Friday, 31 October 2014

Seasonal Knitting - Happy Halloween

I like to knit tiny things so this year I made ornaments for a Halloween “tree” which is really a fallen branch from the woods. It stands in my office and the ornaments are made from a variety of published patterns and some of my own invention. All of them are scattered across my Ravelry project page although some of them still need their individual photos. Pumpkin Man has already appeared in this blog, and The Spider is from the classic Charted Knitting Design: A Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker. It is knit in the most awful nameless acrylic I have had in my stash forever and that has a nice sheen to it – perfect for the project!

I also put up this little quilt that I made some years ago. It is entirely hand foundation pieced in cotton fabrics and embellished with beads. The quilt measures 9 ¼” wide and 10 ½” tall.

I adore the autumn – all the wonderful greens, reds, burgundies, oranges, golds, yellows, browns, burnt umbers, even pinks, and all here and gone so quickly. I don’t like horror but I do like the history of the celebrations and ceremonies of this time of the year. Of course, witches come to mind, and, although there is no connection with Halloween, I see everything through the eyes of history so the victims of the Salem Witch Trials come to mind. I was fortunate enough to visit the Tercentenary memorial a few years ago in early November.

It was a damp, misty day but some of the gorgeous New England foliage was still on a few trees and the ground, and, movingly, there were single stemmed flowers on a few of the memorial benches.

Growing up in a family that loves history, I have spent my entire life visiting historic sites, houses and memorials. This is one of my favourites. Its simplicity is deceptive, its message supremely powerful.  When I was there it was fairly empty and so quiet in complete contrast to the hysteria and outrage of the subject of commemoration. The heartbreaking collection of carved names, fates and statements were shiny with rain, like tears, and splattered with fallen leaves, as were the rough stone seats – reminders of true horror. Across the edge of the entrance area, carved in rough flagstones, were the defiant pleas of the accused, so the visitor sees them as he or she arrives and, once again, upon leaving.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Knitted Bag from the V&A – Closer to the Original Size

I have reproduced this knitted bag twice. It comes from the Textiles Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (Museum Number T.397-1910.) The original bag is knitted in three colours of silk thread, and lined with silk fabric. It measures roughly 5 ¼” wide by x 6” (13.5 cm x 15.5 cm.) It dates from the mid-19th century and was probably a work bag.

My first bag was the test piece for the pattern (see links below.*) I have never seen the bag in person and only had three photographs for reference. One from the website ( ), one from the book Miller’s Collecting Textiles by Patricia Frost, London: Octopus Publishing Group, Ltd., 2000, and the largest image of all from the catalogue of the exhibit of the same name, Knit One, Purl One – Historic and Contemporary Knitting from the V&A’s Collection by Frances Hinchcliffe, Department of Textiles and Dress, London: Precision Press, 1985, which is featured here.

This bag was knit in DMC Perle 12 cotton thread on very, very fine needles which produced much tighter fabric than that of the first bag. I thought of going up a size in needles for the yellow sections to avoid the fabric being pulled inwards and at a slant, as had happened with the larger bag. I did not change the needles, however, and this one was nice and straight until after I finished lining the bag with pale green imitation silk. The slant was back although not as badly as with the larger bag. 

Like the original, the bag is knitted as one flat piece and seamed on one side and across the bottom of the bag. The top is closed with a drawstring. I could not exactly reproduce the fancy beads – mine are simpler with thick tassels, as on the original.

This bag measures roughly 5 ½” (14 cm.) square, slightly off from the original’s measurements. I say “roughly” because I measured it lined and sewn, both of which do not allow the bag to lie completely flat.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Trafalgar Quilt

Today is the 209th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. The famous signal, sent by Admiral Lord Nelson before the battle, “England expects that every man will do his duty” is portrayed here. The black strips are not flag poles but act to separate the different sections of the codes from one another.

I pieced this quilt in the mid-1990s, and then it was mislaid for almost ten years in my myriad of  knitting, spinning, needlework, and over one hundred other quilts of various sizes and in various stages of production. I found it again, sometime in 2004, and planned to back and quilt it in that year in preparation for the 200th anniversary party of the Battle of Trafalgar that I was planning for October, 2005. Serious family illness, round the clock nursing, and death intervened, however, in 2005, and the party was cancelled, and the quilt, once again, was consigned to the WIP stack. This year, during a similar family situation, I worked on the quilt but now it is finally finished.

The quilt is made of 100% cotton fabrics, the batting/wadding is Warm & Natural cotton, and it is entirely hand pieced and hand quilted.  Drawing my own patterns, I used the foundation piecing method for some of the trickier signals and double-basted/tacked them to hold them in place.

The pins are part of the basting/tacking stage, to be added, in preparation for the quilting. Needless to say, I had far more thread to rip out at the end than usual.

The signals are not quilted – only the sashing and outer borders. There is no quilting pattern, just a series of lines in an abstract homage to a ship’s rigging.

The quilt measures 62” x 52”, and the signal blocks are 4” x 6”.