Knitty: little purls of wisdom

For almost as long as I've been a knitter, I've been fascinated by the history of knitting. I've especially enjoyed the mind-twisting process of working with the often obtuse and obfuscatory language of antique patterns. There's a thrill, I find, in watching a project emerge row by row and knowing that other knitters, long gone, followed the same path.

The process of decoding, testing and correcting isn't for everyone, though; and so in this column I hope to share the excitement of the journey by removing as many of the roadblocks as possible. You don't need to be a historian to come along -- just a knitter with a curious mind.

Raging Wool Shop

beauty shot

by Franklin Habit, translated from The Floral Knitting Book; or, The Art of Knitting Imitations of Natural Flowers
by C. E. A. J. (1847)


spacer photos: Franklin Habit





Leaf: 6 inches from stem end to tip of leaf.
Flower: Approximately 1 inch x 1 inch


Austermann Step Classic [75% Superwash Wool, 25% Polyamid; 420m per 110g skein]
spacer [C1] color: 1019; 1 skein
spacer [C2] color: 1022; 1 skein
spacer [C3] color: 1014; 1 skein
Note: The boutonnière uses only very small amounts of each color. For C1, the main color, 20 yards will suffice; for C2 and C3, 10 yds is generous. Investigate the scraps in your stash!

Recommended needle size
[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]
spacer US 00000/1mm double-point needles

spacer cotton, linen, or silk sewing thread in green to match C1
spacer green florist wire, 26 gauge
spacer scissors
spacer sewing needle
spacer pliers
spacer wire snips
spacer yarn needle

44 sts/52 rows = 4 inches in stockinette st

[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here.]

Long-tail Cast On
: Instructions are here.

Make 1: Increase by casting on 1 st using the backward loop method described here. When you encounter this new st on the next row, knit it through the back.

Herringbone Stitch: This is not the knitted herringbone, but the hand-sewing stitch as described here.


LEAF (make 2)
Using long-tail method, and C1, CO 3 sts, leaving 10-inch tail. Work all rows of Leaf Chart.

Weave in ends.

With wire snips, cut a length of florist wire about 20 inches long.

Thread sewing needle with about 20 inches of green thread.

Secure the thread near the base of the leaf with a few whip stitches. Leaving a wire "stem" approximately 5 inches long below the base, whip stitch the florist wire around WS edge of the leaf. Bend the wire as you proceed to conform to the contours of the edge. Upon reaching base again, knot thread securely to leaf and snip thread ends close. You should have an additional 4-5 inches of florist wire remaining. Twist these wire "stems" together tightly, using pliers if necessary.

Wrap the CO tail tightly around the stem from the leaf to near the cut end, taking care the wires are completely covered. Secure with an overhand knot. Bend the wire end upwards to hold the knot in place. Trim off the excess yarn and wire ends.


PURPLE PETAL (make 2).
Using long-tail method and C2, CO 10 sts.

Turn work.

Row 1: [K1, sl 1 purlwise] across. Turn work.

Weave in tail and cut off excess.

Twist the ends of the wire together tightly below the base of the petal, and trim to a length of about five inches. Set aside.

Using C3, CO 8 sts. Work in double-knitting as for Purple Petal.
Work in C3 for 4 rows; then join C2 and work for 2 rows.
Finish as Purple Petal, weaving loose in ends before turning petal inside-out.

Using C3, CO 12 sts.
Work as for Purple Petal in C3 for 6 rows; then join C2 and work for 3 rows.
Finish as Purple Petal, weaving loose in ends before turning petal inside-out.

Work in double-knitting as for Purple Petal.
Work C3 for 6 rows; then join C2 and work for 3 rows.
Finish as Purple Petal, weaving loose in ends before turning petal inside-out.

Flower Assembly:
Bring all petals together as shown in the photographs: the two purple at the top, the large yellow at the bottom, flanked by the two small yellow.

Twist the wires of all the petals together firmly; this will likely require use of the pliers.

Thread a twelve-inch length of C1 onto tapestry needle.

Bring needle from behind flower, leaving six-inch tail at the back.

Using photograph at right as a guide, make four herringbone sts, one each into the bases of any four of the petals (it matters not which four). Bring the needle and working yarn to the back of the flower.

Using photograph at right as a guide, form the calyx by making one long, loose herringbone st into the back of every petal.

Tie the two ends of the sewing yarn together with two knots at the base of the flower.

Flower Stem.
Tie on a 20-inch length of C3 with two knots at the base of the flower.
Wrap the stem tightly with the yarn and finish as for the stem of the leaf.

Cut an 11-inch length of florist wire and lay vertically on work surface.

Clip one tail of the knot short. Use the other tail to wrap the stem of the bud as the stem of the leaf.

Arrange flower, leaves, and bud as desired. Cut and lay out a 24-inch length of C2. Place the stems at center of this strand of yarn and use two knots to tie stems together tightly, about three inches from bottom. Wrap stems first with one end of the knotted yarn, then the other. Finish each wrap with an overhand knot. Trim any excess.

Franklin Habit (@franklinhabit on Twitter) is the proprietor of the popular knitting blog The Panopticon and author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons. His work appears regularly in major fiber arts publications, and he travels extensively to teach and speak on knitting-related topics.

After a boyhood of being forced into navy blue and mud brown sacks, he enthusiastically welcomes the return of men's fashions that are wholly unsuited to duck hunting, touch football, or tractor pulls.