Tara Tuesdays - Part 15

Posted on 31 July 2012

Last week neither Tara or I were around so we didn't get a chance to update the blog, but she's back with a vengeance and never fails to surprise me... medieval knitting anyone?!

Medieval Knitting

This week I wanted to write a little bit about medieval knitting. I may have already mentioned that I am a re-enactor and that I do shows in this country and abroad in France, Belgium and Holland. The period my group and I re-enact is the Wars of the Roses which is 15th century. I have been known to fight during battles but these days I prefer to chill out and relax around the camp rather than getting bashed up! I am not really into the history side of re-enactment (more the social side if I’m honest).

Recently I met a lovely lady at an event who I have watched working from afar. We made friends and I found out what she is currently making. The lady in question is Margje. She is a Dutch re-enactor and I have seen her knitting before but just didn’t have the courage to talk to her which is most unlike me, I normally just introduce myself and get stuck right in…. Anyway, I took the time to speak to Margje and asked her what she is making as it looks ever so complicated and really is rather fascinating. This is a picture of Margje in medieval kit knitting:

You can see from the picture that she is using teeny tiny double pointed needles, she later told me that they are brass and that she made them herself! Here is a close up of what she is making, she said when it is complete it will be a small purse:

She has taken the pattern from the cushions of Las Huelglas which is detailed in the book “A HISTORY OF HAND KNITTING” by RICHARD RUTT which amazingly, I have a copy of at home so was able to refer to it for this blog entry!

Some background information for you: “The monastery of St Mary of Las Huelglas, near Burgos in northern Spain, still houses a community of Cistercian nuns. It was founded by King Alfonso VI of Leon and Castille and his wife Eleanor of Aragon in 1187 as a royal monastery for nuns of high birth, and the abbey church was designated as the royal mausoleum of Castille.

The contents of the tombs were conserved in 1944-5 and published by Manuel Gomez-Moreno y Martinez in El Panteon Real (Madrid 1946). Much important medieval textile material was discovered, including cushions that are knitted.

The first cushion came from the tomb of Fernando de la Cerda, heir of Alfonso X of Castile. Prince Fernando died in 1275, and the cushion doubtless dates from that time. It is knitted in close stockinet, at a tension of about 80 stitches to 10 centimetres and is 36cm (14 ¼ square)”.

Margje has adapted the original pattern and is working in stocking stitch and knitting with (I think) 4 needles. I said that she must be ever so patient as I am a keen knitter myself but don’t know if I would be able to do this! It looks so fiddly but I am sure you will agree the result is beautiful! She is using embroidery threads as they are quite fine but she said that it would have originally been made out of silk. I have also attached some pictures of tension squares that Margje made to achieve the correct tension for the purse. We both said that normally we don’t bother with this although I know it is important. Margje said that she had to try several size needles to get it absolutely right, just look how small the stitches are?!

She has promised me an update the next time we meet so I am hoping that she has knitted a few more rows by then! Watch this space for future updates!

Oh and this is me in my shiny armour, looking good me thinks!!!!


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