Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Monday Musings (on Tuesday)

“The little tongues of flame flickered continually, making it impossible for one of the persons in the Hall to set the stitches in her embroidery with any accuracy. She replaced the work in a tapestry bag, drawing forth, in its stead, a prosaic piece of knitting.” (The Quiet Gentleman, Georgette Heyer)

As I squint over lacework, readjusting the lamp and waving frantically at the cat when he blocks the light, I often think back to this passage and wonder at a time when much handiwork was completed by candlelight and knitting was considered a low-light occupation.

In the Little House on the Prairie books Laura mentions several times her blind sister Mary knitting (although at one point Laura herself complains of lack of light when working on very fine knitted lace). I assume the work would be plain stocking stitch, but very likely actual stockings at quite a fine gauge. Could I knit an entire garment without ever being able to see to check the work, even assuming someone else did the casting on and fiddly bits? Not a chance!

I can manage about half a row of stocking stitch (knit or purl side) without looking so long as the gauge is nice and even and the yarn is smooth. I have been known to slip stitches off the needle even in lacework without looking. But I would never attempt a complicated pattern in poor light or uncomfortable conditions.

I wonder whether we are perhaps too spoilt for comfort in these modern times. Sight-assisting gadgets such as magnifying lights are common and welcomed by knitters. We like good light, comfortable chairs and possibly a glass of wine and cake on the side! That being said – does it make me a better person if I can knit Shetland Lace in the dark? I doubt it, so pass me that shiraz.

Last week's Monday Musings



At 8:45 am, Blogger Helen said...

Just found your blog! Hello!

I once saw on a tv antiques program a glass ball jar which would have been filled with water and placed in front of a single candle to magnify the light so that three or four lace makers could sit around it to work. And there weren't opticians and eye care available to all like nowadays either. It's no wonder people went blind.

At 9:39 pm, Anonymous amanda cathleen said...

I can't imagine living life with out the "necessities" that we have! Indoor plumbing, electricity, heat! I can barely imagine life with out my dishwasher!! *L*

At 7:53 am, Blogger Heather said...

I was only talking to friend Faye yesterday about knitting in the dark - she said she used to sit up in bed after lights out, to knit army socks, when she was young. She also knits all the time in the car. When I said I feel sick if I don't watch the road she commented that she didn't watch her knitting.
Heidi's 'grandmother' was blind and spun, too; I taught a blind lady to spin, once.
Mary sewed, too, remember, with 'beautifully even, tiny stitches'.
So I have no excuse, really - perhaps I should close my eyes.

At 2:15 pm, Anonymous Claire UK said...

Remember in the book 'Mary Barton' where it mentions all the women who sewed (black) mourning clothes for a living and were blind by their mid-twenties?

I'm glad I have daylight bulbs etc.

At 8:22 pm, Blogger Badger said...

i remember when i read the 'Little House on the Prarie' series of books, and at the time I could knit and always wondered how Mary had managed it.

Enjoy the shiraz ;)


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