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Pink Needles
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Lorna's Laces
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TITLEstitchesintime

For almost as long as I’ve been a knitter, I’ve been fascinated by the history of knitting. I’ve especially enjoyed the mind-twisting process of working with the often obtuse and obfuscatory language of antique patterns. There’s a thrill, I find, in watching a project emerge row by row and knowing that other knitters, long gone, followed the same path.

The process of decoding, testing and correcting isn’t for everyone, though; and so in this column I hope to share the excitement of the journey by removing as many of the roadblocks as possible. You don’t need to be a historian to come along–just a knitter with a curious mind.

Little Wonders

SITjug-and-orange

Most knitters–myself included–are easily impressed by epic knitting projects. You know the sort of thing I mean: thigh-high stockings covered in Bavarian Twisted Stitch, cabled afghans that kept the maker busy for a calendar year, cobwebby lace shawls that could blanket a ski slope.

But there’s also a much to be said for the exquisitely tiny–projects that return a lot of kaboom in exchange for a more modest investment of time and materials. The Victorians had, perhaps, more of an appreciation for these flights of fantasy than we do today. Under the catch-all heading of “fancy work” (defined in the 1882 Dictionary of Needlework as “intended for decorative, and not for useful purposes”), they produced a fountain of miniature fantasies we might do well to revive. In a time of limited resources, why not rediscover the joy of small things?

In this column, we’ll take a look at a pair of little projects published forty years apart, but both distinguished by ingenious shaping and immense charm. Either could be finished up in an evening or two, making them ideal last-minute holiday gifts or festive additions to a place setting or centerpiece.

Miss Lambert’s “Pence Jug”
Pence jugs are coin purses, shaped like a miniature water pitchers complete with handles and spouts. During the height of their popularity they were as common and varied as snowflakes. This version is taken from the 1843 edition of Frances Lambert’s best-selling My Knitting Book.

Miss Lambert (as she was known to her public) was a leading light among the first wave of needlework writers who began to publish in the early 1840s. She comes across in her works as devoted, above all, to the twin Victorian virtues of Order and Method. Indeed, she is credited with the creation of the first knitting needle gauge–an ivory disc she called the “standard filière.” Armed with Miss Lambert’s filière, a knitter could select the needles specified in her patterns without the guesswork required by other authors, who used vagaries such as “good-sized.”

The pence jug pattern in its original form fills two-and-half closely printed pages. Miss Lambert is usually blessedly clear (even to the point of over-explanation) in her instructions, but suddenly goes hazy about halfway through this project–perhaps in attempt to cut down on the length.

In my translation, I’ve removed the ambiguities (for example, instructions to decrease “occasionally”) to turn the project from a brain-twister into a fun evening’s knit. Don’t let the length of the instructions frighten you–they’re lengthy because you’ll very seldom work more than two rounds without doing something new. As a result, the jug positively zips along. Watching it shape itself under your fingers is a remarkable experience.

Note that I’ve answered the original pattern’s call for German wool with a sock yarn that includes nylon. If you’re knitting this for a historical re-enactment, you’ll of course want to seek out a yarn in pure wool of the same or a slightly smaller weight. Or, for a deluxe version, go with Miss Lambert’s alternate suggestion of pure silk.

Weldon’s  “Ball Knitted Like an Orange”
In the late 1880s, Weldon’s Practical Needlework appeared on the scene as a series of monthly periodicals devoted to various branches of the art, including (but not limited to) knitting, crochet, embroidery, patchwork, and (I kid you not) macramé.

The variety of patterns offered to readers of Weldon’s guides is staggering. The third series,  collected into the first volume of Weldon’s Practical Needlework in 1888,  includes “38 Useful Articles for Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children.” Included somewhat dubiously under this heading is “Ball Knitted Like an Orange.” The writer suggests that it could be a child’s toy, a pincushion, or a Christmas tree ornament–but to me its chief purpose seems to be to amuse the knitter, and it does.

The tiny orange is an intriguing piece of knitted sculpture. The anonymous designer–Weldon’s patterns were uncredited–has turned out no mere sphere, but a shapely and plump little fruit with distinct lobes and delicate leaves that merge perfectly around a garter-stitch stem.

The original instructions call for single Berlin wool–akin to our lace weight. They also require needles equivalent to modern US00 (1.75mm) for the orange and US0000 (1.25 mm) for the leaves. As neither needle size is to be had at most yarn shops without special-ordering, my version is worked with sock-weight yarn on US 0 (2 mm) needles, and the leaves have been shortened slightly to keep them in proportion. If authenticity is deeply important to you, use the smaller needles (which can be procured from several online sources) and work two additional repeats of leaf steps 8 and 9.

Further Reading

Bush, Nancy. Knitting Vintage Socks (Interweave Press, 2005). Includes a brief history of Weldon’s Practical Needlework and invaluable information on the conversion of needle sizes.

Caulfield, Sophia Frances Anne and Blanche C. Saward. The Dictionary of Needlework (L. Upcott Gill, 1882). Copies of the 1972 facsimile reprint by Arno Press can be found through sellers used and rare books.

Hutchins, Jeane, editor, and PieceWork Magazine. Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 1 (Interweave Press, 1999). The full series of Weldon’s Practical Needlework has been reissued by Interweave Press in a series of hardbound, gloriously unadulterated (and therefore uncorrected, mind you) facsimile reprints.

Lambert, Frances. My Knitting Book. The 1843 edition is available in full via Google Books (books.google.com).

Rutt, Richard. A History of Hand Knitting (Interweave Press, 1989). Among the many photographs is a grouping of Victorian pence jugs, including a later, very different version by Miss Lambert.

Sowerby, Jane. Victorian Lace Today (XRX Books, 2006). Offers excellent biographical information on the writers whose work influenced the designs in the book, including Miss Lambert and Weldon’s.

Williams, Sheila. The History of Knitting Pin Gauges (Melrose Press, 2006).

pinkneedle

TITLEnightcap
SITnightcap-worn
by Franklin Habit,
translated from
My Knitting Book (1843) by A. Lambert

Tangy

SIZE
One

FINISHED MEASUREMENTS
Height: 3.5 inches
Width: 2 inches

MATERIALS
Fortissima Socka 50 [75% superwash wool, 25% nylon; 229yd/210m per 50g skein]; 1 skein each color
spacer [MC] #1011 Burgundy
spacer [CC] #1006 Grass Green
Note: If you are making both the orange and the pence jug, only 1 skein of CC is required.

spacer 1 set of five US #0/2mm double-point needles

[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]

spacer Tapestry needle

GAUGE
30 sts/40 rows = 4 inches in stockinette st
 
PATTERN NOTES
[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here]

Directions for the Knitted Cast On (“Knitting On”) can be found here:
http://knitty.com/issuesummer05/FEATsum05TT.html

SKP: Sl 1 knitwise, k1, pass slipped stitch over.

2x2 Rib (Worked in the round over a multiple of 4 sts):
All Rounds: [K2, p2] to end.

 
 
DIRECTIONS

Handle:
Using MC, CO 4 sts. Work in garter st (k all rows) until work measures 2 inches.

Spout:
Continuing from sts on needle and using knitted cast on, CO 42 sts, for a total of 46 sts.
Divide sts between 3 needles as follows:
Needle 1: First 10 sts, including 4 sts of handle
Needle 2: Next 26 sts
Needle 3: Last 10 sts
Join to begin working in the round, being careful not to twist.

Spout Decrease Round: [K2, p2] twice, k2 (end of Needle 1); p2, k2, p2, SKP, k to last 7 sts on Needle 2, k2tog, k1, p2, k2 (end of Needle 2); [p2, k2] twice, p2. 2 sts decreased.
Repeat this round 5 times more. 34 sts remain: 10 sts each on Needles 1 and 3, 14 sts on Needle 2.
Next Round: Work in pattern as set to end of Needle 1; p2, k2, p2, SKP, k2tog, p2, k2; work in pattern as set to end of Needle 3. 32 sts remain: 10 sts each on Needles 1 and 3, 12 sts on Needle 2.

Neck:
Neck and body of jug are worked in a stripe pattern. When working stripes, carry yarn not in use loosely along inside of work. Join CC and work in 2x2 Rib as set, using colors as follows:
Rounds 1-5: CC
Rounds 6-8: MC
Rounds 9-13: CC

Body:
Rounds 1-8 are worked using MC.
Round 1: K all sts.
Rounds 2-4: P all sts.
Round 5: [Yo, k2] to end of round. 48 sts.
Rounds 6-8: P all sts.

Rounds 9-15 are worked using CC.
Round 9: K all sts.
Rounds 10-11: [Yo, k2tog] to end of round.
Round 12: K all sts.
Rounds 13-15: P all sts. Break CC, leaving a tail to be woven in later.

Using MC, continue as follows:
Round 16: K all sts.
Rounds 17-18: [Yo, k2tog] to end of round.
Round 19: K all sts.
Rounds 20-22: P all sts.

Foot:
Before working foot, redistribute sts between 4 needles, placing 12 sts on each needle.
Round 1: [K2tog, k8, k2tog; k5, k2tog, k5] twice. 42 sts: 10 sts each on Needles 1 and 3, 11 sts each on Needles 2 and 4.
Round 2: K all sts.
Round 3: [K2tog, k6, k2tog; k4, k2tog, k5] twice. 36 sts: 8 sts each on Needles 1 and 3, 10 sts each on Needles 2 and 4.
Round 4: K all sts.
Round 5: [K2tog, k4, k2tog; k4, k2tog, k4] twice. 30 sts: 6 sts each on Needles 1 and 3, 9 sts each on Needles 2 and 4.
Round 6: [K2tog, k13] twice. 28 sts.
Round 7: [K2tog, k12] twice. 26 sts.
Round 8: [K2tog, k11] twice. 24 sts.
Redistribute sts between 3 needles, placing 8 sts on each needle.
Round 9: K all sts.
Rounds 10-12: P all sts.
Round 13: [K2tog, k4, k2tog] three times. 18 sts.
Round 14: [K2tog, k2, k2tog] three times. 12 sts.
Break yarn, draw through remaining sts and pull tight.

FINISHING

Use yarn tail from CO to sew end of handle to jug at base of neck. Turn jug inside out and securely weave in all ends.

pinkneedle
TITLEnightcap
SITnightcap-worn
Franklin Habit,
adapted from “Ball Knitted Like an Orange” in Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume One (1888)

Tangy

SIZE
One

FINISHED MEASUREMENTS
Height: 3 inches, excluding stem

MATERIALS
Fortissima Socka 50 [75% superwash wool, 25% nylon; 229yd/210m per 50g skein]; 1 skein each color
spacer [MC] #1008 Orange
spacer [CC] #1006 Grass Green
Note: If you are making both the orange and the pence jug, only 1 skein of CC is required.

spacer 1 set of four US #0/2mm double-point needles

[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]

spacer Tapestry needle
spacer Polyfil or other stuffing

GAUGE

30 sts/40 rows = 4 inches in stockinette st

 
PATTERN NOTES
[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here]

sk2p: Slip 1 knitwise, knit 2 together, pass slipped stitch over.

Directions for whip stitch can be found here.

 
DIRECTIONS

Orange:
Using MC, CO 6 sts. Divide sts evenly between 3 needles, placing 2 sts on each needle. Join to begin working in the round, being careful not to twist.

Odd-Numbered Rounds 1-19: K all sts.
Round 2: [M1, k1] six times. 12 sts.
Round 4: [M1, k2] six times. 18 sts.
Round 6: [M1, k3] six times. 24 sts.
Round 8: [M1, k4] six times. 30 sts.
Round 10: [M1, k5] six times. 36 sts.
Round 12: [M1, k6] six times. 42 sts.
Round 14: [M1, k7] six times. 48 sts.
Round 16: [M1, k8] six times. 54 sts.
Round 18: [M1, k9] six times. 60 sts.
Round 20: [M1, k10] six times. 66 sts. Increases are complete.

K 1 round.
Next Round: [M1, k4, sk2p, k3, kfb] 6 times.
Repeat these 2 rounds eight times more.
K 1 round. BO all sts, leaving a long tail.

Leaves (Make 6):
Using CC, CO 1 st.
Row 1 [RS]: Yo, k1. 2 sts.
Row 2 [WS]: Yo, p2. 3 sts.
Row 3 [RS]: Yo, k3. 4 sts.
Row 4 [WS]: Yo, p4. 5 sts.
Row 5 [RS]: Yo, k5. 6 sts.
Row 6 [WS]: Yo, p6. 7 sts. Increases are complete.

Next Row [RS]: Yo, k2, sk2p, k2. 6 sts.
Next Row [WS]; Yo, p6. 7 sts.
Repeat these 2 rows four times more.
(Note: In the original pattern, these 2 rows are repeated six times more.)
BO all sts, leaving a long tail. Weave in the end from the CO, but not from the BO (this tail will be used to sew the leaf to the orange).

Stalk:
Using CC, CO 9 sts.
K 1 row. P 1 row.
BO all sts, leaving a long tail. Weave in the end from the CO, but not from the BO (this tail will be used to sew the stalk to the orange).

FINISHING

Sew up small opening at base of orange.  Stuff orange firmly (it will not hold its shape if stuffed loosely). Using CC, sew together points at top of orange. Working outwards from center, whip stitch sections of orange together to enclose stuffing.

Beginning at top center of orange and using BO yarn tails, sew each leaf to one of the six ridges between orange sections. (I also like to secure the tips of the leaves to the sides of the orange to keep them from curling up and looking blowsy, but as it’s your orange you must do as you like.)

Use BO yarn tail to sew stem to top of orange at center of leaves. Insert threaded needle down through center of orange and out through center bottom. Make one or two stitches of green at the center bottom, then run the needle back through the orange and out the center top, pulling the thread tight to draw the bottom of the orange into an adorable little pucker. Fasten the yarn at the top and snip off excess.

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
habit-portraitBlank
Franklin Habit is a knitter, writer, illustrator and photographer who lives in Chicago. His first book, It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons, was recently published by Interweave Press.

Visit his blog at the-panopticon.blogspot.com

   
 

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