Kathleen Sperling


Whitework: Accessories inspired by medieval illumination

Since discovering the existence of medieval illuminated manuscripts as a child, I've thought them to be gorgeous works of art. I've also painted and calligraphed a number of reproductions of them myself, from various time periods and countries across Europe, so I have an especial appreciation for this art form and the work that goes into it.

One of my favourite looks in medieval illumination is that of "whitework": the technique of painting fine lines in white paint across a coloured background. This can be seen in the small, repeating geometric patterns known as "diapering", or as accents on elements such as vines, leaves, and borders. The white paint can also be diluted to varying degrees and applied to wider areas, to give greater dimension to a piece. Whitework was very much in vogue in Western Europe, starting about the 12th century, and was certainly in full swing during the 14th century.

I became inspired to do a collection of knitted accessories based on medieval diapering patterns when my husband gave me some sock yarn as a gift. It was 100g of Berroco Sox in the "Bala" colourway. This is a gorgeous blend of colours and I loved it a whole lot - I wanted to do it full justice. After fruitless attempts to find The Perfect Pattern, I decided that pairing it with a white sock yarn and working a stranded motif would probably produce something that I'd like. At this point, the idea of medieval whitework sprang to mind, and I adapted a geometric pattern from a random manuscript which I thought would work well. It did more than that; it made the yarn really "sing"! I was delighted, and thus the Fouilloy cowl, mittens, and earband were created (see page 11).

The Fouilloy set worked out so well, and there was so much more inspiration to be found in medieval whitework and diapering motifs, that I decided to design even more knitting patterns along this theme. This book is the result. I adored adapting the various motifs, creating the designs, and watching the items come together. There isn't an accessory in this collection that I don't absolutely love. I hope you have even half as much joy out of knitting them as I got out of creating them!

Click on the following links for the individual designs:
Fouilloy Set

Pattern Detail

  • stranded patterns are charted
  • schematics included
  • sewing required
  • fall/winter, all season
  • circular, straight (flat)
  • see individual patterns
  • digital PDF has 61 pages (letter size)
  • intermediate
    • 4 x 4 in
    • 2.5 mm
    • US 1.5
    • 39.0 over pattern
    • 4 x 4 in
    • 5.0 mm
    • US 8
    • 20.0 over pattern
    • 4 x 4 in
    • 3.5 mm
    • US 4
    • 28.0 over pattern
    • 4 x 4 in
    • 2.5 mm
    • US 1.5
    • 38.0 over pattern
    • 4 x 4 in
    • 4.5 mm
    • US 7
    • 22.0 over pattern
    • 4 x 4 in
    • 4.5 mm
    • US 7
    • 32.0 over pattern
    • 4 x 4 in
    • 2.5 mm
    • US 1.5
    • 37.0 over pattern
Click below for more images and yarn requirements
Cover-2 Beaulieu-page42 Corbichon-page24 Fouilloy-page11 Lavagna-page28 Macclesfield-page39 Valois-page47 Vignay-page52 Welles-page32

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