EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 12

We continue, this week’s offering is rest and relaxation again after the last band.  Think of the fabled treasures sought in so many books, movies, and series:  the sparkling gems, items of destiny, and priceless bric-a-brac.  You don’t need to be a dragon to have your own hoard.  Just stitch this up.

Time Factor 1 – it’s very simple.  The only big challenge here would be all those ends if you succumb to my temptation to do this in multicolor In plan monochrome it would make fabulous trim, and would be even more special if worked in several jewel tones.

134 stitches wide x 8 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip.  If worked as a stand-alone continuous band, one full repeat in 28 units. However, if you want to work just one unit of graduated stones, starting and ending on either side with one complete smallest gem element, the count would be 32 units.

Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 13 debuted on the Facebook Enablers group today, and be echoed here on 26 April 2022.

#epicfandomSAL

EXPLORING A BLACKWORK SHORTCUT

Back from my first in-person SCA event in a long time. I went to “Aisles of March” – what can be best described as a historical-recreation-item “craft fair” for those unfamiliar with the organization. It was a group-specific gathering at which dozens of merchants displayed wares, selling everything from whole garments of historical design and cut; to accessories, jewelry, jewelry findings/stones; the components to make clothing (including hand-dyed yarns and yardage); armor; wooden and metal table implements and specialty crafting tools (embroidery frames, weaving looms and the like); camping implements (open hearth cooking tripods and accessories); research and how-to books; and even spices and fragrances. There was also a certain amount of ceremony including SCA royal presence, and awards given out for mastery of specific arts, or for service to the organization and its constituent groups.

But I wasn’t there to attend court, or to shop. I was there to help The Apprentice and household sell their products – brilliantly hued hand-dyed silk and wool threads and yardage prepared with researched, historical recipes; bead jewelry reproductions of various eras (Viking age, late Roman Empire, Venetian), and sturdy linen by the yard. Some of this is also available on Etsy. Obvious affiliation disclosure – The apprentice is the proprietor of that Etsy shop.

While I was helping out I also had an opportunity to sell a few copies of The Second Carolingian Modelbook in person. And that gave me a chance to chat with folk interested in counted embroidery, and blackwork in specific. One thing several people mentioned was the difficulty of drafting out the freehand patterns for inhabited blackwork – the Elizabethan style characterized by heavy outlines filled in with counted or freehand stitched fills, usually in black but occasionally embellished with metal threads.

I understand that challenge. My ancient underskirt was an exercise in freehand pencil drawing, modeling flowers and foliage after group of historical artifacts including a cushion cover repurposed from a dress in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, Accession 1955.1221; and a panel from an embroidered sleeve held by the National Museum of Scotland, Accession A.1929.152 (other fragments of the same work exist in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other institutions). Not everyone has the patience or confidence to do that kind of freehand drawing.

So, I set to thinking about what pre-drawn resources might be available.

Spoonflower and other print-to-order textile/wallpaper houses offer designers the chance to get their patterns printed on a variety of media, and sold by the yard. I had ordered wallpaper from them a while back.

There are thousands of prints in Spoonflower’s active catalog – among them several adapted from Elizabethan embroidery. Note that these are NOT my offerings, I have nothing posted there. I just went browsing among their current listings and picked two that were likely candidates – the ones with the most historically representative designs at offered at the largest scale. Then I went to the fabric choice area and picked two different fabrics, both possible choices for counted or surface work, and ordered two eight-inch swatches. This is what I received:

The design on the left is shown in several reference books, and is one I included a thumbnail of in my very first hand-drawn booklet on blackwork, issued in 1978. It’s vaguely similar to one in Trevelyon’s Miscelleny, but as soon as I find my now-packed-away booklet, I’ll insert the specific source. The one on the right is a simplified and very recognizable version of a standard Elizabethan scrolling floral design, of the type rendered in blackwork or polychrome stitching, often with metal thread embellishments.

I requested my sample of the one on the left (the darker one) be printed on what Spoonflower sells under the name Cypress Cotton Canvas. The one on the right was printed on their Belgian Linen. Here are zooms, with a penny for ease of thread count calculation:

Note that the cotton canvas (left) isn’t really countable, but it has a dense weave structure that might be amenable to surface work. However I am not a textile history expert, and I don’t know if fabric of that structure, even if it were not cotton would be appropriate to the period of the design. The linen however is plain tabby weave. By counting threads occluded by the penny I get 17 horizontal threads x 21 vertical threads. Factoring in the penny’s standard width of 0.75 inch, we can compute a thread count of approximately 21 x 26 threads, but I can’t tell which is warp and which is weft due to the lack of selvedges. Skew but easily counted and stitched.

BUT

My first reaction to both of these samples is that the motifs on them are quite small in scale for easy stitching. Even on the uncountable canvas, I would have preferred that design be imaged about a quarter to third again bigger to make it easier to work. This is also very true for the scrolling flower design printed on linen. It might do for non-counted polychrome treatment with a very simple stitch used for the stem; or for speckled freehand blackwork, again simple outlines and a scattered stitch, shaded infilling. But for fancy counted, geometric, diapered fills, there just isn’t enough real estate inside most of the flower and leaf motif segments to make such stitching worthwhile.

The next step of course is hands-on. It won’t be any time soon (I have a massive to-do queue), but I do intend to secure the edges, launder, iron and give both a try anyway, to see how the fabrics and printing perform. If the stitching goes well I might finish them out into small sweet bags. Or not. This is just an idle experiment.

Again, I am not endorsing or promoting the source, the products, or the designers who offer their patterns at the source. I paid full price for my swatches. But I am trying to help out those who are looking for some sort of assistance in starting their own blackwork projects. While these items are not exactly optimal, they or similar pieces might be learning tools that could jumpstart creativity, and help someone reach towards a previously unattainable goal of making something visually period-appropriate. And that in turn might help them advance towards less “factory-modern” ways of getting there.

Stay tuned. Eventually I will cycle back to this experiment, do the wash test, and play with these some more.

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 11

On to one of our heavily themed strips – WHERE NO STITCHER HAS GONE BEFORE.

I know you’ve been waiting for this one. Our voyage continues. To seek out new worlds, new civ… Well, to possibly to try new techniques and have fun along the way.

This is another chance to attempt voiding – filing in the background for dramatic effect (in this case, The Final Frontier). I suggest long-armed cross stitch, plain old cross stitch, but you can see in the examples that one of the more open fills also works nicely. The stars really pop against any of the backgrounds. But even without voiding the piece presents well, so if you prefer not to do it, don’t feel pressured.

Time Factor 4 for height and complexity. Time Factor 5 if you choose to work the background, too.  Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches.  Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches

134 stitches wide x 26 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip.  If worked as a continuous band, one full repeat in 93 units.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 12 will debut on the Facebook Enablers group on 29 March, and be echoed here on 4 April 2022.

#epicfandomSAL

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 10

Time for one of the “in-betweeners” – the simpler bands that alternate with the more complex, themed ones. This one is entitled PORTAL TO NOWHERE

Yes, I know this was supposed to be a plain and boring strip. It started out as a simple geometric with some interlaced bits to make it interesting.  After I finished drawing, I noted the vague echo of a Portal Cube in its center motif.  Subconscious channeling from other dimensions?  Probably just coincidence.  Yes, that’s right.  Coincidence.

Time Factor 2 for height and the overlapping flanges on the motifs (Without those layered bits I’d consider this a Time Factor 1.)  Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches

134 stitches wide x 18 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip. If worked as a continuous band, one full repeat in 12 units.

SamplesFabric UsedStitchThread Consumption/
Notes
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 plyAbout 1 yard
each of black and red
18 count AidaBack stitch, 1 plyVariegated floss
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 ply
28 count evenweaveDouble running,
2 plies
About 1.75 yards
of light red,
remnants of
light green
Top to bottom: Renditions by Beta Testers Heather, Danielle, and Callie plus Kim

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 11 debuted on the Facebook Enablers group today and will be echoed here on 15 March 2022.

AMENDS

Modern Assisi work vs. historical voided work. I know that the counted thread stitching community lumps them together, but they are not exactly the same thing. What I call “modern Assisi” is the 19th century revival of voided stitching, that draws heavily on Italian folk and church embroidery styles, which in turn trace their roots back to Renaissance era voided pieces. And that late 19th century revival was again echoed in the 20th century, with the collection and republication of many patterns, and issue of new books on the subject.

Yes, both Assisi and earlier styles include prominent outlines usually done in double running or back stitch. And both feature largely unstitched foregrounds (sometimes with additional ornamentation) that contrast strongly with a stitched background.

One of the key defining characteristics of modern Assisi is the use of cross stitch for the background. That’s “plain old cross stitch (POCS)” – not long-armed cross stitch. The Renaissance era voided styles use many different ground stitches and approaches, but so far after looking at hundreds of extant examples, I haven’t seen any in POCS.

Which is why I got very excited when I stumbled across this piece. Now before you get excited too, I did NOT find the unicorn of POCS in pre 1650-era voided work.


“End of a Tablecloth” 15th-16th century. Italian, Sicilian or Spanish. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession 08.48.132

I made the mistake of idly browsing on my phone with its tiny screen, and jumping the gun I posted about the piece before I got back to my laptop and high resolution monitor. Obviously, once I was able to zoom in I corrected my mistake, but I did look like an idiot.

So to atone for my egregious lack of judgement, I charted the design in question, and make the chart available as a broadside, for your own personal, non-commercial use. Please do not republish my redaction or include it in other pattern collections.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A PDF BROADSIDE OF THE CHART.

Some notes on this piece.

My redaction is not true to any one repeat of the design. Instead I averaged all of them, evening out replication errors as best I could, to arrive at a single, uniform representation of the motifs. All design elements are there, in correct proportion and placement to each other, but there will be small deviations between the chart above and any one of the artifact’s pattern iterations.

The background is not worked in POCS. It was worked squared and unlike every other example of the squared filling on historical works I’ve seen, the stitches were pulled very tightly, bundling the ground cloth’s threads together. Meshy techniques for grounds were very popular in the 1600s and 1700s, but every other example I’ve seen has completely covered the bundled threads with stitching, making a very hard-wearing totally overstitched square mesh ground. In this case the ground cloth’s weave does show through.

The squared filling was worked up to but not touching the outlines of the foreground motifs. A one-unit “halo” was left around them. I’ve tried to represent that on my chart. There was considerable “fudging” in the way the filling was carried into the nooks and crannies of the foreground design. I’ve chosen the least acrobatic of them to include in the chart. Note that there are a couple of deviation points where a diagonal stitch was used to carry the ground thread up into a narrow area of the design.

Colors. Your guess is as good as mine. The outlines and the ground fill are clearly two different colors. If I had to guess, I would probably opt for black for the outlines and madder red for the fill. But other color combos do exist – not every historical piece was done in black and red.

The outlines – double running or back stitch? It’s impossible to tell from just looking at the front. I do note however that the spots on the leopards are all connected to the outline. There are none just floating in space, which makes the piece easier to execute in double running than a piece with discontinuous bits. The only minor challenge in this one if worked in double running would be that little hunting dog. It’s a small area not connected to any of the rest of the design.

And finally, the complementing edging. Note that the squared background is terminated with little “fingers” that slant up and to the right on the top of the strip, and down and to the left at the bottom. I tried to get the whole repeat on the chart, but I ran out of room. For absolute fidelity, work the bottom fingers exactly as tall as the ones on top. Don’t truncate as I was forced to do.

The moral of the story? Check, double check, and do so on the highest resolution display device you have to hand. Never let your excitement run away with you.

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 9

Bug eyed monsters waving ray guns in their tentacles!  Mid-century era finned spaceships!  Coming and going! Run!  Hide!  It’s an invasion, for sure and cheesy peril abounds.  Or capture them for all time, frozen in your stitching.  I recommend the latter. It’s far more relaxing to sit and embroider than it is to bolt away in terror.

Time Factor 2 – not particularly complex nor wide as the featured odd number strips go, but there is one small tricky bit.  Note that the rockets flip and are symmetrical.  BUT the little monsters mirror, alternating orientations where they are firing ray guns to the left or right.    

134 stitches wide x 16 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip. If worked as a continuous band, one full repeat in 23 units.

SamplesFabric UsedStitchThread Consumption/
Notes
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 ply
18 count AidaBack stitch, 1 ply
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 plyAbout 2 yards
28 count evenweaveDouble running,
2 plies
About 1 yard of red,
1 yard of green,
.75 yard of blue,
remnants of yellow
Top to bottom: Renditions by Beta Testers Heather, Danielle, and Callie plus Kim

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 10 debuts on the Facebook Enablers group on Tuesday, 15 February and will be echoed here on 1 March 2022. Happy zapping until then!

LOOKING BACK

Two bits of nostalgia and a rant today, but no fine needlework, just some knitting. Apologies for the disappointment.

First a bit of fun nostalgia, and a reminder that family heirlooms needn’t be pricey bits of bling. As I was putting my new backgammon board away I found my chess set. It’s an unusual one, but not by any stretch of the imagination, precious. Except to me.

My grandfather Mack gave me the set around my 9th or 10th birthday. He had a jobbing print company back when you needed presses, engravers, and actual lead-set type. The company printed magazines including New York’s Social Spectator; pamphlets, brochures and catalogs; small private run books, luxe bespoken stationary, and even precision hand-engraved items like stock certificates. This chess set was part of a late 1950s/early 1960s catalog of some sort, but I have no record of what company it might have been made for. The board/box in which it came was damaged during the photo shoot, so he was able to keep it.

The set itself is housed in a very ordinary storage case/playing board. The damage is to one of the two velvet lined nests into which the pieces fit, but it’s not fatal. The figurines look to be inspired by fancy hand-carved antique ivory sets, but I believe they are some sort of plastic, each with a little “Made in Japan” sticker underneath. Still they are nicely designed with a netsuke-derived look. Especially the pawns, which come in two flavors – four bearing conch shells and four bearing scrolls.

Now my grandfather didn’t play chess – not to my knowledge at least, but I did. My dad had taught me the rudiments a few years earlier, and I read up on some beginner strategy. I never got good although I have retained a peripheral interest, even hanging out with the chess team in high school (they teased me by saying I was seventh board of a five man team). Younger Offspring is a far better player than I ever was, proving it by beating me soundly three times in a row many years ago, in spite of playing as a 14-year old hospital in-patient with a ruptured appendix, high fever, and under sedation.

I have designated this set as “an heirloom of our house” and in some ways, it’s fitting it’s only plastic.

——————————–

Now on to the rant, plus some wistful but non-visual nostalgia.

I just finished yet another pair of heavy slouch socks – mindless knitting to occupy the fingers while The Resident Male and I campaign through the first computer game we’ve played in more than two decades. I can watch for Imminent Peril, monitor vital statistics, and consult on strategy and puzzle solving, but not while doing more complex attention-sink type handwork. So socks it is.

I admit I was seduced by a yarn that even under best conditions would be marginal. It’s a sport weight polyester/acrylic blend from Lion Brand, “Moroccan Nights.” I was weak; seduced by the colors. I knew it was a long-repeat variegated, and bought two balls of the same color number and dye lot. They looked identical with the same repeat section on the outside of each ball. But….

This yarn is the absolute worst knitting or crochet product I have used in a very long time. So bad I would swear that this yarn was spun from the devil’s own nose hairs.

Yes, these two socks came from two balls of the stuff with the same color number and dye lot number (Magic Carpet, color 514-307, dye lot 16561). I don’t mind a long variation, but the color jumps on these socks are largely NOT due to continuous change in the yarn itself. Instead they are due to multiple knots in each ball that united color discontinuous sections. Every major color transition you see here means that there are two more ends to darn in because the knots were too slippery to trust. One sock has three knot-induced extra end pairs to deal with, the other has four.

In addition to the poor quality control in skeining, the yarn itself is impossibly unruly. It has a severe overtwist which makes it rat-tail around itself. The structure is two very flossy, barely spun strands of acrylic plus one thin thread of mylar or other shiny polyester metallic, wound together to make a rag-style yarn. The flossy strands split and fray, fusing together in the overtwisted rat-tails, and make stitch formation a nightmare. Constant stopping to let the work spin out and ease the overtwist is required. Decreases and increases are wrestling matches because the needles catch on every microfilament.

Yes, I concede that using this yarn for socks was over-ambitious. Perhaps big needles and plain garter stitch or crochet would have been a better choice. But usage aside, the basic twisty, frizzy, fraying, fusing nature of Lion Brand Moroccan Nights makes it an unpleasant experience at any gauge.

Now for the wistful nostalgia.

For many years I ran the on line Yarn Review Collection at wiseNeedle, my former website. It started as a plain text document passed around the old pre-Internet KnitList mailing list, in the early days when email systems were just beginning to branch out and connect with each other. Eventually, with the copious help of The Resident Male, it transformed into a searchable on-line database.

The whole thing was volunteer run. I was the shepherd, confirming yarn detail (gauge, yardage, ball weight, proper spelling/manufacture), and combed retail catalogs entering data for new base entries as yarns were released for sale. Anyone who wanted to could contribute a review, and many did. We appreciated achieved gauge, some indication of what the yarn was used for, and any comments – good or bad – about the experience of using it. Stuff like “tons of knots in each ball”, “yardage seems very short,” “sheds dye on the hands and needles while working,” “falls to pieces in the wash,” were common comments. So were things like “fantastic for the tight detail on a traditional gansey,” and “wonderful stuff, soft, and a at great price.” I even computed a value score, calculating the cost per yard for each review that reported the retail price, so folk could compare relative value.

The Yarn Review Collection ran for 13 years. The wiseNeedle website never accepted direct advertising payments although I did have some general audience ads (tightly controlled) to defray expenses of running the thing. But I took no in kind gifts or monetary payments from anyone in the industry, and refused all planted information – supposed “reviews” furnished by retailers, wholesalers and makers. For the most part wiseNeedle broke even or ran a bit behind, and I floated it from my own pocket. UNTIL.

Ravelry.

When the Ravelry site broke big time, traffic at all independent knitting websites plummeted. People stopped contributing reviews to wiseNeedle, stopped asking/answering questions on its advice boards, and even traffic to its free patterns plummeted. Eventually I was the only person contributing reviews, and my own views represented 80% of my weekly traffic. The String-or-Nothing blog subsection was the only thing that had even minor residual visits. So I threw in the towel, killed wiseNeedle and ported String to a new stand-alone venue.

Why dredge all this up now?

I really wanted to post a review of Moroccan Nights. I added a comment to the Ravelry yarn page for it, but in doing so noted that actual comments about the yarn are not exactly up front and center. You can see data on it and pix of it, see how many people have stashed it, see how many projects people have worked from it, and see a combined satisfaction score of the projects (not the yarn itself); but the comments section is a second tier behind the data cover. What’s presented is superficially and inadvertently deceptive. A 3.9 star out of 5 review for this stuff? Not. Will anyone page through and see the actual feedback? Probably very few.

Moral of the story: If you ever want to use Ravelry’s yarn pages to find out more than simple data about a product, do hunt around for that comments link. Leave comments for yarns you have used if you feel that feedback would help others. And don’t rely on that star rating to indicate actual usability, quality or value of the yarn being discussed. It has nothing to do with the yarn, it’s all about those finished projects.

Am I going to reinitiate wiseNeedle and the yarn review collection? No. It’s too time, money, and materials intensive. There’s no way anyone can catch up with Ravelry, which is now a social and industry juggernaut in its own right. The halcyon days of the non-monetized Internet are over, and I refuse to accept subsidies. By doing so I compromise my principles by becoming a paid influencer.

Nostalgic and a bit exercised? Yes. Today I am. Maybe I need to go and knit something to calm down.

PRESENT TENSE, BUT RELAXED

I have been a very lucky recipient this year, with several fun things to share here.

First was a holiday present from The Resident Male. Noting our stellar lack of success growing a kitchen garden outdoors; our constant consumption rate for of parseley, thyme, dill, cilantro, and other herbs; and the fact that our house has a rather dark interior, he gave me an indoor, self-illuminated hydroponic garden. Which being terminally nerdy, I promptly named “Keiko” after the Star Trek xenobotanist and long suffering wife of Chief Miles O’Brien.

As you can see, Keiko is nearly foolproof. This is a photo of growth at three weeks. Dill is the tall boi. Basil is in the right hand rear grow pod, with Thai basil in front of it. I will report back when we begin to harvest. But so far, so good…

Far less technological but of equal and long lasting delight was a surprise present from Sytske, my Long Distance Needlework Pal (of Antique Pattern Library fame), who lives in The Netherlands. The mail carrier trotted up to my door with the box and rang the bell because it was an International Delivery and he didn’t want to just leave it on the steps. He’s a sweetie who goes above and beyond.

Sytske and I had an email pen pal chat a while ago about an inlaid backgammon board I had bought in Jerusalem while I was in Israel on a summer-long archaeology program between high school and college. She said she had a collection of various items of similar style. We also discussed old needlework tools, and a zillion other things. I was totally surprised at the goodie box I received. And overwhelmingly grateful as well.

First, there was a splendid backgammon board. The one I bought in the summer of 1974 is the smaller of the two. It was the least expensive in the shop, and even so being on a student budget, I bargained for it for the better part of week.

The larger, more ornate and resplendent one is from Sytske. Both are obviously of the same regional and iconic style, very common and extremely popular throughout the whole Middle East region.

The workmanship on Sytske’s board is far more elaborate, with finer inlaid decorations on every surface. Even top edges inside the box and the pieces are embellished. Mine is heavier and thicker, with fewer colors and less detail, and my pieces are plain olive wood rounds.

Now for holiday gatherings, should the yen to play strike us, we can run two games at once. And I think I’ll take some good furniture oil to mine. It’s looking a bit dry and upstaged by the new magnificence.

Wrapped inside the game was a mystery bundle. I unwrapped it carefully and found an entire collection of antique needlework tools!

First there were several bone crochet hooks, three long enough for Tunisian crochet. The tiny hook at the end, even though it’s extremely fine (think crocheting hand-sewing thread fine), I do believe is for crochet and not tambour embroidery because its point is quit rounded.

In addition to hooks, I now have a collection of small needlework assist tools. From the top, a laying tool that by its graduated thickness might also do double duty for enlarging lacing holes or forming thread circles to over-crochet; another smaller laying tool; one with a hole in the end that might have had a secondary use as a bodkin to assist in passing a drawstring cord through its casing; and two laying tools/sewing awls with metal points. Below the measuring tape are two other items – a flat “needle” that could also be used as a bodkin for a round or flat tape, but that is going to become my naalbinding needle; and a sweet little bone needle case, probably from the late 1920s/1930s. It’s the only item I can date, and I do so by its Art Deco shape and proportions. It still has a couple of well worn long plain sewing needles in it.

I’m not done yet. There is more! This is a collection of handles that were probably for tambour embroidery needles (aka aari) or for thread crochet hooks. These are truly impressive because (at least here in the US) they are rather uncommon. A couple of the metal ones may be silver, but they are too small for hallmarks or stamps.

The ones above the measuring tape all have little screw-on ends, hiding a storage compartment where the hooks or needles would have been kept. The top one – the white agate also has a screw-on stone finial protecting the attachment’s “business end”. The ones below the measuring tape do not have a storage compartment. The tiny clamp keys on all of them except the red agate one are still functional and turn easily. I need to fetch out my modern tambour hook set and see if I can use the points in any of these.

One other observation – a couple of these antique implements may in fact be ivory and not bone. There is a marked difference in weight and texture in some of them. For example, the dotted tambour holder, the most ornate of the crochet hooks, the largest laying tool and the laying tool with the hole in the end are all much heavier and finer textured by comparison than other items of similar size. If they are ivory, they would be subject to restrictions in sale without firm documentation proving their age. Which is for me at least a moot consideration, since I do not plan on parting with any of these.

Color me gobsmacked. And grateful. Thank you again Sytske! I am totally thrilled to take on duties as curator of this awesome collection!

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 8

To continue our slither through North American winter I present Band 8 – Snakes! And They’re Plain!
OK. So, this one is a bit more creepy-crawly than it is classic-blackwork-floral-ordinary. My excuse is that I drew it in the run-up to the 2019 Halloween season, adapting it from a design in Ensamplario Atlantio II, one of my free books of blackwork fills and borders. Plus, we should only ignore those who adore campy horror movies at our own peril.

Time Factor 1 for height and the ultra-simple straight repeat. Our scaly friends are all identical, with the second row flipped and travelling the opposite direction. Feel free to work all the right-bound crawlies in one pass, and then all the left bound ones, or hop back and forth as you please. Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer. There are no rules or must-do approaches here. One of the beta testers used beads for the eyes – a charming enhancement.

134 stitches wide x 16 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip. If worked as a continuous band, one full repeat in 23 units.

SamplesFabric UsedStitchThread Consumption/
Notes
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 ply
18 count AidaBack stitch, 1 ply
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 plyAbout 2 yards
Plus 20 beads
(See below)
28 count evenweaveDouble running,
2 plies
About 1.5 yards
each of light red
and light green,
about 0.75 yards
of light blue and yellow each
Top to bottom: Renditions by Beta Testers Heather, Danielle, and Callie plus Kim

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 9 debuted on the Facebook Enablers group today, and will invade here on or about 1 February 2022. I’m betting you’ll be long finished with Snakes before then.



DETOUR INTO KNITTING – FIREFLIES IN THE WINTER

It’s true I haven’t knit in a while. But I did do nine pairs of socks for the holidays this year, some of which are shown below. And while I was at it, I dropped hints to Younger Offspring, who was enthused by the thought of a new pullover.

I first knit this classic Penny Straker unisex design decades ago. It was probably the third sweater I made and was a present for one of my sisters. This is the cover photo from the original leaflet. Note the armhole depth (we’ll get back to that later).

It was the early 1980s – long before blogging, so I don’t have pictures or notes detailing my first attempt, but it was a happy success. I’m pretty sure I used Germantown worsted, in a deep burgundy and a lighter, coordinating plum. I do remember that it was super thick and stiff because of the Eye of Partridge stitch uses a lot of slip stitches, making a double-thick fabric. In fact that stitch often used as a self-reinforcing treatment for sock heels, to make them both cushier and more wear-resistant.

My sister’s sweater ended up being a great outdoor activity wearable – perfect for someone engaged in winter exercise like cross country skiing, and too warm for indoor wear. But as we were flipping through some possibilities it was the one that caught Younger Offspring’s eye. So I downloaded a copy of the revised pattern from the Straker website (it’s now offered in an extended size range) and off we went to Webs, making a small detour out in western Massachusetts on the official Deposit-Child-Back-At-Home-Away-From-Home trip to Troy, New York.

At Webs I found a candidate yarn that came in the desired black and screaming chartreuse colors – Euro Baby Babe 100. It’s a butter-soft acrylic/polyamide (nylon) blend, and at 356 yards for 100g, a great value.

But it’s not a true worsted. It’s a DK. That means that instead of the standard 5 stitches per inch (spi) in stockinette, it works better at 5.5 spi in stockinette.

Complications ensue.

Although the pattern is clearly written for a heavier yarn, but I took a risk and bought the Babe anyway. I swatched until I found a needle combo and gauge that I liked. In this case, 6 spi/8 rows per inch (rpi) on US #7s (4.5mm) in Eye of Partridge instead of the pattern’s specified 5 spi/7 rpi on US #8s (5mm).

I’ve done the math for Younger Offspring’s chosen size (a swim-in-it oversize fit), and have cast on the revised number of stitches, plus two more – I always add selvedge stitches for easy seaming. I will work my new number until I am close to the specified length for the below-arm torso, then I will figure out the raglan shaping, taking notes so I can match the row count on the sleeves. I know that these Straker patterns were all written with very tight armholes by modern standards. It was the style back then. So there is room for me to err on the up side. If I need a few more rows to accommodate the raglan shaping than the original used, that will be ok. The armhole will end up a smidge larger, and that won’t be bad at all.

So to finish this already over-long, stitching-free post, here’s three evening’s worth of progress on the back. The drape is fluid, and the yarn is super soft and luxurious, uncommon in an acrylic. The color contrast reminds me of fireflies on a dark night. With luck this one should knit up quickly into a bundle of fun.

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