Friday, 31 January 2014

Here's One I Made Earlier

My Wetwang sweater
I finished knitting a sweater before Christmas, I've worn it several times, and I haven't yet written about it - I think I should do that before January is over, so that means now. 

It's Ann Kingstone's Wetwang sweater from her Born & Bred book.  I started it last April, and wrote about it here.  But then I put it away for the summer, until it got cold enough again to want to knit a woolly jumper - by that time, I just had the sleeves to finish.   I'm really happy with the result.  It fits very well - because it's knitted top-down in one piece, you can try it on as you go.  I made it quite close fitting - you can see from the photo that there is quite a lot of shaping at the waist.  I also made it long enough - I often find that I make sweaters too short, but again if you can try them on as you go, it's easy to get the length right. 

The construction is really clever, I think.  You can see from the photo that the front of the neck is much lower than the back.  That is all done by short row shaping after the yoke is finished. And at the same time, you are doing the shaping for the top of the sleeves.  It's easy to knit - you just follow the instructions - but I wouldn't know how to design something like that.

For anyone else knitting it, I found that the yoke doesn't sit right until you have finished the sleeves.  So although you can try it on as you go, you don't actually see how the neckline is going to look until you have nearly finished.  But  if you just have faith in the pattern, it all comes right in the end. 


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Wensley Dale Knitters

Wensley Dale Knitters
John gave me a belated Christmas present which he bought at the Antiquarian Book Fair in York earlier this month.  It is a print from Walker's Costume of Yorkshire,  a book of coloured prints, with some text accompanying each, that was published in 1814.  The plates in the book show ordinary working people, in various parts of Yorkshire, going about their daily lives. Images of that kind are unusual for the days before photography (and extremely useful to museum curators in Yorkshire).   

My print shows a village scene in Wensleydale, with everyone busy knitting.  I suppose it should be possible to identify the village from the church and the profile of the hill across the valley, and possibly the exact spot, assuming that Walker was accurate in drawing the scenery.   

The accompanying text describes how the working people of Wensleydale knitted whenever they had their hands free, whatever other occupations they had:   

"Simplicity and industry characterize the manners and occupations of the various humble inhabitants of Wensley Dale. Their wants, it is true, are few; but to supply these, almost constant labour is required. In any business where the assistance of the hands is not necessary, they universally resort to knitting. Young and old, male and female, are all adepts in this art. Shepherds attending their flocks, men driving cattle, women going to market, are all thus industriously and doubly employed. A woman of the name of Slinger, who lived in Cotterdale, was accustomed regularly to walk to the market at Hawes, a distance of three miles, with the weekly knitting of herself and family packed in a bag upon her head, knitting all the way. She continued her knitting while she staid at Hawes, purchasing the little necessaries for her family, with the addition of worsted for the work of the ensuing week; all of which she placed upon her head, returning occupied with her needles as before. She was so expeditious and expert, that the produce of the day's labour was generally a complete pair of men's stockings."

I love it - it's a great gift for a knitter interested in history. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Copley's Cobweb


A couple of weeks ago, one of the other volunteers working on the Knitting & Crochet Guild's collection was sorting through a box of balls of vintage yarn - from the 1950s and earlier.  Some of it was really delectable, including these four balls of Copley's Cobweb yarn.  Cobweb was a fine lace-weight yarn, sold in half-ounce balls.  (Half an ounce is about 14 grams.)    From the range of designs on the ball-bands, it seems to have been in production for a long time - the green ball on the left might be pre-war, while the yellow ball on the right is labelled "A Donbros product" - Donbros took over Copley's maybe around 1960.  The four balls here are such a nice combination of colours too. 

Since it was such a long-running yarn, I thought that there must have been an equally long-running series of pattern leaflets for it.  But so far I have only found leaflets from the early 1950s.    Some of them are lacy scarves, which could easily be current patterns, or lacy evening stoles which look more typical of the  1950s. 


Copley's 1919
      I especially like the evening stole from Copley's leaflet 1954.  The leaflet had four scarf/stole patterns in it, but the lace pattern on this one is particularly dramatic.  (The photo seems rather carelessly staged.  though - the model seems to be sitting in a classroom.)    
From Copley's leaflet 1954
 There are also several pattern leaflets for women's jumpers - often in more or less plain stocking stitch.  The jumper in leaflet 1862 is knitted mainly on size 11 needles, with a tension of 38 stitches and 46 rows to 4 inches/10 cm., over stocking stitch.  That's a lot of knitting.  


Copley's 1862
The jumper in leaflet 1922 is also very glamorous, again combining stocking stitch with areas of lace. 


Copley's 1922
 And others are lacy all over - very pretty, though it makes a more or less transparent jumper.  They didn't seem to bother about that in the 1950s, though.  


Copley's 1910

Sunday, 19 January 2014

A Feast of Fair Isle

Last Thursday, we had the monthly meeting of the Huddersfield branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild.  Topic: Fair Isle.  We brought in some of the Fair Isle knitting from the Guild's collection, which looked wonderfully opulent laid out on the table.



The three children's items (two pullovers with collars and a cardigan)  are, I think, the nicest examples of Fair Isle in the collection.  Perhaps the oldest piece is a short sleeved sweater that looks as though it dates from the late 1940s.  The slightly puffed sleeves are very characteristic of the 1940s, and Fair Isle knitting was very popular at the end of the war and for the next few years.  (If anyone recognises the pattern, please let me know.)


 
Several people brought along their own Fair Isle knitting - I took John's pullover, as I said I was planning to. Ann Kingstone, author of Stranded Knits, brought a couple of knits from the book, including Hedgerow, one of my favourites. She also had a really nice knitted and felted bag - she says that she made it four or five years ago, but it still looks pristine.  (That's Hedgerow, peeking out of the top.)




Elizabeth Smith makes cushion covers from stranded and felted knitting - she brought in two lovely Christmas pieces.  The designs are based on typical Colne Valley scenes - cottages with weavers' windows on the sides of the valley, mills in the valley bottom, sheep and cows in the fields.  (The angels and sleigh in the sky aren't so typical.)






I did a short slide-show of Fair Isle patterns, from the 1920s on, starting from the Fair Isle sweater that the Prince of Wales wore for golf in 1922.  Most were fairly traditional Fair Isle designs, but  in the late 1940s and early 1950s, more pictorial designs were also popular.  One of my favourites, because it is so quirky, is Copley's "Fish and Coral" jumper.

Copley's 1681
It would be quite tricky to knit, because there are often three colours in a row- the small geometric pattern is in green, blue and "Sunglo", while the Fish and Coral bands are in Sunglo for the coral and white for the fish on a background of blue.  The pattern suggests that a small ball  of white yarn could be used for each of the fish to avoid long strands across the back, but I think that would also be difficult.  And there is no chart - the pattern is all written out stitch by stitch, over 8 pages.   I don't know why - other spinners were giving charts for Fair Isle patterns in the 1920s, so it must have been a deliberate decision not to use them.   But apart from the practical difficulties, I think it looks fun.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Irish Crochet

Postcard of girl in Irish crochet 
The new Rowan magazine (number 55, Spring/Summer 2014)  has an article on the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and another on Irish Crochet by Katy Bevan, illustrated with wonderful photographs of some of the best pieces of Irish crochet from the KCG collection.  (Katy wrote about the photo-shoot on her blog, here.)

I don't crochet much myself, and Irish crochet is so fine and intricate that I am sure it is way beyond my skills.  But I do admire the things in the collection - they are just beautiful.  So since the Rowan magazine article was proposed, I have been keeping a look-out for Irish crochet illustrations in the Guild collection.

Although much Irish crochet was made commercially, there were also many Irish crochet patterns published in needlework magazines in the early part of the 20th century.  But the illustrations with the patterns are usually just the piece of crochet - they are rarely shown being worn. So it's difficult to get a sense of how Irish crochet was worn at the time.  (I don't think the Rowan model looks very much like an Edwardian lady - it's not a modern look.)  

I have recently been looking at the postcards and photographs in the Guild collection - they have all been acquired because they show knitting or crochet, and there are several from around World War I that show Irish crochet.  Here is a selection.  The postcard of a girl wearing an Irish crochet top (cape?  jacket?)  is postmarked March 1912.   (Postcards of pretty girls were popular at the time.)


Miss Julia Neilson at Home
Postcard published by Beagles Postcards,
from a photograph by Ellis & Walery
There are also two postcards of celebrities wearing Irish crochet.    Miss Julia Neilson, depicted at home next to the piano, was an actress.  She is wearing an Irish crochet blouse, and one of those nasty furs made from a dead fox.   Miss Marie Studholme, an actress and singer, is wearing an Irish crochet collar to her jacket/bodice, and possibly an Irish crochet blouse underneath (hard to tell - it's out of focus).   The card is postmarked 1906. 


Miss Marie Studholme
Postcard published by Rotary Photo Co.,
from a photograph by  Foulsham & Banfield
The three postcards show women wearing smart clothes, and probably the Irish crochet was bought - they did not make it themselves.  Ordinary women would not be able to afford to buy whole garments in Irish crochet, nor have the time to make them.   But we have several photographs of women wearing little crocheted collars or jabots.  I suspect that many such collars were made at home, but they might have been cheap enough to buy. 



The young woman wearing the large crochet jabot and stand-up collar (and huge hat) is evidently wearing her best clothes for the photograph. 



Little lacy collars to wear with a plain dress were also popular - not all are in Irish crochet, though I think that the one above is.

I also found an ad for Manlove's crochet cotton, in Fancy Needlework Illustrated from 1914. The "peasant girl" in the ad is making a set of motifs for a collar.  (When Irish crochet was made commercially, the more experienced and skilled workers made the motifs, which were passed to less experienced crocheters to join together.)  So if you were making your own Irish crochet collar, you could aspire to the standards of the professionals by buying the thread that they used.

"Irish Peasant Girl making Irish crochet Lace"
Fancy Needlework Illustrated, June 1914.



Fourth Anniversary

I started writing this blog 4 years ago today.   I feel a bit amazed at that - that it's been so long, that I've kept it going, that I still have an endless supply of things to write about.


John in Fair Isle pullover
The photo is from my very first post. It shows John posing (with an invisible head and non-existent pipe) in a Fair Isle pullover I knitted for him in the early 1980s.  The pattern is from Fair Isle Knitting, by Sarah Don, more or less.  I used the colours she suggested, and the first three bands are as in the pattern, but then I followed the charts elsewhere in the book to make every band different.    


Pullover from Sarah Don's Fair Isle Knitting

I'm going to resurrect the pullover this week - the Huddersfield branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild is meeting on Thursday, and the topic is Fair Isle.    The pullover is more than 30 years old, so I suppose it counts as vintage knitwear by now.    (Though it's all wrong that something I knitted counts as vintage.  People will be saying I'm old next.  Oh sorry, forgot - I am old.)

 PS  Regular readers who visit this page twice may spot that I originally titled this post "Third Anniversary".  I'm an idiot.   

Saturday, 11 January 2014

A Sweater for Beatrix

Beatrix was born in November and I knitted a sweater for her that was handed over at Christmas, via her grandparents.   I have not yet seen her in it, but I have seen a photo - it looks a little big for her just now, but will fit her better before the end of the winter.  It's knitted in Wendy Merino DK, so I intended it for wear this winter, to keep her cosy.  She wears it with the cuffs turned back, as they are shown on the cover of the pattern leaflet below - the sleeves fit her better that way. 

   
(It's actually a lovely greeny-blue colour - it's hard to get a photo that shows the colour at all accurately, which I have found before with green/blue shades.)

Patons 7957

The pattern is from a Patons leaflet that I have had for years - the leaflet has the date 1985 printed in it, so I assume I bought it then and perhaps I intended to knit it for my daughter.  But I never did.   The neckline is intriguing - the front and back finish in two long triangular pieces at each side, which overlap.  There are no shoulder seams or any kind of fastening at the shoulders, so there is plenty of room for it to go over the baby's head, but it should then fit snugly around the neck.  And there are straight seams to join the sleeves to the body.  



In fact, I didn't assemble it exactly according to the instructions - there was meant to be much more overlap of the back and front, but then the neck opening entirely disappeared, so I had to adjust it.  It's a nice pattern, though - I like the texture of the stitch pattern, made of little triangles in stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch.   And I like the way that the diagonal edges of the triangular overlapping pieces parallel the triangles of the stitch pattern - that is very neat. I hope Beatrix gets plenty of wear out of it for a few weeks, before she grows out of it. 

Monday, 6 January 2014

Pantomime Knitting

George Graves as Widow Twankey

It's the pantomime season (Oh yes, it is!) and so here is a postcard showing a pantomime character, knitting.   It was post-marked 1905, and shows George Graves, an English comic actor who often did music hall and pantomime (says Wikipedia). 

I assume that he is dressed as Widow Twankey in the pantomime of Aladdin.   Again according to Wikipedia, Widow Twankey is Aladdin's mother and runs a Chinese laundry, in China - in  spite of Aladdin being based on a tale in the Arabian Nights.   It makes no sense, of course.  And it's one of the comic pantomime roles that is always played by a man in drag.   George Graves appears to be wearing a very splendid Chinese costume, with an embroidered panel down the front of the skirt, and a patchwork silk coat over it.  And he is portrayed knitting - a simple piece of garter stitch, but it looks he might actually be working on it.  Though having said that, there is no sign of a ball of wool, and there appears to be a big gap between the stitches on the two needles.  So maybe it is all for show.  You can't expect realism in pantomime.        

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Christmas Postscript

A knitter's notebook from World War 2

A friend sent me a package with her Christmas card, containing a little notebook, passed on by a friend of hers, for the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  It is leather-bound, quite battered, about 3.5 by 5.5 inches.  It dates from World War 2 - in the first 34 pages, the owner kept a detailed record of what she knitted during the war, for various groups.  In the rest of the notebook, she wrote out knitting patterns, and added extra pages (which are in different hand-writings) - it looks as though the owner continued to use it after the war to record patterns that she thought interesting or useful.  The war-time section is fascinating.  She knitted for a wide range of causes:  Deep Sea Fishermen, Prisoners of War, Russians, the Air Force, Evacuees.  Towards the end of the war, she knitted "for the people of occupied Europe".  She mentions the WVS (Women's Voluntary Service) frequently and I assume that the knitting for many of these causes was co-ordinated by the WVS.  

The notebook records the wool and needle sizes used for every piece of knitting, and occasionally notes that she used 'own wool'.  She keeps careful note of the weight of wool she used, too, and reckons up the total weight used for each batch of knitting.   There were schemes during the war for getting wool off-ration for knitting for the forces and other good causes, though you might still have to pay for it.  I assume that she had wool off-ration for most of the knitting listed - she could not have used her own ration coupons for so much wool.  So maybe 'own wool' means that she paid for it, and otherwise it was provided by the WVS.   I assume too that she was knitting for herself, and her own family, at the same time as for all these good causes - that isn't mentioned in the notebook.  

At the end of the war-time section of the notebook, she lists all the "garments knitted for the Forces during 1940 to 1945".   I think the list actually includes garments knitted for all the other causes as well, not just the forces, because it includes children's garments.   


Complete list of knitting for the Forces, 1940-1945

She knitted 185 garments for the Forces: 

  • 6 pairs cuffs
  • 23 scarves
  • 16 cap-scarves
  • 2 sleeveless pullovers
  • 9 polo-neck jerseys
  • 5 V-neck jerseys
  • 39 pairs gloves (with fingers)
  • 5 pairs steering gloves
  • 3 pairs spiral socks
  • 1 pair hospital socks 
  • 1 pair gum-boot socks
  • 1 pair sea-boot stockings  
  • 45 pairs socks
  • 15 pairs mittens
  • 7 pairs ankle socks
  • 7 balaclava helmets
And 86 children's garments (though these include women's garments too):
  • 21 boy's jerseys and girl's jumpers
  • 1 pullover
  • 8 frocks
  • 4 hats
  • 2 lady's jumpers
  • 9 cardigans (boy's and girl's)
  • 8 pilches
  • 18 vests
  • 3 shawls
  • 5 pairs gloves
  • 1 pair overalls
  • 6 pairs socks (boy's)
A huge achievement for one person.   The rest of the notebook will repay careful reading, I'm sure, but just this first part alone is absolutely fascinating.