This week, I chat with Heather Dixon, a designer with plans that are as cool as her accent, and share a pattern for a lace wedding garter.
I didn't know this until recently, but the yarn I used for this project (and a few others) is old. Very, very old. The trademark for the name of the yarn was registered in 1970 by the Lily Mills Company in Shelby, North Carolina. You might recognize that Lily image. It's being used by Bernat's Lily brand, which includes Sugar'n Cream, a worsted-weight kitchen cotton.
The yarn I used is a thread-weight, mercerized, 100% cotton. I like it very much.
I bought it, probably as part of a bag of yarn at a thrift shop, when I was attending college in Massachusetts. Since this is before Ravelry, and, let's face it, I don't keep good records of these things now, it's possible I bought it when I was an intern in Durham, North Carolina. I only remember that I had it when I was still in college because I used part of the skein to make a scarf for my godfather. Sometimes it's strange what I do happen to remember about stash yarn.
It seems like the company was around at least as late as 1979, because I found a booklet online they printed that year with patterns for crochet doilies. The earliest mention I can find is also as the publisher of a booklet, in 1955. It looks like the company went through several name changes over the years, as well.
I can't find out anything else about it. As with many places in the south, cotton was an important driver of the economy in Shelby. I did find some obituaries of people who had worked there, but there isn't quite enough detail to really find out exactly when the mill closed.
Other Yarns That Would Work
Just in case you don't have a skein of yarn in your stash which is probably at least 32 years old, I looked up some other yarns that would work as substitutes. To find out how much you would need, I knit up one repeat of the lace pattern, tore it out, and wound it up on my trusty niddy-noddy. It came out to 9.75 yards, or 8.9 meters. For the twelve repeats of the pattern I made, you would therefore need about 117 yards or 107 meters of yarn.
My Ravelry search for yarns turned up 6 pages of yarn options, but I'll share with you just the four most used. Of course, you may use whatever suits your needs. Each of these yarns would require one skein or less for this project: Royale Classic Crochet Thread, Size 10, by J&P Coats; Crochet Thread Size 10 by South Maid; Eldorado by Coats and Handicrafter Crochet Cotton, Size 10, by Bernat.
Gina's Wedding Garter
My twelve repeats of the lace pattern, blocked rather gently, made a garter that was 6 inches across and 18 inches around. This fits a rather slim thigh. Your bride could also wear her garter just below her knee (I did). If the intended wearer's leg is even more slender, you can just draw up the ribbon more. If your bride wants a larger garter, you can, of course, add more repeats, increasing the needed yarn proportionately.
On your last repeat, stop before you work that final purl row back. This will be the row you will make while grafting the beginning to the end of the piece. I simply threaded the working yarn through the live stitches of the last pattern row, washed and blocked the piece, then prepared to graft.
Blocking lace, especially a small piece like this, is pretty straightforward. I soaked the garter in plain water for about half an hour, to let the water really penetrate the fibers. Then, I rolled it up, tightly, in a towel and squeezed out as much water as possible. I laid out the lace on a clean towel on a spare bed, and pinned it out with t-pins. I took photos to show you the process, but I hope you overlook the fact that the only spare bed I have is a pillow-top, so not the best possible surface for pinning out lace. I am planning on getting some interlocking floor mats for the next time I do a large lace project.
Lace dries quickly, so I pinned out the garter on Sunday night and it was ready to unpin and bring to work with me on Monday morning. I picked up live stitches from both ends of the piece, pulled out the holding strings, and grafted the two ends together.
I find it much easier to graft a piece like this if it is on a table in front of me. That way, I'm not wrestling with the weight of the knitting needles and trying to keep myself from dropping the work by pulling up on my working thread. I take breaks whenever I feel my neck getting stiff, and go do something else, like type up my notes to you.
Don't forget to keep it loose when you are grafting. If it's too tight, you're sunk. If it's too loose, you can just pull on the stitches a little to ease in any extra thread. Don't worry if it's not perfect, either. That part can always be worn facing back. Anyone who notices a problem is looking far too closely at the bride's legs.
Finally, I cut a piece of blue ribbon long enough to wrap around the garter one and a half times. In this case, that was 27 inches. I threaded it through the central double-wide eyelets. About one-quarter of the way around, I added a small locket to the ribbon. This is to add a little weight to the garter. I didn't do this for my own wedding garter. I loved the way it looked and I was very happy with it, but when it came time to throw it, well, it didn't go anywhere. It just fell directly down. Save yourself that embarrassment and add a little weight with some sort of charm or piece of jewelry. If a ribbon tie seems too fiddly for a nervous or clumsy groom, you could also use elastic instead of the ribbon. Just cut it to about the circumference of the garter, minus an inch or two.
Heather Dixon, who goes by armyofknitters on Ravelry, very kindly stopped her work for a moment to talk with me. I had a wonderful time and I hope you enjoy listening to it, too.
Army of Knitters http://www.armyofknitters.com/About.html
Army of Lovers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army_of_Lovers
The Knit Resource Center http://knitresource.com/
SSK is a left-slanting decrease http://www.knittinghelp.com/videos/decreases
How to pick up stitches http://knitting.about.com/od/knittingskills/ss/pick_stitches_2.htm
Tanzanite Shorts http://www.armyofknitters.com/Winter2010-TanzaniteShorts.html
Tanzanite Stockings http://www.armyofknitters.com/Winter2010-TanzaniteStockings.html
Sparkly Wristlets http://www.armyofknitters.com/Winter2010-SparklyWristlets.html
Pretty Baby http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078111/
Vogue Knitting Live http://www.vogueknittinglive.com/
Direct Link: Gina's Wedding Garter