12 December 2006

Beating my head against Beeton

The knitting section of Beeton's Book of Needlework is the most scattershot collection I've seen in a long time.

I am aware that old knitting patterns don't observe the rules that we do now. I know the needle sizes are sometimes inexplicable, or unexplained, that the yarns are out of production, that they don't tell you what the gauge should be. That's OK. I can work with that.

But it's funny, isn't it, how Mrs Beeton's needlework book includes an engraving of a gauge for determining the size of your knitting pins (a proprietary item, from which endorsement someone doubtless made a lot of money, though not Mrs B herself, as she was dead by the time this thing went to press) and not one pattern calls for knitting needles of a specific size? Sometimes they call for steel, bone or wood needles, which gives you an idea of what rough size range the needles should be, but never any more than that and sometimes not even that.

Hell, some of the patterns don't even tell you how many stitches to cast on to start with.

Consider, for instance, the Knitted Neckerchief in Black Shetland Wool which is pattern 323 in the book.

Pretty thing, yes? And just the sort of thing I was thinking about recently, because I need something to protect me from cold air blowing down the back of my neck at work. (It is always cold in this building. Always).

OK, given that the patterns calls for Shetland wool and we seem to be dealing with a lacy pattern, I can make a guess about yarn weight and needle size. Gauge is not so important here because fit can be flexible with this kind of thing. However, it's nice to get a reasonable description of how to actually make the thing, and there's even less of that in this pattern than usual for a 19th C knitting pattern.

Consider, in contrast, the pattern for the lacy edging to be applied, which is spelled out in exacting detail.

Something else for me to play with, I suppose. If my counting is correct, row 1 needs to have 6 stitches to come out right.

Maybe tonight once the baking is in the oven. Tonight at Chateau-sur-Magothie we make lussekatter because it is important to know where your ancestors are buried.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...