Tiny stitches

v+alace-1We had some free time in London today and headed to the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon – the V&A. Most of their knitwear collection requires planning to view, but I did find some rather fascinating knitted lace baby clothes knit at a gauge much smaller than any we’re accustomed to seeing in handknits. I was briefly into knitting miniatures with sewing thread and dressmaking pins around age 13, but it was so slow, I can’t imagine how long these would have taken. Maybe this photo with my hand will give you an idea of the scale!
The bonnet has an interesting detail, a thicker thread was threaded between the stitches and used to outline motifs against the overall background pattern. I’ve come across this sort of embroidery in books, but it’s not something I’ve ever really seen used. Now I’m wondering what applications it could have.
These examples of elaborate work pre-date widely available written patterns, and a way in which they were learnt and recorded is shown in the sampler at the bottom of the case.

This might seem to have been replaced by stitch dictionaries, but I can still see advantages to making such a thing. Sometimes a stitch pattern that looks dull in the photograph becomes fascinatingly textured in real life and it can be useful to actually work different patterns up, both in terms of skill building and to assess how enjoyable they are to actually knit. I love the idea of creating a sampler of stitch patterns, or a library of swatches.