This is the third version of the cap I designed using the principle of traditional Finno-Ugric textiles. It looks more like an Art Deco cap, my daughter told me.
My friend Emma modeled the cap. It looked good on her: she has a smaller head and the shorter version fit her just right. So I gave the cap to her. She is an outdoor type and will find the cap handy.
We photographed in Fort Foster Park in Kittery, Maine. The park has been reopened for the locals just 2 days ago. The sky promised a rain. The wind was unkindly cool. The surroundings were pearly gray. In sum, not a cheerful day. But in the park by the ocean we could forget what was out there: people in masks, lines to the stores, take-out only restaurants, empty store fronts… We tried to have a good and creative day, regardless of the circumstances.
“What day is it?” ” It is today,” squeaked Piglet. “My favorite day,” said Pooh – A. A. Milne
But you are not reading this article because you need to know what we did. You are here because of the cap.
This cap is very similar to the previous 2 versions in Finnougoria series. See Finnougoria I : it has all the technical details. I used different yarns of approximately equal thickness for this cap just like I do for all my colorwork caps.
The diagram below has two starting points (I knit bottom up): one is smaller version (just like on the photos) and another is for the deeper version.
The diagonal patterns based on Finno-Ugric textile traditions offer such a great opportunities for the designers. Here is another cap with instructions. For the community use.
I worked out some technical kinks from the previous version of the cap with the diagonal patterns.
This version reminds even less the patterns of traditional Finnish or Komi hand-knit items. I extrapolated the new design from the previous one. And the previous one I derived from the traditional Komi patterns.
I used the traditional patters as a framework to extend the existing ways of making things. This is the most wonderful and robust thing about any folk tradition: it can be extended.
The Finno-Ugric diagonal patterns are beautiful and can be worked into a cap design. This post has a free pattern for the readers of my blog.
The charm of the diagonal patterns
I learned a lot about the diagonal patterns when researching the history of the Komi knitting. Komi is the large territory of the Russian North. The research resulted in several posts about the history of this knitting tradition. The posts have many examples of patterns and items made with these patterns by the Komi women.
The diagonal patterns can be expanded, contracted and interlocked in all directions. They can grow one from another without loosing their shared internal rhythm. Several patterns locked together create a fabric that look breathtakingly complex, but, in reality, it is easy to knit.
The flow of Finno-Ugric patterns reminds me the lines from the poem:
Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation.
T.S. Eliot, from Burnt Norton
Diagonal patterns and sizing
Enough of poetry. Back to knitting. Here is a bit of nasty news: these beautiful interlocking diagonal patterns do not lend themselves easily to sizing. The stitch count in a pattern repeat should be divisible by 6. It means that you must reduce the item size minimum by 6 stitches – 3 in the beginning of the first pattern repeat and 3 at the end of the last pattern repeat. This is a LOT. Plus, there is a need to deal with a jog.
The design of this cap calls for 180 stitches (6 repeats of a 30-stitch pattern). If you need to change the sizing, you can do it in other ways than reducing/increasing stitch count: – use smaller/bigger needle size – mix thicker and thinner yarns – use thicker yarn for an inner layer (You will understand what I mean by ‘inner layer’ a bit later, when we get to Overview) – make full inner layer instead of a partial one. – replace several bottom rows with ribbing In sum, design your own strategy to modify the size without changing the stitch count.
It took me several tries to get this cap right, so the pictures below are from TWO last versions of Finnougoria I cap.
Size: 59-60cm Gage: 2.5cm x 2.5cm = apx 9 stiches x 11 rows
You can choose your method of construction to adjust the size. I would assume here that you follow my way of making the hat.
The hat is knit bottom-up, without ribbing, but with double-layering on the bottom. I used Judy’s Magic cast on to start a double layer. Cast on 180 stitches on each needle. Put a marker every 30 stitches in both layers. Two layers – the inner and the outer – are knit separately in opposite directions from the cast-on rows. While you knit one layer on shorter circular needles, the other layer rests on longer circular needle or moved onto a string of waste yarn. I used #2 USA needles to knit the outer later, and #1 USA for the inner layer.
After the inner layer is about 17 rows and the outer layer is 18 rows, fold the fabric and transfer all the stitches onto one #2 USA needle. The next row: continue, carefully knitting each inner and outer stitch together.
The crown is formed by reducing stitches in the beginning and end of pattern.
Choice of yarns
I like mixing yarns. For this project I used “fluffy” mixed yarn for the white color and smooth yarn for the red.
Version #1 Red: Claudia Hand Painted Yarns, ADDICTIONS, Fingering Weight, 100% fine merino ~35 g White: two yarns mixed Plymouth Baby Alpaca, Lace Weight Kid mohair, Lace Weight ~30g
Plymouth Baby Alpaca, Lace Weight, doubled ~15g
Version #2 (final, as shown on model) Red: Cascade Heritage, Fingering Weight 85% merino 15% mulberry silk, ~25 g White: Rowan Alpaca Classic, DK weight 60% alpaca, 40% cotton ~25g
Plymouth Baby Alpaca, Lace Weight, doubled ~15g
One of the Facebook group members recommended brand Rauma Finull, because the red yarn of this brand does not bleed.
Circular needles: #2 USA 36in. or 48in. (optional) #2 USA 24in. #1 USA 24in.
Double-pointed needles (if you do not know how to use magic loop): #2
Important note: the pattern is free for the hand-knitters, but it is not for commercial use or mass production.
2 diagrams: the bottom and the crown. The diagram shows 30-stitch pattern repeat. As your recall there are 6 repeats, 30 stitches each. The leftmost 31st stitch on the diagram is the last stitch of the last pattern repeat tofix the jog. The rest of the important comments are right on the diagram.
Let me know how your cap turns out. While posting the pictures of this cap in FB groups, I found out something interesting about the items with red-and-white with diagonal patterns from the fellow knitters. It looks like at the turn of the 20th century the sweaters, cardigans and caps in this style were very popular in Finland and the neighboring Russian territory on the shores of the White Sea called Pomorye. Pomorye was a melting pot, because it has the important old Russian sea port of Arkhangelsk. The Pomors – that what the inhabitants of the area were called – were a mix of the Komi, Hanty, Mansy, Finns, Russians and other ethic groups. But this is the story for the later post.
Rare color photographs from the Silk Road taken in 1906 – 1910.
The photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, an offspring of the Russian nobility and an enthusiast of color photos and movies, took color photographs in Samarkhand and Bukhara between 1906 and 1910. Both cities are ancient Middle-Asian centers and were major stops on Silk Road. These photographs were a part of very large photographic project that documented the different corners of the vast Russian Empire. Among the hundreds of scenic photos, there were several portraits of the local inhabitants from the different layers of the society. It is very interesting to see what they wore.
Before you look through the pictures, I should remind you that they are real color photographs.
After the revolution in Russia Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky found his way to United States. He never stopped working on inventing better technology for colored photography and movies.
I envisioned the pattern on my Komi vests to start right away at the bottom, without ribbing. Ribbing is a necessary evil of every knit garment: it keeps edges from curling up. The goal was to kiss good-bye to ribbing.
I wanted the pattern start from the very edge of the garment without ribbing, that keeps edge from curling up. Judy’s Magic Cast On which I found in my trusty little book Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor was just the technique that accommodated my design.
Basic recipe for bottom-up sweater/vest on circular needles
Overview: The idea works for garments knit bottom up. You create a counter-tension of two fabrics knit in opposite directions from the cast-on rows without adding too much bulk. First you knit up and down, fold the fabric, gather the stitches onto another pair of needles and knit together. Continue knitting the garment in a round, as usual. Press the fold when the garment is done.
Needed: 3 circular needles of your project size, 2 longer and 1 can be shorter. Some quantity of thinner (sports or baby weight) yarn in addition to your project yarn.
Cast on necessary number of stitches using 1 shorter and 1 longer set of needles. If your item requires 220 stitches then eachneedle should end up with 220 stitches. The direction of knitting on one needle will go up and on another – down.
Before knitting, look attentively which side the yarn twists are on. The twists should end up on purl side.
Knit “up” several rows in stranded color work. (I knitted 5).
Knit “down” with a thin and dense yarn fewer rows. (I knitted 4.)
Fold fabric and transfer stitches to the third needle: one stitch from one needle, one stitch from another needle.
Continue the pattern on color work side, carefully knitting each stitch together. Inside fabric should remain as invisible as possible.
The finished edge looks a bit puffy. Carefully press the fold when the project is finished. Avoid stretching the edge. Here is what I ended up with:
If Judy’s Magic Cast On worked for socks and a vest edge and socks, it should work for mittens. My next idea was to knit two-sided mittens: one side – of fine angora, another side – of sock yarn. The success did not come cheap. It took 3 tries to get it somewhat right. Two sided mittens is a fancy idea that you do not have to follow, but the idea of using Judy’s Magic Cast On to knit mitten tips produces beautiful round shape.
Meanwhile… Let’s return to my Komi vest: the edge obediently stays down!
The history of any folk craft is closely connected to the history of the people. The period from the 1920s to the turn of the 21st century was difficult for the Komi and its craft – colorwork knitting. This is the fifth post about the distinct tradition of the Komi, the ethnic minority of the Russian North.
Otto von Bismarck said approximately the following: “The romantics think up revolutions, the fanatics execute revolutions and the bastards are the only beneficiaries of revolutions.” In summary, the losers are the people.
The revolution in Russia in 1917 known as October Revolution did little for the Komi people and their cultural heritage, knitting included. With land so rich in forests, oil, gas, coal, minerals, the Komi would fared as splendidly as their cousins, the Finns. (Finland is a former poor province of the Russian Empire. The Komi and the Finns are both of Finno-Ugric language group). Finland miraculously gained independence from the Soviet Russia in 1919. Never looked back to the days when they were a part of the Empire.
The Bolshevik government, always long on Marxist-Leninist ideology and always short on sound management, started with massive forceful expropriations of “surplus” grain from the peasants. The resisting peasants were severely punished.
In the 1920s the struggling Soviet state levvied exorbitant taxes on peasants. In the land of the Komi, the farming was always a game of chance. Now it was a bad business. The Komi peasants started reducing plantings and cattle herds. It is better to have no “surplus” than to give away the products of difficult labor to the outsiders whose language many of them did not even understand.
In the late 1920s the Soviet state came up with yet another brilliant idea to suck every drop of wealth from the countryside: collectivization. In a nutshell, it was a state-run serfdom which lasted until 1974, when the peasants could obtain internal identification documents and move away.
The collectivization proceeded like this: brigades of brainwashed city youth accompanied by the foot soldiers of the internal security forces went to villages and forcefully organized the peasants into collective farms (kolkhoz). All private farm land became a kolkhoz property along with tools, cattle, planting material and, sometimes, personal belongings. The kolkhozniks could not move anywhere. The better-off peasants, so called kulaks (tight fists), were treated with unimaginable cruelty: all of their property was confiscated in favor of kolhoz. The kulak‘s daughter remembers the 1920s-early 1930s*:
… in 1929 the authorities ordered my father to turn in all the grain. He turned it in. What did they do in the spring? In the spring of 1930 they came and ordered him to plant several acres. But he did not have any seed to plant. He gave up all of it in the fall. He refused to plant. They sentenced him to 2 years in Solikamsk prison. He served the whole sentence. After the father was imprisoned in May of 1930, the internal security people came to our house and evicted us from our own home. No other shelter was offered. They took our home. Our tools and cattle became the property of the kolkhoz. As we were told later, all our personal belongings and household items were laid out in front of the house. Some was sold to benefit the kolkhoz, the rest was given away to whoever wanted it.
The mother had nowhere to go, she was illiterate [in those years many rural Komis were illiterate and did not speak Russian – E. ]. She had three children: my sister was born in 1927, I was born in 1928 and another baby girl was born in 1930. Three kids, ages 3, 2 and 1 and no home. She wandered from village to village and begged for handouts. She was forbidden to leave the area. The villagers gave her shelter and food in exchange for some work. Here she knitted mittens and socks, there she helped to pile logs or to dig potatoes or to gather hay. That’s how we lived until the father returned from the prison.
That’s some story with knitting in it. Not a cozy kind.
The collectivization produced meager results in Komi. The hunger started in mid-30s. To add an insult to injury, the late 30s the Komi ASSR became the home for numerous GULAG labor camps. The impoverished kolkhoz peasants, men and women alike, frequently found a slightly better pay working in logging, construction and mining, sometimes – alongside the prisoners.
Some collective farms that specialized in logging setup knitting groups, but the production was stifled by wool and dye shortages. A woman produced only 15 or so pairs of mittens a year. Compare it with 1,500 pairs that the merchants purchased for resale from the women of just one small cluster of the Komi villages in the late 19th century.
Later the ethnographic researchers wrote that the Komi knitted items from the 1930s-40s were rather unimaginative affairs made of poor quality yarn with addition of cotton wool. There were many re-knits from the older, worn-out pieces. The artifacts of the tragic history, not of the folk art.
When the war started in 1941, the able-bodied Komi men were drafted into the Army. The weight of men’s work fell onto women’s shoulders. The overworked, underfed Komi women knit mittens with two fingers for soldiers. But the output was small. It was not a good time and place for fancy diagonal patterns, really.
After the war more of the same: shortage of men, poor pay for hard work in kolkhoz. The alcoholism, predominantly among the rural Komi men, was rampant during the Soviet era. The men died young.
But something different was afoot for the children of these long-suffering women: double-sided effect of Russification. The schooling was in Russian. All the official business was in Russian. The Russian dominance suffocated the traditional culture of the Komis. But the Komi youth that came of age in 1950s-60s, being fluent in Russian, started to slip out into cities as college students, nannies and industrial laborers in the cities. The girls left in larger numbers: there were few places in the USSR that could be more desperate for a young woman from a Northern Russian village than her own home. A The girls wanted to leave all of it behind, funny colorful socks and mittens including. The ethnic socks would make them to stand out in the city, when they wanted to blend in, to be the Russians.
The tradition of Komi knitting was dying.
Two Komi ethnographers, Lyubov’ Gribova and Galina Klimova, documented the textile and knitting heritage of their people in the 1960-70s. It was a race against the indifference and oblivion. Not a single book on Komi stranded knitting for general audience was published during the Soviet era.
Ms. Klimova summarized the words of the elderly master-knitters how the things were in her 1978 thesis**:
The elderly people said that before, 50 or so years ago, almost every woman knew stranded color work knitting, then the times came when they forgot about it. Now quite a few started doing it again. Long ago the women knitted in a similar artistic style, when now the young and the old knit differently. The elderly women knit the squiggles their mothers and grandmothers taught them, but the younger ones frequently knit the patterns borrowed elsewhere.
The “borrowed pattern” in question is famous Selbu star. It is likely that the Komi knitters gleaned it from the knitting instructions and books published in Latvia and Estonia. Two Baltic countries, occupied by the USSR during the WWII, stubbornly published more quality books on knitting than the whole of the Soviet Russia. Many books had mandatory Russian editions as a part of the Russification campaign in the Baltic states. Hence the Russification had another, very unintended consequence: the traditional Baltic and Nordic patterns traveled into knitting of the ethnic minorities of the Russian North.
Ms. Klimova’s essay on Komi color work knitting, written in a language as dry as a biscuit, had a wistful concluding paragraph. She worried that the lively and useful craft will become nothing but a bunch of artifacts in the local museum.
The unique knitting tradition of Komi was dying in the USSR, but, as it turned out, it outlived the empire and came back. The story of its rebirth is in the next post.
All the materials for this post came from the publications in Russian.
*The kulak’s daughter’s story is a translation of Ms. Pikuleva’s childhood memories from the article Collectivization in Kama region: violence without restraint by M. A. Ivanova (Иванова М. А. КОЛЛЕКТИВИЗАЦИЯ В ПРИКАМЬЕ: насилие без границ) on website Мемориал, dedicated the victims of the repressions and collectivization. Very instructive reading for those Russians who are missing the old good Soviet times.
Some information about the 20th century history of the Komis came from Y. Shabayev’s article The Land of Abu or Permyak the Salty Ears. ( Ю.П. Шабаев, ЗЕМЛЯ «АБУ» И «ПЕРМЯК СОЛЕНЫ УШИ»)
**The ethnographic works by Lyubov’ Gribova and Galina Klimova are mentioned in Reference to the previous post.
The diagonal patterns of Finno-Ugric textiles inspired the hat with ear-flaps. This is the last project of the year and the most challenging. I share design ideas in this post.
For about a year and a half I fiddled with the idea of a hat with ear-flaps. A “couture look” was my lofty goal: – ear-flaps should be one with a hat – a large-scale pattern should flow from the ear-flap tips to the top as if the hat is if it is custom-cut from a whole piece of cloth – combination of contrasting and gradient colors
This was a technically ambitious project. Perfect to finish the year but a bit difficult to write about.
I will break up the post into two parts. Something to share with textile artists of every level. The part about choosing yarns, patterns and colors is for all levels of aspiring knitwear artists. The brief instructions how to shape ear-flaps are for the technically sophisticated.
Judy’s Magic Invisible Cast-on (to knit the inner and outer layers. The knitting goes in both directions. The cast-on becomes a fold line. There are plenty good YouTube videos about this technique – look up!)
Short rows, Japanese style (to create ear-flaps. I found instructions online as well.)
Stranded color work knitting (optional)
To prevent curling, the bottom of the hat is knit into two opposite directions from the cast-on row. There will be 7-8 cm (or 3 in) of double-layering over the ears and forehead.
Yarns, patterns and colors
Creative mix of different yarns – fluffy angora and smooth merino – produces a wonderful “watercolor washout” effect.
Background: Forrest Green, Dark Orange
rated for #5-7 needles
1 skein each. 1/2 skein of Dark Orange left
Foreground: Medium blue, Bright blue Light blue
rated for #4 needles
1 1/2 skeins from Katia Ombre gradient set
Choosing needle size
Ignore the recommended needle size on the label if you are making a hat. The fabric should be dense, but thin. It should retain the shape and to shield from the cold. I used #2 needles – a much smaller size than recommended.
Ideas for patterns and colors
I adopted the traditional Finno-Ugric textile patterns ( See the previous post about Komi textile patterns) as a basis for design. The diagonal patterns come in wide variety of sizes, but all of them are all based on a rudimentary 6×6 pattern. The background colors are contrasting and of the same intensity (Forrest Green, Dark Orange). The foreground colors are gradient of the same color (blue). Change one color at a time to achieve the harmonious transitions. The number of rows for each color combination should be a multiple of 6 (or close to it):
Dark blue (not the best combo, alas…)
apx 12 rows
apx 36 rows
apx 24 rows
apx 18 rows
Ear-flaps: very brief instructions
I must be honest….
1) It is easier if you can knit with either hand: there is no need to turn over the fabric. This is how I knit, but the ear-flaps are doable without a trick of ambidexterity. Just skip the stranded colorwork at the bottom edge of the hat.
Below are several earlier models with ear-flaps: the hats look just fine without all-over stranded colorwork.
2) Try to practice with some junk yarn until you get the technique that is just right for you. The first experiments – especially with my brief written instructions – might not be promising. Mine were not. It took me quite a while to get the technique straight.
3) Planning is a key to success.
Well, caveat emptor is stated…
Now back to the brief instructions…
The same instructions apply to knitting both layers of the hat. The double-layer part of the hat is about 7-8cm (3 in.) over the forehead. From that point, the layers are joined.
Use Judy’s Magic Invisible Cast-on (plenty of how-to videos on YouTube). The cast-on will become the folding line for the layers.
Use thinner yarn for the inner layer. I chose the combination of angora (baby blue, over the ears) and very thin wool-silk yarn for the rest of the inner layer. Both colors fit the color scheme of the outer stranded colorwork.
Place markers: back, front and mark the ears. Especially – the center of each ear-flap. It is critical for symmetry. Use odd number of stitches for ear-flaps: 1 central stitch makes things easier to track.
For inner and outer layer repeat the same procedure (with your minor personal adjustments, of course.)
Knit the whole first row in a round. Knit 2 stitches together 3-4 stitches before and after the center of each potential ear-flap.
Shaping an ear-flap with short rows
The picture is worth a thousand words. It shows how to shape the left ear-flap with ever-increasing short rows. The right ear is a mirror image of the left.
Note that you cast 12 stitches more than required: it is for controlling excess fabric from short rows.
The outer and inner layers are knit in more or less identical fashion: after shaping of ear-flaps is done, knit in a round 7-8 in (3 cm).
Now is the easy part: fold the layers along the cast-on line, transfer the stitches from both layers onto one round needle (one stitch for the inner layer, one stitch from the outer layer, one stitch for the inner layer, one stitch from the outer layer… until all on one needle). Knit together.
Continue knitting in a round into whatever shape you choose.
My version came out like on the picture below. I wonder what yours will look like… Keep on creating!