Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Tea in Us

I think it is the tea in us that makes us love all things British. There was such a surfeit of Anglophilia around here yesterday that one could hardly imagine any news that didn't replay the Royal Wedding. I watched it in the small early hours when I couldn't sleep, I watched it on the first news with my morning tea, I found it on the web when I checked my email at work, I contributed to the multitudinous topics on it on Ravelry, when I got home my boyfriend joyfully informed me that he had taped the whole thing because he knew I'd "want to see all the fashions and hats!", and we watched it again on the evening news.

I even had purchased some special Royal Wedding Tea, which I brought to work and passed around. Then we all raised our tea cups in a celebratory toast to the royal newly-weds.

But you know, none of this was in excess for me because.... well, because of the handmade Carrickmacross lace on the wedding gown!


Carrickmacross lace is named after the market town in Co Monaghan where it originated. Carrickmacross is described as a pretty market town which developed around a Castle built by the Earl of Essex in 1630. The Convent of the St. Louis Nuns now stands on the original castle site. According to the County Monaghan tourist website, Carrickmacross Lace was first established in the 1820s by Mrs Grey Porter, wife of the rector of Donaghmoyne, who brought the lace back from her honeymoon in Italy. Carrickmacross lace-makingwent into decline in the 1840s but later revived as a local art. History on the region credits the nuns for being largely responsible for the revival of lace-making skills in the region, as they taught it to their students. The Carrickmacross Lace Co-operative continues to make the fine lace and has been instrumental in keeping the tradition alive today. This lace may be purchased through their Lace Gallery, in the Market Square where they give demonstrations of this remarkable lace-making art by prior request.

Piecework Magazine, in the May/June 2011 issue, has an article (and pattern!) on Carrickmacross lace and talks about the early origins... How did they know that this would be such a feature of the Royal Wedding? What remarkable coincidence and good fortune for us, the readers!

And here is an adapted excerpt from the official Royal Wedding website:


The lace appliqué for the bodice and skirt was hand-made by the Royal School of Needlework, based at Hampton Court Palace. The lace design was hand-engineered (appliquéd) using the Carrickmacross lace-making technique, which originated in Ireland in the 1820s.

Individual flowers have been hand-cut from lace and hand-engineered onto ivory silk tulle to create a unique and organic design, which incorporates the rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock.

Hand-cut English lace and French Chantilly lace has been used throughout the bodice and skirt, and has been used for the underskirt trim. With laces coming from different sources, much care was taken to ensure that each flower was the same colour. The whole process was overseen and put together by hand by Ms Burton and her team.

The Royal School of Needlework (RSN), based at Hampton Court Palace, assisted the Alexander McQueen team in accurately cutting out the delicate motifs from the lace fabrics and positioning the lace motifs with precision into the new design. The lace motifs were pinned, ‘framed up’ and applied with stab stitching every two to three millimetres around each lace motif. The workers washed their hands every thirty minutes to keep the lace and threads pristine, and the needles were renewed every three hours, to keep them sharp and clean.

The RSN workers included existing staff, former staff, tutors, graduates and students, with the youngest aged 19.

There are still some Carrickmacross lace-makers available, too: The Lace Gallery is one and on her website she not only offers this remarkable lace on commission, but gives the history and lace-making books.

I do have some Carrickmacross lace in my own collection - notably a wide collar from my great grandmother's wedding gown. I did a quick look for it, so I could show you but it is in some deeper place than I can readily get to right now. But it does have traditional Carrickmacross motifs of shamrock, thistle, and wild rose...


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Invisible buttons

See? I told you the little beige buttons wouldn't show much!


Friday, April 22, 2011

Daisies on the Inside

The final Spring baby sweater for the little guy is finished and I'm pretty pleased with the result!


This is the Lazy Daisy Jacket from, a great knitting blog for anyone with little ones. I know I've given this link more than once before, but it's just full of really cute and colourful patterns for kids and babies so I go back to it again and again.

Sweater Stats:
Size: 18 months - 22 inches under the arms; arm length from neck 14 inches; sweater length from neck to bottom 12 inches
Needle size: US 6 circular
Yarn: E. Lavold Baby Llama (109 yds) from the Lamb Shoppe in Denver, Colorado
A) Colour 024 Sand 4 balls (and I used every bit)
B) Colour 027 Flaming Red 1 ball
C) Colour 025 Dark Brown 1 ball
D) Colour 031 Warm Blue 1 ball
E) Colour 028 Cloudberry 1 ball (this is the yellow colour)

One thing I've found about Pickle's patterns is that the sleeve constructions are often pretty complicated and usually require lots of piecing together and/or seaming. I plan to make this sweater again, but I'll modify it to be top-down and seamless, which is pretty easy to do. I'll post the modifications when that happens.

You'll notice right away that the design of the coloured part of my version doesn't look like the original pattern. That's because I put my daisies on the inside! I like the inside of the pattern stitch better but the sweater is perfectly reversible and this is what it looks like with Daisy Stitch the way it's meant to be seen:


My other modifications include more rows around the neck to make the shawl collar more prominent - and I used short rows instead of cutting the yarn and piecing the collar as called for in the pattern; and ribbing on the cuffs and the waist. I wanted this sweater to have a long useful life - and sleeve cuffs can be rolled up and then down as the little guy grows.

My buttons:


The little guy loves dogs! As you can see, I only put two buttons at the top, thinking this would be the way he'd wear it most times - just a quick fasten and we're good to go! But now I'm thinking that maybe I should use some little beige buttons down the front; they won't show, but the sweater could be completely closed. I don't know, what do you think?

Finally, I'd like to send a BIG thank you to the ladies at the Lamb Shoppe in Denver who were knitting beautiful patterned mittens from Piecework magazine while I was there and took the time to help me think through my sweater yarn and colours and generally encouraged me! Kindness to knitting strangers is a gift that just keeps paying forward.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A sparrow nests...


A sparrow came to nest at my house today... a lovely, humble, yet elegant and quiet sparrow..... of the yarn type:


Yes, a package from Quince and Co. winged its way from Maine to my door. See how preciously it's wrapped in little brown bag with the artistic seal? I love these touches that announce that the contents are something to be treasured and anticipated.

and inside.... inside nestled four little skeins of Sparrow, a 100% organic linen yarn in its natural neutral feathers:


The incandescent bulbs in this old house don't do justice to the biscuity pale tone of this linen, but it gives an idea. My plan is to knit the little lacy shoulder shawl designed for this yarn, Emma. even the name is perfect for me, calling up images of Jane Austen's heroine.

It will make a very fine shawl, soft as a vintage handkerchief once it is washed. I think I will love it. and as we all know...

...Nobody minds having what is too good for them.

~Jane Austen

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Oh Handsome Boy!

Just finished blocking the Oh Handsome sweater and had to show it off:


I love Pickles patterns! The set-in sleeves are not really my thing but the finished sweater is so cute! I used Rowan yarns Lima, which is a woven alpaca yarn - very soft and vibrant blue.


I can't wait to see this on the little guy! He'll have to roll up the sleeves, but if the yarn wears well he'll probably be able to wear this for a couple of years. I made a combination of the 1 year and the 18 mos size, so you can see that it runs large - but only by a little.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Knitting News

Today is sunny, if not warm, and we still have an inch or two of snow on the ground from yesterday's April Fool's blizzard, but it seems like a perfect day to catch up on my projects. I have a few to finish and several that are calling me to get started!

First in the queue is the little guy's Oh, Handsome in Pima Wool:


As you can see, I am so close to finished, with just half a sleeve and the collar (simple!) to go. I don't think I have to worry that it will get warm before I get it done, though! It should be completed this weekend and on the blocking mats.

Nest in line is a pretty little pink sweater for a friend's new baby. I think I'll use the same pattern I used for the little guy's Librarian sweater when he was newborn. On his sweater, I used grey yarn and made a line of swimming blue fish around the hem.... I'm looking forward to being creative with something girly.

For my spring plans, a close friend who lives in a warm climate asked me to make her a little shrug to wear in her highly air conditioned office. Her first choice was this little capelette from the new Debbie Bliss magazine:


It looks fast and easy and I found the colour in my favorite silk and mohair yarn (Kid Seta) so that's one I'll surely do. Others I'm considering - since it's so much fun to make these quick and easy knits - are...

The Shetland Shorty by Gudrun Johnston (a free pattern on Knitty), and the yarn I'm considering is this Wool/Silk blend in a pretty rose colour, Mini Maiden from Hand Maiden Yarns:



Sagebrush by Hanna Breatz (another free pattern) and this skein of Sea Silk in the gorgeous colourway, Peridot, also from Hand Maiden Yarns:


and believe it or not, I'm already planning my Christmas 2011 knitting! I want to make sweaters and I'm looking at some designs from:

Quince & Co

A Stitch in Time

Tiny Owl Knits

So much knitting, so little time!!