Sontag

I have a design published in the new Rowan Magazine! It is a simple triangular shawl or “Sontag” knit up in three tasty shades of Rowan Fine Tweed.

sontagfabric
(shades Wensley, Bedale, and Dent)

The garment is named after Henriette Sontag — a German singer, who brought this kind of shallow, front-crossing shawl to the attention of fashionable Victorians. The OED describes a “Sontag” as “a type of knitted or crocheted jacket or cape, with long ends which are crossed in front of the body and tied behind, worn by women in the second half of the Nineteenth Century.”

henriette

Curiously, I have been unable to find an image of Sontag sporting her signature garment . . .here’s a better representation of a Victorian woman wearing the shawl-style in question:

sontagphoto

Receipts for Sontags (also called “cache coeurs”, or “bosom friends”) are to be found in many women’s magazines from the 1860s onwards. They are, in fact, one of the first styles of shawl to be written up in modern pattern form.

1860+Sontag

But Sontags aren’t just Victorian. Here, for example, is a very similar garment being modelled in the Missoni A/W 2012 collection.

missoni
(I have strong feelings about high Fashion’s use of exceptionally thin models, and, confess to a degree of discomfort about this image.)

Mashing up these Victorian and contemporary influences, I came up with my design. Rather than being worked from side-to-side, my shawl is knit top down. It begins with a garter-tab cast on, and, following a simple stripe sequence, uses paired increases at the centre and outer edges to create a shallow, elongated triangle with front-crossing points. Optional ties can then be added to secure the garment around the waist.

This is the result:

wrap

My Sontag design appears in the magazine’s ‘Folk’ story, under the name ‘Nepal Wrap.’ If you’d like to knit it, Rowan 54 should be hitting shelves (and the doormats of subscribers) very soon!

another feature

The new Rowan Magazine has just come out, and I have a feature in it, exploring the history of mending, darning, and ‘plain work’. I really enjoyed researching and writing this piece, and working on it became quite important to me during some difficult times over the Summer. In many respects, it is a very “me” sort of piece, and I feel rather happy to see it published. Reading my words, and remembering the ideas behind the writing, reminds me that I stayed me even when I did not feel like me at all (if you see what I mean). I can perhaps give you a quick taste of the feature with a few of the images that Rowan did not use:


Margaret Boxall’s darning sampler (1799). © Ackworth School Estates. You can read more about these beautiful samplers in Carol Humphrey’s super book).


“Two women set up a make do and mend exhibition” (1943) (D14646) ©Imperial War Museum (grateful thanks to Eleanor Farrell at the IWM)


Liz kindly agreed to be my darning model. Here are her hands mending a lovely Hopscotch sock (of her own design) using Felix’s darning egg.

I am also very happy that the wonderful and talented Mandy, and her mother-in-law, Noreen, feature in the feature. And, quite apart from anything else, I reckon that this is a sterling issue of the magazine. I was particularly struck by the ‘Illusion’ story, which showcases some beautiful, airy pieces, set off with Rowan’s characteristically gorgeous photography and Marie Wallin’s great styling. Just the thing to brighten up a dreich January day.

me news

rowanshot

Some of you may be interested to know that I’ve a feature in the new Rowan Magazine (no.46), which is out today. The piece is about British industrial textile history, and the past and future of two important mills — Cold Harbour, and New Lanark.* I really enjoyed writing this feature, as I’m sure you can imagine. In other me-related news, I have finally found some time to finish off not one, but two patterns, which I will be able to ‘release’ in a few days. The first is, at long last, the cloud (about which some of you have been asking) – hurrah! The second is what I am knitting here, on this Jura beach, several weeks ago.

knittinglyttleton

More about this garment very shortly.

Thanks for your thoughts on the last post. I now find myself able to step back and ponder my own cashmere-antipathy, which — legitimate and important objections to a particular global economic model and and its environmental impact notwithstanding — I fear may also be tinged with a (perhaps suspect) aversion to cashmere’s (incidental?) associations with empire, excess, and a certain kind of femininity. Should one really condemn a fibre and an entire fibre industry because of the way its symbolic connotations feed into a particular (gendered) debate about luxury and the mass market? Because I feel that cashmere-as-commodity somehow offends my version of feminism? I feel much the same way about cupcakes, for example, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying them. And, as Colleen points out, pleasure is not an insignificant component of one’s relationship to ‘luxury’ textiles which can be consumed and enjoyed in thoughtful (and sustainable) ways. Heather also neatly puts her finger on my capacity for self-delusion. While I am a complete sucker for a certain kind of nationalistic marketing (the kind that involves sheep and rolling hills, roaming free and Yorkshire Tea, ahem) I sneer at another which (to me) unfortunately suggests lounge or leisure wear, golf**, and Ronnie Corbett (cue ‘sorry‘ theme tune). Show me a coachload of cashmere-clad English golfbuddies heading for the House of Bruar and I will run a mile. On the other hand, wave 100g of sludge coloured yarn under my nose that smells vaguely of the farmyard, with an ovine phizog depicted upon it, and I’ll have shown you the colour of my money before you can say “British Sheep Breeds.”

I also wanted to say how much I always enjoy your book recommendations, and to thank you for two recent ones in particular: Sigrun for Lucy Lippard’s The Lure of the Local and Kate M for the poetry of Sorley MacClean, which I am really enjoying, and wishing I could read in Gaelic.

*special thanks to Felix and the Felix-mobile
**apologies to Fiona

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