Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yorkshire Goose Wings

The first time I made and tried knitting with a Yorkshire "goose wing" knitting sheath, I was just amazed at the perfection of the concept. They tuck into apron strings and sit on the point of the right hip and hold a knitting needle in just the right spot for good knitting. Over the last few years, I have made a bunch of them.

When I did not want to wear an apron to knit with them, I would just tie sash around my waist and tuck the goose wing into the sash.

However, goose wings do not work so well with the wide leather belts I tend to wear with jeans around the house. The Cornish "knitting fish" have always worked better wide belts. And, the goose wings tend poke the leather easy chair that my wife made me buy to be my "knitting chair" in the living room. (During the day, when she is not home, I like to knit seated in a folding chair in the kitchen.) Think about how many of the old drawings show knitters seated on stools or benches rather than seated in chairs.

The other day, everywhere I went seemed to have nice work aprons on sale. I took it as a sign that should do something with goose wings. Then Abbot, my favorite Smith, asked about goose wings and I knew it was time to revisit goose wings. He also likes to wear wide leather belts.

They poke, so grind off the "pokey" tips. Done!

Now grind groves so the apron strings stay in place and anchor the sheath firmly in place. DONE!

[With goose wings in apron strings the resistance of the knitter's abdominal tissue provides some spring action allowing fast, low effort knitting even with ridgid (brass & aluminium), or weak (wood) needles. This is particularly useful for lace which is too loose a fabric to use the fabric as a spring to assist the knitting. The goose wing really is a brilliant tool design. ]

Cut the "blade" thin enough to slip under a leather belt. Grind an offset tab at the end of the blade to catch on the lower edge of a leather belt to anchor the goose wing under a leather belt. Done!

They work exceptionally well with steel needles from ~6" to 12" long, but last night I was using them with 18" gansey needles and they worked very well indeed! A heavy leather belt was worn very low around my hips and the sheath was tucked in over my right buttock. Close to perfect performance (in my folding chair -I do not use the gansey needles in the leather chairs. The arm rests impair needle movement.)

Sometimes, I live in a bent world.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Path Foreward - Lace!

I started this reseach because I wanted to know how seamen of old stayed warm. Now, I know, they knit tighly to produce a warm fabric. They saved their wrists by using a knitting sheath.

The process works. I proved it with prototype samples. And, my knitting sheath prototypes do look like engineering prototypes. They feel like something that would be at home in a machine shop. They have the solid feel of utilitarian tools used for making the most utilitarian of garments - a fisherman's gansey.

However, we know that knitting sheaths were also used in the production of lace. One of Rutt's informants on knitting sheaths was using her knitting sheath to make lace. The great "wedding ring" shawls knit in the Shetland Islands were knit on the same tools used to knit ganseys. Why?

Well, because a knitting sheath is the easy way to knit lace. It really is.

I have been swatching lace. I am not real thrilled with "modern lace" as taught in most contemporary texts on knitting. I do not like the fabric. I mean, really, do you like these fabrics?

That little swatch in the photo does not look like much, but it is 650 stitches. It is also a nice fabric. No, it is a very nice fabric. It something a REAL lady would want to wear. A knitting sheath lets one knit fast enough that one can actually finish a lacey something in a reasonable length of time. A knitting sheath also helps maintain even tension.

Anyway, I have drunk the "Kool-Aid", and I am going to the "Dark Side". I am going to do some lace -- just as soon as I finish a couple of pair of house socks and a gansey.

Likewise, it is time to move past my "engineering prototype" style of knitting sheaths and make some that not only work, but that have some aesthetic appeal to folks other than locomotive machinists. I really am working on this. No more knitting like a pirate.

The lace needles in the photo are from various sources and about 1.4 to 1.5 mm by 20 or 25 cm long. I am going to say it right now,"Commerical lace needle makers focus more on making needles pretty than on making them functional. Lace kntters aided and abetted this by buying needles that were more pretty than functional.

Knitting hearts were used by ladies in Jane Austin's time to support fine needles for knitting lace. These hearts were jewlery in every sense of the term. However, such hearts required fairly stiff gowns to support the hearts, so I do not think I will go in that direction. However, if someone wants such jewlery, let me know and I will work with my sister ( to help you design a knitting heart that fully functional.