everybody loves a history

One of the things I love about needlework is that there's so many different directions to go in it. You can leap off the deep end and make "clothing" that's absolutely unwearable, even if it looks very cool. Or you can go super-traditional and make stuff that got figured out centuries ago, using much the same materials and tools that would have been used on the first attempts.

Then there's the very interesting middle ground: making things based on very old work, but putting a new twist on it.

I've done a bit of the last two recently.

Lately I seem to have been collecting up men's sock patterns from the 1950s for No Good Reason. It just seems deadly important that I have them.

I made the ever-storytelling Howard a pair of socks from a pattern published in 1950. The needles I used were most likely bought between 1955-1960. They were my grandmother's, in Imperial measure, and not a size she used much after 1965 or so, so she must have got them after moving to Canada, but before metric needle sizes came in around 1970. I tried to pick 1950s-style colours, and used "normal" sock yarn: 80-85% wool, 15-20% nylon. Sock yarn hasn't changed much since nylon was invented, although of course nowadays it's harder to find the 3-ply stuff, so I did use 4-ply.

The original pattern was called something like "Men's Socks with Geometric Clock Pattern in Two Colours" or "Pattern #12," so I have taken the liberty of renaming them the Kerouac Socks. Jack Kerouac may or may not have ever worn hand-knit socks (he was a Quebecois! he must have! but I have no proof), but these are socks of the sort he would have recognised back in the day. Just like most men's colourwork patterns I've found from the period, you knit the leg straight, using the intarsia method for the colourwork, then sew up the back seam, do a standard heel turn, and finish the foot in the round. I did one-stitch garter stitch at the beginning and end of each row of the leg to make it easier to sew up and to ensure I had a perfectly flat seam at the back of the leg. Which is to say, when Howard wears them it will feel like the socks have no seams at all.


Meanwhile, after two and a half years of whinging about it, I finally made myself a new pair of gloves to replace a pair that moths ate. The old pair were my first attempt at mittens designed by Anna Zilboorg, so it took me a while to get over them.
These are Bamburg, and the pattern is from an issue of The Knitter magazine that was out around the end of 2009. The design is based on medieval knight's gloves, and the description in the magazine pointed out that the geometric patterns that were practical on the metal gloves used with suits of armour are the same patterns used in Selbu knitted glove designs. How cool is that?

The palm side is a Selbu pattern that when used as a texture on the medieval metal gloves made lances and swords easier to keep a grip on:

I like how the thumb has its own pattern. Most people who have seen my rendering of the gloves say it's a smaller fleur-de-lis to go with the bigger one on the back of each hand, but to me it looks more like a stalk of wheat. Chacun à son gout and all that.

By the way, although I didn't photograph it separately because it's just plain black knitting, the inside of the gauntlets are lined (the hand part is not). Practical.

There's a lot more vintage stuff I want to make, but as usual I'm moving forwards in all directions. The next two things to get done are both less traditional-looking. Well, okay, maybe one is and maybe it isn't, but when I blog about it you can decide for yourself.

These gloves are Part 1 of my Bronze-level medal for the Knitting Olympics. I know some people are following rules where there are no levels of medals and either you get achieve your goal or you don't, but as usual I did it My Way (cue the Sid Vicious version).