Thanks for the Fine Knitting Needles!

Coming home from SOAR in the early 90’s I sat next to Priscilla Gibson-Roberts on the plane. The weather was deteriorating, and the takeoff was through icy rain, and blustery winds. I had already made my usual peace with the maker but still…

Priscilla seemed oblivious to the situation, looked me right in the eye, and launched into a discussion of the history of knitting, using “the voice” so that even the captain could overhear her. Gratefully, I relaxed, focused on her face and what she was saying.

What she had to say was fascinating. The earliest surviving piece of knitting is a pair of cotton stockings, very complex design work. Surely, these were not early escapades into sock knitting.

This spring, KNITTING TRADITIONS had an article about those same stockings with a photo. This was the first time I saw the arabesques, two-color knitting in indigo and white. My heart went” lubba-dub”.

I was in the throes of working on a conference, but I HAD to do something with this.

The first step was to draft the fancy two color pattern. A general “middle” of the pattern was declared, and stitch by stitch, “reading”, the pattern transferred to graph paper.

The next step was to proof the pattern with some likely yarn, to check the pattern, gauge and grist of the yarns I’d need.

The photo shows how far I got. The lower part of the bag has the pattern doubled because I wasn’t sure that it would be “square”. Well, doubled it wasn’t square at all. The top of the bag, is the pattern straight knit and it isn’t square either. It is too wide, so I need just a smidgeon finer yarns.

I am off to spin some more yarns and that means the story doesn’t end here. Whoo hoo!

Oh, I titled this, “Thanks for the Fine Knitting Needles” because I knit the sampler on fine pins and got to thinking about how the originals were knit. Not bone, horn, or wood, they had to be wire needles. These stockings represent a technology of metallurgy with a history of innovation that goes back thousands of years. Damascus steel is a product of that same technology. And my beloved steel pins.