Friday, 16 September 2011

...I Was A Knitter Before I Could Sew

I began to knit Fair Isle and Aran long before I could hem.
And if you've often wondered, how did it all start?
Who taught me that nothing can absorb all your time and attention
Like a good knitting stitch can?
Well, it was my mum.

However, unlike my mum who can write a knitting pattern by just looking at a jumper in a shop window (I've seen her counting the stitches!) I struggle to follow the 'easy' pre-written, totally detailed ones with nice pictures. So, many years ago with some idealistic notion that I, alone, was preserving this ancient craft,  I decided to focus on the techniques of pattern stitches rather than trying to knit myself an ill-fitting cardigan.

With the help of Barbara Walker, I not only learned how to create samples of lace panels, twist stitch patterns, fancy texture patterns, I also found out a little about the intriguing stories behind a lot of these old stitches.

Mrs Montague's Pattern
Mrs Montague was a Lady of the Chamber to Queen Elizabeth I of England.
She made stockings for the Queen in this pattern which was copied from a French design.

Honeybee Pattern with Faggoting
Patterns like this are used by peasant women of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and Slovakia
to make stockings that are part of the traditional regional costume.

Bead Stitch
A basic Shetland lace pattern used as a construction unit in more complicated laces.
The little 'beads' are found in Spanish lace patterns as well, demonstrating the Spanish
ancestry of Shetland lace

Originally written in the 1960's, The Treasury of Knitting Patterns and Barbara Walker's other fascinating knitting books were out of print so I had to source mine through AbeBooks. However, recognised as the wonderful resource that they are, some have since been reprinted and The Walker Treasury Project has been set up to collect and post photos of these knitting patterns.

So with the nights slowly drawing in...I have a daughter who wants to learn to knit.

(all images via The Walker Treasury Project)


  1. How much I would have loved to learn knitting from my mother! I learnt not long ago and I love it :D I'm looking forward seeing what your long winter evenings would produce!

  2. A cashmere scarf! The only thing that I can successfully make. I did make berets when my daughter was younger but she would rather I didn't make her wear those anymore! Lucie, I am probably better sticking to creating sewing patterns.

  3. My grandmother taught me how to knit and then I went to a knitting class when I gave up smoking. Just needed something to do with my hands! My daughter has started knitting a little, just experimenting and its great to see her clicking away - even if I do have to help with dropped stitches.

  4. the honeybee is divine!
    have fun teaching your daughter to knit :)

  5. What beautiful memories you have and so you will pass it on to your daughter in the movement of time....
    Let those needles dance, that is what I always think of.
    My mom taught me as well but I have never really picked it up after my teen years.
    These patterns are amazing.

  6. The teaching to knit has been and is an ongoing process...



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