Many years ago, in a land currently called Boston, there existed a charming lady and a gallant knight. Oddly enough, this took place not hundreds of years ago, but a mere thirty or so, and the two people were members of a group called the Society for Creative Anachronism. The SCA recreates the Middle Ages not as they were, but as they should have been. Flush toilets and showers are in, the Black Death is out, and medieval recipes are very cool as long as they get updated to take into account the current standards of sanitation. Now, our intrepid knight and dashing lady met, and in the due course of time, fell in love, married and had two children. They also moved away from the fair land of Boston, somewhat to their friends’ dismay. Now the cool writing thing happens where I make almost thirty years pass in the blink of an eye. * There, did you see it? No? Good, I must be doing it right.
Almost thirty years later, the eldest daughter of the knight and the lady moved back to the Boston area, and went in search of the local SCA group. Stories about how cute she was when she was two years old ensued, somewhat to her bemusement. Several months later * (see, I did it again, but this was a shorter passage of time. Hmmm. Maybe the first passage of time needs more asteriskes. Wait — what’s the plural of asterisk?), someone emailed the local SCA list with directions on how to make the current queen’s favor. See, in the SCA, kings and queens only reign for about six months, although some variation by location happens. During her reign, the queen hands out favors for EVERYTHING. Good deeds, good fighting, good speeches, good arts, good science, good manners — or just good timing. I received my first favor for being a bookseller in the booksellers tent when the queen came by and enthused about how important it was to have people to help with research.
The point is, the queen hands out a LOT of favors. There’s no way she can make them all herself. So the directions go out, and everyone makes them. Most people embroider them and there are some really lovely ones with very elaborate work on them. Me, I looked at the pattern for Aikaterine’s favor, and said — huh, I could knit that!
So I did. I bought perle cotton 5, and all favors tend to come with DMC numbered colors, so that was easy. I learned linen stitch, which makes the knitting lie flats and doesn’t stretch. I also learned intarsia so the colors would work properly. Sadly, I don’t have a picture of my knitted three-foot long bright yellow favor, but to give you an idea of what I created, here’s a picture of the pattern.
Because of the three feet long business, I started at the bottom with size 2 needles, and did all the work of the A and the dragonfly wing very small. An inch or so above the top of the A, I started using bigger needles and decreasing the number of stitches, because there was no way I was going to knit three feet of favor on size two needles! I think I worked my way up to size 5 needles by the end.
A few months after I sent that off, I got this card in the mail.
Oh right. My name in the SCA is Ysane la Fileresse, which means Ysane the spinner. I was hooked. The king was wearing my favor. Also, I was more fangirl-ish than I have ever been over anything else, ever. The king as wearing the favor that I made!
I started making one per reign. Jana’s was pretty easy, and I don’t have a photo of the one I made. But here’s an embroidered one that was presented to Mistress Ygraine of Kellswood, who graciously sent me this picture.
Kiena’s was more complicated, but a lot of fun, and now I had started to take proper pictures.
I know it looks like an R, but the calligraphers insist that it is a K for Kiena, and I wasn’t going to argue.
Avelina’s was just a pain in the neck. As an embroidery pattern, I’m sure it was fine, but knitting tends to be a linear art, and Avelina’s pattern had diagonal lines. Here’s what it was supposed to be.
A perfectly lovely pattern, a little finicky around the keys, but no problem to embroider.
Here’s what I made.
Damn it. I mean, it’s clearly related, but not what I wanted at all. But I had no better idea. For all of these favors, I would literally print out the pattern to the right scale, and then lay the knitting on top of the pattern and see what came next by eying it for every row. Also, linen stitch is all kinds of fun, because you can only start a new color every other stitch, and which set of stitches changes every row. Very complicated. And it did not work for this one. Sorry, Avelina.
By the time Thyra’s favor was available, I was determined to find a better way to do intarsia in linen stitch.
Here are some examples of the embroidered ones.
Lovely, right? I admit, the first time I cast on, I did the same thing of printing a copy, and holding up the knitting to the pattern. But I knew it didn’t work. I also tried double knitting, but didn’t like the gauge I got. Then one day, inspiration struck. I needed a chart. I needed a chart based on the pattern. And I was going to make one.
First, the pattern.
Take the pattern, and superimpose it on a excel sheet.
Turn the pattern into a grid by coloring each cell based on if the pattern covers more than half of the cell.
No, that’s not going to work as is. If I was doing plain stockinette, that would work, but linen stitch, as I mentioned, only lets me change color every other stitch, and then off-set by one each row. Okay, hit the increase button below each row, which adds a row with the same coloring as the row above it.
Can you see that this is the same as the image below, but every row is doubled? I think I fudged a few rows that really didn’t look like they worked anymore, but that was the basic idea.
Then add the color change stitches.
When knitting, I could only change color if the stitch had an X on this chart.
I also cast on twice as many stitches as I needed for this pattern, and worked the chart over the first half of the stitches. It was hard. I had to constantly look at the pattern to see when I was changing colors, and then if I was allowed to change colors yet! Sometimes I would have to make a mental note to change on the next row, but couldn’t do it this row even though the color said to, because the little x wasn’t on that stitch. When I was done with the main design, I folded it in half, and sewed it up inside out. The back of the design looked like this.
But the outside of the design looked like this!
I knit the front and the back together, and set off in linen stitch. Since Thyra wanted the favor to be two feet long, I repeated the bit about gradually increasing needle size as I went.
And close up.
It worked! It worked, it worked, it worked! I can do diagonals this way, or curves like the ones above! It works! It’s still little stiff, not as graceful as embroidery, but for taking a square art and turning it into something that can curve — well, it made me really happy. Also, I think next time I will compress the original design a little at the beginning, so the end design is a little less stretched.
Then, just about three weeks ago, I had a chance to present it to Thyra. I know her, and so approached the queen as she was watching some fencing. She thanked me, and then she gave me a favor in return. As best as I can remember, she said that she knew I did one knitted favor per reign, and she appreciated this because I am showing people that lovely as embroidered favors can be, it’s not the only way to make them.
After I thanked her, it’s possible that I went around the corner and bounced a lot.
Here’s my favor.
Kiena is the current Crown Princess, which means in a few months, she’s going to be queen (again). I wonder what her favor design will be . . . . .