Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Flame Knit

At the "Chanel to Westwood" exhibition in Barnsley, there was a wonderful shawl in a fine silky knit,  worn over a dress with Art Nouveau-style embroidery, in a display of garments from the 1910s.

The label said this about the shawl:
"The shawl in fine knit rayon is knitted in a 'flame knit' pattern which is a traditional design.  This stole is the oldest example we have of this pattern but the flame knit remains popular up to the present day having a particular association with the Italian knitwear company Missoni where it became one of their signature designs." 
It was hard to see the stitch pattern on the shawl very well - the close-up below is the best I could do.

I would love to know how the stitch is done - I assume that at that date, it would have to be hand-knitted.  There were knitting machine in the 1910s, but not I think sophisticated enough to knit such a complex stitch pattern.  So if it's traditional hand-knitting stitch pattern, you would think it would be documented in stitch dictionaries - but I haven't been able to find it.

The nearest thing to a flame-like stitch pattern that I could find, searching on Ravelry, were some patterns by Xandy Peters - she has a pattern called the Petal Cowl, which you can buy through Ravelry.  (The image is taken from her blog post about it.)  I have bought the pattern and have started knitting - I'll write about it later.  It's quite a tricky knit, though doable.  She has an even more complicated-looking pattern called Fox Paws, which looks wonderful and more like the shawl, but she says it's "recommended for the adventurous" and slightly more complex than the Petal Cowl, so I'll leave that one for later.  But these stitches are her own invention, so not the 'traditional design' used in the rayon shawl.

If anyone can put me on the trail of the traditional 'flame knit' pattern, I should be very grateful.

Monday, 23 November 2015

It's An Illusion

Last week we had the monthly meeting of the local Knitting & Crochet Guild branch, with a workshop in Illusion Knitting, aka Shadow Knitting.  It was led by Ann Kingstone, one of our members, who had designed a square for us to knit, with a pattern of a star.  The star is more or less invisible when looked at straight on, lit from in front (or in a flash photograph) but appears when the square is lit from the side and/or looked at from an angle.

No star

Star lit from the top 

Star seen at an angle

I started my square with a provisional cast on, to allow for picking up stitches all round to add a border, as Ann suggested, but I haven't decided yet what to make from it.

To introduce us to illusion knitting, Ann had brought a shawl that she was given by Steve Plummer and Pat Ashcroft  of Woolly Thoughts - it has a portrait of Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid in the Harry Potter films knitted into it.

Hagrid shawl, from 
At the workshop, we were wondering where the idea for illusion knitting came from - it seems such an unlikely technique to invent from nothing.  Later, I looked in Vivian Høxbro's book Shadow Knitting.  She says that first came across the idea in a translation of a booklet by a Japanese woman, Mieko Yano - a similar account is given on a blog by Mrs Petersson here, who says that Mieko Yano was teaching illusion knitting and other Japanese knitting ideas in Sweden in the 1980s.   But I don't know if Mieko Yano invented the technique, or whether it was developed earlier in Japan. Intriguing. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


It's the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate at the end of this month, and the Knitting & Crochet Guild will have a stall there, as usual.  Julia, who has designed the Guild's stall, asked for some bunting in her colour scheme of pink, green and cream/white.  So I got some cheap acrylic yarn (really cheap - 3 balls for £2 in Poundland, plus an extra ball for £1) and set to work.

I made the triangles in crochet - not my thing usually, but I could cover the ground more quickly than if I knitted them.  I did quite a few triangles when  we were in Suffolk ten days ago (it got dark early, so there was quite a bit of crocheting time).  And last Thursday, being the 2nd Thursday in the month, was the day when I go to three knitting groups in one day - lots of triangles then.   Now I've used up the yarn and made 34 triangles (two wouldn't fit into the arrangement above).   They will be made up into bunting, with more triangles made of printed fabric with crochet medallions on some of them - I saw then all laid out in order yesterday and they looked very pretty.

So if you're going to the Harrogate Show, stop by the Guild stall and say hello - and please admire the bunting!


Monday, 16 November 2015

A Sock Purse

It's been a busy two weeks: apart from other things, we went to Suffolk for a few days holiday with friends.  As usual, I was on the lookout for knitting-related things, but the only thing I spotted was a Victorian purse.  It was in the little museum in Framlingham Castle, a nice collection about life in the surrounding town.

In a case of 19th century bits and pieces was a little purse made from a tiny sock.  I thought at first it was knitted, but on looking closer, I don't think so - I think it's crocheted.  And I'm not sure how it's meant to be used.  Although it was displayed with the chain stretched out, in fact the bar at top left has bits of frayed thread attached, so presumably originally the two bars were parallel at the top edge of the sock - I don't know whether there was any way to fasten the two bars together, though, and whether the chain was just used as a hanging loop.        

It's very neatly made, and I like the fancy clock especially.  

 It reminds me of the little socks I have seen made as Christmas decorations.  It doesn't look as though it would be very practical as a purse - I imagine that Victorian pennies would get into the toe and be hard to extract.  But on the other hand, it's evidently been used a lot, for the top to fray so much.  Maybe you would just hold on to the toe and tip the coins out into your hand?  A pretty little thing, anyway.  If anyone has seen anything like it, I'd love to know.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood

On Friday, I took a train to Barnsley to see the Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood exhibition at the Civic.  I had already seen the exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, but it is worth a second visit (especially as there is free entry at the Civic).

The exhibition is based on the collection of Cleo and Mark Butterfield, who have been collecting vintage fashion for many years.  It's a mixture of machine and hand-knits, and from couture to high street.  As the title suggests, there are pieces attributed to Chanel, from the 1910s and 1920s, as well as pieces by current designers including Vivienne Westwood.

1920s knitwear, some attributed to Chanel 

Also from the 1920s were some rayon jumpers and dresses, mostly crocheted.  We have many similar jumpers in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, whereas we don't have any wool jumpers of that age that I can recall - maybe all the woolly jumpers were either eaten by moths, or reknitted into something else during the Second World War.  I particularly liked a filet crochet jumper in pale orange rayon, with a large flower motif worked across the front. An enlarged illustration from the original pattern is displayed on the wall behind it, and I recognised the illustration, from Fancy Needlework Illustrated.  

Fancy Needlework Illustrated No. 67

There was a very colourful display of 'Fair Isle' knits (though I don't know whether any of them were actually from the Shetlands).  I spent some time admiring them, and trying to date them individually - there were some from the 1940s, and some from the 1970s or later.

 I have been researching some of the Fair Isle knits and patterns in the Guild collection recently, so I was very gratified that I could identify the patterns behind some of the knits.   One pattern was particularly easy to recognise, because the colours of the pullover match those in the pattern.

The Stitchcraft Men's Book was published in the late 1940s - presumably the pullover also dates from then.   Two other pullovers in the display were I think knitted in the 1970s, both to the same pattern, I believe.

They are I think both knitted from Patons pattern 1595, though it's fascinating to see the difference that the choice of colours makes - including a much darker colour in the mix completely changes the overall look.  It seems to have been a very popular pattern - as well as these two pullovers, there are at least three items in the Guild collection that were knitted from it, that I showed here.  

Patons 1595
And there were other Fair Isle knits in the display which I didn't recognise at all  - that was just as interesting. 

A few of the garments on display were made by Cleo Butterfield for herself.  One in particular struck a chord with me - a cardigan knitted to a Patricia Roberts design.

The label says "The mammoth task of completing this complex cardigan, using a huge range of different stitches to create a picture of three-dimensional bees, flowers and a beaming sun partially obscured by clouds, was so great that, once it was finished, Cleo didn't have the energy to attach buttons."   At least she finished the knitting - I had an unfinished Patricia Roberts knit that I kept for years, until I finally ditched it last year.

Some of the commercial machine knits were very appealing too - I liked these two pieces by Ossie Clark (left) and Biba (right) from the early 1970s.

There is no catalogue of the exhibition, but many of the garments on display are featured in Vintage Fashion Knitwear by Marnie Fogg - one of my birthday presents four years ago.  When I first saw the Chanel to Westwood exhibition in Bermondsey, I was puzzled that some of the garments seemed familiar, until I realised that I had seen them in the book.

In the same gallery at the Civic is a small display of garments from the Yorkshire Fashion Archive.  They are a small selection of the clothes designed and hand-knitted by Isora Steinart for her daughter Nita Hyman.  The selected pieces are from the late 1950s and early 1960s - all beautifully made and very elegant.    

 The exhibition is on until November 14th - and there is a lot more in it that I haven't written about.  If you haven't seen it and are within reach of Barnsley, I can recommend it.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Never again

Some of the pattern leaflets in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection have come directly from yarn shops - for instance the batch of Hayfield leaflets we were given at the beginning of this year. But most of the leaflets in the collection are secondhand - originally bought by a knitter for their own use. Probably some leaflets were bought but never actually used (I've got some of those myself), but most of these secondhand patterns have been working documents.

Sometimes we see evidence of a leaflet's earlier existence.  Many people count rows by writing on the pattern - so we see lots of 'five-barred gates' and other notes.  Others take better care of their patterns, and write on a separate piece of paper - which has sometimes been donated along with its pattern.    

Often these annotations are completely incomprehensible - though hopefully they weren't to the person who made them.

A couple of weeks ago we found two leaflets with intriguing  notes.  One was a Copley's pattern from the 1930s, with faint pencil writing on the front, almost illegible - it was some notes on making omelettes.  The other was a Lister/Lee Target leaflet, which has a message written very firmly on the front:  "I SHALL ON NO ACCOUNT BE CAJOLED INTO KNITTING THIS EVER AGAIN. R.C. 6/8/80"

Lister/Lee Target K9247

It looks a perfectly innocuous pattern, so I can't imagine what caused so much antagonism towards it.  I guess that R.C. had knitted it for someone else (who did the 'cajoling') and had perhaps been cajoled into knitting it more than once.  But why not just say 'No' rather than writing on the pattern?  Perhaps the cajoler was not the sort of person to take 'No' for an answer and needed a stronger message?   I don't suppose I shall ever know.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Fine Sand

I wrote, back in August that I was knitting the 'Fine Sand' cardigan, designed by Heidi Kirrmaier.  I finished it two weeks ago, just before our knitting weekend in Blackpool, and I have been wearing it a lot since then.  But it's taken until now to get some photos organised.

I guess you could describe it as 'deceptively simple'.  It's just a plain ordinary cardigan, but there are no seams, so it sits very smoothly over the shoulders - no shoulder seams, no armhole seams.  But of course, to create that 3-d shape without any seams, you need to incorporate a lot of shaping into the knitting.    In this design, the shaping is not made a feature of, unlike in her Vitamin D design, for instance, and it's even less evident knitted in a fuzzy yarn like Wendy Ramsdale, which is what I have used.   But you can perhaps see the radiating lines of increases across the back yoke.

One thing I particularly like is that the fronts don't gape at the bottom.  You would think that to make a cardigan intended to be worn unfastened, you should just make the front edges parallel with the sides - but if you do that, the front opening tends to be an inverted V, because most women are wider at hip level than higher up.  In 'Fine Sand', there are increases all down the front edges, to take account of that, and so the front edges hang more or less vertically.

I have made a couple of changes to the design.  There is short-row shaping in the pattern, so that the back is lower than the fronts, but I decided not to do that, and my cardigan finishes at the same level all the away round.  And I did several more rows of the garter stitch that runs all round the edge, to make a more definite band.  (I added an extra stitch in the casting off, at the points of the corners, to make them a bit more definite.)


So it's a very nice wearable cardigan.  The yarn, Wendy Ramsdale, is lovely - soft, a bit fuzzy, nice to knit with, and the colour is beautiful.  (Very hard to photograph blue accurately, as you can see from the variations in the photos, but it is a very nice rich blue with quite a lot of grey. The Thomas B Ramden website shows it better.)   The yarn is hand-wash only, so I shall have to be careful - on the other hand, it does split-splice very well, so there were only a few ends to sew in when I had finished knitting. Success!