Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Path Foreward - Lace!

I started this reseach because I wanted to know how seamen of old stayed warm. Now, I know, they knit tighly to produce a warm fabric. They saved their wrists by using a knitting sheath.

The process works. I proved it with prototype samples. And, my knitting sheath prototypes do look like engineering prototypes. They feel like something that would be at home in a machine shop. They have the solid feel of utilitarian tools used for making the most utilitarian of garments - a fisherman's gansey.

However, we know that knitting sheaths were also used in the production of lace. One of Rutt's informants on knitting sheaths was using her knitting sheath to make lace. The great "wedding ring" shawls knit in the Shetland Islands were knit on the same tools used to knit ganseys. Why?

Well, because a knitting sheath is the easy way to knit lace. It really is.

I have been swatching lace. I am not real thrilled with "modern lace" as taught in most contemporary texts on knitting. I do not like the fabric. I mean, really, do you like these fabrics?

That little swatch in the photo does not look like much, but it is 650 stitches. It is also a nice fabric. No, it is a very nice fabric. It something a REAL lady would want to wear. A knitting sheath lets one knit fast enough that one can actually finish a lacey something in a reasonable length of time. A knitting sheath also helps maintain even tension.

Anyway, I have drunk the "Kool-Aid", and I am going to the "Dark Side". I am going to do some lace -- just as soon as I finish a couple of pair of house socks and a gansey.

Likewise, it is time to move past my "engineering prototype" style of knitting sheaths and make some that not only work, but that have some aesthetic appeal to folks other than locomotive machinists. I really am working on this. No more knitting like a pirate.

The lace needles in the photo are from various sources and about 1.4 to 1.5 mm by 20 or 25 cm long. I am going to say it right now,"Commerical lace needle makers focus more on making needles pretty than on making them functional. Lace kntters aided and abetted this by buying needles that were more pretty than functional.

Knitting hearts were used by ladies in Jane Austin's time to support fine needles for knitting lace. These hearts were jewlery in every sense of the term. However, such hearts required fairly stiff gowns to support the hearts, so I do not think I will go in that direction. However, if someone wants such jewlery, let me know and I will work with my sister ( to help you design a knitting heart that fully functional.


amanda m. said...

You'll need to explain the Knitting Heart a little better to me, please...

=Tamar said...

That swatch looks warm. I guess it's the fuzziness. I was surprised to find how warm lace really is, considering how many holes are in it.

Aaron said...

knitting hearts were "jewelery" pined to the heavy brokade of the dresses of the time that supported fine lace making needles so the lady could knit lace between dances at a ball or at a tea.

Two square inches of anything is not very warm. It is not enough to keep you warm on a South Pacific beach :) I am likely to start with lace points to be attached to something else.

Aline in Fortuna CA said...

I am fascinated by your research -- its thoroughness and thoughtfulness. I have read so much about the knitting sheaths, but I don't really understand how they're used. I believe the English knitters threw the yarn, with their right hands? I'm a continental knitter, but of course use both hands when doing two-color knitting. Do you have photos of your goose wings in use? Thanks for all you're doing.