MUDDLING THROUGH MIDWINTER
It’s doldrums here at String Central. Younger Daughter is back to university. Others are back to work. I fill my time with nosing around for grant and proposal contract assignments, and my various projects.
First, my sanity project – the doodled decoration on the pre-finished napkins I bought on sale from Wayfair, using the cotton four-ply embroidery floss I picked up when we visited Sajou in Paris (stitching with three plies). I can show a modicum of progress. I’m just picking out random designs from my books and doing them rather informally, with a different design along a single edge of each of eight napkins. The first of my mismatched set is complete. The second in process.
The linen is soft and once washed, a bit mushy. That makes count work a bit more troublesome than it otherwise would be, especially on so coarse a ground. But it’s still rather quick work. The first napkin with the interlace took three evenings (about half shown). The in process photo shows only one evening’s worth of work.
On to knitting. I finished a pair of socks, packed up and sent to the recipient before I remembered to take a photo. They were my “briefcase project” – the thing I always have with me to work on while I wait on telephone hold, on line at the post office, or for appointments. Since I ALWAYS have a pair on the needles, the next pair is already cast on and sitting it its bag, itself waiting for me to be waiting. This pair however is special. Younger Daughter picked out this yarn with the proviso that I knit something for myself with it. I comply.
And my project of long suffering guilt. I promised these Octopus Mittens to my niece late last winter. It was inadvertently destroyed, then was re-started with new yarn, and is now sitting next to my project chair, chiding me that it is being neglected. I plead laziness, lack of inspiration, and frustration with stranding using two strands of DK, knit at sock yarn gauge for warmth.
I MUST finish these. I promised.
How do you flog yourself back into working on a sidelined project? All suggestions gratefully accepted.
Oh, And if you know of anyone looking for a project manager/writer/editor specializing in high tech grants and proposals – send them my way, please.
ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS
Some of each to report.
First, goodbye, this year’s crop of giant grass:
I cut it down with our hand-sickle. Younger Daughter is stripping leaves from the longest stalks. Elder Daughter and she bagged the remains for yard waste recycling, setting aside the best canes for use in next year’s bean trellis. Resident Male took a heavy maul and split the clumps, which after two years unsupervised, were threatening a massive campaign of lawn-conquest. So goodbye grass! Hello, next year’s beans!
Second, Swirly is finished!
I like the way the mitering worked, even on the very narrow green strips. I also used a sawtooth with a ten-row repeat, so I was able to easily fit it around corners, letting the natural splits between the teeth accommodate the direction change. Swirly now goes to Elder Daughter, to replace the last blanket I knit for her, back when she was born.
Third, I can’t just sit. Especially when I am thinking or listening. I have to have something going. So, as a think piece, to keep my fingers occupied, and because I haven’t knit a pair of socks for me in so long my own sock drawer is looking more like a darn-me convention, I finished a quick pair for me.
This was done in Plymouth Happy Choices – a yarn that comes pre-knitted into a long scarf strip, then dyed. The idea is to unravel the thing and re-knit it. Depending on what you make the resulting pattern will be different, and always a surprise. These are standard 72-stitch toe-ups on US #00 needles, with figure-8 toes and short-rowed heels. I started at the same place in the color cycle repeat for both, but you can see that slight variations in dyeing produce fraternal instead of identical twins. I happen to love it, but others may be more fastidious. And yes – there’s a simple double YO diamond detail on the ankles, just for fun.
And another beginning – this time a stitching project.
I begin my Trifles sampler. This is a promised/bespoken piece. I made a sampler for Elder Daughter for her to take with her to her university dorm room. It bore a motto, as a subtle bit of parental nagging, embedded in a loving-hands-from-home wrapper:
Younger daughter is now in 11th grade, and wants one, too.
Hers will have a different motto, chosen just for her: “Pay attention even to trifles,” – one of Musashi’s nine precepts. She’s also asked that it bear at least one Dalek.
Here is the materials set – the remainder of the 30-count linen I used for her sister’s, plus a pile of autumn colors chosen from the stash of silk floss I bought in India:
In addition to Amy Schilling’s Dalek (chart at link above), I am using several alphabets from Ramzi’s collection of vintage Sajou and Alexandre leaflets, available at his Free Easy Cross and Pattern Maker website – a fantastic resource that should be better known. You’ll note that for once I’ve actually laid out the motto ahead of time, rather than trust to luck and eyeballing. This is because Younger Daughter is a creature of logic and symmetry. I accommodate her preferences with a bit more precision than I usually use.
More on this project as it develops. This time I’ll try to document what goes into my rather ad-hoc pattern selection decisions, and any tech tips I can.
Fall is after all, a time of endings and beginnings, and my favorite time of year.
WOOLWORKS AND ANN KRECKEL’S “JANE’S BABY BOOTIES”
As folks here know, I adore this little pattern. It’s not mine, but I’ve knit at least sixty pairs for friends and family. Ann Kreckel posted it to the Ancient KnitList mailing list in 1995 (in its pre-Yahoo academic server days). It is Ann’s redaction of an older pattern passed down to her from her mother. There’s also a similar pattern that appeared a couple of years later in Threads Magazine (before they abandoned handwork), sent in from a lady then in her 90s, who said she learned it as a girl. I’m still looking for the ultimate source of both her and Ann’s mother’s pattern, probably in a women’s magazine or knitting booklet published before 1920.
In any case, for the longest time, this pattern has been available in the archives of the KnitList, and later on the now apparently defunct Woolworks.org website. Most of Woolworks’ content can be found here on the Internet Archive, via the Wayback Machine, a nifty tool for exhuming dead websites.
Ann’s pattern for Jane’s Baby Booties is here at this link, in full.
Here is my mini tutorial on knitting her pattern.
Here is my hat pattern to match her booties (PDF).
Woolworks disappearance is a shame, especially in that it appears to have happened without comment. Woolworks, compiled and maintained by EmilyWay, was one of the first comprehensive knitting sites on the ‘Net, and Emily should be one of the Internet knitting community’s patron saints.
In any case, having tried but failed to find Ann herself, I’ve shared the link above, but am loathe to repost her pattern verbatim. It’s hers, and I respect her copyright. If you know Ann, please match-make the two of us together, because I’d like to host the full text of her excellent design here.
…More like month-of-Saturdays, actually.
Here’s the outfit that accompanies the hat I showed off in my last post:
You can’t see the watch-type pendant and magnifying glass hanging from the chains at her waist.
The blouse and vest were flea market finds, along with the buttons and broken necklace chains that adorn it. We made the skirt and petticoat, the hat and the woven ribbon bag. The hat is a cut down New Year’s Eve party top hat, plus feathers and other adornments. The belt is an 80s-era retread from my closet, and the gear necklace and earrings were holiday presents this year past.
Here’s a close-up of the skirt trim. It’s a wide strip of brown ribbon, edged with black ribbon, folded and ironed into points:
I don’t remember where I first read about doing the points – possibly in an ancient Threads magazine, before they abandoned fine handwork, possibly in a Victorian era ladies magazine or millinery guide. The ribbon folding isn’t quite ruching, since no gathers are stitched, and it isn’t pleating, because the folds are not perpendicular to the ribbon. I used it once before, to make teeth on a dinosaur costume, when Elder Daughter was a toddler.
Wherever this trick came from was, it’s a very useful technique for producing custom, flexible trim that eases nicely around corners. I did mine in inexpensive double sided satin ribbon. A two-tone ribbon with different colors on each side would make points of alternating colors. Here’s how:
Fold a triangle, tucking the leading edge underneath. Then do an inverse triangle. Finally, flip the inverse triangle up so that it lies on top of the completed one.
You can see that if you wanted to make rick-rack instead of a row of upward pointing triangles, that second fold step would be done so that the “good side” landed on top, and the third step would be omitted.
Here’s the same process in actual ribbon, with firm steam pressing on the silk setting in between manipulations:
and the final product, ready to be pinned and sewn in place. Note the flexibility that can accommodate both inner and outer curves:
Younger daughter wore this to the Waltham Watch City Steampunk Festival, at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation. After planning and accumulating the bits for the better part of the year, she was thrilled to do so, and had a great time.
We’re quite busy these days at String Central. I continue to work on the long green sampler. Here’s the latest strip, photographed in early dawn light. This pattern is also in TNCM2, albeit without the gridded voiding. The little complementing border was stolen from a different TNCM2 pair.
TNCM2 as a whole also progresses. And to top it off, Younger Daughter and I are hard at work on an outfit for her to wear to the Waltham Watch City Festival steampunk gala.
Long time readers here may remember that last year at this time, Younger Daughter spent quite a bit of April and May in Children’s Hospital, in the throes of an argument with her burst appendix. She had wanted to attend the festival last year, and was very disappointed to have missed it. As a distraction, we planned out the outfit she would have liked to have worn. Being on the young side, what we designed for her was more steampunk than steamy-punk (no exterior corsets, hip high hemlines, or fishnet stockings). As incentive for cooperation with often uncomfortable hospital requests, I promised to make said outfit.
Now a year later, she’s totally better and my promise has been called in. We’re about halfway through the venture. A blouse/waist has been obtained (an antique barn bargain retread). We’re just finishing up a camel wool walking skirt, and will be trimming it next week with black and brown point folded ribbon. She’ll be decorating a brown suede bolero with copious brass buttons, plus a watch, a compass and a magnifying glass. The bolero and buttons were also flea market finds. Pix of all of these as they near completion. But I can present her hat:
She started with an costume top hat, and excised about 2 inches of height. She covered the surgical scar with a brown ribbon, complete with a bow and streamers in the back; then added feathers and gears.
GREENS BOTH DARK AND LIVID
Laying down the double running outlines for the latest strip, with the intent of going back and filling in the Montenegrin cross stitch spines along them in a second pass:
I’ll probably do the long straight runs first, while waiting for the Montenegrin stitch book to arrive. I don’t particularly like the way I handled the bent spines and am hoping that Autopsy of the Montenegrin Stitch will help.
In other news, I spent the weekend knitting a hat. An outrageous black earflap cap, encrusted with a lime green crest. Bespoken, of course:
I started with Interweave Knits Army Girl Earflap cap – unisex despite its name (available in the IKE 7 Free Knitted Hats booklet). I added a bit more height just above the forehead, before the crown decreases because the recipient is a tall guy with a slightly longer head than average. I’m using Brown Sheep Lambs’ Pride Bulky. If you want to make this hat as published, one skein of it is more than enough for the whole thing. My green crest adds about half of a second skein, in that screaming color.
I’ve got some more of the ruff to add, then I have to snip it back, barbering it from floppy/sloppy to a uniform and threatening length. But all is on schedule for a hat-ETA of later this week.
Folk who know me either through String or in person know that I’m generally not prone to enthusiastic gushing. Passionate ranting, perhaps, but prancing around in delight is not part of my idiom.
I’ve been pacing the floors since my last big embroidery project ended, keeping busy by knitting small things:
Two pairs of socks and a pair of Fingerless Whatevers. Socks are headed to Elder Daughter, whose pitiful pleas will now be gratified.
But finally, my Needle Needs Millennium Frame has arrived, all the way from the UK:
I’ve wanted to get a new flat frame for quite a while. My old one having been bought in the early ’70s, using babysitting money when I was still in high school. Frame technology has advanced. I was very impressed by the review of the thing over at Needle ‘n Thread. Her pix are better than I could manage, and I agree with her observations wholeheartedly. The frame is well made, and works exactly as presented. It’s easy to load with the work (minimal frame dressing), easy to adjust, and a delight to use. All in all a quantum leap over my old one.
The only problem is one faced by all round frame enthusiasts when they “move up” to a flat frame. It’s large. You need three or four hands to use it. One or two to hold the frame, and two to stitch. But I’ve faced this problem before. Behold my ancient Grip-It frame, bought about 20 years ago when I started working on my Forever Coif:
It holds my Millennium nicely in its omnivorous grasp. Just barely, though. I will take the three bolts that make up the fastening mechanism of the jaws to the hardware store this weekend, and look for some that are a bit longer.
And if having this miracle of modern needlework support infrastructure wasn’t enough to hyperventilate about, I have more to celebrate!
If you’re familiar with 16th and 17th century embroidery – the long red pattern strips that probably bordered domestic linens – you’ve seen that odd mesh background. Some museums call it “Punto di Milano”. Others call it “Point Lace” “Punto Quadro” or “Tela Tirata.”
This is the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s artifact “Strip.” Accession number 79.1.81.c
Stitch attributions range all over, in part because there are several ways that a mesh background can be achieved (withdrawn thread; withdrawn thread to make a grid, then darning; pulled thread, etc.) Some books specify that these patterns used Italian Two-Sided Cross Stitch, others say Four-Sided Stitch in addition (or instead) of using an Italian stitch/style name. At this point, I’ll agree with them all because all are feasible. But after long experimentation I’ve finally found a method that’s achievable.
I played with several pulled thread stitches before coming up with this:
It’s the same pattern as the museum piece. I’m working the mesh in two passes. The first is an easy to count pass of double sided cross stitch, worked double and pulled very tightly. The second is a pass in which the bars formed between the cross stitch are whipped four times (two times on edges butting up on un-mesh areas). It’s totally two-sided, identical front and back. While not exactly speedy, using the initial pass to establish the counted pattern is easy, and the fill-in whipping to create the mesh is far less think-intensive than working the same pattern in hard-to-see-the-count long-armed cross stitch. Is this Punto di Milano or Tela Tirata? I am not sure. But it’s darn close!
Requisites for production:
- Flat frame on a stand. You need two hands to do this.
- Relatively loosely woven ground cloth. Most modern even weaves are too dense. This nice, airy piece of linen was provided by StitchPal Pam (Hi, Pam!), who found it too gauzy for her needs. But it’s perfect for mine.
- High thread count ground. Although the weave density on this is good, it’s a bit coarse for this work. To achieve the compression that leaves nice big holes, stitches need to span 3-4 (or more) threads. I’m using 40 count here, stitching over 4 threads. 60 count would be MUCH better, although I’d have to find finer silk thread. I’ll have to investigate this on a future project.
- Silk thread. Cotton isn’t strong enough for all the pulling. Linen would have the strength, but it would be thicker, filling the holes more (and it was also done in linen historically, for white on white stitching).
- Slightly blunted slender needle with a small eye. This is only one strand of silk floss, and you need to spread rather than pierce the ground cloth threads. Still, a total tapestry blunt is too rounded for this delicate work.
CROWDSOURCE #1 AND SOCK DISAPPEARANCE
Back from vacation! A week of Cape Cod sun, sand, salt water and doing as little as possible except enjoying those things.
This year my mom came with us and we had a great time. We spent most of our time on the sands right at our hotel, sitting, swimming, kayaking, even watching Provincetown fireworks from our room’s deck. We did our now traditional beach paella, salmon teriyaki on the grill, and flank steak kabobs. I am rested but could be easily persuaded to do a wash-rinse-repeat of the whole week’s experience. Seven days is not enough.
Arriving back home, I checked gMail to see if anyone had volunteered a graphed pattern for the crowdsource project. Lo and behold! There was one:
I present Design #1 – Twerp’s StarBee. The first design in the series. Red lines indicate straight lines “off the grid” or not at 180/90/45-degree angles. I like this cheeky little fellow. A nice one, Twerp!
If you want to draw up one of your own to be posted here, please feel free to download the JPG at the project’s kickoff page, then draw on it by hand or using any graphics program. You can email the resulting file, a photo or a scan of your design to me at kbsalazar (at) gmail (dot) com. Let me know whether or not you want your name or a link posted with your offering. I do reserve the right to do light editorial selection (this is a family-rated website).
Now, what progress have I made on my own stitching?
Some, mostly prior to our departure. I concentrated on two pairs of socks while we were on the beach.
I knit a pair of guy socks, with a simple broken rib ankle and k1p1 ribbing to finish. There is only one in this picture. The other is now at parts unknown. At best guess, I dropped it at dusk on the beach and didn’t notice that it was gone. Either seagulls or the sea made off with it. Somewhere there is either a lobster or a tern sporting a new brown habitat. And I need to get another ball of the same yarn and knit a third to make a pair. (Grrrr.) The other pair has a lacy pattern in the ankle. More on that another day.
And here’s the latest strip on my sampler:
To which I will return once the socks are done.
One last note – to date (using the click-through count of the fourth part) – over 1,000 people have downloaded the complete Ensamplario Atlantio since I posted it two weeks ago. If you are looking for it, it’s here. It’s a PDF file – you need a recent version Acrobat Reader to open it. You can get Reader for free, for both Mac and Windows. Although I’ve gotten some thank-you posts and a couple of questions from people unfamiliar with Acrobat, I’ve had very little other feedback, and only one bug report – of fonts not displaying properly on an iPad II running the latest version of Safari. I’m looking into that problem and may repost the files later this week.
BABY HAT TO MATCH ANN KRECKEL’S BABY BOOTIES
UPDATE: THIS PATTERN IS NOW AVAILABLE IN AN EASY-TO-PRINT PDF FORMAT, AT THE KNITTING PATTERNS LINK, ABOVE.
Yes, it’s been dark here longer than usual at String. My life has not been my own, with raging work-related deadlines consuming every inch of me. But in spite of those, I had a special commission from The Resident Male. He asked me to do some baby knitting for a workpal of his, whose wife is expecting. So I whipped out my needles and made up a pair of standard booties, from the Ann Kreckel pattern I favor, and improvised a matching hat. I’ve posted about the booties many times before, including an illustrated tutorial.
My matching hat is a simple beanie shape knit in the round, with three welts around the bottom edge to match the three welts that run around the sides of the stay-on bootie. I know that many other people enjoy making these booties, so I share the matching hat pattern here.
Baby Beanie to Match Jane’s Stay-On Booties
50g fingering weight or sock yarn
1.5 mm (US #000) double pointed knitting needles (can be worked on 1 or two circs if preferred)
4 or 5 stitch markers
Tapestry needle for darning in ends
9 stitches = 1 inch on 1.5mm needles
Measured across the opening, unstretched = approx. 7 inches
For the record, my hat is on the small side and should fit a petite newborn. I haven’t tried it yet, but using a 1.75mm (US #00) or a 2mm (US #0) at a slightly less extreme gauge should produce a hat for a larger newborn and 3 month size, respectively. If you want to work this at a standard gauge of 7 stitches per inch but end up with the same size hat as I made, cast on 100 stitches, and place your markers every 20 stitches. Follow the instructions as written EXCEPT that instead of following the (K23, K2tog), (K22, K2tog) or (K21,K2tog) directions instead ALWAYS knit until two stitches remain before your marker, then knit those two stitches together. I had plenty of yarn left over from my hat and booties from my one 50 gram skein of sock yarn, you shouldn’t run out even if you knit a larger hat or a hat at a less extreme gauge.
Using a very stretchy cast on (I used half-hitch) cast on 120 stitches and divide among your needles. If you are using one or more circs, mark the beginning of the row with a stitch marker for convenience.
Knit 12 rounds. Purl 4 rounds. Knit 4 rounds. Purl 4 rounds. At the end of this, counting the self-rolling bit of stockinette around the hat’s edge, you should have the appearance of three welts at the hat’s bottom edge.
Continue knitting until the hat measures 2.5 inches from the bottom. (Measure this with the curling edge curled. Don’t flatten it out.) On the next row knit 24 stitches, place a marker, then repeat. If you’re using DPNs, you’ll have 4 markers in your work, with the division point for the last one being the break between needles that aligns with the dangly cast-on end. If you’re using circs, you’ll have five markers in your work.
On the next round, (knit 23, K2tog). Do this five times total to complete out the round. Each decrease will occur JUST BEFORE a marker. Knit 4 rounds.
On the next round (knit 22, K2tog). Do this five times total to complete out the round. Knit 3 rounds.
On the next round (knit 21, K2tog). Do this five times total to complete out the round. Again each decrease will occur just before a marker. Knit 2 rounds.
On the next round knit to two stitches before the marker, then knit 2 tog. Do this five times total to complete out the round. Knit 1 round.
From here on in every round is the same – Knit until two stitches before a marker, knit those two stitches together. Repeat to complete out the round. Keep doing this until only five stitches remain on your needles. When only five stitches remain, work them I-Cord style for five rounds, then end off. Darn in both ends.
(SOFT) BOOK OF AGES
Obviously I bored most of the reading audience here totally to tears with the last post. How about something simpler today?
Quite a while ago I tried my hand at submitting patterns to print and on-line magazines. I quickly found out that it’s impossible to arrange creativity on a schedule, and that because my career is 100% hard-stop deadline driven, adding deadlines to my hobbies sucked all the fun out of them faster than teenage vampires exsanguinate each other. Be that as it may, I had limited success – some of my designs were published. See Saw Socks in an early edition of KnitNet, a pattern that helped launch the popularity of self-striping yarns:
I had some pieces published by Classic Elite, a few of which remain in their print collections, and one small item – also published by KnitNet – that I thought had disappeared entirely.
But nothing in my house disappears forever. It might become entombed in a box somewhere, but forgotten in this case is not the same as gone. I was doing some spring cleaning and de-cluttering this weekend and found the soft book baby toy that I knit long before the arrival of Younger Daughter (now in middle school).
This piece does not photograph well, and for my limited camera skills poses an additional challenge. It was knit in a long strip, with “pages” each framed by garter stitch. There are three of them, each with a different motif:
After the strip was knit, it was folded accordion style, and the tops and bottoms of each page were seamed together. Finally the leftmost edge of the front page and the rightmost edge of the last were sewn up to make the spine (I’d left the garter stitch edging on those two ends longer to compensate for the bulk of the book).
I used Bernat Handicrafter cotton at about 5 stitches per inch. The pages are each approximately 5 inches square. The two number-bearing squares each sport bobbles, one on the 1 page, two on the 2 page. The whiskers on the cat face are solidly knotted bits of the same yarn. The idea being that nothing on the book should come loose if it was mauled by the target recipient.
I had plans to offer up a whole bunch of additional simple graphed motifs in concert with the knit sample, but KnitNet was only interested in the original six. I have no idea if anyone else ever made this, but the original book was well loved (and chewed) by Younger Daughter when she was in the toy-ingestion phase. As you can see, the Handicrafter held up well, surviving lots of hot washes, although the yellow triangle and pink 2 pages both are no where near as vibrant as they once were.