The Real Thing: 19th Century Farmer’s Work Trousers

Wow. Recently published by NorfolkMuseumsCollections.org.

Rare surviving examples of early 19th century work clothes were found stuffed up a chimney in Toft monks, Norfolk.

It is uncertain whether the clothes were placed up the chimney to stop draughts or as is often the case with objects such as shoes and bottles, as a ritual protection against evil.

The light brown trousers have been heavily patched and repaired.

Although everyone except the very poorest would have had an outfit saved for their ‘Sunday best’ most labourers wouldn’t have had the spare income to buy new work clothes. Clothing was continually repaired and recycled, therefore remaining examples of this type are incredibly rare . Extra money could be earned at busy harvest time and this often supplied the money for any clothing and footwear needed over winter.

Date made:
1800 – 1830

Stone Age Spinning

Just read a fascinating article describing the discovery of ancient, twisted, wild flax fibers, embedded in soil samples taken from the Dzudzuana Cave in the Republic of Georgia.

Carbon dating places the habitation of the cave to the Upper Paleolithic period (32,000 to 11,000 years ago). The evidence, microscopic though it may be, suggests that the invention of twisted fiber cordage or twine dates from this early era. Cord remnants dating from 19,000 to  17,000 years ago were previously discovered  in Lascaux, France, and at the Ohalo site in Israel, but the fibers used to make the twine are still unidentified. The Dzudzuana flax fibers also contain knots and traces of color, suggesting that dyeing might also have been practiced, though it is equally possible that the color was absorbed simply from contact with mineral sources.  Representations of woven cloth appear on figurines of the time.

It’s intriguing to picture Stone Age people wearing turquoise and pink linen! But whatever the truth of that matter, the craft that we now refer to as spinning appears to have developed long before anyone thought.

Photos of the flax fibers
and the full article.

 

Before and After Felting -When Size Does Matter

felted-purse.jpg

I’ve been doing different kinds of felting for several years now, and people sometimes ask how I know how big to knit something when I want it to be a specific size after it’s felted. The simple answer: it depends. You have to know your wool. Some yarns, like Paton’s merino, shrinks for me by about 1/3, so I always knit things made with that yarn about 1/3 larger. Other yarns, like those specially designed for felting, I’ve found shrink far more, at least by half and sometimes more. The only way to relative certainty is to knit a swatch, measure it, felt it, then measure it again and calculate the difference. I know this is heresy in the eyes of some felters, but I’ve been known to spin wet knits in the dryer set on medium, let it tumble for about 2 minutes, take it out and check the size, and repeat as necessary. Works for me.

This bag was knitted with Lion Brand Monet yarn, which unfortunately has been discontinued.

Plants for Dyeing: Wild Aster

Here in Connecticut, asters in several pale colors  grow wild in just about any uncultivated space, blooming in late summer and early fall. Its name comes from the Greek word meaning “star”. Another of its names is starwort. An amazing number varieties have developed, but where I live, the New England Aster, with small light lavender flowers, is probably the most prevalent. Collecting enough for dyeing small amounts of wool is no problem. Its stems, flowers, and leaves will provide a range of yellow based shades, depending upon mordant:

Alum – Yellow-green

Chrome – Gold, brass

Tin – Yellow-gold

Iron – Grayish green, muted

No mordant – yellow-green, pale

The color of the flower is immaterial for dyeing purposes, so don’t hold out hope for lavender! Aster is poisonous in large doses, but was used in the past for bleeding, lung disorders, dysentery, and malaria. Some Native American tribes smoked the dried root, ate the cooked plant and also brewed a tea from the leaves. Take care not to confuse asters with daisy fleabane, which blossoms earlier. Also beware of bees – the pink New England asters in my garden are abuzz with them. They tend to settle for a while in the yellow center.

This is the treacherous month when autumn days

With summer’s voice come bearing summer’s gifts.

Beguiled, the down-trodden aster lifts

Her head and blooms again.

Helen Hunt Jackson, Autumn Sonnet

Plants for dyeing: Pokeweed

Originally posted on You're History!:

pokeweed Pokeweed is shrub that commonly grows in dry, neglected areas. In New England, it generally blossoms in mid-summer and sets fruit in September. Throughout history, pokeweed has had several uses. One of the first plants to show itself in spring, young shoots were gathered, boiled and eaten as a tonic after the long, cold winter. As the plant matures, however, parts of it become poisonous.

The Algonquins called this plant puccoon, which means “plant used for stains or dyes.” An English name for the same plant is “inkberry”, and in my museum classes I sometimes have kids pick, mash, and write with pokeberry. Though technically a berry, which provides a stain rather than a dye, pokeweed can be used to color wool a rich shade of magenta. Unfortunately, stains fade a discolor rather quickly, and are definitely not as colorfast as true dyes. (Think of what happens on that white…

View original 160 more words

My Favorite Felted Mittens Pattern

photo: LGP

This past winter, I knitted, felted and sold about 20 pairs of felted mittens at pre-holiday craft fairs. I don’t mind making socks on circular needles, but not mittens – guess the hole for the thumb bothers me, I dunno. Anyway, I use the 2-needle pattern below, but I make the mittens much larger than if they weren’t about to be felted. That means, for a child, I make a small adult size. For men, the bigger medium or largest  size. You have to use your judgement and know your yarn. Use your judgment for women.  For felting, I’ve found that Paton’s 100% wool worsted weight gives me predictable results. It is readily available, inexpensive, knits up beautifully, and comes in many lovely solids and blends. Yarns made specifically for felting shrink too much for this application.

Traditional two needle mittens work up quickly, and suit everyone from child to adult. Use up your yarn stash and knit a pair of mittens in a different color for everyone in the family.
Sizes: small child, medium child, large child, adult

# Materials: #5 and #7 needles
# 200 yards of worsted weight yarn
# 1 stitch holder
# 2 stitch markers
# tapestry needle

Gauge: 5 sts = 1″ on #7 needles

Cuff: With smaller needles, loosely cast on 24(28-32-36)sts. Work *K1, P1,* ribbing until piece measures 2 1/2 (3 1/2, 4, 4 1/2)”. Change to larger needle.

Hand: Row 1 (right side): K2, inc in next st, K to last 3 sts inc in next st, K1. Row 2 Purl. Continue working in SS until piece measures 1″ (1 1/4, 1 1/2, 2″) from end of ribbing, ending with a P row. For the last 3 sizes only Work 2 more rows. (SS)

Thumb Gusset: Row 1: K12 (12-14-16-18), place marker on needle; inc in each of next 2 sts, place marker on needle: K12 (14-16-18) sts. Row 2: and all even rows Purl. Row 3: K to marker, sl marker, inc in next st; K to st before next marker, inc in next st, sl marker, K to end. Repeat Rows2 and 3 until there are 8 (10-12-14) sts between the markers; end by working Row 2.

Divide for Thumb: K12 (14-16-18), drop marker; K8 (10-12-14)sts for thumb, and then place thumb sts on holder; K 12 (14-16-18) Work even in SS until work measures 4″ (5 1/2 -6-7″) from start of Hand, ending by working a purl row.

Top Shaping: Row 1: *K2, K2tog; rep from* across. Row 2: Purl. Row 3: *K1, K2tog, rep from * Row 4: Purl. Row 5: K2tog across; break yarn, leaving 18″ end. Thread yarn into tapestry

needle, run needle through remaining sts. Slip sts off needle, pull yarn up tightly and fasten securely. leave yarn for sewing.

Thumb: Sl sts from holder to needle, purl one row. Work even in SS until thumb measures 1 1/4 ( 1 3/4-2-2 1/4″) ending with a purl row. Next Row: K2 tog, rep across row cut yarn leaving 12″ end finished the same as above. Fold mitten and sew seams.

Your mittens will be comically large and floppy. That’s OK, that’s what you want. Follow your best felting instructions until they shrink to size. I’ve been known to throw wet mittens in the dryer, medium setting, to get to where I want them.

Good luck, happy knitting , let me know how you do!

(updated 2/2/11)