Sunday, June 15, 2008


I finally managed to get Richard, his camera and my birthday presents in one place, so I can share them with you!

First, from my sister, antique (probably mock) tortoiseshell needles - 2 straights, 4 dpns, and a button hook (although the vendor thought it was a crochet hook!), as well as a beautiful bell needle gauge:

Birthday present 1

Birthday Present 2

(Apparently the old UK sizes were based on the classification system of wire thickness, as the usual needles were simply steel wires with points.)

Next, from one of my dear friends, a beautiful shawl pin worked in wood from Roleswoodcrafts and bought from an excellent yarn shop in Darlington Covered Market, A Fine Yarn, run by the friendly and helpful Christine. If you've never tried it, and you are in the area, I recommend it - I have heard many good things about it:

Birthday Present 3

I'm not sure, but from the photos on the website, I think it's in Zebrina wood.

Now for two FOs and a WIP, also posted on Ravelry. Firstly, the famous BSJ:


I worked this in RYC Cashsoft DK. It was good fun, and I enjoyed making it. I enjoyed even more handing the shapeless piece to non-knitters and saying, 'Turn that into a baby jacket' :)

My ongoing lace piece at present (currently sadly neglected while I finish something I've had hanging around for even longer!) is the Lucy Neatby Cloud Scarf (scroll down to see details), which I'm making in Debbie Bliss Cathay to act as a runner for my Welsh dresser:

Lucy Neatby Cloud Scarf

It's quite complex to work, but I'm loving it. The edging worked all in one piece with the rest is really clever!

Lastly, socks - I finished these a while ago. They're in Opal Rainforest Tiger, and I followed Lucy Neatby's suggestion in Cool Socks, Warm Feet of purling the black sections. They may look squat and wide, but so do my feet :)

I also used her cuff from the 'Mermaid' socks in that book, where you work a piece of garter stitch until it fits round your leg, graft the ends together, and pick up the stitches around it to start the body of the sock:

I Really Love Your Tiger Feet

That's about it for this week, I'm afraid. As Tigger says: "Just wanna sleeeeeep....."


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Rosanna's Lace

First of all, an apology - I still haven't got Richard, his camera and my birthday presents in the same place at the same time. But I will. Oh yes.

If you have been bumbling along with me for a while, you may remember that my sister, while investigating the family tree, came up with a lace-maker. I've been looking into this a bit further, and found out some fascinating details.

Rosanna Reeves, our great-great-great-aunt, was born in Downton, near Salisbury in Wiltshire in 1838. In the 1851 census, at the age of 13, she was described as 'lace maker'. I realised this was most likely to be pillow, or bobbin, lace, so I wrote to the Victoria and Albert Museum to ask if they had any idea what kind of lace she would have been making.

I wasn't sure if they would reply, as I'd never contacted them before and didn't know if this was the kind of information they would have time to offer, so I was very pleased when I had an e-mail back within a week. The person who replied told me that it was most likely Rosanna had made Downton lace, a type of bobbin lace specific to that village. It was made for sale until the 1960s, but has been carried on by dedicated lace makers who work it for pleasure.

She also suggested I contact the Salisbury and Wiltshire Museum. I looked up their website and discovered that they have a whole gallery devoted to Downton lace. I would love to go and see it!

I've only tried a little bobbin lace, so I wasn't very clear on the different types - but I knew there were differences, so next I set out to find out what was distinctive about Downton lace.

Thanks to an informative site called 'Jo Edkins' Lace School', I found out that Downton lace uses something similar to Bucks Point ground (the basic 'net' of the lace - Bucks Point makes an almost hexagonal net), but combines it with a left-handed footside - every other British lace uses a right-hand footside. (This refers to the way the threads are twisted up the side of the work). Overall it looks more like Torchon lace, a continental lace, than it does any other British lace.

And no one seems to know why. Isn't that odd?

Even odder is the matter of the bobbins. I'm sure we've all seen those beautiful slender bobbins, intricately turned and shaped, weighted with circlets of beads, and perhaps even watched a proficient lace-maker as the bobbins seem to fly back and forth of their own accord. Well, Downton bobbins weren't quite that decorated.

In fact, they were short! They had very little shaping, and no beads, the weight being provided by the bobbin itself. They sometimes had messages pricked out on them, filled in with red or black lead, like other bobbins, or other decoration, but they had no fancy turning, and they tapered almost to a point. One site suggests they look more like Spanish bobbins than British ones.

Anyway, I have emailed the museum to ask if they do mail order, as their shop carries a set of notelets featuring a Downton lace maker, and three books on the subject (one history, and two sets of patterns).

I am mulling over a way to convert them into patterns for knitted lace....

Tigger says, "Zzzzzzzzz..............................."