Historical Sew Monthly – Holes Challenge

This is a challenge I’ve been looking forward to all year, because I can do my favourite aspect of crochet, making lace.


My longer term goal is to make myself a historically inspired dress, with a lace collar, which is based on the fashions of the early 20th Century. I spent a few hours, scrolling through the Antique Pattern Library and found this fantastic resource, a PDF of,  “Mdlle Reigo’s Crochet Book,”, published in 1852 and  full of beautiful collar designs. Although the pattern is out of period for my dress, lace collars and cuffs were popular in the Edwardian era and its quite possible that a copy of the book might be found in the home dressmaker’s collection.

I chose the “Point de Valois” collar, as its beautiful, and has a subtle link to Catherine de Valois, Queen to Henry V and mother of Henry VI. After his death, she married her servant Owen Tudor, and via her son Edmund, she was the grandmother of Henry VII. Her story fascinates me and helped to ignite my passion for medieval history, which has now lead me into the world of recreating historic knitting and crochet. So this collar is also a nod  of thanks to her.

I did have some problems with discrepancies and inconsistencies in the written pattern, but the illustration of the collar was very clear, meaning it could double as a chart, during those confused moments!  This worked out well and meant that there wasn’t as much frogging as there could have been.

I would love to make a few more of the collars from this book, I just need a supply of suitable tops to add them to.

The Challenge: Holes

Material: Ecru crochet cotton no 10

Pattern: Valois collar from Mddle Reigo’s Crochet Book 

Year:  1852

Notions:  1.25mm crochet hook, yarn sewing needle

How historically accurate is it? 100%, I used cotton of an equivalent weight, the correctly sized hook and followed the pattern, recreating the collar as it would have been originally made.

Hours to complete:  10

First worn: will be worn when I make the dress

Total cost: I had the cotton in stash and used about 1/3 of a ball, so somewhere around £2


CobloWriMo – Goals and Happiness

CoBloWriMo, is a blogging challenge, inspired by NaNoWriMo; kindly set up and organised by Mem Lily Barnett. It is aimed at people who are making historically accurate costumes, and encourages us to kickstart your writing and share it with the community. You can find Lily’s blog, Star and Scissors here.

As I’m so far behind with everything, I am of course late with starting the challenge, so I’m going to work 2 days of posting into one. I’m not aiming to write everyday, as I think that would ultimately be counterproductive. The reason I’m doing this is to get me back on track with my writing and making, so that I feel as if I am achieving something and hopefully starting to carve out the space I need to rework and redevelop Bits and Bobs Crafts into a home business that allows me the space and time to make the things that I enjoy and to have some clear goals about how to get my work out there.

Goal for June


1. Get the end of term orders I have underway and completed – these are mainly teacher gifts, the majority are small trinkets but I am making a lace shawlette / scarf too and that will be inspired by a historical pattern.

2. Choose a design for a bag and crochet it for the HSM, Travel Challenge – I have some bag linings I discovered in the local scrapstore – its like a local treasure trove of everything from yarn & fabric to bits and pieces for junk modelling, and craft heaven. I love the early 20th C lace handbags and as the dress I hope to make over the summer is going to be inspired by a 1920s design, it seems the perfect opportunity to make myself something special.

3. Visit a local museum – I am researching the history of needles and pins, for my Woolly History Blog, and I want to take some photos of archaeological finds, to break up the chunks of text I have underway. Salisbury museum sounds like a very good resource, so I am going to set a day and go.


Things that make me Happy

I will admit that I am exhausted at present and have been struggling, due to circumstances, to find the time for doing anything creative. I need to refocus myself and take some of the pressure of “I do should be” off my shoulders and realise that I can only  do what I can do. And that I should include doing things that make me happy and inspire me in my June goals…

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1.Family – I have a daughter and 2 beautiful grandsons, aged 1 &2. They bring a lot of joy and fun into my life and I get to do some fun knits for them.

2. Sunshine, roses and nature – I love to sit in the garden with my knitting, crochet or sewing, and just enjoy the sun and peace and quiet. We have communal gardens here, and I have appropriated the patch under our bedroom windows and planted some roses. I have one more to put in, a white rose, in memory of my  Dad. Sitting there when everyone is out, with the birds singing is like being out in the country, even though I am on the outskirts of the city

2. Swimming – I love water and swimming, and I should be able to get back in the water next week, following a break due to family circumstances. I feel better for swimming and over time it helps to relax my muscles and improve my balance so I feel better.

3. My Faith – I am a Christian and derive a great deal of inspiration and comfort from knowing that there is a God, looking out for me. When life gets hectic though, I do lose focus, so having some peaceful downtime, is a real blessing as I can sit, rest, create and reconnect. I often doodle ideas during the sermons at church, when they give me pictures in my mind. I have so many to turn into pieces of textile or even wearable art!

4. Finding time for History – visiting medieval buildings, especially churches, gives me a sense of awe, wonder and peace. They also inspire me to create art pieces that reflect my feelings and beliefs.

5. A sense of purpose – my health and family pressures, plus losing my Dad, have made 2016 a bit of a tough year, to say the least and I’m kind of feeling a bit lost and purposeless at the moment. So I am going to use the time I have through June to rest, make beautiful things and reflect on what a purposeful future looks like for me. I have a couple of ideas bobbing around in the back of my mind, but need some quiet time, to mull them over and really explore what is and what isn’t going to be feasible.

6. Books – I love reading, learning and expanding my knowledge. I voraciously read good historical fiction and non fiction and love digging around in the past to follow the story of people who have left a fleeting footprint in the dust of the centuries.

7. Empowering others to be creative – I work with a couple of groups of adults who are also facing health related challenges and I really enjoy seeing the members grow in their skills and blossom. We tend to dive into projects and extend our skills by doing, and its fun. Sometimes I experience a momentary sense of panic but on the whole I love the idea of playing around with ideas and materials and seeing what we come up with.


Historical Sew Monthly 2016 – Gender Bender Challenge

This post should have been written up and published by the end of April, but my daughter had surgery and I have had her and the teeny terrorists staying for the past 6 weeks or so. And crafting and blogging with a 1yo and 2yo running around, just gets a bit complicated. And because of my complex pain syndrome, I’ve mainly been zoning out on the sofa in the evenings when they’ve gone to bed as I’ve been very sore and very exhausted. And now my daughter is better, my body has decided to protest so now I am stuck on the sofa / in bed with plenty of time to craft and blog… I have a feeling this is going to be one of those years!

But despite the time pressures, I did design and knit a fairisle beret for April’s HSM 2016 challenge.


My Research into the History of Fairisle Patterning


Edward, Prince of Wales, 1921 by Sir Henry Lander

I chose fairisle, because I love it. Traditionally, it was knitted using a combination of undyed and naturally dyed sheeps’ wool, the undyed wool, supplying a range of muted colours, to tone down the brighter hues. Prior to the popularisation of the technique by Edward, Prince of Wales, by being photographed in and wearing it for this 1921 portrait, the technique was used in the main, for knitting fisherman’s keps or caps. The output of the traditional  Shetland and Fairisle knitters, as noted by  Joan Fraser in her concise history, was strictly gendered, with shawls made for women and keps for men.

It was proving difficult to find extant ladies’ fairisle  knitting patterns for the 1920s, despite a book of fairisle designs being published on Shetland somewhere in the mid to late 20s (Crawford, S. Knitwear Through the Ages, 1920s) and Harrods ordering in handknitted ladies’ sweaters for their sporting wear dept. This lead me to believe that it was initially a male fashion,and that I might need to shift my era to the 1930s and its abundance of patterns, despite  Fraser’s assertion that, the boyish 1920s fashions, made fairisle unisex almost immediately. This lead me to wondered whether women, who were unable to afford the “real deal” sweaters were adding a bit of fairisle to their accessories, even though period knitting patterns were impossible to find!

And Then I Found….

DACS; (c) DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

This beautiful portrait of a lady in a fairisle jumper, wearing a hat with a fairisle band!

“The Fair-Isle Jumper by Stanley Cursiter, painted in 1923. Oil on canvas, 102.2 x 86.6 cm
Collection: City of Edinburgh Council
Photo credit: City of Edinburgh Council, City Art Centre”

I then needed to decide whether she was wearing a beret or a kep, as it seemed fashionable to wear the beret in a similar way to to the hat in the painting. I looked at various photos of keps,  and decided that she was more likely to be wearing a beret or tam, because of the way if falls. But since completing my beret, I found this  article by Kate Davis, where she reconstructed the hat as a lined kep and now I wonder if I

was right, as her finished kep looks similar,  in construction and fall  to the hat in the portrait. I had discounted the kep because the male versions I had seen, having an all over pattern, looked more structured. However, I’d overlooked one key point;  the all over patterned  fisherman’s kep has a firmer fabric structure, due to the stranded colour work, than a plain stocking stitch has. So I intend to redesign my hat as a kep, and do a  direct comparison, to assess which would be most authentic to the hat in the portrait.


Designing and Making The Beret

My first step was to read through some extant, knitted beret patterns, over at the antique pattern library, to identify the thickness / ply  of yarn used, the needle size and tension. I am on a stash busting mission, so  I chose to use modern 4ply yarns, which knitted to a similar tension to those available in the 1920s, using  UK size 10 / 3.25mm circular needles.Although circulars aren’t period, I find them easier to knit with when resting, as double pointed needles seem to require me to be fully sat up. I also decided to dispense with the large pompoms dangling from the crown, because they were likely to catch the sensitive areas on my neck and send me into muscle spasm – which tends to freak the general public out! And I do want to wear my beret 🙂

With this information and a tension swatch knitted, I made a working draft of the pattern, deciding on how I would increase for the crown, how much depth I wanted and finally how to decrease to maintain a good circular shape. Once complete I studied a range of traditional fairisle swatches, selecting 2 patterns that  would work with the band stitch count, which were then charted on squared paper. I also needed to add elasticity to the band, to improve the fit and ensure it stayed on, so worked a 1 x 1 rib under cuff, the same depth as the band on 2.75mm (UK size 12) needles. This was  turned up and whipped stitched to the first increase row for the crown, once the hat was complete The fairisle and the remainder of the hat were then worked on 3.25mm (UK size 10) needles.I had 168sts for the band, which were increased evenly  to 360 sts, then working a straight section, before decreasing again to bring the crown into shape. I tried the beret on to my polystyrene head as I went, so that I could adjust my rough pattern for fit.

Here’s a side by side comparison of the 2 hats, modelled by my lovely neighbour Sarah. Photography by her 13yo son Josh… he’s much better than me and is working for crochet jelly fish!


The Challenge: Gender Bender

Material: 4 ply acrylic yarn in grey, green, blue and rust

Pattern: my own, inspired by extant patterns and a portrait from the 1920s

Year:  1923

Notions: 3.25mm circular needle, yarn sewing needle

How historically accurate is it? 60%, had I used shetland wool and knitted it as a kep, instead of a beret, it would have been 100%

Hours to complete: 2 to design and 12 to knit up

First worn: for photos

Total cost: I was given the yarn a long while ago by someone who was giving up knitting, so free!