Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Quilt for December

Nice, wintery look for December. The colours and patterns are so cosy and inviting – I  just want to wrap up in it and read a good book.

The quilt is made up of reproduction 19th century woven cotton tartan prints and a striped one for the backing.  The wadding/batting is Warm and Natural Cotton which I frequently use for reproduction work.

This quilt measures 55” square. It is entirely hand pieced in the square on point pattern, hand quilted, and finished with knife edges.

Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 Reviewed

The Fisher Girl
19th Century
Salenson, Eugenie Marie
Private Collection
Credit: Bridgeman Art Library*
Image Number: CH42892
Photo © Christie's Images

As I scroll backwards through this blog for the year 13, I find only twenty-two posts out of eighty-nine were about historical knitting projects. This was due, in a large part, to a mandatory respite from knitting anything on needles smaller than 2.00mm/US 0, and, in particular, anything in cotton or linen, those most two inflexible kinds of threads, both of which wreaked havoc on my hands, wrists and arms in the previous Year of Completion. There is still a backlog of thirty-two reproduction knitting projects (and several stitching ones) so the plan is to tackle at least one a month in the coming year. They range from small 19th century purses to the baby jacket or waistcoat in the collection of the V&A, which now needs to be entirely ripped out and started again, thanks to new images I found last year.

The past year’s quasi-hiatus gave me a chance, however, to search for images of actresses from the decades of films that I love best – the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. I, and many of the readers of this blog, spend so much time researching the clothing and accessories of the past, let alone trying to reproduce them. So apart from the fact that I enjoy the performances, storylines, cinematic techniques, etc., of those films, they also give me a chance to see the actors wearing and moving in the clothes, hairstyles and make-up of their own era. These are not costumes in the sense that the actors are portraying another era but costumes that were contemporary clothing for them. I will admit that probably no one really wore some of what Kay Francis did in her films but we must have a few flights of fancy. I sometimes think that her extravagant ensembles are an homage to another favourite era of mine, the Edwardian.

I also wanted to see how many images I could collect of knitting needles, knitting bags and, possibly, projects from the 1920s-1960s.  I took a lot of detours on the way, as we do on the Internet highway, and found some wonderful things. There were, of course, so many other actresses I wanted to feature but could just not find any images of them doing handwork of any kind or in period knitwear. I am still on the lookout, though, and have a few more people to feature in the coming year who surfaced after their birthdays this past year.

It was a good year for other knitting, though, as I worked on small decorative and seasonal projects, socks, finished a few mini-quilts and read a lot of great books.

This was also a year of anniversaries. Due to 21st century technical difficulties, I was not able to post the photograph below on December 16th of this year (Jane Austen’s birthday)  - truly, pen, ink and paper are so much more reliable! Pride and Prejudice is two hundred years young, and, in spite of all of the various attempts on its life, it remains as fresh and as relevant as when it was first published in 1813. The wealth of phrases or quotations in it made it difficult to choose which one to stitch. I selected this one from the end of the book. There is so much simple joy in it, and there is universal joy amongst most of the characters by then, too, even with Austen’s trademark irony.

Dr. Who (on television) is fifty years old this year although the most famous handknitted scarf in the world is slightly younger. Those regenerated doctors have kept me amused and have fed my imagination practically all my life so I had to pay tribute to the most famous (and my favourite) villains of all time – the Daleks.

 Finally, I wish all the followers and readers of this blog a happy and healthy 2014.  May your stitching be smooth, your hands not hurt and your deadlines met without despair!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

One Lovely Blog Award

For shame, for shame! I was granted this award in early April, which I thanked the nominator at that time in the Comments section of this blog but not here. I have felt guilty about this for months, so Thank You, Very, Very Much, Katie Jacobs, and please forgive the unconscionable time it took for me to do this post!  You were very kind to take notice of my blog and say such nice things. May I return the compliment, and encourage readers here to pop over to Katie’s site and take a look at the fantastic clothing (and bread) that she is making and read her posts – love and share the same opinions about underpinnings!

The guidelines for the award are thus:

1. Thank the person who nominated you.
2. Add the ‘One Lovely Blog Award’ image to your post.
3. Share seven things about you.
4. Pass the award on to seven nominees.
5. Include this set of rules.
6. Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs.

Seven things about me.  Well, I did so for the last award (http://historyknits.blogspot.com/2010/02/award.html), so what can I add to that list?

  1. I have moved around a great deal during my life but I have always lived by water, mostly on coasts but also on two major rivers and that has become very, very important to me. I love the water, swimming in it, boating on it, and just sitting by it and gazing out.  I can’t imagine life without the sea, a lake or a river nearby, and I hope I will always have that.

  1. I was lucky to grow up near to major historic sites and come from a family that loves history. Our outings and holidays and much of my own free time was spent touring them and more historic sites so I thought that was what everyone did – always.

  1. I am mad about jigsaw puzzles – all kinds and shapes. I constantly have one or two in progress, and I keep them all so I have a stash of puzzles that is comparable to my yarn one.

  1. When I am not knitting reproduction items or contemporary clothing, I like to knit miniature objects for fun and gifts. Many of these are on my Ravelry project page (Knit1805)

  1. I do believe that exercise is essential in so many ways and vital to those of us who spend hours bent over knitting needles, stitching frames, sewing machines, etc. I try to remember to stand up and stretch every hour or so – Pilates (on the living room floor, for all love) and swimming are even better for us needleworkers.

  1. I tend to resist technological changes (my phone is ancient) although I do use technology, obviously, and benefit from it. Like many people reading this blog, I am sure, I have more books than space for them. Eighteen months ago, I was given a Kindle by a forward-thinking relative, and now I have almost eight hundred (free) books on it from the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th century on it – the treasures you can find! I have also added some contemporary books this year. I know the argument about handling the book itself, the paper, the covers, the scent (my professional life is all about old books) but I have been won over by the fact I can store and read, carry and SEARCH through so many books on that wonderful little device. As Jack Aubrey would say, “What a fascinating modern age we live in!”

Well, that is six things, and I really cannot think of anything else so I will nominate seven other bloggers next. This is very difficult as I am in utter awe of the magnificent garments and the information that I see on so many blogs and sites. When I think of all of the work (research, shopping, carding, spinning, weaving, sewing, knitting, needlework, leatherwork, millinery, etc., etc.) that goes on in the fields of reproduction, and is only seen or appreciated by a fraction of the world, it just knocks my hand knitted socks right off into another galaxy. Reading or even just skimming the blogs about reproductions is such a treat. There is phenomenal work being done by people, who, by and large, have other occupations and demands on their lives in the 21st century, and yet they produce such masterpieces from the skin out of other centuries. I will also say that I heartily recommend sampling the lists and sites found on the blogs as each one is likely to be “An invitation to endless wonder,” to quote Mrs. Frederic of Warehouse 13.

The blogs I have listed not only showcase marvellous workmanship but are also valuable for research, and have excellent photography (which is not always found here, I admit): 

Superbly detailed information and photographs about those underpinnings and absolutely stunning 18th century gowns and more!

What everyone needs to know about cosmetics in the 18th century – pros and cons, and safety issues. Love the painting of little Mlle. Liotard in her curling papers.

I want every gown, hat, you name it, that this talented lady makes! http://couturecourtesan.blogspot.com/

I do move out of the long 18th century from time to time so I love this blog which has so much about the first half of the 20th century. It is such fun to read!

Both modern and historical clothing – beautiful work!

An elegant and informative blog – you don’t need to know French to appreciate it!

Lots of variety and terrific pattern information.


Saturday, 28 December 2013

Miniature Stately Home

As holiday gifts this year, I made Christmas tree ornaments which reflected some aspect of my friends’ lives in 2013. One person went on an extensive study course of visiting historic houses so I knit a little one for her.

The house, which has a front and back, was knit on 2.00mm/US 0 needles with DMC 25 Mouliné Spécial embroidery floss, using 830 for the house, 3862 for the roof, and 3781 for the chimneys. The windows were outlined in 370 and the door was stitched in 3052.

The miniature stately home measures about 3” tall from the base to the top of the chimneys, and hangs from the tree by a glittery twisted ribbon.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Famous Knitters – Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich (December 27, 1901 – May 6, 1992)

Only one fuzzy image of her holding knitting needles.*

Did she knit? I don’t know that but I do know she created an elegant style all of her own, evident even when soberly dressed in Witness for the Prosecution (1957), one of my favourites.

Here, as a very young woman.

Fabulous ensemble from The Temptress (1926)

Again, so stylish.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Famous Knitters – Hermoine Gingold and Margaret Hamilton

Hermoine Gingold – (December 9 1897 – May 24, 1987)

Child performer, classical actress, funny lady – and, possibly, a knitter!

Also able to carry off this elegant ensemble and gravity-defying hat!*

*The Music Man (1962)


Margaret Hamilton (9 December, 1902 – May 16, 1985)


Fabulous character actress and my favourite witch of all times! 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Famous Knitters – Agnes Moorehead (One Day Late)

Agnes Moorehead (December 6, 1900 – April 30, 1974)

I cannot find an image of the sublime Agnes Morehead actually knitting but this piece about her in the Indiana Evening Gazette*, (8 April, 1968) is filled with information such as

“Her favorite magic wands are a pair of knitting needles…started knitting almost as early in life as she started acting…her mother (taught her) knitting.”

The article contains multiple references to her then famous role as Endora, the mother-witch in the 1960-70s’ television series, Bewitched, as well as mentioning her making  shawls, sweaters and argyle socks, knitting as she learned her lines and in between takes.

My first introduction to her was in Jane Eyre (1943), a film I seemed to see over and over again in my childhood. She was chilling and elegant, as so often, but my all time favourite performances of hers are in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) and her solo performance in the famous Twilight Zone episode, The Invaders (1961.)

I couldn’t resist these photographs of her – picture perfect representations of the eras – love that hat!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Quilt for November

This quilt makes me think of November and colder days so it always comes out this time of the year. The creams, oranges, browns and greys in the prints remind me of increasingly stark landscapes as well as warm hot drinks and seasonal foods.

I have, unfortunately, lost all of my documentation about the materials I used but believe that the medallion and most of the prints came from a line of reproduction cotton prints by Makower based on an original mid-19th century quilt. I purchased them in the mid-1990s, and added the cream and brown miniature leaf clusters’ and bouquets’ prints as fillers and the border. The reverse material, by a third unknown manufacturer, is not a reproduction print but more of an homage, all in one place, to various styles of 19th century prints.

This quilt was entirely hand pieced and hand quilted. It measures 58” square.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Early Winter Knitting

'L'Art  Ménager', October 1927
Fontaine, Anne-Marie
Magazine cover
Colour lithograph
Private Collection
Credit: Bridgeman Art Library*

The cold weather is upon us so it is nice to sit by a fire and knit. This cover reminds me of me as I have model ships about the house. I have been also mostly knitting socks on four needles lately as I had to give my aching hands a rest from the ultra-thin, sometimes, almost invisible knitting needles of my historic projects. Hence the limited amount of reproduction knitting on this blog in the past few months. There are still a substantial number of reproduction wips though, including a few that need to be ripped out and started again for various reasons. I will be discussing a few of them here. Until then, however, back to those socks which are going right into use these days – a good incentive to prevent Second Sock Syndrome.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Porcupine Knitting for a Purse – Large Purse Finished!

I have completed the larger version of this purse, using Sally Pointer’s Wicked Woollens’s pattern* on 2.00mm/US 0 needles, with Knit Picks’s Palette in Ivy, Currant, Blush, Mustard, Peony and Blue Note Heather. As mentioned in my first post** about these purses, most of the colours in this purse are faithful to a 19th century purse in the V&A but I changed a green to currant and the white accent colour to a blue.

After the purse is knit, it is turned inside out. I don’t like beads so there will be none on this one nor on the smaller purse still in progress.

There were lots of ends to weave in.

This purse measures 9 ½” from the tip of a bottom point to the top of a top point, and 4” across in width. The actual cavity, from the gathered bottom to the drawstring row at the top is 6 ¾”.  The little points stand out about ¾” from the body of the purse.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Famous Knitters – Gene Tierney

Gene Tierney (November 19, 1920 – November 6, 1991)

Not only is she knitting but she is wearing a beautiful Aran.

Here she is in a very fetching rain hat in the title role of one of my favourite films, Laura (1944)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Famous Knitters – Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly (November 12, 1929 – September 14, 1982)

Aptly named, and always supremely elegant - her film wardrobes were usually stunning.

Here with Celeste Holm (one of my favourite actresses but I cannot find an image of her knitting, and I don't even know if she was a knitter.) 

Grace Kelly was a real knitter.

Here with Clark Gable.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Quilt for October

This quilt is all about firsts. This was the first large (beyond dolls’ size) reproduction quilt I ever made, and the first with the square on point pattern. It was also the first I made with a documented line of materials from an historic quilt – the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s Rising Sun quilt* (1825-1835.) It was the inspiration for the first set of reproduction prints, namely, The Rising Sun * Smithsonian Institution, produced by RJR Fabrics in several different colourways. Lines based on other quilts would follow, and some have already been or will be seen in quilt form on this blog.

Green is my favourite colour, and the Rising Sun line had several greens to work with, including one to splash all over the quilt as the main square that contrasted with all of the other prints.

I had a terrible time with the knife edges, though, and learned to work more carefully when planning the dimensions and quilting so as to have enough material at the edges to make better folds.

The backing is also irregular with an uneven frame of green material around the mostly blue print. I ran out of both so I did the best I could which what was left and, perhaps, that is what someone would have done in the past. The idea that quilts were only made from scraps is a myth. Some certainly were but some were made of materials that were purchased for a specific quilt.

This quilt measures 58” by 48”, and is entirely hand pieced and hand quilted.

*More information about the quilt may be found at http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_556331

Halloween Knitting

In keeping with this year’s theme of famous actresses who are knitting before or behind the camera, the exquisite Anjelica Huston reappears on this blog as Morticia with her needles.

Here is the finished garment – adorable!

Here is the original cartoon, "Darling!", which thrilled me as a child, and I have never stopped loving the work of Charles Addams.

These images were found on various sources on the Internet, and were not documented, and, therefore, I cannot give credit to them.

Famous Knitters – Barbara Bel Geddes

Barbara Bel Geddes (October 31, 1922 – August 8, 2005)

Stage and screen actress, author and artist. My two favourite performances of hers are in Vertigo (1958) and the classic episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Lamb to the Slaughter” (1958.)

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Portfolio for Knitted Items

(Click on the image to enlarge the view)
After some years of doing living history demonstrations, I realized that I needed a way to display various very small knitted items so they would not fall on the ground or wander off with visitors or, perhaps, discourage touching like this arrangement:

When the film, Miss Potter (2006), came out, I was intrigued and inspired by the portfolio used in the film by Beatrix Potter to transport her drawings from her home to her publisher. I don’t know if Miss Potter had such a portfolio in real life – is there one like it and connected to her that exists in a museum?

I had also long been fascinated by 19th century books of collections and instructions which had miniature samples of items in the book such as these: 

Whether the tiny objects were, in fact, a row by row rendition of the accompanying pattern or, like mine, an abbreviated version which is true to technique, I do not know. That is a research project for the future.

The resulting portfolio allows me to display and label items in a tidier and safer way. It was also a way to use up some of my vast collection of reproduction materials like these 19th century ones. The little flaps protect some samples and also offer more layers for display.

Seen above are two stockings with long heels and drawstring toes. Some other examples of pieces are:

Knitted Pattern for a Quilt, Octagons and Squares from Weldon’s Practical Knitter, Number 54, Series 13, 1890, and the facsimile, Weldon’s Practical Needlework, published by Interweave Press, Volume 5, 2001

Narrow Vandyke Edging from Exercises in Knitting by Mrs. Cornelia Mee, London: David Bogue, Fleet Street, 1846.

Cyprus Edging from Weldon’s Practical Knitter, Series 14, Number 55, 1890, and the facsimile, Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 5, Interweave Press, 2001. 
Metal straight pins hold all of the pieces in place.

The portfolio measures 42” long and 14 ½” tall, and is made up of fifteen different cotton prints. Some may look familiar to readers of this blog as I frequently use various parts of the portfolio for backgrounds in photographs of projects.  Sewn into the shape of a long rectangular sleeve with a flap made of fabric and then slipped over a long piece of cardboard cut from a large box, the portfolio is decorated and ties with grosgrain ribbon.

(Apologies for the odd formatting in this post)