Sunday, January 6, 2013

A little bit more on knitting

This is not turning into a knitting blog, but I want to report on a few more knitting activities I pursued while going through my post-exhibition-blues in the fall.
During our family holiday in June on the North Sea island Föhr I had paid a visit to the local history museum, which had a lot of interesting information on the geological and social history of the island. In one of the showcases I saw a white knitted cotton blanket which was labeled as having come to the museum through the estate of one of the seafaring captains of the island.
Something about this blanket caught my attention, I can’t even exactly say what it was. Unfortunately, the blanket was shown from the left side:

Knitted cotton blanket in museum on Föhr Island

No more information was to be had from the staff. Nobody had ever inquired anything about this blanket before. And no, she would definitely not be able to open the showcase and let me see the blanket from the right side.
I talked to the owner of the local yarn store – she had no recollection of that blanket, and no, she did not know about any specific knitting patterns on the island. “The women were working so hard, they made use with the kind of patterns they got from somewhere else,” – she did not believe this was an indigenous Föhr pattern. (They probably would have knitted in wool, too, since cotton is not really a staple of the North Sea islands...)
About six weeks later and almost nine hundred kilometres away I went to a local history museum here in Lower Bavaria. And there was exactly the same kind of white knitted cotton blanket. Spread out over a table, and turned to the right side, so I could easily get a good picture of the two segments that alternated and made up the entire blanket.

In the fall I started knitting and counting, and figured out how each of the segments was made. For the larger segment I even started with a thin yarn. Although I knew right from the beginning I wasn’t going to knit a whole blanket, all I wanted to do is figure out the pattern. So for the second segment I opted for a more comfortable thicker yarn. Of course, now the pieces don’t fit together. (I posted the pattern on my German blog here – sorry, I have never really knitted in English, so am not familiar enough with English knitting terminology that I would dare translate this into an English version. You might end up with something entirely different.)

The beginning is a bit tricky - after 4 rows things get easier.

One middle section completed -
when joined to the others, the octagon will be visible


Alternate segment, a little larger than in the original blanket,
because I kept going for a few more rows

I don’t know whether this kind of blanket was one of the mass articles of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, or where it came from. But the fact that I happened across the same style blanket within six weeks, and at opposite ends of Germany, got me hooked. Is there anybody out there who has seen a similar blanket, had one in their home perhaps, and knows anything about their place of origin? I’m curious.

Also during the fall through a friend I came across a wonderful book on Fair Isle Knitting by Alice Starmore, (find her website here, which has a lot of history of knitting in the Scottish Isles, and patterns patterns patterns. Makes you want to order Alice Starmore’s yarns and start making swatches, so many that you won’t be able to make up your mind which one you want to turn into a sweater first!

Since she seemed like a serious knitting historian, I’ve sent an inquiry to Alice Starmore about this blanket, and am waiting for an answer.
And, just in case you’re interested: here is an interesting link to a history of knitting


  1. What an interesting story. I have an Alice Starmore book from way back - I hadn't realised she was still around. I love these colour stories -

  2. It's intriguing to think what might happen if the knitting pattern really was written in another language! ... what sort of "different thing" might result from vagaries in the translation? Putting it through Google Translator or some such program might have some unexpected outcomes!

  3. what sort of "different thing" might result from vagaries in the translation?