Another Historic Knit – The Sortie Cap

I did the thing again guys… I found a historic pattern on Ravelry and made it.  This time, I made a Sortie Cap.

Sortie Cap
Sortie Cap

Compared to the challenges the Sontag presented, this Sortie Cap was such a quick knit.  I started it on a Friday night (wild and crazy life I lead, I know), and finished it later on Saturday.  In a nutshell, you knit 9 alternating rows of stockinette and reverse stockinette, then, before you cast off, you drop (yes drop) every alternate stitch, so when you cast off, you are casting off half the stitches.  Work the dropped stitches to the cast on edge, and you are left with an open and gauzy finished object.  I was simply amazed at how the piece grew in length after dropping the stitches.  I need to get better at photographing my work in progress because a before and after photo would have been great to insert here…

After initially completing it with i-cords to tie in the back, I removed them and replaced them with ribbon, like the pattern called for.  I’m rather happy with how the piece turned out, even though it is a little large for my head.  That’s okay.  Bobby pins will keep it in place while I’m wearing it.

The pattern came from another Godey’s magazine, this time it dates to 1858.  Many thanks goes to for sharing this pattern, along with her notes on knitting it. While I knew that it came from the right time period, I wanted to know more about the history of this accessory.

I started with my good friend Google and searched for ‘Sortie.’  It comes from the French for ‘exit.’  In military terms, a ‘sortie’ is a sudden deployment of a unit, usually for a specific mission.  The cap was intended to be worn by a woman; I highly doubt there is a military association with this accessory.  So I searched for other examples of ‘sortie’ clothing.

November 1855’s Godey’s featured an illustration of a Party Hood (or a Sortie de Bas), along with a knitting pattern on making the item.

Party Hood, or Sortie de Bas, from Godey's 1855
Party Hood, or Sortie de Bas, from Godey’s 1855

In 1861, Godey’s again makes reference to a sortie de bas, or opera hood, and later in the year, they wrote about evening party etiquette, saying,

When your guests take leave of you, it will be in the drawing-room, and let that farewell be final.  Do not accompany them to them to the dressing-room, and never stop them in the hall for a last word.  Many ladies do not like to display their sortie du soirée before a crowded room, and you will be keeping their escort waiting.  Say farewell in the parlour, and do not repeat it.

In the 1864 edition of Godey’s, there was a column on “Chitchat on Fashions for February”, where they described “A beautiful sortie de bal,” saying it was “of a new cloth, white lamb’s back, with a silken surface that seems to be covered with fine soutache.  The shape is an improved burnouse, rounded in front, and laid in deep plaits behind.  It is trimmed with a fringe of white chenille and gilt.”

While the common search result for ‘sortie’ is a military action, I believe that the sortie cap, and the sortie du bas, have their etymology in the French root – meaning to go out or an exit.  A sortie cap is a cap that would be worn on an outing.

The cap it rather reminiscent of the fanchon bonnet, fashionable after the 1860s, although it represents a rather simplistic version.  The mid-1800s saw the size of bonnets decrease, and the sortie cap fits in with this fashion.

My Sortie Cap made its debut at an event for work Friday night. The heavens opened up and it ended up pouring as the evening went on, but the event was a success and so was my latest accessory!


Not Feeling the Gratitude

There is a story behind these socks.

I was in one of my LYSs, over eight months ago, and my attention was grabbed by an eye popping yarn: Wisdom Yarn’s Naked Socks in the Oceanic colourway.  It’s blue, it’s green, it’s teal, it’s oh-so-me.  It is also 93% acrylic, but it is soft and silky!  I had to buy it, so buy it I did.

Wisdom Yarns Naked Sock - Oceanic colourway.
Wisdom Yarns Naked Sock – Oceanic colourway.

By this point, I was a novice sock maker (not that I’m anything of an expert now!), having only made 2 or three plain ol’ ‘vanilla socks: no patterning, no lace, just a simple rib, at the top, heel flap and turn, and stockinette in between.  But with this yarn, the Naked Socks yarn, I wanted more.  Inspired by the colours and colourway name, I wanted a sock pattern that would remind me of the sea.  Think waves, think breeze; I began searching for a sock pattern with lace and/or cables.  Then I found Gratitude.

This ‘Tangy’ sock pattern was originally published in Knitty, the wonderful online knitting magazine, designed by Brenda Patipa.  Drawn in by the picture on the Ravelry pattern page, I knew this was the sock pattern for this yarn.  After buying the right size needles (remember, novice sock knitter with only size 3mm), I cast on.  The date was November 6.

Between the beginning of November and the beginning of August I had knit only 40 rows.  I have hundreds of excuses for my inactivity: Christmas knits, the sweater I wanted to make, knit commissions, presents for beloved friends.  I know the real reason though: I just didn’t wanna do it!  It’s not the pattern’s fault, for it is a beautiful, well written pattern with clear charts.  I couldn’t motivate myself to sit and knit and pay attention to the rows.  It was ignored by my own sheer laziness.

Finally, after finishing my Hermione Everyday Socks, I was on a sock-knitting roll, and I wanted to keep the good times coming.  I heaved a heavy sigh, looking into my yarn storage and found the Gratitude socks.  I pushed past my hesitation, picked up the needles, and started knitting.

Last Monday was a holiday for many of us here in Canada, so Monday morning I settled in with a coffee, Law & Order SVU and the Gratitude socks.  This time, everything was different, for the slips and yarn overs were happening so easily! Before I knew it, I must have knitted 6 rows with great ease!  And then, I noticed it… A dropped stitch many rows back… With the cables, decreases and yarn overs in this pattern, I could not see a way to fix this mistake.  So I took a deep breath, choked back the tears, and started frogging.  Rip-it, rip-it, rip-it.


And then I cast on…

Fast forward four days, and the leg is knit, measuring around 5″.  I began the heel pattern and thought, ‘This would be a great time to try the sock on, see how it’s fitting.’  Might I add, as I kept knitting, my hesitation and nervousness about the size kept increasing – they looked rather narrow…

And that was as far as it would go.  There was no going over the heel...
And that was as far as it would go. There was no going over the heel…

My nerves were well placed.  It took everything in me not to cry/throw the damned project across the room.  I’m putting the socks in a permanent time out – I can’t even look at them to frog it back again.

So, on Thursday night, I broke out another set of DPNs, and I began a Vanilla Sock.

Product vs. Process

They say there are two types of knitters: the product knitter or the process knitter.  The process knitter is the person who knits for the pure process of it all, creating knit stitch after knit stitch, purl after purl.  These knitters quite frequently gift their finished objects because the enjoyment has come from the process of creating.

I am not this kind of knitter.

The project knitter is driven by the finished object, the desire to see the object upon its completion, and most frequently these knitters keep their FOs for wearing and enjoyment.  This is me.  While I love seeing the object take shape and get joy from seeing my magic needles create something from nothing, ultimately, I am driven to finish the object so it will be complete.  I feel my impatience wearing on me while knitting 72 rounds of a sock leg – 72 rounds!! Just to get to the heel flap!! I so desperately want to finish the sock, even though we are in the middle of a heat snap in southern Ontario and the need for socks is at a yearly low, but dammit the pinks and blues just look so lovely that I want them finished!  I finished the first Hermione Sock last weekend, and I have not been hit by second-sock-itis because the product knitter in me wants to see this pair complete.

Process knitters will often have numerous projects on the go, eagerly casting on because of the excitement of creating something new.  The flip side is that a product knitter, driven by the FO, will likely have fewer WIPs.  Right now, I have the Hermione Sock, the beginnings of a new pillowcase, and a pair of slippers.  I need a few projects on the go because of my, ahem, limited attention span, but the slippers are a great example of me being driven by the product.  While knitting round after round for the sock leg, I needed a change, so I grabbed two complementary coloured yarns, 6.5mm needles and I knit slipper 1 of 2.  I needed a quick project to give me the satisfaction of finishing something.  There is no doubt about it: I am a product driven knitter.

Which kind of knitter are you?

product vs process

PS – wishing a very happy Civic Monday, Simcoe Day, Col By Day, McLaughlin Day, Brant Day, whatever your town calls it!  For any Canadian readers out there, I hope you enjoy the holiday Monday!

I Think I Found My Mojo!

Last week, when I posted, I was tapped for inspiration and barely knitting.  I’m not sure which invisible switch was flipped, but my needles have been hard at work this week!

I finished my first accent pillow, and the Whovian in me is simply delighted!  Knit with the colours of the Fourth Doctor’s iconic scarf, I finished seaming the pillow and adding the zipper on Monday.  I like making these knit pillow cases with zippers, so that if they need washing, it doesn’t become a huge production.  I can unzip, wash, then rezip.  Easy peasy.

Every house needs a touch of Doctor Who, doesn't it?
Every house needs a touch of Doctor Who, doesn’t it?

After completing this pillow, I grabbed a yarn that had been in my stash for a few years and started making a cowl.  I lost the ball band, but a friend helped me identify this yarn as Sirdar Donegal Tweed.  I’ve loved it since I first bought it.  It reminds me of crushed Smarties (for any Americans reading this, the Canadian Smarties are like M&Ms, candy coated chocolates), and really, who doesn’t want to wear something that reminds you of chocolate!

With the Sirdar, I cast on and completed a second ‘Cousin Cowl‘, a project I initially reversed engineered for my cousin, hence the name.  I was inspired by the Leaf Lace Bandana Cowl on Ravelry, and took the general structure of the cowl and made it my own with a completely different lacework pattern.  I liked the one I made for my cousin so much, that I made another.  A quick knit, I finished it in four days.

The colour difference with natural light and direct sunlight is amazing! The bottom picture shows the colour flecks of the tweed!
The colour difference with natural light and direct sunlight is amazing! The bottom picture shows the colour flecks of the tweed!

And finally, I needed to keep my hands busy on Saturday, so I made excellent progress on my Hermione Everyday Socks, finishing Sock #1 on Sunday, and casting on the second later that afternoon.

Hermione Sock #1 Loving the self patterning yarn, and the texture of the knit fabric is just lovely!
Hermione Sock #1
Loving the self patterning yarn, and the texture of the knit fabric is just lovely!

Seriously, what happened to the girl who was seeking inspiration?!

Many thanks to those who commented last week!  I now have new patterns in my ‘Favourites’ on Ravelry, and I was shown different features of this beloved site to check out when I need inspiration.  This blogging community rocks!

Inspiration Wanted…

I did not post last week.  Monday came and went, and I did not write.  Tuesday was a busy afternoon, and even if I wanted to, I did not have the chance to write.  By Wednesday, I sat at my laptop, perused Ravelry, but was left with a lack of inspiration, so, once again, I did not write.

I feel compelled to write something pithy, something with substance.  Even if I was to share my progress on current projects, I wouldn’t have much to contribute because on the knitting front, I’m barely dedicating an hour a day to it.  I’m slowly but surely working away at the pillowcase for my couch.  It’s certainly coming along, and now that I’m in the home stretch to the project, maybe I’ll be more inspired to keep on knitting.

I also have sock on my needles, and I was able to plug away at them while travelling to Toronto on Friday night.  Happy colours, happy project, but I’m feeling oh so blah about it all.

Hermione's Everyday Socks, WIP
Hermione’s Everyday Socks, WIP

So long story short, I’m a 30yo female seeking inspiration. Must be bright, colourful, and offer new and exciting challenges. Crochet projects need not apply. Looking for a creative ‘spark!’

Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey Stuff For My New House

I must be crazy… absolutely insane… Why else would I decide it would be a good idea to make pillowcases in the style of the Fourth Doctor’s Scarf?!

Well, that’s not really being fair.  It’s a good idea because I love knitting, I have more than enough of this yarn in my stash, the pillow forms were only $3 each, and they will be my geeky homage in my living room.  But still… what have I got myself into!

I’ve started with the pillows.  As I said, they were only $3 each at the dollar store and at that price, how can I say no?  I bought two during my last shopping trip – one square, one rectangular.  The square one I have earmarked for another geeky pillowcase, that one in the style of the 3rd year Griffindor Scarf.  When I saw the rectangle pillow, I knew it would be perfect for Tom Baker’s scarf.

Swatching - cheater's style
Swatching – cheater’s style

My next step was swatching.  Like when I made the fingerless gloves, I’m following the basic colour structure and row counts of the scarf from, but otherwise I’m winging this project.  The pillow’s measurements are 12×20.  If I was smart many months ago when I made the fingerless gloves, I would have written down what the stitch gauge was at the time.  Good ol’ hindsight.  So I made a ‘cheaters’ swatch – I knit only enough stitches and rows to get the rough estimate.  I know, I know, I’m so breaking all the rules!  Once I figured out how many stitches and rows to an inch, I cast on.

I chose to do a provisional cast on because I love the look of the kitchener stitch – once it’s finished, I’ll kitchener stitch it all together.

When I made The Scarf, I didn’t knit the full 12-14 foot length.  When the pattern called to knit, say 20 rows, I knit half that.  I’ve done the same for this pillowcase, it’s still consistent with the pattern, and you can see enough of the colour changes to get the impression of the scarf.  As well, while the scarf is knit as garter stitch, I’m knitting this stockinette – only the right side will ever be seen, so it made sense to knit in lovely stockinette.

Work in progress
Work in progress

It’s still a work in progress, and with 40 inches to knit, I’m sure this will keep me busy!  I’m excited to see it take shape, and the familiar colour palette and colour repetition simply makes me happy.

There’s no point being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes.” – The Doctor (Fourth)

Oh Canada!

Happy 148th Birthday to my home and native land!  As has become my new Canada Day tradition, I will be working later this afternoon as our Museum participates in our City’s Canada Day Celebrations.

I am a few days late in writing a new post.  My routine is to write and publish a new post every Monday, but the new house has been keeping me both busy and off my routine.  I must also say, I was struggling for inspiration for a new post; Canada Day has, however, provided me with the inspiration I was seeking!  Here is a round up of some of my favourite Canadian-inspired knitting projects.

I’ll start with the project I’ve completed: a Maple Leaf Toque.  My dad requested a Canada toque, and I was happy to oblige. This quick project used intarsia to make the leaf, and the pom pom on top makes it complete!

The Maple Leaf Toque I made for my Dad earlier this year.
The Maple Leaf Toque I made for my Dad earlier this year.

The Maple Leaf is such an iconic symbol for Canada, which is why this shawl caught my eye.  Simply put, it is beautiful.  The Maple Leaf Shawl, by Natalia @ Elfmoda, is available on Ravelry.  It has been in my favourites for months, and one day I will buy the pattern and make this stunning wrap.

Maple Leaf Shawl, image from Ravelry (© Elfmoda)
Maple Leaf Shawl, image from Ravelry (© Elfmoda)

Another iconic symbol for Canada has its roots in our early history.  The Hudson’s Bay Company is the world’s second oldest company, and it was incorporated through a Royal Charter in 1670 as a fur trading organization. It has evolved throughout the centuries, and today it is one of the country’s largest retail business groups.  The Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket, and the colours that comprise the blanket, date to c. 1780 and are easily identifiable and iconic of this company.  The website has a detailed summary of the history of the blanket, the colours, and the Point System that is referred to in the name of the blanket.

Any pattern that uses the green, red, yellow, and blue stripes are recognizable as HBC colours, but the following patterns truly caught my eye:

Hudson Bay Inspired Crib Blanket by Purl Soho

Hudson Bay Inspired Crib Blanket (© Purl Soho)
Hudson Bay Inspired Crib Blanket (© Purl Soho)

#20 Hudson’s Bay Pullover by Cathy Carron, published in Vogue Knitting – I simply love the wrap the model in the picture is wearing!

#20 Hudson's Bay Pullover (© Soho Publishing)
#20 Hudson’s Bay Pullover (© Soho Publishing)

If you type ‘Canada’ into the Ravelry pattern search, you will get 201 results, with red and white in abundance.  This last pattern caught my eye, as did it’s name.  Canadian Pride 2010 is a free pattern available by Briggs and Little.  Briggs and Little is a wool company based in New Brunswick, and I must say, I was rather impressed and surprised when I started looking into their history!  The woolen mill was first started in 1857 and has been operating under the name Briggs and Little since 1916!  This wool company is 10 years older than Canada has officially been a country.

Canada Pride 2010 lives up to its name, with this zippered sweater featuring deer, maple leaves, and Canada emblazoned on the back.  It literally screams ‘Canada.’ It looks warm and cozy, and I can picture someone wearing this while curled up by a fire.

Canadian Pride 2010 (© knitswiss)
Canadian Pride 2010 (© knitswiss)

Happy Canada Day!