Thursday, February 19, 2015

Yachting Jersey: Materials & Methods [Part II/V]

There are many challenges in knitting from a historical pattern... availability of yarns, translating units of measure from a foreign (in this case, English to American) system, and occasionally the challenge of making sense out of something which makes no sense.  All of these challenges (and more) were present in the Weldon's pattern for Yachting Jersey.  The intrepid knitter of an historic pattern must be determined as he/she reads through materials and methods.  This is the hardest part... do NOT give up.  The yachting jersey pattern begins as follows: 

"Procure 2lbs 2oz of the best unshrinkable Alloa or 5-ply fingering, either Fleming, Reid, and Co's, Paton's, Baylis and Gille', or other reliable make, and seven steel knitting needles No. 12.  These needles must be each 12 inches in length and pointed at both ends."

Book on historic Alloa published by Stenlake

Alloa was known for yarn at the time of Weldon's, and Paton’s arrived there in the early nineteenth century.  According to Wikipedia, Alloa (/ˈælə/; Scottish Gaelic: Alamhagh, possibly meaning "rock plain") 
is a town and former burgh in Clackmannanshire, set in the Central Lowlands of Scotland. It lies on the north bank of the Firth of Forth close to the foot of the Ochil Hills, 5.5 miles (8.9 km) east of Stirling and 7.9 miles (12.7 km) north of Falkirk. Dr Jamieson, author of the Scottish Dictionary, states that the most probable etymology of the name was from Aull Waeg, signifying the way to the sea or the sea-way....The economy of the town relied heavily on trade through its port with mainland Europe, but due to competition from modern ports it closed in 1970. Nowadays the economy is centred on retail and leisure after the closure of the main industries of the town; only one brewer and one glassmaker survive today."  
... CHECK.  Won't be using Alloa yarn.  Onward...
"Commence by taking three of the needles and for the bottom of the Jersey, cast 54 stitches on the first needle, 45 on the second, and 49 on the third needle, 148 stitches in all."  
  [We tend to think of dpns for use primarily in small projects such as socks.  Note that rather than using circular needles, early knitters simply used a series of dpns when knitting in the round or for any large project...very clever]

The pattern calls for a 5 ply fingering and UK size 12 steel needles (British and American needle sizes differ, and steel needles historically were sized differently as well.  Americans assign small needles small numbers, and the British assign inversely such that a small gauge needle is assigned a large number.  Needle conversion charts are easily found online... HERE is a link to one which includes historic conversions including steel.  As you can see by the chart, the UK 12 is equivalent to US size  1, or 2.25mm).  According to the Craft Yarn Council, Standard Yarn Weight Chart, the gauge utilizing fingering yarn is 33-40 stitches in 4."  Thus, casting on 148 stitches will result in a sweater with a front the measures between 15-18" across.

Mohair goat at Martha's Vineyard Fiber farm
 In an effort to maintain that seaside natural wool feel, I chose yarn from my Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm CSA... a fabulous light-worsted weight Cormo wool  yarn that was spun from animals that lived by the sea in Massachusetts.  Unfortunately, utilizing this weight yarn would require a bit of conversion.  I used size 5 needles and my gauge was 24 stitches/4."  That being said, I reached an equivalent front length of 17" by casting on 102 stitches.  Altogether the project required 1400 yards of light-worsted yarn.

 I followed the Block Pattern for the body as written (12 knit stitches followed by 3 purl), so given that I had fewer stitches overall, the blocks are proportionally larger than in the original pattern... hoping this slight deviation will not offend the historical purists.

Stay tuned for Part III, in which I share wisdom from Common Cod Fiber Guild's MIT master class with Franklin Habit!


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