Thursday, October 30, 2008

bobbin lace

Here are two of the bobbin lace pieces that I had the opportunity to work with recently. As far as I know, they were made in the Victorian era. When I first received them, they were absolutely filthy and I thought they would have to be dyed to hide the stains. However, after soaking in lukewarm water with a mixture of Woolite and Borax, they came out almost entirely perfect. I'm guessing that the designs must have been pretty exotic when they were made. Each girl is wearing a turban, and one of them has a snake.

I sewed them carefully onto cotton fabric and framed them so that no further harm could come to them. I figured if I had done some true evil by sewing them onto fabric, it would be easy enough to clip the threads on the back of the piece and free them.

I'm now working on resurrecting a table cloth of Cluny bobbin lace, and I have some more beautiful Cluny lace that I actually get to keep. The table cloth needs to be done by Christmas, so I'm posting this to motivate myself to keep on working on it and posting pictures. I've also been messing around with creating some of my own bobbin lace, so I will have to show you how it is made. It is really very clever.
I've also completed three repeats on Demi. The color in this picture is completely off, it's really more of a red with flecks of brighter red and the purple you see in the picture. It really photographs erratically, depending on the light. I only have 1.5 inches to go, then I can start the arms and attach them all onto one needle. To the left you can see the neat effect of the cables on the seam. It reminds me a little of a rib cage.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008


I needed something to distract me from the unarguable disaster that my last cardigan turned out to be. I had set aside a few sweaters to be ripped and re-knitted into something more classic, and the heathered red Cascade 220 I had really caught my eye. I decided to start Demi from Rowan's Vintage Knits, a sweater that I have been meaning to knit for at least two years now.

Cascade 220 is not an exact substitution for the Rowan yarn that is recommended. This means that even though I'm following the pattern for the extra small, my finished sweater will be a few sizes larger. I'm also knitting this in the round, which is already working out much better than knitting it flat. The "wrong side" rows are so much easier to work when all you need to do is knit through the back loop and purl.
So far, so good. I'm nearly obsessively checking my progress on this one, making sure that I don't have another ill-fitting sweater on my hands. I've already finished the ribbing and one pattern repeat, making seven inches of this sweater completed.

Today is deceptively sunny. It looks beautiful outside, but in reality we've hit freezing temperatures. I can't wait until this sweater is done, I know it will get a lot of use this winter.

I'm sheltering these flowers inside the house, since it's too cold to plant them outside now. Besides, they would be prime deer treats since I still need to put up my fence. They look remarkably fake, don't they?

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

attack of the cardigan

I rarely have a true knitting disaster, which I guess is lucky, although I like to think that I'm just good at being careful. I also usually enjoy salvaging portions of an unlikeable project, and long time readers will remember my penchant for dismembering fair isle sweaters and then using their guts for smaller fair isle projects.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think that this might be the first time that I've knitted something as large as a sweater that was so awful, so truly bad, that if the yarn was any less special, this whole thing would be in the dump.

And so, meet my Tangled Yoke Cardigan.

The back story is that I acquired 8 skeins of wool, marked only with "4 ply" and "Color: Hathor". The gauge and yardage was equal to Rowan Felted Tweed, and I thought this would be a great time to use up this yarn on a Tangled Yoke Cardigan.

Now, if you read any of my earlier posts, you'll see that a lot of the time, I drastically alter patterns. This is because I am shaped funny, like all of us in the world. I am usually in between sizes, and also like to work with less ease than what is usually called for. For some reason, none of these facts occured to me when I started working on this cardigan. This is perhaps due to the fact that I was on massive amounts of antibiotics, decongestants, and over the counter sinus relievers for the entire time that I was working on this sweater. Or, it is just because sometimes I do silly, silly things.

So, I didn't alter the pattern. I didn't bother to make sure that those sleeves were actually going to be a good size for me, and when the neck came out looking rather large, I still didn't stop. In fact, I didn't stop until after I had knitted the ugly neck border (my yarn was too thin for the project, really, it looks fine in the photo and other people's cardigans), after I had finished picking up the gazillions of stitches and knitted the button bands, and after I had woven in every single end.

In other words, I actually blocked this disastrous thing and tried it on before realizing that at some point in the past few weeks, I had totally lost my mind. Maybe it doesn't look so awful on the table, but trust me, it is bad.

Depression. The cardigan has been resigned to a spare cardboard box. I need some cooling off time before I can frog this thing. I was recently encouraged to try my hand at designing, and the yarn from this might be turned into something that I'll actually make (and maybe not screw up) myself. At the moment, though, we're both in time out.

Lessons learned:

1. Just because the sweater looks lovely on the model, does not mean that I am the model and have the same measurements as her.

2. Don't substitute a non-felted tweed yarn for Rowan Felted Tweed. It will just be too thin, even if the gauge appears to be the same.

3. Friends don't let friends knit when they're taking prescription cold medicine.

Oh, and P.S. To add insult to injury, this sweater is so ornery that the color won't even be photographed. The second picture is the most accurate, although I think it's still a little more purple in color.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008


Lesson learned: scarves need to be stored rolled, not folded.

This is the Double-bordered scarf with diamond borders from Victorian Lace Today, a scarf that I think looks much better at a closer gauge than pictured in the book. I made this out of the two skeins I rescued from the first project I posted to this blog. The pattern is a little strange (at some points you are reading the chart both backwards and forwards at the same time), but it makes perfect sense after you finish the first few repeats. I finished this months ago, hence the creasing problem. Seriously, roll your blocked scarves.

A few pages away in Victorian Lace Today is the Scarf with French trellis border. I think this scarf is only rarely made, since I couldn't find much evidence of it online, and I'm not surprised. The photos of it are not very appealing. In reality, it's a very interesting knit and only used about 2/3 of my skein of Crystal Palace Lace. The bottom border is worked, then turned sideways so that you are knitting the long middle section at a 90 degree angle to the border. At the end of the middle section, you again turn your work and finish it off with another border. Really very clever, and make the monotony of churning out long rectangles of lace a little better. I think the two scarves look like they should be worn together (especially with their fall colors), but it's hardly warm enough here to wear one scarf, much less two.

And finally, the bobbin lace. I found this Victorian lace forgotten in a box. It was absolutely filthy, but I thought I'd try and see what could be done with it. After a soak in some Woolite, lukewarm water and Borax, it came out wonderfully. I'm in the process of turning the lace above into a tablecloth by handsewing it onto green cotton. It's taking a long time, but maybe by the end of the year I'll have some finished photos of that.
When I first found the lace, I had no idea how it was made, only that it was marked "Cluny lace". About a week later, I was browsing a bookstore and found a book on bobbin lace sticking out of one of the shelves. The book is really dusty and a little bent, and I get the idea that it was there for a very long time. It must have been waiting for me, and I bought it right away. I've been trying my hand at making some lace of my own, and while I'm finally getting the hang of it, it's really rough going. It makes me appreciate the skill in my found Cluny lace even more.
Next week I hope to have a finished sweater to share, more Cluny lace, and maybe sometime in the future I'll be able to share my mother's found Edwardian era (I think) tatting. Lonely handcrafts seem to migrate to this family, hmm...

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