THE LEAFY FAMILY

I hope I’m not boring my readers (especially my knitting pals), but with just a little bit of encouragement, I’m off and running on more historical embroidery pattern families.

This one I’ve nicknamed “Oak Leaves.”  It’s relatively well represented – not the design with the most extant examples, but I’ve managed to collect seven photos of artifacts displaying it, in various styles.  No modelbook source (yet), and I particularly like when designs are interpreted in different ways.

As in many of these smaller fragments, museum provenances and dates are not necessarily precise.  Some of these artifacts have not been revisited since they were originally donated to the hosting institutions. Putting these on a specific which-came-first timeline is problematic, especially doing so based on photos alone.  However, there is a possibility here again of “separated at birth” pieces, where an original artifact was cut apart by a dealer and sold to multiple collectors.

I start with a piece given to the Cooper Hewitt by my idol, Marian Hague. She was an embroidery research expert and curator, who worked with several museums in the first half of the 20th century. Her work pairing extant pieces with modebook sources is legendary.

oak-1

The Cooper-Hewitt citation for this piece dates it as 17th century, and of Italian origin.  The museum’s accession number is 1971-50-97 and was acquired as a bequest from Ms. Hague.  It displays the signature elements that make up the group – the center meander, with two heavily indented “oak” leaves sprouting left and right, overlapping the meander.  A central smaller floral element in the center of each of the meander’s hump, and a secondary leafy sprout filling in the hollow of the design between the leaves.  This particular piece also has voided spots along the length of the center meander.

Compare this piece from The Art Institute of Chicago:

oak-2

They also attribute it as 17th century, Italian.  The AIC accession number is 1907.742, acquired in 1907.  Although the C-H example lacks the fringed edge, the executed design of both pieces is extremely close.  C-H on left, AIC on right:

Ignore minor wear and tear.  The count of the leaves, voiding of the stems, method of placing and working the spots, and placement of the tendrils is the same, although some of the tendrils on the AIC sample have fallen victim to time.  Therefore I opine that these two pieces may have come from the same original.  That Ms. Hague’s bit is a bit more savaged is not unusual.  There are other instances where she had fragments of pieces in museum collections, but usually kept the more damaged bits for her own research.

Moving on here’s a fragment from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

oak-3.JPG

The Met places it as 16th-17th century, also Italian.  Its accession number there is 09.50.3806, collected in 1909.  This may or may not be part of the same original as the previous two, even though it is fringed like the AIC sample.  For one – it’s mirror image.  That in an of itself isn’t a big difference.  Photos get reversed.  Designs themselves are sometimes mirror-imaged if they appear on opposite sides of a larger artifact.  Tendrils are missing, but this piece appears to have undergone more wear than the other two.  There are enough partial remains of the double running (or back stitch) bits to posit their existence.  But while the delicate linear stitching is more prone to damage the heavier interior stitching is more durable.

Look at the little interlace where the leaf-twig emerges from beneath the meander and crosses over it (AIC on left, Met on right):

The little “eye” of filling, which done in the solid filling stitch and should remain – is missing.

Might this be part of the same original, possibly a suite of hangings, covers/cloths or bed furnishings, but of a segment done by a less attentive stitcher?  Possibly.  But also possibly not, especially in light of the next example.

Here’s another one with an empty “eye.”  This example was found by my Stealth Apprentice, and is in the Textiles Collection of the University for the Creative Arts in Farnam.

oak-4.JPG

Unfortunately, the UCA gives no date or provenance for the work. Note how long this strip is, and that it’s folded – we see both sides.  This might be double running and one of the double sided Italian cross stitch variants because regular long-armed cross stitch doesn’t look the same front and back.  Tendrils?  Check.  Center meander with holes?  Check.  Oak leaves and supporting sprouts?  Check.  BUT those “eyes” – they are not worked, just as in the Met example.

OK, now we go on to other design adaptations.  This voided piece from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is undoubtedly an interpretation of the same design, but with a bit more elaboration on the stems – using twining instead of spots, and on the sprouts and leaves.  It’s also doubled north/south – a very common method of taking a strip design and making it more dramatic by making it wider.

oak-5

The MFA calls this piece out as being Italian, 16th-17th century, and names the technique used as “Punto di Milano.” (The MFA uses several stitch style names not commonly seen elsewhere, this is one.) The accession number is 83.236.

I am particularly intrigued by the unworked area at the upper right.  The tightly overstitched pulled mesh technique used for the background is almost impossible to pick out, and even worn, leaves a very clear perturbation of the ground weave.  I know this from sad experience.  Even over the centuries, I have to say that the missing bit was just never worked.  Which gives us an insight into working method – defining an area, then going back and filling it in.

Did this piece, in this style predate the more simplified depictions above?  Again we can’t say for sure, but I tend to lean that way because the spots on the wide, plain meander to me look like the simplified descendants of the voids formed by twining stems in the MFA’s example.  One person’s opinion – feel free to disagree.

Voiding.  That was always done in long-armed cross stitch or the meshy stitch, right?  Nope.  Here’s another example of the same pattern, with an even more finely defined main twining meander, but done with a squared filling stitch.  This one is also from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

oak-6

The Met lists this one as being Italian or Greek, from the 16th-17th century.  It was acquired in 1909, and its accession number is 09.50.58.

This piece is my favorite of the set, both for the delicacy of the interlace and the squared ground.  Obviously the tendrils are gone, as in the other voided interpretation, but it’s the same oak leaf design for sure.  And did you catch the mistake?  Upper right, where the meander is cut off from joining the previous repeat.  That’s not wear and tear – that’s a place where stitching happened where it doesn’t appear in subsequent repeats.

And last, but not least, a pattern cousin.  This one was also found by the Stealth Apprentice.

oak-7

This is an Italian towel or napkin, claimed as 16th century, in the Marcus Jehn private collection.  The only link I have for it is to the collector’s Pinterest board.

This is a curious piece.  It’s clearly derived from the same pattern family, interpreted in a linear stitch.  But the interlaces of the meander are rather heavy compared to the delicacy of the Met square-voided sample, above.  The slightly fudged corner is also of interest.  If I had to guess, I’d suspect that this piece was a see-me-and-copy, derived from something that looked more like the two voided examples.

So, what have we seen here?  Mostly that there are design clusters that are clearly related.  That there is no one canonical way in which to use these patterns – interpretations, some only a bit different, and others quite divergent, vary from artifact to artifact, even among those done in the same technique.  And based on museum citations alone there’s no clear way to arrange them in parent-child relationships other than idle musing.

Most of all, I like that there is no one “right” way to stitch these designs, and that when I do my own variant, I’m adding to family that stretches back for hundreds of years.

LONG LOST SIBLINGS?

As I wander through on-line collections, occasionally I spot things that look very familiar.  There are pattern style families, even specific motifs and strip designs that persist over time, popping up in multiple locations, over periods of decades.  Those are fun to trace, and to try to figure out branching traditions, and to try to pinpoint ultimate origins, although that’s rarely possible.

Today’s pieces though are something different.  I believe them to be either part of the same original artifact or set of artifacts.

To begin with, here they are.  At left is a piece from the Art Institute of Chicago (accession #1907.740); at right is a piece in the Hermitage Museum’s on line collection (accession #T-2734).

 

The AIC’s piece has a more complete annotation, noting the dimensions of the various component parts, describing the materials and stitches used (“long armed cross stitch, cut and drawn thread work… insertion of silk needle lace”), and giving a provenance and date of Italy, 1601-1650. They call the piece “unfinished.” It was acquired by the museum in 1907.

The Hermitage’s piece provides less detail, silk on linen, and overall dimensions.  They call the stitch used “double Italian cross” (or that’s what the Russian translates as).  They cite origins as Italy, 16th-17th century, and say the piece came to them from the private collection of Baron Stieglitz.  I am unsure which member of that family they are citing, but the the Stieglitzs were prominent bankers and aristocrats during the 1800s, and up to the time of the Russian revolution.  They were known for amassing opulent art and antiques collections, among other extravagances.

When my Stealth Apprentice brought the Russian-collected example to my notice last year, she opined that it was unusual to see the very coarse voided strip, needle lace, and more delicately done center piece all in one composed work.  I agree with her.  It is curious – all the more so because of the second example from Chicago.

Let’s look more closely at the two.  Chicago’s larger piece seems to start at the right edge at the same design point of the urn/flower cycle as the Hermitage’s.  The count and spacing on the motifs are identical on both pieces, although the Russian sample is very slightly taller – about four or five rows of the flower/urn area pattern.  Both seem to be “full length” slices north/south.  But that left edge on the Russian example is very clearly cut and truncated, with the narrow border removed from a work’s right edge and seamed to the larger field.  AND look at the top area.  Not only was the piece sliced off and then replaced on the urn/flower area, that same cut and sewn seam ascends all the way to the top, cutting through BOTH the needle lace band, and the coarsely executed voided strip.  It’s also clear that the strip that was cut was taken from the left edge of the original source piece, because the fragment of the narrow border flower at the top left has “turned the corner.”

Further, because both artifacts include an intact right hand edge with no seaming, these were probably descended from a set of two matching items.

Both pieces seem to have been cut off at the right edge, snipped through the narrow needle lace strip, and both show signs of stitching remains on their bottom edge – possibly fragments of more needle lace.  On the Russian bit, there’s even evidence of red remnants along the outer edge of the applied border strip. Both works show clear signs of there being a finished hem around the central flower/urn plus companion border section; but no hem is in evidence on the voided strips.  Even the linen ground’s weave on the voided strip parts looks coarser than that in the center area’s ground.

So.  What do we have?

Here’s one possible flight-of-fancy.  I have no evidence to claim this as being true, so it’s just postulation and theory:  two rounds of re-use.

Our piece starts off as the urn/flower part – two strips, about 42.3 cm (16 5/8 in) tall, but of an indeterminate length.  They might have been bed hanging, long towels, or something akin in shape or proportion to a modern table runner (historical use unknown).

At some point in time, these items gets turned into something else.  Possibly a deeper set of bed valences, or possibly one or more rectangular bolster or cushion covers, through the addition of the side strips of voided work, attached by the decorative needle lace sections.  These additional bits were  done by a different hand than the older flower/urn section.  (I do note that there are other examples of artifacts that employ side strips to turn rectangular flat pieces into square-edged 3D cushion covers.)

Fast forward to the second moment of re-use…  The second-use bed hanging or bolster cover is cut down again.  The unknown recycler may have intended to make multiple covers for smaller cushions, or other smaller covers/bags/whatever.  And it’s possible she or he never finished that project – that’s why we have the partial cut-down-and-reassembled Hermitage fragment, and the unfinished fragment in Chicago.

And for the piece’s final disposition among multiple museums – I do know that in the late 1800s, lace and embroidery collecting was a fad among the wealthy and fashionable.  Many American museum textile collections crystallized around donations from prominent families – items they picked up on Grand Tours of Europe.  I have come across quite a few artifacts that may be pieces sundered in that process – cut apart by antiquities dealers who then sold smaller bits to multiple buyers, rather than keeping artifacts intact and making only one sale.  I posit that our flower/urn twins are a pair of those pieces, and having fallen victim to profitable multiple sales, ended up fragmented between two continents.

WHEN IS MORE OF THE SAME NOT MORE OF THE SAME?

Another post that only a stitching history nerd will love.

The last post explored some differences between modelbooks that looked like they featured the same patterns, but in fact were not printed from the same plate.  This one looks at one of the most widely reprinted and well known modelbook authors – Johann Siebmacher, and three of his works, all available in on-line editions.  All of the excerpts below are from these three sources:

  1. Schön Neues Modelbuch von allerley lustigen Mödeln naczunehen, zuwürcken unn zusticken, gemacht im Jar Ch. 1597, Nurmberg, 1597, – the source work for Mistress Kathryn Goodwyn’s Needlework Patterns from Renaissance Germany
  2. One reprinted in 1886 as Kreuzstich- Muster: 36 Tafeln des Ausgabe, 1604, that calls out Siebmacher as its author.
  3. One indexed simply as Newes Modelbuch with him as author, possibly 1611, but unclear from the source

Many of the designs in these books seem to repeat edition to edition.  Some are unique to only one.  Before we begin, it’s worth remembering that these books are survivals.  Long use and reuse over decades have resulted in page loss.  None of the editions are complete, as in “all intact in one original binding,” and some may have been re-composed at a later date from other partial works.  But we do what we can with what we have, and Siebmacher’s editions have title pages in them, and distinctive numbering and framing conventions that can lead to a reasonable conclusion that they were from the same printing workshop.

All of the books show graphed designs suited for reproduction using several techniques, including various styles of voided work on the count, lacis (darned knotted net), and buratto (darned woven mesh).  Twp of them also include patterns that would be suitable for other forms of lace.  Over time these patterns went on to be executed in weaving, cross stitch, filet crochet, and knitting, too. The descendants of these designs ended up in multiple folk traditions and samplers on both sides of the Atlantic.

In addition to the longevity of their contents, Sibmachers books are among the earliest that seem to indicate execution of the design using more than one color or texture, a feature not common in the black-and-white printed early modelbooks.  Here are examples the first two books.  But I don’t think that these pages were originally printed two-tone.  I think they were hand-colored to add the darker squares, either at the time of manufacture or later.

1597 The possibly 1611 edition
sib-1 sib-2

Obviously, the two samples above were printed from the same block. But the pattern of the darker squares is different, and if you look closely, the some of the solid squares looked colored in, as opposed to having been originally printed that way.  I can say the retoucher who did the 1597 was a bit neater.  I don’t think these were colored by the book buyer, because every single edition of Siebmacher’s works that I’ve seen have included multi-tone pages like this.

Here are other single- and multi-tone blocks that repeat between these two editions:

1597 The possibly 1611 edition
sib-3 sib-4
sib-7 sib-8
sib-9
sib-10The brown ink on the G near the talon matches the color of the hand-drawn designs at the back of the book – post-publication additions.

The 1604 edition has similar pages that sport two-tone presentation:

sib 11

But these books are not the same.

That 1604 edition…  It’s curious that there are no blocks that are in the other two Siebmacher works that are also in the 1604 edition, yet all three books are clearly signed by him.  And the majority of the block labels that show stitch counts for the repeat, or pattern height in units – they are curiously different between the 1604 and the others, too.  But still, there evidence of style affinity across the works.  Zeroing in on some specific pattern features:

A very familiar stag, that shows up on some of the earliest samplers, with descendants on American Colonial samplers, all the way up to pieces done in the 1800s.

1604 1597
 sib-11 sib-12

Similar, yet not the same.

Here is a set that’s confounding.  First the hippogriff and undine from 1604:

sib-13

Compare the item above to these two designs – a winged triton and an undine, each from the 1597 work:

sib-14 sib-15

Lions rampant?

1604 1597
sib-16 sib-17

Even the geometrics are close but not duplicates

1604 1597
sib-18 sib-19

All this aside, even the seemingly close 1597 and possibly-1611 versions have significant differences between them, although they do have exact page duplicates between them. Not so with 1604 – it’s unique when closely compared to the other two, even though all three have the same author attribution, and very similar styles.  This is VERY odd considering the vast amount of physical labor that had to go into producing these blocks.

So.  What’s going on with the 1604 edition?  Why is it so different from the other two?  Has anyone read an academic work that examines this issue in more detail, or corroborates these findings with other editions that are not published on line?

So many patterns, so many questions, so little time to do in depth research.

ONE DESIGN’S MIGRATION

Early stitching modelbooks.  They so often look the same, page after page. Where did I see that design before?  Why is it oh, so familiar?

And so we launch again into a post that only a stitching geek would love.

Early European modelbooks produced by sixteenth century printers in Italy, Germany and France often include similar patterns.  Often the same patterns.  Sometimes patterns SO much alike that one would think they were printed from the same blocks.  In some cases, especially if one printer did successive editions of work, that’s entirely likely.  In other cases, where the same block appears in works from different shops – that’s not entirely clear.  Especially if the workshops of the various printers were separated by geography and/or time.  However it happened – trade in blocks, plagiarism from printed copy, whatever – it is clear that considerable cross-pollination did occur.

Here is just one example.

This is from Niccolo d’Aristotile’s (called Zoppino) Venice-published Ensamplairo di Lavoiri, 1530/1531, as redacted as Volume I of Kathryn Goodwyn’s Flowers of the Needle collection (left).  At right I show the same page from an original (unredacted) copy of the same book in the Gallica BNF20 collection, to remove doubt about any assertions I made below being artifacts of cleaning up for reprint.  Watch those two center designs:

FOTN-1-zop zoppino-2

1530/31, Italy is pretty early, right?

Well, there’s this.  Johann Schonsperger the Younger, from 1529, published in Augsberg, Germany  This is from Ein new getruckt model Buchli auf außnehen, vnnd bortten wircken..., in the collection of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, #0S-1473-kl, as presented via Bildindex.

Schonsperger-1

Not surprisingly, Johann Schonsperger’s earlier work, Ein new Modelbuch auff auaußnehen vnd bortern wircken.. from 1526 (also from Augsberg) has the exact same page.  Also from Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, #0S-1472, as presented via Bildindex.

Schonsperger-2

So we’ve traced this panel back to a 1526 edition, published in Germany.   But were all of these printed from the same blocks?

I’d say that the two Schonsperger pages were certainly produced from the same blocks.  They have the same curious features and mistakes.

compare-1

By contrast, here are the same sections from the Zoppino work, with the same areas highlighted:

Compare-2

Yup.  The little crescent is missing, and the lower arm of the fleur-de-lis type detail with the clumsy header is gone entirely – the design is truncated, leaving it on the cutting room floor.  There are other differences – mistakes made in one version of the design but not in the other, that you would only notice if you were trying to redraft or stitch from each pattern.

So in this one case,  I’d posit that a copy of a printed page from Schonsperger in Augsberg – either as part of a book, or as a broadside – made its way to Venice, where it was seized upon and re-rendered for inclusion in Zoppino’s collections.   Which is pretty much counter to the intuitive argument that I’ve seen many make – that these counted patterns all originated in Italy and then spread north.  Of course there may be another printed copy even earlier than Schonsperger…

Oh, and this design in particular?  I’ve always been fascinated by the narrow border with its strong directionality. I posited in The New Carolingian Modelbook, that based on similarities to examples of Tiraz band calligraphy done on the count, as appearing in Richard Rutt’s book A History of Hand Knitting, 1989, that this motif may have been copied (possibly without knowing what it represented) from an extant piece of stitching, rug, or other textile from an Islamic workshop.  If that’s true, it would make the design’s peregrinations even more impressive.  Somewhere in the Islamic world, to Germany, then to Italy.  And on from there…

UPDATE

And the Schonsperger plate makes another appearance!  This time in Anton Woensam’s Ein new kunstlich Modelbůch, published in 1536, in Köln.

Woensam-1

 

BUSY BUSY BUSY

I wish I weren’t but it’s been so, and for a while.

Sadly this means that not much substantive is getting done on any of my main projects.  I feel quite badly about this because I promised a pair of Octopodes Mittens to a niece.  Thanks to the ungentle hands of the Philistines at TSA, during my trip to Florida, my on-the-needles project was unceremoniously dumped out into my checked baggage, the needles were pulled out of the work (and one was lost); the magnet board I was using was bent, the magnetic strip that marked my place is missing, and they broke the yarn to remove and lose the Strickfingerhut knitting thimble thingy I use to make stranding easier.   So progress has been stalled while I replace the needles, Strickfingerhut, and magnet board.

Here is the barely-begun first mitten prior to TSA’s pillaging:

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Back to Square One on that project.

In the mean time, my mindless “briefcase project” socks march on.  These require little to no thought, and are done in stolen hours while waiting on line at the post office, in large group meetings at work, and the like.  The ankle patterns are improvised on the fly. Since January, I’ve done 3.75 pairs – all toe-up, quick knits on 76 stitches around, (US #00s – big as logs…)

Starting with the blue pair with red accents, yarns used were blue striped Cascade Heritage 150 Prints, with Kroy Sock toes/heels/ribbing; orange Cascade Heritage 150;  Plymouth Neon Now (it really does glow under UV light); and Berroco Comfort sock, in pastels – which is an acrylic/nylon blend with no wool in it at all.  The last one is an experiment, we’ll see how it feels to wear, and how well it holds up in regular sock rotation.

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Now that I have the requisite replacement materials, it’s back to the Octopodes Mittens.  Winter 2018 may be almost over, but I have a feeling the niece will appreciate them in 2019.

ALTERNATIVE ALPHABET RESOURCES FOR INCLUSIVE STITCHERY

Lately I’ve seen a couple of resources for embroiderers who wish to make samplers or other stitchings to honor friends or family who are differently-abled.  I post them here for general reference.

First is this alphabet from type designer Kosuke Takahashi.  It takes a linear construction alphabet, and overlays Braille dots on it, to form a construction that can be read by those familiar with both type forms.

A full description, and downloadable files for the font can be found here.  Note that it is free for personal use.  If you want to compose an item or design for sale, you would need to contact the designer to license the font.

Second is a linear stitch interpretation of the sign language alphabet.

cross stitch sign language alphabet by lpanne

The source is Deviant Art board poster and cross stitch designer lpanne, and is under her copyright.  Again, if you create anything from this for sale, please take the time to contact the artist and ask for permission.

Although this last item presents text in a non-standard way, for most of us it makes it less rather than more comprehensible.  But it’s a nifty idea for the nerdy-minded among us.  Artst Sam Meech knits up scarves using ASCII coding, represented by two colors (one for 1 and the other for 0).  He’s able to include entire quotations and text passages in his Binary Scarves.  He sells them at his site below.


(photo shamelessly lifted from Sam’s site)

You can read more about Sam’s scarves here.

If you want to create your own binary string, tons of text-encoders abound.  I used this one to translate

STRING-OR-NOTHING

into

01010011 01110100 01110010 01101001 01101110 01100111 00101101 01101111 01110010 00101101 01001110 01101111 01110100 01101000 01101001 01101110 01100111 00001101 00001010

If this is new to you – each eight digit “word” is in fact a letter.  “N” for example is 01101110.  The binary scarves work like early paper punch tape, stacking each octet one above another.  So the word “STRING” would come out like this:

01010011 = S
01110100 = T
01110010 = R
01101001 = I
01101110 = N
01100111 = G

There was a time in my distant past that I used paper tape, and could recognize and read the octet patterns by sight.  But that was long ago, in a technology forgotten by time…

 

WHERE DID JANUARY GO?

Here I am, resurfacing after a very hectic holiday season, and a flu-filled January.  But I haven’t been idle.  I can report on several bits of progress.

First, the annual holiday cookie bake – ten kinds, plus.  They are all long since eaten, but since I list the kinds each year (and often look back in succeeding years to remember the ones we liked best), here we go

Top row:  Chocolate crinkles (aka Earthquakes); Sugar Cookie Stars; Gingersnap/Lemon Sandwiches
Middle Row:  Raspberry Rugalach; Classic Tollhouse; Peanut Butter Suns; Coconut Macaroon, Chocolate Dipped; Buffalo Bourbon Balls
Mezzanine Row:  Both are fudge rolled around a whole roasted hazelnut
Bottom Row:  Sugar Stars with Lemon Filling (I had extra buttercream); Mexican Wedding Cakes; Hazelnut/Ganache Sandwiches (aka Oysters).

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The next accomplishment was a set of six mythical beasties crocheted placemats, which had their debut when family came to dinner for New Years Eve.

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As I described before, the designs are all from Dupeyron’s Le Filet Ancien au Point de Reprise VI, itself an on-line offering in the Antique Pattern Library’s filet crochet section.  I used a large cone of unmercerized cotton cordage, roughly worsted weight, that I bought aeons ago at the old Classic Elite Mill Ends Store, when it was in its original location, in the mill building itself.  I ended up having to unravel some experimental swatches I had knit with the stuff before, in order to have enough.  I still have one piece of the set unfinished – a small center runner to go with the mats.  I’ll pick that up again in the warmer months.  Note that the patterns for these beasties are from a matching set of squares – 35 units x 35 units.  Filet crochet with this stuff, at this gauge, using this hook, by my hand is NOT square, but the resulting rectangles are perfectly useful.  More on this project is here.

I also finished the Bee Socks, but younger daughter took them back with her to school, so no pix of both done at the same time. However, they are both complete.

22688002_10154937804386892_5814061380743841088_n_medium2

Moving closer to the present, it was freezing here in Massachusetts in January.  Although one could argue that knitting a cozy, warm, oversize sweater in the Fall would have been better timing, the weather did inspire me to knock one out in January.

cable-2_medium2

I’m quite pleased with this one, although in real life it reads more as maroon than blue-purple.  I used Melissa Leapman’s Men’s Cables and Ribs Pullover, and knit it up using most of two stashed bags of Debbie Bliss Glen. It’s a very soft merino/acrylic blend ragg single, with a soft spin.  It’s luscious stuff, but it is extremely splitty and difficult to handle, which is probably why it ended up at my late, lamented, local yarn shop’s remainder sale.  The striping effect was a surprise, but I like it.

The only thing I did to adapt the pattern was to stop knitting the sleeves after I accomplished the bulk of the increases.  At that point I sewed the front and back together, and finished out the turtleneck.  Then I tried it on.  I knew that the drop shoulders would be VERY wide, and being a men’s pattern, the sleeves – if knit to the original specifications – would be way too long.  So with the unfinished thing on, bib style, I measured the length of the run from the edge of the drop shoulder to my desired cuff termination point.  Then I completed the sleeves to that dimension for a perfect fit.

And now we are caught up to the newest project:  Octopodes for Niece Frankie – a bespoken project by special request, just started yesterday:

E80DE046-1E8F-44E7-85A1-0A9AFAC842B5_medium2 (1)

The pattern is Octopus Mittens by Emily Peters.  I’m using Cascade Heritage 150, a fingering/sport weight yarn, but doubled to get the DK thickness recommended in the pattern.  And you can see, I’m using my Strickfingerhut knitting thimble/yarn guide thingy to assist with the stranding.

So far I’ve gone down a needle size from the pattern’s recommendations.  I may end up ripping back and going down another size.  We’ll see.  For the record, the solid yellow bit at the bottom is turned up and sewn in, to make a double-thick cuff.  Had I read ahead in the pattern, I would have used a provisional cast-on, then grafted the section later on.  At least I had the foresight to use a half-hitch cast-on, to allow for maximum stretch.

And a final note.  Younger Daughter is an octopus-fiend.  I suspect she will see this post, and wild with desire, demand her own pair of Octopus Mittens.  In her own colors, of course.

DOUBLE RUNNING STITCH LOGIC 104 – A REVIEW

Based on private notes of inquiry and discussions on various historical needlework-related boards and forums of late, I see that people are still confused about the working logic of linear stitching.  In specific, how to determine if a design can be worked entirely two-sided.

First off – the two most popular historical methods for working thin linear designs are double running stitch and back stitch.  The big difference between the two is the appearance of the reverse.   Done meticulously, with care paid to invisibly terminating threads, double running stitch is almost indistinguishable front and back.  Almost because a few people do produce a slight difference due to differential thread tension on each of the two passes required to produce a unbroken line, but that difference mostly settles out over time.  Back stitch on the other hand produces a public side very much like double running, but the reverse of the work is heaver, and depending on the stitcher can look like outline or stem stitch, or even like a split or chain stitch if the needle pierces the previous stitch as a new one is made.  Of necessity in back stitch there is twice as much thread on the back of the work as there is on the front.

double-running back

Double Running.
Front (top) and back are identical

Back Stitch.
Looks the same as double running on the front (top), but different on the reverse.

Double running stitch takes two passes to accomplish because it first lays down a dashed line, with the spaces between the dashes being filled in on the second pass.  A back stitch line is completed in one pass, with no need to revisit areas previously stitched to complete the line.

Many people prefer back stitch because there IS no going back.  They like the certainty of knowing exactly where they are at all times, over the pretzel logic of calculating how not to be caught in a cul de sac while retracing steps in double running.  Personally, I prefer double running, and follow double running logic even if the piece I am working will not be seen on both sides.  I find that path planning to be fun, and I appreciate thread economy, especially when working with more costly or difficult to source hand-dyed silks.

But for some one challenge of double running is knowing which designs can be worked in that stitch such that both sides can be made totally identical.

It’s easy.  Any design that has no “floating elements” is a prime candidate.  If true double sided is a total goal (including invisible termination of thread ends), any piece that has a floating element large enough to allow that burial is also a possibility.  It doesn’t matter how complex a design is, so long as elements are all branches and detours off of one or more main baselines, they can be stitched double sided.  And yes – there CAN be more than one baseline in a design.  More on baseline identification is hereThe logic of following detours and returning to the baseline is hereHow to break up a large design into several smaller baselines is here.

Identifying floating elements

That’s easy.  They are any ornament or detail that is discontinuous from the main line of the design.

Here are several that I’ve done in double running, based on one or more continuous baselines, with no floating element deviations.  In these designs every part of every work is attached to every other part, at one or more points.
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The last one has additional embellishment in long-armed cross stitch, and the final one includes two edge borders, each done as their own “line” separate from the main motif.

By contrast, here are several that have those “floating elements” called out.

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The knot element in the all-over at left is not attached to the main pomegranate frame.  It is however just large enough manage thread-end-hiding.  So while its presence makes this a tedious and difficult pattern for double-sided double running stitch, it is not a deal breaker.  However those little accent diamonds are deal breakers.  Too small to hide the ends, and detached from the main design.   The ladder element in the arms of the repeat at right is broken from the main design, and is too small for end-camouflage.

There are often short lines or sneaky little floating accents hidden in both simple and more complex repeats.  Strawberry pips are notorious for this, although I haven’t any stitched examples to hand:

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My dragonbeast, however lovely, has quite a few floating elements, making him a problematic choice for a fully double-sided work. (Eyes and faces are almost always difficult).

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And this bit, stitched from a Lipperheide book, is the absolute poster child for discontinuity.  I didn’t mark them all, but you get the idea.  The spaniel and possibly that center bundle thing are the only bits large enough in which to bury the ends, if a fully two-sided result is desired.

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Here’s a tricky one.  Look closely at the bit on the left.

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It looks continuous, but it’s not.  There are in fact FOUR separate double-running baselines, AND a discontinuous element in the motif.  He’s in the red circle on the right.  Like the round knot in the first example this might be done double sided, provided that the stitcher was willing to terminate separate ends for that relatively large floating element.

So in short – it doesn’t matter how complex a design is, so long as all elements are continuous it CAN be stitched fully double sided, in double running stitch.

FRACTURED SYMMETRY and TEMPLE OF BEAUTY

Today I brag not about my own products, but about those of the Resident Male.

Friends and family who know Fernando know that he has been writing for as long as I have known him.  His first letters to me were filled with tales of his own devising.  Over the years he’s continued, writing short stories, novellas, and longer works. 

I have had the joy of being his Audience of One – he reads them to me as they develop, and I hear his voice on every page.

Now you can read them, too.

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In his own words, from the book’s blurb:

Blair MacAlister is an expert at Judo, a credible AI hacker, and a certified pilot of craft atmospheric and interstellar. Her favorite weapon is sarcasm, or failing that, her ever-present blaster. Her boss is Terendurr the Black Stone: technical wizard, expert in the ethnography of myriad races, fancier of rare foods and wines, and even rarer fractalites. An Entharion Quadromorph, exiled from his homeworld and under constant threat of assassination, he is also somewhat irritable.
Together they investigate mysteries based on science, in a setting that brings them into contact with all the main races of Civspace: The mysterious Junn, the affable but biologically intense Raylics, the chaotic and powerful Oro-Ka, the commercial minded Keret, and the cynical Phair. At the center of their cases are transformative genetic therapies, unlikely fossils, the linked neurology of symbiotes, and more.

I am biased of course, but Fractured Symmetry is a strong collection of short stories and novellas about the same investigative team; mysteries that turn on both points of science, and insight into individuals and cultures.  It’s got action, adventure, aliens both threatening and endearing, devious antagonists, and a kick-ass heroine.  Plus a goodly dash of sarcasm and wit. 

It’s available from Amazon for download for Kindle readers on all devices (including KindleUnlimited); and in hard-copy paperback.

He’s also got another collection of short stories on Amazon, also available for Kindle readers and on KindleUnlimited:

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The Temple of Beauty is a bit more of an eclectic story collection. Its stories are retro-inspired, and include both SF and fantasy, ranging across a wide variety of tones and subjects.  More aliens, stealthy killers, high camp wandering heroes, and the clash of class and ideals.  Some played for ironic amusement, some less flippant. 

So, if you are planning an Icelandic style book-Christmas, looking for something to entertain and amuse, or planning a mobile book-hoard to get you through holiday travel and visits, please consider adding these.  I guarantee you’ll have a great ride, even if it isn’t on a giant saber-toothed rabbit.

CORDAGE FILET AND FINISHES

Over the holiday weekend, I found myself between projects, with a yen to play.  The summer adventure in yarn-bombing was the first time I’d touched crochet in years, and left me hungry for more, so I decided to try something off-beat.

I had a large cone of a rather industrial heavy cotton cordage.  It’s about worsted weight equivalent in thickness, but is much, much denser than regular cottons of that weight offered up for hand-knitting.  I got it at the old Classic Elite mill end store, when it was still co-located with the mill itself, before it moved into a location a few doors down from the mill, and long before it migrated down from Lowell.  I’ve used this yarn to model various lace knitting problems, relying on its size and durability to help me figure out the problem section before I tried the same bit in the fragile lace yarn being used for my main project.  But I’ve always wondered what else could be done with the stuff, so I decided to experiment. 

My first thought was a market bag, done in filet.  So I picked out a simple 35 unit square from Dupeyron’s Le Filet Ancien au Point de Reprise VI, itself an on-line offering in the Antique Pattern Library’s filet crochet section.  It quickly became apparent that my gauge with a 3mm hook for this yarn wasn’t square.  I didn’t like the look of it for this style with a larger hook (filet should have a strong contrast between the solid and meshy areas), so I kept going, in spite of the skew.  In a fit of serendipity, while my finished proportions were way off for a bag, and I doubted I would have enough yarn for an effective throw, what I ended up with was perfect for a placemat (mug shown for scale).

Placemat-1

This crocheted up quickly, in one weekend.  I plan on doing as many more as my cone of string will allow.  A set of four for sure, probably six, and remotely possible – eight or four plus runner.  Oh.  With the wealth of 35×35 squares in the book above, each mat will be a different design.  Mostly mythical beasts.  Possibly some other motifs if I tire of those.

And I also have several finishes to report.  The most important is to finally post the baby blanket knit for new niece Everly, born to Jordan and Paul (the Resident Male’s brother) last week.  I had finished it some weeks ago, but I hesitated to post pix lest I spoil the surprise.  Yes, I did end off the ends and wash it prior to sending.  🙂

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A home-grown pattern, based on the Frankie Brown 10-stitch garter spiral concept, and an original edging previously posted here.  It’s knit in Bernat Handcrafter cotton (pink and cotton were special requests), a washable worsted weight yarn.

The other finishes include two pairs of socks.  Younger Daughter’s Bee Socks, plus a pair of “briefcase project” socks of my own. Pix of those when they are out of the wash, having already been integrated into our wardrobes. 

There’s also this scarf for me.  This one is based on Sybil R’s Little Rectangles pattern.  I changed the proportions of the blocks a bit to better suit the very short color segments of the Madelinetosh variegated merino fingering.  Note that the original called for two skeins of yarn (about 780 yards/722 meters), but my variant (about 5 inches x 80 inches/12.7 cm x 203 cm) used every scrap of just one skein, making it a spectacular but economical gift item.  Gauge is about 9 stitches = 1 inch; each little block is about 1” x .75 inch. 

Apologies for the blurry photo.  Artificial lights at dawn aren’t my forte.  The second detail shot is not color-true, but shows the garter construction a bit better.

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