10 Best Patterns From Piecework’s Historical Knitting Collection

General Carleton hat. From a Whitby ship wrecked in the Baltic, in 1780.

The General Carleton hat has just been republished in Interweave’s  ’10 Best Patterns from Piecework’s Historical Knitting Collection’.

I’m hearing from museum historical interpreters, and living historians all over, that they have made this hat. Canadians love it for some reason! It has a certain crazy charm to it.

If you can’t find the yarn (Rowan Tweed Aran, now discontinued), use Ravelry’s Yarn tab to find a similar weight alternative. Rowan Tweed was a singles, but it would be fine knitted with a plied yarn, too, so long as it is Aran weight.

Hand-spinners can approximate the yarn by spinning an Aran grist singles.  The original hat had more stitches than the published pattern, and was from a slightly finer grist yarn; something between a DK and an Aran. I decided to write the pattern for a commercially available yarn to make it accessible to knitters but at some point, I hope to publish a stitch-by-stitch repro of the original hat. I saw it on display at The Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby when it was on loan from Gdansk Maritime Museum.

Orange-reds from madder.

The colours are putative but appear to be a light and a dark natural, plus one other colour that may have been an orangey red.  Dyers can reproduce this with a slightly-too-hot madder dyebath, or coreopsis.

Onion skins have been suggested as a possible dye-stuff, and with alum would give a reasonable colour but I think the wool at these dates would be more likely to have been dyed with a professional dye – like madder. The bands of colour in the Whalebone Scrapers picture, certainly appear to show a vivid orange colour. And the fact three men are wearing it suggests it was possibly seen as a bit of occupational clothing, in Yorkshire at least. Walker’s engraving was made 30 years after ‘The General Carleton’ was lost.

Whalebone Scrapers, 'Costumes of Yorkshire', George Walker, 1814
Whalebone Scrapers, ‘Costumes of Yorkshire’, George Walker, 1814