Wednesday, December 31, 2008

1. Knitted Edging

Happy New Year to all!

Christmas knitting is done, holiday dishes washed and put away (well, almost), and I turn now to the sample book patterns.

Our first design is titled simply "Knitted Edging," a saw-tooth, garter stitch edge. The pattern is worked in a 10-row repeat, and the stitch count steadily increases from 12 to 16 before returning to the original number in the final row.

You can download the full-size chart, verbal instructions and notes here.

With this pattern I encountered my first anomaly of 19th Century knitting instructions. Row 1 of the pattern as written begins k2, yo2, p2tog. (This is the modern equivalent. I will cover Victorian knitting terms and notation in a future post.) When working my sample, I found I had one too many stitches for the second row. I kept going over the numbers-- how many stitches you end with on row 1, how many you need for row 2-- and the discrepancy always remained. Then it occurred to me: there wasn't a double yarn over at all, just a single followed by bringing the yarn forward again to purl. I looked at some of the other patterns I have transcribed, and found the same phenomenon. Although there never is any mention of yarn forward for k1, p1, add a yarn over between them and it invariably becomes "yarn over twice."

A note about my samples: I originally thought I would be using thread for the samples illustrating this project. I usually work knitted lace patterns in size 40 or 50 cotton cordonnet. It has a hard finish that gives a good definition, doesn't fuzz up with handling, and is sufficiently fine to produce "lacy" lace. However, the majority of patterns in the book are in garter stitch-- a good choice for edgings in particular, since it prevents curling, but one I find unattractive in fine thread. So although from time to time I may show samples in thread, most will be worked in fingering weight cotton.

Oops. The photo originally illustrating this design showed the wrong side of the edging. Sheesh. With all these garter stitch patterns, I am really going to have to watch that. The download page has been updated to include both views.
Next up: Fence Row Insertion

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Project

A number of years ago I purchased a 19th Century composition book at an antique store in Rantoul IL. The book measures 6" X 7½", and while the back cover is missing, the front cover with its marbled paper is still attached.

The first half of the pages are filled with schoolwork in a flowing Victorian hand-- dates of Revolutionary War battles, algebraic theorems, etc. A list of the admission of states to the Union ends with Colorado, dating this section to 1876.

A large section of newspaper clippings with recipes and household hints follows. And at the back... pure gold for the lace knitter! Twenty-five pages with clippings and handwritten instructions for knitted lace patterns, about 40 in all, primarily edgings and insertions. Most are accompanied by small samples worked in fine thread.

The clippings are glued only along the top, enabling me to lift them up to read the articles on the reverse side. I have been able to trace some of the news events to the year 1884, the height of the "Golden Age" of lace knitting in America.

I will never know the identity of the book's original owner. The handwriting in the earlier history and math notes is the same as in the later sections, suggesting that she was a schoolgirl in the mid-1870s, and a decade later a young bride collecting items useful in running her household. And although the book ended up in east-central Illinois, the place cannot be pinned down with any certainty. The few clues that exist, however, point to that region.

The book is in delicate condition with loose pages, yellowing and crumbling paper, fading ink. It has long been my intention to transcribe, chart and knit the patterns to create my own sample book, so the original may be forever stored away safely in a clamshell box and not be subjected to any more damage by handling.

That time has finally arrived. Throughout 2009 I will be working through the patterns and posting my charts and samples here. (I hope to be able to keep up the pace of posting a new pattern every one to two weeks.) Join me in January for an adventure in historical needlework!