Archive for January, 2014

HSF Challenge 2: Innovation

The theme for this challenge is to make something which was an innovation in its day. My first thought was how fun it would be to make a Victorian bathing outfit, to celebrate how the innovation of sea bathing had become popular. But I don’t have a pattern for one and only two weeks before the challenge is due, I couldn’t order one in time, especially from across the pond. So that idea can wait for another challenge maybe 🙂

My next thought was that it was an innovation in early Victorian times to have published patterns and instructions for knitting and crochet, so I trawled free pdfs on these two fascinating sites to find something early that I wanted to make and thought was within my skill set.

The earliest ones are quite challenging as they tend not to provide pictures. Also the instructions, sometimes called receipts which is an old term for recipes, can be somewhat basic and confusing, assuming you know what they mean. For example, for night stockings, ’54 stitches on large pins, turning every other stitch, and lessening a little gradually towards the end.’ That’s it, that’s the whole instructions for that item. I guess you have to know what it is to look like, without a picture! The turning is another word for purl, so it’s basically a 1×1 rib, tapered, but then what?

That is from one of the very oldest, which itself claims to be the first, “The Ladies’ Knitting and Netting Book” published in London in 1838: ‘At a period when all Fancy Works are so justly appreciated, and highly patronized, it is presumed that this little volume, the only one hitherto published on this subject, may be valuable.’

It is from this book, then, that I wanted to find something to make. Since my arthritic knee has been playing up a lot in this cold weather, when I saw the pattern for ‘Knee Caps’ on p.10 of this little book, and it looked relatively doable, I decided I had my pattern.

‘Begin with 36 stitches; knit 8 or 12 rows, according to the size wished for; knit 15 stitches, make a stitch, knit 6, make a stitch, knit the rest. Add 2 in the same manner every other row until you have 52 on the needle. Knit 12 or 16 rows, and decrease in the same proportion in which you augmented. Sew the ends together.’

I found another book, an American edition from ten years later, which had many of the same patterns, including this one, verbatim but with the additional information that it should be worked on ‘very coarse needles’. Not knowing what constituted coarse in those days, I have begun my first attempt using brown DK felting wool and 4.5mm needles. Some of it can be judged as you go, so I can add rows, or leave rows out, as I choose. If it is totally wrong, I shall have to scrap it and start again in a different size. This slightly later book also has some definitions of terms so is more useful. I suppose that is also an innovation.

Early Victorian knee warmer, 1838

Early Victorian knee warmer, 1838

I began knitting and did the first 8 rows, but when I reached the instruction to make one, I had to check if they had a preferred way to do this. The early book did not say, the later one had instruction for both YO and knit in front and back loop, I took the easy option of YO, as you can see by the holes. Now I am going off to do more, as the cat has come to meow at me, saying she wants a cuddle 🙂

I found another knee cap pattern in a much later book, from 1886, which is more complicated, on p.53 of this book. It is a much smaller gauge, worked in the round, ribbed. I might try and make one to compare them, but for now the easier one will suffice.

Later update: I have now finished. I conclude that I did indeed have the wrong needle size. I was misled for quite a while, as the pattern produces a nice, kneecap shaped bulge of about the right size, but then I had to do lots of rows to get the ends to meet. The pattern implies no extra ones, though I suppose a very skinny person might just have managed, my knee gets quite swollen. I think it safe to assume that ‘coarse needles’ were bigger than 4.5mm in those days. I might try again some time and make one in chunky with 7mm needles (which would be more like a bent tube than a tube with a kneecap bulge), but this one works, fits and is comfortable, so I regard it as a success 😀

I did make one other minor change, in that I narrowed the bit under the knee slightly, to 30 stitches, and then increased it back to 36 sts. This saves it wrinkling. It does slip down a bit when walking. It is also a bit itchy. I dare say if it was worn over period stockings both problems might be solved. I made it as tight as I dared, since my knee is not so swollen today and it has to fit when swollen as that is when I will need it most!

The Challenge: Innovation (published knitting patterns)

Fabric: pure wool DK yarn, dark brown.

Pattern:  The Ladies’ Knitting and Netting Book

Year: 1838

Notions: 4.5mm knitting needles, crochet hook to join together, scissors to cut yarn

How historically accurate is it? pretty accurate, except the gauge being way off, which must have happened then too!

Hours to completeI forgot to count, several

First worn: today

Total cost:less than £1 because the yarn was a bargain.

Knee warmer after being worn.

Knee warmer after being worn.

It looks a bit uneven here because I took it off for the photo and it is slightly stretched. Note the ubiquitous cat hair, as Pebble likes to help me knit by lying on me at awkward angles, and sometimes keeping my feet warm. I might have hoped tabby hair might not show up so much on brown…

This one shows the knee bulge:

Thee knee cap shaped bulge in the knitting.

Thee knee cap shaped bulge in the knitting.


January 30, 2014 at 4:12 PM 2 comments


I learnt a new word today, reading a blog from the British Museum by Peter Sheppard Skӕrved – quiddity! It apparently means ‘thingness’ which is a wonderful concept as well. I do like it when I encounter a new word to add to my collection of obscure and interesting ones. Especially if I like both the sound and the meaning.

I like it so much it is now officially my Word of the Year and I shall endeavour to use it at any available opportunity.

The question is, do I like it enough to oust my previous favourite word from its top spot? Time will tell, but it would be quite an achievement as I am very fond of the word farctate.

January 24, 2014 at 6:24 PM 2 comments

Void poem

I wrote a poem about how it feels to have no energy. This is not how I feel all the time, but when I say I have energy level issues, I hope this goes some way to explaining that I don’t just mean I get a bit tired. It’s a bit depressing, sorry. I may have said before that I don’t like writing about my condition and prefer to keep upbeat, but I wrote this today, based on how I felt a few days ago and I thought I’d share it.


I lie on the bed
Weighed down by a leaden duvet
Glued to the mattress
Immobile, but not resting.

Limbs too heavy to lift
As if they are rooted
Or melding with the surface
Like rotting logs

Heavy, saturated, soggy
Disintegrating fibres
Too weak to hold together,
Dissolving mush.

My frantic brain
Scurries around
Like a mouse hiding in a skull
Desperately seeking answers.

Did I do too much?
Am I stressed?
Did I eat the wrong thing?
Why am I like this?

Or worse, the mouse too
Lies stiff on its side
A twitching foot
The only sign of life.

(c) Annette Jones (you have my permission to share as long as I am acknowledged as author)

Normal service will resume in the next post, which will probably be about Victorian knitting! I hope this doesn’t put you off my blog 🙂 I don’t want to come across as whiny, but some of my readers have health issues too and sometimes it is good to know you’re not alone.

January 23, 2014 at 10:54 PM 8 comments

HSF Challenge 1

So I mentioned in my last post that I had decided to participate in the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge and as the deadline for the first challenge is today, I thought I’d better hurry up and do something 🙂

The challenge was called ‘make do and mend’ so I decided it would be quick and useful to add a drawstring to a petticoat I bought off ebay which didn’t have one, as it is of course unwearable without one. This was an easy fix, but without the challenge I might not have got round to it for a while…

I simply made a crochet chain, using one of my antique bone crochet hooks (any excuse to use those, they are lovely and smooth and I can imagine who might have used it when it was new and what they might have made) and some stash yarn. I didn’t have a pure natural fibre the right colour, so I went with the indigo coloured cotton and linen DK. Then I threaded it through the channel tied to a Honiton lace bobbin, which was a very good tool for the job.

Drawstring crocheted with bone hook, tied to Honiton bobbin and drawn through channel. The lace is from the bottom of the petticoat.

Drawstring crocheted with bone hook, tied to Honiton bobbin and drawn through channel. The lace is from the bottom of the petticoat.

The Challenge: Make do and Mend

Fabric: The petticoat is cotton lawn. I used a cotton/linen blend yarn to make the drawstring.

Pattern: none

Year: not sure. It’s not very full and has a bit extra fabric at the back. I would guess late Victorian or Edwardian, but it could have been older and adapted, or could be more recent. Certainly old enough though.

Notions: I used an antique bone crochet hook 🙂

How historically accurate is it? Well, it’s an actual antique and I used an antique crochet hook; I chose natural fibre yarn in an indigo colour and used crochet, a technique they used at the time. But I’m not certain if they would have used crochet chain for a drawstring, or whether they would have used dark blue for a white petticoat. I did have some white yarn, but it was half acrylic, so I went with the natural fibre over the more appropriate colour. So I’ll say 99%

Hours to complete: under an hour

First worn: I tried it on for the photo today

Total cost: the petticoat was under £12 and the yarn was stash, bought in a sale and I didn’t use much.

The petticoat can now be worn :) (carefully, of course!)

The petticoat can now be worn 🙂 (carefully, of course!)

It might be a simple and quick job, but at least I did it, and just in time 🙂 (Maybe I should neaten up those ends though…)

January 15, 2014 at 1:52 PM Leave a comment

New(ish) Year Post

It’s still the first week of the New Year, that will just have to be good enough. And if we start the year as we intend to continue then that will have to suffice. Better to do something a bit late than not at all, right?

And on the bright side, it can’t be a much worse year for the blog than last year. I was a bit shocked to discover how few posts I did last year, except that month I did the Jackie Gauntlet challenge. Shameful. I apologise. And I intend to do better this year. Honest 🙂

Of course we all know where good intentions lead…

But they have to be better than bad intentions?

Anyway, enough of that. Last year was a bit up and down. The worst bit was at the beginning, when I had to give up my PhD. I’d love to be able to say I’m completely over that, but it still irks me. I am moving on though, and the best thing about last year was achieving a Big Goal which I have been trying on and off to do almost all my life, writing a novel! At least the first draft, which is a long way from finishing one, but it is a huge step which I had not managed before.

Other good things about last year were learning bobbin lace and learning to knit. And felting, as well as the machine, I also learned wet felting and nuno felting, though I haven’t blogged about them yet. And I wrote a few poems.

As for the year of finishing things, well, the less said the better. I finished the first draft, OK? And a few other things. But not noticeably more than other years. I prefer starting things anyway 🙂

So much for last year, this year is a new start. It has not felt like much of a new start yet. My energy levels have been the worst ever, which is depressing, which I need to resist as depression saps energy. Nasty vicious cycle and very hard to break with chronic arthritis. And when I say poor energy levels, I really mean unutterably shockingly appalling. Like not having the energy to anything for a whole day, and not the next day either. Not getting up, not knitting, not blogging or writing, just reading, watching telly or wasting time online. Today has been a bit better, obviously, as I am writing this 🙂 and I also managed to tidy my bathroom a bit.

I don’t like blogging about stuff like that. It is the reality of my life, but not very cheerful or interesting. I prefer to write positive blog posts, which is partly why I have done so few last year. Not that it is the only reason, it maybe accounts for somewhat over half the time, the rest is because I was too busy doing interesting things which I could have blogged about, except for being too busy actually doing them. And then too tired recovering from them. And then on to the next new thing.

So, what about this year?

Jackie is doing a series of 30 day challenges, one a month, which is a nice idea and I have tried it before, or at least having a primary focus to each month. That was two years ago and the January went great, I worked really hard on the HBP (House Beautification Project) and achieved a lot (and it’s kind of depressing to compare how much energy I was able to dredge up even then in the throes of my stress condition to how little I have right now, but I won’t go there). It slackened off the next month though, which surprised me, as I was supposed to be focusing on creativity, which I enjoy, while I don’t enjoy tidying up. And then it fell apart when my Mum’s cancer came back. But she’s soldiering on and the treatment is still working so far, I pray it keeps working, she has more this month and it gets harder each time, but further apart at least.

I might join in some months, but this month I have just not started well, so that’s not going to be my plan this time.

I’m not really sure I have a plan. No, let’s be quite brutally honest: this year, I have no plan. Which doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad year or one where I don’t get anything done (I hope!) because I am going to hold on to the hope that I will improve, at least when the weather does in spring. OK so that’s a while off yet and the weather is set to get worse first, but what can I do? Move to Spain? Nope. So all I can do is hunker down and try to get through the bad weather and hope I will improve, and try to improve.

Do I win the prize for most optimistic New Year post yet? 😀 Maybe the booby prize for most pathetic…

I do have Big Scary Goals though. I might not be feeling positive about them right now, but I did manage to write that first draft and I loved it. Of course, now I have a Crappy First Draft TM to edit and it seems like a big pile of horse turds, but it will be good practice to try and turn that big pile of horse turds into useful manure a really great final draft. Also it would be so exciting and fun and a big learning curve to self publish it, so that is an adventure I’m terrified of looking forward to.

And I want to write at least one more first draft – of course I have the ideas for about 3 or 4 jostling for attention and I did begin one over Christmas 🙂 but I need to properly outline it and not jump the gun and ruin it. It is very tempting to switch focus to another first draft (they are safer and less scary than editing something into a shape where someone else might actually be allowed to read it!) so I shall need to find some discipline from somewhere. Maybe I can borrow it from the part of me which can sit there with a big box of chocolates and not eat them which bemuses my husband and sister so much. Then of course I might get fat again from eating all the chocolates…

I also want to learn knitted cables and finish more things. And I want to participate in this excellent challenge to make historical clothing which will be a useful motivator to get my kit in order for re-enacting, which I’d love to do more of as I haven’t managed much these last few years. I would love to get an old caravan to do up so I can get to more shows, but that is a bit of a pipe dream. The challenge will also be fun for making some stuff to go with my collection of antique clothes which I have not mentioned much here, except the parasols I think.

And of course I need to blog more! I have lots of stuff to blog about.

I could try to blog once a week. I’m not very good at weekly goals (I tend to forget which day it is and think it’s still the same week when it’s actually three months later) but that is no reason for not trying. I know one way is to try and do it on a set day of the week, but again, that is not so easy when you have fluctuating energy levels. I can try though. Let’s see how it goes.

What do you think then? And what about your goals or resolutions or whatever?

January 6, 2014 at 8:01 PM 2 comments

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