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It has been long in the making, but I’m pleased to let you know that The Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches will be shown at Prick Your Finger in Bethnal Green, London. The private view is on Friday, 15 February. Come join me and marvel at the curious and the recherché!

bias_closeup

Swatch 15 – Bias effects from spacing eyelets and balancing decreases

Anybody who has visited me will know that I have quite a collection of knitting books, and it will come as no surprise that I have read all of them at least once.

reference_books

A selection from my library

There is only so much reading about knitting one can do. However well explained, if one is curious, then nothing quite beats picking up sticks and string and try things out. I ended up with a box full of swatches, and a head swimming with techniques, and it felt like such a waste to keep things to myself. Seeing some swatches pinned out on my blocking board reminded me of the Curiosity Cabinets of yore, with rows upon rows of insects:

CuriosityCabinet1

Painting of a Curiosity Cabinet

Cabinets of Curiosities, or Wunderkammern, arose in mid-sixteenth-century Europe as repositories for all manner of wondrous and exotic objects. In essence these collections, combining specimens, diagrams, and illustrations from many disciplines; marking the intersection of science and superstition; and drawing on natural, manmade, and artificial worlds can be seen as the precursors to museums. The key concepts and notions that lay behind the assembling of Cabinets of Curiosities were: 

experiencing a sense of wonder in all kinds of things in the world; discovering new and extreme examples of the natural and the man-made; making connections across the whole field of human knowledge; Experimenting with arranging, re-arranging and classifying parts of the world (and the connections between them) in many different ways. As Samuel Quiccheberg (an eminent curator of cabinets) wrote:
”The ideal collection should be nothing less than a theatre of the universe..keys to the whole of   
 knowledge.”

CuriosityCabinet2

An early example of a Wunderkammer

I created two Curiosity Cabinets. The first one deals with a small selection of cast-on and cast-off techniques, single and double increases and decreases, selvedges:

cast_ons_etc

Most of the techniques displayed here come from an anthology about knitting by Threads Magazine, Barbara Walker’s Knitting from The Top, Montse Stanley’s Knitting Handbook, Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book, and June Hemmons Hiatt’s The Principles of Knitting.

The second Cabinet is all about lace: lots of different fagotting stitches, exploration of bias in fabrics introduced by the interplay between eyelets and their balancing decreases, the many different ways of creating chevrons which is an essential shape in lace knitting, and a variety of eyelets:

lace

The lace knitting techniques are for a large part from Susanna Lewis’s Lace Knitting Workshop, sprinkled with some Mary Thomas and Montse Stanley.

But that is not all: I will reveal the top 3 Knitting Nightmares! It turns out that the regulars frequenting Prick Your Finger don’t have that many knitting nightmares, they are very good knitters indeed. Luckily when I asked the audience at In The Loop 3, I got inundated by responses. And indeed, I would like to thank The Knitting Reference Library, where you can find more books about knitting than you could dream of; it is where I learnt about the existence of quite a few books now also to be found in my own library.

KnittingNightMare2

Knitting Nightmare, based on Fuselli’s The Nightmare

I hope you will join me for the Private View on Friday, 15 February at Prick Your Finger. If your curiosity is not quenched by a drink that night, then I would urge you to join my Curious Stitches Class on Saturday, 16 February (details to follow).

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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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Last week I attended the In the Loop 3 conference, organised by the Knitting Reference Library, part of the Winchester School of Art. From the individual to the industrial and from the technical to the intellectual, I had no idea that a conference on knitting could generate such a diversity of topics; there were 28 presentations in all.

Strangely, I did not take any pictures during the conference, as I was too geekily absorbed by the World of Knitting –  I hope you can forgive me. Here’s a selection of personal highlights from the conference, presented to you in chronological order:

(1) Dr Martin Polley, Senior lecturer in Sport (he’s a sport historian) spoke engagingly about Knitting and the Olympic Games. Not only was knitting part of the predecessor of the Olympic Games, The Much Wenlock Olympian Games, where women and girls were judged on the fastest and neatest knits; knitwear has also caused controversy at more than one Olympic event. Most recently the LZR Racer swimsuits developed by Speedo to emulate sharkskin, gave swimmers an unusual advantage. These suits have been banned since the 2008 Games saw an incredible amount of new records.

(2) Sharon Evans-Mikellis, senior lecturer in Fashion and Textile Design at AUT University, New Zealand discussed garment shape innovation in knitwear design. I don’t know a single thing about knitting machines, let alone the high-tech ones that Sharon works with, but I was struck by the fact that even with the latest technology, knitting machines are usually used to emulate flat knitting, even if they can knit in 3D. Sharon explored some new ways of shaping knitwear using these capabilities, which is much more easily done in hand-knitting. Her talk has inspired me to try some new sweater designs, on which I will report in due course!

(3) Hazel Tindall, knitter, spoke about her mother’s diary she wrote in the 1960s. It gave a personal voice on how knitting pervaded this woman’s live, who much preferred reading and writing. Before the discovery of oil, knitting was about the only way to earn extra cash for housewives in rural Shetland, so apart from making garments for her family, she knitted goods for local knitwear buyers. Hazel read out snippets of the diaries, showed some of the garments mentioned by her mother, and gave an insight in how live must have been for many a housewive in Shetland at the time.

(4) Juliette, knitter. I only spoke to Juliette during dessert at the conference dinner, but I so admire her. 78 years of age, she was so lovely to talk to, and she knew so much about knitting. She was not only wearing a perfectly fitting cardigan, but on her shoulders was draped a beautiful Shetland lace shawl (in Jamieson’s cobweb, of course). Then she pulled out of her bag some miniature knitting she was working on. Jumpers knitted to a 1:12 scale, using needles made from piano wires and knitted in polyester sewing thread. And not just any old stocking stitch. Oh no, one was knitted in entrelac and another in a Sanquhar pattern.

(5) Helen Whitham, recently graduated with a first class honours from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design showed some of her graduation collection and spoke about her research, in which she concluded that knitted textiles from Shetland are authentic products expressing a time, place and culture and offer a basis for emotional attachment. This then, will encourage owners to hang on to these garments for longer. In her graduation collection Helen managed to create a whole new and more intellectual approach to Shetland knitwear, creating her very own personal ‘tradition’ informed by colours and shapes of things she found, amongst others, on the beach. Amazing.

(6) Roslyn Chapman, researched the history of the fine lace knitting industry in the nineteenth and early twentieth century Shetland for her PhD, with a focus on the social and economic relationships between the production and consumption of the fine knitted items. During her research, Roslyn became more aware of things that she had never seen, descriptions of the sale of articles that seem to have vanished without a trace. Where are the Shetland knitted opera cloaks? The Shetland lace clouds, lappets and hoods? And what of the scarlet, crimson, purple and blue shawls and the lesser known spotted hap? Where are all the Shetland fringes, tassels and ‘balls’? Were they loved so much that they have been worn to death, or hated so much they have been relegated to the backs of wardrobes? Roslyn showed photocopies of photographs of photographs (yes, really!) of intricate gossamer lace blouses, contemporary adverts selling burnouses, and payment receipts to Shetlands fringers (who’s sole task was to add fringes to knitted items.)

(7) Sandy Black, professor of Fashion & Textile Design & Technology at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts. Sandy discussed couture handknitting in the postwar period, and especially the work of Maria Luck-Szanto. Hungarian by birth, she came to London in 1939 to establish her hand knitted fashion business, using the skills of British knitters to produce her unique creations which adorned the elite society of London and beyond. Her designs contained many innovations, including the minimizing of seams, and influenced the patents for new machine knitting techniques which are only now possible to execute, with the current advanced knitting machines. Looking at the incredible detail of these handknitted garments, I feel all the more inspired to attempt a high finish on my own knitted garments.

Last but not least I, too, presented at In the Loop 3. I spoke about my Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches. An installation that had to be put on hold due to personal circumstances. However, when I have confirmed new dates for the exhibition, I will write a detailed post about it. The Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches gives a voice to some of the more esoteric knitting stitches, by presenting them as the rarities they are, by displaying swatches as a natural history collection of yore. It will be accompanied by a series of short workshops, to show others some of these techniques. I got so much good feedback from the audience, that I can’t wait to have it all sorted out and share these cabinets with all of you!

There, I managed to squeeze in a picture after all! I hope this post has given you a flavour of the conference. Personally, I cannot wait till In The Loop 4!

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Post updated on 11 September to correct spelling mistake in Helen Whitham’s name, and put a link in to her blog.

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Welcome to one of the last few stops on Susan Crawford’s Coronation Knits blog tour. Coronation Knits is Susan’s fourth book and it contains 14 delicious patterns. If you have followed this tour, then you will have learnt a lot already about the book, Susan, its inspiration, colour choice, and much more besides. I certainly enjoyed every stop so far! You may also have noticed the odd give-away along the way. You’ll be pleased to hear that not only can you win a copy of Coronation Knits here, but also the yarn needed to knit the Diamond Stole featured on the cover! You will find entry details at the end of this post.

The Diamond stole is based on a pattern Susan found in an early 1950s needlecraft book, in which it featured as a table mat. Luckily for us, Susan recognised its beauty would come out much better when draped over someone’s shoulders. Or my sofa:

I like the slightly regal looking lace border, which uses the trusted razor shell pattern, used frequently in Shetland lace knitting. So are the little diamonds, although in Shetland lace knitting, they are sometimes called spiders. But the two elements that I really like, are firstly the chain columns either side of the small diamonds, with its gently opening and closing of the knit stitch columns:

And secondly, the way that the large diamond grows from a column of two stitches, and especially the top of the diamond. It has perfect symmetry:

This very elegant solution to creating the tip of the diamond is by virtue of a single decrease, but not one as we know it. This decrease makes two stitches out of three! The instructions read as follows:

2 stitches from 3

Slip 1, knit 1 leaving original stitch on left needle, pass slipped stitch on right needle over new stitch now also on right needle, then knit stitch remaining on left needle together with next stitch. This turns 3 stitches into 2 stitches.

Let me take you through this decrease, using some pictures for clarification.

Here we are , on row 45 of the pattern, and you can see the three stitches on the left needle, ready for the decrease:

The first stitch is slipped. Insert your right needle into this stitch as if to knit, and slip it off the left needle onto the right needle. It ends up looking like this:

Then knit the next stitch, leaving the original stitch on the left needle:

You can see the original stitch still on the left needle, somewhat stretched out, and the new stitch on the right needle, somewhat strangled. Now you need to pass the slipped stitch over that new, slightly strangled stitch on the right needle. This is a little bit tricky, as the original stitch on the left needle has a tendency to slip off as well, so keep an eye on it! Here my left needle has been inserted in the slipped stitch and is about to pass it over the new stitch and off the right needle:

This is what it should look like once you’ve passed the slip stitch over. As you can see, the original stitch is STILL on the left needle:

The last step in this decrease, is to knit that remaining stitch on the left needle together with the next stitch on the left needle. This can be a bit fiddly, but it gets easier once you’ve done a few diamonds:

What you end up with, is a very elegant single decrease, which looks like two paired single decreases:

And now, for all those readers who just wanted me to get on with it and get to the give-away part, here is how you can enter to win a copy of Coronation Knits AND enough of the beautiful Juno Belle yarn in the Heart On My Sleeve colourway by Juno Fibre Arts to knit your very own Diamond Stole:

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post and tell me about your favourite decrease. I will select a winner on Saturday, 21 July 2012. Please make sure to enter your email address when asked for it when posting your comment, nobody apart from myself will see it. I will contact you myself to get your delivery details. Please note, the book and yarn will be posted once the blog tour has finished, and it doesn’t matter where in the world you live!

The Coronation Knits blog tour isn’t over yet; please find below a list of all the stops past and future:

Tour Date

Blogger

URL

8th June Susan Crawford http://justcallmeruby.blogspot.co.uk/
12th June 2012 Jean Moss http://jeanmosshandknits.blogspot.co.uk/
16th June 2012 Jen Arnall-Culliford http://jenacknitwear.typepad.com/
18th June 2012 Helene Magnusson http://helenemagnusson.blogspot.co.uk/
20th June 2012 Knitting magazine http://www.knittinginstitute.co.uk/
24th June 2012 Ingrid Murnane http://ingridmurnane.com/
28th June 2012 Felicity Ford http://thedomesticsoundscape.com/wordpress/
29th June 2012 Donna Druchunas http://sheeptoshawl.com/
7th July 2012 Karina Westermann http://www.fourth-edition.co.uk/
2nd July 2012 Simply Knitting magazine http://simplyknitting.themakingspot.com/blog
6th July 2012 Ruth Garcia-Alcantud http://www.rockandpurl.com/blog/
10th July 2012 Tasha Moss http://blog.bygumbygolly.com/
14th July 2012 Tom van Deijnen https://tomofholland.com/
18th July 2012 Woolly http://www.woollywormhead.com/blog/
22nd July 2012 Mim http://www.crinolinerobot.blogspot.co.uk/
25th July 2012 The Sexy Knitter http://thesexyknitter.blogspot.co.uk/

Please note, the copyright of the first image (Coronation Knits Book Cover) belongs to Susan Crawford; of the last picture (Juno Belle Heart on my Sleeve yarn) to Juno Fibre Arts. Copyright of all other pictures belongs to tomofholland.

=-=-=-=-= COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED =-=-=-=-=

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For all you knitters out there interested in vintage styles, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that Susan Crawford, of A Stitch in Time 1 & 2 fame, has released a new collection of knitting patterns: Coronation Knits.

I’m not going to reveal too much about it right now, as Susan has started a blog tour, which will allow you to learn more about the patterns and Susan’s work involved, over the next few weeks. Keep an eye out for all the blogs involved – I have a list at the bottom of this post with links and dates.

There are 14 patterns in total, all around the theme of the Diamond Jubilee and the fashions of the time when Elizabeth II got crowned.

There are even some patterns for men, I’m pleased to report!

Susan did a sterling job on designing these patterns and to celebrate this, there will be give-aways of the book along the way, so keep an eye out for the stops on the tour. When it’s my turn, I shall reveal the ins and outs of knitting the Diamond Stole, which features on the cover. It includes a rarely used decrease (make 2 stitches out of 3), which is pleasingly symmetrical.

Not only will I be able to give away a free copy of Coronation Knits, it will also include the yarn needed to knit the Diamond Stole! So be sure to check back here on 14 July; and have a look at all the other blog stops along the tour.

If your hands are itching to start knitting right now, then you can purchase the book here (available as a hardcopy and an e-book):

 http://www.knitonthenet-shop.com/

CORONATION KNITS TOUR DATES:

Tour Date

Blogger

URL

8th June Susan Crawford http://justcallmeruby.blogspot.co.uk/
12th June 2012 Jean Moss http://jeanmosshandknits.blogspot.co.uk/
16th June 2012 Jen Arnall-Culliford http://jenacknitwear.typepad.com/
18th June 2012 Helene Magnusson http://helenemagnusson.blogspot.co.uk/
20th June 2012 Knitting magazine http://www.knittinginstitute.co.uk/
24th June 2012 Ingrid Murnane http://ingridmurnane.com/
28th June 2012 Felicity Ford http://thedomesticsoundscape.com/wordpress/
29th June 2012 Donna Druchunas http://sheeptoshawl.com/
7th July 2012 Karina Westermann http://www.fourth-edition.co.uk/
2nd July 2012 Simply Knitting magazine http://simplyknitting.themakingspot.com/blog
6th July 2012 Ruth Garcia-Alcantud http://www.rockandpurl.com/blog/
10th July 2012 Tasha Moss http://blog.bygumbygolly.com/
14th July 2012 Tom van Deijnen https://tomofholland.com/
18th July 2012 Woolly http://www.woollywormhead.com/blog/
22nd July 2012 Mim http://www.crinolinerobot.blogspot.co.uk/
25th July 2012 The Sexy Knitter http://thesexyknitter.blogspot.co.uk/

Please note, the copyright of all images in this post belong to Susan Crawford.

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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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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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