Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Making of the Bog Jacket


We had a dog’s weather yesterday. That is what we say when it is raining hard. This dog’s weather gave me a good excuse to stay inside. I was not afraid of getting wet, but all the surfaces turned to nasty thick and slippery and dangerous ice.

I have had such a good time thinking about the Dollhouse and the life within and I have been adding on to the story. I will want to focus on the various textiles and clothes in the house but then I am sure I will enjoy making the furniture and, hopefully in the summer after the bookbinding course, some books too.

“The Making of the Bog Jacket

Amanda’s and Martta’s mother is an actress which means that the girls have an opportunity to meet fascinating artists and famous actors and that they get to play endless hours in the theatre but it also means that their mother is away a lot. Their father works in the university. If you asked the girls what their father is doing they’d answer that he is a bookworrm with the stress on the r. Literature is his field.”

Can you see why I added this? Yes, for the sake of books and small-scale fancy costumes. And this picture is from the family album...

“Grandma M is mother’s mother. She does not live in the house because she and her daughter could not reside under the same roof for various reasons and Grandma M must have her piece and quiet but she lives close enough to be a frequent visitor and to come to rescue when needed. The little girls have become the centre of her being. She is a widow. She usually baby-sits during the performance nights and she always comes over with her knitting. She sits in a comfortable arm chair with clicking needles - after the girls’ father has read them bedtime stories and left for the theatre - until the girls fall asleep and long after that. She used to knit in a rocking chair that was kept in the girls’ room after their mother had used it for nursing but just recently the chair was removed from there (knitting in a rocking chair made hear head dizzy) and replaced by a good armchair where she can find a good posture for knitting. She chose the chair and had it brought over to the house of which her daughter was not too happy about.”

I would love to make that knitting chair. And it is obvious why I made the grandmother the knitter and why she bought that chair, sitting on a floor does look a bit uncomfortable. She seems to have a good straight back though, but she does excercises regularly. Maybe she will show them some day.

“Grandma M belongs to this long chain of women who had to learn to knit and sew and spin and embroider and weave and cook and clean. Her daughter on the other hand belongs to the generation who broke that chain but that generation has done so much good for women’s lives in general that this lack of various handcraft skills should not be held against them. She is very proud of her daughter and always goes to see her new roles but sometimes she can’t help wondering what went wrong with her endless pursuits in teaching her a few simple household chores. Her daughter is clever and capable but she does not even know how to sew a button. But then sewing a button is an art in itself. Martta occasionally shows signs of interest towards knitting and sewing but she has her very own creative approach towards them.

Grandma M enjoys knitting for her little girls. She occasionally knits for her daughter too but not very often because she is so very hard to please. The collar might be a bit tight, or the sleeves a bit wide, or the wool after all might not have been a good choice or on some rare and lucky occasion she might claim that the knit is absolutely perfect but end up never wearing it.”

Now I can try out some patterns that interest me but I don’t need to knit them in big scale, like this bog jacket.

“At the moment Grandma M is making a Bog Jacket for Amanda. The knitting part of the jacket is done; it is only missing sewing and some detailing. Some time ago she found this interesting book by Elizabeth Zimmermann called “Knitting around” where Mrs Zimmermann introduces the Knitter’s Bog Jacket. She knows this pattern from her weaving endeavours and even though she has seen how very clever the pattern is in turning a square piece of cloth into a jacket, the appearance of the jacket has never appealed to her being a bit too rustic to her taste. But after reading from this book of the knitter's version she had to try it and all the clever tricks in the making.

The choice of yarn was absolutely crucial since the jacket is done in garter stitch. When garter stitch is done in plain factory dyed colours (colours that look more or less dead on the surface) it looks a bit tasteless, so she really wanted to knit the jacket with tweed or heathered or hand dyed yarn that has a bit of variegation in it (white or off white thin cotton might have been good a good choice too). She has never liked the garter stitch much but lately she has seen beautiful examples of lovely garter stitch garments done by delightful Mr Flood. She has a huge stash and she insisted on using this time what she had on hand and chose this hand dyed yellow wool. The yarn is a souvenir from her trip to Iceland. The dyeing has some depth and the feel is just about right so it should work with this pattern. It is not too heavy so the end result would not be too bulky and stiff for a little body that needs to be able to wiggle a bit.

She makes serious attempts to knit the accurate size by doing meticulous swatching beforehand but there have been times when the baby size jacket did not fit until the girls were three years old or when the two year old size ended up being for an infant. But such can happen even to the most experienced knitters at times. And yarns are all different, one has to know them by heart, and she refers to the best of them as good and trusty companions.
The bog coat has few very interesting little details. She added a little bit of shaping for the waist, just a tiny bit, really to showcase only the phoney seams in the sides - this was recommended by Mrs Zimmermann and short rows for the back to make it little longer than the fronts. She made the long sleeve version but instead of doing something that Mrs Zimmermann calls a thumb trick method she took the stitches on a spare yarn and cast on with invisible cast on the stitches for the fronts and the sleeves. With age she has had to think up ways to make up for the not so good eyesight and the thumb trick with thin yarn can be too hard on the eyes. What she found the cleverest course of action is the instructions how to add some shaping to the sleeve heads. The pattern advises to increase and decrease stitches in the shoulder line and that trick was truly priceless.
She can’t wait to put the piece together to see how all these little tricks worked in the end.”

This is more or less how my mind has gone on with the process. And the little bog jacket is so cute that I might want to have one too. Only the pockets are missing from the human size coat.



PS. I thought for a long time before I sent this. I am not sure if it is a good idea to let anyone know how deep inside this Dollhouse I am. But it is such a great place to escape to and everyone should have a hideaway spot somewhere. Do you remember what it was like to play when you were a child? And did you have a secret place, a closet or a place under a table that was covered by a huge tablecloth? And can you remember what you felt when you were hiding there and the things you could imagine?

I am sure you have often felt that if only I could eg knit that or wear that or do that but because of this and that - various reasons in life - you are not able to. Just for a second make up this imaginary knitter or traveller or crafter and dream about all the various things she/he could do... What would that person do? And I am not saying that I don't enjoy my life as it is, but once in a while dreaming is good.


  1. I love your little paralell universe :P

  2. Paula14:04

    How could you doubt that we would love to visit your imaginary places just as much as your real ones? I look forward to hearing the story as it unfolds. The little bog jacket is wonderful.

  3. Lene, your blog is a joy to read.

  4. This is such a treat, Lene, a joyful treat.
    EZ's patterns, her writing/books are so enjoyable for me. Your little Bog Jacket is wonderful.

  5. Your telling of a parallel universe in which to dream and to create in reality is a fabulous idea.

  6. Anonymous16:34

    The summer I was 11 my brother and his pals built a tree house. By July it was abandoned and became my retreat. It was only a platform screened by leaves and branches, but it became my other world, where I could be alone whenever I wanted. I knit and sewed costumes for my dolls based on stories from the many books I read up in the tree. I lay there secluded and watched the wildlife--squirrels and birds and dogs and cats(we lived in a city. I wrote my own stories and many, many poems and songs. This was 50 years ago, so I'd nearly forgotten the best summer of my childhood. How lovely it was to read your story and remember.

  7. Ellen in Conn16:47

    My dream is of a tiny little house for my own self only. It has a cozy chair, a blanket and a very small table to put a book on. It is of the simplest construction, with no decorations, and I have the only key.

  8. Lisa16:49

    I look forward to reading about the life and wonderful adventures of Amanda and Martta. Their family sounds very similar to my own as I come from a long line of beautiful, smart, creative and vastly independent women. It's a joy to wake up in the morning and find a new installment to the story to read while sipping hot coffee. Perhaps after your bookbinding course you would consider making an actual book of Amanda and Martta's adventures for your own daughters as an heirloom to pass down for generations. If something like that had been passed down in my family it would be considered a real treasure - something we would all fight for no doubt. I can't wait to have Amanda and Martta join me for breakfast again in a few days.

  9. That was an absolutely lovely story. I can't wait to hear more! And I'm looking forward eagerly to seeing how your little Bog Jacket turns out.

  10. "Dog's weather" is also a household expression in France. It's the good weather to write, read and dream !
    Is it you who make this little drawing with bird? It's so sweet!

  11. This is lovely. We all need our hideaway spots. At 66 years of age, I still have mine and they are a wonderful and comforting place to go when I want to.
    Thank you for sharing and I look forward to more.

  12. Thank you for inviting me into your dollhouse! I had one as a child and it was such a joy.
    I have thought about who I would have (living or dead) for tea and Elizabeth Zimmermann is high on the list. Would you like to join us, Lene. I have made the bog jacket and many February baby sweaters and the BSJ. She had a wonderful vision and I like her attitude toward knitting.

  13. Lene, I love how your story is coming together, you can picture it, feel it, and it is "familiar" to oneself. I hope you make it into a full fledged book, for I would buy one for me, and for my grand daughters for sure! I too can't wait to see how the bog jacket turns out! Keep writing, and knitting, and being you! \o/C

  14. I used to imagine up wild scenarios at school and on the bus. I lived in my books as a child.

    It's wonderful to bring an adult's rich experience to that imaginary life.

  15. Lene, What a charming story! I am certain you will please many of us with what's to come. I too had secret places on the farm. I sometimes wish I still had them. A tree house, a beautiful large black sparkly rock in the field that always generated the heat from the sun and a certain branch a.k.a swing hidden inside the giant lilac labyrinth in my back yard. Not to mention the hay loft... I am so glad you got me thinking about those places. Merci!

  16. I love your story and your "secret world". I always sat on a hill surrounded by the woods when I was a child, my hideaway and dreaming spot. Now my house is built here and I can just walk out my door and sit in my swing to still do my dreaming. I'm so looking forward to your next "chapter", your writing skills are much better than many authors I have read. And what do they do but publish their dream worlds?

  17. It's utterly charming that you are allowing us to take a peak in through the window.

  18. Thank you Lene for sharing the adventures of Amanda and Martta with us! I too like many of the other commenter's, had a large doll house when I was a little girl. My mother made all the miniature dolls and furniture and we collected the many household accessories to complete the look. My doll house, made by my father, even had a family of mice who took up residence in the attic!
    I can not wait to see what Amanda and Martta will wear for all the events that are sure to unfold in their future.
    Thank you for sharing their story!

  19. Your posts are always such a delight to read, and this one was no exception. They may prove to be dangerous however--I forsee a trip to the attic in the near future to pull out my old dollhouse to start my own creating!

    Thank you for sharing your stories with us all.

  20. Hickory03:03

    What a great story! Keep it coming please.

  21. Jeannie03:32

    I am so glad you have recovered from the hurt feelings a not very nice person caused. And I am thrilled to know that we will still be able to share part of your wonderful and rich creative life. Your stories thrill me, and I love the quiet of your photographs and really enjoy stories of your family and pets. The hiding place question struck a chord with me, growing up with 2 sisters sharing a bedroom, I always hid in the closet. and I could hear them looking for me calling me name, but I knew no one would find me until I wanted to be found. I never let them find me, because then they would know where to look in the future, so I would pop out and show myself when they were looking elsewhere, and be very vague about where I had been. Life was perfect in the closet, just me and my things, and quiet and solitude, something I never had living with 5 other people in a small house.

    Thank you for sharing, thank you thank you thank you. Even though I don't comment everytime I read, I am a very faithful reader and admirer.


  22. Cindy05:30

    I think your storyland and your knitting are absolutely wonderful. You're making me remember how important it is to have a special place of my own to go to when things get tough! Thanks for sharing and setting a good example!

  23. I don't find it odd at all - I think you are a natural storyteller who finds prompts in all manner of things, and I'm glad you share your stories with us! Personally, I wish I'd had a Grandmother like that. :) Some folks would illustrate their stories fully on paper. You add a new element to it by constructing your "illustrations" in the three dimensional. It's a gift!

  24. Have you ever read biographical information aboutTasha Tudor? She is famous for her books and art. Tasha Tudor lives, today in the 1860's time period. She loved theater and puppets and talked to her dolls all the time. In her nineties now, and I am sure she is still talking to her dolls. She has a website. http://www.tashatudorandfamily.com/who_is.htm

  25. I'm charmed and enchanted with your story. I've recently started making dollhouses. I made a little two room Christmas dollhouse for Santa and Mrs. Claus. I love the playfulness of this miniature world.You can look at my blog here: http://mylittledollhouse.blogspot.com/

  26. There were 2 places in my grandparents house. One was in a closet between their room and mine. At the back of the closet were 2 steps and a small doorway into a cedar closet. The other wasn't a hiding place but a wonderful place to sit. Inside the front door and the 2nd door was a small entryway. To the right was Grandpa's piano, a plant shelf and - a window seat. Grandma would put dressup clothes and toys in the seat, but I loved to sit there and read.
    Your world to go to isn't much different than living in memories of happier times in other places. Enjoy it.

  27. Anonymous05:09

    My grandmother had a split level house.. and under the stairs to the lower floor was a little room she converted into a wonderful playhouse for us. Old petticoats to wear, and dolls and clothes to play with, and tea sets and such. When we tired of playing there, we played with the dollhouses she had made for us.. a grand colonial, a one room school, and fabric store, and a country store. They lived on a long table the was set out just outside the little understair playhouse. So we could move from one little world to another. Such magical times...

  28. This was so much fun! If my beak were as pointy as that grandma bird's, I would forevermore be getting my knitting tangled up on it; she's obviously an accomplished yarn-wrangler!

  29. Dear Lene,
    I follow your letters for only a few weeks now and I finally have to say that it is always such a joy to dive into your creative world. You're a wonderful storyteller and I look for the story of Amanda, Martta and her Grandma M to be continued. You don't have to doubt if it is right or wrong to share these dreams with your readers. It is such a pleasure for us and it makes me remember old times ...
    Thank you so much,

  30. Anonymous07:08

    Enthralling and Delightful!

  31. Anonymous01:24

    Lene, What a way to learn about life! Or, practice it while growing up! Are Martta and Amanda going to have parties? I hope so. I had a grandma "M", also. She taught me to crochet chains when I was five years old. What good memories these two and grandmother are bringing back for us. I didn't have a playhouse. However, one summer I sat up housekeeping under a sumac tree in the yard. My best to you. Jeanie in Msla

  32. Amazing knitting skills you have. I enjoy your blog so much!

  33. I've got an award-thingie for you in my blog, come fetch it if you like :).

  34. Beautiful blog, beautiful art. I can't wait to come back and read more!

  35. Anonymous06:45

    I hope you haven't become bogged down but that your dreams are taking you to new ventures in creativiey leaving you no time to blog.
    In other words - I hope everything is well with you and yours.

  36. Such an intriguing story. I've often thought your daughters must have heard some of the best bedtime stories!
    I hope all is well.