Thursday, August 23, 2012

Crazy, Catty Stitching in 1884

In 1884 Mrs. Mary Haehnlen penned "A Book of Fancy Designs for Ornamenting Oriental Work".  In 24 pages she describes about 70 ornamental stitches, and combinations of stitches.  These combinations of stitches and their higglety pigglety placement is an extension of the art of crazy quilting, so popular in Mrs. Haehnlen's day.
Our friend Mary writes with a tone typical of craft publications from this period.  Assuming, and a little pompous, I really enjoy reading and working from these kinds of books.



From the Introduction:
"Where is no work more popular at the present time than Oriental or "crazy" work; though I don't think there has ever been a book printed with designs in stitches for ornamenting it.  I have tried to put all the prettiest ones I could design in this book, and do not think they will need much explanation, though for the benefit of beginners I will explain all I can.  Some very handsome work is being done in black silk pieces, put together the same as the ordinary crazy work, and the stitches put on in the same way.  

Have your pieces nicely pressed out and lay them out on new paper cambric****, then press them once more before you begin your stitches.  Be sure to overcast all the edges so they will not fray out.  

You will find a variety of stitches and designs on the coloured plate not in the book that will give you some idea how to finish off corners.  These directions are only for those who have not made any of this work.  The stitches on the following pages need very little work.  

The stitches on the following pages need very little explanation, as those that are numbered are all very simple, and are only put in that it may be more convenient for you to make the others by referring to them."


Her instructions are vague, and her first instructions are aptly catty:
"Nos. 1 and 2 are the common straight and cat stitches, and every one knows how to make them."

Ahhh, the cat stitch. Everyone knows that one, right? Well maybe everyone did in 1884, but not everyone would have the same stitch in mind. In the world of Victorian embroidery this stitch goes by a few different names: Cat Stitch, Brier Stitch, Coral Stitch, Catch Stitch, Feather Stitch and variations therein.


Unfortunatly, even in Victorian needlework, there are many other stitches that also lay claim to the name of Cat Stitch, and to the name of the other stitches I have mentioned.

In the case of A Book of Fancy Work for Ornamenting Oriental Work, 'cat stitch' is a modern herringbone stitch.  The 'feather stitch' it employs has nothing to do with Opus Plumicarium.

Instructions for more complicated stitches are only slightly more helpful.  Example:
"No 9, make the same as cat - stitch, only put the needle in up and down instead of across. No. 10 is made the same as feather stitch."

It is understood that the Victorian embroiderer would read this and substitute her stitch preference for any one of these stitches.

Still, the stitches themselves are simple, after some updating of terminology. It is the combinations of these stitches that are unique. Also surprising to a modern eye are the vibrant and contrasting colours used. New dyes introduced in this industrial era made many more colours available, and those colours were now much more saturated and were much brighter. Needlework became more lively as well, as can be seen in Berlin work and other needlepoint methods that used German Wools.


Despite the Victorian craze for the Oriental (thank you Mr.Vantine and assorted Mitfords) I was surprised to find that this 'crazy' style was considered Asian.  Because of their Quilting tradition, I had always associated crazy stitching with the American South and assumed that it's popularity in this period was due to the matereral shortages of the Civil War.
Oh Ashley!

-Reviewed for Antique Pattern Library's Collection

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How a Yarn Store Celebrates Holi

Our dear friend Pia delivered a fresh batch of fleece today.
It looks like we're ready to celebrate Holi!


Pia Skaarer-Nielsen will be teaching a drop-spindle spinning workshop at The Loop Sunday, March 18th, 10 am - 1 pm.  She was sweet enough to drop this fibre off to us for an upcoming workshop in needle felting (Sunday, March 11th, 10am -1pm with Janine Stewart)
On her farm in the Annapolis Valley, Pia keeps a wonderful (and wonderous) blog chronicling her creative life.  Follow the link below to read about the new lives on the farm, and to see the sheep from whom we get this beautiful, hand-dyed fibre.

http://wonderouswoolerie.blogspot.com/2012/02/lambing-season-again.html

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Calgary Knitting 1939 pt 3


UNFORTUNATELY the difficulties of the conveners do not end with teaching women how to knit socks and sweaters so that they will not only be wearable but comfortable as well. There has been and still is a shortage of wool. Since early in September it has become increasingly difficult to obtain enough wool to keep the knitters supplied. Shortly after organization began 1,000 pounds of wool were ordered from a large wholesale house. More than a month later the wool was still unavailable and 25 pounds were offered as a substitute for the 1.000. All the wool on hand was being held to make underwear and uniforms. Within two months the Red Cross has issued nearly a ton of wool.
Since the groups are made up largely of women who have homes and families to care for, weekly meetings are not always possible. Some groups meet only every two weeks, with the hope that they will be able to manage a weekly meeting after the Christmas season is past. At the various depots, however, someone must be on duty all day and every day. It is to these depots that the knitters come when they get into difficulties over the turning of a heel or finishing off of a toe. And at these depots there is always someone who can show them the best and easiest way. These volunteers work in relays. Each staff of four or five has its one day a week to spend where its services are available to women who want wool, staples or instruction.

Everything that the Red Cross makes or is given is turned over to the government for distribution. It does not and never has sold anything. The Red Cross aims to give the soldiers the little extras that make camp life more healthful and more comfortable. "They are supplied by the government with the crude essentials," declared one member. "But the work done by the Red Cross is absolutely necessary. I had enough experience during the last war to know what I am talking about."

By Elnora Bailey,
The Calgary Herald, November 25, 1939

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Calgary Knitting 1939 pt 2


EIGHT THOUSAND WOMEN KNITTERS, SOME MEN TOO,
WORKING UNDER REDCROSS IN CALGARY;
KHAKI SOCKS TABOO THIS TIME

Probably the most outstanding of the non-organized knitters are the two men who turn in their share of socks and sweaters each week. One of these is a Great War veteran who not only learned to knit during the last war, but who has knitted his own socks ever since. He has also taught his whole family the useful art. The other is unable to walk without crutches. He learned to knit as a means of passing time, and is calling for wool regularly now. He turns in a pair of socks every week.
Although men who knit seem to be a novelty in Canada it is largely because a number of them are concealing their talent. Knitting was taught in all the hospitals during the last war. In the United States there are numerous "Leisure Hour Knitting Clubs" for men only. Probably once knitting gains [sic] popularity and ceases [sic] to be considered merely a pastime for the gossips, more men will acquire the courage to enter the feminine atmosphere of the new Red Cross Depot in the Hudson Bay Building to ask for wool and instructions.

Whether the socks are knitted by group members, busy housewives or by men, if the wool is supplied by the Red Cross they must be knitted to a certain pattern. They are knitted on number 11 needles so that if they must be washed in cold water they will not shrink into hard lumps as so many did during the last war. They are all supposed to be knitted one size; 11 inches of leg and 11 inches of foot. Many knitters have protested that since the soldiers are so many different sizes, their socks should be too. From experience the directors have learned that no two women knit alike and that no two pair of socks will be the same size. Although the sock demanded is 11 by 11 every imaginable size may be found among those turned in.

Among the 150 pairs of socks you will see almost any color except khaki. Khaki socks are taboo because it was discovered, during the last world war, that the green in the dye was harmful to the soldiers' feet when it was impossible to remove and wash the socks frequently. This time the soldiers will go to the front in heather grey, white or brown socks, but not in khaki ones.
This time too the work turned in to the Red Cross is practically perfect. Each knitter or sewer mush make her article exactly like the sample provided. There is no guess work or inaccuracy. Although anything in the way of a donation is gladly accepted and use in some phase of the work done by the Canadian Red Cross organization, all material that is issued must be made up according to specifications.

Taken from  Elnora Bailey's article in The Calgary Herald, November 25, 1939

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Calgary Knitting 1939 pt 1

EIGHT THOUSAND WOMEN KNITTERS, SOME MEN TOO,
WORKING UNDER REDCROSS IN CALGARY;
KHAKI SOCKS TABOO THIS TIME

Three hundred and fifty pairs of mitts; 300 pullovers and sweaters; 150 pairs of socks; incredible numbers of towels, binders, slings, pneumonia jackets, hospital gowns, pajamas, dressing gowns, pillow slips, mattress pads, personal property bags and countless other articles designed to make the soldiers' life more comfortable.
These represent only part of the work that has been accomplished under the capable direction of Mrs. T. J. S. Skinner, president of the Calgary branch of the Red Cross, since war was declared. Most of it was done by the 8,000 women who have organized throughout the city into groups whose purpose is to knit, sew or do anything they can to help their country in its time of need. There are 113 of these groups, ranging in size from 30 members to that of the Scarboro United church group, which boasts a record membership of 200.
These groups draw their members from every walk of life and from every creed. Bridge and community clubs, whose sole aim previously was a good time, have turned themselves into war units and their aims is to do their utmost to strengthen the morale of their country. Home and School Associations, Church Guilds, the Russian-Canadian Club, the Council of Jewish Women, overseas nurses, wives of railway engineers, chapters and lodges of all kinds have turned to knitting needles and sewing machines as instruments with which they can do their bit.
However, it is not from among the housewives only that the 8,000 draw its numbers. Several sororities have offered their services and the girls of the James Short Junior high school are busily knitting mitts. The beauty parlor group members knit between appointments and there is also a group for the deaf mute and one for the blind.
Each club has its own conveners for knitting and sewing. Although most of the sewing is done during group meetings, all the knitting is done by the members in their own homes. All the conveners report that the members of their groups are very anxious to knit and sew. Women from homes where the income is too small to allow monetary donations feel that they are showing their desire to help by making the supplied materials into garments. Socks are created in the intervals between baking, sweeping, washing dishes and ironing clothes as the busy homemaker strives to maintain peace and good cheer in her own home. Probably if each knitted garment could tell its own story the soldiers would need no other form of entertainment.
Besides the members of clubs there are hundreds of women who work individually. Most of them call at headquarters for wool and bring back the finished product. They do as much as they can with the time at their disposal and are never urged to do more than they wish or to hurry with their work.
One of these has a system all her own. Mrs. Skinner passes her home each day on her way to and from the office. When the little lady needs more wool she telephones to say so. Mrs. Skinner collects an average of a sweater a week from this home and leaves enough wool for anther each time she calls.
One lady who was particularly anxious to do her bit but whose household duties were too heavy to leave time for knitting had her quota of wool knitted into socks by a machine. She paid for this service at the rate of $1.05 a week. When she brought the socks in she learned that they were supposed to be knit by hand since hand-knit socks are much easier to walk in. She explained her difficulty and the convener suggested that instead of taking wool when she had no time to knit, she could make a donation to the Red Cross each week if she wished. Her donation would be every bit as welcome in whatever form it was made.

Taken from  Elnora Bailey's article in The Calgary Herald, November 25, 1939

- "Probably if each knitted garment could tell its own story the soldiers would need no other form of entertainment."
Hilarious!
Stay tuned for Part Two.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Miss Britain's Wartime Wardrobe

COUPONS BUY WARDROBES
British Women Have Problems
By THE UNITED PRESS
LONDON, Sept. 16-
-An average British woman's war-time wardrobe presents her with just about every problem except finding closet space for it or choosing what to wear, a recent Board of Trade survey revealed.
  After more than four years of clothes rationing in England and despite all the ingenious "make do and mend" methods of the 4000 women interviewed, the average has a choice of four dresses, one of which was bought within the last year.  She spent the balance of her precious coupons on five pairs of stockings, a pair of shoes, two pairs of gloves, one set of underclothes, four ounces of knitting wool, and two yards of material.
  With an eye on needs to come, average Miss Britain saved back coupons for future purchases in the equivalent of half a pair of shoes, half an overcoat, a fifth of a nightgown, and a third of a petticoat.
  The average British girl's entire wardrobe adds up to one suit, four dresses, three coats, an odd skirt, three pairs of stockings, three sets of "undies", three nightgowns, two petticoats, one brassiere, a corset, four blouses, and three pairs of shoes.
-The Pittsburgh Press, September 16, 1944

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Transparent Heart

Happy Valentine's from The Loop and Lamby.

PS Also transparent is my last minute slap dash window effort.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Monday, February 06, 2012

Sunday in the Store With Morgan

The world of LYS and craft merchants is a small one, especially in a place like Nova Scotia.  There is a lot of back and forth referring, often beyond the purview of our individual shops.

I often send people off into the welcoming arms of other local and localish yarn stores when a customer needs a yarn we don't cary.  Every Sunday, I have at least 2 customers visit or phone looking for a range of things we don't carry at all....and never would.

Needlepoint and Rug Hooking supplies are the most common requests I cannot fulfill.  Sewing and Quilting supplies are close behind.  Of course, once in a while I have a desperate call for beeswax, pipe cleaners, artificial flowers, garment bags, and once, a Sombrero sized for a Teddy Bear.  I refer these quests on as best I can, but over the years I've amassed a list of craft suppliers.  It's a list that doesn't seem to exist anywhere but under our stapler at The Loop.

Downtown Halifax has a distinct circuit that crafty people take to find their supplies:
DeSerres (AKA 'The Creative Marketplace', formally Loomis & Toles)
Maritime Hobbies & Crafts
Feroz Beads
Black Market (leather, hemp, you never know)
Dustjacket Books and Treasures (Second Hand and Vintage Craft Books)
Jennifer's of Nova Scotia (Cross Stitch and Knitting kits, Finished knitted items)
Love,Me Boutique
NSCAD Student Supply Store
Dollarama/Buck or Two (you never know)

Yarn Stores seem to have a louder presence than other types of craft stores in Nova Scotia.  The average customer will have already found her way to places like L.K. Yarns, Gaspereau Valley Fibres or Have A Yarn (to name Just a few).
Here are some suppliers to whom I often refer customers.  These shops fill some rather large gaps in HRM's crafting needs:

Highland Heart Hookery
www.hookarug.com
23 Chartwell Lane  Halifax, NS B3M 3S7
(902) 445-4644

Dennison's Custom Framing (Embroidery and Needlepoint)
www.dennisonscustomframing.com
626 King St  Bridgewater, NS B4V 1B4
(902) 543-0486


The Beading Room
www.thebeadingroom.com
An online store based in Fall River N.S.  The Beading Room offers several different options for delivery.

Hands Across Time Rug Hooking
2526 Hwy #368 R.R. #1. Pugwash Junction. NS. B0K 1M0.
Tel: (902) 257-2267.
Email: handsacrosstime@yahoo.ca

This is by NO means a link list of Maritime Craft Shops and Suppliers.  Many friends and neighbouring businesses may be found on The Loop's link page.   I would love to hear how this week's Sunday shoppers fared!
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