In English, the letter Q rarely appears alone, but the OED has of course tracked down innumerable instances, one of which I find oddly compelling: “Q in the corner. . . a person who or thing which sits in the corner, one who is unnoticed or unimportant; also as a (self-mocking or self-effacing) pseudonym.” Perhaps Q’s queue is always off getting into other people’s business, leaving him to hide in the corner?
The letterpress landscape is littered with Qs: quad (short for quadrat), quoin, quarto, quire, question & quotation marks, even quadrata (Roman inscriptional capitals, of which I am particularly fond). With such a rich field of possibilities, it was difficult to settle on just one, but the quatrefoil is so delectable! Yes, of course I did consider qiviut, (an Inuit term for the wool of the musk ox), and almost indulged in a $60 skein of it, but the economy isn’t quite supporting that kind of research just now (at least not for me).
|Sainte Chapelle Quatrefoils|
|Stained glass of Sainte Chapelle|
|Tower, Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. Gallery of chimeras (grotesques) designed by Viollet-le-Duc, mid-19th century|
A few steps away from Sainte Chapelle is the less ethereal, but oh-so-storied Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, an earlier, much more massive structure. On its tower (right), alongside human-sized grotesques in the galerie des chimères, Viollet-le-Duc built a retaining wall of open quatrefoils in the mid-nineteenth century. He meant them to look medieval, and has fooled generations of tourists ever since (including Disney, apparently) into thinking them ancient.
|Wynkyn de Worde’s “Sagittarius” Printing Device. Reprinted in Henry Plomer. A Short History of English Printing, 1476-1898. London, 1900.|
Source: Project Gutenberg
|True Love (Paris quadrifolia). Taken June 2008. Source: Flickr. All rights reserved. Used with permission.|
I was delighted to learn that there are at least two quatrefoil motifs in knitting: the quatrefoil eyelet and the Walker quatrefoil cable. Since I’m looking at the quatrefoil’s architectural aspect, I took the cable as my inspiration. I wanted to produce a knitted tracery enclosure for a sort of stained glass-like motif in the quinacridone-like colors (thank you, Denise!) of Brown Sheep’s Lamb’s Pride. My plan was that the cables would provide structure and boundaries, while the intarsia & stranded colors would pop out from the black background. I couldn’t quite get the cables to do my bidding, so I resorted to an applied I-cord, twisting around the central Q. It looked like a cartoon, so I just accepted its whimsy (after all, quatrefoils are good enough for Disney), but quickly decided it could be improved through some transformative felting.
As I write this post, my “architectural” quadrilateral is jostling its way around the washing machine, altering itself into a small, felted monument. The finished pictures won’t, I hope, reveal the tinge of regret I’m experiencing. But really, I can’t pretend that I have any real plan for this particular piece, except as a page of my abecedarium. This A-to-Z project is now morphing from a largely digital excursion into a real, knitted book. I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to bind it all together (possibly with dpn knitting needles or perhaps simply sew it together, accordion-style), but at this point I have quite a few “pages” that I want to compile into codex form.
The Q has now emerged from its aquatic journey, smaller and fuzzier, but intact and perky—not exactly projecting architectural gravitas, but a happy caricature.
- Betty Monroe’s Center Motif Pullover (Vogue Knitting Anniversary Issue, Fall 2007). Ravelry info (for members only) and Vogue’s errata page.
- Sarah Hatton’s Alpine Shrug (quatrefoil on back) from Rowan 42 (Fall 2007) (as featured on Ravelry; Rowan’s pattern library is currently unavailable)
- Quatrefoil Shrug by Janine Le Cras (Unique Sheep), featuring the quatrefoil eyelet.
- Girl’s Quatrefoil Sweater, by Laura Rasmussen (K5tog)
- Barbara Walker’s Quatrefoil Cable, from the Walker Treasury Project
- Shedir, by Jenna Wilson (Knitty.com), featuring crisp tracery
- Koolhaas, by Jared Flood (Interweave Knits, Winter 2007). A wonder of spiralling, medieval-esque, cabled tracery, although the designer suggests this hat was inspired by the architectural designs of Rem Koolhaas.
- Cable Net, by Ariel Barton (Knitty.com Fall 2006)
- Felted Stained Glass Fan Bag, by Madeleine Langan (Knitting Dream)
- Stained Glass Hat (with quatrefoils) by Dilys Sutherland (Blossom Knitwear)
- Yes, it exists: the quatrefoil font! Ann’s Bijous Quatrefoil Font (designed by Dingbat Cave’s Ann Stretton)
- Two-part post on the quatrefoil from Sarah Jennings in her blog, Things that Inspire.
Part one :: Part two
- Elaine Perlov’s blog entry on quatrefoil grates in New York
- Victoria & Albert Museum (London). “Learn About Style” : Medieval Revivals : Quatrefoils
|Owen Jones. Grammar of Ornament. “Medieval Ornament No. 4: Encaustic Tiles of Various Periods.” 1856. Plate LXX (Lithograph).|
Source: New York Public Library Digital Gallery
- The Quatrefoil is the symbol of San Antonio
- And, you got it: the 4-H is really a quatrefoil!
- Quatrefoil basketweave...from the quatrefoil blog
- Kate Hillard, “A Quatrefoil” The Galaxy. Vol. 19, Issue 2 (February 1875): 244-245.
The remains of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (ca. 634– 687) came to rest in Durham, where a great cathedral was built in his honor. His tomb survived the Reformation, but was unearthed in 1827, when remnants of vestments (dated between 909 and 916, probably made in Winchester, England) were found in it. They are widely considered to be the most famous examples of Anglo-Saxon textiles that survive. Both the stole and maniple feature central quatrefoil motifs embroidered in gold thread and remarkably, red silk, in a Byzantine style (concrete proof of Silk Road trade).
|Grivell’s design for a three-piece tea set with quatrefoil ornaments (Wedgewood), ca. 1789.|
Source: New York Public Library Digital Gallery
P.S. One more Q: Queen Anne’s Lace: it’s a carrot! It is also a wonderful dye that produces lime green. I can’t resist adding a few links to the many, many Queen Anne’s Lace patterns: