A field trip to the Knitting Reference Library at the Winchester School of Arts

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:


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!

The Reading Gloves – Heathcliff

For a while now I have been thinking about more characters for The Reading Gloves project. There’s Nabokov’s Lolita, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and last but not least, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. I’m still waiting to find Cathy, but Heathcliff has suddenly revealed himself to me. A very kind fellow Raveler has gifted me some handspun jacob:

Three skeins in total, all are 2ply. Two skeins come in at about 16wpi and one at roughly 21wpi. A beautiful job! I’m planning to full the resultant gloves, so that stitch definition is neigh on impossible to distinguish — as, if we have to believe Nelly Dean, wasn’t Heathcliff a swarthy individual who never let on what he was up to?

The Reading Gloves – Private View

Last night saw the private view of my exhibition of The Reading Gloves at Prick Your Finger.

We had so much fun that I completely forgot to take any pictures of all the wonderful people that came for a little nosy, have a beer, or a ginger biscuit baked by my partner.

I’m very happy with the show and it has more or less turned out as I had in mind. Dorian Gray left his gloves on the console table underneath his portrait:

Anna Karenina left blood drops all over the place:

And last but not least, the illicit lovers, Lady Chatterley and Mellors. They just about managed to brush away the chicken feathers before lying down together:

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Dorian Gray’s gloves are knitted in 4ply cotton. I knitted two pairs. One pair is immaculate white and knitted as evenly as I could. These will be displayed on a small console table. Made from cardboard and self-adhesive film…

Then, of course, there is the portrait. Some friends helped me out and I think the portrait looks great! The walking stick in the portrait has a knife blade hidden in it. After we took the photographs I polished up the stick, so it now looks as new and will also be part of the display.

Anna Karenina

This is Anna Karenina’s cuff. I had to try out quite a few different lace patterns, as I wanted to make the gloves look like expensive lace, not cheap tarty lace. Therefore I ended up using lace that had quite a lot of solid areas. Knitted in Jamieson’s cobweb ultra 1ply it still looks very lace-y.

Here’s a page from my note book. I love making charts, as it makes me understand how the pattern works.

And the cuff being blocked.

Once I had finished assembling everything the lace pattern got a bit lost as it was a double layer of fabric. So I have hunted down some old silk scarves and used one of those to line the gloves. There are red beads for blood drops.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Here are Lady Chatterley and her lover, Mellors. I knitted Lady Chatterley in natural Wensleydale longwool. The cuff has a picot cast-on and is knitted in a twisted 1×1 rib. It reminds me a bit of a corset. I gave a her wedding ring too.

Mellors is knitted in hemp and I kept it simple and a bit rough around the edges. I like the contrast between the two pairs of gloves.

The first time they “get together” they lie down on a brown army blanket and brush away the chicken feathers that are strewn around the small hut they’re in, so I will display the gloves on a blanket and scatter some chicken feathers around.

The Reading Gloves

If gloves were to be like characters in a novel, then what would they look like? I’m going to try and find out and on this blog I will keep a record of my findings. On 10 February 2011 The Reading Gloves will go on show at Prick Your Finger. I’m going to knit gloves that represent the following characters: Lady Chatterley, her lover, Dorian Gray, Dorian Gray’s picture, Anna Karenina, Heathcliff & Cathy.

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