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Posts Tagged ‘Sanquhar’

It slowly dawned upon me that I shall be knitting heaps of stranded colourwork this year.

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Sanquhar vs Fair Isle mash-up swatch in Foula wool

Let me start off by saying that I’m very excited that I have been invited by Shetland Wool Week this year to work on a project together with my friend and purveyor of finest quotidian sound artefacts, Dr Felicity Ford. We will be joined by talented knitwear designed Di Gilpin., who was awarded The Balvenie Master of Craft award for the Textiles Category for 2012. I, for one, cannot wait to go to the Isles that have such rich knitting traditions and see them firsthand.

Shetland Wool Week Image

Shetland Wool Week, image © Dave Wheeler and used with kind permission

Secondly, those of you who are familiar with Susan Crawford’s work probably know she is working on a Vintage Shetland book. I’m pleased to say she has asked me again to knit a sample garment for her. It will be a very special Fair Isle jumper, and that’s all I’m allowed to say for now.

Lastly, my obsession with Sanquhar gloves knows no bounds, and I will be doing some research on them over the summer. A good excuse to 1) knit some more Sanquhar gloves; and 2) plan a visit to the Knitting Reference Library.

In preparation for all these stranded colourwork projects, I thought I’d investigate something that’s intrigued me for a while now. It’s colour dominance in stranded colourwork.

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The top and bottom bands shows the Midge and Fly pattern from Sanquhar. The middle bands show typical Fair Isle patterns: a classic OXO border pattern and a peerie pattern to separate the two.

Although Sanquhar knitting typically only uses two colours, and Fair Isle usually a greater number of colours, for both you will only ever knit with two colours in one given row of knitting. This can be achieved in a number of ways. In all cases, you will strand the colour not in use along the back of the fabric, hence the name “stranded colourwork.”

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The back of my swatch, showing the strands of the yarn not in use

For a long time, I used to knit with one colour in each hand: the one in my left hand to be knitted continental style, and the one in my right hand to be knitted English style. But I was never quite happy with my tension as the stitches made continental style were much looser than the one made English style. This was exacerbated by the nature of stranded colourwork: one yarn will always appear more dominant than the other. If you peer over the needles whilst you’re doing stranded colourwork, you will see that one yarn will always come from underneath the other. Usually, this is the dominant yarn.

In order to even out my tension problems between left and right hand, I first tried holding both yarns in my right hand. That didn’t work for me at all and not soon after I started knitting with both yarns in my left hand. My tension between dominant and non-dominant yarn is much more even now. I was curious to find out how big the difference is, in order to make an informed decision for my next stranded colourwork project. I decided to use both Sanquhar and Fair Isle patterns, as the effect might be different. The bottom half was knitted such that for each row, the light colour was on the right of my index finger, and the dark colour on the left. The peerie pattern (the small band separating the two bands of OXO patterns,) is where I switched over and the top half was knitted with the light colour always on the left and the dark on the right.

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Bottom half: lighter yarn always on the right on my index finger, and darker yarn always on the left

Looking at the Sanquhar Midge and Fly pattern in the bottom half,the white stitches appear to be larger than the black ones, and the flies appear almost more like vertical stripes rather than small crosses, especially in close-up. As you can see from the picture of the back of the swatch, the floats of white yarn almost hide the black yarn floats.

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Top half: lighter yarn always on the left of my index finger, darker yarn always on the right

Now for the top half: again, looking at the Midge and Fly pattern, I think that the black and white stitches are much more even in size, yet somehow the flies seem to be a bit less pronounced in the top half. In addition, I find the results of switching dominant yarns less obvious in the OXO border patterns.

Before knitting this swatch, I was convinced I would be able to clearly show which way looks better, and make up my mind about which side (left or right,) I ought to use as the dominant yarn. However, now I’m not so sure. For each of the Sanqhuhar and the Fair Isle, which one do you think looks better, top or bottom half of the swatch?

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As you all know, I’m currently having a lot of fun over at WOVEMBER2012, celebrating wool for what it is. I’m curating the Wovember Words posts – woollen elevenses, if you like. Although WOVEMBER takes up a lot of time, I have found some time to make things with wool. I’m very pleased with all of them, and they will each get a separate in-depth post once WOVEMBER has finished. But as I’m too excited about each of them, I want to share some pictures with you:

First up, I made some Sanquhar gloves in the Prince of Wales pattern:

 

Of course, my name is knitted in the cuff:

Secondly, I finally managed to sew a pair of trousers! I bought the fabric two winters ago, made two (yes, TWO) toiles, and then wasn’t happy with the fit and didn’t know how to change it. But with a new pattern, and some encouragement from Zoe, I made this pair of trousers, which are perhaps more classic than fashionable in shape. Here some close-ups, as I will reveal the whole pair over at WOVEMBER later. A hand-picked fly with vintage button:

 

Welted back-pockets:

 

 

Last, but not least I’m finishing of this self-lined beany in the most amazing Wensleydale Longwool yarn:

 

The patterns are typically more often used on ganseys:

 

 

Come on over at WOVEMBER, there’s even a competition going on where you can win all sorts of prizes by sending in a woolly picture!

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The Sanquhar socks I knitted last year have seen a lot of wear this winter and even well into spring and when I washed them the other day suddenly loads of holes appeared. These socks are one of my favourites because they are so very comfortable and I managed to get the fit just right. The 2-ply yarn I used (a wool and mohair blend from Blacker Yarns, alas no longer available) is soft yet has a lot of spring and was quite hard-wearing, considering how much I wore them. I’m also still very pleased with how the Sanquhar-inspired design came out.

In other words, a good opportunity to reread those chapters on darning in one of my favourite mending books to ensure I’m going to do a really good job.

The darning tool I used for this job has a mushroom end for holes in the heel, and a toe-shaped end for holes in the, you guessed it, toes. I picked it up in a car-boot sale, and the toe-end is particularly well-designed.

A close-up of my darning tool reveals that somebody didn’t like it as much as I do! (click on the picture to see a larger version: GRRR!) I guess that in former times, when darning was seen as a necessity, and a skill every woman was supposed to possess, a little girl didn’t like it one bit. This is so different from my own views and feelings. In a society where it is easier to throw away and replace than repair (for whatever excuse), I often get the feeling that people think of darning as a hobby and a luxury. But I like my hand-knitted socks, if only because the fit is unsurpassed and it gives me pleasure to be able to make such an everyday item myself. As these socks took some time to knit (11 stitches to inch!) I want to be able to wear them for as long as I can possibly make them last.

Whilst I was examining the holes, I also noticed thin areas under the ball of the foot and on the side of the big toe. So not only did I need to fill in the holes with stocking darns, but I also wanted to reinforce the thin areas to prevent holes forming.

I tried out a couple of new things. First up is the biased stocking darn:

As you can see, these threads cross each other at the diagonal, and not in the more usual perpendicular fashion. This is supposed to give the darn more stretch. I shall report back in due time, although so far, I haven’t noticed any difference.

Secondly, as I like a Visible Mend, I decided to mix up the colours.

Solid patches in Swiss darning, and the stocking darn is speckled due to different colours for “warp” and “weft”. But as you can see in the following picture, it didn’t stop there. My cuff design was calling out to be re-used!

And so, esteemed Ladies & Gentlemen, the meta-darn was born. This self-referential pattern took me a quite a bit longer than a plain darn, but I had so much fun doing it. Suddenly the slightest shadow of a hint of an inkling of a possibility of a thinning area required to be reinforced. I’m very interested in adding something, which is related to thing added to. Another good example of “meta-interventions” is Amy Twigger Holroyd’s stitch-hacking work. As she says about stitch-hacking: “The [technique is] used to adapt existing garments and patterns to include personalised content. On a conceptual level, these pieces explore authorship and ownership; on a personal level, they allow me to put something of myself into my wardrobe.” *) Although Amy is talking about shop-bought clothes, which sometimes lack a certain individuality, this principle can also apply to hand-made things (although admittedly, the authorship and ownership does not get questioned as much here). In these socks, the cuff pattern gets referenced, and so the darn not only reinforces the fabric, it also reinforces the design.

I limited myself to the areas that needed reinforcing, so the pattern isn’t complete. It looks like an ancient Roman mosaic, or half-stripped wall paper. I’m not sure how this mending yarn will wear, as some of the mending threads I’ve used tend to get fuzzy. However, to me that is going to be an exciting development to follow. Will this design still be legible after having worn these socks for another winter? And once this has worn out, will I be able to perform another Swiss darn, will I need to do a stocking darn, or will I eventually have to resort to refooting the sock? Perhaps for some, these socks are just temporarily stopped on their way out, but for me, the journey with these socks has only just begun.

*) http://keepandshare.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/stitch-hacking-and-pattern-blagging-at-prick-your-finger/

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The competition for the Sanquhar Pencil Case Pattern and wool Giveaway is now closed. Which means I have selected a winner!

As my own pencil case has been lined with fabric left over from making a pair of boxer shorts, and thus my pencil case match my pants, I asked you to think about what you would like your pencil case to match with. There were a few practical answers, like iPad and notebook covers, or a messenger bag, some of which really were cheekily disguised requests for other Sanquhar inspired patterns. Some were variations on the underwear theme – tasselled pasties anyone? There were anti-theft devices, knitted shoes and egg-cosies, but the answer that amused me most, was sent in by Samatha:

A pencil case pattern, style Sanquhar,
Is something for which I do hanker!
This lim’rick I’ll name
to go with the same
this season, or lose with no rancour!

Not only because my limerick skills are well below par: I would struggle to find just one word to rhyme with ‘Sanquhar’, let alone two! But on a different level I really like the whimsical idea of matching a physical object with something cerebral.

Congratulations to Samantha, I have contacted you for your details, so I can send you your wool. For everybody else, the pattern is for sale at Prick Your Finger, who also stock a range of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, to make a pencil case in whichever colour combination you fancy.

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Dear readers, it is with great pleasure I can present to you tomofholland’s very first pattern. The Sanquhar Pencil Case Pattern is now available for download in the Prick Your Finger webshop.

The original pencil case, shown in the background, was a graduation present for my partner. I wanted to give him a small knitted item, which he could use every day, without having to worry about spilling food down the front… And as he was forever digging in his bag for pens, this seemed just the thing. The pattern is inspired by the traditional Sanquhar gloves, in the cornet & drum pattern. I have knitted Sanquhar gloves in the fleur-de-lys pattern:

The Sanquhar patterns can be broken down in four parts, which all come back in pencil case:

1) the cuff is knitted in a rib stitch, with the knit stitches in the light colour and the purl stitches in the dark colour. Usually there are accents of the dark colour in the knit columns. I have used one such cuff pattern for the top of the pencil case:

2) the wrist in a Sanquhar glove is always knitted in a salt-and-pepper spot pattern. I used this element at the underside of the pencil case:

3) the other distinctive feature in Sanquhar gloves, is that the wearer’s initials are worked in the cuff too. This can be found on one side of the pencil case:

The pattern comes with an alphabet and blank name plate chart, so you make your own initials!

4) the last element is the patterning of the hand and fingers. Sanquhar gloves can be divided into two distinct styles. Tweed patterns, like my fleur-de-lys gloves, and so-called ‘dambrod’ patterns, which has repeating designs in a strong grid. The cornet & drum version of this, is what I used for the other sides of the pencil case:

The original pencil case was knitted on double-pointed needles and required grafting the bottom closed. I was very lucky that Dr Felicity Ford offered to test-knit my pattern, as apart from invaluable feedback on pattern lay-out, she also brought to my attention Judy’s Magic Cast-On. This means that this pencil case is completely SEAMLESS. You cast on. You knit. You cast off. You’re done.

For the pencil case I used some left over fabric from a pair of boxershorts to line them. Who else can boast a matching pencil case and pants?

Releasing my very first pattern is a cause for celebration in my book, so one lucky winner will be given a free copy of the pattern, and two balls of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, in burnt umber and surf, to knit your very own Sanquhar Pencil Case. To enter, leave a comment below and tell me what you think is just the thing to co-ordinate the pencil case with this season. After two weeks, I will select the most amusing answer and post the pattern and wool to the lucky winner.

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Today I made a field trip to the Knitting Reference Library at the Winchester School of Arts. I packed my lunch consisting of a pear and that stalwart of Dutch sandwiches: peanut butter on brown bread. After a two-hour train journey I arrived at Winchester and found my way to the Winchester School of Arts. While I was waiting in one of the main libraries to meet the very knowledgeable Linda Newington, I thumbed through a Complete Book of Needlecraft, where I found the following instructions for the rather obscure Christie cast-on method:

This was a promising start, seeing I wasn’t at the actual KRL yet! Soon after Linda turned up and she took me to the Sanctum Sanctorum of Knitting. The KRL comprises the collections of Montse Stanley, Richard Rutt and Jane Waller. All three have built up extensive libraries of reference books, patterns, leaflets, objects and ephemera related to knitting; and they all come together at the KRL. After Linda made me feel at home, I soon settled in and got down to the purpose of my visit: researching glove construction. Although the knitted objects collected by Stanley and Rutt are housed in a different building altogether, there was one box of gloves available to rifle through…

I got very excited indeed when I saw not one, not two, but THREE pairs of Sanquhar gloves! With kind permission of the Knitting Library at the Winchester School of Arts, I can present you the following photographs I took of a 1846 Sanquhar glove replica, knitted by Rutt himself:

It’s a design I have not seen before.

Starting at the bottom, there is a fringed cuff to be found, and not a single corrugated rib in sight. The customary wrist inscription goes all the way around and reads “G. Walton  1846″. The bands separating the inscription from the other parts of the glove are made of small peaks.

The back of the hand shows three prominent zigzag bands with small diamonds. The main pattern looks like a variation on the midge and fly, and it’s very handsome too.

As you can see, the thumb gore is outlined in both a white and a black stitch. The increases are made inside these two stitches and they are evenly spaced up to the base of the thumb. It is knitted in wool in natural white and (dyed?) black, and the tension comes in at 12 stitches per inch. I didn’t take pictures of the other Sanquhar gloves, as they were in the, dare I say, ubiquitous Duke pattern, although they were also incredible feats of knitting, with a guestimated tension of appr. 20 spi!

 

ERRATUM, added 24 July 2011: after sharing this blog post with the Sanquhar Knitting Group on Ravelry, it soon transpired that this glove is not a replica of a Sanquhar glove, but of a Yorkshire Dale glove, which explains all the differences I noted. Rutt found the original in the Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere, but I don’t know if they are still there. And in fact, there is a photograph and a pattern graph in Rutt’s A History of Hand Knitting (pages 123 and 124 in my edition of the book, which is an Interweave reprint).

 

After dissecting this glove it was time for a tea break and Linda and I had a nice chat about the next In The Loop conference, which will take place in September 2012. After the break, I trawled through loads of knitting books, made lots of photocopies, secretly wanting to take the whole library home, but instead making lots of notes:

Postscript:

On the way home I got chatting to a lovely lady, who was an avid knitter herself, and perhaps even more exciting: an expert cake baker! She carried a cake she made for one of her grandsons, and it was in the shape of a treasure island, complete with palm trees made from Flakes, a Lego rowing boat and a here-is-the-treasure-hidden cross made from chocolate. She told me a bit about her travels when she was younger. She taught English in Nepal, Hong Kong and other places when she was, erm, somewhat younger. And then we talked about that amazing cake again and it’s a tradition now that she makes a cake for each of her seven grandchildrens’ birthdays. They love their gran’s special birthday cake so much they give her designs nine months in advance!

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Now here is an object that has yet to make its way into the FutureMuseum collection: a knitted pencil case. The pattern combines elements of typical Sanquhar designs. I made this pencil case for my partner who’s about to graduate and I hope he will make good use of it when he goes on to do a Masters in Modern History.

Needless to say, it was knitted in my favourite yarn: Shetland spindrift. The green is called Bracken and the cream is actually a marled yarn in mooskit and white. The pencil case was knitted in the round using the magic loop technique and is completely seamless, although I did need to graft the bottom closed. I knitted with the cream in my left hand and the green in the right. As my left-hand tension differs from my right-hand tension, single green stitches don’t stand out. I suspect that swapping the carrying hands will make a difference, so that’s something I will investigate and report on.

Find it on Ravelry here.

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Blog post update (10/04/2012): I’m pleased to let you know that this pencil case is now available as a downloadable pattern from the Prick Your Finger webshop.

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