PieceWork Gets the Blues

Laurie Sundstrom's Square for Quilt Foxglove Pattern from Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 1 (Photo by Joe Coca)

A note from Kathleen: The new issue of PieceWork is out and it's all about the color blue, color knitting, and the history and tradition of the craft. I love blue now, but it was never one of my favorite colors. I think the beautiful blues I saw in yarn is what made me embrace the blues!

I found so much to be excited about in the July/August 2012 issue of PieceWork, but I was really thrilled to see that my friend Laurie Sundstrom is starting a series about knitting from Weldon's Practical Needlework, the Victorian publication devoted to needlecraft. Laurie is the owner of Vintage Knits, a vintage pattern Internet resource, and she's part of my Spokane knitting family, too. She's spending a year knitting from Weldon's, a sort of Julie and Julia experience. Go Laurie!

Here's PieceWork editor Jeane Hutchins to tell you more about the new issue:

Nancy Bush's Egyptian Socks inspired by traditional blue-and-white Islamic stockings now in the collection of The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Joe Coca)
Baseball-size balls of crushed and dried indigo paste. Segou, Mali. 2010. (Photo by Cynthia LeCount Samaké)

Into the Blue

Blue jeans, blue moon, Rhapsody in Blue, Colorado sky blue, "Blue Suede Shoes," Texas bluebonnets, cerulean, the Caribbean Sea, lapis lazuli. Blue can be striking or soothing. Royalty and religions have used the color for millennia as a symbol of power.

From ancient Egyptian socks to stitch-resist cloth in Mali, from "as true as Coventry blue" to Pueblo ceremonial leggings, this summer issue is dedicated to the color blue. We examine its importance, how it has been used, and how some traditional methods of achieving the color are being preserved. It turns out that Lady Godiva was far ahead of her time; it was her money that was used to pay for the construction of a monastery in Coventry in 1043, and the monastery played a role in establishing Coventry as a textile center; tie-dyeing cloth with indigo was introduced to the world long before the 1960s; native American men knitted and wore ceremonial dark blue leggings; and Chinese embroiderers stitched symbols onto white cloth with hand-dyed blue cotton thread.

This issue also marks the beginning of Laurie Sundstrom's series "My Year of Weldon's." She offers a project a week on her blog and shares selected patterns with PieceWork readers. To aid today's knitters, she is rewriting the original patterns using modern notation and accompanying them with charts, a feature absent from Weldon's originals.

About 1885, Weldon's, a London paper pattern company, began publishing monthly newsletters, available by subscription, which contained patterns and instructions for projects. Each fourteen-page newsletter was devoted to a single craft—Weldon's Practical Whitework Embroidery, Weldon's Practical Knitting, Weldon's Practical Patchwork, Weldon's Practical Crochet, to name just a few. About 1888, the company started compiling the newsletters into bound hardcover books called Weldon's Practical Needlework, and they continued to publish these into the first two decades of the twentieth century. In 1998, PieceWork purchased original copies of Volumes 1 through 30 of Weldon's Practical Needlework. Since then, we have produced facsimile editions of Volumes 1 through 12 as well as a series of eBooks using knitting, crochet, and bead embroidery content from early volumes (for more information, visit interweave.com and type "Weldon's" in the search box). These publications and Sundstrom's new series offer you a glimpse into life in Victorian England and the major role that handwork played in that life.

I hope that the summer is treating you well and that this summer issue will become one of your favorites.


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