Friday, 29 May 2015

Knitting Seaweed

Last week, it was the monthly meeting of the Huddersfield branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and we had a workshop run by a local member, Elizabeth Smith.  Some of her knitting and crochet is based on what you find on beaches - seaweed, pebbles, sea anemones,...  You can see one of her seaweed covered rocks here, along with one of her beautiful cushions in stranded knitting, based on local Yorkshire landscapes.   We didn't attempt anything very ambitious at the workshop - we just knitted strands of seaweed.   I have knitted quite a bit more of mine since the workshop.


The yarn is Jamieson's Spindrift, in the Granny Smith colour.  I've also experimented with another variety of seaweed, in Moss, with more complicated branching (but have run out of yarn.)  It's very satisfying to see how it develops, and I know from seeing Elizabeth wearing some of her knitted seaweed that it looks good worn as neckwear - she says it's surprisingly warm too.   The plan is to combine three strands in different greens, and wear them together.  

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Holiday in Northern Greece

We got back from a holiday in Greece ten days ago - it's taken me this long to get around to writing this blog.  As with last year's holiday in the Peloponnese, we went with friends from our walking group, and it was organised by Gareth Trewartha of Naturally Greece.  This year we flew to Thessaloniki and visited areas in northern Greece - Lake Kerkini, the Prespa lakes, and the Zagori region.

We saw lots of water birds on the lakes - pelicans, several kinds of heron, egrets, flamingos, cormorants.  There were storks nesting on platforms on the tops of electricity poles (at least 9 of them along the road through Kerkini village).  And we saw a cuckoo, which was thrilling.

Storks nesting in Kerkini village

White pelican

There were wild flowers too: a damp meadow full of pheasant's eye (Narcissus poeticus), the sinister-looking silkvine alongside Lake Kerkini.

A field of Poet's Daffodil 

Silkvine growing by Lake Kerkini

Zagori is a limestone area, so especially rich in wild flowers and we saw lots of orchids there.

Elder-flower orchid and Glanville fritillary

We spent a couple of days around the Vikos Gorge, where the scenery is spectacular and the villages are charming.  The river running through the gorge is the Voidomatis - in places the water looks a brilliant turquoise.

Looking into Vikos Gorge

Voidomatis river

The Zagori houses have a gate onto the road with its own roof - some are new or have been restored, but many look very ancient.

A gateway in one of the Zagori villages 

I liked the chimneys - they look like little houses or temples, and often have a conical stone on top.  The roofs are made of stone, too.

The villages in Zagori were linked by paved tracks, and local benefactors built bridges to take the tracks over the rivers. We crossed several very graceful examples, including the wonderful three-arched bridge near the village of Kipoi, where we stayed.

Kokoris bridge
Kalogeriko bridge
At the end of the holiday, when the rest of the group flew home, John and I stayed on for a few days in Thessaloniki.  We had been to Vergina, where the royal tombs of Philip of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) and several other members of his family had been excavated.  The contents of the tombs used to be in the archaeology museum in Thessaloniki, but now they have been moved back to a new museum in Vergina.  The finds are amazing - wonderful gold wreaths, silver dinner services, huge bronze vessels, Philip's armour.  I assumed that the gold in particular was a sign of royalty, but the Thessaloniki Archaeology Museum has lots of gold wreaths from graves across the region -  obviously you had to be wealthy to be buried with a gold wreath, but not necessarily royal.  They are beautifully made, too - very delicate and intricate.   Many imitate wreaths of plants like myrtle or ivy, and the details of the flowers and leaves are perfectly reproduced.    

Gold myrtle wreath, 350-300 BC

Gold diadem with head of Aphrodite from female grave at Lete, early 3rd cent BC 

Gilt wreath from reconstruction of tomb of young woman & new-born infant, cemetery of ancient Aineia, 350-325 BC 

It was a really good holiday, very well-organised, and I haven't even mentioned all the food we ate - delicious, and lots of it.  We had a wonderful time.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

My Knitting

I haven't mentioned what I've been knitting for a while, although I have several projects almost finished.  I don't generally like to talk about my knitting before it's actually finished, partly because it might go wrong, and that would be embarrassing, and partly because I am very bad at finishing knitting projects (I hate sewing up, for one thing), so I might have to report that I've finished something a long time after I've said I'm knitting it, and that would be embarrassing too.  

But here's something I have just finished, apart from sewing in ends, etc.  It's a very unseasonal cabled scarf, in Wendy Merino DK.   More about it later.  

Monday, 4 May 2015

Lace Knits

My friend Ann Kingstone has just published a new book, Lace Knits.   It should be appearing  in the shops in the next few days, if it isn't there already, but I got my copy direct from Ann a couple of weeks ago.  If you're on Ravelry, the individual designs are being posted there, too.

Like Ann's other books, it is very well-produced. The cover illustration is by Alex Tomlinson, who did a wonderful print to celebrate the Yorkshire Grand Depart of the Tour de France 2014.  The photography is by Woolly Wormhead, and styling by Susan Crawford - they have done a wonderful job of showing off the lace knits.

There are 16 designs in the book, all named after places in and around Huddersfield - Fenay, Gledholt, Cowlersley (a cowl!), Slaithwaite (pronounced Sla-wit, if you live there).   For people who know Huddersfield, that adds an extra dimension -  one is named after the district we live in, another after my daughter's school.

There are several lovely lace shawls, though knitting lace shawls is not really my thing, and some delightful fingerless mitts (Edgerton).   But the designs that most appeal to me are the cardigans and sweaters. They are all seamless -  one of Ann's trademarks, as in her Wetwang sweater, which I knitted from her Born & Bred book.  Seamless knitting avoids the difficulty of trying to make a neat seam in knitted lace - especially difficult in a yarn like Rowan's Kid Silk Haze.

I think my favourite is Ainley, knitted in Aran weight yarn (Rowan Kid Classic).  It uses two really pretty lace stitches, one being 'frost flowers' - very appropriate for a winter-weight knit. The body and the sleeves are knitted separately, from the bottom up, and then joined.  The sleeves are set in - all seamlessly, as I've said, and the shaping is just beautifully neat.  

Reinwood is another cardigan, in a lighter weight yarn (Rowan Pure Wool Worsted).  The lace panels are confined to the front, and the rest is in stocking stitch - again all seamless.  In this design, the body is knitted bottom up and the sleeves top down, from picked up stitches around the armhole.

And Springwood is a top-down sweater, with a border of lace around the hem and cuffs - very pretty.  It's in 4-ply, so would make a good knit for spring.  It's knitted top down, "commencing with the Ziggurat shoulder technique", which sounds intriguing.  

The patterns are given with both written instructions and charts for the lace.  There's also a well-illustrated section of the book on the techniques required, such as various cast-on methods, magic loop, applied i-cord, and so on.  

Altogether a lovely book.  I plan to knit Ainley for myself soon, and I'd like to knit Reinwood and Springwood too - though given my usual rate of knitting, that might be a bit optimistic.    

Saturday, 2 May 2015

For a Royal Baby

This week, we were sorting several boxes of Peter Pan patterns in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, and found several copies of this free pattern leaflet, "A layette for someone special".   It must have been issued around the time of a royal birth, so that you could make a set of baby clothes fit for a prince or princess, for a baby in your own family.  I'm guessing that the royal baby was Prince William (born 1982), because the booklet on the table in the foreground says "The Royal Wedding" and I think refers to the wedding of Prince William's parents the previous year.

It was a very timely find, since another royal birth was imminent, and the new princess, Prince William's daughter, has arrived today! 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

1960s Fashion Models

I have been sorting a lot of Hayfield pattern leaflets in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection recently.  (Hayfield was the brand name of John C. Horsfall & Sons Ltd., based near Keighley, one of many yarn-spinning companies in West Yorkshire in the decades after WW2 - now Hayfield is a Sirdar brand.)  I wrote here about some Hayfield patterns from the 1980s.  In the recent sort, a few patterns from the 1960s caught my eye, because I recognised the models.

Hayfield 494
Hayfield 495
In 1966, Hayfield issued four patterns "Designed by Vogue Knitting", and the model on two of them was Grace Coddington, then a top model who frequently appeared in (British) Vogue.  She subsequently became creative director of American Vogue, and featured in the 2009 documentary The September Issue.

The four pattern leaflets were, as you would expect, advertised in Vogue Knitting.  Oddly, one of the other patterns is modelled in the ad by Twiggy, I think - hard to be sure, because her face is partly hidden by a large flower.  The model on the leaflet is definitely not the same person.  Wonder why they switched models?

It's unusual to see the top fashion models, who normally inhabit the glossy magazines, appearing on pattern leaflets.  But in 1969, Marisa Berenson also appeared on a Hayfield leaflet.  Like Grace Coddington, she was seen frequently in Vogue at that time, and appeared on several Vogue covers, for instance in July 1970.  In the 1970s, she moved into acting and appeared in several films.

Hayfield 659

The Marisa Berenson leaflet was featured in a Hayfield ad, and perhaps that was the reason for choosing a top model.  It seems to have been a special case - as far as I know, she did not model for any other Hayfield leaflets, or for any other spinners' leaflets.  She can rarely have modelled anything as mundane as an Aran cardigan.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Read, Knit and Work Plain Work

As you know, I am always looking out for references to knitting in unlikely places.   Our holiday in Wales last week wasn't very fruitful in that respect, but I did find one mention.  We went to Llanfyllin, about 10 miles north west of Welshpool, where we had a very nice lunch with our friends in the Seeds restaurant.  And after lunch, we went to the church - St Myllin's.   (Llanfyllin  means, more or less, the church of St Myllin. Changing an initial m to f sometimes is something that happens in Welsh.)  

On the front of the gallery at the back of the church was a series of painted panels, detailing various benefactions to the church and the town, including this one:

The charitable good Lady Mrs. Mary Vaughan of Llangedwyn, widdow of Edward of Llwydiarth Esqr. in 1720, aetat. suae [at the age of] 74 Did, among many other her great charitys, by her Deed grant and settle on Trustees Eleaven hundred and sixteen pounds ten shillings principal money to purchase lands the yearly Interest, Rents & proffitts thereof for ever for endowing & establishing charity schools, for 20 poor Boys & 10 poor Girls within this parish, & 12 poor Boys in the next parish of Llan-mihangel, to be educated in the Principles of the Church of England as by Law established, to be cloathed once a year; the Boys to be taught to read, write & Arithmetick; the Girls to read, knit & work plain work. This pious Lady lived some years after, saw these Schools flourish, Visited them and gave them further charitable incouragement. ...
I saw a similar record of a charitable endowment made in 1718 last year, in Herefordshire, reported here.  That listed similar subjects, but they weren't split between boys and girls (though perhaps it was thought to be obvious).  Here, it is made very specific.  The boys get what we would now think of as a very basic primary education - literacy and numeracy.  But the girls only get the reading part of that -  reading used to be taught separately from writing, and before it.  And then to "knit and work plain work" - which I think means plain sewing.  I assume that knitting and sewing were thought to be useful skills for an 18th century housewife in a poor household.  In some regions of  Britain, knitting stockings would be a way of earning money, but I think in those areas, men as well as women knitted at that time, and the skills would be learnt within the family.

£1116 10s. would have been a huge sum of money at that time, so Mrs Vaughan was a generous woman.  I wonder if the charity still exists?