More from the 2014 Schola talk on historical counted thread embroidery.
Continuing from yesterday’s post, here are the next ten images from my Schola talk on historical counted thread embroidery, originally given in 2014.
Roughly four years ago I was invited to give a talk on historical styles of counted embroidery at an embroidery Schola (day of lectures and workshops), held under the auspices of a regional group of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
I put together some talking points and visuals and gave the chat. I think the audience was a bit overwhelmed, though because I didn’t get many questions or much feedback.
Today I was going through some old files and came upon my talk’s slide deck. I share it here now. Note that some things have come to light since I spoke in 2014. Most obvious among that is the reclassification of several patterns by the holding institutions, moving them from uncertain provenance or continental/southern European 16th/17th century provenance to their proper place in Morocco. I’ve written about this group before, but they are represented in the talk, in their “before” incarnation.
In any case, here are the images from my talk. It’s long (no one ever accused me of being concise when it comes to discourse on my fave subject). Therefore, I’ll break the thing up into roughly six parts over the coming days.
I continue to produce samples for the Chanterelle pattern. This one is in a narrow self-striper – the kind of sock yarn that when knit up, makes socks with stripes of two or at most three rounds.
And for reference, what the ball looked like before it was consumed:
This scarf is another oddity. It has the same gauge and width as all of the others. The Steinback Aktiv Effekt yarn is marked as being 421 meters (460 yards) – comparable to the others.
I was only able to knit up nine full trumpet sections, plus the beginning and end section. I did have a bit of yarn left over, but only enough for about a third of a trumpet. So based on what I’ve seen so far, here’s the scarf length to yardage result. As you can see, it doesn’t quite make sense.
Number of Full Trumpet Segments and Length
Narrow stripes with one faux Fair Isle inclusion
|Schoeller + Stahl
Fortissima Colori Socka Color
Combo of narrow red and white stripes with one medium length blue/white stripe
Opal 4 fach
Half medium, half narrow stripes. One faux Fair Isle inclusion
|Gradient with two independently shading plies||459 yards
|Gradient with two independently shading plies||459 yards
The saving grace of the pattern is that the trumpet segment and the final section are identical until one is half-way through the trumpet sequence. At that point the knitter can look at the remaining yarn and decide on whether or not to risk finishing out the last trumpet and then going on to the final segment (which would require about 36 yards remaining), or punting and just finishing off the segment at hand according to the instructions for the final section.
I didn’t expect this. I’ve finished the Chanterelle knit from the Schoeller and Stahl’s Fortisimma Socka Color, # 1776, “Stars and Stripes.” In the ball it looked like it would present as medium width stripes, narrower than the ones in the ocean-wave blue sample scarf, but not particularly special in any way. In my standard socks, I would guess that each stripe would be about three or four rounds, with the blue areas about four or five rounds.
In the directional world of this pattern, look what happened!
In a serendipity I seldom achieve, the directionality of the Chanterelle pattern, coupled with the narrow width sections make a flags-in-the breeze effect. And see that little butterfly at the right, containing about 18 inches of yarn? That’s ALL I had left. A squeaker, for sure.
Although I can’t bring myself to sport this, I have the perfect family to give this to – friends with a son in international competitions. It will be the perfect thing for them to wear as they cheer him on.
Now on to yet another. My goal is to show off a wide variety of self-stripers and variegateds, so folks can gauge what their own yarn might look like. Digging down into the stash, I come up with another Nancy-Gift Yarn (it was a very generous gift). This is Steinbach Wolle Aktiv Effect sock yarn, and as you can see from the 100g skein promises to have narrow stripes – probably manifesting as only two rounds each in a standard sock.
As always, you can find the Chanterelle pattern for free at the Knitting Patterns tab at the top of this page.
And in other news, because there can always be other news, I’ve been asked to do a quickie set of fingerless mittens, from the leftover screaming yellow shawl yarn. I’ll be casting on for that over the weekend.
Well, this pattern has wound my curiosity up around itself. The basic design of the Chanterelle scarf is quite simple, but it can look quite different depending on the yarn chosen. I have written it for any 100g ball of fingering/sock weight yarn, and finding out what the various yarns end up looking like when knit up – that’s turning out to be tons of fun.
So let’s start.
So far I’ve used two different Schoppel Zauberball Crazy colors: the autumn/purples mix of the original, plus a lilac/cream/navy mix. The pix below the scarves are photos of the SAME color numbers of Zauberball as the ones I knit from. There is considerable variation between balls of the stuff, but you can get an idea of how the original yarn looked, none the less.
The ends look different because for some reason although the balls were marked with identical yardage, the one on the left was significantly shorter, and yielded only ten trumpet sections, while the shades-of-purple one yielded 11. Go figure… In any case, it’s nice that regardless of how many full sections are knit, the ends still complement the piece.
Here’s the third try. This one is a stash-aged Opal yarn, whose label with its color number has long since gone the way of all things.
You can see that the color runs are pretty wide, and unlike the happy chaos of Zauberball Crazy, the repeat is very predictable. Variation happens because the yardage required to produce one trumpet isn’t in synch with that of the yarn’s printed repeat, so the colors wander up and down the trumpet motifs, and the faux Fair Isle spot manifests differently each time it pops up, shaped mostly by the width of the section where it appears.
I’m now trying for Chanterelle #4. This one is from another stash-aged yarn – another ball that was a gift from the generous Nancys. It’s Schoeller and Stahl’s Fortisimma Socka Color, # 1776 – a red, white, and blue mix. This one looks to have small to medium width stripes.
We’ll see how these stripes manifest. I’ve obviously not gotten this out of my system yet, so I’m sure I’ll be doing some more Chanterelles. Luckily they are a quick and mindless knit, and can be done while watching subtitled movies and shows on TV.
If you want to do up a Chanterelle and would like me to post it, you can find the free pattern under the Scarves section of the Knitting Patterns tab at the top of this page. I’d be grateful for pix of the skein and pix of the finished product, as done above. That will help others decide whether or not this design would work for their beautiful but problematic yarns, too.
UPDATE: THE DOWNLOADABLE PDF PATTERN FOR CHANTERELLE HAS BEEN ADDED TO MY KNITTING PATTERNS PAGE, AT THE TAB ABOVE.
A bit more mindless knitting this week past. I have two balls of Zauberball Crazy, a wildly variegated (and expensive) fingering weight yarn. Both balls had minor damages to them, and I wanted to work them up quickly. But I didn’t want to make socks. This stuff’s colors are so over the top that I wanted to make something that would be seen. Scarves are ideal. I’ve done several before using Wingspan and its variants, or other designs calculated to display the gradients to their best effect. But I wanted to do something different. I cast on for a couple of designs I found on Ravelry, but wasn’t particularly pleased.
What to do….
Ah. Thinking back, my most popular pattern of all time is Kureopatora’s Snake. That was written for a DK weight variegated, and was the result of happy experiment. It’s basically Entrelac, but slimmed down to just the two edge triangles, and worked over a large number of stitches. The result is a graceful interlock of trumpet shapes, with the trumpet’s spread accentuated by working a purl into (not just slipping) the K2tog join stitch at the end of each partial row before the turn.
Why not make that one up in fingering weight, and publish the pattern adaptations that make it work?
So I present the first of the two test pieces. I’ll be starting the second tonight:
First off, I’ve renamed the thing. Now that it’s independent of the original yarn, I re-dub this one “Chanterelle.” Yes, there are ends (the initial cast-on, bind off, plus a couple of damages). A personal quirk – I don’t darn in the ends until I am ready to give my knit gift to the recipient. This will sit un-darned until then.
I will be writing up the full design again under the new name, but for now, start with the Kureopatora’s Snake pattern, available for free at the Knitting Patterns tab at the top of this page.
A FINGERING-WEIGHT VARIATION OF KUREOPATORA’S SNAKE
Grab your ball of fingering weight variegated yarn. ONE ball of Zauberball Crazy made this scarf, with only about 3 yards of yarn left over. It’s about 5 inches wide (a bit under 8 cm), and 66 inches long (a bit under 168 cm). Gauge is pretty much unimportant. I recommend a MUCH looser gauge than one would use for socks. I used a US #5 needle (3.5mm) for this project.
Follow the Kureopatora pattern as written for the initial section, but instead of stopping when you have 30 stitches on the needle, keep going until you have 46.
Work the entire scarf as-written, until you have completed ten full trumpet sections (not counting the partial trumpet done to initiate the project).
Follow the directions for the final finishing section, EXCEPT that instead of working the final section as normal until there are 15 stitches on each needle, keep going until you have 23 stitches on each needle. Then on every row that begins on the edge of the scarf after that, work a SSK instead of the increase you have been doing throughout the prior sections.
DO NOT STRETCH-BLOCK this piece. If you feel it’s lumpy, moisten it and pat it flat, but do not use wires or pins to stretch it out. You want to preserve those graceful curves.
And here’s another finish!
This was a super quick project, barely a week from cast-on to final block. Even though I still have a couple of ends to tuck in, I consider it done.
Younger Daughter bespoke this, having noted the popularity of screaming yellow this Fall season, and a similar trend towards heavier, highly textured knits.
This shoulder/mini shawl is done in machine washable Merino sport weight, from Gems. I used the May Day Shawl pattern by Zabeth Loisel-Weiner, available for free on Ravelry. It took about 2.3 skeins of the yellow. I consider it a very simple project – the instructions and charts were spot on, and very clear. Lots of “bang-for-the-buck” here in terms of visual complexity vs. effort invested. If you are looking for a first serious lacy knitting project, this is not a bad place to start.
That being said, I have to say I detest knitting bobbles and nupps. These are bobbles. I tamed them somewhat by knitting backwards – that is learning to work the back-again bit of each bobble working off of my right hand needle, so I didn’t have to flip the work over to purl back in the middle of each little bump. If you haven’t tried this yet, it’s well worth the learning curve investment for little back-and-forth scraps like bobbles and Entrelac.
A quick word on blocking if I may. Lacy knitting needs to be blocked to within an inch of its life – as tightly as you can. Here’s the before photo, and the mid-block photo:
If you count the 2×2-inch squares of the checked sheet I block on, you can see that pinned out (right), the thing is almost twice as big as it was before pinning (left).
How do I block? I admit I’m not the most precise or assiduous, but I do try, at least a bit to keep things neat and square. The black and white sheet, although an eye-popping Peter Max background is very helpful in estimating and meeting target measurements, and keeping 90-degree angles true. I bought it at a discount/close-out store years ago when shopping for inexpensive bedding for the girls to take to summer camp. I knew that if the sheets survived, they would be perfect for this use. (Plaids, Tattersall checks, and ginghams would also work).
I dampened the knitting, and spread my sheet over an area rug to provide anchorage for my pins. Then I threaded blocking wires across the top of the piece, slipping them into every edge “purl bump.” Then I inserted additional wires along the join line between the edging and the center triangle. I pinned the top wire down first, spreading the work along its length, then stretched the piece down the spine, pinning the pointed junction of the two side wires. Then I pinned the side wires out as far as I could manage, making sure to keep the angles (as measures vs. the checks) true. I had to jockey and adjust them a few times, but eventually I was satisfied. Then and only then did I place a single pin at each of the edging’s points. If I had started with the edging points, the center triangle would have been deformed. Using the wires keep the piece from developing internal “scallops” corresponding to the pins placed in the edging.
No lie – it is tedious. But it’s worth it.
Now on to other things.
I say goodbye to this tiny little embroidered scrap. It’s the finest gauge I ever worked – over 38 stitches per inch on 80-ish or so count muslin, using standard black sewing thread:
It started out as an experiment, to see if I could do a coif at that gauge. Soon after I got started it met with an accident, and was never finished. That was about 35 years ago, easily. Why goodbye? I’ve mailed it off to become part of A Larger Project. The East Kingdom doll project was on display at the 50th anniversary, and still lives. About the only thing people remember me for is that I embroidered, so I am sending this snippet to the curators/creators to be a prop for the doll that represents me. Maybe they’ll make a tiny flat frame for it. That would be sweet. Pix if I get some, I promise.
And finally, another start. I have two balls of precious multi-color yarn – rather pricey Schoppel Zauberball Crazy fingering weight. I adore just looking at them. But it was time to put at least one to good use. So I began casting around for something fun to do with the very long repeat. I’ve tried a lot of the popular projects that use Zauberball. And I didn’t feel like working on some of the others. But then I remembered that I HAD a design of my own. I did up Kureopatora’s Snake in that yarn – a DK weight variegated with a long repeat. It has always been the most popular original pattern on any of my websites. So why not try it with a smaller gauge yarn and explore the possibilities?
Here I am. Following the pattern as written, with three exceptions:
- Using the Zauberball Crazy fingering weight instead of the Noro Kureopatora DK.
- Using size 5 US (3.75mm) instead of 6 US (4.0mm) to make the thing more airy
- Working across 40 stitches instead of the 30 specified.
You can see that both the color progression and shaping are beginning to present themselves. I think that if I had a chance to rename this now established pattern, I’d call it Chanterelle, instead. More on this one as it grows…
The stitching on my Two Fish piece is now complete. The only things left to do are to iron out the pleats from mounting on the stretcher bars, and having it framed.
And a close-up:
For those who wanted something to better illustrate the scale of the stitching, here’s a standard US penny on the work:
For the record, the recipient is so pleased with the thing that we’ve decided to keep it here in the house, rather than consigning it to the beach place. Eventually, after framing, it will end up in our bedroom.
I continue to make slow progress on my Fish piece. Again, I plead the heat, the general malaise it creates, my unwillingness to sit under a hot halogen work light, and a reticence to stitch with sweaty fingers. But as you can see, I’m almost done with the center area gold water swirls. Just a few “echo lines” are left to add to the group below the head of Fish #1, then I will have to advance the scroll, to get the remaining bits at the top and bottom. (Swirly lines that currently go off the edges of my stitching area have been saved until the work area is realigned, even if they go over by just a little bit.) And of course, sign the thing with my initials and the date.
I do like the way the spirals of gold in the head spots turned out.
More answers to inbox questions:
Where did you get the gold and sequins?
The #5 imitation gold thread came from the Japanese Embroidery Center, in Atlanta Georgia. The 2mm gold tone pailettes came from General Bead, in San Francisco. Both were ordered off the ‘net sight-unseen.
How are you sewing down the gold?
Standard simple couching, of two strands held together, flat and parallel (not twisted around each other). I’m using one strand of gold-tone silk, heavily waxed, taking little stitches across the gold. The stitches get closer together as curves are formed, and further apart on the straight runs, but generally don’t exceed about 5mm (3/16ths of an inch) apart.
The no-hands frame is an absolute must for this type of work. I hold the gold and bend it into a curve to match the sketched lines with my left hand, then use the right to form the affixing stitches, taking care not to pull so tightly that I deform the line. After the length is stitched down and the end cut, leaving about 3/4 of an inch on the surface, I plunge them to the back. I do this with a heavy, antique needle threaded with a loop of strong carpet thread, and lasso the ends, pulling the loop gently around the waving ends, then quickly yank them to the back of the work. After I finish an area I bundle the plunged gold ends as neatly as I can, mostly trying to keep the resulting bits small and camouflaged as much as possible. Note that on shortest line segments care must be taken when plunging NOT to end up pulling out one or both of the stitched down gold strands. Much colorful language ensues when that happens…
How will you finish this piece off?
I really don’t know. I don’t want to do a fabric scroll or hanging style finish on this one. Although that would be congruent with the subject matter, I feel it would be too cliche, and take up too much space on the beach place wall where we intend to hang it. Instead I may opt for a spare non-matted/no glass modern frame. Possibly a near-invisible thin black one. But in any case, I suspect I’ll splurge and have this one done by pros instead of my usual dinking around above my competence.
Not sure. I still have a stitch-itch, although I have a couple of projects lined up to knit once fall weather kicks in. Possibly a return to my big green sampler, now that I have a reliable stand for it. Possibly a smaller something-else.