Tuesday, March 25, 2014

a new knitting project

The January/February 2014 issue of Piecework Magazine is the historical knitting issue. I found all of the articles very interesting this time, but one in particular enticed me to actually knit something. One of the articles is about textile artifacts found at Magdelena de Cao Viejo, Peru. According to the article, the town was settled in 1578 and abandoned around 1712, after an earthquake. The textile artifacts found are presumed to date from that period. Four stocking remnants have been identified - two made from wool, two from cotton. I decided to make myself a pair of stockings based on the information given for the four pieces.

For my pattern, I knit the stripe pattern found in the cotton stockings, but used my handspun wool. My stockings reach my knee, and will be held up with tablet woven garters. The original wool artifact is made with ss-Z yarn, with a gauge of 14 stitches and 20 rows per inch (see p. 12 of the magazine). My yarn is spun zz-S, and it is knit at a gauge of 9 stitches and 12 rows per inch, using size 1 needles. Clearly the original was much finer, but I began with some Finn yarn that I had previously spun, so that set my gauge (and my spin direction).

Two shades of madder-dyed wool are used for the stripes. The lighter one is BFL; the darker is merino.

I soon discovered that I didn't have enough of the lighter shade of wool to complete both pieces. For the second stocking I am reversing the colors. It takes a lot of yarn to make knee-high socks!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My Laurel Day, Part 3

After the speeches, you are given the regalia associated with the rank. These symbols are made by your friends. First Brid asked me to return my apprentice belts (I was wearing 2). She replaced it with her Laurel belt.
Her belt had been made for her several years ago by Isabel de Bayonne, another apprentice sister. It is beautiful double weave tablet weaving with laurel leaves all along it. Isabel created the weaving pattern herself. Someday I may understand tablet weaving enough to make such a complex pattern; this belt will certainly inspire me to try. I know how much this belt means to Brid, and I cherish her for caring enough to pass it on to me.

Next I was given a back cloth. This is a Viking woman's cloak that attaches to the brooches. It was made by my friend Vibeke. She is an expert in natural dyes. She dyed the wool and silk trim with indigo - such a beautiful color blue! It is embroidered down the sides with laurel leaves. The embroidery is made with stitches found at the Oseberg ship burial. Vibeke spun the thread and dyed it and the silk leaves with woad. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would own something made by Vibeke. It is so pretty!

Next I received a hood made by Arnlief and Frigga. It is based on the Skjoldehamn, Norway find, dated to 1095. While it is made a little larger than the original, the pattern is the same. I love this ingenious pattern which is made using the minimum amount of fabric possible, and no waste. A roundel of laurel leaves surrounded by silver wire weaving, is appliqued to the front panel of the hood. Frigga made many, many enamel leaves which make a border around the hood. Hidden inside is a delicate border of what has locally come to be called "the Ose stitch," although I didn't discover it; I merely taught it to my friends. All of the embroidery on the hood was made using wool thread which I had spun. They had tricked my into giving it to them for a different project. (I wonder if that was a real project, or just an excuse.)

I received a medallion. Everyone receives a medallion when they are inducted into an order, but this one is very special. The laurel medallion itself was designed by Jean-Paul Ducasse. The silver chain to hold it is done with Viking wire weaving, made by Frigga. There are 6 beautiful glass beads on the chain, made by Irene von Lassen. Two of them are decorated with laurel leaves. I will feel special every time I wear this necklace.

I received a fillet, made by Ruth Baraskya. She sews the most delicate embroidery of anyone I know. This fillet is made of maroon wool with tiny leaves and beads embroidered along its length. I will wear this often.

I was next given a veil, based on grave finds from Viking Dublin. This was woven by Siobhan. It is the finest, most delicate weaving I have ever seen. It will make me proud to be able to show off her work.

Each piece of regalia is layered on, one after the other. I was quite hot by this time. The final piece I was given was a nalbinding hat, made by Arnlief. It is made using my favorite stitch, with blue and green spiral stripes, as has been found at Finnish sites. I've already worn this hat to work. It's perfect. Finally, the scroll was read. The calligraphy and illumination was done by Heather Rose.

After all of that you are welcomed into the Order by all of the people who are already part of the Order. That was many, many hugs. Finally you are dismissed from court. It was an overwhelming, absolutely perfect day. I don't know how Richard was able to keep so much planning secret, but I love him for it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

My Laurel Day, Part 2

I suppose it is sort of like a wedding - everyone thinks their own is the best one ever. But my Laurel ceremony was the best one ever (OK, I'm biased). In preparation for court, my hair was dressed in French braids:
 I've never seen my hair look so beautiful (thank you, friends).

The procession began with Drake, who had written a song for me, based on a medieval Danish tune.

Jaquelinne was my herald (it's kind of amazing to hear all of your accomplishments shouted out). Geoffrey and Muriel carried my banner. I don't know if Brid chose them specifically, but it meant a lot to me - they represented the support of my household and my apprentice sisters and brothers. It was very comforting to walk up escorted by Richard and accompanied by my household and close friends.Without these people I would never have made it to this day.

When the procession reaches the dais, the King asks for an answer to his question. Of course I said yes. He then calls for the various Orders to speak on my behalf. Sir Yoshitsune spoke for the Order of Chivalry. He spoke about honor and the qualities related to chivalry. The speech (all the speeches) ends with "she is my peer." Mistress Brid spoke for the Order of the Pelican, about service I've performed. Brid is (was) my Laurel, so I did not expect her to speak for me, but she is a double peer (having been awarded for both her science and her service). That was very special. Countess Thyra spoke for the Ladies of the Rose (former Queens). She told personal stories about how she got to know me. She is so kind. The final speaker was Mistress Siobhan, who spoke for the Order of the Laurel. She had been my apprentice sister until a year ago. She spoke of my pursuit of arts and sciences. When she ended the speech with "she is my peer," I was ready to cry. Siobhan is the only other person I know who pursues her art (weaving) from a scientific perspective. I have looked up to her and respected her for the past 5 years. She never says anything she doesn't mean, so to have gained her respect for my work means the world to me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Laurel Day

Along with Novice Schola, Saturday was the Kingdom Bardic Championship. To start the championship, King Kenric welcomed everyone and wished them luck. But before the performances got underway my name was called to come into court. I had no idea why. As the King was talking about things I had taught, the thought that ran through my head was, maybe he's going to ask me to run an event. And then he said, "so we put this question before you..." From that point on the day went by in a fog. Everyone was invited to come to my vigil. I asked if it was OK to say something, and I invited the students from my nalbinding class to come to the vigil and I would show them the last little bit that we hadn't had time for. This made everyone laugh, which in retrospect I understand, but I meant it when I said it.

I was led off to a beautiful room at the top of the bell tower. My friend Katherine had made the most delicious sideboard, including Viking appropriate dishes. Renata made sweets, and Jessca made cookies with laurel leaves icing.

Jaquelinne played tunes for me all afternoon. It created the perfect atmosphere and helped to keep me from getting too nervous. Everyone I care about came to see me, offering advice and congratulations. Lorita wrote a sonnet for me. People said not to worry about remembering what was said. I guess that's the purpose of the vigil book. But I do remember the words of some people - Mistress Brid, Duke Edward Grey, Master Toki, Countess Thyra, Mistress Annastrina, and  King Kenric. I know their exact words will fade over time, but the sentiment and support will not.

I'm told the vigil lasted many hours, but it felt like minutes. I'm sorry I didn't get to talk to everyone. "Suddenly" it was time for court.

Monday, March 10, 2014


When I became apprenticed to Mistress Brid, the first thing she asked me was "why do you want to be a Laurel?" I told her it was because I love learning things and I wanted to be able to teach others the cool things I was learning. She smiled and said no more.

Soon after, a new person came to our spinning group. Brid told me that as the newest spinner of the group, it was my job to teach the new person. It was my job because as a new spinner I remembered the things that can be problematic when trying to spin for the first time. I was nervous, but it was one-to-one, surrounded by friends, and it worked. Brid continued to encourage me to teach at small, local events. It wasn't long before I realized that I didn't need to be a Laurel to pass on what I know, whether it was new research or a new craft. I went out to share what I know, whenever I could, because that's what makes me happy. Here is my favorite quote, from Isabel Allende:

"You only have what you give. It's by spending yourself that you become rich. Give - what is the point of having experience, knowledge, or talent if I don't give it away? Of having stories if I don't tell them to others? Of having wealth if I don't share it?"

So, earlier this year Brid came to me and said, "Barbeta is having a hard time getting teachers for Novice Schola this year. Will you teach something?" Of course I said yes. And Richard, who had recently been inducted into the Order of the Terpsicore, said he would teach a beginning dance class. Both of our classes were scheduled for first thing in the day. I was a little disappointed because I had offered to come to his class in case he needed more people to make enough sets (and I like to dance). But, I was looking forward to Mistress Deonna's woodwinds class, so it was going to be a good day.

I didn't get to that class. I was called into vigil. That is a story for another day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Novice Schola is happening this weekend in Springfield, Mass. As usual, there is a great line-up of classes. I will be teaching a beginner nalbinding class.

I'll start with the Oslo stitch because so many stitches build off it. It is the best one to know if you learn nothing else. Once you understand that stitch, it is much easier to pick up new stitches in the future, even if you are learning from a book or video. Then, if time permits, I'll teach the York stitch. It is very different from the Oslo stitch, and very easy. It's a fun one to know because it can look very different depending on the yarn you choose, and depending on which side you choose as the outside.

Hope to see you at the event!

Friday, February 14, 2014

a comparison of socks

My great-grandmother was born in Ireland in 1875. She came to America when she was 19. This picture of her holding my grandfather dates from 1906.

I'm certain that she was already an accomplished knitter by the time she came to America. My mother has childhood memories of her knitting socks (as do I). What I don't know is when the pattern for the socks in question dates from. Is it a pattern she learned from her mother before she came to America? Did she learn it here? Did she make it up herself? I'll never know. She had certainly been knitting it for a long time, since she was blind by the time she made this pair in the early 1960's.

This is the woman who taught me to knit as a child, and I wanted to reproduce her pattern. I carefully counted the stitches of my mother's socks, and this is the result:

Grandma Naughter’s Sock Pattern

Size 0 needles
Cast on 68. Make 20 rows of K2 P2 rib. (2 inches)
(P2 K4) 8 times.
(P2 m1 K2 m1) twice, (P2 K4) twice to complete round = 72 stitches.
Make 6 rows of P2 K4.
(P2 cable 2F P2 K4) 6 times.
Continue in pattern (rows 1-7: P2 K4; row 8: P2 cable 2F P2 K4…) for 6 inches = 8 cable twists. 
P2 K4 for 4 rows past the last cable twist.

Position needles:
Heel: 3K 2P 4C 2P 4K 2P 4C 2P 4K 2P 3C = 32 stitches.
Needle 2: 1C 2P 4K 2P 4C 2P 4K 1P = 20 stitches
Needle 3: 1P 4C 2P 4K 2P 4C 2P 1K = 20 stitches. 

Make slip stitch heel flap. Turn heel. Knit gusset, reducing to 64 stitches total. Knit instep in pattern and remaining stitches plain.
Continue in pattern until sock = 4 inches from point of gusset.

Knit 2 inches (or amount needed for correct length) plain. Decrease for toe.

Here is a picture of my sock and Grandma's sock:

Although I used the finest commercial sock yarn I could find, my yarn is much bulkier than the original sock. The stitch size is correct, so I think the needle size is correct, but this makes the finished fabric much denser. Also, because the yarn is thicker, when I discontinued the cabling on the foot, I decreased to 60 stitches because the diameter of the sock spread out too much to be comfortable on my foot. 

I am very pleased with how the sock turned out, even though it is not as delicate as the original. For my next pair I will spin my own yarn so that I can more closely match the original.