Sunday 27 April 2014

An Easter Egg Cosy

"Cosy Coddles" egg cosy

The local branch of  the Knitting & Crochet Guild met just before Easter (on Maundy Thursday) and we had a seasonal theme - knitting egg cosies.  The pattern was designed by Ann Kingstone, and featured several of her favourite techniques, including stranded knitting, provisional cast-on, i-cord and applied i-cord, and she was on hand to help with difficulties.   

No-one managed to finish their cosy during the meeting, though most got a lot further than I did.  In fact, I started again later - in spite of my extensive collection of knitting needles, I hadn't been able to find any double pointed needles of the right size, so I was using a circular needle and finding it very awkward to use the magic loop technique on such a small item. So last week I bought a set of dpns and started again, and here's the finished cosy.  

There are three panels, with designs that Ann  based on some Dutch embroidery.  The loop at the top is i-cord, and there's an applied i-cord strip at the base of the cosy.  The applied i-cord separates the outer layer (in stranded knitting) from a plain knitted lining - with two layers of wool, it would indeed keep an egg cosy.  

Not sure what I'm going to do with it now, because we very rarely eat boiled eggs...   But I'm pleased that I finished it successfully, and it looks very pretty.

Thursday 24 April 2014

"Waistcoat Tailored in Knitting"

Many of the items in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection have no provenance - we don't know who made them, whether the maker designed it or used a pattern, and if a pattern which one it was.  But occasionally we manage to pair up an item with its pattern, and sometimes donors gave the pattern with the item.  Here's one of those.   

Patons 943

The pattern was issued by Patons around 1950, and the knitter made it (I think) for her husband.  She left off the patch pockets, but otherwise followed the pattern closely.  The waistcoat has obviously been well worn - there's an area on one armhole edge where the cast-off edge has begun to fray.   

There seems to have been a fashion for men to wear yellow woollies in the early 1950s - earlier posts showed Roger Moore modelling  a yellow pullover  and a yellow cardigan.   Having said that, I don't believe my father ever wore yellow in his life. 

The pattern is titled "Waistcoat Tailored in Knitting" and says "the stitch cleverly reproduces the effect of woven fabric".  The fronts of the waistcoat are in linen stitch, which does give a woven effect on the right side, while the reverse resembles moss (or seed) stitch. The back is in single rib, for stretchiness - linen stitch is a very un-stretchy stitch. 

If you don't know linen stitch, it's a 2 row pattern.  On an even number of stitches: on row 1,  (knit 1, bring the yarn to the front, slip 1, take the yarn to the back), and repeat to the last stitch.  On row 2, (purl 1, take the yarn to the back (i.e. right side), slip 1, bring the yarn to the front), and  repeat to the last stitch.  So on each row, you knit alternate stitches and take the yarn across the right side of the fabric when you slip a stitch. 

The waistcoat is knitted in 3-ply wool: here's a close-up.  I reckon that there are about 12 stitches and 20 rows to the inch.   Linen stitch is very dense:  not only does it take 2 rows to work all the stitches on the needle, but also slipping stitches has the effect of contracting the work sideways to some extent.  The pattern leaflet only gives the tension in stocking stitch:  7½ stitches and 9½ rows to one inch.  It says optimistically: "If you knit to the correct tension in stocking stitch, you will knit naturally to the correct tension for any stitch in this book."  Really?   In linen stitch, I suspect that knitters with the same stocking stitch tension might differ quite a lot in how tight they pull the yarn across each slipped stitch. 

So knitting this waistcoat must have taken a very long time.   Even when the main part is finished, the button band is knitted separately - 68 inches (1.73 m.) of single rib on 11 stitches, which would be very tedious.  And then you have to sew it all  on.  Altogether a lot of work - but on the other hand, the finished waistcoat has lasted in pretty good condition for 60 years so far.   

Sunday 20 April 2014

Cycling & Recycling

Horse chestnut leaves emerging 
 Friday was a beautiful spring day, with a bright blue sky and fluffy white clouds.  John and I went for a walk around Mytholmroyd in the Calder valley.  Trees were just coming into leaf, and there were celandines in the woods.  (And lots of dandelions in flower, too, but we don't talk about them.) 

Sycamore leaves and flowers 
 The walk did a loop either side of the road up Cragg Vale, which will be part of the Tour de France route in July - it's a well-known cycling challenge.

It was a nice walk, with a mixture  of woods, fields, and open moor.  Towards the end, we crossed a small area which is now permissive access land, and has been furnished with a new fence and new gates.  And the fence and gate posts have all been topped with an assortment of re-used plastic containers - coleslaw tubs, washing-up liquid bottles cut in half, the bottoms cut of milk bottles, etc.   They have all been nailed on to the posts, and I assume that it's intended to protect the wood (although the gates appear to have been treated with preservative as well).  

Reusing and recycling plastic is a good thing in other contexts, and you see a variety of re-purposed plastic on allotments (bottles, pots and tubs of all shapes and sizes, odd bits of string).  But in the countryside it just looks ugly.  

Thursday 17 April 2014

My 1914 Hat

Here's a hat I knitted last month, and already mentioned here. (I'm still trying to catch up with myself.  It won't happen.)   The idea came from all the knitting and crochet patterns from the First World War that I was collecting together to send to the costumier of the "Tell Them Of Us" film.   One of the sources I used was a  Weldon's Practical Knitter magazine, issued in 1914, with patterns for a lady's knitted coat and hat. I really liked the look of the hat (after mentally adjusting the picture - in 1914, women had lots of hair and hats were worn very big so that they wouldn't crush the hair-style).  

When I read the pattern,  I found that it's a very simple idea.  The preamble to the pattern says: "This cap is knitted in "bag-shape", which is at present the most fashionable wear for ladies and children.  It is very easy to make, being simply a piece of knitting, about 28 inches wide and 24 inches long, and sewn up in the form of a bag.  The brim is folded in place, the top corners are brought down and lightly stitched over the edge of the brim on each side of the cap, and a fancy button is sewn on each point."  That's the essence of the pattern, although it then goes into more detail - and I think there is a mistake in the measurements quoted, because a piece 24 inches long would give a circumference of 48 inches, which even for 1914 hairstyles is much too big.  The detailed instructions say to knit 112 rows, which is more like 12 inches.  

The brim in the illustration is a garter stitch border at each edge of the 28 inch wide piece, and the seams are at the sides, underneath the buttons.  I decided that although I liked the overall idea, I didn't want to have the seams at the sides.  The brim would be neater without a seam, so I knitted a tube instead of  a rectangle, starting at the brim.  The seam is instead across the top, from point to point.  I used a 3-needle bind-off and it is quite inconspicuous.   

I kept to the "dice" stitch pattern from the original pattern, i.e. alternating squares of stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch, 4 stitches by 4 rows.  I used Wendy Merino DK in dark grey and cast on 120 stitches to fit the circumference of my head.  (It had to be a multiple of 8 stitches, so that the dice pattern would line up exactly along the seam.) 

The buttons are a key part, of course, and here's an opportunity to  use some really special ones.  I chose some Fimo buttons made by my friend Steph  - she sells similar things on Etsy here and also in the Spun shop in the Byram Arcade in Huddersfield, which is where I bought these.  

You can see that I wasn't trying to achieve an authentic 1914 look - I would hardly have chosen Fimo buttons if so. 

The Weldon's pattern said that this was a fashionable shape for hats in 1914, and I did in fact find several similar hats in my search for WW1 patterns.   There is even a doll's crocheted coat and hat which is very cute.  
Doll's crochet coat and hat
 The crocheted golfing outfit (below) features a similar hat, but it's a cone shape rather than a rectangle, with only one point fastened to the brim rather than two.  

Crochet coat and useful cap
And you could buy similar hats ready-made - the Pryce-Jones ad from the Girl's Own Paper of March 1914 that I showed here offers a cap to match the sports coat, for 10½d  (about 4p).   

Pryce-Jones ad, Girl's Own Paper, March 1914.

I made my 1914 hat because it is a beautifully simple idea that I thought would look good (and it does).  I wore it a couple of times last month while it was still cold enough for a woolly hat, and it will come out again next winter.  And although it is not entirely authentic, I love the fact that it is essentially a 100 year old idea.

Friday 11 April 2014

Holiday in the Peloponnese

The lighthouse at Cape Tainaron
The lack of blog posts for a couple of weeks is due to the fact that we have been on holiday in Greece (and then it's taken me a week to catch up with things).   We went with 13 friends from our walking group, and had a wonderful time.  It was planned to be a mixture of walks, history and nature - all organised by Gareth Trewartha of Naturally Greece.   There were spring flowers everywhere, and we saw birds on their migration north from Africa.  The weather was mostly lovely - sunny and warm, but not too hot.  (The exception was a hailstorm while we were visiting the temple of Apollo at Vassae - altogether a rather disappointing experience as the temple is now under a vast tent to protect it from the weather.)   We ate vast quantities of delicious food.   And Gareth taught us a bit of Greek on the coach journeys, so I can now say please, thank you, hello, good morning, and count to 20.  (Knowing some geometry helps with the counting - e.g. dodecahedron and icosahedron.)  I took lots of photos - here's a small selection with an extremely brief summary of what we did.

We visited Olympia first - walking to the ancient site from our hotel in the countryside a couple of miles away, through olive groves and orange orchards, and fording the River Kladeos (with the help of a pick-up truck from the hotel).  

The museum at Olympia is excellent, and full of amazing treasures.

Olympia Museum: from the Temple of Zeus
From there we moved on to Pylos (mentioned by Homer), where our hotel overlooked the bay (site of the battle of Navarino, 1827) and the island enclosing the bay (where the Athenians defeated the Spartans in 425 B.C.)

Sunset at Pylos
After Pylos, we went further south and stayed on the coast near Itilo, to visit the Mani, which is the finger of the Peloponnese projecting into the Mediterranean and culminating in the southernmost point of mainland Greece at Cape Tainaron.

A church in Areopolis.
We visited Areopolis nearby, which was once almost deserted, like many other places in the Mani, but now seems thriving.  And on another day we went south to Vathia, still almost uninhabited, and full of the defensive tower houses that are common in the Mani.  (Built by the Maniots to defend themselves from each other.)

A tower house in Vathia

From Vathia, we went even further south, and finally walked to the Cape and its lighthouse from the nearest habitation (a taverna, handily, where we had lunch).

After the Mani, we headed back towards Athens for our flight home, visiting Mistra, an amazing deserted mediaeval city, on the way.

All the week, we were seeing interesting birds, though I didn't manage to take many good photos.  Birds tend to move too fast - the little owl was easy because it was having a rest.

And some birds were actually chimney cowls (also easy to photograph).

We saw many lizards, but often just glimpses of them disappearing.  I found one that was enjoying the sun, and stayed put, before diving back into its hole in the wall.

A lizard on a wall at Mistra
And there were flowers everywhere.  Lots of orchids - I was told the names at the time, but I've mostly forgotten.  I will identify them again in time.

An orchid

Another orchid
Star of Bethlehem growing in steps at Mistra

There was very little knitting on the holiday, except for some interesting socks in the folk museum at Andritsaina  (not a good photo, because the light levels were low to protect the textiles, but good enough to show the colour-work).

A really wonderful holiday - we'd like to go back to Greece another year in spring.   
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