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):
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.

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.