Tuesday, 24 November 2009

1855 Mitt Revisited

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

Trafalgar Day

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

18th Century French Knitting

Madame Lepage
Dominque (Guillaume Dominque Jacques) Doncre (1743-1820)
(French, 1797)
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

Vanity Fair Purse - Finished

In my first post about the beginning of this project, there is little description of the purse in Vanity Fair that is being knit by Becky Sharp. ( http://historyknits.blogspot.com/2008/07/vanity-fair-and-history-of-knitting.html) We do not even know if she finished it after her attempts to use it to ensare Jos Sedley. I think she might have, either for something to during the next part of her story or for her own future use. Not having any money, herself, however, I am supposing that it would have been simply finished. I doubt Becky could have afforded the traditional silver closure rings so she may have used thread or hair wrapped ones. I am still researching substitute rings (bone, horn?) and in my case, I used plastic rings covered with silver embroidery thread. The ends are decorated with simple, traditional tassels of the same green thread that was used for the body of the purse.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Lace Linen Bookmark

This bookmark, knit in Pattern Number 36 (c. 1830's) from Susanna E. Lewis's Knitting Lace, was a perfect project for experimenting with DMC's linen embroidery floss. I used three skeins on 3mm needles.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

19th Century Undersleeves - Construction

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.

Knitted Undersleeves in Daguerreotype

Unknown Baby with Hiding Mother, ca. 1855
Daguerreotype, sixth plate Plate: 3 ¼” x 2 ¾ “
Image: 2 5/8” x 2 1/8”
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Kansas City, Missouri

Monday, 17 August 2009

Hold Fast Gloves

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

Knitting in Art for a Summer Afternoon

Viennese Domestic Garden (1828-30), Erasmus Ritter von Engert (Austrian, 1796-1871)

Oil on canvas, 32 x 25 cm.

Nationalgalerie, Berlin

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

1840s Half-Caps

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.
Here is a link to the kind of 1848 bonnet this half-cap would have been worn under, thus providing a layer of insulation (scroll down): http://www.vintagefashionguild.org/content/view/604/75/
Mrs. Mee does not suggest any kind of wool but does state that the body should be white and the edges in a “coloured wool,” the choice of that being left up to the knitter. In keeping with my stash-busting resolution, I choose Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted’s Snow, Grecian Olive, Sunburst Gold, Cranberry Fog and Blueberry from the bins. Dusky pink, brick red and sage green ribbons added the finishing touches.
PATTERN NOTE: Mrs. Mee does not state that the stitches will increase from 119 to 120 after the first eyelet row. I incorporated the extra stitch into the main part of the cap and left it there – it makes no difference. This is a very fast project. It took me about six hours to knit each cap with another 5 minutes for weaving the ribbons!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Norwegian Morning Cap/Hood from Godey's, 1861

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

Literary Knitting

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)

Each year on July 14th, Bastille Day, I always think of literature's most famous knitter, Madame Defarge. Before I began deep studies of the era in which A Tale of Two Cities is set, I had read the novel several times and seen various films of it as well. I have always had a soft spot for the 1958 version with Dirk Bogarde, Dorothy Tutin and one of my favourite actresses, Rosalie Crutchley (who has the distinction of playing Madame Defarge twice) and was my first Madame Defarge off of the page and a brilliant one at that. So brilliant that I have tolerated being called Madame Defarge by family and friends (mostly trying to be amusing) on and off over the years, preferring to link myself in my mind to Rosalie Crutchley rather than the real Madame Defarge.

The famous illustration by Phiz somewhat softens the character who terrified me. I do, however, like the way she is described by Dickens:

"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 - Update

After six weeks of intense mid-ish 19th century knitting, I am finally able to return to The Garment. Cool, rainy days are perfect for porch knitting as are my Gull Wings socks (pattern by Vivienne Shen, from Socks - Socks - Socks published by Knitter’s Magazine, 1999.) The socks are thrice over appropriate ones being knit in Damselfly Yarns Seaside Sheep, Apricot Blush and hand-dyed by a fellow-POB enthusiast.

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

Knickerbocker Stockings

These mini-stockings were made to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Diedrich Knickerbocker’s A History of New York by Washington Irving. 2009 is also the 150th anniversary of the death of Washington Irving. In this satirical work, Irving describes the Dutch women in New York knitting and wearing blue worsted stockings as well as Peter Stuyvesant’s one “sound leg” which was “always arrayed in a red stocking…” (see my other post below on this subject.)

The red stocking is 4” in length and the blue one (minus those red clocks), 5”. Using crimson and dark dusty blue Morehouse Farm Merino laceweight wool, the red stocking was knit on 1.50mm needles and the blue one on 1.75mm needles. Both have the long, squared-off heel, a seam stitch up the back, a drawstring toe, and space between rows of garter stitches at the tops.

New York Anniversaries

"Household in the old Dutch Colony times" from the History of the City of New York from its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time (New York: Clark & Meeker, 1859), Booth, Mary L. (Mary Louise) (1831-1889), Author; PC NEW YC-Lif-16; Record ID: 693395; Digital ID: 805606, New York Public Library, Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection (New York City -- life --1669 and earlier)

Washington Irving (1809) by John Wesley Jarvis (1781?-1839), oil on wood, SS.62.2 a-b, Historic Hudson Valley, Tarrytown, New York (image from http://www. hudsonvalley.org/)

2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of A History of New York From the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty by Diedrich Knickerbocker, but really by Washington Irving (1783-1859) as well as the 150th anniversary of Irving's death on November 28th. A History of New York is a satirical, sometimes biting, account of the early settlement of the Dutch colony. It set in stone, however, as Irving's works often did, language and traditions we still hold today, such as St. Nicholas "riding jollily among the treetops, or over the roofs of houses, now and then drawing forth magnificent presents from his breeches pockets, and dropping them down the chimneys of his favorites." (Book III, Chapter II.)

Irving, who grew up in a New York which still retained Dutch influences and elements, wrote very detailed descriptions of the colony's first households and its inhabitants. He describes the families as "generally" living "in the kitchen", enjoying the warmth and light of "the fireplaces" which were of "a truly patriarchal magnitude where the whole family...enjoyed a community of privilege..." and the "goede vrouw...would employ herself diligently in spinning yarn or knitting stockings." (Book III, Chapter III) Even at "tea-parties," "the young ladies seated themselves demurely in their rush-bottomed chairs, and knit their own woolen stockings...behaving, in all things, like decent, well-educated damsels." (Book III, Chapter III.) These stockings are further described as "generally of blue worsted with magnificent red clocks" (Book III, Chapter IV) and as "The wardrobe of a lady was in those days her only fortune...she who had a good stock of petticoats and stockings, was as absolutely an heiress..." (Book III, Chapter IV.)

One of the most distinguished members of the colony was Peter Stuyvesant, who had only one leg but "was especially noted for having his sound leg (which was a very comely one) always arrayed in a red stocking and high-heeled shoe." (Book VII, Chapter I.)

The post above above this one (since I cannot seem to squeeze in a third photo in this post) describes my knitted commemoration of these anniversaries. 2009 is a busy year for it also marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival in what is now New York, the 200th of the patent of Robert Fulton's steamboat and and the 100th of the 1909 Hudson-Fulton Celebration. I have not yet decided if and how I will commemorate those events in stitches although anything to do with ships is intensely inviting to me.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Other Sources

One of the biggest challenges in recreation of objects from the past is colour. Textiles from the past can be faded or have dyes which have unrecognisably changed. Paintings in good condition, and preferably seen in person, are an excellent source although the skeptic in me sometimes wonders about artistic license. Fabric companies in the United States, Britain and the Netherlands have, however, provided me with another source over the last ten years or so by reproducing lines based on quilts or other objects in excellent condition from the collections of major museums, supported by reliable research. I have made many reproduction quilts from the late 18th century through the 19th century using these lines, some of which are featured in the photograph which, unfortunately, appears here as a little cloudy or faded; the fabrics are much more vibrant in person. Of course, simply because a fabric was dyed with a specific blue or red does not always mean that one could have found wool, silk, cotton or linen in that shade but research about fabric, clothing, household and decorative arts objects, and the dyeing techniques (including longevity) related to them are always a good place to begin when I am planning a new project.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Worldwide Knit in Public Day (Weekend)!

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

Young Gentleman's Cotton Nightcap

The Workwoman's Guide, by a Lady (London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., 1838; second edition, 1840) has an entire section called "On Knitting" with patterns, including " A Gentleman's Night Cap." These laconic instructions, in most cases, assume percipient knowledge of knitting and the construction of garments. There are no gauges/tensions and few suggestions (e.g. "fine needles and cotton") as to materials or needles all of which is typical of the era. Using Franklin Habit's recent re-working of the pattern in Knitty (http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEfall08/FEATfall08SIT.html, and , yes, I know that was lazy but it appeared so why not seize upon it?), I knit the cap with J&P Coats Royale Classic Crochet Thread (cotton), Size 10 on 2.25mm/US 1 dpn needles for a gauge/tension of 10 stitches to the inch. My cap came out a bit on the small size, measuring 19" around the brim and 9" from edging to peak. That is why I have called it a young gentleman's night cap.

I am also a quilter, specialising in reproduction quilts, and the cap is photographed on one I made with mid-ish 19th century reproduction fabrics.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Mini-Maturin Stockings

"'...and pull on your stockings, I beg. We have not a moment to lose. No, not the blue stockings; we are going on to Mrs Harte's party - to her rout.'

'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

The Garment - Its Wool

I have, perhaps, been an unconscionable time knitting The Garment. Designing and creating something to fit someone I have never met has been one reason. The other one is, however, a purely selfish one. I love, love, love, love, love this wool and I do not want to ever stop knitting with it. Sure, it is the Wool of the World! Three ply, a gorgeous shade of brown (which refuses to come across in the photograph at left), strong and smooth while still holding surprise bits of straw, etc., it proudly sits on my needles and wraps around and glides through my fingers, creating a fabric that is both sturdy and elegant. It smells like wool should and it almost looks good enough to eat!

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 Garment - Out for the Day

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

The Garment - The Neckline

The neck and head of the Garment are, perhaps, its most controversial parts. Stephen Maturin gives a hint of the their constuction:  "...I can withdraw my head entirely..."

In interpreting the above, I designed a long cowl neck which would be wide enough to go over and around the head, estimating 12-14" long (it is still on the needles.) The neck line and cowl would also, however,  have to pull the whole garment together to give the impression of a one-piece, "single tight" garment and not one made up of three parts, that is a lower body, torso and headpiece. 

The upper body of the Garment buttons down the front. The photograph shows the two button bands (minus the buttons - more on those in a future separate post), the button placements marked by gold pins and the neck joined by a pin for the pickup,  and the neck/cowl stitches picked up around the two fronts and the back neck with a few inches knit. The Garment will, thus, have to be stepped into, the legs and hip area pulled up, then the  back pulled up from behind up so the head can go through the cowl, the arms put on one at a time, and, finally, the fall, waistband and front bands buttoned. A deeply rational manner of dressing, is not it?

All quotations are from Post Captain, Chapter Twelve

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Garment - Upper Section

The Garment has really taken on a personality of its own. Like Stephen Maturin, it is polite and pleasant company but also like Stephen, it often seems to have secret missions of its own.  It leaves my lap of its own volition and loves to tangle the three working balls of wool no matter how much I work at keeping them all separate. It is also now taller than I am which is the first time I have made anything so large. The two blankets I knit years and years ago were only 5' and 6' long, respectively. 

Here is The Garment's upper sections being measured from the waistband up. I pinned the back and fronts together from the underarms up and then pinned the whole upper part to the bed.  Also on view are some of the many ends which will have to be woven in when the knitting is finished. 

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Garment - Stretching Upwards

I am up to the underarms where I split off for the back which is now knit up to the base of the neck. This photograph shows The Garment about halfway up the back. It has become rather unwieldy to knit, the creature! There is now so much of it, I have to lay it alongside me if I am sitting with my feet up or have it almost sitting next to me if I am sitting upright when knitting. It has also just about outgrown its cloth water bucket home. I have been taking advantage of the change in weather and although it is still chilly and windy, I can now sit by the water and knit in the glorious sunny daylight, listening to the waves and doing some long distance eye exercises.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Garment - Double Waistband


I have decided that a double waistband would be deeply rational as well as a more supportive link between the upper and lower parts. To do this I knit the outer waistband with the button hole and then ran the stitches onto the red wool as seen in the photo. Using a 1.50 mm 40 inch circular needle, I picked up the stitches of the waistband on the inside (purl side.) At this point, The Garment was sent to my model for a fitting, hence the red wool. Upon its return, I knit the inner waistband on the regular 4.50 mm needles to match the outer waistband (upper photograph, outer waistband curling forward) and afterwards ran the 1.50 circulars through the stitches on the outer waistband (lower photograph) so I could knit the two together and close the gap. The result is a nice firm waist area from which the upper part of The Garment is growing.  I had, sometime ago, began to knit an upper part with live stitches at the bottom but did not like its shaping so I ripped it out and am now knitting this part directly from the double waistband, increasing twice at both sides every inch. 

Monday, 9 February 2009

The Garment - The Lower Half

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

The Garment - January 2009 Update 2

The Garment - January 2009 Update

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

2009 Knitting Resolutions

It isn’t as bad as it looks and it is, in fact, much more organised. There are currently no socks on the needles in the sock/Crabtree & Evelyn bag, the latest pair being finished last night and posted on Ravelry tonight. The contemporary wips number about five at the moment with the reproductions far outnumbering them:

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!