Friday, 16 December 2011

Birthday Quilt for Jane Austen

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday. This year is the 200th anniversary of her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. I have been reading Jane Austen’s novels since the age of eleven, and then her other works, letters, biographies and critical works (books, essays, etc.) in English about her and her output for most of my adult personal and professional life. I have also made her or her work the subject of some of my needlework.

As I currently do not have a stand-alone embroidered piece quoting or depicting some aspect of Sense and Sensibility as I do of some of the other novels, I thought I would commemorate the beginning of the anniversaries of the publication of Austen's works with a small quilt that I made in 1996. The quilt is entirely hand pieced, hand quilted and hand embroidered. It is made of 100% cotton fabrics (including the wadding/batting), 28 count linen, quilted and pieced with cotton threads, and embroidered with DMC 25 Mouline Special cotton embroidery floss dark green (500) and pale blue (519) after the colour of Austen’s clothing in a painting of her by her sister, Cassandra. The Pineapple blocks were foundation pieced and are just under 4” square each, and the entire quilt measures 17 ½” x 12”. I chose the Pineapple block pattern not only because it is the perfect way to use various fabrics in one block but because it is multi-layered, as are Austen’s works. The pineapple is also a symbol of welcome and hospitality, and a widely used artistic medium that would have been familiar to Austen. The edges are not “pictures of perfection”* but I am not fussed by that.

I like to “write in thread,” stitching freehand, without any pattern on the linen, and have done many pieces over the years with extensive embroidered script since I enjoy playing with thread as much as I do with dip pens and ink and paper. I also usually stitch in this shade of thread to symbolically keep the memory of the words green and fresh. This little quilt lists the titles all of the written words by Austen, except one**, currently in the public domain – there is always hope of a newly discovered letter, story sketch, etc. The squares name her novels and, in the border, the titles of the scholarly-designated Minor Works – unfinished, Juvenilia, Prayers, Letters, Detached Pieces Verses, Scraps and A Fragment. The fabrics in the Pineapple layers of each square, as mentioned above, reflect aspects of the novel, and so, Sense and Sensibility, with its serious beginning has dark fabrics at the edge with lighter coloured fabrics moving towards the centre of the block with red (financial security) at the inner edge, near the heart of the block. All of Austen’s novels have prominent serious themes but some, like Pride and Prejudice and Emma, have more of the “light, bright and sparkling,”*** about them than the others. All have women in them and clothes are always discussed so I used fabrics that were like but not necessarily reproductions of those of the 1790s-1816. I was also hampered by the small scale of the blocks and so had to use tiny prints that are suggestive rather than completely accurate. The outer edges of the Pineapple blocks are in a cream fabric which has a white Copperplate script printed on it.

The outer green border has a print of gold leaves, flowers and birds. I chose this fabric as my favourite colour is green and that, and the motifs, are symbolic of Austen’s beloved countrysides. The gold is for her words – timeless, entertaining, enlightening, comforting and luminous.

*Letter to Fanny Knight, 23-23 March, 1811
**Play of Sir Charles Grandison
*** Letter to Cassandra Austen, Thursday, 4 February, 1813

P.S. Apologies for the shredded thread in the Sense and Sensibility block - it should have been snipped before the photo was taken.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Knit Pen Wiper

This useful little item is from “ Chapter XI, Knitting” in the The Workwoman’s Guide by A Lady (1838), (London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., Stationers’ Hall Court, 1838.)

No needle size, gauge/tension or material is suggested apart from the colours black and red. I used 3mm needles and KnitPicks’s Palette in Black and Pimento. The edges are plain knitted and the interior is in the recommended “embossed hexagon-stitch” whose pattern is “No. 14” in this section of the book.

The finished object meastures 4” across by 2 ½” down.

Two identical pieces were to be knitted and sewn together. I knitted both in one piece and folded them over to “Double it like a book” and sewed “a bit of ribbon down the inside, under which may be passed bits of silk or rag to wipe the pens upon.” This double or even triple layer doubled over would help to keep one’s fingers, hands, cuffs, work, furniture, carpets, etc., free of ink stains. I can appreciate this only too well, having spent a lifetime in the company of ink and pens, and many accidents concerning drippy pens and spills from overturned or improperly capped bottles of ink.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Knitted Lace Collar No. 2 – Part Three

I am almost finished with the second part of the Knitted Lace Collar No. 2 from Mrs. G.. J. Baynes’s booklet (The Knitted Lace Collar Receipt Book {Fourth Edition}, 1846.) The Lace Pattern, like the Fancy Pattern, is another 8 row sequence, and I have knit 48 points so far with probably another twelve or more to go. The Lace Pattern is being sewn on with a double strand of cotton quilting thread.

When the Lace Pattern is finished and completely sewn on , the third, top and final part has to be knit.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Not Inspired By

There is a lot of discussion out there on the internet about authenticity, reproductions and patterns “inspired by” original objects and clothing, historical eras, figures in history, etc. This little bag, purse or lace reticule belongs to no era but uses patterns, not for its construction but for the elements of its designs from the past.

The base is a circular pattern from the Double Rose Leaf Night-Cap in Weldon’s Practical Knitter/Twenty-Sixth Series and also appears in Volume 9 of the facsimile series of Weldon’s, published by Interweave Press as well as Knitting / 19th Century Sources, edited by Jules and Kaethe Kliot, Lacis Pubications (no date.) The original night cap dates from the 1880’s and can be found in this post.

The circular piece was knit first and the Rose-Leaf border attached, every other row, as I knit it.

The Rose-Leaf pattern is from Exercises in Knitting by Cornelia Mee, 1846.

This bag is knit in white DMC Baroque Crochet Cotton, the circular section on 3.25mm/US 3 needles and the Rose-Leaf pattern on 2.25mm/US 1 needles.

I made a double-layered lining from a pale blue imitation satin fabric, in turn lined with a double layer of light, non-stretch interfacing. The blue section was stitched to the lace bag at intervals on the inside at the bottom of the stockinette neck section, and thin blue ribbon for closing was run through eyelet holes at the garter stitched top. The bag measures 13 ½” around the middle, 4 ¼” across the base at the bottom, 3” tall in the lace section with a top band of 1 ¼” in stockinette, garter and eyelet stitches.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Lest We Forget

Pattern by Erssie Major from

The finished piece measures approximately 4” square.

I used DMC 817 and 321 for the reds, 158 for the blue, 937 and a darker(label lost) green from my stash for the greens and 310 for an added three row black edge all round. The piece was knit on 2.25mm needles.

I will make this again but use reds that will contrast more with one another; these, all my own choice, were too similar. Embroidery floss also needs more attention to wrapping or carrying behind as the threads, unlike wool, do not become flat or felt with one another. I admit that this piece was hastily knit to make a deadline but I feel twice as guilty as my work can be better and such a commemorative piece deserves better workmanship. Next year's version will be so.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Catching Up

La Tricoteuse, c 1816
Madame G. Busset-Dubruste, (fl. 1806-17( (attributed to)
Coloured engraving (by Duthe)
Private collection; the Stapleton Collection
Source: The Bridgeman Art Library
Image ID: STC 428338

I have not posted many projects lately but that is because so many are in progress. I do suffer greatly from Startitis but I have also been slowly finishing off my 2011 list of Things to Make. This list was more about Things to Finish since I took a private oath last January to have no WIPs on my Ravelry page by December 31, 2011 and a finished stack of quilts that are WIPs accumulated over the last twenty years.

The Dressmaker
Fernando Botero (b. 1932)
Medium (unknown)
Private Collection
(Photograph: Copyright Christie’s Images)
Source: The Bridgeman Art Library
Image ID: CH 27259

Hand, arm, shoulder and neck pain has considerably cut down on my quilting progress (I do every stage by hand), and I have also been doing more Irish stitch canvas and crewel work and embroidery these days. The historic wardrobe needs some replenishing, too, and a few doll beds are calling for new linens with knitted edges. Other knitting includes the shawl for the neighbour, the three green garments and that short quasi-cloak for me, buttons for The Garment, seven or eight historical items etc, etc. – hmmmm, I think I need to cancel that oath.

Games, 1939
Charles Walch (1898-1948)
Oil on canvas
Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Source: The Bridgeman Art Library
Image ID: XIR 209962

Although I truly do have some sort of sewing/needlework/knitting needle in my hands every day, my output can be frustrated when Life interferes, with or without warning.

Girl Knitting
John Parker (1839-1915)
Watercolour on paper
Private collection
Source: The Bridgeman Art Library
Image ID: BAL 19343

I seize every opportunity to work on projects, knitting being the most portable. I love to go to the nearby beach and parks and work in the open air and pure daylight. Stretching my eyesight, looking far into the distance, is also therapeutic, particularly as my profession, as well as my interests, requires a good deal of close work.

The Felixstowe to Ipswich Coach, c. 1939
Russell Sidney Reeve (1895-1970)
Oil on canvas
Ipswich Borough Council Museums and Galleries
Source: The Bridgeman Art Library
Image ID: IPS 72921

Public transport often allows for an hour’s catching up, giving me an excuse to indulge my passion for those extremely portable projects, namely socks and fingerless gloves or even that lovely green linen cardigan I have been trying to finish since the spring.

Best of Friends
Emile Munier (1810-?)
Medium (unknown)
Private collection
(Photograph: Copyright Christie’s Images)
Source: The Bridgeman Art Library
Image ID: CH 27496

Back at home or visiting with friends, there is often well-meaning canine/feline assistance that then changes into sitting on the project or my lap which slows down progress.

The Concert
Georg Jacobides (1853-1932
Medium (unknown)
Private Collection
(Photograph: Copyright Christie’s Images)
Source: The Bridgeman Art Collection
Image ID: CH 27091

And the other kind of domestic interruption.

The Veranda at Villerville
Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
Oil on canvas
Musee des Beaux-Arts Andre Malraux
Le Havre, France
Source: The Bridgeman Art Library
Image ID: XEH 53834

Lunch-time at work, with fellow-enthusiasts, lets me to catch up with simple projects such as charity knitting, that I can work on, and chat and eat, all at the same time – more or less!

A Girl Reading
Charles Edward Wilson (1853-1941)
Watercolour and gouache on paper
Private collection
(Photograph: The Mass Gallery, London)
Source: The Bridgeman Art Library
Image ID: MAA 80673

Research into all aspects of historical textiles (and paintings with knitting, like these) never ends and that takes up hours and hours of non-stitching time.

These are some of my recent choices.

Popular Wireless, 3 June 1922
(front cover)
Colour lithograph
Private collection
Source: The Bridgeman Art Library
Image ID: XCF 307304

My favourite way of working on just about anything is in the company of the radio. Thanks to the internet, I can listen to stations from all over the world and can be entertained, educated, and kept alert and productive, twenty-four hours a day.

The Cottage Door (1866)
Henry Bright (1810-1873)
Oil on canvas
York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery)
Source: The Bridgeman Art Library
Image ID: YAG 23480

So I shall continue to chip away at that List, hoping to knit and stitch and sew outdoors for a few weeks more, enjoying my favourite season of all – autumn with all of its glorious greens, oranges, bronzes, golds, browns, reds!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Famous Knitters - Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman (August 29, 1915 – August 29, 1982)

One of the queens of the motion picture industry, and a knitter behind the scenes, too!

Lovely lacy pattern - a sleeve or could it be the back of a child's garment? There seems to be an armhole cast/bind off or is the knitting just falling that way, creating an indentation? One of those lovely puffy short sleeve pullovers or cardigans?

Monday, 15 August 2011

Knitted Pinball with a Ship Design

I am knitting a partial reproduction of this item:

The ship side of my pinball will be fairly faithful to the original but the reverse will be different. Letters and numbers but no animals or that text. Both sides are knitted flat and then stuffed (I will use fleece) and the two pieces are then sewn together with a cord or ribbon around the middle, and a longer one for attachment.

I drew a chart of the ship and the surrounding design from the photographs on the link. The original pinball was knit in silks and measures 1 ¼” wide; mine will be around 3” across – considerably larger. I am knitting on 0.75mm/6-0s needles at 22 stitches to 1”, with vegetable dyed crewel wool in a greenish-gold and natural from Textile Reproductions. The working and end strands can be seen hanging below the knitting. They will be trimmed and the remaining ends will be part of the stuffing.

It takes about ten minutes to knit a row on the right side but over twenty minutes to knit a row on the reverse side. Purling with such fine needles and such fine wool is more of a challenge than reading the chart backwards. Using a metal board with a magnetic strip for a guide is a big help. I did plan to mark in the chart with dark ink and then enlarge it but I was too keen to start knitting so I have been using the original sketch. In my rush, I also forgot to knit the extra rows at the bottom to match the side “hems” and the one that will be knit at the top but I can pick up stitches from the cast on edge and knit the lower hem later on.

The knitting so far is pinned onto an antique pincushion which is stuffed with very stiff fabric. The knitting rolls up on the needle and cannot be seen at all so I pinned it out for the photograph. The rolling, as I knit, also adds to the uncomfortable and time-consuming purling. If I ever knit another pinball, I will use strongly contrasting colours of wool or silk to better see the pattern and speed along those purling rows.

This kind of knitting also cramps my hands so this project will take some time to complete as I can only manage one or two rows a day.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Long Red Knitting

Katherine Bigelow (Mrs. Abbott Lawrence) (1855)
Chester Harding
Oil on canvas
(27 3/8” x 22 3/8”)
Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston, Massachusetts
Gift of the Misses Aimee and Rosamond Lamb

Thanks to one of my favourite blogs, 19th century American Women ( ), I found this wonderful portrait with one of the largest pieces of knitting I have ever seen in a painting. By clicking on the following link, readers can zoom in on the knitting, work basket, etc.:

What is Mrs. Lawrence knitting on two needles, flat/back and forth? She might be knitting something of her own design but she would, by the date given to the painting, 1855, have had access to numerous patterns for capes, shawls, lap rugs, counterpanes, pelisses, nubias, spencers, chest protectors, and hoods, perhaps one similar to the two I have featured on this blog. The copyright protection of printed materials was often difficult to enforce at this time and patterns were ruthlessly purloined and reprinted, sometimes with the audacious addition of the word “new” to the name.

The Illuminated Ladies’ Book of Useful and Ornamental Needlework by Mrs. Henry Owen (1844) contains a pattern for an Opera Hood, knitted in “Two-thread fleecy or double German wool” on “No. 3 needles” (6mm/10 US) With “ninety stitches,” knit in “rows of any light open pattern” (with a suggested pattern.) This hood is not a long piece but the pattern illustrates several clues to the knitting in the painting. Fleecy wool was a thin, fingering weight as was German wool, the latter also being used for Berlin needlework. The range of dyes or colour selection was enormous. One of my favourite examples of choice at this time is a pattern from Mrs. Cornelia Mee’s Exercises in Knitting (1846) in which knitted chair covers call for “Sixteen shades of scarlet, four-threaded German wool.”

Although I am always thrilled to see them, I don’t place much faith in accurate depictions of knitting in paintings as pieces of work range from fairly recognizable stockings (which could have been “modeled” by an independent piece of clothing that had nothing to do with what was on the needles or in the sitter’s hands) to a hazy group of brush strokes depending on the style of painting. This piece of knitting almost looks lacy or airy and is being knitted with two strands of wool seen emerging from the sweet little delicate basket with the interesting base, located on the floor beside the sitter. Is the darker wool, passed under the knitting, being used for a border, on the sitter’s left side, and the lighter shade for the body of the object?

If this is an accurate rendition, the wool is wrapped around Mrs. Lawrence’s right forefinger – a clue to her style of knitting? One of the “English” methods of knitting, the way I knit, in fact, although I use my middle finger to wrap and flick the wool. Mrs. Lawrence’s right hand is, however, too high, to be in the action of knitting; rather, she looks as though she has been interrupted, as so many knitters in paintings have been, and her right hand is arched above the right needle.

The needle on view is wonderfully thin but since its end is hidden by Mrs. Lawrence’s full sleeve, we cannot see if the needle is double-pointed or has a knob or flat end. This is odd if she is indeed knitting one of those airy items mentioned above as they are usually knit on rather large needles in contrast to the suggested thin wool or cotton in order to create the lacy effect.

Painted with her knitting in her hands, seated on a fashionable Gothic Revival chair beside a table covered with books and what may be her correspondence, and lovely fresh flowers, (perhaps from her garden?) as well as the bucolic view beyond the curtain we see a woman who is devout (the cross), elegantly but modestly dressed and an industrious member of a comfortable level of her society. To find out more about Mrs. Lawrence, go to

As always, I walk away from this kind of painting with new information but many more questions, too.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Another Peterson's Hood and Princess Royal's Scarf

A second, much lighter weight Knitted Hood from Peterson’s Magazine, September, 1861. I knit this one in Templetons’s H&O Shetland Fleece in Dusky Blue and White on 6.5mm/10 ½ US needles. The monotony of knitting this hood was greatly relieved by the fact that I love this wool so I was quite happy to have it flowing through my fingers.

My other hood turned out rather heavy but was so very warm during last year’s bitter winter. I had used a thicker wool than the original pattern’s 19th century’s “Shetland wool,” which is closer in weight to the Templeton’s. Two separate, identical pieces are to be knit and then sewn together but for this second hood, I only knit one piece and folded it over to sew it up. I kept to the original number of rows but added stitches on both sides to the long bands for tying so I could wrap them around my neck and then tie them in front. I made tassels again, as suggested in the text of the original pattern, and used blue and white wool as stated in the pattern.

The photo below shows another Princess Royal’s Scarf from Godey’s Lady’s Book, March, 1856, knit, again, in KnitPicks’s Palette, this time in Edamame and Mustard, on 4.5mm/7 US needles. I had to add thirty-two stitches to each side again to make it long enough and to match the illustration. I went with long tassels again, and not the spikey pompons (called "tassels" and "balls") as in the illustration. Although I modeled the last scarf I made, I gave it away so this one is for me!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Knitting in a Summery Picture

La Tricoteuse
Lionel Percy Smythe
Watercolour on paper
Trustees of the Royal Watercolour Society

This painting, undated (late 19th/early 20th century?), is full of hazy summer light and a gentle breeze which blows the skirt and apron of the knitter forward, along with the wool. She seems to have paused in working on a stocking or a sleeve, which, though knit in the round, has only two needles visible in the painting. I hope the other two or three needles are just out of view. I would also have liked to see where the wool is coming from – a basket, workbag?

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Gentleman’s Drawers – Finished!

This is the summer of completion – I hope! Another project is off the needles at last, the Gentleman’s Drawers from Weldon’s Practical Knitter, Eleventh Series (c. 1880s.) I worked from Interweave Press’s facsimile edition of Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume Four.

The drawers were knit in just under six skeins of Nature Spun Worsted, Silver Sage and one skein of the same in Red Fox on 4.5mm/7 US needles. The legs were knit in the round, and the hips to the waist back and forth on straights.

The original pattern called for “light grey or natural colour wool” and “one skein of scarlet wool,” both in “petticoat weight” knit on “four steel knitting needles No. 12” (modern equivalent 2mm/2.5US.) “Should petticoat wool be considered too heavy 5-ply fingering may be employed.” These drawers are described as “very thick and warm.” Petticoat patterns from earlier in the century, however, usually called for the equivalent of fingering weight wool. Hence my choice of Nature Spun Worsted which is a 3-ply wool, perhaps coming closer to the 5-ply fingering. I would have, however, have had a very difficult time knitting with the 3-ply on 2mm needles and if I had knit in a fingering weight wool on 2mm needles, the drawers would have come out in a size to fit a boy and not a man. Swatching in the beginning was essential when playing the all too frequent guessing game of wool equivalency weights during various eras, even within the same century.

This pair of underdrawers measures 49” from waist down to and including the red border of the ankle cuff, the inside leg is 27 ½” and the ankle cuff, including the red border, 3 ½”. The button band is 11 ½” long. The legs are is 20” at the upper thigh, 15” at knee, and 8” (unstretched) at ribbing of ankle cuff. The hips are 40” as is the waist. The drawers were knit in two separate leg and hip pieces and then sewn together up the back. The roominess in the seat of the drawers was created by half rows every sixth row on each side or leg/hip piece. Stitches for a square gusset were picked up from one of the inside crotch sides and sewn onto the other three sides when completed

The final touches include knitted eyelets in the waistband (for braces/suspenders), red flannel lining at the waist down to the hips, scarlet tape and braid for trimming, and stitching in silk thread around the flannel/knitted buttonholes as well as the decorative stitching in the front from the button panels outwards as seen in the original illustration. I did not do any of the above.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Bastille Day and Knitting

Madame Sans Culotte
Lesueur/Le Sueur Brothers
French, 1789
(Stipple engraving?)
Musée de la Révolution Française, Vizille , France, 88.179

I have no French blood in me but I have spent most of my life studying the late18th-early 19th century so July 14th always puts me in mind of literature’s most famous knitter, Madame Defarge (A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Weekly serial in All the Year Round, 30 April 1859, to 26 November 1859). The knitting on the needles in this image is a Bonet Rouge. I have seen versions of this image with more vivid colour at ( and a larger, sharper image at

For an interesting analysis of this print, see

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Knitted Lace Collar No. 2 - Part Two

I am now knitting the "lace" section of this collar. Once again, it is an eight row sequence which is clearly written and enjoyable to knit which led me to reflect that in less than ten years, the art of pattern writing, including the suggestion of needle sizes and materials, had become vastly improved. The Workwoman's Guide (1840 - Second Edition), which I use for knitting and sewing, still relies upon intuitive knitting and background skills in design whereas this little pattern book for collars, published some six years later is highly specific and includes illustrations which are, so far, accurate. The illustration for this collar, which is a drawing, is, however, truncated in length. I wonder if visual sizing was sacrificed so as to make a larger image of the knitted stitches for which I am grateful.

By the way, this book of collars was in its fourth edition in 1846.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Lady's Knitted Under Petticoat - Finished!

It came out, however, rather too big in the body and much too big in the waist. I am thinking of letting the ribbed part fall down on my hips and sewing on a wide satin waistband, probably drawstring. If it is all still too big, I will have to make another one, this time in a fingering weight wool which I already have. That weight is closer to the original in the pattern but I wanted a dense, warm petticoat so I decided to use the sport weight instead.

There are, of course, what seems like hundreds of ends to sew in! Tedious as that sounds, I spent about an hour working on just that and got half of one seam finished so another four or five hours should do the trick. I will have to space this part out over a few days or I shall run mad! Even though I am a quilter and do 98% of my piecing and quilting by hand, and also do canvas work, crewel and embroidery, I hate the sewing part of any knitting project. The panels are meant to joined in “single crochet” but that, combined with my skill in crocheting, would truly drive me over the edge.

The petticoat was knit on 3mm/2.50 US needles, in Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport, using five skeins of Scarlet and two of Snow. The original pattern is from Godey’s Lady’s Book, December, 1864. It does not suggest a needle size, gauge or garment size but does recommend “four-thread scarlet fleecy” (laceweight modern equivalent)

Monday, 20 June 2011

Knitted Lace Collar No. 2

This piece is from “The Knitted Lace Collar Receipt Book,” “Arranged by Mrs. G.J. Baynes, “ “Fourth Edition,” “1846.” These are the “Fancy Row(s)” part of the collar. After this, I have to knit the “Lace” section and then some finishing rows.

The eight row pattern is logical and, without interruptions, I can knit six sets in about an hour. It is still, however, slow going; note the yellow wool markers that are close together which mark one set of eight rows and measures just under 3/8”. The other, longer yellow wool marker is at the half-way point of the collar, approximately 9 ½” long. The width is just over 1”.

Mrs. Baynes suggests “Needles, No. 16” and “Clarke’s Paisley Cable Laid Thread, No. 38 or Boar’s Head Cotton, No. 44. There is also an illustration for each of the four collars. Such an abundance of information! All that is missing is gauge/tension.

I am knitting this collar with DMC Cébélia, Blanc No. 10 on 1.75mm needles which are roughly the equivalent size of the “No. 16” of the pattern. I say “roughly” as my printed guide to conversions lists the Bell Gauge sizes of 15-17 as 1.75mm and my own Lacis Gauge is letting my Inox 1.75mm needle jiggle around a bit in the 1.75 opening but will not allow more than the tip into the 1.50mm hole.

I need to do more research on collars from this era to see if I am close enough in size. I do not feel as though I have captured the delicacy of lace in the illustration which, so far, does resemble the stitches that I am knitting.* The pattern is visible but will probably need a dark garment underneath to show it clearly. The collar also feels a tad heavy. The next one I knit will be in a thinner cotton weight.

*Some illustrations in 19th century printed patterns differ from the finished item or show features not included with the pattern as in the “bracelet” of the 1855 Mitt (

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Worldwide Knit in Public Day/Week 2011

Fisherman’s Children in Zandroot (1882)
Fritz von Uhde (1848-1911), German
Oil on canvas
60 x 80 cm
Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria
Source: Bridgeman Art Library

My thanks to everyone who reads this blog. I hope some of you are out there today and through this coming week, knitting in public!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Stockings from 1817

This pattern is from The Knitting Teacher’s Assistant Designed for the Use of the National Girls’ School, printed in 1817. The facsimile edition, which I used, is available from Robin Stokes ( In the introduction to the facsimile edition, Ms. Stokes writes that she believes this instruction book is the earliest printed pattern currently available. As of May, 2011, there seems not to be anything earlier that has survived in English. Ms. Stokes also writes that “The original purpose of this book was a charitable effort to teach the poor to knit for extra income.”

There are patterns for five sizes of stockings and three sizes of socks with a “scale” (sizing/stitch chart) at the end for both stockings and socks. The pattern, itself, is presented in a question and answer format, e.g., “Q. How do you cast on the stitches? / A. I take the worsted that is on the ball in the right hand…” The stocking is not difficult to knit and the older knitting language is easily interpreted.

I knit the smallest size stocking. There are also patterns for a man's stocking and socks, respectively, knit in lambswool.

In keeping with the times, there is no tension/gauge or needle size stated although “coarse worsted and large needles” are suggested. I followed these instructions by using 3.25mm/3US needles which are larger than the usual sizes I use for reproduction stockings. I also chose Harrisville Designs’ Shetland (two ply) as it is twice the thickness of the usual finer weight wool I use for 18th/19th century stocking; it gave me 7 ½ stitches to the inch. I adore knitting with this wool and, in this case, the gorgeous Marigold color was so bright and cheerful, a definite antidote to Second Stocking Syndrome.

There is no welting or rows or panels of garter stitchs. "Six rounds ribbed" (italics in the original pattern) of "three stitches plan and turning three" (knit three, purl three) instead. Do the italics stress the departure from the older style of stocking top? The narrowing or decreases were knit two together on the right side of the turn or seam stitch, right leaning as is typical of the era, and on the left of the seam stitch, a knit one, pass the next (unknitted) stitch over the knitted stitch. A single knitted stitch, as usual (although I have seen two), was left on either side of the seam stitch on the leg.

The foot had and extra stitch knit “in the loop” either side of the instep “to prevent holes in the corners.” There were also instructions for widening the “heel sides,” as is evident in the photographs from the outward slope on the bottom of the flattened feet.

The toe decreases are not the usual every alternate row but are done in different numerical sequences.

When starting a new ball of wool, it is suggested that the "end of the worsted" be "knit in with the first three stitches."

I followed the exact directions throughout (which is unusual for me) and thought that the leg was a bit short in proportion to the size of the foot. I am 5’3” and have legs in proportion to that height but the stockings only come up to my knee and do not go over them at all. On the other hand, or foot, so to speak, my shoe size is 37 ½ mm/7US, and the foot of this stocking is a good 2 ¾” longer than my foot. It is also a bit roomy on either side of my foot as a result of those added side heel stitches.

The final measurements for the stockings are 10 ¼” around the leg under the ribbing, 8” around the ankle, 10” around the widest part of the foot and 8" around the narrowest part of the foot, between the two sets of decreases. The stocking, from the top of the ribbing to the bottom of the heel measures 18 ½”.

I plan to make the socks, next, but will adjust and fit them more to my foot so I can wear them.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Princess Royal's Scarf

This is easy and quick to knit. The pattern is from Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine, March, 1856, page 264 (

The technique is similar to the Sortie Cap in that it is striped and stitches are dropped and pulled to create the lacy effect. I did a swatch to estimate the length based on the image in Godey's and one that would fit me, ultimately adding 64 to the original 130 stitches.

The original pattern did not specify the weight of the wool but did state "No. 15" sized needles (modern equivalent is 1.75mm/00US. After experimenting with the smaller needles and working my way up to a size which gave me that lacy effect in the image, I ended up with 4.50mm/7US needles - quite a difference. I also did not like the "tassels" in the original image, which looked like fuzzy plants of some sort and opted, instead, for the stranded style.

The wool is Knit Picks Palette in Blush and Silver, using one skein of each, with about a third of both left over.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

18th Century Man's Pocketbook

The reproduction18th century man's pocketbook is finished. It has mistakes in the stitching and I am not happy with the initials and their box but overall, I love it! I greatly enjoy doing this type of work and just have to be more careful in the future or catch my mistakes sooner than six rows afterwards or summat like that!

The pocketbook measures 7 ½” across and 7" long, opened flat. The interior is lined with cardboard and handwoven green silk. The tapes are woven wool and all of the sewing was done by hand with linen thread. The pocketbook, itself, was stitched on 30 count linen with naturally dyed wools from Textile Reproductions. The linen and the wools are from a kit purchased about twenty or more years ago but I did not exactly follow the colour chart in the kit.

My thanks to my father for holding open the pocketbook, and please excuse the Christmas tablecloth in the background which has finally been put away for the year!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Early 19th Century Knitting

Mrs. Eunecia Street Stebbins (1759-1817), 1805-1806
Reuben Mouthrop (1763-1814), American
Oil on canvas under glass
30" x 24"
Owner: Howard S. Ranson, Connecticut
(according to the Art Inventories Catalog
Smithsonian American Art Musuem
Smithsonian Institution Research Information System)

I love portraits of the American colonial era and I particularly like this painting. I have a large photograph of it from a catalogue from Christie's (1998) which shows the beautiful green fabric of the gown, the black lace shawl, the fabulous cap and, of course, the stocking on the four exquisite thin needles. The sitter, as in many paintings that are called primitive or folk art has a misproportioned body in that the arms, in this case, are too large and low for the body, and are far forward in the image. The hands are very big and the skin is a dusky pinkish-white with grey shadows all over. The face, though, is kindly and sweet, with more expression than is usually found in this genre. Mrs. Stebbins looks out directly at us, a hint of a slightly lop-sided smile about to break out, and no suggestion of annoyance in being disturbed at her knitting. On the contrary, she looks pleased to see us unlike other painted knitters who have graced this blog.

The knitting is of great interest and right there in the foreground, nice and clear. Four medium-length thin needles with a stocking begun in a very fine yarn - wool, silk, linen? There are no slubs in this yarn but, since it is in a painting, this means nothing. One can, however, almost count the stitches, 48 and about 10 more or so on the nearest needle, and 28 and a few more on the back needle. There are some, though not too many, on the needle closest to the body and none, as far as I can see, on the remaining needle, as if Mrs. Stebbins was just about to start working with that empty needle. Even though this is a painting, and so the accuracy cannot be trusted, the stitch count is not far off from a stocking I am currently knitting from The Knitting Teacher's Assistant, dated 1817, which is held to be the earliest collection of printed *patterns* currently available, at least in English. Mrs. Stebbins is knitting with very thin needles and fine yarn whereas the pattern suggests "coarse worsted and large needles" so I am using 3.25mm/3US needles and Harrisville Designs 2 ply Shetland wool in Marigold. I adore the texture and colour of this wool so I am whipping up these stockings fairly quickly and will discuss them in another post very soon.