Through June and July and now into August I’ve been working on a lot of modern makes, all commissions, which is fabulous. And to be honest I’ve been so busy with my hook in the main, blogging has had to take a back seat. However as I’m “looking forward to” a weekend of enforced rest as the legs and balance have decided to conspire to make getting into the car a challenge too far, I thought it was high time to catch up with sharing what I’ve been up to. I’ve also got a historical challenge on the hook and another to plan and make for the end of August / early September but I think realistically I am going to have to do the June and July and the August and September makes as combined challenges, simply due to the number of commissions I have to d0.
In early June I was asked by a friend to make a shawl for a teacher who had gone over and above to help her child, she wanted it to be shawlette sized, preferably half moon and in shades of orange. We settled on 2 colours from the Malabrigo lace range, glazed carrot and rhodesian and I discovered a beautiful chart pattern on Pinterest, taken from an obsolete Japanese crochet book – you can find it here. I decided to change the edging, but otherwise followed the pattern faithfully.
I was also asked to make a set of 8 “Crosses in my Pocket” for other teachers and TA’s. I created the crosses out of wire and crocheted them, with a bead in the centre. I then printed the poems onto crafting paper and made a scroll, using a chenille yarn chain to tie them and attach the cross.
And then came a huge school of Jellyfish, which I also taught to my Timebank Cradt Group. A friend shared a link to a lovely pattern by One Dog Woof and I adapted it a little by adding “skirts” to the jelly fish, some I also worked in parti-colours and one even had a Southampton football kit. I made 12 out of the 14 to order and 2 more for my grandsons. 3 were destined to be teacher gifts and were designed in collaboration with the customer, she wanted one to symbolise Good Luck for a teacher who was leaving so we came up with an idea of creating a 4 leafed clover; another for her son’s preschool teacher as he was graduating to Reception class, hence thescholar’s cap; and one for the Lollipop Lady, complete with lollipop sign. They’re great fun to make and I want to play around with making some mini ones for key rings, and some santa ones to hang on the tree.As a safety note, they are not suitable for young children and children should not take them to bed, as the tentacles pose a strangulation risk. I made the ones for my grandsons with shorter legs and instead of using safety eyes, sewed on larger buttons, to reduce choking risk.
I’ve also made the little crochet trinket pot to the left, I designed it myself using camel stitch or backpost half treble stitch for the sides, and making a pretty lace and flower partial cover. I’m hoping to make more and perfect these… and get a decent photo taken!
And this blue flower for a special young lady, who worked very hard throughout Year 5 and was recognised as the Star Pupil for the Year.
And I’m currently working on 3 unicorns, a 1920s crochet project back for the travel and monochrome challenges for HSM, a BFG story sack and an elephant pillow. I’m also researching a lady’s accessory for the interwar period, ideally knitted as I’ve been crocheting everything of late, that can be made in red and has an interesting surface pattern… wish me luck!
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
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, 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…
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.
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
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….
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
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!
This month’s challenge was all about creating something historically accurate that could be used as a form of protection, either against the elements or to keep yourself or your clothing clean. I’ve wanted to knit a period shawl for myself for a while but found it difficult t make the time, so this challenge seemed the perfect way to finally get it done!
The project was finished on time but I have been trying to get decent photos taken in daylight for 2 weeks… I have now temporarily admitted defeat!
Information for Historical Sew Monthly
What the item is: A late 19th / Early 20th C knitted shawl for a working class woman
Material: Yellow, pure wool, recycled yarn from stash, equivalent to a UK double knitting yarn
Pattern: Combination of 3 patterns, The Shoulder Shawl, Vandyke Stitch and Knitted Lace Edging from The Lupton Ladies Manual
Year: Patterns published in 1894
Notions: Size 0 wooden knitting needles and 5mm circular needle for borders, sewing needle, 5mm crochet hook for top edging
How historically accurate is it? Very: I used extant knitting patterns and pure wool which would have been standard in the period, plus wooden needles for the body of the shawl. My only concession was to use a 6mm circular needle for the border to reduce the risk of dropping stitches and reduce the weight of the project on my neck and shoulders.
Hours to complete: Around 18 to knit the main body and vandyke border and another 4 to do the narrow edging and work out the best approach to cornering!
First worn: Not yet, hope to wear it to an English Civil War Battle Recreation this weekend
Total cost: Nothing – I was given a bag of odds and ends of yarns that included a large number of skeins of the wool used
Assembling the Materials
I chose my yarn from stash – pure wool in shades of soft yellow – with a working class woman of the early 20th C in mind, perhaps using yarn recycled from another project or passed on to her by a relative or friend. I combined 3 patterns from the 1894 Lupton’s Ladies Book, downloaded from the Antique Pattern Library. The main body is the knitted shoulder shawl on page 19 of PDF 1, the wide border the Vandyke Pattern on p5 of the 2nd PDF, and the narrow border is the Knitted Lace Edging on p15 of PDF 1.
One of the interesting things about the pattern book is that its a collection of patterns submitted by a wide range of ladies, so there’s no standard terminology or needle sizes, so you need to have google to hand plus be prepared to try some guess work plus trial and error. For example the shawl pattern simply called for a large pair of wooden or rubber needles – I did find a pair in my vintage collection that were manufactured by durex but they were definitely plastic so not of the right material, or I think for knitting in polite company! I used a pair of UK size 0 needles, which equate to a modern 7 – 8mm, whcih gave an airy and open feel to the shawl. I wanted the border lace to be neater so I used 5mm needles to knit it up.
Knitting the Shawl
Knitting the main body of the shawl was simple, start with 118 sts and decrease along 1 edge until 1 st remains. However I quickly discovered variations in the shades of yellow, so I decided to work these in to give the effect of a shaded yarn. I alternated 2 rows of one shade with 2 rows of another for this part and chose to make the “wrong side” the right side, to help with blending.
The border was knitted on in 2 parts, the vandyke stitch wide border, followed by the narrow edging that was at 90 degrees to the border. For the border, I picked up 244 stitches along one side, using a 6mm circular – not period but the wire helped to manage the number of stitches safely and reduced the weight of the work on my neck and shoulders. To create a point a stitch was increased and incorporated into the pattern at the relevant end of alternate rows. I repeated the pattern 3 times for a total of 24 rows and the addition of 12 stitches. I then worked the narrow edging on this side by casting on 8 more stitches. To “cast off ” the border I knitted 2 stitches together, one from the border and one from the edging at the border edge of each row. Once I had used up all the border stitches I slipped the remaining edging stitches onto a safety pin.
To work the border on the second side, I picked up 256 sts along the edge, including those increased for the point. The shaping was mirrored by decreasing 1st on alternate rows at the point edge. Once completed, I transferred the narrow edging stitches from the safety pin back to the needles and turned the corner, keeping the pattern correct, using short row shaping – this took me a few attempts, a couple of sketchy diagrams and the odd word my Dad would not have been amused that I know, to get right – an interesting learning curve to say the least .
To finish, I added a double crochet edging to the top edge of the shawl, then washed it in baby shampoo and conditioner to relax the wool. It was then supported to drip dry over the bath and blocked to shape. I didn’t have any woolite or similar to hand and often wash pure wool in baby shampoo, because its very gentle and gives a nice soft feel to the wool.
What I Liked
I discovered that knitting a shawl isn’t as huge a project as I thought. Alongside the shawl I also finished a couple of other projects, made some Easter Bunnies for the grandsons and researched and designed my next historical challenge!
The narrow edging also gave me the opportunity to try out a technique I’ve read about but never tried, using multiple yarn overs to create holes, stabilised by knitting and purling into the yarn over multiple times. I’ve been intrigued since I first read about Niebling lace and the effect produced is lovely. I’m now keen to find a knitted lace collar or cuffs pattern using the technique for the May challenge.
Challenge is definitely the appropriate word here. I’m not the most confident stitcher but I couldn’t find a historical knitting or crochet pattern that involved pleats. So a simple sewing project was needed, ideally involving some crochet, hence my chouce of an early 20th C boudoir cap.
One of my grandmothers used to talk about the lace crochet she did before she married, in the 19-teens. I love the crochet trimmed ladies nightwear of the era for anyway, so this is a step towards making one. I sewed it by hand which I found really enjoyable.
The inspiration for my hat came from various photos I found over on pinterest
The originals were made of silk but my budget and that of a working class girl of the era, probably wouldn’t have run that far so I chose to use cotton from a pillowcase.
I took 2 rectangles of fabric, joined them with a french seam into a long strip and used a blind catch stitch to hem top and bottom.
I then deeply pleated the fabric but this was very much trial and error and took a few attempts to get it right and get the hat to fit. Once pleated I stitched down the pleats with 2 rows of back stitch.
I also crocheted an insertion for the crown of the hat and a lace trim using a period pattern book, downloaded from The Antique Pattern Library.
I learned a lot from the challenge and have identified a few areas I think I could do better:
1. Combining applying the lace and securing the pleats in place.
2. Using a metal or wooden ruler as opposed to a tape measure to make the pleats more even
3. Cutting a curved edge to the top of the hat to help with applying the crochet insertion.
The Challenge: Tucks and Pleating
Material: An old cotton pillow case
Pattern: None for the sewing. Crochet : Lupton FM, People’s Handbook Series: The Lady’s Fancy Work Manual http://www.antiquepatternlibrary.org/html/warm/catalog.htm#AUTH_L
Notions: thread, crochet cotton no 10, ribbon trim, plastic bead
How historically accurate is it? 60-70%. I couldn’t find a pattern for making the fabric part of the hat so improvised as best I could. The ribbon is synthetic and the bead plastic. The crochet patterns are of the period. I used HA stitching techniques and hand sewed. I think the fabric is 100% cotton but might be a blend. The thread is polyester.
Hours to complete: 6 – my first attempt at historical sewing so lots of pinning and repinning involved before sewing, plus I crocheted the lace
First Worn: Not yet
Total cost: all materials were from stash, probably around £3