Friday, February 05, 2016

In Wonderland

To London, to meet my younger sister for lunch.  We had both noticed the exhibition of children's books at the Foundling Museum and so this is where we went.
 
 

The statue of Thomas Coram, founder of the museum.  The theme of the exhibition was "Orphans", of course, and focused on the illustrations.  An eclectic mix of pieces nonetheless.

We were very moved by some of the modern art work produced by artists and students, on the same theme.  A row of little white shirts on cloakroom pegs, the name labels replaced by things people said to the children.  A sheet of densely packed pins, with the bottom row somehow outlining letters.





 
 
From there, following Jean's example, we moved to The British Library, for the Alice exhibition, and tea.
 
Some more little jackets and hats.  I seem to have speeded up my rate of production.  I think that this is down to the stranded patterns which just seem to go faster, or motivate me to continue, or something.





Jolly hat and cardigan
 


Rosy hat and cardigan

Princess hat and cardigan

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Scraps

 
 
 
 

 
 After all those little jackets, I end up with a huge bag of scraps, all DK acrylic.  So now, a series of jackets trying to use some of them up.  Yarn has a habit of multiplying when your back is turned, so I don't expect to get to the bottom of the bag any time soon. 

This first one worked up quickly - a simple Fair isle design from Sheila McGregor, repeated, and a rotation of pattern to main colour to give a bit of coherence.


 
 Interesting to see how the same theme in a different colourway looks.  Different Fair Isle patterns on this one.  I made the sleeves plain, as it occurred to me how tricky it might be to insert a new-born's arms into a stranded sleeve.


And a third one! It has been bitterly cold here, so I've done the odd stripe during the day, something I don't make a practice of.  This one looks like folk knitting, or the sort of thing you still see in hippy shops. 

And the bag of scraps looks as full as it did at the start.


Friday, January 15, 2016

If Winter Comes...





Remember this piece of Fair Isle from late last year?  Several times I was on the point of ravelling this out, but I never quite did it.  However, it occurred to me that it might be wearable as a hat.


I had 170 stitches on the needle; 168 is divisible by 7 for the crown.  I was thinking of one of those fancy kaleidoscopic efforts that you see on tams.  It took me several dummy runs before I got my head around the way the decreases needed to work, taking stitches from both sides of each segment.   The little trees are from Sheila McGregor.  I was very pleased with the result.


 


 White coverlet - I am glad that you enjoyed looking at this treasure.  Some years ago, a friend and I discovered that the fabric from which it is made is joined: three widths, each 30 inches wide, joined for both the top layer and the underlayer.  Does that prove that it was handwoven cloth?  Perhaps.



At the centre of the piece is a roundel, constructed like a wreath with alternating leaves of satin stitch and needle made lace.  Both layers have been cut through and the lace inserted, or possibly made by using the outline stitches as the anchor.

 Curiously, there are thirty-eight segments, nineteen lace and nineteen solid.  The lace is obviously fragile and some of the segments are in shreds.  There are seven or eight different lace patterns used, but not in any logical order.  Some appear four times and some only once. 

 
At the very centre, there is a round lace insert.  Oddly, the pattern on this has not been centred.

 Finally, at least for now, all the background of this large roundel is packed solid with French knots - there must be thousands of them.
 

Friday, January 08, 2016

White Coverlet

Some many years ago - late 80s - we were holidaying in Brittany.  We drove to Vannes, a sea-port from which boat trips out to the Ile aux Moines could be taken.  Pottering around the town, I checked out a few antique shops for textiles, specifically lace, looking for a small item for my collection.  There were coifs on sale, but at eye-watering prices.  On a table outside on shop, as part of a general display of cheaper junk, was a folded up textile item, obviously large.  I asked about the best price.  It was astonishingly low.

Single motif, in satin stitch and French knots.

We left it and went down to the harbour to eat lunch.  During lunch I was overtaken by that feeling that one gets sometimes, at least, I do, that I would regret not making the purchase.  Different to that other feeling where you buy something on impulse and live to regret it.  I went back and sealed the deal.  The shopkeeper rolled it up and stuffed it in a white paper carrier-bag for me to take away.  She took a felt tip pen and scrawled the name of the shop on the outside: "Les Brocs des Aristos."  This turned out to be prescient.


We put the item in the car, took our boat-trip, hired bikes and cycled along the low-lying islands.  Later, we drove back to the gite where I unfolded my find.  Even then, I knew it was exceptional.

Over the years since then, I have shown the item to a range of experts and have made some attempts at research myself.  Essentially, this is a coverlet, 90 inches by 90 - so it is huge.  It was made either early in the eighteenth or late in the seventeenth century, almost certainly in a professional embroiderers' workshop.  But where and for whom is something which remains a mystery.  However, it must have been made for someone very wealthy indeed, as the level of workmanship is so very fine and there is so much of it.


There are two layers of fabric, with no wadding between.  The top layer is a twill weave and the lower layer a slightly coarser regular weave linen.  Each of the many, many floral motifs is outlined in two rows of very fine backstitch which create a channel.  Through this channel pieces of cord have been inserted from the back to create a raised outline.  This is typical of corded quilting, but there is no quilting between the motifs - they are placed closely so there is very little empty space, but there is some.

Central device of coverlet.

Over the years, I have found that the piece is almost too astonishing to take in.  It is a thing of wonder, but the level of detail makes it difficult to determine the design as a whole.  But I have now set myself some lines of enquiry and will spend some time gathering the answers.  More about this later.

 

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Winter Treats





Some time ago I booked for us to go to a concert at Snape Maltings, thinking it would make a festive treat for us.  This was all before a family member, in another part of the country, was taken seriously ill and hospitalised, involving heavy duty visiting - just in case you thought we moved from one treat to another, in a kind of golden haze.  However, we decided not to cancel and set off for the Suffolk coast.


We will be spending Christmas Day a deux, and expect to eat a roast pheasant and, later, some smoked salmon. On our trip, we called first at the Suffolk Food Hall where we were stunned by the Dickensian excess of the comestibles on offer.   In my family, my mother had a set of recipes for the Christmas items, many of which were made at the last minute.  So, we would eat a roast capon, followed by Christmas pudding and rum sauce.  Tea would bring on the rum butter and Christmas cake and there would be a sherry trifle fitted in somewhere.  Dried fruit, brown sugar and black rum figured quite heavily.  We had no idea that this was historically linked to the slave trading activities of the local port in the eighteenth century - we just ate to the point where we all had indigestion.


After we had pottered around Aldeborough, we went to check in to our B&B.  Fortunately the weather was unseasonably mild as we were shown out to the car park where our room was an eco-pod - a self-contained unit, like a little chalet, with its own en-suite facilities.  It was very clean and we slept surprisingly well, just a bit strange.


As we walked to the concert hall we were struck by the closeness of the reedbeds - quite eerie at night time, the idea of being so close to a kind of edge.  Next day we drove to Minsmere, the RSPB bird reserve, for a spot of walking and bird-watching.  Very calming, as an environment to walk in.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Elves

 
 It's that time of year - the Christmas do of the local Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers - competition: mittens.  Leaving it until the last minute, I cast on 26 stitches in 2ply jumper weight and knit a corrugated rib.  Next came the thumb gusset, and the placing of the charted design.  Stitching them up was seriously fiddly - these are less than two inches in length.

 
 
 
Finally, something other than baby cardigans for Pine Ridge.  This is a Christmas gift for someone.  Who will it be?  I used the Skein of Tosh Light bought in Amsterdam earlier this year.  The pattern, Reyna by Noora Laivola, is ideal because the openwork showcases the lovely peacock colour of the yarn, instead of fighting with it, as some lace patterns do.  It's a free pattern on Ravelry.
 
 
 



 But, of course, I have also turned out two of these - 43 and 44.  We've been on the road a bit, and I find it soothing to knit while listening to downloads of Radio 4s "Soul Music" on my Mp3.  Takes the edge off, I find.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Exhibitions



I live within easy travelling distance of London.  Those of you out in the tundra, or elsewhere, may think this would mean that one would be up to date with all the latest shows, shopping and exhibitions.  But no - I am Katie Countrymouse.


However, within the last fortnight I've been into London three times, meeting friends and family and taking in a number of exhibitions.


First, the Celts, at the British Museum.  Now, I have a passion for so-called Celtic design: interlaced knotwork of various kinds, and grotesque animals - Ive knitted plenty of it, one way and another.   I expected to be amazed.  And, curiously, the gift-shop was pretty amazing.  The exhibition, less so.


I think this may have been because the definition of "Celt" seemed to cover everyone in Europe who was not Roman, and for hundreds of years.  So - lots of ceremonial buckets and brooches from all over the place, three very impressive crosses and an astounding cauldron.  The soundtrack to the exhibition was provided by a film loop of eerily slow-motion vignettes from a contemporary Celtic gathering: sword-dancing, folk-dancing and costumes.   At least there was space in which to look and ponder.


Not so at the Goya exhibition at the National Gallery.  My friend and I arrived towards lunchtime - exactly the time for which half of Europe had also booked their timed tickets.  There were at least seventy portraits by Goya , from every phase of his career, running through the days of the old aristocracy, Napoleonic occupation, the Peninsular War and beyond into France.  Almost all of the pictures were of a single individual, gazing out at us through time, their dress and accoutrements suggesting their status and preoccupations.  Goya certainly gave no quarter on beaky noses, broken veins, heavy eyebrows and more than a suggestion of moustaches, even where expensive lace mantillas were deployed.


But the crowds!  Each room was already eight deep when we entered it, so we had to duck and dive to even see the paintings.  The smaller rooms were seriously clogged with people.  Why do they allocate so many tickets to each time-slot?  Can it really be simply a question of profit to be made?


We retreated to the National Café where we enjoyed a very civilised lunch.


My third visit was to the Portrait Gallery where we ate in the Portrait Restaurant, a remarkable venue with extensive views.  We moved on to the collections of portraits thematically linked by Simon Schama in his tv series.  No problem with over-crowding and over-heating here.  I'd really recommend it.