Sunday, 17 August 2014

Seed stitch and Stocking stitch

Seed stitch is what I and other British knitters call moss stitch, but in this post I'll be quoting an American writer, so for the duration of the post, I'll refer to it as seed stitch.  (I'm not going to be consistent, though - I cannot bring myself to call stocking stitch 'stockinette', so I won't.)

Back in 2010, not long after I started knitting again, I came across a quote from The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt:  "Seed stitch is 30 percent shorter than Stockinette, and 18 percent wider."   As well as introducing me to that wonderful book, the quote was an amazing revelation.  I knew that rib is used for welts because it's stretchier than stocking stitch, but apart from that, it had never occurred to me that different stitch patterns behave differently - I thought that the choice of stitch pattern was all about what the resulting fabric looks like.  I knew that seed stitch is slow to knit, because of the constant switching from knit to purl, but I hadn't really understood that it's also because it takes more rows to the inch than stocking stitch.   (Yes, I know I should have.)

Since I came across her quote about seed stitch, I have read June Hemmons Hiatt 's book, and bought my own copy of the revised second edition.  And I have generally been much more aware of the characteristics of different stitch patterns.

Just recently, I have been thinking about various stitch patterns, and decided to do some experiments of my own.  I knitted swatches of different stitches, all using the same yarn, same number of stitches, same needles, same length of yarn.  Here are two of the swatches, in seed stitch and stocking stitch.
Seed stitch

Stocking stitch
I have pressed the stocking stitch swatch very lightly, just to stop it curling up a lot, but otherwise they are straight off the needles.  You can see from the ruler that both swatches are about 13 cm. wide.  So for me, seed stitch is not wider than stocking stitch, although it is definitely shorter. The stocking stitch swatch is about 30 rows to 10 cm., whereas seed stitch is taking about 38.  (That's near enough 30% extra.)

It's easy to understand why seed stitch takes more rows per cm. than stocking stitch - the vertical lines of stitches (wales) are kind of concertinaed, producing a thicker fabric.  I can't really see why it should be wider (but then as it isn't, for me, I'm not well placed to understand it).   So I don't know why there is such a discrepancy between my swatches and the account in Principles of Knitting.    Perhaps different knitting methods affect the width (i.e. yarn in right hand v. yarn in left hand, picking v. throwing, or whatever you want to call them).  Or perhaps it's just that different people knit differently.  It's intriguing.

I knit with the yarn in my right hand, the throwing method (aka English style).  If any reader knits seed stitch that is wider than stocking stitch, please tell me what knitting method you use - I'd love to know.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

For Instructing Children in Knitting

I can't recall ever seeing a mention of knitting in a church before - certainly not carved in stone.  But there is one in Abbey Dore church in Herefordshire.  In the church there is a stone slab inscribed with "A list of the Benefactions left to poor House keepers in this Parish to be annually paid out of the Estate under mentioned".  The slab was commissioned by the Church wardens in 1793, and lists bequests made between 1610 and 1720.  

One of the items on the list reads:  "1718. Rev. William Watts a School house & Garden with 5L. P. Ann.  now payable from Upper Cefen Bach for instruction of Children in Reading & Writing or sewing knitting & spinning the Teacher to reside in the said House the Church wardens & Overseers of the poor are to visit the said School & see that it be not neglected."

I think this means that Rev. Watts bequeathed the property at Upper Cefen Bach (a farm, perhaps) from which the sum of £5 could be raised annually, as well as the school building with its garden, and that the £5 was sufficient to pay the teacher's annual salary.   Reading & writing as an alternative to sewing, knitting & spinning is odd - perhaps reading & writing was for the boys, and sewing etc. was for the girls?  I assume it was intended to be a vocational curriculum, teaching children skills that would be practically useful to them, though it seems a bit strange to leave out arithmetic.   But it's interesting to see knitting listed as a school subject in the 18th century.   And was the teacher a man or a woman?

Saturday, 9 August 2014

A Victory Traycloth

While we were on holiday in Herefordshire, we went to the museum in Hereford, which currently has an excellent exhibition about the First World War and how it affected local people.   There were lots of interesting things on display, but one that caught my eye was an embroidered tray-cloth, made to celebrate the end of the war.  I noticed it particularly because I thought I had seen the design before - I've since checked up and I was right.

The design appeared Weldon's Ladies' Journal ( a monthly magazine) in January 1919.  The front cover advertises "An Embroidery Design symbolical of PEACE".

The magazine gives instructions for transferring the design to a piece of cloth, and suggests colours for the embroidery.  The tray-cloth in Hereford, however,  doesn't use the colours suggested, but is all done in white on black linen.   (I couldn't get a good photo of it because of the reflections in the glass of the case.)

Black seems an unusual colour to choose for a tray-cloth.  I wonder if  the person who embroidered it had lost someone dear to them in the war - though in that case, I cannot imagine that a Victory embroidery would be of much comfort.  

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Holiday in Herefordshire

I'm still a bit behind with this blog, but I'm catching up.....

A couple of weeks ago, we had a week's holiday in Herefordshire, staying near Kington. We rented a house for the week - Great Quebb.   Although it doesn't look especially old from the outside, it is timber-framed, and the oldest part is late mediaeval.  We found it very exciting to be staying in such an old house.  It was also very comfortable - the kitchen and bathrooms were very up-to-date.  (A late mediaeval kitchen might be picturesque, but not very convenient.  A late mediaeval bathroom??)  

Great Quebb
Ancient timbers in the sitting room

The back garden had an avenue of hollyhocks which seed themselves into the path from the back door.  I was give a tray of seedlings to bring home, and I hope that I can provide them with a suitably sunny and dry environment in my garden.

The weather was beautiful all week, and the Herefordshire countryside is lovely.  One day, we walked from Kington up to Hergest Ridge, following part of the Offa's Dike path, and visited  Hergest Croft garden  afterwards.  We had a day in Hereford itself, and an afternoon in Hay-on-Wye (infested with bookshops - who knew?)  Apart from Hereford cathedral, and All Saints church in Hereford (where you can get a very good lunch and then examine the misericords afterwards), we visited several other churches.   Several Herefordshire churches are Norman, with fantastically decorated carved stonework. The south doorway at Kilpeck is a gem, and very well-preserved, and Eardisley (the nearest village to Great Quebb) has a font covered in very lively scenes.    


During the week, we sampled quite a lot of Dunkertons cider (made not far from Eardisley), and brought a dozen bottles home with us.  We went out for dinner on a couple of evenings to nearby pubs (the Tram in Eardisley and the Stagg in Titley), and had excellent meals in both.  It was a very good week altogether- I think we'll be  back.  

Monday, 4 August 2014

My First World War Blog

Today being the centenary of the start of the First World War (as far as Britain was concerned), I am launching a new blog to commemorate it, One Hundred Years Ago.  I had the idea for a new blog while researching knitting and crochet in the First World War, which I've been doing for the past year or so.  It was mainly out of personal interest, but I have also put together a talk on the subject, "Useful Work for Anxious Fingers".   (The title is taken from the ad below).  The talk had its first outing in July at the Knitting & Crochet Guild convention.

While looking through newspapers and magazines for pieces about knitting comforts for the troops, I started to collect other material that I found interesting or illuminating.  Many of these other articles are about the lives of women during the war (though not so much at the very beginning of the war, when the newspapers were full of stories of mobilisation and recruitment).  This blog will be a repository for all those snippets - the pieces about knitting and crochet, and the other things too.

Some rules I have set for myself:  all posts will be from British sources.  There was a lot of knitting for the troops going on elsewhere in the Empire, and women in the United States were very busy knitting, especially after the U.S. entered the war, but you have to draw a line somewhere.  There will be nothing about battles, or the big events like Zeppelin raids - they will be adequately covered elsewhere.  I don't think there will be anything about casualties.  Mostly, the posts will have something directly to do with the war - but not always:  there's a piece about a Charlie Chaplin film showing at the cinema in Holmfirth, which amused me, so it's going in.  (I make the rules, so I can change them if I like.)

I'll add explanatory notes or comments sometimes, in square brackets:  [...]

As far as possible, pieces will be posted on this blog exactly one hundred years after they first appeared.  I aim to keep going until the end of the war, though probably less frequently later on.  We'll see how it goes....

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

WIPaholics Anonymous

Still catching up with the week before last....

On the 17th, after we got back from Blackpool, I went to the Huddersfield branch meeting of the Knitting & Crochet Guild.  The them this month was unfinished projects - we all brought along an unfinished project that for some reason we were having trouble finishing, and talked about it.  Hence, the title of the meeting, WIPaholics Anonymous  (WIP = Work In Progress).  Marie, the convener, acted as a kind of Alcoholics Anonymous facilitator, and had even compiled a 12-step plan for us to work towards completing, or otherwise dealing with, our problem projects.  The stories of the unfinished projects were often very funny, and occasionally sad.

So what was my unfinished project?  It featured in this blog in 2011 here, and it had already been unfinished for more than 25 years (!) at that point.

I had kept it for all that time - the piece I had already knitted, and the rest of the yarn.  When I wrote the previous post, I couldn't find the pattern, and thought that I had lost it, but I've since looked harder and found it.   So in theory, it could be completed.

Patricia Roberts' Dolly Blue design
But the previous blog post was right in explaining why I didn't go any further with it all those years ago - the back turned out far too small, and there's also a problem with the cables:  when the white and yellow cables diverge from each other, they pull a hole in the background fabric, and I can't see how to avoid that.

I have had this project hanging around for a serious chunk of time, but I think it had just become one of the fixtures in my life - I rarely thought about it, and never thought about it hard enough.  But it was an obvious project to take to the meeting (and would have won the prize for the oldest WIP, if there had been one).  And in listening to other people talking about their unfinished projects, I got to thinking properly about mine.

The photo doesn't show the design very clearly because of the jacket over the top (it's a sweater with a collar and a buttoned front opening).  I can see why it appealed to me at the time, and I still like it.  I love the colours that I chose, too, though I don't wear black as much as I used to.  I showed everyone the pattern, and what I have knitted so far, and there were lots of helpful suggestions for completing it, and general encouragement to do that.

However.  If I wanted to finish the sweater, I would have to start again, and rip out what I have done so far, and I hate doing that.  I'd have to figure out why it turned out so small the first time, and fix that - maybe adjust the pattern.  And there would still be the problem with the cables dragging holes in the fabric.  And most of all, I now realise that it just feels totally stale.  I don't even want to use the yarn for anything else - it would just remind me all the time that it should have been this sweater.

So I am abandoning it.  I left what I've knitted so far with someone else at the meeting who wants to try felting it, and I'm going to give the rest of the yarn away.  And I think I feel better for having made that decision.  For me, it was a very helpful evening.

Of course, I've got a few other unfinished projects too.....

Monday, 28 July 2014

It looks different!

I've got bored with the way this blog looks - or looked until 5 minutes ago.  I started the blog in January 2010, and it's looked the same way for most of the time since then (mostly because I forgot how I customised it).  But there are changes afoot - I'm starting a new blog in parallel with this one, so I'm giving them the same layout and design.  More on the new blog in a few days when it's ready to launch.

And then I'm going to change the title of this one.  I'd do it now, but I thought that a change of design and title at the same time would be too much - regular readers might think that they had come to the wrong blog.  So I'll give you a little while to get used to the new look.  And then a change of title, but still with 'knitting' in, I promise.