up with, not making the acquaintance of acrylic, let alone cashmere, angora, etc., as knitting yarns until I was in my twenties. I miss wool if I spend too much time away from it, working on socks with a nylon blend, soft cotton for baby clothing or stained glass ladder scarves. Perhaps that is another reason I am attracted to historical knitting, most of which I do in wool.
I recently reviewed my stash of twenty- two oversize plastic bins which contain wool, cotton and synthetic yarns, some dating back to the 1950’s. Most of it I adore, some of it I cannot recall purchasing or receiving, some of it I wonder at, confused as to why I ever bought it or so much of it! There are, however, many old friends in those bins, including a skein or small ball left over from something my mother knit for me as a child or my early attempts at clothing my toys. Some of it was given to me (that fabulous mid-20th century sock yarn that works so well for mid and late 19th century knitting), some of it is rough, dull-coloured 1960’s Aran wool which is just as treasured as the undyed handspun laceweight wool or gloriously hand dyed sock yarn from last year. Looking at it all at once, bins opened, lids scattered, I felt as though I had a museum of yarn, spanning almost 60 years and the products of many countries. Each skein or scrap has a history, and, very soon, what little will be left over from The Garment, will join them – with its own special story within a story
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
The weather has been glorious and just right for sitting by the water while knitting. Even the Garment, with its neck/head in progress and still awaiting its left arm, took advantage of a bench in the sun, facing the lapping waves and enjoying the sun on its back.
Saturday, 2 May 2009
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Thursday, 12 March 2009
Sunday, 1 March 2009
Monday, 9 February 2009
The main part of the lower half of The Garment is finished and has been sent to my model for a fitting. He is 6’2”, hence the long legs. The foot sections will be knit down from the ankles.
The photo at left shows this part of TG in its final stages, minus the fall. The legs were knit in the round but then I switched to back and forth for the upper part. The open (not yet sewn) inner seam is just visible. Following the pattern of men’s breeches at that time, the seam is on the inside of the leg. There was an outside seam, too, but "it don't signify" in this case. This photo also shows several sets of needles on TG. The fall (front flap) is on a small circular needle and green wool, holding the stitches until the needle was put on but left on for clarity in the photo. This was knit back and forth with two garter stitches on either side and across the top to flatten the edges, and with a button hole at either upper side. Decreases were made on both sides for the waist as I knit up the hips, also, at this point, back and forth, with stitches both cast/bound off and some replaced, at the front for the waistband. The waist area shows two pairs of long circular needles. The larger, wooden set is knitting the outer waist band, including the stitches added for the front of the waistband which will also have a button. The thin, metal long circular needles are holding the stitches at the base of the waistband which will become the inner waistband, offering double support, therefore, to the upper part of TG which will be knit upwards from the lower part pictured here and from both waistbands, incorporated into one knitted row.
Sunday, 25 January 2009
I know that I am taking a long time working on this project. One of the reasons is that I keep adjusting the design. The legs have been knit several times as have the rows which join the two legs and sides at hip level just below the fall. I think, however, I have finally got it right this time. There are the legs, hanging out of the cloth bucket which makes a perfect knitting bag. That photo also is the most accurate representation so far of the shade of brown of the wool.
The other reason I am moving slowly is that I adore this wool. It is strong, feels good in the hands and on the needles, and rips and re-knits beautifully. The colour is gorgeous with flecks of lighter wool that show up from time to time.
Monday, 5 January 2009
1. Lady's 19th century garters
2. Cord and tassels for a completed sontag
3. Knitted counterpane shells (one a day or at least five a week – they only take twenty minutes each to knit) and design the sides and corners and think about the edging
4. THE GARMENT – finished as a birthday present for Stephen Maturin (March 25th ) which that is the goal
5. Child's handspun 18th century stockings (one foot and a complete stocking)
6. Child’s marled 18th century stockings (same as above)
7. Handspun gauntlet gloves (one down, one to go)
8. Lady's 19th century fingerless gloves (second one)
9. Vanity Fair purse
10. 1918 Dutch baby cap
11. Infant's 17th century jacket
12. Gentleman's 19th century underdrawers (only the top on the second side)
13. Stephen Maturin’s blue stockings (peeking out of the 18th century pockets)
14. Lady's mid-19th century brown stockings
Planned reproduction projects include
1. Lady's 19th century underbonnet cap
2. Man's 19th century nightcap
3. Child's 19th century nightcap
4. Lady's 18th century mitts
5. 19th century purse (yes, another one!)
6. 1918 boudoir cap
7. 17th century red stockings to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Washington Irving’s satirical first book, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty by Dietrich Knickerbocker in which he describes the stockings (also blue) of the inhabitants of New Amsterdam.
8. 18th century stockings with re-knitted foot
9. Lady's 19th century undersleeves
10. More Aubrey-Maturin miniatures
I would also like to reproduce one of the little knitted shawls from the television production of Cranford.
Well, that’s the plan. Finishing is not difficult. Resisting starting new projects (contemporary and historical), including the unplanned, will be the challenge!