When I started posting about knitting in the renaissance, my Facebook walls lit up with people sharing resources and images. I love knitters even if I’m not especially loving knitting… yet.
The most prevalent period images of knitting actually come in the form of the “Knitting Madonnas”. In Catholic countries, it seems to have been a meme to paint the Virgin Mary (or one of her thematic surrogates) knitting or holding implements of knitting/spinning. Some of my favorites show her apparently trying to take her knitting tools back from a Christ child that’s acting like a very human baby and playing with the spinning wand or whathaveyou.
I can’t imagine why I feel a link to the Madonna trying to knit/spin with a fussy baby on her lap trying to “help”…
This house is overrun with yarn gremlins.
Here’s a “Knitting Madonna” care of the Wikimedia Commons that pushes my start date for knitting ‘in the round’ from mid-1500’s back into the dawn of the previous century as some of you were kind enough to point out.
I most certainly stand corrected on that point. (Click image to embiggen.)
And here are some “Spinning Madonnas” for you to ponder over on the Spinning Fishwife blog. (Hat tip to Kat Porter for that link!)
The Purl Stitch
In order to make the tidy, clothlike ‘stockinette’ stitch that seems to dominate period knitting, you have to know how to make rows of knit and alternating purl stitches. Which means learning to purl.
For the purl stitch, the needle begins by going through the loop in the opposite direction, as shown below. Your active needle is in front instead of behind the carrying needle.
The “throw” is once again between the two crossed points, only this time passing in front of the carrying needle.
Note: Purl stitches are almost inevitably looser than knit stitches. It has to do with working in front of the needle rather than behind it or something. I’m not sure I understand it completely at this point. However, I have learned that the farther I go, the more important tension becomes to the finished product.
Keep that trailing thread wrapped around your pinky or something, because loosy-goosy knitting isn’t worth much in terms of warmth or aesthetics.
These are the two key stitches we’re going to use to make our first knitted item. Straight out of Shakespeare: it’s a Monmouth Cap!