Thursday, 28 February 2013

Quilt for February

I truly have enjoyed making well over one hundred quilted items of all sorts of sizes during the past twenty years or so, and could use any number of clichés when discussing them. “My quilts are like my children – I love them all equally” or “I never met a quilt that I did not like”, etc.. I have to say, though, that this one does hold an extra special place in my heart. This is probably due to the prints and the texture of the material which is from Den Haan & Wagenmakers BV in Amsterdam (

I made this quilt in the late 1990s. I was delighted, at that stage in my quilting career, to discover a company that was reproducing the stunning early chintz fabrics as I had been eager to make quilts in the style of the 18th century using prints from the 17th and 18th centuries. The pattern of this quilt is the square on point. 

This material is a tad heavier than American and British quilting material. It has a slight gloss or polish to it, too. Neither of these qualities however makes it difficult to work with, and, as I piece and quilt by hand, I can attest to its lovely texture. It also works very well for reproduction clothing. The colours are spectacular, and, in this case, I could not resist using that dramatic yellow for the backing.

My one problem is getting decent photographs of my quilts. At this time, I have to rely on tall people holding them up for me so the angle is not always the best.

This quilt measures 56” square, and the blocks are 5” square each.

(Apologies for the font sizes which do not match.)

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Knit Bag in Shades

This little knitted handbag comes from The Lady’s Assistant in Knitting, Netting and Crochet Work, Volume II by Mrs. Jane Gaugain, London: Gaugain & Ackerman, 1842. The heading on the page of the pattern (350) is The Lady’s Work Book.

The pattern suggests that the bag “looks well either knit in shades of common sized purse silk or Berlin wool or 13 shades of pink…” and is to be “cast on… four wires No. 18” (1.25mm/ US 0000) and “work with a fifth.”

I used four of the above size of needles and thirteen shades of pink Paternayan Persian Wool - 906,910,901, 912, 913, 914, 945,933,932, 915, 907, 946, 947. The stitch sequence was a simple, repetitive lace one, easily memorized. The handle was knit separately and flat, in five double-stranded shades of pink and a different stitch the colour sequence specifically laid out in the pattern. The edges of the handle were then turned in and stitched closed and to the bag. 

In spite of the lacy quality of the pattern, the knitted material of the bag is quite dense and handle strong, probably because of the effect made by such small sized needles. I mention this as there is no suggestion of lining the bag, which, of course, is an option but is often mentioned in other patterns from the 19th century.

My little bag measures flat 5” across and 5 ¼” long (to the end of one of the “points.”) 

A bag like this was sold in an Ebay auction ( Knit in shades of green, it was accompanied by a note stating that it was knit by the novelist Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) for Caroline Herschel (1830-1909), granddaughter of the astromer, Sir Frederick William Herschel (1738-1822.) The entry calls it a “child’s bag” but it is, in fact, a handbag designed for adult women. This information was a further incentive for the project as I have long enjoyed Edgeworth’s works, and the recepient’s distinguished namesake and great-aunt, Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) has also long been a figure of interest to me. 

I wanted to knit my bag in greens, too, as green is my favourite colour. Neither my stash of stichery wool nor my local needlework shop, however, could provide me with the gradations I needed (and I had to see the shades in person) so fate decreed that I was to reproduce the bag in Mrs. Gaugain’s recommended palette.

Further discussion of the Edgeworth/Herschell bag may be found in the archives of the HistoricKnit group on Yahoo (

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Famous Knitters - Merle Oberon

Merle Oberon (February 19, 1911 - November 23, 1979)

Stunningly beautiful and a wonderful actress.

Her knitting or Vivien Leigh's? Some captions on the internet state that she was helping Vivien Leigh as Laurence Olivier looked on from behind them.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Not Weeping but Warm Angels Here

A friend sent me these photos of a yarn bombing and news of a special tour that will take place on Sunday, February 17, 2013, at The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York ( This yarn bombing is slightly different as it was done with permission in advance from the cemetery. Click on the photos for larger images.

I am mentioning it here as the cemetery is of great historical interest in many different ways, three of them being that it is an outstanding example of the 19th century American rural cemetery movement, the resting place of many internationally famous people and prominent local citizens, and features the work of many interesting artists. The selected statues and monuments for this exercise, almost all of them from the mid to late 19th century, were, of course, treated with great respect. They were also very carefully chosen, condition being the primary factor. In spite of being made of various kinds of hard and durable materials, they are, in fact quite fragile. The weight of a lacy knitted cloak on a pair of broken, jagged wings, let alone wings that are still in their full glory, had to be assessed. Would flapping or soggy garments put pressure on weatherbeaten hands, arms and heads? “Dressed” figures all received garments and accessories that were two or three sizes too big for them as stone hair does not crush down under a knitted cap nor can stone hands bend and flex to put on mittens. How best to dress or decorate the non or semi-freestanding figures, who are too high up in various ways (“Don’t climb on the statues and monuments!”), or who had only doors to a mausoleum to decorate and absolutely had to be included? There was lots and lots of planning, discussion, and evaluation, much of it outside in the very cold and changeable winter weather, and then, of course, there was all of the knitted, crocheted and woven hats, mittens, cloaks, cosy, flags, garlands, and scarves.

So here are a few more of the results. This canon sits on a lookout point. The Manhattan skyline can be seen from here today as was the city and its northern approach in Revolutionary times.

The graves of three little children who perished in a winter ice accident. Their shared tombstone has a lily, rose,  and violets over each of their names, hence the choice of colours for the mittens.

I have no doubt that more photographs of the rest of this yarn bombing will soon appear on the website of the cemetery and elsewhere on the internet.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Valentine’s Day

The Affair (Scheveninger interior)

David Adolph Constant (1837-1890)


Oil on canvas

Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, Netherlands

Image from The Bridgeman Art Library

Image number: HGM 78248

I love paintings of interiors, especially sectional ones. Always hungry for information about social history, I study the shelves, window sills, table tops, items in corners, etc.  Finding any kind of handwork or its tools is always a treat.

A modern take on hearts for St. Valentine’s Day is the Sweetie Knit Heart by Jackie Loewen (❤knit❤heart-a-tiny-free-pattern/?knit?heart-a-tiny-free-pattern)

I knit these on 2.75mm/US 2 needles in DMC Coton Perlé 5 (208, 280, 319, 321, 370, 413, 415, 726, 729, 799, 822, 839, 899, 921, 930, 932) and Anchor Pearl Cotton 8 (44, 202, 366, 968) – lots of different colours for lots of different temperaments, moods and emotions!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Gunnister Gloves

A warm pair of gloves in the style of the 17th century from the pattern by Rachael Emmons and “revised and sized by Jane Fish, Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The pattern is based on the gloves found on the Gunnister Man (

The raised stitches on the back of the hand do not line up exactly with the fingers if knit according to the pattern which is how I made them. Quite a few people who have knit these gloves have written a variety of useful notes about adjusting the pattern for size and the raised stitches, and these may be found on linked Ravelry pages as well as in discussions on the Historic Knit group on Yahoo.

The pattern, which gives sizing for both men’s and women’s gloves, suggests 2.75mm/US 2 needles which were perfect for my gauge/tension. I had, some time ago, knit these gloves for donation to Plimoth Plantation. The wool sent with the pattern was Harrisville Designs Shetland Lace, one of my favourites. The gloves knit by me, however, came out in a somewhat airy fabric. This time I wanted a denser material but also needed a wool that would be finely spun. By doubling the strands of Morehouse Farm Merino – Merino Lace in a dusky pale green – much lighter than in the photographs - I got that texture. The fingers look a little bulky but they fit nicely when the glove is on. The tops of each are closed with a drawstring.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Famous Knitters – Dame Judith Anderson and Joyce Grenfell

Two multi-talented ladies. I never tire of seeing either of them in performance.

Dame Judith Anderson, AC, DBE, (February 10, 1897 – January 3, 1992.) Here she is knitting in And Then There Were None (1945), and she does knit throughout the film. One of my favourite films based on one of my favourite books.

Joyce Grenfell, OBE, (February 10, 1910 – November 30, 1979)
(Source: TipsImages - Picture No. 10316466)

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Bosom Friend, or Sontag from Godey’s

This pattern (and illustration) came from Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, January, 1860. The pattern, with updated terminology by Colleen Formby (copyright 2006), is also available for free from as well as at Ms. Forrmby’s pattern, with an accompanying article about knitting in the era of the American Civil War, can also be found in Piecework (March/April, 2009)

The original pattern called for “small bone or wooden needles;” I used 4.5mm/ 7 US, not small at all. The knitted fabric is a block pattern. “Crimson double zephyr” was suggested for the body with white for the border and black to be “darned on…in imitation of ermine.” I chose a warm shade of brown and a soft one of pink, (Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted’s Bev’s Bear and Victorian Pink) instead, with no imitation stitches. There is a button and a loop on either end of the wrapping sections, and the tassels are attached to the body with i-cords for “passing round the waist and tied in front.”

My sontag, knit to the pattern, came out rather small in spite of using a worsted wool in the hope of enlarging it bit, and would fit a slim girl of thirteen or fourteen. The garment would be worn over a dress, providing another layer of warmth which would stay in place and allow movement of the arms without the fuss of a shawl.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Famous Knitters – Ida Lupino

Ida Lupino (February 4, 1918 – August 3, 1995), actress, director and writer.

Always superb!