A really, very, thoroughly, annoying mistake

I was in the home stretch of knitting the second Eleonora-style stocking, when I put it on to check whether the foot was long enough to start the final decreases.

And found I’d put the heel on the wrong side – the calf decreases were down the FRONT of my leg!!!!!


Much unraveling to do – complicated by the fact that for some reason, even though they were the same dye lot and dyed at the same time, two of the skeins had taken the madder slightly differently and were a shade browner.

Because I was down to half of the last brighter red ball and was concerned that I’d run out before finishing the stocking ( I would have), I was alternating rows of the brighter red with rows of the faintly browner red to avoid an abrupt transition.

This worked fine – but makes unraveling weirdly complicated because of the way I crossed the yarns at the end of each row to avoid gaps.

My only excuse is that I was working on the stocking while stuck in bed and on pain killers after foot surgery. That’ll teach me to knit while distracted!

By | March 29th, 2017|knitting, madder, madder, mistakes, wool|Comments Off on A really, very, thoroughly, annoying mistake

Eleonora stockings – progress!

My latest attempt at the Eleonora stockings!

This is actually my third go at these stockings. Between my first attempt and this one, a lot more information had come out about them, the best being the images in the Medici archive.

The first time I tackled the stockings was from a pattern I downloaded from the internet, and knit with commercially-dyed red wool fingering. I stopped knitting & discarded this test as soon as I realized that the pattern was for a stocking with a present-day shape, only using the surface patterns from the originals, and that the gauge was way too big – more of a sport sock than an elegant lady’s stocking. The pattern doesn’t seem to be on the internet any more.

The second test was from the pattern by Anne DesMoines published on Ravelry. This one I knit with a silk yarn finer than the wool of the first test. Initially, the silk was white, and I dyed it with cochineal. It had some issues – the dye insisted on being a fuchsia pink instead of red, and the gauge was still too big, with fewer pattern panels than the originals. Also, I found the silk very unpleasant to knit with, and abandoned the attempt.

knittngWidgetClosedFor the current stocking I bought white laceweight wool yarn. This time I dyed it with madder overdyed with cochineal, and got a very satisfying brick red.

This yarn knits up at a finer, more period gauge – approximately 14 stitches to the inch on 1mm needles. None of the documentation I’ve seen to date gives the gauge of the actual Eleonora stockings. However, because of the number of stitches in the pattern panels and the number of repeats, it must be very fine.

As far as I can tell from the available images, this edition of the stockings has same number of patterned panels as the originals, and the stitch count is very close.

I changed a few details – I didn’t like the second zigzag and the eyelets in the cuff or the “ladder” effect of the double garter stitch in one of the panels, so I eliminated the zigzag, and substituted a purl square for the eyelets and a chequerboard pattern for the “ladder” effect, all of which are consistent with late 16th century knitting techniques. Cuff of stocking inspired by Eleanora of Toledo's

Since I plan to wear the stockings, I changed the shaping. The original Eleonora stockings are baggy in the calf and foot – the decreases for the calf are far too low on the leg to fit me and the feet are too thick. Perhaps, after at least eleven pregnancies, Eleonora’s feet and ankles were somewhat the worse for wear.

Instead of designing the foot following the the Medici archive images, I used the foot shaping for 16th century stockings shown in Richard Rutt’s A History of Hand Knitting.  The soles of the originals are mostly moss stitch or seed stitch; instead, I picked up and continued the band pattern just for the fun of it.


One stocking is done and the second is in progress. With luck & a following wind, it’ll be done by Pennsic!

(The little *blip* at the back of the heel is historically accurate. I’ve been assured that it wears in fast and is comfortable..)

I’ve just been reminded of another change that I forgot about – and this one’s a biggie! Virgin Mary knitting in the roundThe Eleonora stockings were knitted flat and sewn up the back; mine are knitted in the round. I couldn’t bring myself to knit them flat. The technique was known by Eleonora’s time – Bertram von Minden’s Knitting Madonna, painted ca 1400-1410, is knitting in the round!



















By | June 26th, 2016|cochineal, dyes, knitting, madder, Renaissance, silk, wool|Comments Off on Eleonora stockings – progress!

got a great new knitting widget

A friend told me about these a while ago and I finally went out and bought a set. They’re a beautifully simple idea that keeps super-fine knitting needles from getting bent, folded, spindled or mutilated – and keeps the work from falling off the needles.

Just slip the needles & work into the tube


knittngWidgetOpenthen push & turn the tubes until the needles & working edge are safely enclosed:


By | November 6th, 2015|equipment, knitting|Comments Off on got a great new knitting widget

Knitted silk stockings, first attempt

Raspberry-mousse coloured knit silk stockings - first attempt

My first attempt at knitting the Eleonora stockings in silk was an education! (My first-first attempt was in wool, which I’ve had lots of experience with – and the gauge was way too big, so I abandoned it.)

To get back to the silk: I wanted to dye the yarn a true red with cochineal.

Since cochineal is sensitive to ph – an acidic dyebath pushes it toward red and a basic one towards purple – I used neutral ph distilled water for the dyebath and added vinegar in an attempt to shift the colour towards red.

Though I’ve gotten bright reds with cochineal & vinegar on wool, for some reason the yarn refused to become red no matter how much vinegar I added.

It settled to a raspberry mousse shade and refused to budge, so I worked with that.

When I started to knit the cuff, I discovered that it knit up to significantly fewer rows per vertical inch than the swatch I’d made. This squashed the detail so badly that I could hardly see it, which surprised and puzzled me.

I asked a friend who had knitted in the round with silk, and apparently this was due to the fact that, unlike wool, silk has no “memory”. Wool springs back to its original size; silk stays stretched.

To make the pattern look right, I knit each pattern row twice. This made the pattern a little longer, but that was better than squashed.

For the swatch, I just knit on the needle part of a circular needle, back&forth with very little pulling, so it didn’t stretch. Working in the round on the stocking, I was pulling the piece around the whole needle, so it did stretch.

The other disappointment was that the surface of the yarn scuffed, spawning little balls of purple fluff. If this happened during the knitting, the finished stockings would probably get scuffed & covered with purple fluff when worn, obscuring the pattern.

Which would make knitting so much complicated detail kind of pointless.

So my next attempt will either be in wool or a wool/silk blend, depending on budget & availability, and if it comes out on the purple end of the scale when I dye it, I’ll try overdying it with madder to get a true red.









By | December 3rd, 2014|costume, dyes, knitting, silk|Comments Off on Knitted silk stockings, first attempt