Thursday, June 23, 2011

Embroidered Hearts, Knit Hearts - Hearts All Around


I've had this post written and lurking for awhile now, waiting for the perfect day. And today is it - The Farmer and I have been married for 27 years today. Twenty-seven years ago, we celebrated the beginning of our official lives together in the backyard of my parents' house in Dover, NJ. Chris Poulos, a friend of our family and a teacher at Dover High, began cooking a lamb on a spit before daybreak. Some white tents were rented, Yette from the Scandia Deli did the cooking and we had a great picnic with 3 turkeys, 2 suckling pigs, and Chris' Greek lamb. What a beautiful wedding it was, if a little out of place in the burbs of NJ. For dessert, I asked family friends to bring "their best dessert". The table was overbrimming with yummy sweets and my Uncle Harry said "He had died and gone to heaven." Nice memories of a day long ago. I wouldn't do anything different today. Nice to think we knew who we were even back then.

Back to the post.....I have long had a fascination for embroideries and textiles from far-off lands. It originated with my Gram's collection of hand-stitched embroidery that she brought with her from Germany in the early 20th century. Later, when I was studying textiles at Oregon and Colorado State Universities, I was introduced to the scholarly research on textiles from foreign lands. I have never gotten over my interest in these hand-stitched fabrics, nor do I ever plan to. Often I bring the historic and ethnic techniques and motifs into my current handknitting designs. 

There are many design motifs for my knitting and embroideries that I have turned to again and again - diamonds, flowers, 8-pointed stars, snowflakes (not so much), swirls, and lastly hearts. I remember signing the letters I would write to my grandparents who lived far from us with a heart. Did you ever dot the "i's" in your name with hearts like I did when I was about Julia's age. I suppose every little girl goes through this phase. Hearts and love all around. Definitely a good thing when you are growing up.

When I hit the years of self-discovery and independence, I was just concentrating on being me - all alone in the world - trying not to be dependent on my family and disregarding my love motif. No longer did I sign my name on handwritten letters (remember them?) with a heart after them.... always love but no hearts. I am over that now, for sure. There are hearts all over my house. It may be something about having a child or it may be that I became comfortable with myself as an adult that I could then start telling the world who I loved again.


Do you see the relationship with the letter "V" and the heart shape. What about the word  LO"V"E? When I researched the possible origins of the heart motif on-line, these 3 ideas came to light:
(1) The heart motif originated as a drawing of the seed of a plant which was used for birth control way back who knows when.
(2) A heart motif resembles a woman's breasts or buttocks. Okay - I can see that.
(3) And lastly, the heart motif mimics the shape of a human heart. Knowing what a real mammal heart looks like means this is definitely a stretch.

The heart motif is organic and voluptuous. There are many leaves I can find in my yard that are shaped like hearts - morning glories and clover come to mind. Maybe that's where the shape came from? Sheila Paine has written many, many books on textiles from far-off lands. In her book (and one of my favorites) "Embroidered Textiles" she states that the heart motif originated when two curved ram's horn motif of hunting cultures were turned inward to form a heart. This motif is common in embroideries from Eastern and Central Europe. In folk art, the heart has always been a sentimental motif. Think of quilt motifs and Pennsylvania Dutch Hex signs with hearts.

Wherever the motif came through, I guess it doesn't matter. I just like the beautiful shape. I'm going to continue to embrace the curvaceous beautiful voluptuous shape of the heart. I'm back to putting the heart on my notes to those I love. 


Here is a pair of mittens that I started a year ago for Julia and finally finished for this past Valentine's Day. (Pattern coming soon....) I used the heart shape knit in two color stranded knitting following a chart I drew on graph paper. Like with many of my projects, I wasn't sure how I wanted the edge to look so I just started with the body of the mittens. I began with a provisional cast-on, knit the hearts and then bound off before the tip shaping. This made it much easier for me to do the embroidery. Having both ends open let me slip my fingers in from both sides. After I added all the embroidery (decorated chain stitch, chain stitch, and french knots - see side bar for videos), I shaped the mitten top. Then I picked up and worked the simple striped reverse stockinette stitch borders. This all rather cockamamy - the way I sometimes knit. Good thing I won't write the instructions that way. Poor you if I did!


I love to knit projects like this. They go rather fast on double pointed needles since the gauge is not too tight. I made them while vending at the Amherst Winter Farmers Market. I can't believe the comments they garnered - people were in awe of them. For me, they are just basic knitting, nothing much fancy at all.


The key to making a knit heart motif look good at this rather large gauge is the addition of embroidery. The chain stitch rounds out the jagged look of the original knit. I used that same technique on the Many Hearts Baby Blanket in the recent Color by Kristin. I'll let you know when the pattern done for the mittens! Don't hold your breath though.....

14 comments:

Caffeine Girl said...

Congratulations on 27 years. That is a real accomplishment these days. You have build a lovely life together.

Waiting for that mitten pattern...

Sally said...

I wish I knew how people make those little hearts on their keyboards! Anyway: [heart], xoxoxo, etc! Oh, and check out this post from Li'l Fish Studios yesterday: http://lilfishstudios.blogspot.com/
Happy Anniversary! We just had our 27th on June 2! I think we were friends or sisters in another life. :)

Sally said...

Hey, it's me again. Check out this quilt on today's Moda Bakeshop: http://www.modabakeshop.com/2011/06/summer-love.html

India said...

Lovely mittens, beautiful blanket, and congratulations on the anniversary! My own slightly unconventional wedding (food was pot luck, including macrobiotic!) was nearly 29 years ago, and I would do it just the same all over again. I too sign letters with hearts, and have stitched and collaged and embroidered them on many a Valentine.

Margo said...

Happy Anniversary. One of these days I am going to have to learn embroidery. I love the Many Hearts Baby Blanket.

Susan said...

Happy Anniversary!

Love the way the chain stitch makes those hearts jump out. Thanks for the tip. And I wish I could knit with that much confidence!

Kathleen C. said...

Happy Anniversary!

Karen Smith said...

Happy Anniversary, Kristin & congratulations on 27 years!

Robin Allen said...

Oh, wow, 27 years. An entire lifetime! Congrats to both of you.

Love the Ode to Picasso in the background of the heart mittens. That's been on my to-knit list forever. Will have to cast on soon.

Auntie Shan said...

**CONGRATS** to You BOTH!! And, may You have as many MORE Years as You have Sheep!!

HUGS!!

Elaine said...

Happy Anniversary and Happy Hearts!I was so taken with hearts I had 5 of them pressed into wet plaster in an addition to our previous home in Michigan (Detroit). They were all slightly out-of-the way and visitors were always looking to find them. I think that hearts will always be a symbol of love. Just look at Snoopy and Woodstock!

Laura T said...

Happy Anniversary and have a wonderful weekend! Love the mittens. I sign all my notes to my husband with a heart:)
Laura T

Loco Lindy said...

I love hearts, too, and am going to HAVE to get that mitten pattern when it arrives. All of the photos are lovely. Happy Anniversary!

Inge said...

Love that all - marvelous colors..Have a good time, Inge