A bounty of books

A few exciting packages have arrived lately, because I've been buying books!

I ordered a shiny new copy of June Hemmons Hiatt's The Principles of Knitting, which I've been hankering after for ages. It's very in-depth, and will obviously take me quite a while to absorb. I really like having actual reference books around! The internet is a fount of all knowledge, yes, but often I just want to grab a familiar book when I need information on a technique...

Suitably attired!

I also found these second-hand knitting books going cheap on Ebay: Montse Stanley's Knitting Your Own Designs for a Perfect Fit, and Barbara Walker's Charted Knitting Designs. I have plenty to learn about garment construction, and I find stitch patterns endlessly fascinating. I'm still on the lookout for Barbara Walker's other stitch dictionaries.

They're older books, but most of the information is still useful and current.
I want to learn more about knitted garment construction as I think I might like to try designing a sweater sometime. And in the meantime, I'll be better equipped to tweak other people's designs fit me properly. :)

A peek inside...

And last but not least, I ordered my own score of Handel's Messiah. I've joined a new choir (at the Scots' Church in the central city), and we'll be performing it this December. The new choir is going well so far - there are plenty of good singers, and we've done some interesting music. I feel like I'm diving into the 'other half' of the choral repertoire, i.e. the Protestant side of things. Good thing I like Bach. ;)

I think I'm the only choir-geek in the English-speaking world who's never been in a Messiah performance, so this will be interesting! I know two of the choruses already (and the soprano solos of course), so that's a start. I just need this damn cold to go away so I can start learning my parts...

"Hallelujah", etc etc...

The four-day scarf

Yes, I knit a full-sized, longer-than-I-am winter scarf in only four days!

I was helped by the fact that I used bulky yarn - some yellow ochre merino that I scored for $3.50 a ball at a Knit World sale - and by the very, very repetitive stitch pattern, which meant I could knit while watching tv. The stitch pattern is a brioche stitch variant, which is stretchy, thick, and, most importantly for a scarf, identical on both sides.

A great explanation of how to knit brioche stitch can be found in Franklin Habit's 'modern translation' of Jane Gaugain's Faucett, or Bandeau for Neck (1846), which I used as the starting-point for this scarf. I left off the fancy fringe, and neglected to seam it into a tube. I simply cast on 27 stitches and knit till I'd used up four balls of yarn.

Trying out such an old pattern and really liking the result sparked me off into investigating other old knitting books. I downloaded a few onto my kindle from Project Gutenberg, and skimmed through some pdf copies from the Antique Pattern Library. I had no idea there were so many available!

The nineteenth-century books sometimes use quite different terminology from what I'm used to. Some are pretty transparent, e.g. "pearl" for "purl", but others are less obvious, and you do need to check the author's explanations. For example, Gaugain's Lady's Assistant (1840) uses "P" for a knit stitch ("a plain stitch or loop"), and "B" for a purl stitch ("a back, ribbed, seam, or pearl stitch").

If I didn't already know how to knit, I'm not sure I'd be able to learn how from the directions-for-beginners in these books, which are quite convoluted and awkward. And the diagrams, while sweet, aren't the most clear - and worse, aren't from the point of view of the knitter!

From Beeton's Book of Needlework (1870):

And from The Ladies' Work-Book:

Often, the books don't include pictures, so one needs to either be good at visualising what the instructions describe, or willing to do a bit of trial-and-error. There are plenty of plain and fancy stitch patterns in these books, for use on scarves, blankets, etc, and patterns (called "receipts", as in recipes) for shawls, caps, muffs, mittens, baby clothes, bags, socks, you name it. And, being products of the nineteenth century, most of them are really big on "D'Oyleys". These are crocheted examples, from The Ladies' Work-Book - impressive!

Because I was looking through these books while embroiled in making a brioche stitch scarf, I took note whenever I came across the same stitch pattern. It seems to have been popular for scarves (or "comforters"), and for cushions.

Mrs Beeton's instructions:
Ordinary Brioche Stitch is made by casting on an even number of stitches, and working the rows as follows:--
Make 1, slip 1, take 2 together; repeat. Note.--The made stitch and the slipped stitch of the previous row must always be knitted together, and the decreased stitch of that row slipped.
And from Cornelia Mee's Exercises in Knitting:

And from My Knitting Book (1843) by Miss Lambert:
The Brioche knitting-stitch is simply—bring the wool forward, slip one; knit two together.
Miss Lambert explains that a "Brioche" cushion is "so called from its resemblance, in shape, to the well known French cake of that name."

The upshot being, my new scarf is seriously old-school. :)

Knitting isn't the only craft represented in these old needlework books - there are tons of crochet patterns, embroidery patterns, and instructions for various kinds of lacemaking. As an example of some of the weird and wonderful things to be found, I'll take my leave with this fabulous crocheted Tobacco Pouch from Beeton's Book of Needlework...

A Very Fancy Hat

While driving northwards last Monday we stopped in Carterton for a spy in an antique shop. Mum rescued a cute embroidered tablecloth, and I found a hat. A 1950s pink velvet number that wouldn't look out of place on a My Little Pony!

I am now 20% more fancy.