In the Fall 2018 issue of PieceWork, Carol Huebscher Rhoades offered up some fantastic tips for knitting at a fine gauge with her darling pair of baby socks based on a Victorian-era pattern from Weldon’s Practical Needlework, which were knitted at 16 stitches to the inch. Here’s Carol with some great advice:
Many designs in Weldon’s are worked with finer needles and yarns than are typical today. For instance, socks and stockings used needles sizes 00 to 0000 (1.75 to 1.25 mm) with laceweight silk, cotton, or wool yarn. Having recently begun a pair of women’s stockings on size 0000 needles, with about sixteen stitches per inch (2.5 cm), I cannot fathom how earlier knitters had the eyesight, lighting, or patience to produce even one stocking, much less the multiple pairs needed for a family. Here are a few suggestions for expediting such fine work:
- Use knitting needles in a color that contrasts with the yarn.
- Use a strong, consistent light source.
- Lay a cloth in a strong contrasting color on your lap while working.
- If it is difficult to insert the needle knitwise for a knit two together, first insert the needle through the two stitches from right to left and pull slightly toward you. That should loosen the stitches just enough for you to work the decrease.
- Keep an eagle eye out for dropped stitches and count regularly.
- Stretch your neck, back, arms, and fingers regularly and take breaks.
- To support the needles, I used a knitting belt with 8-inch (20.3-cm) double-pointed needles. It is easier on my hands, helps prevent the slick steel needles from sliding out of the stitches, and keeps me from supporting the needles on my stomach or leg.
- The tips on fine double points are quite sharp, so use and store the needles safely.
— Carol Huebscher Rhoades
Carol Huebscher Rhoades knits, crochets, translates, and edits. Her almost lifelong interest in nineteenth-century literature and needlecrafts has produced surprises, rewarding knitting and crochet projects, and fun.
Download a copy of the Fall 2018 issue of PieceWork to knit Carol’s version of Baby’s Fancy Socks to Knit, which are a modern interpretation of a Weldon’s Victorian-era sock pattern and knitted on size 0000 needles.