Monday, 20 December 2010

For A Muff

This is a very easy project from Exercises in Knitting (1846) by Mrs. Cornelia Mee and works up very quickly. The colours are meant to imitate five shades of sable or chinchilla fur. The original pattern calls for “double German wool” whose modern equivalent would be a double knitting or sport weight wool. I used Knit Picks’s Palette. I experimented with various sizes of needles and settled on 4mm/US 6 size needles to get the gauge/tension I needed to make a muff that measured 14" across. The knitting actually measures 15", that extra inch providing the half-inch seam on each underside. The pattern runs from light to dark and then back down through the dark colours to the lightest. Each set comprises a stripe and four stripes “are required.” The lining should be “satin put underneath the knitting of the same colour;” I used a silver imitation satin fabric, and all of the sewing was done by hand.

I hate blocking and did not block this piece, even though it was slanted, when finished. I was able to avoid this step as the knitting was to be sewn onto the satin. I first made a four layer lining with a cotton pillow or sack on the inside, filled with washed and carded merino fleece, and the “satin” on the outside. I basted all four layers together before sewing them and, in fact, basted the pillow every step of the way which, especially when the knitting was attached, helped to shape the stripes and straighten out the slant. The knitted piece was sewn on the satin pillow with the strands of carried wool folded under the interior seam. The pillow was then rolled and sewn along the long edge and the final step was to sew the two white knitted edges together.

I used the muff today in very, very cold weather and it was lovely and warm. There is no extra room on the inside so my hands, in lace mitts, were snug and cosy.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Knitting is my primary passion when it comes to handwork. It is the first kind of handwork I learned, growing up in a knitting household and being taught when I was about five years old. I knit very simple (and often odd-looking) garter stitch items for my dolls and stuffed animals and then around age ten, began to knit hats, gloves (two flat sides with cast ons and cast offs for fingers and then sewn together), scarves for myself and family members. This led to Arans in my early teens and any other type of stitch variation I could learn and use. At the same time, from about age eight onwards, I was clumsily constructing doll clothes of all sizes. None of these, rightly so, have survived but some of my early tandem attempts at stitchery have in various conditions. This is all leading up to explain that a lifetime surrounded with wool, embroidery floss, fabric, linen, canvas and needles of all sizes and shapes has refined itself into a concentration on knitting, quilting, Irish/flame/bargello and cross stichery, most of which has a lean towards reproduction.

I have no other electronic venue to display my work, apart from Ravelry, so I have decided to sprinkle this blog with an occasional piece of alternative handwork. Since today is the birthday of Jane Austen (235 years young), and she is, for many reasons, my most revered author of all time, I have posted a picture of a white work quilt I made in the late 1990s. It was also my first and last attempt at appliqué, an technique obviously to be ranked with my limited skills in drawing. I do, however, greatly enjoy wholecloth quilting. As much as I am in love with printed fabrics, I think my favourite part of the quilt making process is the quilting which comes at the end, and which, like the rest of the production, I do by hand. This little quilt, measuring approximately 20” x 14”, was marked in light pencil using two different stencils. It may not be very apparent but there is stippling (tiny squiggly stitches) all around the appliquéd piece. Another first and last experience as stippling was not unlike knitting the Peterson’s garter stitch hood or flying for many, many hours. Millions of stitches in a feeling of suspended animation, in a twilight zone where nothing seems to be advancing towards completion.

As with almost every kind of stitchery, except knitting, I am self-taught and perhaps that was not a wise choice when it came to appliqué. Nevertheless, after reading and practicing, I chose the classic silhouette image purported to be of Jane Austen and owned by the National Portrait Gallery in London. The fabric is a an imitation silk; the rest of the quilt is made from 100% cotton and the batting/wadding is Fairfield Soft Touch cotton. I use this and Warm and Natural Needled Cotton Batting for my reproduction quilts as they result in a fairly similar texture to the cotton or combed fleece fillings used in the past. They are also pure heaven to stitch through.

This quilt is, however, not a reproduction but a tribute one using cross-hatching, stippling and feathers as motifs reflecting the complexity and yet seemingly effortless gracefulness of Jane Austen’s writing.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Peterson's Hood - Finished!

Yes, it was tedious, to put it milldly, to knit, and, yes, it is bulky but is it ever so warm! I have worn it during the day, and on several evenings in freezing, breezy temperatures on the banks of a very large, windswept river and have felt nice and cosy all wrapped up in it. With the very cold weather that promises to continue, the hood will be put to much use in the weeks to come.

The photographs show a very ungraceful line on the sides but the hood fits around the neck with these.

In spite of the mindless pattern, I am planning to make another in a laceweight wool. It will be a good summer project and give me a chance again to catch up with reading, DVD backlogs, etc.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Fourth Needle

Serving Girl Knitting
Attributed to André Bouys (French, 1656–1740)
Oil on canvas 36 1/4 x 28 1/2 in. (92.1 x 72.4 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection, Bequest of Isaac D. Fletcher, 1917 (17.120.211)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

I have written about this painting before ( I like the it very, very much, not only because of the knitting but for the details of 18th century clothing. The image of it from the Met’s site was, at that time, however, small and only available in black and white which not only did not let us clearly see the fabrics’ colors and textures but also hid the fourth needle from my eyes on my laptop’s small screen. T he current image from the Met's site, used here, is now much sharper. In an effort, though, a few years ago, to get what I hoped would be a better version of the image, I ordered an electronic version of the painting directly from the Met or, rather, the linked service which provides such things. I cannot legally use that image on this blog so the images here are, again, from the Met’s regular Internet site*, including the section showing the knitting.

The “ordered” image, although also in black and white, is, however, richer in the details of the painting. I can now see the beautiful cap and handkerchief of the sitter as well as a huge ball of wool on the table next to a basket containing a work bag with striped ribbons. Both of these items previously looked like food to me in the smaller image on the Met’s Internet site and I was wondering about that dangling thread from the table. With the zoom feature, I can get an even better look at them and hope to reproduce the work bag at some future time. I was also amused by the size of the ball of wool as it is larger than most in most paintings from that and the surrounding centuries.

Most exciting of all was the fourth needle. It lies against the girl’s inner arm where, thin and bent, in the smaller image, it had looked like a crease in her sleeve if it could be seen at all in that older image from the Met’s site. The girl has just started a new row with it so it is largely empty, perhaps only holding a few stitches which are covered by the hand clutching the knitting. What is, though, the curious curl at or near the end of the needle? A wrinkle in her clothing or something attached to her clothing – a part of something similar to a chatelaine?

Oh, dear – a needle found but another mystery, too.


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Hervor Cap and Mittens

Although I define most of my passions dating from the long 18th century, I am also interested in Celtic and Viking history and culture. The first garments I made, after leaving off knitting for my toys, as well as simple caps, scarves and mittens in my teens, was a series of Arans. Thus it is an easy leap to Elsebeth Lavold’s book, Viking Patterns for Knitting (1998) which contains many, many beautiful things to knit as well as lots of fascinating reading. Like the pattern for the Sideways Spencer (, Lavold’s patterns blend history with knitting. I knit the Hervor cap in Tahki Yarns Kerry (sage green/2 skeins), 5.0mm/8US needles. I am not all that keen on lots of purl side fabric on the outer side so I reversed the pattern and did a plain/stockinette stitch for the outside of the cap, made the top a tad puffier (in an attempt to avoid *hat hair*) and widened the outside band by two extra rows, also not in purl. I would, however, like to do the hat again, this time in a tweed wool, following the original pattern more closely as I think the purl stitch outer fabric would look better with a tweedy wool. As I was working, however, with a blend of alpaca and wool with a bit of a halo, I preferred a flatter stitch. In finishing, instead of the purled and tacked hem around the face, I knit four rows and folded the edge over, and knit that into a existing row giving the cap a rolled brim.

I love this hat, the wool, the pattern. I first wore it, in fact, before I had sewn in all of the ends, tucking them inside, during a snow emergency. It is very, very warm and snow resistant. I couldn’t just wear the hat, though, so I made a pair of matching mittens using the same cable pattern, “Lattice repeat” on the same size needles Instead or a ribbed cuff, I gave the mittens the same rolled brim as I did with the Hervor cap. The thumb has a draw-string top closure and the palm of the mitten is plain , the whole ending in a point which rounds out around my fingers when I am wearing the mitten.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Peterson's Hood from 1861

Peterson’s Magazine, September 1861, Vol. XL, No. 3, pages 223-224

I have sudden need of a warm, mid-19th century head covering. Since this hood with its long “strings” does double duty as keeping one’s neck wrapped up, too, I settled on this pattern especially after reading it through and finding out that it is all mindless knit rows (garter stitch) one after another. Quick and easy project, I thought.

I have a new procedure before I start any new pattern, namely, check on Ravelry to see if anyone has already knit it. This I did and compared various yarns, needle sizes and experiences of several people who have made this hood. A run through the posts on this hood in the two CW Needleworkers Yahoo groups yielded more useful information.

The original pattern calls for “Shetland” (lace weight) wool in blue and white. I happen to have loads of that in my stash but I didn’t want to use it as a) I need this hood very soon and the Shetland was not immediately accessible at 10 pm on the night I was starting this project, b) I worried that it might come out too small (as one person had complained) and there was/is no time to rip and knit the hood again and c) I recently purchased some Lion Brand’s Fishermen’s Wool which is actually more of a DK weight rather than a heavy one, and could start knitting immediately as I had it at hand and, perhaps, more reliably in terms of tension/gauge. The colours are Oatmeal and Brown Heather, two natural wool shades.

"No. 4 wooden pins of the bell gauge size are used for this knitting” states the pattern. The modern equivalent would be 5.5mm/9 US. I tried that size and worked my way up to 6mm/10 US with a tension/gauge of 4 stitches to the inch which, gave me the needed measurements to go round my face and strings long enough to tie comfortably. To do the latter, however, I had to add 20 more stitches to each side of the strings, increasing from 40 to 60. Longer strings match the illustration, too.

Still thinking that I could whip the hood up in a few days, I started knitting and four episodes into Brideshead Revisited, plus the mini-documentary, and quite a few Radio 4 programmes later, I am almost finished with the first piece of mind-numbing knitting, which is why my choice of electronic companionship and encouragement had to be stimulating and gorgeous to look at (language, clothing, architecture, furniture, landscape and the young Anthony Andrews.) Once completed, I get to knit the whole bally thing again but at least this time with the added excitement of changing colours in the middle of the piece.

With five days to go.....................................

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Non-Historical October Knitting

October is my favourite month of the year. I love autumnal colours and I usually end up knitting something that reflects the season. Pumpkin Man was this year’s project. His head and leaf is from Autumn Pumpkins by Jan Lewis (a free Ravelry Download.) I embroidered the eyes and mouth. The bat on the pullover is from Monica Gausen’s Bathat
( I had to place it sideways as the bat would not fit across the chest. The pullover and body parts are my own design which I made up as I knit.

The body is stuffed with a Soft Touch Polyfil Supreme. Every part was knit on 2.50mm/1 ½ US size needles except for the pullover which was knit on 2.0mm/0 US needles. The wools were Brown Sheep Nature Spun Fingering (Pepper), Dale of Norway/Dalegarn Baby Ull (Bright Orange, Green and Dark Brown, Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool (Gold), Knit One Crochet Too Gourmet Collection (Creme Brulee), Morehouse Farm Merino Merino Lace (Henna.) . I used a vintage, unknown crewel yarn for the leaf.

Pumpkin Man stands 6 3/4” high, not counting the stem.

A friend who has one year old twin girls asked me to make the hats below and I was happy to oblige – more autumnal knitting! The pattern for the hats is my own - just a simple ribbing and a knit 6/seed stitch repeat. I decreased at the top with the brown and knit an I-cord stem. I used Julie Dietz’s Leaf Knitting Pattern For Pumpkin Hat (
for the leaves on 4mm/6 US needles, and added an I-cord vine from the crocheted edge around the leaves to wrap and sew around the stem. The wool was Plymouth Yarn Encore Worsted 1233 (green) and 1383 (orange), Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted (Butterscotch.)

Monday, 11 October 2010

Godey's Knitted Garters

This pattern comes from Godey's Lady;s Book, June 1862 and came out 10” long in the cream part, stretched out. I need ones a tad longer to go around my leg twice and then slip through the loop and then have enough length left to tie, so I will be making a second pair, possibly in grey and red. The pattern is very, very easy, and the tassels can be made in five minutes.

I knit these in Morehouse Natural and Wedgewood on 0.75mm/US 6/0 needles.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

September and School

The Benevolent School
English School
Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery
Bristol, England
Image from The Bridgeman Art Library

I love this piece of art because it is simple, charming, fascinating and dates from the late 18th century, possibly early 19th century.* I have not seen it in person nor can I find out much more about it so I cannot list its dimensions, etc. I also cannot get a really close look at what everyone is doing in it in spite of zoom features on two of the sites where it is available. I think one of the girls may be knitting at the top of the picture and two woman may be winding wool in the foreground. Nevertheless, it is fun to follow the line of pupils and instructors around the room and look at the hats and bonnets on the walls and the view of the building outside of the window.

Click on the image for a larger version.

*I seem to recall the date of 1800 assigned to this but I cannot remember where I read that, and that date may be one of creation rather than representation.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

18th Century Long Wool Mitts

I have knit two versions of these mitts inspired by the pattern, 18th Century Women’s Knitted Mitts, by Mara Riley (2006 -

I knit them in two different weights of wool and adapted the pattern to fit my arms. The grey pair, in Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted Charcoal used two skeins although there was a fair bit left over from both. Mara Riley’s pattern calls for two skeins of Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport wool which is what the second pair is knit in Burnt Sienna. The Charcoal pair was knit in a few days (one of those emergency projects which only allowed for a quick choice from whatever was available from the stash) on 3.25mm/US 3 needles with
7 stitches to the inch.

They are 15 ¾” inches long and 5” (10” around) wide at the top, tapering down to 3” (6” around) at the wrist and 3” (6” around) across the fingers. The Burnt Sienna pair has the same measurements but was knit on 2.75mm/US 2 needles with 7 ½ stitches to the inch. In both cases, I had to cut down Mara Riley’s original number of stitches to two different sets. The seam stitch runs along the inside of the arm, extending along the hand and thumb, and is reinstated along the side between the forefinger and the thumb.

The mitts look tight but since they are knit in wool there is a lot of give and they are completely comfortable to wear and very warm.

Now I am inspired to make linen ones like the ones on the lady holding the upright rake in this lovely painting with its haymakers fancifully garbed:

Haymakers (1785)
George Stubbs, British
Oil on wood
Tate Collection
Tate Britain, London, England
Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery, the Art Fund, the Pilgrim Trust and subscribers 1977

Click on this link to see the complete painting:

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Summer Knitting

Dutch Girl Knitting by the Sea
Christopher Dean
(British, fl. 1895 – 1924)
Oil on canvas, 10” x 14”
Location unknown

I like this painting because it shows something I do quite frequently, that is, sitting and knitting by the water. Not only in the summer but whenever it is warm enough to do so. If it is cool and I have to wear fingerless gloves, I cannot use dpns but I always have plenty of wips on various kinds of needles to choose from and I never punish my overworked fingers if it is too cold to knit outdoors. As I knit through the current grueling summer with its relentlessly soaring temperatures, I can only do so with wool, the coarser the better. Cotton or acrylic just wilts in my damp hands. As Jane Austen wrote “What dreadful Hot weather we have! -- It keeps one in a continual state of Inelegance.” {Letter to Cassandra Austen, 18th September, 1796.}

The girl in the painting, though, looks crisp and cool. She seems to have just started a blue tubular object, perhaps a stocking or sleeve. Alas, this seems to be another three needle painting unless I just cannot see the fourth needle.

More information about the artist and the painting may be found at

Monday, 19 July 2010

Red Under Petticoat - One Panel Finished!

This was surprisingly fast to knit. I also added four "stripes" to the top section below the ribbing so the petticoat will fall just at mid-knee. It also looks as though I will only need three panels as stated in the original pattern.

Also on view are some of the numerous ends which I will work into the seams as I crochet the panels together.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Red Under Petticoat Update

The Red Under Petticoat is growing. I will do a thorough discussion of it when it is finished but for now I have to say that it has been fun to knit. The puckered lower edge is created by extended slipped stitches. Once I was past the lower edge, this became my World Cup knitting as I only need to keep count of the stocking stitch rows and not really look at them as I knit.

Unlike England's Flag Flying*, designed by Erssie Major, which required more attention. I worked on it as fast as I could but didn't have it quite ready for the first match! I knit this on 2.25mm/US 1 needles with DMC Six Strand Embroidery Floss in the Portrait version of the pattern. The finished piece measures 5 1/2" wide and 3 3/4" down, not counting the garter stitch edge I added. The gauge/tension is 12 stitches to one inch.

*Free pattern at

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Worldwide Knit in Public Day/Week

An Outdoor Literary Salon
French School, early 19th Century
Private Collection
The Bridgeman Art Library
Creative Image #79108854

Saturday, June 12th, kicks off this year’s celebrations of Worldwide Knit in Public which have been extended from one day to a full week! Seize upon your latest project, wips or start something new, and dash outside as often as possible over the coming days! Follow the example of the lady in the lower left corner of this image who calmly wields her needles in the midst of a volatile literary discussion. As usual in this genre, there is a great deal happening and even more being implied in the image but I am, for this post, just interested in the knitting although happy to have an illustration from one of my favourite eras in history. The industrious lady seems to have ony two needles in action – is she knitting something flat and, if so, what? A comforter, part of a shirt? Or is that the beginning of a stocking on four or more needles and we cannot see the others? There seems to be several strands of yarn hanging down from her work but she is only knitting in one colour. Could these strands and the fact that she does not seem to be holding her knitting in a very capable way suggest that her knitting skills are as pretentious or limited as the literary ones of those of her fellow members of the society? Or is this yet another example of an artist being unfamiliar with knitting, its tools and its hand positions? At any rate, the picture is bright and funny, and there is a knitter in it so I cannot really complain!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Lady's Knitted Under Petticoat

This pattern comes from Godey’s Lady’s Book, December, 1864, page 533, with no suggested needle size or gauge and calling for “four-thread scarlet fleecy” and the same in white; its modern equivalent is lace-weight. It is easy and fun to knit, and very hard to put down which is good as it calls for several long panels that will then joined with a “single crochet.” I am knitting it on 3mm needles, in Nature Spun Sport weight 100% wool (Scarlet and Snow.) I did try it first in lace weight wool on both 3mm and 3.50mm needles but the result, with my tension, was too airy and loose.

The photograph shows the beginning of the border hem of a panel.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

The Brewster Stocking

The Brewster Stocking by Jacqueline Fee was featured in the magazine Piecework, January/February, 2010. The pattern for her modern adaptation of the spiral stocking is available by request, from Jacqueline Fee, and is not the sock pattern that appears in the issue of the magazine. It is based on a stocking owned by Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts and is dated from the 17th century. The article and the photograph of the original stocking stirred up debate on several electronic forums devoted to historical knitting with questions raised as to its dating and previously documented use of the spiral pattern on stockings in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. No one, unfortunately, including me, could immediately produce a photograph of or pattern for a spiral stocking although I seem to remember seeing a photograph of such a stocking on a museum website in the past few years. The relative shapelessness of the stocking also gave rise to comments and speculation as to the skills of the original knitter and the owner, believed to have been “William Brewster (1567-1644) of the Plymouth Colony,"* his leg and his health, gout being one of the suggestions due to the width of the leg and shape of the foot.

Since this was an adaptation of a period object, I decided to follow the pattern exactly and not make any changes. The heel flap had been modernized from the traditional long square one of the original stocking but the spiral patterns had been left in the new design much as they had appeared in the original. There is also no seam stitch although there appears to be one in the original stocking, based on the photograph in the article. Ms. Fee has been very helpful since the publication of the article, according to those on the net who have shared their questions and her responses. The pattern was worked from notes and a sketch she did some twenty years ago.

The top of the original stocking also intrigues me. It appears to have two rows of welting that may have been folded over from the inside over to the outside, visible thanks to the part that has rotted or torn or been eaten away. The original stocking had a tension/gauge of 11-13 to the inch and was knit in wool. The size of the needles could only be determined by matching gauge with a similar weight of yarn.

My finished measurements came out a tad different than the pattern suggested ones in spite of swatching. My adapted version is 12 inches in width at the leg, 12 inches around the foot at its widest at the base of the heel, its length measuring 11 inches and the stocking, itself, 10 inches around the garter stitch section near the toe and 25 inches from top to heel. The adapted pattern calls for 2.75mm/2US needles using Bartlett Sport Weight 2 ply-wool to get a tension/gauge of 7 stitches to the inch. In keeping with my oath to stash bust, I swatched with a nameless laceweight, Blackberry Ridge laceweight, Brown Sheep Nature Spun laceweight, and, finally and successfully, Harrisville Design’s New England Shetland (394 yards per skein) in Russet. The stocking used two skeins with just a yard or so left over.

The leg looks wide and unshaped but there is some decreasing. The spiral pattern does not work out evenly round and round the stocking but the difference is minimal and easily adjusted as one knits. I tried to stay true to the pattern (unusual for me) but gave in at the toe which is supposed to be grafted. I simply do not like grafting and do not do it well so I made a drawstring toe.

The spiral pattern does not, unfortunately, really come across that sharply in the photographs. It is easier to appreciate the rippled effect it creates on the sides. Click on the photographs for a larger image.

The stocking was fun to work on, partly because of the spirals and partly because I didn’t have to write the pattern! I decided to make only the one stocking as no one will wear it because of the shape. This modern version was also a dry run in case I want to go back and make a more historically accurate version of the original stocking with more shaping in the leg, a period heel and seam stitch. Knitting with Harrisville Designs Shetland was terrific, too – I adore that wool!

* Fee, Jacqueline. The Brewster Stocking. Piecework, January/February 2010, p. 29

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Knitting Before and Behind the Camera

I mentioned my fondness for old films some time ago here, and named Bette Davis as one of my favourite actresses. Apart from all of the legendary lines she delivered and her place in film history (not only as an actress), she was a keen knitter. April 5 would have been, her 102nd birthday so I would like to feature her in different photos that I have studied for information about knitting in her lifetime. There is a tad of knitting history if we look at her knitting bags such as the one on her lap in the photo of her in sunglasses on the set of, I am guessing, The Old Maid. I also always try to get a good look at her needles in the films where we do see her knitting.

Here she is knitting off-camera with co-star Ann Sheridan (who appears to be crocheting) on the set of The Man Who Came to Dinner.

I haven’t watched Now Voyager for some time but I do seem to remember an early pivotal knitting scene as well as knitting while cruising later on in the film.

She also knit in Phone Call From a Stranger.

Look at the knitting container (case/bag/cylinder – what was this called?) next to her as she works on a contribution for the Red Cross during World War II. If she was knitting in between takes in this photograph, I have yet to identify the film.

Bette Davis’s most famous filmed handwork, though, must be the crocheted lace she worked on throughout the film, The Letter. She is seen here, crocheting on that set, alongside her stand-in, Sally Sage, who is knitting an Argyle sock. I wish we could see their work bag and basket more clearly.

Davis’s character’s crocheting and her supposed finished work are again, important elements in the film. I just wish, too, in this one of my favourite films, let alone favourite films of Bette Davis, that her character had, instead, been knitting lace!

Credits: Images from The Old Maid, Now Voyager, The Man Who Came to Dinner and The Letter owned by Bettman/Corbis? They can all be found on various Flickr accounts.

Image from Phone Call From a Stranger is from The Complete Films of Bette Davis by Gene Ringold, New York: Citadel Press, Inc. (1985, 1990), page 157.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

2010 Knitting Resolutions

It is almost April and I have not reconciled last year’s list of knitting resolutions, let alone drawn up the 2010 list on paper although the list, such as it is, continually grows by leaps and bounds in my mind.

I listed fourteen wips last year ( and completed the 19th century garters* (one only as I ran out of DMC yarn and I cannot find exact colour matches for it now), the child’s handspun and marled stockings, the handspun gloves, the 1855 mitts and the Vanity Fair purse. Six out of fourteen projects is not terribly respectable but added to the projected and unexpected items, the numbers do go up. Not just one but three 19th century under or half caps were made (although none of them completely satisfactory) and the man’s 19th century nightcap became a boy’s. The projects that did work out well were the Gunnister purse*, long 18th century woolen mitts*, another 19th century miser’s purse, the 17th century red and blue mini-stockings, Stephen Maturin’s blue mini-stockings, the Norwegian morning cap/hood, two different pairs of 19th century undersleeves and a linen bookmark in lace from the 1830s-1840s. The clamshell coverlet continues to grow in clamshells and I think I have found a filler section pattern for the edges. Not content with knitting masses of pieces for one coverlet, I started an octagon/squares one*, too. Tiny 19th century lace samples* needed a place for display so I created an album* out of 19th century reproduction fabric to house them. And then there was that 19th century lace fish serviette* that I just couldn’t resist starting just to see what the pattern looked like, of course.

The Garment is not languishing but still very much nearly finished. More on that soon. Contemporary projects and various commissions usually take precedence over the historical knitting and the historical knitting creates delays of its own. I am very lucky if the first version becomes the final version. I sometimes knit a miniature version just to work out the pattern, especially if I am knitting blind, that is, from one of those delightfully laconic, illustration-free early patterns or trying to reproduce a surviving item, or will knit several “life-size” versions before the final one, if there is a final one, works out. The half-caps were a case in point and I am still not satisfied with the wool and am working on a fourth one that I hope will be more historically accurate.

On the 2010 list are, of course, the uncompleted 2009 projects as well as the following:

1. Gunnister gloves
2. Blue mini-Maturin comforter (half completed)
3. Another Weldon’s nightcap (which I am re-knitting for the fourth time as I write this)
4. 19th century lace collars
5. Second pair of long 18th century woolen mitts (one finished, one to go)
6. 19th century knitted veil
7. 19th century double-knitted wristlets
8 Mid-19th century under-cap
9. Sortie cap
10. A muff or two
11. 1855 mitts in white and pale blue
12. 19th century pen wiper (that I have twisted my brain into knots over twice already)
13. 19th century knitted petticoat

and because I like a challenge, this 18th century pincushion* whose own work box with materials is in the above photo. It is cast on but I can only do one row a day or so as the work is very, very fine and hard on the hands as well as the eyes, not to mention the charting of the pattern on paper (more on this project soon):

I daresay there will be another miser's purse this year, too, as I just cannot resist them.

*Items marked with an asterisk will appear soon on the blog.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Knitting and Walking

Knitting in the Fields
Charles Sprague Pearce
(American, 1851-1914)
Private Collection

This is me yesterday. The weather is improving and I can take my gloves off outdoors and knit as I walk. Although this painting is called "Knitting in the Fields," the subject may be walking along a small river. I did the same for about two hours yesterday though by a much larger river (and on a smoother surface) in the first, fine sunny and warm yet breezy day this year. I was also working on a long piece, an 18th century long mitt, adapting it to fit me, and so ripping and re-knitting the thumb and upper hand as I went along, any frustration dispelled by the glorious weather, the breeze in my hair and wool, and the sheer delight of knitting outside in pure daylight and fresh air.

The weather in this painting does not look as nice as mine, and the knitter seems to warding off the chill with her outer clothing. She may, also, not be walking but standing as the leg in front is bent and the other is straight. Has she stopped because something we cannot see has caught her attention or is she simply pausing? Her hands have stopped knitting, too, and there is no strand of wool attached to her work. Has she run out of wool and so the stocking production has also halted?

We do see, for once, FOUR knitting needles - huzzah!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Godey's 1877 Blue-Bag

This pattern comes from Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, Vol. XCIV - January to June, 1877.

It is very straightforward and easy to knit. I omitted the final set of five repeats without decreases as the bag was already the size it should be by the time I got to that part in the pattern so I just continued with the decreasing rows to the end.

The bag is knit in Blackberry Ridge Lace Weight wool (Medium Wedgewood) and is a lovely dusky light shade of blue and not as grey as it appears in the photographs. The dpn's needle size was 1.75mm/00US. The original pattern called for "Scotch fingering wool" and "four needles No. 16 (bell gauge {sic})." which I matched to the modern size.

The draw strings were crocheted on a 2mm/0US hook. No hook size was suggested in the pattern.

Please see the comments on the possible use of this "blue-bag" in the comments which follow or are attached to this post.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

“Pine-apple” Purse from The Lady’s Stratagem

The Lady’s Stratagem - A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery & Etiquette, Lavolta Press, San Francisco, 2009, 755 pages. Edited and with Additional Material by Frances Grimble.

This book is a delight to read from cover to cover. There are sections on health, etiquette, beauty, cosmetics, servants, courtship, clothing, millinery, accessories, needlework and much, much more. It is highly defined within the period of time variously known as the “Extended Regency, American Federal Period, Fur Trade Era, Colonial Canada, Bourbon Restoration.”

Chapter XVII, The Art of Knitting, pages 431-458, does not have a great many patterns but does include some things I had not yet seen in publications from this era such as a Beret, Pantaloons, Waistcoats and Night Jackets, and a discussion of “Open-Work Knitting,” which, as a keen knitter of lace patterns from 1830’s-1840s, made me very happy. There are also instructions or patterns for knitting stockings, slippers, gloves, petticoats, mitts and purses.

The pattern for “A Purse knitted like a Pine-apple” appears on pages 445-446. As with other early knitting patterns, there is no recommended needle size or gauge. “Green” and “orange silk” are the suggested materials. There is no illustration of the purse but the final line of the pattern states that when “the purse is closed at the top with drawing-strings, it has altogether the air of a pine-apple” (page 446.)

The pattern is typically, of the era, intuitive. In addition, two different counts of the ultimate number of stitches needed for the top of the bag are given although only one of them is divisible by six and neither by eight, one or both of which is essential for the eyelet openings and the leaves. I increased to a number in between the two suggested numbers that gave me the correct division later on.

The bag begins with the five leaves at the bottom which “take the place of the tassel,” and are knit upside down, one at a time, narrowing the total numbers of stitches down to the very small number of the base of the star which is how the lower green part is knit. No directions were given for the leaves, only that they should resemble “…a little tab like the strap of a slipper.” Shoes were dainty in the 1820’s so these leaves are too. I did not make them very long, though, as they would have been flopping all over the place and the upper ones would have then hidden the small section of orange knitting. This part’s openwork contains a choice of a hole à jour (which I used) or à crochet; explanations of both techniques are given elsewhere in the chapter.

The “drawing strings” are a “flat braid au crochet…made by a kind of knitting, or rather a chain-stitch…(using) a hook, which is an iron instrument two or three inches long terminating in a curved point, and fitted into a wooden handle.” (page 539) I determined their length and the size of the tassels by one of the illustrations of a purse or reticule elsewhere in The Lady’s Stratagem and other period clothing prints. The first ones I made are in the photograph but they came out too long when I gathered the purse's top so they will have to be shortened.

Since silk is out of my price range, I substituted DMC Six Strand Embroidery Floss in Green 935 (16 skeins) and Orange 742 (3 skeins) and knit the bag on 2mm/0US double pointed needles at a gauge of 10 stitches to the inch. The leaves are just over 1 ¼” long each and the purse’s body measures 6” long in total and 6” across at the widest top part of the orange section.

The “flat braid” was badly crocheted (my talents lie elsewhere) on a 2mm/0US hook. I am going to line the lower green part of the purse, perhaps with “white taffety” as recommended later on this chapter (page 450.)

I plan to make more items from this book but I also want to try and track down the exact source of each pattern. The bibliography is helpful and I have also been pointed to the Manuel des Demoiselles ou Arts et Métiers…. whose edition from 1830 is available on Googlebooks and which contains directions for the “Bourses en ananas” on page 176.* My next task is to translate that section and compare it to the pattern above.

*My thanks to Alwen.

Friday, 5 February 2010

An Award!

Much to my surprise, I am a recipient of The Beautiful Blogger Award, nominated by Bygone Knits – thank’ee, ma’am! ‘Twas most kind of you to do so! Please take a look at her wonderful blog - the link is on the left of this post.

In return, I must change the usual theme of my posts and list seven random facts about myself, and then choose seven blogs for nomination.

Part I

1. I like good, plain cooking – and Indian, Thai and Chinese cuisine.

2. I love black and white films from the late 1920’s-early1950’s, especially anything with Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis or Kay Francis. I also like late 20th/early 21st century literary and historical films and series with fabulous and not too fanciful period clothing.

3. I love art, theatre, ballet, opera, early and classical music as well as traditional fiddle melodies, and have studied ballet and five instruments.

4. I have a large book collection made up of history and biographies (both mostly 16th- early 20th century), naval (more history, biographies, novels), 17th-20th century plays and novels, historic clothing, knitting and quilting, Golden Age mysteries, ghost stories, 19th and 20th century books of fiction about dolls and dolls’ houses, and quite a few of the recent various series of future children’s classics. I also like the works of Barbara Pym, Muriel Spark and Anita Brookner, and one of my absolute favourite novels is The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier – time travellers, take note.

5. Although my intellectual home is firmly fixed in the Long 18th Century, I also enjoy studying the Tudor/early Stuart and Edwardian/World War I periods, and the 1930’s as well as the clothes from those eras.

6. In spite of my passion for the past, I am an avid Stargater (SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis) and dream of introducing knitting to other galaxies far, far away.

7. I really do go outdoors sometimes, and I like swimming, kayaking and taking long walks, even outside of museums!

Part II

Nominating just seven blogs was very difficult as there are so many wonderful ones out there. Here are some of the ones I read on a regular basis (and apologies to my internet friends I did not include on the list – I was told only seven!!!)

Travels in Time

18th century blog

A Homely Heroine

Lost Arts studio

In The Past Lane

Joyful Molly

The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide to the 18th Century