Monday, 14 December 2009

Broad Brimmed 'Monmouth' Caps

There has been a fair bit of debate in recent years as to whether the broad brimmed, heavy knitted cap popular from the late sixteenth century through early eighteenth century is more accurately described as a Monmouth Cap than the cap we are all familiar with. Not that there is anything wrong with the cap on display in the Neslon Museum in Monmouth, its accepted to be of the right date and to reflect a widespread style, and the excellent article about it by Kirstie Buckland remains one of the best articles about capping practices available-, its just getting it to match up with the written descriptions of Monmouth caps does show up a couple of possible issues, chief of which is that Monmouth Caps mentioned in the literature are typically about a pound in weight, something thats nigh on impossible to achieve when replicating the one from the museum.

As a result, there seems to be some good reasons to think that the broad brimmed version might be a challenger for this name, and the museum one might be better renamed the Monmouth Labourer's Cap. There is a very handy booklet available that goes into the current arguments for and against in the form of Monmouths and Monteroes. A confusion of caps. by Robert Morris available from Stuart Press.

Even more confusingly, for years, I and many other re-enactors and 'historic knitters' have tended to refer to this broad brimmed style as a 'Peter the Great' hat, after a famous surviving example in the Hermitage collection. Muddling, isnt it?

Whatever we end up calling it, and its entirely possible it will take a while for a generic name to settle on it, I've been working on different ways to reconstruct a plausible pattern of this very warm and useful hat, and here's the result that I feel gives the best result:
ptg before felting
This is it before fulling, and here it is after fulling and modelled by my trusty (and long suffering, this photo was taken when the hat was still wet on a rather chilly afternoon) stunt head, Gareth:
its now available as part of my range of historic hat patterns, all of which come with a brief discussion of the style and footnotes to provide references to supporting information, either in hardcopy through the shop at (£2.50) or as a Ravelry Download ($4).

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Acorn Purse and a Sally-Cosy

I've been away for a week on the annual family holiday, which in this case means me, himself, my parents, my brother and his wife, himself's mum and her dog, all in a cottage in Devon indulging in far too much food and plonk, interspersed with long walks and a bit of knitting.

Whilst we were away, I finished writing up the pattern for my Acorn Purse, which is now available through Ravelry like most of my patterns. (link goes to the 'buy' page, its $3 should anyone fancy trying it out)
acorn purse
I also finished a little handspun shawl that I'd been working on, this started off as one ply of assorted green shades, and one ply of a brown and white undyed 'humbug' fleece, the finished shawl is just big enough to cover my back and shoulders without trailing over my arms, and has already proven useful on a couple of cool evenings.
The green is a bit more saturated in real life, I think my camera is starting to show its age and it isnt capturing colour very well these days.

Came home to a handful of hat orders and a nagging awareness that its only a couple of weeks until the International Living History Fair, at which I trade and for which I really need to crack on and make some stock, then a few weeks later we're taking the Plague Rat stall to the Supreme Show. All this and a banquet and a bit of media work to fit in as well, plus the day job. Oh well, better to be busy than bored, whatever the occasion.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Dutch Sailor's Cap

In my last post I was working on the Machault cap, and I've been continuing my research by working up another double cap based on extant examples, this time a rather wonderfully variagated blue and white cap in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, dated to between 1650-1800.

The original is a relatively rare example of early variagated yarn, I’m quite pleased that my yarn mimics the original reasonably well. The Rijksmuseum has a fantastic collection of historic knitted caps, many of them from the whaler's graves at Spitsbergen, and I'm pleased with how this came out. I'm now itching to work on several other striped hats from the same source.

I've just about got this pattern ready now, it will be available any moment now over on Ravelry and in due course as a hard copy booklet in the shop, like all my historic range of patterns well supported with references and a discussion of this style of cap.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Machault Cap/Voyageur Tuque

I was recently asked to do some research into the construction of double knit sailors caps/voyageur caps/tuques (lots of names depending on who you are and what you are representing), and this is the result. It combines information from extant caps both in Holland and in Canada, with most of the detailing in this instance being from the Machault cap, right down to the little 'ear dents' that are a feature of this cap but which rarely show up in reconstructed versions..

It starts out as a very long seamlessly knitted 'flat rugby ball' shape, which is then heavily
fulled to give this result:

I'm not entirely sure yet if these will make it into my regular 'off the peg' range for the simple reason that being double caps thay take an absolute age to knit, but I think I will be writing up the pattern, with extensive notes and reference material for my range of
historic patterns.

I'm pleased with it, and will be continuing the research with a reconstruction of the tie dyed indigo and white double knit Whalers Cap from the Rijksmuseum.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Tudor Caps and Pixie Hats

I was convinced I had already blogged about this, but clearly my mind is going mushy and I hadn't. Anyway, after several people very gently prodding me over quite a few years, I've finally put my method for making a Tudor Cap down into pattern format. All my historic patterns come with a short overview of the style to allow for informed costuming choices, and its available either in hardcopy from my shop at, or as a Ravelry Download for $4.00.

My other recent pattern is a reworking of an old favourite. For a number of years now I've sold full kits for my Pixie Hats, but its now also available just as a pattern, again via Ravelry. This one priced $3, its a very quick knit in aran weight yarn on 5mm needles and is fulled for a perfect fit.

And it doesn't stop there, I'm currently finalising some research into Voyageur caps, tuques and double knit sailors caps, and hope to have the next addition to my historic pattern range out soon, that should be accompanied by a similarly documentations supported pattern for Thrum caps.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Dyeing at the Celtic Village

Last weekend I spent a couple of days at the Celtic Village at St Fagans National History Museum just outside Cardiff. The occasion was the Festival of Archaeology, and I was there demonstrating the basics of natural dyes during the Romano British period, and Gareth was working on reconstructions of a couple of bone flutes in the museum's collections.

As is often the case with such events, I only managed to get one general picture, of a very rainy village, but there are a few more pictures of us and the results of the day's experiments on the museum blog here.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

A hat for a forest setting

Every now and then I get a commission that is nothing less than a joy from start to finish. Recently, I was sent this picture, and asked to interpret it in a pointy hat:This looks very much like a place near here that Gareth and I camp in occasionally, so much so that I can smell the woods just looking at this image, and I knew just how I wanted to make the hat, graduated from deepest mottled green to the lightest sunkissed pale new leaf shades, my only concern was whether I could do justice to the image in my mind.

I started out by laying several layers of the darkest green, its not far off black, really deep, rich, leafmould shades, that would form the inside of the hat and help make the brighter greens contrast well. Overlaying that, I staggered many different shades of green, this picture is of the final layer before I started felting and shaping:
After several hours of felting and a quick swim in the washing machine to harden up the felt, it was ready to block, and around an hour of bullying it into shape gave me this:and I've just done the final steam blocking- this is the result, and I have to say I'm really really pleased with it.The shades look a little acid in this photo- my camera isnt very good on colours sadly, you need to imagine this a bit richer and deeper all over- the splodges in the brim are much more subtle in reality, but hopefully it gives the idea. Just hope the recipent is pleased with it.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Whirligig pattern now available

With thanks to my testknitters, the Whirligig pattern is now available in my Ravelry shop.
Priced at $3, it should be a one skein wonder for most dk yarns coming in at about 45g/120yards

Sunday, 19 July 2009


I tend to make a lot of historical hats, and I really enjoy doing them, the combination of the research to make sure my interpretation is a close as possible to the evidence and working with traditional yarns really appeals to me. However, I do find this comes with a trade-off price, every half a dozen hats or so I justhave to make something loud and frivolous to maintain the balance.

This week I was inspired by a rather lovely skein of DK bfl yarn by Yarn Pirate in the colourway 'Zinnia' and I designed a frilly little child's hat topped with a whirligig to show off the colour transitions well. I'm quite pleased with it, and I think I might write up the pattern for my Ravelry pattern shop.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Goose fluff anyone?

I spent the weekend at a lovely fibre event at Cwmoernant Farm, and got rather more fluff than I bargained for.

Early on saturday a clutch of goslings hatched, four lovely little scraps that seemed to be doing well, until mid afternoon when it became clear that one was a lot smaller than the others and was being trodden on, getting chilled and generally ignored by the adults.

So, we fished it out, checked it over, decided that it seemed ok but was probably the last egg laid and effectively a bit less developed than the others, but its mum didnt want it back. Feeling fairy sure it probably wouldn't make it through the night, we reckoned we could at least make it cosy, so it was bundled up in a box with a towel and a hot water bottle.

After deciding that the barn would be too cold and the dogs and cats would pester it in the house, I took the box into the van with me for the night, reckoning I could check it easily if needs be and put the box on the bed next to me for added insulation.

Well, this tiny wee weak gosling lasted about an hour before deciding the only place it wanted to be was under the duvet with me, and nothing would persuade it otherwise, so I spent the entire night with a day old chick wedged into the crook of my arm with the duvet pulled up over us both Noisy little critter too, hardly stopped peeping all night long.

Anyway, its now called Duvet and by the time I left on sunday it was doing really well, visibly much stronger and alternating between a goose play pen made out of an old tin bath lined with turfs and straw, and regular warming cuddles from the spinners who all found that you can spin or knit quite well with a gosling having a snooze in your cleavage, it really liked prefelt too, that made a lovely nest.

Just goes to show, fluff turns up in the strangest places when you spend the weekend playing with fibre.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Flower Fairy Cap

You may have noticed just a slight fairytale theme in my patterns recently, this is due in part to some fascinating read-along, project-along discussions over on the Folklore and Fairytale group on Ravelry. I'm constantly given new inspiration from the stories chosen for discussion, often they are tales I thought I knew well, but having so many diverse people discussing them and seeing what they choose to work on to illustrate a facet of the story is always a real treat.

I've been working on this particular pattern on and off since March, when I indulged myself for my birthday by spinnng and knitting a little cap. Since then, I've worked up a couple more versions of it, this time with notebook in hand, and its now out as my latest pattern.

I've test knit it both in a plain silky yarn, and in a gradually self striping one (this one is Noro silk garden lite), and I think it works really well in both versions. The two lace patterns used are very simple to work but give an intricate effect that isnt too fussy, and best of all, the cap is a stretchy little thing and so far has fitted everyone I've tried it on. Its worked in dk weight yarn and all three of mine came in as one skein wonders, with just a few yards left over.

If anyone does want to try this pattern, its a Ravelry download priced $3

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Faerie Queen Socks

I've just realised I haven't blogged about these socks, how terribly remiss of me! I'd wanted for a while to design a pair of socks inspired by the intricate designs on functional objects of the Arts and Crafts movement, and this is what came off my needles.

I wanted to try something a tiny bit different from standard sock construction, so I began with an ornate border workd flat on two needles and composed of lavish leaves and berries and a band of knotwork. This then is joined and the stitches picked up for the rest of the sock which is worked top down in the usual manner and which incorporates a double rose leaf lace insert and a practical eye-of-partridge stitch heel.

I'm pleased with the results, and although I worked mine in two shades of green, some of my test knitters have been making theirs in semi solid pinks and autumn tones, and I have to say they look fantastic.

As with all my patterns, it can be downloaded through Ravelry. This one costs $4, and I do hope some of you will give it a try.

Tam o Shanter

I've always enjoyed knitting Scots Bonnets in all their variations, but as I mostly knit for the re-enactment community, its not often I get to make one for wear with modern dress, complete with toorie on the top.

This one was a commission for a lovely gentleman who tells me it will be worn to the Gathering of the Clans next month, an event that should see every possible variation on bonnets being worn with every possible permutation of Scottish dress. Its an event I'd love to attend some day, for now, I just rest content that a bonnet or two of mine will be there.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Goblin Market

I've just finished my latest pattern and wanted to share it with you all. This is Goblin Market, is a reticule with a Victorian feel. It features a richly textured leaves and berries border, the body of the bag has a shape loosely inspired by pomegranates and poppy capsules and uses several distinct pattern stitches for a fast, interesting knit.

The name comes from the poem ‘Goblin Market’ by Christina Rosetti:

MORNING and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy”

We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?

What particularly pleases me about it is that it only uses approximately 20g or so of a sock weight yarn, which is pretty much exactly the amount I find I have over after sock projects, so for me its a great stash buster and one that I think will make great gifts later in the year. Like all bags though, it should work well on pretty much any yarn as long as you choose needles that will give a pleasingly firm fabric.
If you fancy trying it for yourself, its available as a Ravelry download priced just $3


Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Sample Boxes

Been a bit quiet lately, have been under orders to rest a bit so less going on than usual. Normal service will be resumed shortly...

However, and more importantly, I am involved in the most exciting new sample box scheme. Fibreholics brings together some really diverse and talented fibre and yarn producers to offer a wonderful value taster box full of sensibly sized, useable samples. Check out the offerings so far for the first box!

Monday, 4 May 2009

This Week's Hats

Been a fairly slow week, have been trying not to rush and to rest up a bit, and have concentrated on getting a couple of hat commissions sorted out. (Amazing how a few afternoons on the sofa with one's feet up watching films helps the knitting along).

First, and its a dreadful picture sorry, is a fifteenth century sugarloaf hat, possibly one of the silliest men's headwear fashions ever. It was a fun knit, had to be fulled until the stitch definition just about vanished resulting in a very heavy solid fabric that was then dyed murrey to match an outfit.
Second pic of it isn't much better I'm afraid.

Then we have a basic Tudor cap, but this one was a request for as near to 'royal' blue as could be got within the plausibility of Tudor dyes. Modern royal blue is a chemical dye and is rather different in tone to anything that could be achieved with indigo based blues, so I modified the dyebath a little to give a shade that is still very bright, but which I am confident I can achieve with natural dyes. Just for fun, I photographed this hat on one of my Dwarven Battle Bonnets, and I think it looks rather fetching this way.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Wonderwool Wales

Spent the weekend at Wonderwool selling my yarns, fibres, hats and various other bits and pieces and generally catching up with all bthe lovely people who come to one of my very favourite fibre events of the year.

This year, I shared a stall with Jenni Stuart Anderson, who makes the most wonderful rag rugs and who happens to be a cousin of Gareth's. It was lovely to have company on the stall and it meant we could take it in turns to go for a wander round and do things.

Heres the stall, all ready for business on the first day:

I was very very good and hardly bought anything, just some fibre to keep me going when I ran out of the supplies I had brought with me. And yes, I know it makes no sense to be stood behind a stall full of fibre, then go and buy some from another stall, but it seemed somehow wrong to break into the 'for sale' stuff.

Most exciting of all, I collected Gareth's 'new' wheel. He's never had a wheel of his own before, and this was offered for sale a while ago and I just had to say yes. Not the best angle on the picture, but we're fairly sure its originally from Finland, and having had a good look at it now we're guessing its about a hundred years old. Needs a little tlc, the footman is broken and it only has one bobbin, has a missing distaff and hasn't been used for many years so a good scrub and oiling is in order, but its lovely, and I did consider, just for a moment, changing my mind and keeping it for myself, but rallied at the last moment and handed it over. Needless to say he was thrilled with it, and has spent time in the workshop today turning new bobbins and mending the footman. I expect you'll hear more about the wheel as he fiddles with it and makes it his own, I suspect we're going to end up with something with all sorts of extra twiddly bits by the time he's finished.

I didn't take part in the 'sheepwalk' fashion show myself this year, but I did manage to get a photo of the show staff modelling assorted dwarven battle bonnets and gnome hats of mine, so that was a very cheerful moment. I was also very proud of myself for managing the van all by myself, I had been very worried about manouvering it without someone to wave me into tight parking spots, but she behaved beautifully and all my fretting was in vain.

I have a couple of weeks off work now to try to get over a series of persistent colds and generally being very run down, so I'm hopeful that I'll be able to find time to do some spinning, maybe even in company with Gareth on his own wheel, and enjoy doing some fibre crafts just for the fun of it.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Distaff and Spindle

We cut the overgrown privet hedge last week and a certain twig just screamed 'distaff' at me, so it had a week drying out and today, himself debarked it, straightened a kink by playing a blowtorch over it then bracing it whilst it cooled, and oiled and waxed it for me.
(Excuse the hideous pic of me)
the top of the stick is just a neat fork:
distaff top
The spindle is also one he made me, this is in slate, and its my favourite spindle
Overall, the distaff is the perfect length to tuck in my jeans pocket, but it also wedges into the sofa cushions perfectly for spinning in front of the tv. :)

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Thrummed Sailor's Cap

I was recently asked to make a thrummed cap based on a type worn in the seventeenth century and popular with sailors because the thrummed surface creates a very warm cosy hat.

The basic shape was very straightforwards to knit, then I covered the surface with short lengths of yarn before fulling the whole thing. This picture is after one fulling, and I think it will need a second as its a little large still. I do love the 'cuddly pet monster' effect. Please excuse the obvious anachronism, I should have made him take his torc off first.

There is an image of a sailor in a similar cap here, taken from Habiti Antichi e Moderni by Cesare Vecelli, 1600. (Tincey, p 22)

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Gunnister style purse

I've recently very much enjoyed reading Alison Milton's newly published booklet on the Gunnister Purse, which has detailed instructions for making a replica of this famous example of early knitting based on her first hand inspection and study of the original. of course, as soon as I read it I had to have a go, and this is the result.

Ok, this is an ‘almost’ Gunnister purse, which is all my fault and no reflection on Alison's excellent notes. I handspun the yarn (manx for the brown, the orange is madder dyed) and it was a bit chunky so I had to use 2mm needles, way to big for this project, I was getting 10st to the inch, the original was about 11.5). I also worked a balanced 2:2 rib, rather than the uneven rib of the original, and when I got to the pattern, I didnt have the designin front of me so winged it from memory, with the result that the pattern is similar, but not the same as the original purse.

Alison’s pattern notes and background information are excellent, and I thoroughly recommend this booklet. I’ll be making this again and getting the details right! Even with my little inaccuracies, its a pleasing purse and I’ll enjoy using it.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Grim Squeaker Egg Cosy

Inspired by the 'Death of Rat's' character created by Terry Pratchett, this little chap knits up fast as an (admittedly slightly large) egg cosy- he'd be perfect to cover a small easter egg, or with a base as a little pocket toy. He's available as a free pattern on my Ravelry page.

Flower Fairy Cap

Yet again, the days have slipped past and although I keep thinking, 'I must update the blog with some projects', it keeps just not happening.

I did finish a cap last night that I'm rather pleased with, this was yarn I spun as a brithday treat for myself, a mix of beautiful grey and brown Norwegian fleece mixed with pale green alpaca, white silk then flecked with rose alpaca. The overall effect is grey, but the shades come through well under sunlight.

I knitted it up into a simple cap using a couple of repeats of harebell lace for the edge, then some little eyelet flowers, then a plain top with a liripipe- currently knotted but doesnt have to be worn that way. I like it!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Winter King

Happy New Year everyone. Its been a busy winter, lots of knitting for gifting as well as trying to keep up with orders for socks and hats. Have had a little time for designing though and inspired by the tale of Good King Wenceslas and heavily inspired by the concept of the Holly King, this is my latest silly hat;