Wednesday, 26 July 2017

'Leaf and Trellis' Stockings

Anyone who was at the Knitting & Crochet Guild Convention in Birmingham earlier this month might have seen a pair of 19th century knitted lace stockings that I showed, to illustrate the kind of object that we have in the Guild collection.  Here's one of the pair. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

They were knitted from the top down, in the round, with a band of double rib to start and then a deep band of stocking stitch, before starting the lace part.  The lace is a stitch that in Shetland lace knitting is called Print o' the Wave, but in 19th century knitting books I have seen it called Leaf and Trellis.   Here it is as it appears on the stockings.  They are knitted in very fine cotton, so that it takes 5 pattern repeats to go round the ankle - there is a huge amount of work in these stockings.

On the way to Birmingham, I found an early version of the pattern, in Miss Lambert's My Knitting Book.  The 7th edition, published in 1844, is available online from the Winchester School of Art library, here.  I think that Jane Gaugain published the pattern earlier, in 1842 (see my earlier post here), but Miss Lambert might have been the first to call the pattern Leaf and Trellis.

In Birmingham, I knitted a swatch of Leaf and Trellis to compare with the stockings.  I used DK cotton for the swatch rather than anything finer, mainly to be easier for me.  But I wanted it to be visible to an audience, too, and didn't in any case have any cotton thread anywhere near as fine as that used for the stockings, or the tiny needles to go with it (around 1mm thickness or less, at a guess.)

Here's my swatch, with the cast-on edge at the bottom, because that seems more natural to me.  (I actually used the instructions in the 12th edition of Miss Lambert's book, from 1845, also available from the Winchester School of Art library.)

Like the stitch pattern in the stockings and other early versions of the pattern, all the decreases are done by knit 2 together, so they are all right-leaning.   Later versions, and present-day Print o' the Wave patterns, use  both left- and right-leaning decreases to make the pattern symmetrical.  As I wrote here, the Leaf and Trellis pattern published in Weldon's Practical Needlework in 1886 claimed the credit for introducing this variation.

The lace stockings must have been very precious to the woman who wore them - either because she had knitted them herself,  or because they had been bought and must then have been very expensive.  We can see that she valued them, because they have been darned in several places.  The heels wore through, as you would expect, and there are also darns on the back of the calf - perhaps she sometimes wore them with boots?   And there are more darns in the stocking stitch sections at the top of the stockings.  I would have guessed that they would have been kept up by garters, though that seems a bit precarious.  But I really don't know anything about how Victorian ladies wore their stockings, and perhaps they were attached to the corset?  I don't know.  

Here's one of the feet, showing the darn in the heel.  I'm not a sock knitter,  so I don't know whether there is anything unusual in the heel shaping.  The toe shaping on the other hand does look rather peculiar - it looks as though it's designed for an anatomically strange, very pointed toe.

But clearly the stockings did fit someone, who wore them a lot and looked after them.  And then eventually they were put away and kept carefully, until the end of the 20th century, when they were acquired for the Guild collection. And we can admire the skill that went into making them, and marvel at the amount of time they must have taken.

Monday, 24 July 2017

My Linen Drape Scarf

I mentioned in my last post that at the show-and-tell session at the Guild Convention 2 weeks ago, I showed the summer scarf knitted in Rowan Linen Drape that I started in April (described here).  I finished it just before the Convention.   

Here it is.  It does drape very well (as it should, given the name of the yarn).  I like the fact that even the stocking stitch stripes are slightly translucent.  And as I planned, it's an open pattern but not too fussy.   

If I've got time (hah!)  I'll write out a chart for the pattern and add it to this post.  And I'll try to take another photo with a better colour - the blue is less grey than in this photo.  

I haven't actually worn it yet - it's been too warm to want to wear a scarf.   But today is cold and damp - a raincoat and a scarf are needed, and it will get its first wearing.  

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Guild Convention in Birmingham

It's been a busy week, so I am only just getting around to writing about the Knitting & Crochet Guild Convention which was in Birmingham last weekend.  The Convention is an annual event, though Birmingham is a new venue.

On view was the Guild's display for this year's shows, on the theme of 'Passing on the Passion'.

It features a few items from the Guild collection, including a Kaffe Fassett 'Foolish Virgins' jacket, a crocheted top from C&A, and a knitted crown.

That's one of the very few photos I took at the Convention - I was too busy knitting most of the time.  (I bought some Rowan Felted Tweed in John Lewis, and started knitting a Heidi Kirrmaier cardigan, but that's another story.)   I also spent some time looking around the centre of Birmingham - it's not a city I know well.  The hotel was in the Chinese Quarter, with the Bull Ring markets nearby.  Around the corner are the National Trust Back-to-backs, which are fascinating.  Several of us who arrived a day early for the Convention went on a tour.

And I spent a lot of time in the Museum and Art Gallery.  It has wonderful collections, including a new display of the Staffordshire Hoard, which is amazing (and very difficult to photograph through the glass cases - I tried).

At the Convention, as well as the Guild's AGM, we had three very good talks.  Betsan Corkhill, of Stitchlinks, talked about the role of knitting in healthcare.  The second talk was by Emma Price of In the Woolshed, which produces natural dyed yarns.  She talked about her career to date, initially alternating between accountancy and spending time in India with people practising traditional crafts, before starting In the Woolshed.  She now also leads textile journeys to India.  And finally, Denise Musk, a life member of the Guild, brought along some of her machine knitted garments in amazingly complex fabrics, and talked about how they developed from her initial ideas.

As well as the talks, there were two workshop sessions led by Guild members, with six topics on offer in each session.  But I skipped one session in favour of the Staffordshire Hoard and Pre-raphaelite paintings, and so only did one workshop.  It was on Moebius Knitting, with Fiona Morris.  Fiona brought along some very inspiring samples, and taught us how to cast on - a surprisingly quick technique.  I didn't get very far past casting on in the workshop, though I did finish one round and I've subsequently done a few more.

It's very satisfying for anyone with a mathematical background that it is a genuine Moebius strip, with one edge and one surface.  But my sample isn't very tidy and I'd like to do more practice and then try one of the very nice cowls that Fiona showed us.

I contributed to the Convention, too.  There was a 'show-and-tell' session on Saturday evening, when members could show something they made during the past year.  I took the summer scarf, started in April, which is now finished - I'll write about that later.  And Maureen and I did a short presentation on 'How to do a Trunk Show'.  I had brought two items that haven't previously featured in trunk shows and talked about them - but those are two more stories for the future.
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