I developed a pattern for an ear-warming headband adapted from the calf gusset of an Austrian Stocking pattern in Maria Erlbacher’s Twisted Stitch Knitting (Schoolhouse Press.) Oddly enough, something designed for the human calf also fits the human head quite nicely.
Exhibit A: a plump, well-formed Austrian calf sporting an exquisite hand-knit stocking as seen in the Volksmuseum, Innsbruck.
Exhibit B: The very same shaping applied to an ear warmer wrapped snugly around a human head of contemporary American vintage.
Maria Erlbacher’s book is breathtaking and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Although I am drawn to so many of the traditional forms of knitting, I return again and again to the delicate, sculptural quality of Bavarian Twisted Stitch knitting. The style features knit stitches that are twisted on every row, causing them to stand in relief against a purl background. And although Bavarian knitting contains some plump cable patterns akin to Aran knitting, its defining motifs are composed of sinuous, interlacing lines of twisted knits in variations of chains and lattice-work. The names of the motifs are delightfully rustic, much like the names of Shetland and Estonian knitting motifs. Alpine Path. Fish Bones. Clover Leaf. Plum Pit.
The green headband was knit for a dear but distant friend and so I chose the Burning Love motif as a knitterly expression of affection. (This pattern in #42 in the book, Brennende Liab narrow.) The grey band uses #12 Kleines Fenster. Both were knit on size 5 needles. The green headband took less than one skein of Karabella Boise. The gray headband is made of Punta Yarns Mericash; at a generous 262 yds per skein there is plenty left over to make matching fingerless gloves or a plush neckwarmer. These bands are dense and toasty warm, the perfect accessory for skiing and ice skating, or a raw windy walk when your ears need a safe haven.
A note on technique: twisted stitch knitting is usually best showcased with tightly spun yarns made of 100% wool. For these headbands I chose to break with tradition, using loosely spun, single-ply yarns. Both yarns are very soft and produce a halo when knit. I think the effect of the twisted stitches was still successful while the softer yarns added a touch of luxury to the final product but for those who are interested in a more traditional approach see the picture below of stockings knit with 100% merino wool. Since merino is still quite soft but has good structure, this produces an excellent compromise but crunchier wools will shine in this style as well.
But perhaps you find yourself wondering, certainly, twisted stitch woolen stockings are lovely to look at but when will I ever wear them…? I asked myself much the same question until I went here:
This is the imposing Wartburg Castle on Christmas day. You can walk from the town of Eisenach, Germany (birthplace of J. S. Bach and home to a wonderful Bach museum), through a forest and up a mountain and find yourself here. This is where Martin Luther hid from the wrath of the Pope and you can visit the frigid room in which he translated the Bible into German. This also the setting for Wagner’s opera, Tannhäuser, and there is a stunningly beautiful room that was decorated in the 19th century to look like it might have during the events of the opera, all courtesy of a generous donation from another great composer and tireless supporter of his colleagues, Franz Liszt. So much history crammed into one pinpoint on the map.
But, to return to my earlier point, you will not be ascending a snow-covered mountain to a place where the trees are literally encased in wind-tortured ice unless you have first clad yourself in your woolen leggies. And be forewarned, inside the castle is actually colder than outside, so if you didn’t need wool to warm you during your snowy ascent up the mountain, you most certainly will once your inside the castle walls. But don’t worry, tucked inside the castle is a warm, wood-lined cafe that serves hot chocolate every day–even on Christmas!