For a recent submission exhibited in the 2017 Quay Open: I Must Go Down to the Seas Again (Sea Fever, John Masefield, 1902), I tackled something from Mrs Beeton’s back catalogue. Pattern no. 339: Mrs Beeton‘s Pattern for Knitted Net Curtains is an eight row pattern originally intended to be executed using fine cotton. My version used 0.33mm sea fishing monofilament which gave the net a springy elastic quality.
In knitting this piece the significance of process became extremely important to me. I could barely see the stitches on the needles due to the translucent nature of the line and so switched to wooden needles in order to highlight the contrast between needle and stitch. I also became wholly dependent on natural light and acutely aware of the limitations of working outside of daylight hours. Any attempt at working after the sun had gone down was futile, causing errors in the work that were extremely difficult to rectify. In the sampling stages when I was familiarising myself with the combination of pattern and yarn, noise too became an issue. As I knitted the piece I thought of Mrs Beeton’s original audience, knitting the same pattern maybe by candle light or in more dimly lit circumstances than my own. I thought of the time, the patience and the skill required by these women (most likely) to tackle such a piece and their seats by the window, inside looking out.
It was alright for John Masefield musing on sailing and feeling the wind through his hair. He could get on that boat and tinker with marine gadgetry and feel free. He wasn’t knitting a net curtain on the wrong side of the glass.