Monday, 15 January 2018

A New Yarn Shop in 1919

I was browsing some online newspapers today, looking for something else, when I found an account from May 1919 of someone opening a wool shop. The woman concerned had been in uniform during the war, and wanted to carry on being financially independent.  Employment for women was scarce, with all the men returning from the war, so setting up her own business was a way round that.

It seems from the article below that wool shops had not been flourishing before the war, though the huge effort in knitting comforts for the troops must have helped the trade.  In 1919 a new 'knitting craze' was foreseen - correctly, as it turned out, with knitwear becoming very fashionable in the 1920s. So it must have seemed an auspicious time to start a wool shop.

I was particularly interested in this account, because the Wakefield Greenwood company started out in  just the same way:  in June 1919, Clara Greenwood and Harold Wakefield (who were engaged to be married at the time) set up a shop in Huddersfield, selling knitting and crochet yarns, and all kinds of needlework supplies.  This could almost have been their story too:


MY WOOL SHOP. 

A BIT OUT OF CRANFORD SUCCESSFULLY REVISED. 

Somehow talking about wool shops seems to suggest "Cranford" and Jane Austen, and those early Victorian days of terrible gentility when one of the few things that a poor woman could do for a living was to keep a shop for the sale of Berlin wools and crewel silks. Those times have changed, however.  At the outbreak of war period it required some searching to find a shop where such commodities were the principal feature.  Wool and fancy workshops "went out" at the beginning of the century, but the war has helped to bring them back again.
At least, they are on the way.  There is, I think, a decided opening for them in many parts of the country.  I happen to know, because I have just received the experience of a woman who has established one.  Her home is in a little country market town not very far from London, a fairly busy place and popular with holiday makers.
 The Business Rest Cure. 
"When I came out of khaki,"  she told me, "my doctor advised me to stay at home and take things quietly for a while, and in answer to my protests at enforced idleness, he said jokingly: 'You'd better take that empty shop in the High-street and turn it into a wool repository, like it used to be when I was a boy!  The papers say that there is a wool craze ahead, and that women will soon be knitting all their own clothes, so you ought to do well!'
"It was meant as a joke, but it seemed to supply just what I had been trying  to find—an idea for 'something different' from my pre-war work, something that would give me some independence and which would not demand a terrifically large initial outlay.  So I did it.
"The empty shop which had been a Berlin wool shop in my grandmother's young days became mine for a moderate rental: it was painted and cleaned and made to look pretty, and one bright morning it was opened with some wools and fancy work goods arranged artistically in the window and myself behind the counter.  Since then it has been opened continually, and now there are two 'young ladies' in the shop as well as myself, and things are more promising and prosperous than I ever dreamed.

On the Wave  of Fashion. 
"No doubt the recent and present craze for woollen garments and trimmings has had something to do with it; all sorts of wools can be bought at my shop.  Embroidery silks, too, either for working cushions or frocks, besides all sorts of fringes, bead trimmings, braided work, and various made-up passementeries, for which there is a greater demand now than there has been for a quarter of a century or so.  Lately I have added some pillow and various English cottage laces to my stock, also lace-making equipment, and the results already have been very encouraging.
"One of my assistants is a good embroideress, and I have some 'outside workers,' who will do work to order, so that it is possible for me to take orders for work to be done—in particular, I find many women are glad to give orders for special dress trimmings of an everyday order, also for hat bands, children's clothes, and such like.
Lessons in Knitting. 
"To a lesser extent, too, unfinished work is completed; some orders are taken for knitted garments in special colourings, etc.; while the demand for lessons in knitting, lace-making, and embroidery of all sorts, is far greater than the outsider would imagine. It is so great. indeed, that I am seriously thinking of taking a clever friend into my business who will confine herself to teaching.
"It is an old idea which was dead and has been resuscitated, but it is worth reviving.  My wool shop is a flourishing concern: so is one on exactly similar lines which is run by another woman friend in a London suburb. And one hears people who drop in saying: 'How I wish someone would open a shop like this where I live.' "
The popularity of hand knitting lasted until after World War 2, and beyond.  When I learned to knit as a child, there seemed to be little wool shops everywhere.  In Huddersfield, Greenwoods closed long ago, when Miss Greenwood (aka Mrs Wakefield) retired in the 1960s - until then it flourished and expanded into the wholesale yarn business, run by Mr Wakefield.  It would be good to think that the woman in the article did well with her shop, too. 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

1978

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and Guild members are being encouraged to make something to recall 1978 - maybe something from a 1978 pattern, or adapting a 1970s trend. And to wear the result at the Guild's Convention in July.  (I still have a sweater that I knitted in the late 1970s - my Cream of the Crop sweater from a book of Patricia Roberts knitting patterns published in 1975.  So in theory, that's me sorted - though as it's very warm, it won't be wearable in July.)

By 1978, Patons pattern leaflets had copyright dates, and we have permission to copy them for Guild members, so I have made a catalogue of the Patons leaflets published that year. (Available to Guild members from the KCG website.) 

Quite a few of the designs are not distinctively 1970s - basic sweaters, cardigans, scarves and so on. But some features recur several times that wouldn't be so usual now.  There are a number of big, loose tops in simple T shapes - described as oversweaters or overtops.  They typically have wide sleeves, dropped shoulders and slash necks. 

Vintage 1970s knitting patterns
Patons 1536

Most of Patons 1978 designs are knitted, but there are crochet patterns too.

Vintage 1970s crochet patterns
Patons 1518

And many are designed for all the family. (The slanting pockets in Patons 1575 are another recurring feature.)

Vintage 1970s knitting patterns
Patons 1575

Patons 1505 has the loose, dropped-shoulder, over-sweater style translated into a jacket.  The combination of colours in the sample doesn't work well, it seems to me, but with a different choice it could look good.

Vintage 1970s knitting patterns
Patons 1505

There are some lighter styles too - like this lacy sweater with a big frilly collar.  (Note the draw-string hem, also a feature of Patons 1518 and several others.)

Vintage 1970s knitting patterns
Patons 1617

There are a couple of waistcoat patterns which would be practical for a cool July day (and most July days in England seem to be cool).

Vintage 1970s knitting patterns
Patons 1581

There's one pattern that stands out, though - Patons 1595, for a unisex 'Fair Isle' waistcoat and pullover.  I think it was a very popular design at the time - we have two waistcoats and a pullover knitted from it in the KCG collection (see this post for a photo), and two more pullovers appeared in the Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood exhibition in 2015.  And it's proving very popular now - since I put the catalogue on the KCG website, it's been asked for more than any of the others.

Vintage 1970s knitting patterns
Patons 1595


It would be easy to make something quite wearable from one of the Patons 1978 patterns - there are none of the worst 1970s horrors.  No knitted trousers (no knitted patchwork trousers, even worse), no knitted shorts, no leg warmers....    (We do have such patterns in the collection, if anyone feels tempted.) 

So if you're a Guild member - happy knitting!  I look forward to seeing the results in July.



Saturday, 30 December 2017

Christmas Presents

I don't usually knit Christmas presents - I know from past experience that it's just creating an extra source of stress in getting them finished in time.  And I have not been much of a sock knitter, either, though for Christmas 2011 I did knit 3 pairs (of which 2 and a half were finished in time).   But this year, I needed a small portable project and decided to try sock knitting again, and to knit a pair for my daughter for Christmas - knitting one pair of socks seemed perfectly manageable.   I bought a skein of lovely Lichen and Lace sock yarn from my friend Sarah Alderson, and her sock pattern, The Chain.   (Sarah designed the thrummed slippers pattern that featured in my previous post.) 


The socks were finished well before Christmas.  They have turned out very well, and the yarn is beautifully soft. 

But meanwhile, my daughter said that what she really needed was a replacement for a scarf that she had lost i.e. she wanted me to knit a plum-coloured infinity scarf, as soon as possible. So I decided that the scarf would have to be for Christmas, too.

It took a while to find some wool of the right colour - King Cole Merino Blend 4-ply in Damson. By this time it was well into December, and we decided that the scarf had to be about 46 in. (117 cm.) in circumference, and quite deep.   I did get it done - I finished it at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve (knitted, ends sewn in, and pressed).  Cutting it a bit fine, I know, but on Christmas Day it was all wrapped up, under the Christmas tree. 



It's designed to loop around the neck twice.   I don't have a photo of my daughter wearing it, but here it is on our newel post. 

I knitted it in the round, with a chevron pattern of eyelets and decreases in the middle and garter stitch borders top and bottom. Basically, a very wide, short tube.



It turned out that she hadn't lost the original scarf after all, but as it's cotton jersey, a hand-knitted wool scarf is much nicer, and much warmer for the winter.  She's very pleased with both the socks and the scarf.  And I'm going to knit more socks - this time for me.  And maybe a Moebius scarf too.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Fluffier on the inside

On Thursday evening, we had the December meeting of the Huddersfield Knitting & Crochet Guild branch.  Our theme for 2017 has been Yarn, in all sorts of forms.  To finish the year we had a workshop from one of our members, Sarah Alderson of Aldersign Designs.  The workshop was on thrumming - a traditional technique from Canada for making very warm mittens and such like by knitting extra bits of unspun wool into them to make a fleecy lining.  (Search for 'thrummed mittens' to find some YouTube videos and articles - here's one by the Yarn Harlot.)

Sarah provided us with undyed wool tops to make the thrums - short lengths of roving folded into figure-of-eight loops.  And she had designed a pattern for thrummed slippers / bootees - the design is called 'Fluffier on the Inside'.   The sole of the slipper is thrummed, and there is another band of thrumming around the ankle.  Sarah's prototype was in dark blue, and looks a little bit like Doctor Who's Tardis (which of course is bigger on the inside).

We started with a slipper sole, and I finished mine on Thursday evening.  The photos show the outside, with a neat pattern like the lice in Norwegian knitting:


and the inside, which looks like an explosion in a wool warehouse:


Sarah says that after the slippers have been worn for a while, the thrums felt together into an even, very warm layer.

The next step in making the slippers is to pick up stitches around the edge of the sole to knit the upper (which isn't thrummed).   Before doing that, I think I should knit the sole again - the size needs some adjustment.  And before that,  I need to finish off some Christmas knitting - there's not much time left, but it may just be done by Christmas morning.  But I shall definitely finish the slippers - they will be so cosy.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Shetland Knitting Patterns

A recent donation of knitting patterns to the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection included a pattern for an "All-over Fair Isle Jumper and Beret", which looks to me like a 1930s pattern.


It was by a company called T.P.G. who produced "Pure Shetland Wool" for knitting.  Presumably, the company was based on Shetland, but there is no address on the leaflet.  And I can't guess what "T.P.G." stands for.     

It's good to see an authentic Fair Isle pattern from the 1930s (if that is what it is).  Here's what the design looks like, very approximately - I've chosen the colours based only on their names in the pattern, so they may be a long way from accurate.


I read the instructions to see if the jumper is to be knitted in the round.  It is - but only up to the armholes.  Then the back and front are knitted flat.  The stitches for the sleeves are picked up around the armholes (after the shoulders have been grafted), and the sleeves are knitted in the round. So - no steeks.

I knew that I had seen other T.P.G.patterns in the collection, and today I found them.  The girl's cardigan below is knitted in fawn and dark blue, with peach, white, pale blue, moorit and yellow. 


The materials required include a set of four long needles (15 inch), but I'm not sure how they are to be used.  The instructions imply that the back and front are knitted flat in one piece up to the armholes, and you begin by casting on 235 stitches onto two size 10 (3.25 mm.) needles.  But probably four long needles are needed to knit such a wide piece flat - the instructions don't say.  (Now we would use a circular needle.)  Again, the back and fronts are knitted separately from the armholes upwards, and the sleeves are knitted in the round, working downwards from the armholes.   

Another T.P.G. leaflet is in a different Shetland knitting tradition - it has panels of a pretty lace stitch on a cardigan and jumper. (Click on the image below to enlarge it.)


 
I found these T.P.G. patterns alongside some other knitting patterns from Shetland.  I think these are later - maybe late 1940s? 

1940s vintage knitting pattern



The leaflets leave no doubt that these are Shetland patterns "Designed in Shetland by Shetland Knitters" -  the company is called "Shetland Wools", with an address in Lerwick.  Both the lady's jumper and the gent's slipover are knitted flat - back and front separately.  Even the sleeves of the jumper are knitted flat, from the cuff upwards - the only knitting in the round is for the yoke.   And the ribs around the neck and armholes of the slipover are knitted flat, too, with seams in the rib, under the arms and on the shoulders.  (I find that rather shocking).  The company must have decided that knitters outside Shetland just couldn't cope with knitting in the round.

It would be nice to know more about these two companies, and in particular what T.P.G. stands for.  So if you have any information. please let me know.   

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

November 1947

This is one of an occasional series in which I look back at a past issue of Stitchcraft.  So here I'm looking back 70 years, to November 1947.

Stitchcraft magazine, November 1947
Although the war had been over for two years, there were still severe shortages of many things, apparently, and clothes rationing was still in force.  But perhaps it was easing up a little - earlier issues of Stitchcraft suggested ways to recycle wool unravelled from old jumpers, but this issue expects you to buy new wool.

Christmas was coming, of course, so the front cover has an angora bolero to wear "For a Winter Party". (I must show the heading for its exuberant use of three different fonts in four words:)


And the back cover of the magazine has a nice twinset in a complicated stitch pattern, knitted in 2-ply.  You only needed 10 oz. (285 gm.) for both the cardigan and the short-sleeved jumper - they weren't being extravagant with their clothing coupons. 

From Stitchcraft magazine, November 1947
 Here's a close-up of the stitch pattern:


There are two more sweaters for women, and a charming little twin-set for a small child.


 For men, there are patterns for gloves and a smart pair of socks.

From Stitchcraft magazine, November 1947

And, with Christmas presents in mind, there are two patterns for soft toys.  They are called, I have no idea why, the Despondent Tiger and the Poetical Bull.  (Each toy requires nearly as much wool as the twinset, so the pattern does suggest using unravelled wool here.)




Earlier issues of Stitchcraft, such as this one from December 1941, had a cookery column.  That seems to have been abandoned by 1947.  And although there was usually quite a lot of sewing, embroidery, and other needlecrafts apart from knitting and crochet, both before and after the war, the November 1947 issue has only one item that isn't knitted - a cushion cover in applique and cross stitch.


But for a knitter, there is a lot to appeal.  I might even try the sock pattern. 

Members of the Knitting & Crochet Guild can download a pdf of this issue of Stitchcraft from the members' section of the Guild website. 

Monday, 27 November 2017

Spending a Day in 1918

When we were in London a week ago, for the Knitting History Forum, I spent a happy day at the British Library, looking at magazines from 1918. I was gathering material for my blog about the First World War, One Hundred Years Ago. It's been through a very thin patch since I broke my wrists last year, and I almost decided not to add any more posts, but then I thought that I should at least post the material I had already collected, and now I'm planning to revive it and keep it going. The war won't last much longer, after all.  (I'm sure that's what people hoped in 1917, too.)

So I ordered Woman's Weekly, Home Chat and Home Notes for 1918.  They were all weekly magazines for women, and all survived until the 1950s - Woman's Weekly is still with us, of course.  Woman's Weekly was a good read (though of course I didn't have time to properly read very much of it).  There was lots of interesting material about how to train for some of the new job opportunities available to women.  Mary Marryat, who still nominally wrote the advice column in the 1950s (but I'm sure wasn't the same woman - if indeed she ever existed) was issuing good advice to young women getting into relationships with men in the armed forces.  (Some of it extremely practical - e.g. you can tell from his pay-book if he's already married.)  And Cecile, who I think also survived as the Woman's Weekly cookery writer until the 1950s, provided recipes and meal plans for the meagre rations.

And as I was looking through the issues of the magazine, week by week, I saw a pattern I recognised.

Woman's Weekly magazine, 23rd March 1918

The 23rd March issue has an illustration of a tea cosy on the cover - and I recognised it, because there is a tea cosy made to the same pattern in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.   (Strictly speaking, it's a tea cosy cover, not a tea cosy -  it wouldn't do anything to keep a pot of tea warm by itself.)



The cosy in the collection is identical to the Woman's Weekly illustration, except that our example has a decorative frill around the edge - but the pattern just says that when you have made the two halves of the cosy, you should finish off "with any little edging round the top".

I probably wouldn't recognise all the filet crochet tea cosies in the collection, but I know this one, because of its other side.  I'm sure that the designer intended that both sides of the cosy should be the same, but the maker of ours used different designs.  The other side has a "VICTORIOUS PEACE 1914-1919" design, and it's very familiar because I show an illustration of it in my talk on knitting & crochet in World War I.




It was surprising and exciting to recognise an image from 1918 so unexpectedly.  Next time I visit the British Library, I'll look through Woman's Weekly for 1919, to see if our maker found the 'Victorious Peace' design there too. 

I'm afraid that Home Chat and Home Notes were nowhere near as interesting as Woman's Weekly - Home Notes in particular was very dull.  Clearly, enough readers went on buying them to keep them both going for another 40 years, but personally I'd have bought Woman's Weekly instead.
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