Thursday, 23 August 2012

Semi-Historical Summer Knitting

 I returned to my favourite knitted 19th century sampler for two presents this summer. Susanna E. Lewis’s book, Knitting Lace*, has provided me with so many patterns that transfer gracefully to 20th and 21st century garments, accessories and objects.  This baby cardigan was knit on 3mm/2 ½US and 3.25mm/3US needles in a nameless soft pale green cotton that I have had in my stash for decades. This yarn is thicker than a sport/double-knitting weight but finer than a worsted, and the lace stitches stand out clearly in it.

The bookmark is knit in Aunt Lydia’s Classic Crochet Cotton No. 10 in white on 2.75mm/2US needles. It measures about 5” long by 2 ½” wide.

I used pattern number 48 from the sampler for both projects, one set of the pattern for the cardigan and three for the bookmark. I always enjoy seeing how different effects can be achieved with these patterns, not only by using different textures but by concentrating on particular parts of the patterns. The cardigan's lacy sections remind me of little trees whereas the bookmark has dominant diamonds, flanked by lacy inserts.

*Knitting Lace – A Workshop with Patterns and Projects, The Taunton Press, 1992

Monday, 13 August 2012

Egg Cosy, Fluted Pattern

This pattern comes from Weldon’s Practical Knitter, Number 49, Twelfth Series (1890). It is also published in Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 5, Interweave Press, 2001.
The original pattern called for “single Berlin wool,” and “Four steel knitting needles No. 16” (modern equivalent 1.75mm/US 00.) “The edging should be worked with “a fine bone crochet needle.”

I first started this egg cosy in Paternayan crewel wool, but ran out of the blue, which, along with white, were the colours, “used in our model,” even though it is a black and white illustration. The project was then abandoned for a few years until recently, in this Year of Completion, when I started second one in Knit Picks Palette’s Whirlpool and White on the same sized needles as suggested in the pattern.
This is fairly easy and quick to make but the open-weave interior is the key to its structure. The pattern clearly states that in the body of the cosy, the alternate strands of wool in the knitting “must be rather tightly (but not too tightly) drawn in, just sufficiently so as to make the knitting sit in “flutes.”  I quite like the idea of the knitting sitting in flutes.
A “tuft” or pom-pom was made after threading through the stitches and closing the top. Since I cannot really crochet, I did not follow the pattern for the crocheted edge but simply worked a double line of single crochet around the bottom of the cosy.

At the conclusion of the pattern, directions are given for making a matching tea cosy.

Monday, 6 August 2012

19th Century Knitting from a Painting

Figure (1856)
John Dawson Watson
Oil on wood
Atkinson Art Gallery Collection, Southport, Merseyside, England

I like this painting for many reasons. The details of the girl’s clothing and hair, the lush green in the background, the cloudy weather, and, most of all, that very intriguing piece of knitting, which, with its bright colours, leaps out of the painting. So much so for the knitting, that I searched through my stash and found similar colours of wool as I just had to recreate that piece of work.

What is she knitting though? It seems to be a long bag or sack, knitted in the round, in a pale custard yellow, red, blue, cream or undyed natural light coloured wool and a dark brown or grey natural, undyed wool. Could it be a long workbag or a storage bag for wool, not yet carded or skeined or rolled into one of those very large balls at her feet? Even that is odd as in many paintings I have mostly seen (but not always) wool wound into smaller balls, the size of a large orange or smaller, sitting on laps, in workbaskets, rolling on the floor, etc. The one in this painting is such a gorgeous, loosely wound shape, barely even a ball.

Was the bag be intended as a market wallet but with only one end open? Or was it to be a long snap sack, with a belt or strap attached later?

Just how long this bag was going to be, we do not know. I knit an eyelet row, with a hem of four more rows and then the cast/bind off row, for threading a ribbon or cord through for closing. The finished length is 29 ½” and the width is 16” around.

The needles in the painting are double pointed and look homemade or well used, one with a distinct curve to it. I can only see three needles – perhaps one is tucked under her arm, although they are rather short for that but then the girl is young and small. The work is also bunched together in her hands, rather than having the needles splayed – the whole technique portrayed with more artistic license than a comfortable method of knitting.

 I have studied and studied several images of this painting that are available on the web. The stitches seem very large, too large for the size of needles being used unless the girl was a very loose knitter. Based on her physical dimensions, I estimated the size of each section by colour, and experimented with several sizes of needles to get a loose gauge but not overly loose so as to sag or be too lacy. Even so, I probably have at least twice as, if not more, rows per section in my version.

This bag was knit on 5.5mm/US 9 sized needles using Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted in Winter Blue, Natural, Red Fox, Charcoal, and Lullaby.

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