Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Diamonds are Forever

About 6 months ago, my mother visited Bassett Hall, a Rockefeller house at Colonial Williamsburg. There, in one of the bedrooms, she saw a knitted coverlet that she fell in love with. (Go to this page, click on the lower picture in the master bedroom, and you will see a small picture of it.) She asked about it, and it turned out that another knitter had figured out the cabled pattern and had written out her instructions for any tourist to have.

My mother took home those instructions, and started thinking about it. She was at a point where she was ready for a new project.

She decided to swim that ocean.

Now, before you decide to jump in too, let me tell you a little about what you'll need to do to knit it.

The coverlet is knit into long strips with crochet thread. My mother used #10 crochet cotton. She is using Maxi, which is a gorgeous thread made in Austria that you can only get at a Local Yarn Shop. (She has a good source for it, however.) To make the coverlet, we figured she needed somewhere around 40 skeins of the Maxi. Each skein has 600 yards.

Each strip takes 2 skeins of yarn, or 1200 yards of thread. To put it in perspective, for each strip she makes, my mother is working on the equivalent of knitting one medium-sized sweater in worsted-weight yarn.

But it is not worsted weight. She is on a size 0 needle. (She calls it 2 mm, because millimeter sizing is more precise. My mother steadfastly refuses to talk in American knitting needle sizes. If you are going to make this coverlet, you need to have this frame of mind too.)

Each strip has 19 repeats of a diamond-shaped motif. She plans to make roughly 14 strips. (If you've done the math, you know that she will need around 28 skeins for the strips, not the 40 we got her. We got her 40 skeins of yarn because there is also an enormous amount of fringe, fringe eats yarn, and neither my mother nor I wanted to take any risks on yardage.)

She told me that she cannot ever think of the whole project because it's too overwhelming. She thinks of one diamond at a time. Each day, her goals is to knit a half a diamond. She works on it about 3+ hours a day, and at that rate, it takes her about 40 days to make a single strip.

So far, she has 3 strips and is well up the fourth. This is the one strip that is blocked so far:

So that the strips are joined perfectly at the same spot, Mom has tied on little pieces of red thread between motifs:

Extreme closeup:

She will join the strips by matching up where the thread is. (She's been experimenting with different ways of joining, so I cannot yet give details on that.)

Now that you know about all the work that goes into it, do you know how much the Rockefellers paid for their coverlet in what we suspect was 1930s? About $15.00.

Lest you think that this was a lot of money back then, I ran this amount through an inflation calculator. (Isn't the Internet a wonderful place?) If you were to buy this at the Rockefellers' cost today, you would spend about $225--approximately half the cost of the yarn alone.

And people wonder why knitters don't sell their work!

1 comment:

The A.D.D. Knitter said...

This is amazing!!