Thursday, 31 March 2016

Latest Acquisition

We have just been given a knitted coat for the Knitting & Crochet collection - the Shaded Diamonds design by Kaffe Fassett.   The pattern appeared in Rowan Magazine 35 in 2004 (now available as a free download).  It's a beautiful coat, and very neatly knitted too - it was one of Rowan's samples.

There are 19 differetn colours of Rowan Summer Tweed in the coat. There are five colours in each diamond, and it's fascinating to see how the colour shades from say dark red to pale pink through stripes of varying widths.

We now have about a dozen Kaffe Fassett designs in the Guild collection - a small sub-collection it its own right.  Shaded Diamonds is a great addition - really special.

 I'll add some close-ups when I've had a chance to take more photos.


Monday, 28 March 2016

A Twined Knitting Cuff

I haven't written for a while - I just haven't been in the mood.  Sorry about that.

But I've been knitting, of course.  What I'm knitting at the moment is a birthday present, so I can't write about that.  I'll write instead about a couple of things I finished a little while ago that were practice pieces for a workshop I am doing next month on Swedish Twined Knitting.  I wanted to design something small that would show the techniques and a few different stitches.  Twined knitting is traditionally worked in the round (and I think is better done that way), but for people at the workshop who would prefer to knit flat I have devised a small sampler that might be construed as a coaster - I'll show that later, maybe.  And the smallest useful thing I could think of that's knitted in the round, and would show off the fact that twined knitting is dense and warm, is a cuff or wristlet.   So here's the one I've made:

In twined knitting, you knit with two strands of wool, alternating after every stitch.  My first practice pieces had both strands in the same colour, but for the cuff I was experimenting with two different colours. It's also, I've read, traditional to use a contrast colour for the cast-on, and then to make a braid with the cast-on ends rather than sewing them in, so I've done that too.

You can make patterns if you're knitting with two strands of the same colour with purl stitches on a stocking stitch background, and I tried that in my cuff.  Oddly, although the white purl bumps show up reasonably well on the grey/white background, grey purl bumps don't at all - having tried that, I unravelled it.

The inside is very neat, and shows how you always take one strand over another in the same direction, which gives twined knitting its thickness and stretch - and results in the two strands getting twisted (or twined) together, so that you have to keep stopping to untwine them.    

And here's a slightly strange shot of an upside-down cuff, showing the cast-on edge, with black yarn.

Do cuffs normally come in pairs? Perhaps they should, but I'd get a severe case of  'second sock syndrome' if I knitted another one of these.  I like it very much, but it was intended partly as an experiment to see what twined knitting looks like in two colours, and I don't want to repeat it.  But I have a good reason for only knitting one:  I have a sweater I bought this winter that I like very much, and a cuff (one cuff) is just the thing to go with it.      

It's an asymmetric design, with seams in odd places, and pieces knitted sideways, and you can see that the cable pattern on the front is asymmetric.  One sleeve is cabled, with a moss stitch top, and the other is in fisherman's rib with a stocking stitch top.   It's so asymmetric that one sleeve is longer than the other. (I'm not sure if that's intentional, but I've decided that it's a design feature.)  I've been wearing the longer sleeve turned up, to even them out - and now I can wear my one cuff on the other sleeve.


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Cornucopia Gauge

From The Knitter's Friend, 1847

My copy of The Knitter's Friend, edited by Mrs Hope, has an ad for a knitting needle gauge, The Cornucopia Gauge. The gauge was evidently a production of the Hope family - anyone who couldn't find a shop that sold them could buy one direct from Mr Hope.  But I think we can be more precise - it has a monogram stamped into it, which I think is GCH for George Curling Hope, the son of the family.  I guess that he designed it, and was using his mother's little book to advertise it.

I have never seen an actual example of a Cornucopia Gauge, but Sheila Williams illustrates one in her book The History of Knitting Pin Gauges, so some at least were made.

The ad in The Knitter's Friend says that the gauge is "a correct measure, according to the numbers used in the works of Mrs Gaugain, Mrs. Mee, Mrs. Jackson, Mrs Burrell and Mrs Hope" - they were authors who had all published books on knitting in the 1840s (see the list here).

Steel knitting needles were made of wire, and indeed called 'knitting wires' by some writers, so the numbers used as knitting needles sizes were wire sizes too. (It was the standard sizing for knitting needles in the U.K. until metric sizes replaced them.)  That explains why all the writers listed, and George Curling Hope, used the same sizing and numbering system - they had adopted the sizing and numbering already used for wire.   One knitting author did use different sizes: another ad for the Cornucopia Gauge says "This gauge is a  a correct measure..., according to the numbers used in every publication on knitting, except those of Mrs. Lambert."    Frances Lambert had introduced her own knitting needle gauge, the 'Standard Filière' in 1842.  An ad for it claimed: "The want of an Instrument for determining with accuracy the size of Knitting Needles has long been a cause of complaint" - a want that was soon filled by several competing suppliers, including George Curling Hope.

Many of these gauges, including the Standard Filière, were circular discs, but in 1847, a bell-shaped gauge was patented by G. Chambers & Co. and that became the most common shape for knitting needle gauges.  Bell gauges can be found with the names of many different manufacturers and suppliers until well into the 20th century - we have an Emu bell gauge in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection which dates from the late 1940s.  So although The Knitter's Friend and The Knitter's Casket sold well, the fancy shape of the Cornucopia Gauge did not assure its success - and George Curling Hope turned to other ideas.    

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Trunk Show in Haworth

Yesterday, Angharad and I took the trunk show to Haworth (home of the Brontes).  The Skipnorth group get together every year for a knitting weekend at Haworth Youth Hostel - a great idea. This year, they asked us to do a show for them.  

It was more or less the same selection as at the Birmingham Trunk Show - we have been very busy, so no time to pick completely different things.  I got some new photos, though.

We took a beautiful knitted octagonal cloth (large doiley?  small tablecloth?)  - possibly a Marianne Kinzel design.  In the background is the pizza box with the daffodil doiley inside.  

We have several examples of granny squares - this jacket is a nice one.  The colours are very fresh and spring-like.

My role in a trunk show is to  show a selection of tools, gadgets, and publications.  Here are two of the gadgets I showed yesterday -  holders for rayon or 'art silk'.  Rayon is such a slippery yarn that if you wind it into a ball, like wool, it will fall apart into a terrible tangle.   (I know, I've tried.)  So it was wound onto cross-shaped pieces of plywood, or similar shapes made at home from cardboard.  The 'Felix the Cat' holder  hasn't been used, so you can see the message 'Felix keeps on knitting'.  The other holder shows how the yarn was wound onto the holder - from the part of the writing that I can see, it seems to be from a shop on Boar Lane in Leeds that sold art silk.  

Because they are made from a cheap material, and sometimes have advertising for a yarn shop, I wonder if these holders were given free if you bought art silk.  It would be difficult to find out, now - it's the sort of everyday thing that doesn't get recorded and is easily forgotten.  

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

One Thing and Another

I finished sewing in the ends of yarn on my On the Other Hand mitts a couple of days ago, and pressed them.  I wore them today at Lee Mills - it was very cold downstairs in the store downstairs, and woolly mitts were very welcome.

Now that the Mystery Knit Along is finished, I know that I chose Sarah's design for the cuff, and Ann's design for the hand.  (But did my own thing for finger and thumb cuffs.)   I'm really pleased with them - while at the same time thinking that lots of the other pairs in the Knit Along turned out even better.  (You can see photos of many of the finished pairs in Ravelry.)  A lot of people reversed the colours for the second mitt, which looks stunning, or chose different options for the two mitts.  The Knit Along was altogether a lot of fun, working through the pattern, and watching what other knitters were doing with the pattern at the same time.

I have also just finished a cabled scarf.  The photos shows it just off the needles - I plan to press it to get the cables to open out a bit.  More on that later.

I used the same yarn for the scarf and the mitts - Wendy Merino 4-ply (fingering weight).  In fact, I used the same blue-green yarn for the mitts as for the scarf, because I miscalculated how much I would need for the scarf and was going to have some left over, and then chose the red (Rose) to go with it.  So now I have matching scarf and mitts.  The blue-green is called Pacific, though it reminds me more of conifers than sea.  It is very nice yarn, very soft, and Pacific is not completely solid, but is a mixture of blues and greens, with occasional surprising flecks of colours like bright emerald green and black.

Now I'm working on some small pieces in Swedish twined knitting for a workshop I'm doing next month - I'll report on progress later.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Paint and Lace

I planned to paint a wall of the bathroom yesterday.  But then on my way home from buying a new paint brush and a paint kettle, I remembered that I was missing a live broadcast of a workshop taking place at the Shetland Museum.   It was part of the Knitting in the Round project at the University of Glasgow - I went to a Study Day on Knitting in Wartime in Glasgow last year that was part of the same project.   Yesterday's was on Authenticity in Culturally Based Knitting - specifically, Shetland lace knitting.  

So instead of starting painting when I got home, I started to watch the broadcast of the workshop instead.  I had missed the introductory talk by Lynn Abrams, and part of Carol Christiansen's talk that followed it.  She was reporting on a project just finished; volunteer knitters were asked to knit samples from lace patterns in 19th century publications which the writer had identified at 'Shetland'.  Some of the samples are on display at the museum, in an exhibition Authenticity in 'Shetland' Lace Knitting, and the accompanying information gives details of the books that were the pattern sources - and where to find them online, really useful.  Carol's talk was fascinating, tracing the history of Shetland lace patterns -  she said that a version of print o' the wave, for instance, which is one of my favourite patterns, appeared in a book by Frances Lambert in 1845.  

From The Knitter's Casket, Mrs Hope

She made a lot of interesting points, for instance that the 'Shetland shawl' patterns given in 19th century books were generally much simpler than the shawls made by Shetland knitters. This is borne out by Mrs Hope's The Knitter's Casket, published in the 1840s.  She gives instructions for making 'Shetland shawls and handkerchiefs' and gives receipts for patterns like the one illustrated, to be knitted in white Shetland wool for the centre of the shawl, and 'a shaded border knit in feather pattern' - a very basic design.    

Another highlight of the day for me was Roslyn Chapman's talk 'Shetland or Real Shetland', on the production of 'Shetland lace' in England.   The popularity of Shetland lace shawls on the 1840s led to a new 'Shetland lace' industry in Nottinghamshire - machine-knitted.  I had no idea there was such a thing.  She said that there is much use in ads of terms like 'real' and 'original' as opposed to 'imitation' - though often it's hard to know whether articles are 'real' because they are Shetland-made or hand-knitted, or both. Roslyn finished with an example which offered 'real imitation'  and asked what we thought it might mean. (No idea!)

I did a bit of hunting around and found 'real imitation Shetland shawls' myself  - I'm not sure if this is the ad that Roslyn presented or another example. It's from the Glasgow Herald in 1847:    
THE very extensive alterations and improvements on ANDERSON'S WAREHOUSES being now completed, the Public are respectfully informed that they are to be re-opened on Monday, on a scale of magnificence hitherto unequalled.  An immense quantity of Goods, slightly damaged, have been secured at Prices so Low as to enable the Proprietor to offer Bargains that must astonish every Purchaser.  Arrangements are now so complete that an immense number of Customers can be accommodated without the slightest annoyance. The following will give some faint idea of the Bargains to be offered:- 

A pair of Gentlemen's Lisle Gloves for 1d. 

Ladies' fine Thread Netted Caps for 1½d.
Boy's fine Linnen Collars at 2½d.
Real French Cap Ribbons at ½d. and 1d. a yard.
Broad French Satin Ribbon. at 1¾d. a yard, worth 4d.
Real Imitation Shetland Shawls at 1s. 2½d., regular price, 3s. 6d.
(Good use of superlatives there, though I think the writer should be marked down for over-use of 'immense')   'Real French Cap Ribbons' suggests that they were genuinely French.  So what were 'real imitation Shetland shawls'?  It could be that they were 'real' because the patterns were those used by Shetland knitters, but imitation because they weren't Shetland-made.  Or it could mean something else...

There were four more talks in the afternoon, followed by a discussion.  I did get my painting done in between listening, when there was a lunch break and then a coffee/cake break, and after the workshop had finished, though the light wasn't very good by the time I'd done.

It was such a wonderfully generous idea to open the workshop to anyone, via the live broadcast - remote listeners could contribute to the discussion, too, by Twitter or email.  I could have listened to it all on YouTube in a few days' time - it will be available via the Shetland Museum website later in the week.  But listening to a live broadcast feels different, I think - I might catch up with the beginning, that I missed, and I might listen to some of the talks again, but I'm glad I was part of yesterday's event as it happened.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Hopes of Ramsgate

I wrote in December 2014 about a little Victorian knitting book that John had given me, The Knitter’s Friend.  The title page says that it was edited by Mrs. Hope, and published by I. Hope of 58, Queen Street, Ramsgate.  I was curious about the identity of Mrs Hope and I. Hope, and so set about doing some research.

At the same time, unknown to me, Lesley O’Connell Edwards, who edits the Knitting & Crochet Guild magazine, Slipknot, was also researching the Hopes.  I eventually found out that we had been working in parallel, and for the past few months we have been exchanging emails.  Lesley has now published her findings in an article in a recent issue of Piecework magazine:   George Curling Hope: A Man in a Woman's World.  

Lesley and I both looked at the 19th century censuses, but otherwise were using different sources, and so I have some details about the Hopes that Lesley did not have, and would not in any case have had space for in her article.  To make the story of the Hopes more complete, I’ll record my findings here.

According to the British Library catalogue, the Mrs. Hope who edited The Knitter’s Friend and other books was Mrs George Curling Hope.  But Lesley has shown that Mrs Hope was not the wife of George Curling Hope, but his mother – her husband was Isaac Hope, who published her books.  George was apparently their only child, born in Ramsgate in 1820.  I don’t know where the name ‘Curling’ came from – it wasn’t Margaret’s maiden name, which would be the obvious assumption.  George used it as if it were part of his surname, and in later life was often referred to as Mr Curling Hope.

In the 1841 census, the Hope family were recorded as living at Queen Street.  Isaac and George are both described as ‘Toyman’ – which appears to have meant a dealer in fancy goods.  Margaret is not recorded as having any occupation, but was undoubtedly involved in the business.  Also living in the house were a ‘Shop Woman’ and ‘F.S.’ (presumably a Female Servant).  This gives an impression of some prosperity.

Knitting and crochet had become very popular from the late 1830s, leading to a flurry of instruction books.  These were listed in 1955 by Esther Potter, in English Knitting and Crochet books of the Nineteenth Century, published in the journal The Library.  She described ‘a craze for fancy needlework’ spreading to this country from Germany in the early 1800s, so that knitting, as ‘a form of recreation for ladies of the leisured classes’ had become popular by the late 1830s, along with crochet.  The result was that:
 “The proprietors of the establishments which sold needlework materials were not slow to add knitting-wools to their stock, and to promote the new fashion by giving lessons and by issuing manuals of instruction.  A host of charming little books was turned out between about 1840 and 1860.”  
The mistaken idea that books edited by Mrs Hope were produced by “Mr and Mrs George Curling Hope” is perhaps due to Esther Potter (unless the misinformation was already in the British Library catalogue, and she copied it.)  She listed eleven books on knitting and crochet under that heading that first appeared in the 1840s - in fact, they were all the work of either Mrs Hope or George Curling Hope, but never both.

In 1842, George Curling Hope published My Working Friend. This seems to have been the first book published by either of the Hopes.  The title page describes it as ‘being plain directions for the various stitches in Fancy Needlework with hints on their employment, by G. Curling Hope.’  (I have not seen a copy of My Working Friend, but have seen an image of the title page.)

Mrs Hope followed her son’s example.  The Knitter’s Friend was first published in February 1844. [1]  It was advertised as:
“Now ready at all Berlin Shops, an entirely new illustrated Knitting Book….. THE KNITTER’S FRIEND; with 50 Original Receipts in Knitting and Netting for Opera Caps, Hoods, Cuffs, Boots, Shoes, Cardinal Capes, &c &c.”   
(Berlin shops initially sold Berlin wool for the embroidery on canvas called Berlin work, but later they also sold knitting wools and crochet cottons.)

A 2nd edition of The Knitter’s Friend was advertised later in 1844 as “corrected, improved and enlarged".  The '50 original receipts' had now been increased to 60.  I don’t know of any online copy of either of these early editions.  The copy available from the Winchester School of Art library is the 5th edition.   My own copy seems to be slightly later still, though it simply says ‘Corrected edition’, and was probably printed in 1847.

In another post, I will revisit my copy The Knitter’s Friend and show how all three of the Hopes were involved in it.  (To be continued.) 

[1] Although the first edition of The Knitter’s Friend is dated to 1842 in the British Library catalogue and by Esther Potter, I’m sure it’s later.  It is listed in the Publishers’ Circular for February 15th 1844  as a new work, published since 30th January that year.

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