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.