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After knitting all those lace jumpers and cardigans, it was time for me to knit something easy and quick. A knitterly palate cleanser, so to speak. As my love for glove knitting is still going strong (even if I haven’t knitted any Reading Gloves lately), I thought some gloves would be the perfect project. I already know that gloves knitted in a stranded design are very warm and are good at keeping the wind out, so this time I’m going to try and find a stitch that can do a similar job. A firm fabric and texture are required, so I have come up with a short list of stitch categories to try out:

1) knit-n-purl texture

2) slipped stitches

3) twined knitting

4) twisted stitches

First up in the knit-n-purl catergory, are Ringwood Gloves. These consist of a very simple pattern: round 1: [ K1, P1 ], repeat to end; rounds 2 and 3: K. A pattern published by Ayles & Son, Glove Manufacturers calls the purls “knots”:

Ringwood is a town in Hampshire, UK, and has a long history of a handknitting industry and in particular, stockings, till the turn of the eighteenth century. However, in the 1850s, trade had picked up again, and this time gloves became more important. These were knitted in either cotton or wool 4 ply, and on fairly thick needles. Ringwood gloves were knitted commercially until the after the Second World War! A rare example of a cottage industry surviving into the 20th century.*

As I’m going for warmth, I’ll forgo the cotton. Instead, I’ve chosen Knit By Numbers in yellow, which is a DK weight merino, knitted on 3.5mm needles to give a firm fabric.

According to Rutt, the original gloves were very straightforward, no gussets or fourchettes between the fingers. However, I’m very stubborn and I didn’t carry out the instructions exactly, as I did add those. I’m afraid Mr. Ayles would not approve. The fabric is very pleasing in texture, although I have not, as yet, put them to the wind test. Also, it is merino wool. Not my most favourite type of wool, but just look at that yellow! I just couldn’t resist. Meanwhile, I’ve set my heart on a slip stitch pattern called Close Stitch for my next pair of gloves, but I’m struggling to avoid ladders, as it requires rounds of purling. Any suggestions?

Ravelled here.

*) Rutt, R, A History of Handknitting (Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1987) pp. 191-193

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In an earlier post I mentioned Susan Crawford had asked me to help her out with knitting for her new book, A Stitch In Time 2. I guess it would’ve been a leap of faith for her, as she had only seen some of my project pictures on Ravelry after Louise from Prick Your Finger had said that I might be up for it.

When Susan emailed me the original pattern I was thrilled:

I recognised the pattern as “Frost Flowers” from Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. It features on its cover! Despite appearances, it is a very easy lace pattern. It consists of only two rows (granted, there is shaping on both rows, no rest rows here!). These get repeated three times, and then the pattern shifts by a half-drop for another three repeats of the two rows.

I ended up in an email conversation with Susan (I hope to meet her in person this Saturday at last) and she explained to me how she approaches rewriting vintage patterns:

“With the vintage patterns I tend not to add specific techniques that weren’t in the original pattern to the instructions that I provide. However, I would encourage any knitter to improve where they think it can be improved upon, but for historical integrity I remain as true to the original pattern as I can whilst trying to make the pattern easier for the knitter to use.”

This is no mean feat, as nowadays, we expect most patterns to be written in multiple sizes. This can be difficult, especially if you have a large pattern repeat like this one. You cannot just add a few stitches here and there, as this would mess up your pattern repeats. In some cases, changing size can be done by choosing different weight yarns and/or playing with needle size (the Kasha cardigan linked above is a good example of this). Luckily Susan is an excellent designer, and she is an expert in grading designs. This meant however, I didn’t get to sew up, as Susan needed the unblocked separate pieces to work out sizes. If I have to believe the many blog posts on Ravelry, I’m in the minority of actually enjoying the sewing up process; posting the pieces back as they were was somewhat unsatisfactory, so I’m doubly pleased to see the end result:

I want all my knitwear to be photographed professionally from now on!

The Lady’s Evening Jumper’s original instructions left a lot to be desired. One shoulder would’ve been lopsided and more than one pattern repeat would’ve been messed up. Luckily I have an eye for detail (although my partner would probably call me overly fussy) and I think I managed to catch them all out.

Apart from the gorgeous lace pattern, this jumper has a unique solution for shaping darts. The darts are all horizontal: you cast off in the middle of a row and on the return row you cast on a larger amount of stitches than you cast off (adding up to an additional pattern repeat). As part of the finishing, you gather the cast-on row and sew it on the cast-off row. As you can see in the pictures above, this makes for an neatly integrated and almost invisible increase, as the darts are judiciously placed (two under the bust, one on the back and one in each sleeve).

The jumper is knitted in Fyberspates Scrumptious laceweight, and this makes the jumper very glamorous. However, I did knit a little practice swatch in white Jamieson’s shetland cobweb, and that also came out looking very beautiful, and I found that the decrease lines appeared accentuated a bit more due to the light colour, so I would love to see somebody knitting this up in a lighter colour, just to see the difference.

I also asked Susan how this jumper would originally been worn, and she replied: “…in the 40s women usually wore a slip or vest under their outer clothes so would have probably sewn one to coordinate with the sweater. As it is an evening sweater I would imagine a silk slip would have been made. [It] May even have been worn over a dress on occasion.”

It is definitely a jumper for Occasions!

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When I posted about my Cornish Knit-Frock, I promised I would tell you a bit more about fixing a mistake and a nifty way of counting rows. Today I will do just that, and also want to share with you what I will do differently when I knit the next one, because I just know I will.

FIXING A PATTERN MISTAKE

When I had knitted about eight rounds of the patterns above the bars and seeds, I noticed that the chevrons in the middle, where actually not in the middle, I was one stitch off. I knew this was going to annoy me no end, so I decided to fix it. I could frog back eight rows, but I first wanted to try something else: I decided to drop down the offending area only, and knit it back up. If that failed I could always still frog back.

Here’s a picture of said offending area, one stitch out of kilter:

offending area

I carefully dropped back the stitches between the two garter stitch columns on either side of the upside down chevron (with apologies for the poor picture quality):

all dropped down

Then I used a pair of double-pointed needles one size smaller, to knit it all back up. This gets a little bit fiddly when you reach the end of the “row”, but that is why it is easier to use somewhat smaller needles. Also make sure you don’t mix up the strands that get tangled into egg noodles:

knitting back up

It didn’t take me too long before I had everything back in the middle. Definitely an easier fix than frogging eight rows!

all knitted up again

COUNTING ROWS WHEN YOU’RE NEARLY THERE

One of the things that I really don’t want to do when I’m doing some mindless knitting, is having to put down the knitting and measure, yet again, whether I’m nearly there for the ribbing to start. No, another 1/4 inch to go. So I had a brain wave after ingesting the eastern style knitting chapter in Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book (which, incidentally, has the best glove pattern ever) and a remark by Elizabeth Zimmermann about trying to keep progress when doing endless rounds of stocking stitch (possibly related to her pi shawl?). Once you are getting close to that point where you have to measure whether you have reached the right length, stop knitting a bit before you reach the end of the round. Now measure the length of your fabric and work out how much you have left to do.

Say, you are knitting a sleeve in the round and are 1 inch away from starting the ribbing. Now your row gauge is for example 10 rows (rounds) per inch. Here comes the trick: pick up your knitting and when you have ten stitches left to finish the round, knit that tenth stitch eastern style. In other words, wrap the yarn around the needle in the opposite direction you normally do (normally you would wrap clockwise, so eastern style you wrap anti-clockwise). This sets the new stitch up with the right leg at the back of the needle instead of the front. Continue knitting as normal. You will hit upon that weird tenth stitch and notice that you will need to knit it through the back loop to put it right again (if you didn’t knit this stitch through the back loop, it would show up as a twisted stitch). The next stitch, nine away to reach the end of the next round, gets knitted eastern style. Again, continue knitting as normal, and at near completion of the round, you will have to knit the ninth stitch through the back loop. Keep going like this and it won’t be long before the last stitch to be wrapped eastern style is also the very last stitch of the round. Voila, you are ready for your ribbing! I found this also works with purl stitches.

THE NEXT CORNISH KNIT-FROCK

When I will knit my next Cornish Knit-Frock, and I will, there are a few things I will do differently:

  1. I won’t bother with fancy seam stitches. A simple single stitch garter column is good enough for me, and it won’t curl under the stocking stitch.
  2. I will knit the whole thing in the round. No more separating front and back and peering over the needle to see what’s going on with the pattern. Instead, I shall knit steeks. It’s much easier to see what’s going on when you’re always on the right side of the fabric. I should’ve listened to Elizabeth Zimmermann.
  3. I will get myself a set of 40cm long double-pointed steel needles and a knitting belt or sheath. I broke two circular needles knitting my knit-frock. One broke at the join cable and needle as the fabric is heavy and it forces a sharp bend. Another pair got bent, as a knit-frock is knitted in a really firm gauge and manipulating the stitches puts a lot of strain on the needles.

What are your top tips and tricks for knitting ganseys?

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In spring this year, I was asked by Louise from Prick Your Finger if I could help out a lady in distress: Susan Crawford was about to release A Stitch In Time 2, and she urgently needed somebody to help her out knitting a jumper for the book. I’ll be posting about that jumper in part two. To show me what her new book was about, she sent a link to this video. When I told Susan I’d love to help her out, I also casually mentioned I would really like to knit that embossed golden cardigan you see in the beginning… The rest, as they say, is history.

And so about 2.5 months ago I received some squishy cashmere from The Skein Queen to knit Kasha (as it has since been named) for Susan herself.

Here’s a close-up of the gorgeous lace pattern:

The little bells (I think they’re flower buds, what do you think?) are made by making five stitches in a yarn-over and after a few rows you need to decrease them back to one. I decided to use Barbara Walker’s method of purling five stitches together. It’s a somewhat involved method, but it makes for a very symmetric decrease (all slipped stitches are slipped purlwise):

  1. slip three stitches from the left needle to the right needle
  2. lift the second stitch on the right needle over the first stitch and off the needle
  3. slip the first stitch on the right needle back to the left needle
  4. lift the second stitch on the left needle over the first stitch and off the needle
  5. slip the first stitch on the left needle to the right needle
  6. repeat steps 2, 3 and 4, then purl the remaining stitch

Once you get used to it, it is quite quick to execute. Promise!

An extraordinary cardigan requires extraordinary finishing touches, so I used the Italian cast-on, as it looks really good with a 1×1 ribbing, as evidenced by these pictures of the welt and the collar:

The beauty of this cast-on means you can match it with a tubular cast-off at the top of the buttonband:

Two other things I did to do this cardigan justice was knitting the last stitch of each row through the back loop, and slipping the first stitch purlwise to make a neat selvedge on the buttonband and collar. For the buttonholes I tried TECHKnitter’s tulips buttonhole. Also somewhat involved, but look at how symmetrical it is:

The keen observer will notice that there are no buttons sewn on as yet. Susan just couldn’t find the right ones in time for me to sew them on, but she has assured me see found the perfect ones now. I hope she will send me a picture soon – apparently it fits her perfectly. Keep an eye out for Susan – if she’s wearing a red cardigan, it could well be this one.

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Two months ago, one of my sheets ripped due to old age. And a month later, another sheet ripped. Pants! I had bought them at the same time, so they grew old together.

But my woes were not over yet, as a few of my older boxer shorts also ripped during this period! But, as the saying goes: if life deals you lemons, make lemonade. So I decided to make myself some new boxer shorts. I used an old pair of boxer shorts to make a pattern.

I made a front piece and a back piece. These is a very simple pattern, so I just used one piece for both left and right sides.

I then cut squares out of the sheets, making sure they would be large enough for the pieces plus a margin for the seams and a casing for an elastic band. I made sure to cut these from the edge of the sheets, where the fabric hadn’t worn yet. Then I could cut the pieces. Luckily the fabric was woven, not printed, and right side and wrong side were identical.

I sewed the boxer shorts on my gorgeous Singer 201K treadle sewing machine (on which I shall write another post in the near future). I started with sewing the short inside leg seams of the back pieces and the front pieces. Then I made the hem at the bottom of the legs. Next was the side seam, with my attempt at a small split. Or at least, that’s how I call them – after trying to find instructions on t’interweb I only found references to splits in seams due to wear and tear and how to fix those, so perhaps they are called something different in the sewing world? My two sewing reference books don’t have anything on that either!

Then I had to employ some fabric origami to make the fly. I just fiddled around a bit until it looked like a boxer short fly, referring to the old pair of shorts. First I sewed the long seam from the back to the crotch and then up to the fly, then graded the seam allowance and made a flat-felled seam. I sewed up the fly along with the flat-felled seam. Last but not least, I made a casing for the elastic band. I hadn’t taken the correct measurements, so the elastic was two inches too short for each boxer short, so I had to sew down the ends in the casing, two inches apart. I cunningly did this on either side of the fly, so it looks intentional.

I now have five new pairs of boxer shorts. Perhaps not entirely made according to the text book, but that’s okay. I think they look good at first glance, and only my partner will get to see them in close-up…

PS, if anybody knows where I can find instructions on how to make those split seams, I’d be ever so grateful!

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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.

++++++++++++++++

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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Almost two years ago I found out about the knitting tradition in a town in Scotland called Sanquhar. Having been developed in the 16th and 17th century, their style is very distinctive: two-colour stranded patterns, mainly for socks and gloves. You can find more information about them on the Future Museum website. I’m somewhat smitten by the gloves and I ordered all four available patterns from the SWRI (Scottish Women Rural Institutes). My first endeavour was going to be the midge-and-fly glove, but when I saw the fleur-de-lys on the aforementioned website, I couldn’t resist and I adapted the pattern thusly:

As you can see, I knitted in my initials, which is part of the traditional pattern. The next gloves I would like to make have a very different style. The fleur-de-lys is a tweed pattern, but the Duke pattern gloves is a so-called dambrod pattern and the squares fit in just so. Achieving stitch gauge isn’t that difficult, but achieving row gauge – crucial to get the right fit AND keeping the squares – requires finding the right yarn. So here’s a test knit, using Blacker Yarns 50/50 British Wool with Mohair 2-ply Sock Yarn. I used all different dambrod designs I could find:

Yes, the feet look ridiculously baggy, but these socks fit like, erm, a glove!

And I think I have found a suitable yarn to boot.

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I have been very very very busy knitting a Shetland Lace Shawl for a cousin. She will be doing her Holy Communion soon and her mum asked me to knit her a lace shawl to wear. I had to put everything else I was working on on hold to ensure it would be finished in time. I chose to use a modern construction: start with the center, pick up all around and knit the border outwards on a circular needle. The lace edging was knitted on. This was probably the fastest method, but the next Shetland Lace Shawl will be constructed in the traditional manner, so loads of grafting to look forward too. Anyway, here’s the result!

As you can see, it’s still being blocked. It measures 50x50in.

A close-up of the border. The diamond pattern is the traditional “rosebud” stitch.

And the lace edging. I designed the lace edging myself: it has some fagotting, then a small bead strip, triangles with lace holes and the diamonds are based on the rosebud pattern from the border, but this time the shaping happens on each row – no “rest” rows here!

Phew!

Now I can relax and finish my socks.

Raveled here.

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Okay, maybe it won’t take me to Narnia, but whilst waiting to have collected enough wood to build an Enzo Mari wardrobe, I made a temporary and functional cardboard wardrobe. I used removal boxes and packing tape.

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