Victorian and Edwardian Patterns

I’m currently working on 2 projects for historical sew monthly that require the use of knitting and crochet patterns written around the beginning of the 20th Century.

The crochet patterns aren’t too bad and I only needed to tweak them here and there to produce the lacy bits I need as embellishments. I will write up a modern version of them as a pdf download to go with the forthcomingpost… Once I finish the sewing part!

image

However the knitting patterns are far more interesting to fathom out. I am currently swatching a lace border and am on my 4th cast on. The key problems are:

1. No needle sizes for the main section – take a large pair of wood or rubber needles and cast on… I tried to research the possible sizings and see if I could find anything about rubber knitting needles but drew a blank. My solution was to grab a size of the largest imperial wooden needles I own – size 0 or 7mm and try it out!

2. No tension / gauge stated – I decided to knit a few rows and then measure. The size of the mystery make was within the range I wanted so I went with it.

3. Obsolete yarns – I tried to Google but again drew a blank. I had some pre used pure wool in my stash so I  decided to use it. It’s somewhere between 4 ply and DK, which was very appropriate so I decided to try it and see how it knitted up. I’m happy enough with the outcome.

4. Inconsistent or Uncommon  Abbreviations and terminology – the book I am using, appears to contain patterns sent in by knitters who all have their own pattern writing style. The lady who wrote one of the 3 borders I am using even changes her thinking from one row to the next. The best approach I have come up with is to count my stitches a lot and write the pattern out in modern format on squared paper so I can see what I am knitting, plus keep checking to ensure the increases and decreases match up across the row.

I will write out a guide to using old knitting patterns in the next few weeks, explaining the abbreviations and how to approach the actual knitting.

Victorian and Edwardian Patterns

I’m currently working on 2 projects for historical sew monthly that require the use of knitting and crochet patterns written around the beginning of the 20th Century.

The crochet patterns aren’t too bad and I only needed to tweak them here and there to produce the lacy bits I need as embellishments. I will write up a modern version of them as a pdf download to go with the forthcomingpost… Once I finish the sewing part!

image

However the knitting patterns are far more interesting to fathom out. I am currently swatching a lace border and am on my 4th cast on. The key problems are:

1. No needle sizes for the main section – take a large pair of wood or rubber needles and cast on… I tried to research the possible sizings and see if I could find anything about rubber knitting needles but drew a blank. My solution was to grab a size of the largest imperial wooden needles I own – size 0 or 7mm and try it out!

2. No tension / gauge stated – I decided to knit a few rows and then measure. The size of the mystery make was within the range I wanted so I went with it.

3. Obsolete yarns – I tried to Google but again drew a blank. I had some pre used pure wool in my stash so I  decided to use it. It’s somewhere between 4 ply and DK, which was very appropriate so I decided to try it and see how it knitted up. I’m happy enough with the outcome.

4. Inconsistent or Uncommon  Abbreviations and terminology – the book I am using, appears to contain patterns sent in by knitters who all have their own pattern writing style. The lady who wrote one of the 3 borders I am using even changes her thinking from one row to the next. The best approach I have come up with is to count my stitches a lot and write the pattern out in modern format on squared paper so I can see what I am knitting, plus keep checking to ensure the increases and decreases match up across the row.

I will write out a guide to using old knitting patterns in the next few weeks, explaining the abbreviations and how to approach the actual knitting.

Historical Yarns 1 – The Starring Role

Back before Christmas I posted a quick intro to a series of posts on the history of wool…. the plan was a weekly post giving snapshots of the way we have used wool down the centuries. Since the original post I’ve been refining my plans a bit and have decided that I need to take a more focused approach, because there is just so much stuff out there and so many areas of interest. So the plan for 2015 is to post fortnightly and focus on the medieval era – from the fall of Rome to the end of Henry VII’s reign. Geographically I plan to focus on the Hampshire area, just because living there means I can go and see places that were important, photograph them and take inspiration from them for my knitting, crochet and yarn art projects. I also want to look at the role of women in the production of both yarn and the woolen cloths made from it and have a go at some of the wool crafts that have developed over the ages.

All links in this post lead to sites I have used to develop this article

However we would not have wool in any form if it wasn’t for our stars…. the sheep!

Where Did The Idea of Using Wool Come From?

The answer is lost in the mists of time, however we do know that wool has been used since pre history to make clothing. From my reading and thinking, I have an idea that initially man would have used the fleece whole. He chased and killed a wild sheep and skinned it. Using it as a covering he realised it kept him warm in winter. So Mrs Caveperson then started sewing the sheep skins together to make warm clothing for her family.

The hunter-gatherer peoples would also have found wool on thorns and in thickets where sheep had rubbed against or got caught. They might have gathered the wool and used it for padding. Someone could have sat around a campfire twisting a piece of raw wool and realised it made a yarn.

Domestication of Sheep

Faroese Sheep – Iceland

Once farming communities started to develop in the Neolithic period, post the last Ice Age, around 5000BC , people decided to domesticate some of their animals, including sheep, for wool, milk and food. The early domestic sheep retained many of their wild characteristics, an anecdote from lady who has worked as a reenactor on an Iron Age farm, where shearing was just beginning to develop, made me realise just how strong and resilient early farmers would have been when they first started shearing. However that is a subject for another post!

The early breeds shed wool, and the women and children would go out wool gathering in the areas where sheep were kept. It is probably during this time that spinning and weaving first appeared, subjects I will be covering later in the series. Sometimes they would also pluck the sheep, to remove remaining wool, but I would think this was a task that required the men to assist in restraining the sheep to be plucked

The closest breeds I have discovered to these ancient sheep breeds are the sheep of the The Scottish Islands, St Kilda and Iceland

Men of St Kilda, with native soay sheep

Orkney Sheep, possibly introduced by the Vikings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breeding – The Start

As time went on the various breeds of wild sheep would be crossed with other wild sheep / early domestic sheep. I would think that early crosses could have happened accidentally, perhaps through trading networks. Ancient Farmer Bill, living somewhere in what is now England, trades a few of his sheep with Ancient Farmer Pierre from France. Bill takes his French sheep home and his ram decides to get friendly with the new comers. Bill discovers that the meat, fleece and / or milk of the “new sheep” or cross breeds is better and decides to segregate them from his English flock, still leaving the French ewes with the English ram to create more cross breeds. As there is archaeological evidence that sheep were often more prized for their fleece than their meat, lets call the “new sheep”  the extra wooly sheep. Bill sits and thinks about this and wonders if using his new cross bred ram to mate either with his “new sheep” or his English ewes will make more wool, he discovers it does and over time a new breed is established. I appreciate this is a very simplistic view but I don’t want to send you to sleep with a small volume on sheep genetics and breeding…. it would probably send me to sleep trying to research it. And to be fair Bill had no idea about genes or DNA, after all this was a good thousand or so years before Mendel started playing with his peas 🙂

Shearing

However one drawback of Bill’s “new sheep” is that is no longer sheds its fleece and plucking isn’t working well either. However living in the late iron age/  early Roman period gives Bill access to iron bladed items and he experiments with using the tools to hand – knives or possibly hair shears to remove the fleece from his sheep. He probably discusses the problem with the village blacksmith and eventually some prototype of  sheep shears is developed giving 2 blades that can crop the wool. Maybe he practised on sheepskins, after killing a couple of barren ewes for their meet – we don’t know. However the hair shears theory might have some truth as they have been discovered during archaeolgical digs on iron age sites and sheep shears have been excavated on Roman sites. I will be researching and writing about shearing in more depth in the Spring.

Using The Wool

We know that drop spinning and weaving cloth developed as communities became settled and progressed technologically. Techniques such as sprang, naal binding and weaving would have appeared and developed during this time, but again we know little of their origins in terms of the earliest dates, simply because textiles don’t tend to survive in the ground and much of the equipment would have been made from wood, which also degrades. Sewing needles however still survive from these early periods because they were made of bone and survive in favourable conditions.

Summary

Without the sheep we would not have had access to wool, which in later times was the staple of the English economy. We don’t know a lot about the original wild sheep that would have been domesticated or the origins of breeding sheep, but we do know that the late Iron Age people & the Romans were shearing them by hand. We also know that early peoples used their observations and knowledge of sheep and experimented with various ways of producing wool and using it. Had I a Time Machine I would love to sit by the fire watching the first woman tease yarn from a fleece and work out how to use it!

In my next post I will look in more depth at the sheep of the Roman era and give a brief overview of the the methods employed to use the wool and the uses it was put to. This will be easier to research as the Romans enjoyed writing things down, so hopefully there will be far less conjecture involved 🙂

Creative Blogging Challenge Day 3 – Colours of Nature

I skipped yesterday essentially because I spent a fair bit of it travelling between Devon and Hampshire, passing through some amazing countryside, some bearing the signs of human occupation from over 6000 years ago, such as the bronze and iron age barrows, circles and hillforts that stud the Dorset landscape as you travel along the A35 between Lyme Bay and Dorchester. The whole area has a sense of timelessness and it is interesting that farmers over the centuries have respected the dwellings of their ancestors:

 

I often find myself inspired by landscape, whether is it the ever changing colours, shades and highlights caused by the seasons and the movements of cloud and sun, the sense of timelessness and allowing my mind to wander to the sheer determination our forefathers had to cling onto the land and make something of it or the play of water as it develops its path from spring to seashore.

2 hills dominated the village where I grew up, Brent Hill and Ugborough Beacon. The village is on the lee or rainy side of these hills plus other high ground of the Dartmoor National Park. They were the older generation’s weather station – if the Beacon had its hat on – was covered in fog – then it was sure to rain. They would often turn white long before the snow hit the village and as kids we anxiously awaited snowfall – although it never got us any time off school!

Image from the Brownston Gallery – Brent Hill

 

Ugborough Beacon, Dartmoor from geograph.org.uk

I have a ball of yarn in my odds and ends pile that I keep putting to one side for a special project.  And this trip has helped me realise why – the colours are redolent of Dartmoor – its a randomised ball of golds and greens, very like the beacon on a sunny day before it becomes covered in thick bracken. Sadly King cole have discontinued the line which is a pity as I am currently knitting a shawl for myself with the purple colour way and its looking gorgeous!

What I will do with it, I’m not certain but I want to capture the sense of undulating hills in the pattern. That suggests some form of waviness to the fabric – perhaps a cowl, perhaps a bag – something casual but beautiful, set off with beads to really highlight the changing heights across the rows? I’m not even certain whether I will use knitting or crochet – I just know I need to do something unique and special with it – something that will root me to the natural beauty I love.

Discovering Hope – Reflections on a Slower Stream of Life

I spent last week in Devon visiting my Dad who’s in hospital and whilst I was down there had a nose around a few places and also sunk back into the way of life down there. Which is much slower and gentler than in Southampton – or so it felt. In a way it was a bit unreal as much of the time was spent visiting Dad in hospital but I also popped into the village and a couple of local towns and was really surprised at how much nicer people were, somehow less hurried and more willing to help / wait for things.

Being there, I started to feel better, easier in myself somehow – being less worried about being so far away was part of it but not the whole. I also felt I had more time for things – time to look around, time to rest, time to think and time to be true to myself, remake connections with friends and family I’d not seen for a long time. And it felt right to be there.

Since I’ve been back I’ve been thinking about what it was that helped me feel more positive – more hopeful and came up with some ideas:

1. Space

Dad’s village is surrounded by hills on 2 sides and in the middle of rolling countryside – you get up in the morning and although you’re overlooking a row of houses on the otherside of the road, behind them you see open spaces and the ancient Brent Hill.

Go to the end of the road and you get a fantastic view of Ugborough Beacon, one of the many local gateways onto Dartmoor – it looked impressive on Weds with its scattering of snow but guess who forgot the memory card for her camera!

2. History

Most of the village and the local towns have roots that go back centuries – there’s a sense of permanence and peacefulness. Most of the main village street has shops that have not changed their function in years! Living close to historic Totnes with its tudor connections and butterwalk is also inspiring, as its Ivybridge with its blend of older and modern properties and facilities. Totnes is the birthplace of the transition movement too and has a fantastic range of craft shops and shops selling fair trade and handmade goods from local designer makers.

The village church is ancient – evidence has been found of Roman remains in the belfry and parts of the current church are definitely pre Norman – it has that sort of inner peace you find in old churches and cathedrals. I went to show the friend who had come with me to help with my care needs and we were really surprised to find it open. We spent a fair while there enjoying the atmosphere and feeling that God was there. I don’t always get that sense in newer churches – perhaps because the stones have not had time to soak up the centuries of peace?
And yet in the 12th Century a priest was murdered there…….so perhaps the church is a good place to observe that time heals all wounds, even those which seem horrific at the time?

3. Belonging

Cities don’t seem to develop the same feeling of community as villages and small market towns. Although the districts have shops they seem to be more impersonal somehow. I’ve got some fantastic friends in Southampton but met the majority through joining groups and organisations. Whilst in a village you get to chat to people when you pop to the shops or even when out and about. It was really lovely to get the enquiries about Dad from people who didn’t just know him but also valued him and wanted to see him better again. Having grown up there I also felt a real connection with people and places and it was really relaxing to be surrounded by family again – it makes things seem more possible somehow.

4. Scenery

Being able to look out on green space, easily access nature, even in my chair etc also helps with the creative process and brings a sense of calm. I know if I want to go somewhere green and peaceful to think or be inspired creatively, its on the doorstep and there are many beautiful scenes visible from the road including this stunning waterfall at the ancient Lydia Bridge. The other side of the bridge is an allegedly bottomless pool – having swam in it I can confirm its deep and I didn’t find the bottom but whether that qualifies it is another matter…

Legends and myths are associated with and attached to old places too and that helps me create – I think about what would this have been like many years ago and again the fact that some places change and others don’t gives a sense of hope, through knowing that whilst change is inevitable it can be for the better. Some changes are seasonal and others more permanent, others fast whilst some are slow, waiting on the forces of nature to drive them.

And perhaps we can learn a lot about finding hope in difficult situations by finding connections with the natural world and the man made world and understanding that hope often needs to be patient and that change is not always a bad thing?

How does linking back to your past and reflecting on slower streams of life bring you hope?

Handmade Monday 95 – Ring Out Those Bells Tonight!

Welcome to this week’s Handmade Monday, to take part or spend a lovely evening reading fantastic blogs written by a wide range of crafters, pop across to Handmade Harbour, the blog of Wendy Massey who’s creations are often found in Craft Seller

I’ve been a bit remiss with Handmade Monday for a few weeks due to a combination of being shattered by Sunday following a hectic week, needing to do a house search for car keys, involving roping in a friend who is definitely better at tuning in to answers to prayers than me and found them first attempt and having a very poorly Dad who is now on the mend we hope, its just felt like one more pressure. But today I realised I was looking forward to writing this post, so I sat here with very little idea of what to write and was inspired by bells!

Ring Out Those Bells Tonight!

Purely by accident I started making bells for Christmas – I was playing with some crochet cotton and they sort of happened.

Ringing Through History

And then I got to pondering the significance of bells and Christmas  as many carols or songs either make reference to or are written about bells:

Little Donkey – “ring out those bells tonight, Bethlehem Bethlem”

Ding Dong Merrily on High

Jingle Bells

Carol of the Bells –  lovely Ukraian folk song

Do They Know its Christmas?

Jingle Bell Rock

I am very into Medieval and Tudor history and in many of the books I read, bells are a significant way of communicating over long distances with a population. They might ring out sorrow as for a now dead King (or in the case of Do They Know its Christmas, sorrow over starving children);to keep the hours of the day according to the rituals of the medeival church. and of course  joy for the crowning of a new King or a Royal birth.

And although bells are less significant in daily life today, when it comes to Christmas they definitely mean celebration!  So whether you are a Christian and celebrating the birth of Christ or are into the secular meaning of Christmas, where bells signify the coming of Santa and a sleigh full of gifts; or like many having a foot in both camps – after all we are all human and we all love to give and receive gifts – you’ll definitely be singing about and decorating your tree with bells this Season!

Hewlett-Packard

Making Bells

So today I thought I’d share how I make my bells – I’ve chosen one of the simpler designs as I want it to be accessible to all, so here goes:

Hewlett-Packard

Materials

  • I used crochet cotton with a 0.75 mm hook. However there’s nothing to stop you experimenting and using larger hooks and thicker fibres with this pattern, you’ll just get a bigger bell.
  • You can also experiment using embroidery threads or adding in a blending filament to your bell – one of the joys of creating with crochet is that you have permission to play and try things out….. so don’t just sit there wondering – go for it!
  • Ribbon or thread to hang your bell with
  • Minature sleighbell to stitch inside if  you want your bell to chime!

Please note all instructions are in UK crochet terms, for USA and Japan, please feel free to download my conversion sheet if this will help: UK and US Crochet Terms

Abbreviations

SC – single crochet or slip stitch; ch – chain;  tr – treble;  htr – half treble;  dc – double crochet;   sp- space

Method

Fnd:       Make 6 ch and join with sc to make ring

Row 1:  3ch work 11tr into ring and join with sc – this forms the top of the bell

Row 2:  3ch 2tr into same st * 2ch miss1 tr , 3tr into next tr, rep from * to end join with sc

Row 3 -5 :   As row 2  These rows form a tube for the side of the bell

Row 6: 1ch, 1htr, 1tr, into 1st st  *1tr, 1htr, 1dc into 2nd st. 1dc into 2ch sp, 1dc, 1htr,

1ch in next st . Rep from * to  end. Fasten Off. This row forms the “skirt” at the base of the bell

Making Up

Sew in ends and sew ribbon onto top of bell securely

If required, sew small sleigh bell inside bell

If you’d like the pattern for this bell and another, please download my Ding Dong Merrily Freebie

Feedback Please!

I’d really like some feedback on the pattern should you choose to use it please, as I am developing a range of patterns I’ll be launching early in the New Year. I know its very easy when you write a pattern down to knit or crochet  merrily away, not realising you’ve made a colossal error, because as the author and designer you know exactly what you mean and then cannot fathom out why someonelse is having problems with it, until you actually read what you’ve written…… one red faced teacher then spotted slinking to the bottom of the class 🙂