In Retrospect

Knitting For Profit Ebook

Knitting For Profit Ebook

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From a distance of eighty years, it's hard to tell exactly why Weldon's stopped publication in the 1920s. Perhaps the main editors retired; perhaps the publisher decided to move on to more profitable opportunities. More likely, fashion changed and the 1920s were not suited to magazines like Weldon's.

Here we are at the dawn of a new century, and times have changed again. We are in the midst of a renewed enthusiasm for handkntting. The patterns found in Weldon's can be regarded with new insight and fresh ideas. While some antique patterns are impractical for today's lifestyles, others remain as timely

Influenced by artist William Morris, the Arts and Crafts movement began in Britain in the 1880s. Photo courtesy of the Board of Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Bridgeman Art Library, London/SuperStock.

as they were when they were designed. Perhaps a design can be used today for a different purpose, age of wearer, or even gender, but the interest and excitement found in the patterns endures. Interweave Press's republication of the Weldon's volumes enables us to learn from the best of the past.

Updating Weldon's Techniques

The first issue of the first series of Weldon's Practical Stocking Knitter, found in Volume 1 of Weldon's Practical Needlework, was published in 1886. The subtitle is "How to Knit ever}?' kind of Stocking for Ladies, Gentlemen and Children."

The text states that handknittecl stockings are more durable and economical than woven (i.e., machine-knitted) ones, are easier to repair, and, if they are made well and washed carefully, can be refooted at least three times. It encourages stocking knitting as "pleasant work for winter evenings, not trying to the eyes, and not any hindrance to conversation." Knitting stockings is also "convenient for taking up at odd moments" and progresses quickly. Let us note that Weldon's stockings were often knitted on U.S. size 000 (1.5 mm) or 0000 (1.25 mm) needles, so quick progress is relative. Weldon's philosophy was that every lady should be "au fait" (skilled) with the art of stocking knitting.

This early series discusses materials and general instructions for knitting stockings: casting on, working in a round, and shaping the leg. There are instructions and illustrations for nine ways to shape heels, ways to reheel stockings and socks, and seven ways to shape toes.

Volume 20, Sixty-first Series, published in 1905, offers an updated discussion of materials and a definition of knitting terms. The latter has proved most helpful for "translating" Weldon's patterns into our modern knitting language.

Materials discussed in both these series are described as "soft," "smooth," "durable," in a "medium" or "fine" size, "pleasant to use and satisfactory in wear." The weight or yardage of individual skeins or balls is not mentioned, and never, in any pattern I have studied in Weldon's, is there ever any mention of gauge.

We are told that knitting needles are available in steel, ivory, wood, imitation amber, torloiseshell, and vulcanite. Steel needles are deemed best for stocking work and they came in 61/" (16.5 cm) or 9" (23 cm) lengths. They should have "nicely tapered points" at both ends. Weldon's standard for sizing needles is a Walker's Bell Gauge. Needles were measured by fitting into the slot on the sides, not the holes, as on gauges available today.

A Walker's Bell Gauge was used to measure standard needle sizes.

A Walker's Bell Gauge was used to measure standard needle sizes.

NEEDLE EQUIVALENTS

British

U.S.

Metric

18

000000

0.75 mm

17

00000

1 mm

16

0000

1.25 mm

15

000

1.5 mm

14

00

1.75 mm

0

2 mm

13

1

2.25 mm

12

2

2.75 mm

11

3 mm

10

3

3.25 mm

These quotes from Weldon's, one from Volume 1 and the other from Volume 20, impress upon the knitter how important it is to keep a "happy medium" when knitting, and to take care in making each stitch.

CAST-ONS

GENERAL RULES FOR STOCKING KNITTING

Below are selected instructions from the first Weldon's Practical Stocking Knitter, Volume 1, First Series and Weldon's Practical Knitter, Volume 20, Sixty-first Series. The instructions quoted from Weldon's are in shown in yellow boxes. I've added my comments after the quotes.

QUALITY OF KNITTING

Try and knit with regularity, neither too loose nor too tight; if too loose the work will draw out of shape in the washing, and if Loo Light the wool gets impoverished. The happy medium is when the sLiiches will slip just easily along the needle.

KniLLing should be neiLher loo tight nor too loose; the sLiiches should slip jusi easily along Lhe needles, and yet not be so loose as lo permit any falling off unawares; if Loo loose Lhe sLiiches will sel unevenly and lhe work will be uniidy, and on lhe other hand tight knitting will cause the wool to thin and spoil for the want of needful "spring."

Cast on and off raiher loosely and aL Lhe casiing on, leave Lhe lag end ol wool to show where the round begins.

The cast-on offered in lhe basic knitiing texi in Weldon's, Volume 1, First Series, is a "knitiing on" cast-on (Glossary, page 113). For socks, I prefer the Continental (also known as long-tail) cast-on (Glossary, page 113) and have used it for all my interpretations.

Many of the sock designs in Weldon's call for casting on with lhe yarn doubled. Doubled yarn gives a more elaslic cast-on lhan single yarn. To do a double casi-on, lake iwo ends of yarn, eilher from iwo separale balls of yarn or one end from the outside and one from the inside of a single ball, and cast on holding both yarns together. When you've cast on the desired number of stitches, break off one end of yarn, leaving a tail for weaving in later, and continue knitting as usual with the other end.

When you're casting on with a single yarn, it's a good idea to cast on over two needles held parallel, removing one of them (carefully) when you finish the cast-on. Using two needles to casi on will give you an elaslic edge and facilitate working the firsi round.

JOINS

I couldn't find a single description in Weldon's of how to join stitches into a round, and that's surprising considering that a hole or loose stitch can occur if a join isn't carefully worked. Turn to the Glossary (page 1.15) for three types of joins that 1 routinely use; all are easy to work and all form a nearly invisible connection.

WORKING IN ROUNDS

Rounds are knitted in a circle with four or more needles; rows are worked forwards and backwards on two needles only. When knitting in rows, be careful to slip the first stitch in every row, whether doing plain or purl, so as to produce a smooth edge; and when working in rounds keep the first two and the last two stitches of each needle rather tighter than the rest, to prevent the appearance of a gap.

Although the Weldon's text discusses using four or more needles, and even illustrates the use of four needles to carry the stitches in the first Practical Stocking Knitter, all the patterns 1 have reviewed call for carrying the stitches on three needles and knitting with a fourth—the classic British method of working circularly with double-pointed needles. Until recent years, British manufacturers packaged needles in sets of only four, while other manufacturers (German, for instance) packaged needles in sets of five. Whether to use four or five needles is a matter of personal taste; either way is acceptable. If the pattern on the instep is complicated, you may want to place all of the instep stitches onto one needle for ease of working the pattern. There are times, however, when it makes sense to use five needles. For example, if the stitch pattern is easily divided into fourths, you may find it easier to keep track of the pattern by carrying the stitches on four needles and knitting with the fifth. Likewise, if there are a large number of stitches, they will be less crowded if carried on four needles instead of three. Carrying your stitches on four needles also puts less strain where the needles meet, and doing so can help to eliminate the ladder effect that sometimes occurs at these places. Most of the instructions in this book are written for working with four needles: three to carry the stitches and a fourth to knit with. But feel free to add a fifth needle if you want— simply divide the instep stitches between two needles instead of carrying them all on a single needle.

Many knitters tend to work purl stitches a bit looser than knit stitches, a tendency that can be compounded at the boundaries between needles. For this reason, it's a good idea to arrange the stitches so that each needle begins with a knit stitch. For example, set up the stitches for ribbing so that each needle begins with a knit stitch and ends with a purl stitch. Doing so may require redistributing the stitches during areas of patterning on the leg or foot, then rearranging the stitches to specified needles before beginning the heel or toe. If you decide to adjust the stitches on the needles, remember to mark the first stitch of the round.

SEAM STITCH

The seam-siitch must begin either with the very first round of the stocking, or with the first round next after the ribbing is completed; it must be marked and particular attention paid to keeping it in a straight line, as upon it the whole shaping of the stocking depends. The seam-stitch may either be purled in every round or purled in one round and knitted in the next.

The decreasings occur on each side of the seam-stitch, at intervals varying from six to ten rounds. They occupy a length from four to six inches, and reduce the stitches to three-fourths the number originally cast on.

You'll find a good example of shaping worked around a seam stitch in the Cycling or Golf Stockings on page 48. These socks begin with 80 stitches at the upper leg and taper (through decreases) to 60 stitches at the ankle.

CHANGING COLORS

When changing the color in ribbing, the right side of the knitting should be next to you (this is for knitting in rows) and the first row or round of the new color must be knitted plain (not ribbed).

Knitting the first round of a new color creates a clean line at the boundary between the two colors. If you rib the first round of a new color, the "purl bump" part of the stitch will be in the old color, and the boundary between the two rounds will be less distinct.

When knitting a stocking in stripes round and round always change the color at the seam-stitch, and knit the seam-stitch with both wools together, so making an almost invisible join; do not break off the wool, but carry it (on the wrong side) from stripe to stripe; whatever ends of wool you are obliged to leave, darn in with a rug needle when the stocking is finished.

This is good advice.

If knitting a stocking in stripes longitudinally down the leg, instead of round and round, it is necessary to knit the wool in, not leave it in long loops. To accomplish this, before knitting a stitch put the wool not in use over the wool you are knitting with, on the wrong side close under the needle, both wools are thus twisted together in the knitting of every stitch. Stockings knitted in this manner are doubly thick and warm.

When knitting stripes or colored patterns down the leg, you must avoid long floats of the unused yarn along the wrong side of the work. Do this by placing the yarn not in use over the yarn that's being knitted (on the wrong side of the work), twisting the two yarns around each other, and thereby securing the carried yarn.

INCREASES AND DECREASES

Count the stitches after increasing or decreasing to be sure of retaining the right number.

Throughout this book I have used the "make 1" method (Glossary, page 115) of increasing. For the left-leaning decreases, I have followed Weldon's practice of using the "si 1, kl, psso" method (Glossary; page 114). This decrease has the same effect as today's popular "ssk" decrease (Glossary, page 114), but there is no'evidence that "ssk" was in general use when Weldon's materials were written. However, feel free to make this substitution if you'd like— the results will be the same.

JOINING NEW YARN

To unite two wools together—When a ball of wool gets used up it is, of course, needful to take another ball to continue the knitting. The two ends of wool should be very carefully united. A common knot is untrustworthy, and unless skillfully managed is unsightly; some ver)' good knitters employ a "weaver's knot." But the really best plan is to lap the ends of wools reversely side by side for about two inches and knit a few stitches with both wools at the same time; this makes a neat and smooth join, and when in the next row you knit the double thickness of the wools the join is almost imperceptible, and is firm and secure.

Never put knots in your knitting— they are likely to come undone! If you're working with pure wool or wool blended with another animal fiber (such as mohair), use the splice method (Glossary, page 115) to join a new ball of yarn. Otherwise, overlap the ends of the old and new balls of yarn and work one stitch with both yarns, then drop the old and continue knitting with the new. When you've finished knitting, thread the ends on a tapestry needle and work them into the wrong side of the sock.

HEEL FLAP

When the ankle is sufficiently long, place half the stitches, with the seam-stitch in the middle, on one needle for the heel, and divide the other half of the stitches equally on two needles for the instep, these will not be wanted until the heel is finished.

Many of the patterns I have chosen for the pattern section call for a seam stitch running down the leg, and even down the heel flap and through the heel turn. This seam stitch, which provides a focal point for turning the heel, can be very useful for keeping track of your stitches while you're turning the heel. If you don't want a purled seam stitch in the heel, substitute a knit stitch and mark it so you can identify it as the center stitch. You can also eliminate the seam stitch from the heel turn altogether, but if you do, be sure to adjust the stitch count accordingly

The heel, when finished and laid down flat, should be just as long as the ankle is wide.

A classic way to work a heel flap is to knit as many rows as there are stitches in the flap, usually half the number of stitches at the ankle.

GUSSETS

Pick up along the flap of the heel as many stitches as with any there may be left on the pin at the top of the heel and those on the instep will restore for the gusset knitting about eight or ten stitches less than the number cast on for the stocking. These "picked-up" stitches should come in rightly to produce the required number, but if the loops along the flap are not sufficiently numerous, increase one stitch in every five, or one stitch in every six, to remedy the deficiency.

When the right or left side of the heel flap is mentioned, it refers to the right or left side as viewed when worn, not as a sock knitted from the lop down is knitted.

The gussets are decreased every alternate round or every third round till reduced to the same number of stitches as are on the ankle.

I have always set up the stitches for working the gussets, as well as the toe shaping, so that the round begins at the back of the heel (as illustrated below), which I have always thought of as general convention. This arrangement puts half the heel stitches and the gusset stitches from the right side

This rather convoluted instruction refers to long stockings that begin high up the leg with a lot of stitches. Today, it is common to pick up half as many stitches along the edges of the heel flap as you have rows in the heel flap. For example, if you have 32 stitches in your heel flap, work 32 rows. By slipping (purlwise) the first stitch of every row, you will end up with 16 chain stitches on each edge of the flap. Pick up into these 16 chain stitches. If you need to pick up more stitches along the heel flap edge than there are chains to pick up into, pick up the entire chain loop (both sides) on your needle and knit into the back half of it, then knit into the entire chain loop. Doing so will yield two stitches from one chain stitch, a technique I learned from lace knitters in Haapsalu, Estonia.

Arrange the stitches so that stitches for the right half of the heel and the right gusset are on needle 1, the instep stitches are on needle 2, and stitches for the left gusset and left half of the heel are on needle 3.

of the heel on needle 1, the instep stitches on needle 2 (or needles 2 and 3 if you're working with a set of 5 needles), and the left-side gusset stitches and the remaining heel stitches on needle 3 (or needle 4 if you're working with a set of 5 needles). The gusset decreases are worked at the end of the first needle and at the beginning of the last needle. However, a number of patterns in Weldon's don't follow this convention (Gentleman's Shooting Stockings on page 32, Gentleman's Sock in Railway Stitch on page 36, and Baby's Bootikin on page 92). Instead, the round begins after the instep stitches (and before the left gusset stitches). There is no explanation why the designers chose to do the gussets this way, but it works just as well and makes for a bit of variation in the knitting.

FINISHING

Knit till the foot is the required length, then shape the toe, and cast off.

Many of the patterns throughout Weldon's give the instruction to do what we know as a three-needle bind-off to close the toe: "place the stitches onto two needles, hold them parallel and cast off by knitting a stitch from each needle at the same time." This rather unclear instruction yields a very bulky seam at the toe. In Volume 30 of Weldon's Practical Knitter, Ninety-ninth Series, from 1915, instructions are given for "Fastening off toes of Socks and Stockings by Grafting." This one-page article gives working instructions and detailed photographs of the process we know today as Kitchener stitch (Glossary, page 117) The text states that grafting "will prove a neat and strong finish, and most comfortable in wear. The absence of a ridge of stitches or a point at the toe will commend the method to all knitters."

HEEL SHAPING

Weldon's offers a number of ways to shape a heel. Some are familiar favorites, others are more obscure. I have chosen the most interesting and accessible (taking into account needle sizes, yarn availability, and stitch count) and have rewritten the instructions for modern times. The instructions for each type of heel are written so that the technique can be used with any number of heel stitches, providing there are enough stitches to complete the heel turn. Each heel consists of three parts—a heel flap worked back and forth in rows, followed by a short-rowed heel turn, and finally gussets worked in the round with decreases to achieve the desired foot circumference. For the instructions given here, 1 follow the popular convention of beginning all rounds at the center back of the heel for shaping the gussets.

DUTCH OR HORSESHOE HEEL

The Dutch Heel is worked on half the total number of ankle stitches, plus one seam stitch. For example, if there are 64 stitches at the ankle, work the heel on 33 stitches. This type of heel is worked on the Madder Ribbed Sock (page 24).

Heel flap: Work the heel flap back and forth in rows in stockinette stitch, slipping (purlwise) the first stitch of every row to produce chain edge stitches along each selvedge, for as many rows as there are heel stitches. Work as follows: Row 1: (RS) Knit a quarter of the total number of ankle sts beyond the seam st,

Dutch or Horseshoe Heel

German Heel turn work. Note how many sts were worked beyond the seam st. Row 2: SI 1, purl to the seam st, purl the seam st, then purl as many more sts after the seam st as you noted above (the seam st will be in the center of the completed row), turn work—there will be half the total number of sts plus the seam st on one needle for the heel flap; the other half of the sts will be divided between two needles for the instep, which will be worked after the heel is completed.

Row 3: SI 1, knit to the seam st, purl the seam st, knit to end.

Row 4: SI 1, purl to the seam st, knit the seam st, purl to end. Repeat Rows 3 and 4 until flap is the desired length.

Turn heel: Continue working the heel stitches in short rows as follows: Row 1: (RS) SI 1, knit to seam st, purl seam st, k5, si 1, kl, psso, turn. Row 2: SI 1, pi 1, p2tog, turn. Row 3: SI 1, k5, pi (seam st), k5, sl 1, kl, psso, turn.

Repeat Rows 2 and 3 until all heel sts have been worked, ending with a WS row.

Gussets: (RS) Knit across the heel stitches. With the same needle (needle 1) pick up and knit the desired number of stitches along right side ol heel flap; with a new needle (needle 2), work across the instep stitches; with another new needle (needle 3), pick up and knit the stitches along left side of flap, then knit the first half of the heel sts again. The round begins at the center of the heel. Work decreases as follows:

Rnd 1: On needle 1, knit to the last 3 sts, k2tog, kl; on needle 2, knit across instep sts; on needle 3, kl, sl 1, kl, psso, knit to end of rnd—2 sts decreased. Rnds 2 and 3: Knit all sts. Repeat Rnds 1-3 until there remains the same number of stitches as there was at the ankle before the heel flap began.

GERMAN HEEL

This unusual heel is worked on half the total number of ankle stitches plus one seam stitch plus eight additional stitches (taken from the instep). For example, if there are 64 stitches at the ankle, work the heel on 41 stitches. The German Heel is worked on the Yarrow Ribbed Sock (page 28).

Heel flap: Work the heel flap back and forth in rows in stockinette stitch, slipping (purlwise) the first stitch of every row to produce chain edge stitches along each selvedge, for as many rows as there are heel stitches. Work as follows: Row 1: (RS) Knit a quarter of the total number of ankle sts beyond the seam st, then p2, k2, turn work. Note how many sts are worked beyond the seam st. Row 2: SI 1, purl to the seam st, purl the seam st, then purl as many more sts after the seam st as you noted above (the seam st will be in the center of the completed row), turn work—the heel flap needle will have 9 more sts than half of the total number of ankle sts; the remaining sts will be divided between two needles for the instep, which will be worked after the heel is completed.

Row 3: SI 1, kl, p2, knit to seam st, purl seam st, knit to last 4 sts, p2, k2, turn. Row 4: SI 1, purl to end. Repeat Rows 3 and 4 until flap is desired length.

Turn heel: Continue working the heel sts in short rows as follows: Row 1: (RS) SI 1, kl, p2, knit to 3 sts past seam st (knit the seam st) sl 1, kl, psso, turn.

Row 2: (WS) SI 1, p7, p2tog, turn. Row 3: SI 1, k8, sl 1, kl, psso, turn. Repeat Rows 2 and 3, working 1 more stitch before the decrease in each row until all the heel stitches have been worked, ending with a WS row.

Gussets: Knit across the heel stitches, then with the same needle (needle 1), pick up and knit the desired number of stitches along the right side of the heel flap; with a new needle (needle 2) work across the instep sts; with another new needle (needle 3), pick up and knit the desired num ber of stitches along the left side of the heel flap, then work across half the heel stitches. The round begins at the center of the heel. Work decreases as follows: Rnc! 1: On needle 1, knit to the last 3 sts, p2tog, kl; on needle 2, work across instep sts; on needle 3, kl, p2tog, knit to end of rnd—2 sts decreased. Rnd 2: Knit all sts.

Repeat Rnds 1-3 until there remains the same number of stitches as there was at the ankle, before the heel flap began.

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