Saturday 30 August 2014

Purple Silk

I've realised that I haven't written anything about my own knitting for a long time, though I have been working on several things, and just finished a very nice cardigan which I will write about shortly.  And I started and finished a quick project back in June that I have never mentioned.  I should, if only because it illustrates how useful Ravelry is.

Several years ago (in 2009, I think) I went to a free event at the Oxfam bookshop in Huddersfield.  Two of the Rowan designers came to talk about the history of Rowan, the process of putting together a collection of designs for the biannual magazine, etc. There were about 12 of us in the audience, and none of us had brought any knitting with us. (I hadn't been knitting again for very long, and wasn't used to knitting in public - now, I would definitely take along some knitting to a talk about knitting.)   But the Rowan people were prepared - they had brought along pairs of knitting needles and a large basket of odd balls of yarn, so that we could all knit a swatch while we were listening.

At the end of the talk, they retrieved the knitting needles, but said we could keep the yarn - and we could help ourselves to anything else in the basket, too.   So I came home with several balls of yarn, mostly purples and greens.  I used one, a ball of Rowan Felted Tweed DK in green, in a Louisa Harding design, Old Moor, which called for one ball of a contrasting colour.  But I haven't yet found a use for the others.

The most delectable was a ball of pure silk DK in a rich purple, by Jaeger.  (Jaeger Handknitting was owned by Coats, as is Rowan.)  It had a gorgeous feel, very soft and smooth - in fact, very silky indeed.  But I couldn't think what to do with - after all, what can you do with one ball of silk yarn?

But then, in June, we were going to London to visit friends, and I needed a small portable project to knit on the train.  I thought again of the Jaeger pure silk,  and this time posed the question more positively:   what can you do with one ball of DK yarn, 125m. long?   And this is exactly the sort of question that you can ask in Ravelry, through the advanced pattern search facility.

I asked for knitting patterns for clothing or accessories, for an adult woman, using up to 150 yards of DK yarn.  That came up with 889 patterns. Then I specified that it had to be available via a website (not 'purchase in print'),  which cut it down a bit.

I was getting a lot of hats and mitts suggested, and decided that they wouldn't be suitable, so specialised from 'All accessories' to 'All neck/torso', which left just 119 designs, for cowls, short lacy scarves, collars, and several buttoned 'snugglers' or neckwarmers.  I looked through the first page of the remaining suggestions (they are ordered by the number of projects for each design that have been posted in Ravelry, most popular first), focussing by this time on the ones with buttons, rather than the cowls, and found the one I finally chose, the Rios Locos neck snuggler by Amy Klimt.  It was free too!  (Another advantage of Ravelry is that it has lots of  free patterns - you can restrict your search to free patterns, if you want to.)    

So that's what I found to do with one ball of silk DK yarn.  I'm really pleased with the result, though I haven't worn it yet - it's not a summer item, even in Britain.  I think it will be very useful in the cooler weather, and very comforting to wear.   I think it might need more buttons, rather than just the four along one end, so that the end of the underneath layer lies flat, but I'll try it in wear first.

Now for the other odd balls of Rowan yarn....  What do you do with one ball of Aran weight?

Friday 22 August 2014

The Knitter article on the Guild

I've just been reading the latest issue of The Knitter magazine (no 75) - it has an article on the Knitting & Crochet Guild.  The writer, Juliet Bernard, visited the Guild's collection at Lee Mills a few months ago, and I showed her around.  It is fascinating to see in the article how the collection appeared to someone who had never seen it before.

Juliet was especially interested in the patterns that we have from the First World War, and the article focusses on those.  She has also written a shorter piece (here) for the Huffington Post, based on her visit.

During Juliet's visit, she asked what my favourite items in the collection are - a tall order to choose from the 50,000 pattern leaflets, as well as magazines, books, knitted and crocheted items, and everything else.  But as we were talking about the First World War, I picked a leaflet of coats and hats for little girls, Patons 'Helps to Knitters' X.  As Juliet describes, a pattern from the leaflet has been recreated for the Tell Them of Us film -  a gallery of photos of the costumes that have been knitted for the film can be found on the film's website here, under 'WW1 gallery'.  

There are lots of good things elsewhere in this issue of The Knitter, too - some very enticing patterns, including the sweater by Emma Vining that appears on the cover.  I met Emma at the Knitting & Stitching show last November, and admired a Japanese-style jacket she had designed that appeared on the UK Hand Knitting Association stall.  I've been waiting since then for the pattern to be published, and she tells me that an updated version will appear in The Knitter shortly - I'm really looking forward to seeing it.

Emma Vining's Kagome cardigan

Sunday 17 August 2014

Seed stitch and Stocking stitch

Seed stitch is what I and other British knitters call moss stitch, but in this post I'll be quoting an American writer, so for the duration of the post, I'll refer to it as seed stitch.  (I'm not going to be consistent, though - I cannot bring myself to call stocking stitch 'stockinette', so I won't.)

Back in 2010, not long after I started knitting again, I came across a quote from The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt:  "Seed stitch is 30 percent shorter than Stockinette, and 18 percent wider."   As well as introducing me to that wonderful book, the quote was an amazing revelation.  I knew that rib is used for welts because it's stretchier than stocking stitch, but apart from that, it had never occurred to me that different stitch patterns behave differently - I thought that the choice of stitch pattern was all about what the resulting fabric looks like.  I knew that seed stitch is slow to knit, because of the constant switching from knit to purl, but I hadn't really understood that it's also because it takes more rows to the inch than stocking stitch.   (Yes, I know I should have.)

Since I came across her quote about seed stitch, I have read June Hemmons Hiatt 's book, and bought my own copy of the revised second edition.  And I have generally been much more aware of the characteristics of different stitch patterns.

Just recently, I have been thinking about various stitch patterns, and decided to do some experiments of my own.  I knitted swatches of different stitches, all using the same yarn, same number of stitches, same needles, same length of yarn.  Here are two of the swatches, in seed stitch and stocking stitch.
Seed stitch

Stocking stitch
I have pressed the stocking stitch swatch very lightly, just to stop it curling up a lot, but otherwise they are straight off the needles.  You can see from the ruler that both swatches are about 13 cm. wide.  So for me, seed stitch is not wider than stocking stitch, although it is definitely shorter. The stocking stitch swatch is about 30 rows to 10 cm., whereas seed stitch is taking about 38.  (That's near enough 30% extra.)

It's easy to understand why seed stitch takes more rows per cm. than stocking stitch - the vertical lines of stitches (wales) are kind of concertinaed, producing a thicker fabric.  I can't really see why it should be wider (but then as it isn't, for me, I'm not well placed to understand it).   So I don't know why there is such a discrepancy between my swatches and the account in Principles of Knitting.    Perhaps different knitting methods affect the width (i.e. yarn in right hand v. yarn in left hand, picking v. throwing, or whatever you want to call them).  Or perhaps it's just that different people knit differently.  It's intriguing.

I knit with the yarn in my right hand, the throwing method (aka English style).  If any reader knits seed stitch that is wider than stocking stitch, please tell me what knitting method you use - I'd love to know.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

For Instructing Children in Knitting

I can't recall ever seeing a mention of knitting in a church before - certainly not carved in stone.  But there is one in Abbey Dore church in Herefordshire.  In the church there is a stone slab inscribed with "A list of the Benefactions left to poor House keepers in this Parish to be annually paid out of the Estate under mentioned".  The slab was commissioned by the Church wardens in 1793, and lists bequests made between 1610 and 1720.  

One of the items on the list reads:  "1718. Rev. William Watts a School house & Garden with 5L. P. Ann.  now payable from Upper Cefen Bach for instruction of Children in Reading & Writing or sewing knitting & spinning the Teacher to reside in the said House the Church wardens & Overseers of the poor are to visit the said School & see that it be not neglected."

I think this means that Rev. Watts bequeathed the property at Upper Cefen Bach (a farm, perhaps) from which the sum of £5 could be raised annually, as well as the school building with its garden, and that the £5 was sufficient to pay the teacher's annual salary.   Reading & writing as an alternative to sewing, knitting & spinning is odd - perhaps reading & writing was for the boys, and sewing etc. was for the girls?  I assume it was intended to be a vocational curriculum, teaching children skills that would be practically useful to them, though it seems a bit strange to leave out arithmetic.   But it's interesting to see knitting listed as a school subject in the 18th century.   And was the teacher a man or a woman?

Saturday 9 August 2014

A Victory Traycloth

While we were on holiday in Herefordshire, we went to the museum in Hereford, which currently has an excellent exhibition about the First World War and how it affected local people.   There were lots of interesting things on display, but one that caught my eye was an embroidered tray-cloth, made to celebrate the end of the war.  I noticed it particularly because I thought I had seen the design before - I've since checked up and I was right.

The design appeared Weldon's Ladies' Journal ( a monthly magazine) in January 1919.  The front cover advertises "An Embroidery Design symbolical of PEACE".

The magazine gives instructions for transferring the design to a piece of cloth, and suggests colours for the embroidery.  The tray-cloth in Hereford, however,  doesn't use the colours suggested, but is all done in white on black linen.   (I couldn't get a good photo of it because of the reflections in the glass of the case.)

Black seems an unusual colour to choose for a tray-cloth.  I wonder if  the person who embroidered it had lost someone dear to them in the war - though in that case, I cannot imagine that a Victory embroidery would be of much comfort.  

Thursday 7 August 2014

Holiday in Herefordshire

I'm still a bit behind with this blog, but I'm catching up.....

A couple of weeks ago, we had a week's holiday in Herefordshire, staying near Kington. We rented a house for the week - Great Quebb.   Although it doesn't look especially old from the outside, it is timber-framed, and the oldest part is late mediaeval.  We found it very exciting to be staying in such an old house.  It was also very comfortable - the kitchen and bathrooms were very up-to-date.  (A late mediaeval kitchen might be picturesque, but not very convenient.  A late mediaeval bathroom??)  

Great Quebb
Ancient timbers in the sitting room

The back garden had an avenue of hollyhocks which seed themselves into the path from the back door.  I was give a tray of seedlings to bring home, and I hope that I can provide them with a suitably sunny and dry environment in my garden.

The weather was beautiful all week, and the Herefordshire countryside is lovely.  One day, we walked from Kington up to Hergest Ridge, following part of the Offa's Dike path, and visited  Hergest Croft garden  afterwards.  We had a day in Hereford itself, and an afternoon in Hay-on-Wye (infested with bookshops - who knew?)  Apart from Hereford cathedral, and All Saints church in Hereford (where you can get a very good lunch and then examine the misericords afterwards), we visited several other churches.   Several Herefordshire churches are Norman, with fantastically decorated carved stonework. The south doorway at Kilpeck is a gem, and very well-preserved, and Eardisley (the nearest village to Great Quebb) has a font covered in very lively scenes.    


During the week, we sampled quite a lot of Dunkertons cider (made not far from Eardisley), and brought a dozen bottles home with us.  We went out for dinner on a couple of evenings to nearby pubs (the Tram in Eardisley and the Stagg in Titley), and had excellent meals in both.  It was a very good week altogether- I think we'll be  back.  

Monday 4 August 2014

My First World War Blog

Today being the centenary of the start of the First World War (as far as Britain was concerned), I am launching a new blog to commemorate it, One Hundred Years Ago.  I had the idea for a new blog while researching knitting and crochet in the First World War, which I've been doing for the past year or so.  It was mainly out of personal interest, but I have also put together a talk on the subject, "Useful Work for Anxious Fingers".   (The title is taken from the ad below).  The talk had its first outing in July at the Knitting & Crochet Guild convention.

While looking through newspapers and magazines for pieces about knitting comforts for the troops, I started to collect other material that I found interesting or illuminating.  Many of these other articles are about the lives of women during the war (though not so much at the very beginning of the war, when the newspapers were full of stories of mobilisation and recruitment).  This blog will be a repository for all those snippets - the pieces about knitting and crochet, and the other things too.

Some rules I have set for myself:  all posts will be from British sources.  There was a lot of knitting for the troops going on elsewhere in the Empire, and women in the United States were very busy knitting, especially after the U.S. entered the war, but you have to draw a line somewhere.  There will be nothing about battles, or the big events like Zeppelin raids - they will be adequately covered elsewhere.  I don't think there will be anything about casualties.  Mostly, the posts will have something directly to do with the war - but not always:  there's a piece about a Charlie Chaplin film showing at the cinema in Holmfirth, which amused me, so it's going in.  (I make the rules, so I can change them if I like.)

I'll add explanatory notes or comments sometimes, in square brackets:  [...]

As far as possible, pieces will be posted on this blog exactly one hundred years after they first appeared.  I aim to keep going until the end of the war, though probably less frequently later on.  We'll see how it goes....
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