Friday, 30 August 2013

Mediaeval knitting

apprentices were required to produce a lengthy list of items. In among the gloves, stockings and caps came a "carpet".
Of course it was not what we think of as being carpet today. What they called a carpet was often a highly ornate tablecloth or wall hanging. They were not just examination pieces for entry into the guild but often designed and made to the order of wealthy and aristocratic families.
But yesterday I did see what amounted to a knitted carpet or floor rug. It was a piece entered in the annual "Royal Show" here and it was extraordinary.
The piece of work measured 2m by 2.8m. I suspect it is the biggest piece of knitted work that has ever been put into the show. It was made from recycled yarn, a remarkable thing in itself. The pattern is similar to that of a Turkish kilim pattern. If you are knitter and reading this and I say "Kaffe Fassett" style you will know what I mean.
The entire thing was back with the sort of felt which is designed to be non-slip. The edge was knotted.
How was it done? The judges and stewards from various sections were crowding around it when I arrived to help.
"Cat? What do you think?"
It took close looking and that made it even more extraordinary. I had immediately guessed that the carpet had to be knitted in strips but I had expected them to be long, narrow strips going the length of the carpet. That is the normal way to knit pieces which are too big to knit in one piece. This was not.
The strips were knitted across the carpet so each piece of knitting had to be two metres wide. The weight of the yarn used meant that the strips had to be knitted on a very, very long circular needle or two circular needles.
Each strip was quite narrow and, again almost unbelievable, the knitter had woven them together with what knitters call "Kitchener Stitch" - that technique used to give the toes of socks completely smooth joins. It was so well done that, although it was possible to see the joins because of the multiple colours in the carpet, it was also very difficult to see.
It, rightly, won best in show for the hand knitting section despite the magnificence of a pair of Latvian wedding mittens and a well researched pair of socks made in the way an early Egyptian might have made them. There were some other lovely things too - and some fairly ordinary things as there always are. We never mind the fairly ordinary. We just think it is lovely that people are willing to try their best and then put it in for judging and display.
But the carpet? It was a privilege to see it. Like the one twelfth scale model of Milan cathedral that took eighteen months to make (in the woodwork section) I suspect that the carpet took a very long time to design and execute. It is the sort of entry that makes all the hard work of putting the show together worthwhile.
I will probably never meet the person who made it but I will always wonder at their skill and determination.


Jan said...

That sounds an amazing piece of work. I actually like doing Kitchener stitch, but find that it always takes me longer than I expect, even across a sock toe. I can only imagine the time spent on the knitting you speak about.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Do you know if there is a link so we can see it? Please!


the fly in the web said...

I too would like to see it...but what a piece of wirk!

Anonymous said...

I haven't been to the show for a long time ... and can remember wandering through the knitting display without a pause. Suspect I would stop this year!

catdownunder said...

I'll leave a message for the maker and ask her about photographs but I have absolutely no idea how it could be done. (I do agree it should be done!)

jeanfromcornwall said...

That sounds truly amazing. It would be great if you could find a way to let us see the work.
I always had a strong suspicion that Australians took handicrafts pretty seriously - good to be proved right. One of the advantages of being a nation of nearly all immigrants is the rich choice of traditions to draw on.