Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Home Sewing

Home Sewing in 1929
The picture is from the cover of a small book entitled, 'Shortcuts to Home Sewing - The Modern Singer Way'.  This is one of the books my sister sent over to me when she lived in the USA.  She volunteered in a local charity bookshop and was able to find wonderful vintage knitting, sewing and cookery books for my collection.

Years ago I used to do a lot of home sewing and made nearly all my own clothes.  Never as good as my mum and my sister, I could get by.  More recently I have lost the interest, and apparently lost the knack.  The last two skirts I made came straight off the sewing machine and into the waste bin, so dire was the product.  The language was something terrible.  There's a dress in my wardrobe with a long zip at the back that will not go in correctly although I have taken it out and put it back in three times. 

Some of the failure may have been partly to do with my not taking into account the way my shape altered over time.  Now that I'm managing to lose a little weight, maybe I'll have another go.  Although, at 5ft 2inches and curvy I doubt I'll ever achieve the effect in this little picture below.  It comes from the same little Singer book and the text above it asks you to think of your sewing machine as a 'never-failing friend'.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Q is for Queen Bess's Stockings

Diamond Faggot Pattern
Q is for Queen Bess's Stockings, another post for the ABC meme hosted by
This is also my one hundredth post.  Yay!

I was having a bit of a problem with 'Q' when I saw in Mary Thomas's Book of Knitting Patterns a picture of a pair of silk stockings worn by Queen Elizabeth I.  The picture is given in the chapter on Faggot Stitch Motifs and is headed, 'Queen Bess's Stockings'. 

Mary Thomas says that the stockings are in Diamond Faggot Stitch and below the picture (which is a little unclear) are the instructions for Diamond Faggot Pattern.  I made a swatch in the palest shell pink cotton 4 ply on 3.25 mm needles.  The colour probably isn't showing up well here.

I haven't been able to source a picture of the stockings to post, but I believe there are some at Hatfield House if you ever get the chance to visit.

The story goes that silk stockings were first made in England in 1575, knitted for Queen Elizabeth by  Mistress Montague.  Up until that time stockings had been made of cloth or felt and sewed together with seams.  Doesn't sound all that comfortable and so no surprise that Queen Elizabeth liked knitted silk stockings so much that after that first pair she always insisted on them and Mistress Montague had to keep on knitting.

Mistress Montague's Pattern
Barbara Walker's Treasury of Stitches gives 'Mistress Montague's Stitch' and also tells the story of Queen Bess's stockings.  I think this stitch is far more likely to have been the one used by Mistress Montague.  The swatch has a  little more body to it than the diamond faggot stitch and would, I think, be more comfortable to wear.  Very 'holey' stitches aren't comfortable on the feet and legs, I find, which is why I only tried fishnet stockings the one time (but that's another story).

Take a look at the wonderful website on the link below for an article all about Renaissance stockings and lots of other costume articles.

The Purple Files : Keepyng yer Legges Warme

Friday, 26 August 2011

What's in a Name

Wandering across the hills on a fine morning in late summer, the mist lifts and the sun warms the land.  Damp, delicate flowers start to lift their heads and shake off the weight of yesterday's rain and the poetry of the old flower names sings across the grass.

Viper's Bugloss
I took several pictures of Viper's Bugloss and have found they all tend towards the fuzzy.  Maybe this blue is just too intense for me to capture. 

Birdsfoot Trefoil
Musk Mallow

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

That Late Summer Feeling

Haws - Late Summer Bounty
The hedgerows and the hills are preparing for autumn.  Blossom and buds replaced by fruits and intense colour.

A Confused Blackberry - Blossom and Fruit at the same time
There is an excitement and urgency in the air.   Feed up as much as possible, hoard and make the most of it.  Last winter was long and hard.  Be prepared to hunker down and get yourself fit and strong while you can.

A Small Section of the Ramparts of Sidbury Hill Fort

And on the top of Sidbury Hill in the ancient hillfort, I wonder how those people prepared and how they survived on draughty old Salisbury Plain.  Ancient boundary lines run down from the hillfort to mark out their grazing, but in times of trouble they would withdraw to the fort.  And they clearly expected trouble.  In places these massive ditches must be 30feet deep.  So they dealt with threats from the climate, from lean years and from enemies who would try to take what they had.

On a sunny morning in August this place is serene and beautiful.  I wonder how often they faced the threat of invasion or starvation.

Monday, 22 August 2011

P is for Perambulation

I wonder where this goes
P is for Perambulation - another post in the ABC meme series.

Having recently reached a birthday with an  uncomfortably high number and a weight with an uncomfortable number of kilos in it, I have taken up walking.  I march up the local iron age hillfort - short walks on work days, long walks on days off. 

On the longer walks I follow tracks and trails that look interesting, rather than fixing a route.  I like to wander and somehow I never get tired.  This ancient place has a peace about it and the air is clean and clear.

Sunlight breaking through to warm an ancient ash tree
In the woodland wrens scold me indignantly, deer crash across my path and a green woodpecker trails me from the treetops laughing uproariously like a too loud lady at a polite gathering and warning everyone I am coming through.  A barn owl snores nearby, cross that humans have to make so much noise crashing about.  (Barn owls really do snore).

This week's long walk was on a beautiful misty morning following heavy rain.  Everything was sodden and as the morning grew brighter the flowers straightened up and butterflies came out to warm themselves. 

The view from the top
on the ramparts of Sidbury Hill Iron Age Hillfort looking out across Salisbury Plain
This week's walk was so wonderful that I shall be using the pictures in the next few posts and straying away from knitting just for a short time.  I need to capture the late summer atmosphere and colours.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Dear Followers

Hello Followers, I know that some new followers have joined me, but owing to a bug in Blogger I can't see who you are.  My Followers listing completely disappeared at about the beginning of August I think.

Thank you for following.  I hope to be able to reciprocate as soon as this bug is sorted out.  If you happen to catch this post say hello and then I'll be able to welcome you properly.

What we did at the weekend

Angry clouds

Recently we went to a steam fair at South Cerney in Gloucestershire.  It rained.  Heavily.  Forked lightening, the lot.

But for a couple of hours when it stopped raining and there were lots of things to see.

In the poultry tent a sat a hen with her feathers ruffled out while several chicks nestled under cover.  But we waited and the chicks, either getting too hot, or just plain curious, peeped out their little heads to watch the crowds pass.

A Very Fine Fellow - I like his tweedy headgear
The photos aren't great because the poultry tent is quite dark and, of course, to use flash on the camera would cause all kinds of distress to the birds.

Close-up of plumage of a Wyandotte hen
I love the plumage of the Wyandotte hens and seek them out when I see a poultry tent.   Black and white ripples.  So classy. 

The rain stayed off long enough for us to see an excellent falconry display presented by the Falconry Days team from Warwickshire.  The best falconry display I have ever seen, with Max as its star.

Max a male Gyr/Saker Falcon

Monday, 15 August 2011

O is for Old Cars

1936 Hudson Terraplane 4 Door Saloon
O is for Old Cars, next letter in the ABC meme.

I am rather fond of old cars, the styling and colours.  All sorts of interesting shapes and patterns can be found.

1939 Plymouth
The square headlights on this Plymouth are extremely rare,  they only made them for a year and what catches my eye is the art deco influence in the red paint detail at the top.

1930's Triumph Dolomite
For some reason, this makes me think of Madonna's bustier phase.

Can't remember what this is - seen at the Great Dorset Steam Fair
I'm very taken by the combination of rust and mustard colours set against the blue shepherd's hut in the background.  There's a hint of dirty green in there as well.

Moss Stitch - single row stripes in five colours


Friday, 12 August 2011

Old Books

Lurid 1950s thriller
Bought at a car boot sale for 10p - for me the front cover is worth that alone.  This is a 1953 edition. 

The pleasures of the open road
First published in 1939, this is the 1959 edition of the caravan manual.  I would love to get my hands on the 1939 edition.

This is a first edition of 1953.  I'll leave you to make up your own captions for this one.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The View from My Hobby Room

Getting a bit overgrown
Periodically I have to climb on the desk in my hobby room, prise open the window and cut back the ivy.  I love the ivy for the habitat it provides to small birds who sometimes come and look at me through the window.  When, however, the ivy starts to cut out the light, I have to do something about it.  And clean the window.  This is all rather precarious, but good when it's finished.

The view from the open window after clearance - yes, I know I have lorries in my garden.
Ivy cleared, clutter returned to it's proper place.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Not In The Mood

Bias knit garter stripes inspired by a satellite picture of a Saudi Arabian desert
You know how it goes, (maybe you don't),  but sometimes you just aren't in the mood to knit.  Not in the mood to finish those five UFOs in the basket, not even in the mood to start that new jacket for Autumn/Winter season that you have been drooling over and promising yourself for the last three years.

Bobbles inspired by pictures of the Fly Agaric fungus - the one you always see in pictures in fairy stories
On days like that when it's raining, I'm not working and I can't garden, everyone's been fed and I have cleaned pretty much everything, then I turn to 'faffing about'.  I look through old patterns, I browse on Ravelry, I tidy up the yarns, and when I feel like picking up needles, I swatch. 

I was encouraged in this when I took up a City and Guilds handknit course taught by Loraine McClean.  I loved the swatching and the learning.  Family pressures prevented me from completing the course, but the swatching and learning habit has stayed with me.

Inspired by a 1940s Stitchcraft pattern and knitted in fine crochet cotton on 2.25mm needles
Barbara Walker and Mary Thomas are well and truly thumbed for stitches I haven't tried.  Maybe that's the problem, maybe I'm a 'sampling' person, rather than a 'knit to the bitter end' person.

Bobbles and stripes in chenille inspired by a picture in an old RHS Garden magazine 
I look at pictures of plants and the natural world, art and gardens.  I have heaps of coloured paper cut from ads in glossy magazines, throw them up in the air and look at the colour combinations that land.  Then try to knit them into pleasing patterns in slip stitch.  I look at vintage knitting patterns and try the stitches out.

This sample comes from a 1940's pattern and full details given in a previous post  here.  I just love, love this and make no apology for posting it again.

This is another post in the ABC meme with An Accidental Knitter

Friday, 5 August 2011


Seen at the Weald and Downland Museum open air museum at Singleton.  Painted plaster in glorious patterns.  The Museum information shows that this is a late Tudor (probably late 16th century) mural painting taken from a timber framed house at Fittleworth.  It closely resembles contemporary embroidery and lining papers.  The framing timbers were colour washed in a light background so that the pattern could continue across them.
Possibly something for the Knitter and Crocheter here

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

And another mystery object

Can you see what it is yet?

This may not look like much, but there is a cunning plan.  Mum has difficulty holding things and uses a wash mitt rather than a flat flannel or washcloth.  This way she doesn't have to grip it, just puts her hand inside.  So, thinking about my large stash of boucle and other cottons, I thought about knitting up some wash mitts as a little present for her birthday.  I'll wrap them with small bars of special scented soap.

The colour is a sort of khaki green and I have put a light blue with it.  Not a combination I would have naturally picked, but the yarn was there and although the photo may not show it well, there is a sort of seaside feel to the combination.

The cotton knits up pretty much as DK and I have used linen stitch which gives a very close texture and should prevent too much bagginess.  When using linen stitch you knit on slightly larger needles than normal for the yarn because of the closeness of the fabric, so I have done this one on 5mm.  Thinking about trying the next on 4mm to see what happens.

Linen stitch is one of my favourite slip stitches and I have knitted all sorts in it and have plans for more.

Mobile phone cover in linen stitch
You can try it in two colours and get interesting effects :

Row 1,  Col 1 :   K1 *yfwd, sl1pw, ybk K1*    last stitch K1
Row 2,  Col 1 :   K1 *sl1pw, yfwd, p1, ybk*    last stitch K1
Row 3,  Col 2 :   As row 1
Row 4,  Col 2 :   As row 2