Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Sunflower Pincushion

This pattern comes from Weldon’s Practical Knitter, Number 25, Seventh Series (1888). It is also published in Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 3, Interweave Press, 2000.

The original pattern calls for “ a small quantity of lemon-coloured  Andalusian wool and of brown single Berlin” wool, and “a pair of steel knitting needles No. 14” (modern equivalent 2mm/US 0.) Sateen, cardboard and black fabric to convert the underside to a penwiper are needed to complete the cushion.
A brown square is knitted first. This piece is then sewn over a circular cardboard piece which has previously been covered with the sateen and slightly “raised (stuffed) in front.” Two separate strips in yellow are next knit,“in imitation of the petals” of the sunflower. These strips vary in the number of stitches to produce different widths and are “join(ed)” and “pleat(ed) to the size of the cushion” when sewn onto the first circular piece.

More sewing is required for the back of cushion – a “circle of stout cardboard,” covered on both sides with “sateen,” and sewn onto the sunflower. “Three circular pieces of black cloth for a penwiper” are then sewn onto the back circle. Not finished yet, the pattern suggests that a “ribbon” can be “attached (to it) to hang it up by.” Conversely, or if the person making this pincushion has felt enough energy has been spent on the project, the “pincushion can lie on the drawing-room table.”
I knit this pincushion/penwiper on the suggested size of needles, using Knit Picks Palette in Semolina and Bison. I did not put enough stuffing in the first circle so the pincushion part was rather flat, especially with the brown knitted part securely sewn onto the cardboard circle. To remedy this, I changed the pattern – something I have rarely, if ever, done in making more than forty reproductions from Weldon’s patterns. I discarded the two cardboard circles, and opened out and stuffed the brown section, now in its original shape of a square, adding a black felt bottom layer. I then sewed the square under the petals. Before doing that, I had sewn another piece of black felt onto the bottom of the square, creating a pocket for wiping the nibs of pens. I have also considered stitching a few more squares of black felt to the back as extra wiping cloths.

The pincushion measures 5 ½” in width, outer point to outer point and the black felt section on the reverse side is just over 3” square. The petals, in spite of blocking, do not lie flat on the drawing-room table or my desk or anywhere for that matter.

All quotations are from Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 3, Interweave Press, 2000

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Summer Textile Wanderings

Sophie Crouzet (c. 1801)
Louis Hersent (1777-1860)
Oil on fabric
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Grace Rainey Rogers Fund 1943.659
Image No.  CVL 491275
In view of the seemingly endless current heat wave across some countries of the Northern Hemisphere, I am posting this beautiful portrait I found this afternoon as I was doing research on pens, pen stands, inkwells, etc. It is of interest on many levels although none of them to do with knitting. First of all, the sitter looks a little hot. She may not have been - her hair on her forehead might been somewhat lank no matter what the season as it is of one with the rest of her hair style. She looks, however, the way I feel today, in my 21st century equivalent of a thin, and far less pretty, summer dress – slightly provoked as perhaps she was interrupted as she was seeing to her correspondence. I, too, have been slightly provoked of late as I have been neglecting Mlle. Sophie's era, the one I usually spend the most time in, for a while now, so her gown looks twice as pretty to me as I very much miss the late18th/early19th century. 

I miss the simple elegance of the armbands on her sleeves, and the furniture and the plain but molded walls behind her. I miss wearing this most comfortable style of historic dress in my repertoire. I almost miss sewing this kind of gown, fitting the three pieces of the bodice by hand sewing, in those sheer fabrics and patterned cottons. Well, perhaps not quite, as I still hold too many memories of teary-all-night-sewing sessions the night before an event of this era.

I do miss spending hours trawling thorough paintings, drawings and other sources for gowns, shoes, accessories, hair styles, etc., and discovering lovely paintings such as this one and all of the information held in it.  As for the subject, her arms and face look exquisite in this image – you can almost reach out and touch her.

There are several versions of this painting available on the Internet.*The one above has a cool grey shadow in the corner whereas the one below has more of a golden glow about it as well as a better view of the table. It is probably not difficult to guess which version I prefer today.

For the textile historian, the best image of Sophie Crouzet’s gown and its details, can be found at http://www.gogmsite.net/empire-napoleonic-and-roman/1801-sophie-crouzet-by-loui.html 

Note the more vivid detail on the arm bands, the corded waistband and the rosettes at the back of the now blue gown as well as the gloss on the ceramic pen stand. Poor Sophie, though, does look rather warm and a bit tired, in this image.

I know just how she feels but it was fun to be off and running again, tracking down the details of an early 19th century gown.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Famous Knitters – Ginger Rogers and Barbara Stanwyck

Barbara Stanwyck (July 16, 1907 – January 20, 1990)

Two icons of Hollywood, and two of my favourite performers, sharing a birthday. They made so many famous films. I never tire of the Night and Day dance routine in The Gay Divorcee (and that dress!), and I have worn thin my copy of Stage Door (1937.)  Double Indemnity (1944) is near the top my desert island list and I will watch any movie with Barbara Stanwyck in it. With the advances in technology, more and more of the earlier films of these ladies are becoming available for viewing. They are a treat, not only for the history of film, but also for the clothes (fabulous and mundane), furniture, cars, etc., of the 1930s.

Note Barbara Stanwyck's knitting bag (I am becoming obsessed with them!) Love those shoes, too.

Gary Cooper is playing with knitting that is beside Barbara Stanwyck’s chair.* I am hoping it is hers; it seems to be coming out of one of those folding cloth baskets next to her chair. 

Ginger Rogers (July 16, 1911 – April 25, 1995)

Knitting, with Fred Astaire

Knitting behind the cameras.

I had the privilege of seeing Ginger Rogers on the stage in Mame. Many years ago now but we had seats very close to the stage and I will never forget the twinkle in her eyes.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Knit Sole

This pattern is from The Workwoman’s Guide by a Lady, London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., Stationer’s Hall Court: Thomas Evans, Colmore Row, Birmingham (1838.)

The pattern, which consists of three sentences, describes the sole as one “to be put within a shoe or a boot,” and “is made in double knitting.” No type of wool was recommended. I Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool in Natural as it is sturdy and works well for reproductions. There is some guidance, however, in the number of stitches to be “set on” and the number of rows to be knit.

No needle type or size was suggested so I had to experiment to achieve any sort of sole above the size of an infant’s shoe. Finally settling on 6.5mm/US 10 ½ sized needles, this pair would fit in the shoes of young child, measuring just over 5 ½” long and about 2 ½” wide across the upper part of the foot. As with many patterns from the past, this one is probably a set of guidelines, and the experienced knitter would adapt it for the required size.

After knitting, the sole “must be brought into shape by taking it in with the galloon, when wanted to be narrowed.” I assisted this process by shaping my muslin soles. I also closed off the top of the foot with a drawstring. 

The last steps are sewing the sole to “ a piece of stiff muslin of the proper shape, and bound all round with ribbon.” 

An illustration for the sole appears on Plate 21, Figure 39 of the book.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Famous Knitters – Anjelica Huston

Anjelica Huston (July 8, 1951)

Another knitting Morticia!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Knitting or Not in a Painting for Summer

Heat (1919)
Florine Stettheimer (1871-1944)
Oil on canvas
Brooklyn Museum*
Collections: American Art
Accession Number: 57.125
Gift of the estate of Ettie Stettheimer
Image: Brooklyn Museum photograph

This painting made me laugh when I first saw it. That’s me – that is how I spend the summer, flopping all over the place in thin dresses, moaning about the heat. The knitting on the floor are my historic projects, worked in cotton, which become limp and damp on their metal needles in my overheated hands.  I work better in wool in this weather, preferably on wooden or bamboo needles, making socks or doing the caps for charity knitting. Small projects that do not sit in my lap, with springy wool that does not strain my muscles and make me even more bad-tempered than I already am on a daily basis.

The painting depicts the artist (lower right) with her mother and her three sisters celebrating the birthday of their mother. The ladies are arranged at a distance from one another. This spacing may be for artistic purposes or have hidden messages or it may be that it was just too hot to sit closer. As if the temperature is apparently not high enough, there is a very large birthday cake with lit candles in the forefront of the painting, resembling a large sun, radiating more heat into the room. The only person who does not seem bothered is the mother, all buttoned up to the chin and sitting upright in her chair.

I also love the vivid but slightly garish colours in this painting, even though they are reminiscent of tropical flowers, making me think of even hotter places in the world. The stringy branches of the trees are like strands of unraveled knitting, limp and motionless in the heavy, airless weather. The slight blur of the style of painting suggests to me that it is difficult to see things through the haze of the heat.

A nice final touch are those knitting bags beside the two upper sisters and, possibly, the mother.

My thanks to my friend Susan for introducing me to this painting.

*On view in American Identities: A New Look, Everyday Life/A Nation Divided, 5th Floor

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Famous Knitters – Gloria Stuart and Gina Lollobrigida

Gloria Stuart (July 4, 1910 – September 26, 2010)

Apart from her careers on the silver screen and in other fields, she holds the current record for the oldest person nominated for an Academy Award.

Gina Lollobrigida (July 4, 1927)

Pretty piece of knitting.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Famous Knitters – Olivia de Havilland

Olivia de Havilland (July 1, 1916)

I cannot find an image of Olivia de Havilland  (on the left, in the front) with knitting but I did find these stills from that pivotal scene in Gone With the Wind where the women are all doing different kinds of needlework round the table and it looks as though Mammy (Hattie McDaniel), sitting near them, is winding wool. Olivia de Havilland's character, Melanie Wilkes, appears to be crocheting but she also reads to the group as they work.

India Wilkes (Alice Rhett), on the extreme right, seems to be knitting.