Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Sentimental Yarn

When I realized that my whole knitting life was turning into a lace festival, I decided I'd better add something simpler to occupy my time on the train and preserve what passes for my sanity.

At Rhinebeck, I only made one yarn purchase (no, seriously). It was, ironically, the first yarn I saw. I fell in love with it instantly.

It's from a firm in Texas called Brooks Farms and it's a variegated wool/silk worsted called Four Play. (Snicker.) The colorway snagged my attention, and Joe's, too–he also bought some. The price was amazingly fair. I put the two hanks away in my stash, thinking I would make a hat and scarf for myself from it when the time came.

And then, two days ago, the time came.

I've never used a variegated yarn before, aside from the self-patterning stuff that went into my Mary Thomas Test Sock. I knew variegated yarns often don't work well in textured patterns, but I really did not want to do a scarf in plain garter stitch.

So I got this idea. There's a famous pattern called King Charles Brocade that was so named because it appears in a silk undershirt that was worn by poor old King Charles I on the day his head got snicked off. It has been preserved and apparently has blood on it. Is that cool or what?*

Anyhow, I loved both the pattern and the historical association, and wondered if the mix of a seed stitch lattice and the stockinette panels might work well with the variegation. Seed stitch causes purl "bloops" of color to show up on both sides of the fabric, while stockinette would (or so I guessed) show up as simple rows of a single color.

Slap my ass and call me Sally if it didn't work out that way.

Here's what it looks like at the moment.

Between the quality of the yarn, the happy memories it holds, and the stitch pattern, this is rapidly becoming a favorite. I'm usually more about process than product, but I'm rabid to get this thing around my neck.

Broadway Baaaaaabies

The chorus line of high-kicking sheep I posted a while back seemed to have struck a chord with people, so they're the latest addition to the shop. The design (except for the knitting bag) is the first to include the name of this blog. Is that obnoxious? Be honest. If you'd prefer the shirt without the blog name, I'm interested to know.

The front of the shirts has this design. The back has a full-on Rockettes-style extravaganza with three lines of 15 wooly cuties who want to tap, tap, tap their way into your hearts.

Sing it with me now:
A pretty sheep is like a melody,
That haunts you night and day.
Just like the strain of a haunting refrain,
She'll start upon a marathon
And run around your brain.
You can't escape–she's in your memory,
By morning, night and noon.
She will leave you and then
Come back again.
A pretty sheep is just like a pretty tune.
*If this is one of those knitting myths, like Aran patterns being particular to a family so that drowned fisherman could be identified from their ganseys, I don't want to know. Not yet. So don't tell me.


Melissa said...

Sheepie design is great, blog name and all :-)

Cindy said...

Love, love, love Brooks Farm yarn. Your scarf looks lovely! I did a Clapotis in Harmony, their silk merino blend, in Red Hot Chili Salsa. Absolutely lovely to knit with..... Brooks is not going to be able to keep up with their orders.

My only reservation is that I should have gone down a needle size as it knitted up looser than I thought it would, so it is huge!

I, for one, have no reservation using these painted yarns in almost any context. That's me--throwing conventional wisdom to the winds. I think reflects how I work with bead weaving.

marie in texas said...

blog name, most deaFin-8-ly. and double five low slap to the rumph my dear Sally...great use of color and texture. i love verigated yarns, even for my humble never ending washcloths. watch me copy off ya! LOL I like long skinny scarves too, so how wide is that?

christine said...

Oh, yes, that is some lovely fiber, AND because you linked me, I had to go read about your Rhinebeck experience! What fun! I can't wait for my first in October!

Will Pillage For Yarn said...

Love the yarn, love the pattern... what a great idea for a variegated handpaint. Bonus points for having a gore-tastic and historic inspiration there.

I finally cracked and bought one of your shirts. My bank account curses you but I will be the most stylish gal at SnB so I win. Yay winning! Hush you, bank account!

Kathleen said...

I love your scarf - I did one in this pattern for my pre-teen son a couple years ago, and he actually used it.

I don't remember the pattern in the material, but when I was in England about 17 years ago I saw King Charles' bloody shirt. It was in a case in a fairly dark room, but the shirt did indeed have blood stains (faded) around the neck. Fascinating but disgusting.

Erica said...

Brooks Farm was at Stitches West last weekend and it is F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S! I bought quit a bit of it and am DYING to use it. I'm very happy that I can order this online, but you definitely have to see/feel it to appreciate how awesome it is.

Carol said...

Why, yes, I would like to slap you on the ass and call you Sally. Among other things.

But you already know I have a huge crush on you.

BigAlice said...

The scarf is wonderful! The variegated yarn looks great with that pattern.

Beth said...

Oh my god. Why in the world wouldn't they just bury him in what he was wearing at the time? Who had the nasty task of undressing him? Did they intend to display the bloody shirt all along? Is that why they didn't keep his pants? My lunch has been ruined with these disturbing questions.

Colleen said...

I can NOT say enough good things about that yarn. I absolutely *heart* Brook Farm Four Play. I used it to knit the "Ella" shawl from the last Knitty issue and it is just GORGEOUS.

Pamela said...

ooh aah, nice scarf!

Carrie K said...

Nice scarf, cool sheep, CafePress items? Awesome! hideously easy to remember sheep ditty. Curses.

So the Chas myth is true? Cool!

Lise said...

You can wrap your KC scarf around your neck and call yourself the Martyr of the People (it's from the end of his scaffold speech.)

love the scarf, love Brooks Farms also -- gorgeous stuff and they're a dream to deal with.

Freecia said...

I worked right across their booth at Stitches West. Lucky and sad that I was too busy to go over there and buy some.

The nice pic and your rec have pushed it up the "to buy" list. Thanks! That bloops technique will be one I keep in mind.

Yvonne said...

What is really funny, I looked at the King Charles brocade pattern today in a stitch encyclopedia at the library...


PS like the sheep, with the name.

Marie said...

I just read about that shirt last weekend,and the symbolism associated with that (and other old) patterns. But the photo in my book wasn't very clear, so I was really interested to see it up close in your photo. But the irony of using that pattern for something to warm the neck and the head :lol:
But I think it works really well with the variegated yarn. Will definitely keep that idea in mind. Thanks for the inspiration!

Carrie said...

That scarf is going to be completely gorgeous. If I were within 5 states of you I'd sneak to your place and snake it out of your closet.
I generally don't like words or names on my clothing, but the sheep are cute enough that I'll probably buy the durned thing anyway.
DANG I wish I could wear wool. (How cruel is it that a knitter with the maiden name of Lamb is allergic to wool?)

Darci said...

I love that pattern. I will definetly file it away under must use. I am still developing a stash so nothing is calling out to me yet. All in good time! I love the sheeps. They make me laugh - with or without the blog name.

Vivienne Upton said...

My inner pedant says it was Charles I not II (II probably died of syphilis - if not, it wasn't for want of trying).

I think the clothes of a condemned criminal (which is what Charlie-boy was being classed as) were one of the executioner's perks - there was a flourishing market in second-hand clothing at the time. Very few people wore new clothes.

Vivienne Upton said...

Oh, and there's a picture of the shirt in question on page 78 of Richard Rutt's 'History of Hand Knitting'

Franklin said...

You're right, Vivienne. Slip of the fingers. And I just finished reading Antonia Fraser's book about Charles and the Restoration. Shame on me.

I think my day job is melting my brain.

Marie said...

Love the sheep, and insist on the blog name. Soon, very soon I will crack and order something. Marge? The sheep?

We don't get Brooks Farm yarn here. Anywhere.

gaile said...

love the sheepies! and isn't that a Magnetic Fields song?

TheAmpuT said...

Well, Sally ;-) I love the new shirt design, but since that was my first trip to your shop, and since I can only spring for one shirt right now, it's going to have to be the Venus Tee. What's going to make it look especially awesome on *this* knitter is that I still have my arms, but I'm missing a leg LOL. My friends are going to die laughing. Can't wait. (love the scarf, btw)

Anonymous said...

Hurray - sheepies that work for non-knitters. Now, the T or sweatshirt, or both....

And Franklin, dear, are you going to write me back or what?


maniacalmultitasker said...

Actually, I prefer your name rather than the blogname with the high kicking sheep. :)

Kris said...

I love your Brooks Farm work in progress. The colors are beautiful and work perfectly with the texture. It is really beautiful.

Latoya said...

I'd prefer the shirt without the blog name; but I really like the design!

That yarn is beautiful and the scarf will be too. I like that pattern.

Susan said...

How wonderful to get the link to Brooks Farm! I bought some of this yarn three years ago in Texas, lost the tags, and haven't been able to find it again, not having attended any event in which they were selling since. I saw one pic on their website and knew it was the same. So someone in Chicago who bought the yarn in the northeast led me to a source in Texas, where I live. Thank you!

Jay said...

Franklin, that is fan-friggin-tiful (you know what I mean!). The yarn is stunning by itself, but the texture your knitting creates really makes it pop... it's sort of: now you see, now you don't. Initially I didn't consciously see it, but then I did a double-take because I knew there was something interesting my brain had seen which my eyes hadn't registered.
I saw some yarn that looked just like this today, but it was a different name (buggered if I can remember)... I was horrified at the price at the time, but now I am seriously considering it after seeing what wonderful results you are having.

Liz said...

Love love love the yarn! I made a Clapotis (yes, trendy, I know . . .) out of it and have been trying to come up with an excuse to buy more. You may just have provided it. Thanks!

Jon said...

I love what you are doing with that scarf! I can't wait to see a pic of you modeling it!!

Knitress said...

Four Play is such gorgeous stuff. I bought two hanks at MSW last year; one's been turned into a scarf for a friend, one's waiting on deck. I need to get more this year for memeME.

What does the reverse side look like in the KC Brocade? And is there enough seed stitch to keep the fabric from curling?

Brie said...

I like that scarf design and the yarn is gorgeous!

Sean said...

Isn't finding that your instinct is correct a GREAT feeling?? I love the pattern and love the look of this. Terrific stuff. You're so inspiring!


Cheryl said...

That is one of the prettiest yarns I've ever seen...and I am going to the Pittsburgh Knitting Festival this weekend and BROOKS FARMS booth here I come!!
woo hoo!!..
( the sheep!! :))

Marilyn said...

I heart every fucking thing you do.

Please send me some of the air you breathe immediately.

Signed, your surrogate mother.

KSD said...

King Charles Brocade is one of my favorite knitting designs, hands (or maybe heads?) down.
And, as the mother of an aspiring Broadway actor, let me commend you on your lyrical dexterity. Sheep, you know, are naturals at kick lines. . .

Laurel said...

Love the King Charles Brocade. Made my sister a scarf with that pattern, and it even looks pretty in a solid color. But I love the way it looks in the varigated... I think if I had a sheep, I might take it over to Nina's on Division...

MEM said...

Brooks Farm is just up the road from me, and we love their yarn, here in the tropic of Texas, no matter how hot it may get.

I don't think the King Charles stuff is a myth. I think the shirt is still around. I think the Bishop mentions it in his book, but I'm too pooped (Oh wait -- that's a different post!) to go look it up.

sahara said...

OOOH Franklin, thank you. I am a fan of King Charles Brocade, and have a cotton swatch in my library. I have some varigated yarn that I couldn't figure out what to do with. Looking at your swatch did it for me.

This is why I love blogs, well YOUR blog, actually.

Paisley said...

Re the Scarf - Love the colours, love the pattern, love the combination. No idea about the Charles I link though - and why spoil a good story for the sake of the truth?

Kitty Kitty said...

Just curious do you know if there is an actual patter for the King Charles Brocade undershirt floating around? Just thought it would be cool to recreate it.

Corbie said...

Re: recreating the waistcoat --
Charles 1's silk knitted undershirt is at the Museum of London. It's knitted at some outrageously small stitch gauge -- 17 to 21 st/in., maybe? -- but ought to be easy enough to figure out from the picture. In fact, I'm sort of trying to do just that for another 17th/18th c. knitted undershirt. But I'm not a (complete) glutton for punishment; my recreated version will probably be knitted at around 7 to 9 stitches/inch. Maybe. If I get around to it.

Ina said...

The legend includes the tidbit that execution day was chilly, so Chas I asked for an extra layer because he didn't want to be seen shivering and having onlookers think it was nerves rather than temperature.

Jax said...

Love the blog and the dancing sheep. I'd definitely wear the shirt to a knitters' gathering. On the other hand, I would rapidly tire of trying to explain to my literary theory geek friends why there are dancing sheep associated with the panopticon. Good God! You have created the ultimate torture device for a knitting lit student!

Jax said...

Ack! Split infinitive alert! I apologize for poor editing.

Rosemary said...

Ooooh, I don't even care if it's not really the pattern from Charles Stewart's chemise, I just figured out what to do with the lovely but highly variegated Valley Berkshire I have in the Amethyst colourway. My Granny's a Stewart, and I used to walk past the spot where he was terminated on my way to class every Wednesday.

Love your writing, as always, and the rockette sheep.

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