Friday, March 27, 2009

11. Another Pretty Pattern

This design is from the same newspaper clipping as last week's pattern, thus the "another" of the title. However, it is not another pattern at all, but rather the same pattern worked on a smaller scale. The garter stitch edging has an 8-row repeat and a stitch count of 10 increasing to 13, returning to the original number in the final row.

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

Up next: Tunician Lace

Friday, March 20, 2009

10. Knitted Edging

This week's pattern appeared in The Inter Ocean, a Chicago newspaper published from 1872 to 1907, under the title "Making Knitted Edging." A row of faggoting along the very top forms a tiny scallop of eyelets above a row of "ladder" holes. Large eyelets arranged in triangles are interspersed with solid garter stitch squares set on their points, forming a saw-tooth lower edge. The stitch count increases from 14 to 20 before the added stitches are bound off in the final row of the 12-row repeat.

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

This pattern is one of two contributed by "S.G.H." of Monmouth IL and published in the same issue of the newspaper. The editor shares some of the letter accompanying the submission, in which the writer addresses another contributor to the paper with whom she appears to have corresponded:

I hope you will try these patterns, as they are speedy to knit, and I think you will like them. F.M.S., your pattern is very pretty. Would be glad to hear from you again. I hope our kind editor will give the bees of our home a chance. It is strange how many blue-stockings and reformers are in our family.

"Bluestockings" can be characterized as early feminists, particularly in the area of education for women. The name comes from the Blue Stockings Society, a literary group formed in 18th Century Europe. I think "the bees of our home" might refer to women who are industriously occupied with homemaking pursuits-- such as knitting-- and if that interpretation is correct, S.G.H.'s remarks may be commentary on the debate still ongoing today on the role of women in society.

Next time: Another Pretty Pattern

Friday, March 13, 2009

9. Torchon Lace

In which I am reminded yet again
why it is a bad idea to jump to conclusions

When I first started knitting the sample for this pattern, I assumed it was another version of the design we saw in 7. Seed Point-- a scalloped border with rows of eyelets echoing the contour of the lower edge. And as such, this pattern is a mess.

Fewer eyelet rows in the second half of the pattern than the first? Huh? Half of the pattern rows worked on the right side of the fabric and then switching to the wrong side? What the... ? I could only conclude that the pattern was half-baked, to put it charitably.

This mind-set persisted as I knit, and indeed throughout the blocking process. But the moment I removed the pins once the sample was dry, I saw it.

Something in my perception clicked, like the instant when you see the vase instead of the faces (or vice versa) in the classic optical illusion.

For an optical illusion it is. The name should have clued me in. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Torchon lace is characterized by geometric patterns. And the geometric shape in this design: the cube. This pattern is knitted lace's answer to the Tumbling Blocks quilt design. I have seen other cube motifs in knitting where areas of stockingnet and garter stitch define the different surfaces of the cube, but this pattern does it all with only the eyelets. And the aspects of the structure that had so troubled me-- the changes in the number of eyelet rows and the side of the fabric on which the pattern is worked-- are precisely what achieves the effect. Far from half-baked, the pattern's creative use of these elements is pure genius. The center of the design is the corner of the cube, closest to the observer. The eyelets on the right are more numerous and on the surface, making that side more dominant as if illuminated by a light source. The left side, with its fewer rows and deeply set eyelets, is receding. Cool, huh?

So I reblocked the swatch to accentuate the angular nature of the design.

"Torchon Lace" is a garter stitch edging with a stitch count steadily increasing from 13 to 20 and back down again in the course of a 30-row repeat.

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

Next week: Making Knitted Edging

Friday, March 6, 2009

8. Wristlets

"Wristlets" are knit in the round and feature a simple spiral (bias) lace design with a scalloped lower edge. The original pattern has nine 10-stitch repeats and a single purled stitch per round.

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

Gauge is not specified in any of the patterns in the sample book, and until now it wasn't of concern in knitting my swatches. But this design is intended for wear, so I had to experiment some to get it right. The pattern called for "Zephyr" yarn, and given the number of stitches cast on (91), I assumed that meant laceweight. But then the March/April 2009 PieceWork magazine landed in my mailbox. The issue centers around knitting for historical reenactment and includes a list of Victorian yarn terms and their modern equivalents. According to the chart "Zephyr" was a fingering weight yarn. The article also points out that 19th Century knitters tended to use a tighter gauge for a given type of yarn than is now customary. Indeed, to knit a 91-stitch tube that would fit anything smaller than a bulging-muscle bodybuilder's arm, one would have to use much smaller needles than we would likely choose for fingering weight. I did not want such a firm fabric, so I made my sample with 2.75mm needles and cast on 61 stitches, working 6 pattern repeats per round instead of nine.

The photo below shows the lace pattern worked in rows.

Next week: Torchon Lace

Postscript: A reader has suggested wearing the wristlets with the scalloped edge at the hand where it would catch the eye. Here is a new photograph to illustrate this excellent idea. (Thanks, Jane!)