Post the First

Welcome to my brand new blog for steampunk and historical knitting, crochet, sewing and whatever other textile arts take my fancy. I believe that the steampunk aesthetic owes a lot to past fashion trends, whether those trends are Ye Olde or just vintage, and that one of the best ways to come up with innovative steampunk designs is to dig into the past and update the techniques and styles for a modern audience. I hope that by documenting my thoughts on both the history of textile arts and steampunk publicly, more people will be encouraged to explore what the past has to provide. It’s said that a million monkeys typing will come up with “Hamlet” eventually. I hope that a couple dozen people digging through 19th-century needlework manuals on the Internet will come up with something that’s the crafting equivalent of at least The Poky Little Puppy.

And now it’s time for a short introduction in the form of a Q&A session, as I’m sure someone somewhere is asking these very questions. If nobody is, then nobody will have to in the future, because I have already answered them.

Q: Who is Miss McKnittington?

That’s me! I publish knitting patterns as Sarah Engelke, which ever-so-slightly more professional than Miss Purl McKnittington. My Bombshell Betty aviator cap pattern was mentioned in the Winter 2009/2010 copy of Vogue Knitting in the Web column by Kerry Wills. I am also the moderator for the steampunk group on Ravelry, Steamy Stitches, where I go by msmcknittington.

When I’m not knitting my way into 10 seconds of fame, I live and work on a dairy farm in Wisconsin.

Q: Who’s your friend?

Contrary to what it might sound like, Miss McKnittington’s Friend is neither gin nor laudanum. It’s actually my cat, who is called Gus and can politely be said to be hell on wheels. Impolitely, he has many more names, which I will not repeat here. He assists me in all my crafting endeavors, generally by slaying the materials and then shedding all over them. Really, he’s more of a frenemy than anything else.

Q: What crafts do you do?

Knitting. Crochet. I prefer working with fine gauge yarns — fingering, lace, crochet cotton in size 20 and below — because the end results are generally more genteel and flattering to wear than with larger yarns. I also love lace and little polished touches in knitting like knitted-in hems, provisional cast-ons, neatly done mattress seaming, and good blocking. A lot of what makes a beautiful knitted garment is all in the finishing.

I also sew, somewhat less successfully than I knit or crochet. Let us say that I have a challenging figure to sew for, which is much easier to knit for. Some bodies are more suited for on the fly shaping in three dimensions that knitting and crochet can cope with a lot more easily than fabric can.

And I like research. Can we consider that a craft? A lot of my love for the history of textiles comes from my interest in women’s history, as textile arts played a huge role in women’s lives until the mid-20th century. A lot has changed for the better since then — those changes are really why I can sit here and have a textiles blog instead of being a drudge — but textile arts are still a woman-dominated area in a world where men call most of the shots. The ingenuity and high level of skill with which women have manipulated and created fabrics in the past and present are testament to our worth and the validity of our intelligence. You can’t be stupid and invent Shetland lace.

Q: Feminist much?

Ardently! There will probably be some “women in history” posts along the way, especially since steampunk is a little subversive in the way it deals with social issues compared to the era of history it’s inspired by, so feminism and other progressive ideologies are pertinent here.

Q: You keep bringing up history. What eras of history?

ALL OF THEM. Pretty much. Right now, when it comes to textile arts, my biggest interests are mid-19th-century to early 20th-century settled America and England and 15th to early 17th-century Western Europe. And steampunk, of course, which is bit of a smorgasbord of eras a lot of the time. It lets you be historical while being modern, which is really what appeals to me about it.

Q: What else can we expect to see on this blog?

I’m glad you asked, virtual James Lipton! Expect to see knitting, crochet and sewing tutorials, free patterns, links and discussion of resources for costume and textile study, book reviews of historical and steampunk fiction, tips for making costumes on a budget, and many other things.

Thanks for reading, everyone! Here’s to an interesting blogging future!

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