Friday, September 11, 2015

The quest for thread

Yarn substitution can be a tricky process. If you are lucky, you will not find yourself substituting yarn for a project that calls out discontinued yarn. The more time passes, the higher the likelihood of this being the case. Fashions change, as well as resources, so what may have been considered a common yarn 20, 30, or even 80 years ago may not be as common now. It may be so uncommon that serious research is involved just to find out what it really is. (More on Victorian knitting later!)
The Daffodil Doilie project I have been crocheting calls for discontinued yarn. Specifically, either J. & P. Coats or Clark's O.N.T. Best Six Cord Mercerized Crochet, Size 30.
I consider myself fortunate that these brands at least ring a bell. J. & P. Coats and Clark's is now more commonly known under the name Coat's and Clark's. According to their website (which has a fairly entertaining timeline about their history, if thread history interests you) O.N.T  ("Our New Thread") is a special six cord, soft finished thread for sewing machines first marketed in 1860.
Now, I don't know about you, but I'm fairly certain this pattern from 1949 is not asking me to crochet this doilie out of sewing machine thread. I gather that O.N.T. has become a trademark, having made a big splash back in Victorian times. A straight Google of O.N.T. Best Six Cord Mercerized Crochet, Size 30 gets me more in the realm of what is typically thought of when we say "crochet thread" - that is, this discontinued thread. 1949 really wasn't very long ago, and if I was die-hard about it, I could probably set up an alert on eBay to purchase the exact thread this pattern calls for in vintage yarn.
I opted for something manufactured within the past decade instead, and for several reasons. I didn't really want to wait to find the thread and wait for it to be shipped. Who knows when it would turn up? Waiting during shipping is hard enough. But impatience aside, I've learned the hard way that cotton just doesn't hold up as well over the years as wool or other fibers. I've had many a strand of vintage embroidery or crocheting thread disintegrate on me as I worked it, but have never had it happen with wool. 
There are several big players in the modern market of crochet thread. Aunt Lydia by Red Heart (which is owned by Coat's and Clark's) and DMC come foremost to mind. However, in size 30 both brands come in a limited range of colors. (Think "50 Shades of White.") In the end, I went to a brand I'd never heard of, Omega Hilo Crochet in Pistachio and Bright Yellow. I still don't know much about them, but I do know something essential: they have Size 30 crochet thread in OVER 60 COLORS. And it's accessible. (More on my heart wrenching quest to get Brown Sheep Nature Spun Fingering balls in specific colors later.)

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Every now and then, such as when spring arrives, I get the overwhelming urge to make something crazy challenging. This spring, it's a doilie.
I've been spending a considerable amount of time researching vintage and antique patterns this past year. One of the fruits of my labor is a newfound appreciation of mid-century handicrafts. Handicrafts, like fine arts, sometimes require a person to become familiar with the genre they belong to before they can be understood, if not liked. In a fit of spring fever, I decided I liked floral doilies, such as the one featured below in "Floral Doilies, Book No. 258" (1949) from The Spool Cotton Company.
The pattern is also available here.
One of the first things I noticed about this pattern (aside from it using Size 30 yarn, which is not available at the corner drug store, let me tell you!) is that it uses a shade of green called "Nile Green," which is very similar to sage green. "Nile Green" was very popular during this era. I see it over and over again in household crochet patterns, and I'm very curious as to its origin and if it crossed over into knitting as well.  

Ignore the dirty nails!
Size 30 crochet thread is, admittedly, a tad wee. There were times when I thought I might go blind, or at least experience debilitating eye strain. I can't recommend a good task light highly enough, especially since I don't have one and had to rely on leaning toward the sunlight at a window like a desperate houseplant.
Daffodils deconstructed
The actual design is rather simple. You make the trumpet shape for the center, then make a loop with the petals that then gets sewn onto the trumpet. Easy, right?
The center of the doilie - the "Nile Green" portion - I got done in about 4 hours.
One daffodil took me all of a Saturday.
The first daffodil triumphantly adhered!
Strangely enough, there are supposed to be 11 daffodils. At one daffodil a weekend, I'll basically be done with this sometime this winter. This is about where I am now: