I do research on and recreate garments and objects from the past. My sources range from original items to photographs in books, periodicals, art works, literary references and period patterns. My research also involves the history of knitting needles and related implements.
The portrait in the corner is by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) of Elisabeth Alexeyevna (?), location and ownership unknown.
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 (http://historyknits.blogspot.com/2008/02/sideways-spencer.html), 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.
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.....................................