It’s been a busy couple of months, what with the release of The Second Carolingian Modelbook, the debut and continuance of my Epic Fandom Stitch-Along, plus various home improvement projects, and family celebrations.
We had a great time in Buffalo, at the cooperatively planned and executed three day extravaganza for my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. The whole family pitched in, with backyard gatherings under a big tent that included two cookouts and a football afternoon, with the game projected for all gathered to see, plus a gala luncheon at a riverside indoor/outdoor venue, at which a string quartet from the Buffalo Philharmonic played. My in-laws’ family is far flung and rarely has a chance to gather, so it was a grand reunion.
Here is the birthday celebrity with her kids, who are collectively taller, greyer, but no less intent on having fun than they were when they were small and underfoot. Left to right – Dan, Laura, Fernando, Carm, Paul, Susan, and Carolyn.
As an example of the attention to detail in planning and execution is this cookie, made by my sister-in-law Vicky’s daughter Jacqueline. These (in several shapes) were part of each of the luncheon place settings, themed to celebrate Carm’s passions and achievements. Mad skills there.
And now that the birthday present has been given, I can finally post about my Secret Knitting Project of the past two months. I made a dramatic scarf for Carm, in black mohair with sequins, knit from my Spring Lightning pattern, available in the scarves section of my knitting patterns page.
More updates in the days to come, including the great basement overhaul, the landscaping ventures, and a bit of “helping-hands” crochet – not to mention the fourth installment of the stitch-along (Tuesday next – I promise).
I present the third band of our Epic Fandom StitchAlong. It doesn’t matter if the pirates are from Never-Never Land, Penzance or the Caribbean – it’s always good to be a Pirate King. Or Queen. Or Monarch.
Here are our finished samples, courtesy of the flashing needles of our Beta Testers, Heather, Danielle and Callie, plus my own finish. Note that the band looks equally good stitched up just in outline or voided. Working that background is totally optional.
Full info on stitch count and thread consumption, plus descriptions of some voiding methods are provided on the StitchAlong page here (also reachable via the tab at the top of every page on String). I’m stacking all of the SAL info on that page, so scroll down to the newest info at the bottom.
Band 4 will be released on The Enablers group on Facebook on 12 October, and echoed here for posterity on 26 October. Happy stitching!
As promised, we proceed with the second band of the Epic Fandom Stitch Along.
Although the overall theme of this piece is fandom unification in a time when face to face interactions among those who celebrate the nerdier side of life can be difficult, every other band will be more traditional in style. I’ve drawn inspiration from historical pieces for the even-numbered pattern strips, but they are my originals, with no one specific source.
This week’s release is Tulips and Raspberries. Here are four finishes.
Above bits, top to bottom, stitched by beta testers Heather, Danielle, Callie and me.
Full info for the Stitch Along is at the SAL tab at the top of this page, or click here to hop direct. Scroll down to the big yellow BAND TWO subhead to find a downloadable PDF containing Tulips and Raspberries. Background info for the project as a whole can be found in the downloadable for BAND ONE
Feel free to post questions – I’d suggest doing it on the SAL page rather than here, so that any info helpful to future stitchers is easy to find. Feel free to send along progress pix or tag them with ##EpicFandomSAL on social media. With your permission (and proper credit), I’d love to post them in a gallery, so we can fulfill our mission goal of community celebration.
I am delighted to announce that The Second Carolingian Modelbook is finally out and available for purchase!
If you have been following along over the past decade you know that it has been long in the making, and you have seen many (but by no means all) of the patterns it contains here on String-or-Nothing as I play-tested them in my own projects.
To recap for those new to this site – T2CM is the sequel to my The New Carolingian Modelbook, which was published by a disreputable outfit back in the mid 1990s and is now out of print.
Like the first book, it is a treasury of charted designs for needleworkers and artisans. The 75 plates present over 250 individual borders, motifs, or all-over designs. These include both linear designs suitable for double running stitch, back stitch or other similar treatments; and block unit designs, suitable for long armed cross stitch, lacis/buratto, and other solid fill work of the time. Block unit patterns are also useful for modern interpretation using plain old cross stitch, filet crochet, tapestry crochet, or stranded colorwork knitting. There is good representation of designs appropriate for voided (reserva) work – both with and without accompanying linear outlines.
None of the designs in T2CM duplicate those of my earlier book. The majority of the contents are redactions of designs appearing in paintings and artifacts, done to the best veracity I could achieve given the imprecision of many of the originals. My charting methods are clear and easy to work from. All historical works are fully documented, and include the date of reference and inclusion (many of these pieces are subject of ongoing study, and their provenances/dates change as scholars reconsider them). Many are accompanied by discussions of pattern “families” or other observations on origin or use. All original “inspired by” designs are so noted. The book also contains hints on some historical stitching methods, a supplementary bibliography, and a ready reference chart to help users pinpoint the designs by place/time of origin and unit count. And I’ve kept my vow to release the thing in print as affordably as possible.
Now, who might be interested? Well, it’s rather a niche market, to be sure, but potential users include needleworkers interested in creating new works with firmly documented historical origins; stitchers, knitters, and crocheters who delight in the past but want to mine those aesthetics for contemporary use; and mosaic and marquetry specialists or other artisans who rely on graphed inspiration for their own designs.
Is this book suitable for beginners? To be sure, it’s not a how-to piece with clearly defined projects laid out in final form along with shopping lists for materials. But there is a range of patterns presented, from the small and simple to those of mind-bending complexity. I believe that a beginner who has needle, thread, countable fabric and motivation could use T2CM as fodder for self-paced learning, and produce stellar pieces along the way.
So please enjoy! Pass the word! And feel free to send along questions, or post pix of works done from T2CM’s pages. Nothing thrills me more than seeing what mischief the “pattern children” attempt while cavorting with the creative and inspired out in the wide, wide world!.
It’s here! Today is the release of the first band of the Epic Fandom Stitch-Along.
I’ve mentioned this before – it’s my original free band sampler celebrating multiple fandoms, offered up as a way for the nerdy at heart (and those who stitch for them) to come together. This isn’t a mystery stitch-along. You will be able to see what you’re getting into. I encourage experimentation with color and technique. and I will share as many examples of different approaches to the individual bands as I have on hand at time of release (with special thanks to our group of intrepid Beta Stitchers!).
We start off with a giant robot and Kaiju, which should delight fans of multiple Anime and Anime-derived Mecha animations/ live action movies/videos – pretty much everything from Transformers, Giant Robo and Voltron to Pacific Rim, and blissfully inclusive all the way through the spectrum from Gundam to Power Rangers.
Here are four finishes:
(Above bits, top to bottom, stitched by Danielle, Heather, Callie and me)
Full info for the Stitch Along is at the SAL tab at the top of this page, or click here to hop direct. Scroll down to the big yellow BAND ONE subhead to find a downloadable PDF containing Giant Robot and Kaiju, plus background info for the project as a whole.
Feel free to post questions – I’d suggest doing it on the SAL page rather than here, so any info that can help other stitchers will be in one central spot. And feel free to send progress pix or tag them with #EpicFandomSAL on social media. With your permission (and proper credit), I’d like to post them in a gallery, so we can all celebrate together.
Just because I’ve taken a departure from classic stitching and am issuing heretical blackwork patterns for spaceships, robots, and dinosaurs doesn’t mean I haven’t abandoned research. I am also inching The Second Carolingian Modelbook (T2CM) closer to the goal posts.
I continue to find multiple instances of design duplicates scattered across various museums. Here’s a trio. Clearly stitched from the same inspiring pattern. Whether it’s from an as yet unidentified modelbook or broadside sheet, an atelier’s cloth reference sample, or just copied among stitchers hand to hand is impossible to determine. However, this design will be included in T2CM so stitchers of the future can keep this historical “chain letter” going..
First, my own stab at the thing, as worked on my big blackwork sampler. I call it “Leafy-Bricks” for obvious reasons.
The first instance of Leafy-Bricks I stumbled across is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Accession #07.816. It’s a small fragment, but it’s the one on which I based my redaction. They tentatively identify it as likely to be Italian, but do not date it. This snippet was collected in the very late 1800s/first decade of the 1900s during the “Indiana Jones” era of embroidery and lace sample acquisition – the time in which monied families took a season touring Europe, vying with each other to bring back the most exquisite samples of whatever struck their fancy. These collections were eventually donated to major museums to form the backbone of their historical embroidery holdings. The time/place provenances furnished by dealers or middlemen and conveyed with these pieces upon donation are not necessarily to be trusted. Many museums are now revisiting these pieces to correct annotations that haven’t changed in 75+ years.
One interesting thing to note is that the count of the historical ground above is not as square as the count of my modern linen. The design is somewhat squashed left to right and elongated north-south compared to mine, although the unit counts are the same.
The second one is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession 09.50.55. Unlike many duplications among museums it’s not an instance of one original artifact having been cut apart for sale to multiple buyers. Not only is the center panel duplicated here, there are also subtle differences in the design, especially in the border. The Met only shows this in black and white and does not provide information on the color used. They date it to the 1600s, and attribute it to Italy.
And third, which I only stumbled upon today. This one appears to be a photo only recently released by the Victoria and Albert Museum, Accession 645-1896. Be still my heart, it shows the design on fragments that were pieced into a wearable apron, providing a use case beyond what can be known from a simple fragment. The V&A also notes that the apron was composed from previously stitched fragments. They label the assembled wearable as 1630-1660, Italian, but it’s unknown what life the embroidered strips had before that usage. Best of all, among their images is one that shows the back. Yup. Double running stitch. And yes, I know they see vases in the composition, but my mind is stuck on describing the center bits as bricks.
Note the stretch across the bottom, seamed together from two distinct fragments. And the butted corner formed by a third, although butted corner treatments are more commonly represented in survivals than are pieces with carefully planned mitered or otherwise customized corners. As far as the design’s manifestation on the apron, it’s very, very close to that on the MFA’s fragment. But it’s not identical. There are small differences in the veining pattern of the main repeat’s leaves which lead me to believe it’s a fragment of another original, and not a leftover from whatever item was repurposed into the apron.
If you’ve spotted other instances of Leafy-Bricks out in the wild or have seen it in a modelbook of the 1500s to 1600s, please let me know.
Oh. And if you are interested in obtaining a copy of The New Carolingian Modelbook (my first and now out of print book), I know it’s hard to find. I don’t have any to sell myself, but on rare occasion someone finds a copy and sends it to me. Just such a copy recently came into my hands. I have sent it on to a charitable auction to benefit the SCA Barony Concordia of the Snows, which recently lost all of its communally held equipment in a devastating fire. That auction will be held on 28 August at East Kingdom Coronation. I do not know if the auction will be web-accessible. If I find out I will update this post accordingly.
Well, having been encouraged and enabled by The Enablers group on Facebook, I’ve finally released the secret project I’ve been working on, and can now post my progress to date.
The Epic Fandom Blackwork Sampler is a very large piece, intended to be stitched by and/or for Epic Fans. It includes strips close to the hearts of many niche interest groups, and will please those who love giant robots, dinosaurs, Dr. Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, retrofuturism, classic bug-eyed monster invasion flicks, snakes, and much more. These theme bands alternate (more or less) with bands that are more traditional in composition, although everything in this project is original.
I have NOT made this a mystery stitch-along because it’s a bit more complex than most, and folk should know what they’re getting into before they commit time and resources. I’ve established a page here on String just for this stitch-along (SAL). Project components will be posted to The Enablers, and will be echoed here on time delay, at intervals over the coming year. Four weeks will be allotted for the larger, more complex strips, and two weeks for the narrower/less complex ones. I am also posting intro material on estimating fabric sizes and thread requirements, so folks can prepare. The first half of that information is on the SAL page, too as of today. More will join it tomorrow. The first pattern band (Giant Robots and Kaiju) will debut on 3 August on The Enablers, and on 18 august will appear on my SAL page, here on String-or-Nothing. The entire project will continue well into 2022.
Not only is this NOT a mystery stitch-along, I want to foster creativity, and am SO looking forward to what mischief can be accomplished based on this offering.
- There are panels that are designed to accommodate voiding – filling in the background behind the motifs, although those panels can stand alone and read well without it. The optional voiding can be done after the foreground stitching is complete, so no decisions to commit to it need be made when the stitcher starts a band with the voiding option. More info on voiding and the many ways to do it will be provided before those strips break.
- There’s no requirement to do the entire thing in a single color, even though monochrome is far more common in traditional blackwork than polychrome. Color choice and placement are entirely up to the individual stitcher. Some options include but are not limited to:
- Each strip in its own color
- Alternating colors between strips
- Using variegated (with back stitch) for one or more strips
- Picking out design features for color highlights (like I did below).
- Working one repeat of a multi-repeat in a contrasting color, so it stands out.
- There’s also a strip intended for customization, to allow signing, dedication, dates, a motto, or inclusion of optional motifs. A design worksheet with alphabets and measured areas will be provided when we get to that one.
- If side borders are desired, go for it, but I am not furnishing those (top and bottom borders would be more difficult to add because my composition isn’t a clean rectangle).
- And last of all, if someone wants to skip a particular panel, or wait until their favorite arrives and work only that one – that’s ok, too. But I won’t be releasing anything ahead of schedule or to special request. If you want a future band, you’ll have to wait breathlessly along with everyone else.
Here’s my own rendition of the thing, to date. This is just the first nine out of the total nineteen strips and some of those are partial. I went for polychrome because I rarely get a chance to do that. I’m using six colors, although you are seeing only five right now. There are light and dark shades of red, green, blue, and yellow. The light yellow will be used in the future for voiding and detail, but I haven’t stitched those parts in yet. You can also see partial voiding in the Pirates strip (#3). I will go back and finish that for the entire band, and eventually fill in the dice on the gaming band and add their pips, but I wanted to lay down as much of the rest of the piece as quickly as possible because I got a late start on it.
Depending on the reception of this piece, there may be follow-ons. So if your favorite fandom isn’t included, there’s always hope.
Oh, and if you are worried that you’ll make mistakes because it looks complicated – don’t worry. I have left mine in, including a quite massive one on the pirate strip. I bet that unless you hunt for it, you’d never notice.
Joining in? Please do. I so adore leading folk astray. 🙂
Many years ago, when Elder Offspring was small, Lotus Development (her dad’s employer) offered a spring break day camp for employees’ children. The Boston Globe covered the new benefit, and posted an article with photos of the camp’s day trip to the Boston Museum of Science.
She taped the page on her door, with big label in red crayon that read “I AM FAMIS!.”
I recently found that page, minus the sheet of notebook paper with the annotation.
Well, now I am FAMIS, too.
Brinda Gill interviewed me a while back for this article, posted today to the Selvedge Magazine’s blog.
I am very grateful to Brinda, but still parsing the feels about tooting my own horn.
Although I’ve mostly been stitching of late, and my old yarn review/knitters’ advice board/pattern website WiseNeedle that lasted for 13 years is but a distant memory, I have not given up knitting. I keep a sock project or two going at all times, and consult for my mom as her remote “knitting lady.” The patterns from WiseNeedle can all be found here, as can some of my advice, hints, and rants from the past, although the WiseNeedle question-answer board is gone. But of late I’ve seen quite a few complaints on knitting forums about yarn weights – confusion, botched projects, and misapprehension. I chime in and try to help.
First of all, the universal yarn weight system introduced by the Craft Yarn Council around 2004 continues to sow havoc. It’s misguided, untrustworthy, and has destroyed many knitters hopes and aspirations. To recap, this was the system that divided all yarns into numbered groups, initially 6, now expanded to 8:
The yarns within these groups are not instantly substitutable for each other because the definitions are overly broad. Here’s a breakdown:
|Group 0||Group 1||Group 2||Group 3||Group 4||Group 5||Group 6||Group 7|
Stitch to 4 inches
|33-40 sts||27-32 sts||23-26 sts||21-24 sts||16-20 sts||12-15 sts||6-11 sts||6 sts and fewer|
|8-12.75 mm||12.75 mm and larger|
|000-1||1-3||3-5||5-7||7-9||9-11||11-17||17 and larger|
to 4 inch
|32-42 double crochets||21-32 sts||16-20 sts||12-17 sts||11-14 sts||8-11 sts||5-9 sts||6 sts and fewer|
Hook in Metric
|Steel 1.6-1.4mm; |
Regular hook 2.25mm
|9-15 mm||15 mm and larger|
|Steel 6,7,8; Regular hook B-1||B-1|
|K-10 1⁄2 to|
|Q and larger|
To be fair, there are all sorts of caveats on this chart at the original site that include “Guidelines only,” “…always follow the gauge in your pattern,” and more. Even so, it’s wildly misleading.
The core of it (Groups 1-6) were created at the time that the industry thought that busy women had less time to knit and appreciated projects that finished up quickly. To compensate the “gauge creep” move was led by big craft yarn makers. Yarns that were formerly labeled Aran or Light Bulky were rebranded as Worsted, with the idea that fewer stitches per inch would make the projects zip along, This was especially evident among makers of mass market acrylics, and the heritage of that movement is seen in the groupings above. In fact it’s hard today to find a true worsted weight Worsted because most yarns labeled “Worsted” knit up to Aran gauge.
Now in a reversal because fiber of all types is getting more expensive, many makers are “slimming down” their yarns to keep project price points more attractive – less fiber = lower per skein price; and thinner yarns are now creeping into designations formerly reserved for heavier ones. This has resulted in a new round of confusion, once again long loved patterns no longer produce the same results as they did with yarn of prior years.
Regardless of yarn size fluctuations the basic flaw of this chart, however footnoted and expanded, remains. The yarn categories cover wide ranges of gauges, and are unsuitable as type descriptors or as guides for determining suitability for interchange.
Now. What is more useful?
Easy. The ancient Ply System.
Now note this as absolutely nothing to do with the actual number of plies a yarn contains. You can have a fat single, or a multi-ply extremely fine yarn. The ply system is based on comparison of the strand thickness of the yarn being described to a canonical batch of yarns that can be made by combining one or more strands of a mythical standard thickness yarn. That system has far more specificity to the standard gauges on yarn labels, and along with those gauges plus yarn fiber and loft (how airy or tightly twisted/dense the yarn is), is far more likely to result in good substitution choices. It also is a good guide for what happens when you double your yarn. In fact, the popular yarn weight “Double Knitting” (DK) refers to a yarn that is twice what used to be called “Knitting.” Knitting was the equivalent of today’s fingering or sock yarns. Two strands of fingering are still roughly the equivalent of today’s DK.
|Ply System Number||Traditional Name||Standard Knitting Gauge over Stockinette |
(4 inches/10 cm)
|Comments|| Typical Examples |
(off the top of my head)
|1||Cobweb||No consistent close knit gauge – used with variety of larger needles to maximize airy look.||Jamieson & Smith 1ply Cobweb|
|2||Lace||No consistent close knit gauge – used with variety of larger needles to maximize airy look.||Lopi Einband; Rowan Fine Lace; Jamieson & Smith 2ply Lace Weight|
|3||Light Fingering/Baby||32-36||“Baby” on the label is now near meaningless because in modern use it designates yarns in pastel colors and easy care fibers, regardless of gauge.||Brown Sheep Wildfoote; Peter Pan 3 Ply Baby; Red Heart Its a Wrap;|
|4||Fingering/Sock||28-32||Cascade Heritage Sock; Regia sock yarns; Opal sock yarns; Lang sock yarns|
|5||Gansey||26-28||Frangipani 5 Ply; Upton Guernsey Wool;|
|6||Sport||24-26||KnitPicks High Desert Sport; Herrschners 2 Ply; Lion Dotted Line|
|8||Double Knitting||22||Rowan Felted Tweed DK; Berroco Comfort DK; Wendy Supreme DK; |
Lion Ice Cream;
Herrshners Baby Yarn
|10||Worsted||20||Cascade 220; Plymouth Encore; Germantown Worsted; Plymouth Pima Rino; Sirdar Country Classic Worsted|
|12||Aran/Triple Knitting||18||KnitPicks Muse. Herrschners Worsted 8; Red Heart Roly Poly; Lion Crayola; Caron Simply Soft; Tahki Donegal Tweed|
|14||Bulky/||12-16||Plymouth Encore Chunky; Cascade 128; Lamb’s Pride Bulky; Lion Re-Tweed|
|16||Super Bulky||8-12||Malabrigo Rasta; Plymouth Encore Mega|
Now again – caveats on density, fiber choice, and construction. Some examples:
- When worked, a tightly plied and twisted yarn will have a different drape than a fat single ply yarn, even if the fiber composition is the same.
- A 90% wool/10% acrylic blend will have a different feel than a 10% wool/90% acrylic blend. For best equivalency try to match fiber composition/mix proportions.
- And a cotton yarn and a wool yarn of equal weight will behave differently – enough differently to generally not sub one for the other without taking the extra mass and lack of elasticity of the cotton when compared to wool of equivalent size.
- In a delightful bit of industry internal obfuscation the term “worsted” in addition to being a yarn weight category also is used to describe a style of spinning. But not everything that’s labeled Worsted conforms to that specification.
- Some yarns can be knit down or up in gauge. For example a lofty 100% wool Aran with a “native gauge” of 18 st = 4 inches/10cm might also be able to be knit at worsted gauge 20 stitches = 4 inches/10cm. The drape will be different but it may be satisfactory for some purposes. Note that NOT ALL YARN can be manipulated this way, and lumping many adjacent weights into broad and misleading groups is just asking for trouble.
To sum up, please people, look beyond the CYC Yarn Group designation. Look at gauge, fiber, and density. And take guidance from these older systems. They were created by people who knew their wool and fiber, and there still is a lot of wisdom in them.
Where have I been? What have I been up to?
Long time readers here know when posts go few and far between, I’m very busy. But what’s up?
Several things, in fact.
The basement rehab project continues, after a month delay to ensure all asbestos was properly removed. The team is now up to rebuilding the walls, and roughing in the fixtures for the half bath:
At left is what will be our pantry/storage alcove. Eventually the freezer now in the furnace room will go here, along with freestanding shelving. In the center is what will become a tiny but fully functional half-bath. And at right is the view down the length of what was the basement bonus room and my office and needlework library, but will become our TV room/exercise area. That heavy brick bit is the foundation for the two fireplaces above. It was awkwardly paneled in before, and the alcove next to it was one of those oh-so-common tacky 1960s-era home bars. I had repurposed the bar shelving as my library. Sadly the partially and strangely painted brick will be much easier to repaint than it would be to strip, so we’ll probably be doing that, but we won’t be enclosing it.
I find myself knitting less and stitching more lately, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up knitting entirely. I started a new pair of “briefcase socks” even though I am no longer going to work or carrying a briefcase. But they are handy to have to work on between other projects, and for relaxing on the beach when it’s too windy to haul out the stitching:
Standard toe-up construction but a bit less fine than my usual socks. This pair is only 80 stitches around on US 00s. I’m using a standard wool/nylon sock yarn using a set of 5 DPNs. The toe is the maligned figure-8 toe (fiddly but I prefer it) followed by a dead plain stockinette foot. I find a low-texture foot more comfortable in the shoe than one with patterning, so I don’t begin the fancy part until after the short-rowed heel is finished. Toe up works out fine for me because if I did that fancy ankle part first I’d never slog through the ultra-boring foot. All of my free sock patterns use this style of construction and are very easy to adapt to two-circs, but feel free to swap in any other toe you favor.
I’ve been working on T2CM – combing through and readying it for final pub. No ETA yet, but I’ve done a ton on it, removing both written and drafted typos, correcting bits to coincide with research developments, and the like.
And in stitching… Well… RUN FOR THE HILLS! IT’S COMING!!
It’s driving me nuts that I can’t do more than tease. But soon…
Back story: I fell in with a crowd of Enablers who egged me on to design a massive band sampler for a free communal stitch-along. It’s not a historical piece. not by a long shot. Instead it’s a celebration of fandoms and nerdy/geeky culture in general – done in an inclusive spirit, to unite many communities in our common joy. The project will premiere in the sponsoring Facebook group, and be echoed here on two-week delay. We’ll be posting advance info on suggested supplies by the end of June/beginning of July, and the component strips will be released periodically starting in early/mid August. And who knows. I couldn’t cover EVERY fandom in one project. If folk find fun in this project there may be crowd calls for inspiration to do follow-ons, so even if I’ve not included your particular darling in the first set, future stand-alone strips or even whole projects may happen, too.