Friday, 30 October 2015

Never again

Some of the pattern leaflets in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection have come directly from yarn shops - for instance the batch of Hayfield leaflets we were given at the beginning of this year. But most of the leaflets in the collection are secondhand - originally bought by a knitter for their own use. Probably some leaflets were bought but never actually used (I've got some of those myself), but most of these secondhand patterns have been working documents.

Sometimes we see evidence of a leaflet's earlier existence.  Many people count rows by writing on the pattern - so we see lots of 'five-barred gates' and other notes.  Others take better care of their patterns, and write on a separate piece of paper - which has sometimes been donated along with its pattern.    

Often these annotations are completely incomprehensible - though hopefully they weren't to the person who made them.

A couple of weeks ago we found two leaflets with intriguing  notes.  One was a Copley's pattern from the 1930s, with faint pencil writing on the front, almost illegible - it was some notes on making omelettes.  The other was a Lister/Lee Target leaflet, which has a message written very firmly on the front:  "I SHALL ON NO ACCOUNT BE CAJOLED INTO KNITTING THIS EVER AGAIN. R.C. 6/8/80"

Lister/Lee Target K9247

It looks a perfectly innocuous pattern, so I can't imagine what caused so much antagonism towards it.  I guess that R.C. had knitted it for someone else (who did the 'cajoling') and had perhaps been cajoled into knitting it more than once.  But why not just say 'No' rather than writing on the pattern?  Perhaps the cajoler was not the sort of person to take 'No' for an answer and needed a stronger message?   I don't suppose I shall ever know.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Fine Sand

I wrote, back in August that I was knitting the 'Fine Sand' cardigan, designed by Heidi Kirrmaier.  I finished it two weeks ago, just before our knitting weekend in Blackpool, and I have been wearing it a lot since then.  But it's taken until now to get some photos organised.

I guess you could describe it as 'deceptively simple'.  It's just a plain ordinary cardigan, but there are no seams, so it sits very smoothly over the shoulders - no shoulder seams, no armhole seams.  But of course, to create that 3-d shape without any seams, you need to incorporate a lot of shaping into the knitting.    In this design, the shaping is not made a feature of, unlike in her Vitamin D design, for instance, and it's even less evident knitted in a fuzzy yarn like Wendy Ramsdale, which is what I have used.   But you can perhaps see the radiating lines of increases across the back yoke.

One thing I particularly like is that the fronts don't gape at the bottom.  You would think that to make a cardigan intended to be worn unfastened, you should just make the front edges parallel with the sides - but if you do that, the front opening tends to be an inverted V, because most women are wider at hip level than higher up.  In 'Fine Sand', there are increases all down the front edges, to take account of that, and so the front edges hang more or less vertically.

I have made a couple of changes to the design.  There is short-row shaping in the pattern, so that the back is lower than the fronts, but I decided not to do that, and my cardigan finishes at the same level all the away round.  And I did several more rows of the garter stitch that runs all round the edge, to make a more definite band.  (I added an extra stitch in the casting off, at the points of the corners, to make them a bit more definite.)


So it's a very nice wearable cardigan.  The yarn, Wendy Ramsdale, is lovely - soft, a bit fuzzy, nice to knit with, and the colour is beautiful.  (Very hard to photograph blue accurately, as you can see from the variations in the photos, but it is a very nice rich blue with quite a lot of grey. The Thomas B Ramden website shows it better.)   The yarn is hand-wash only, so I shall have to be careful - on the other hand, it does split-splice very well, so there were only a few ends to sew in when I had finished knitting. Success!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Knitaway in Blackpool

Last weekend, I went to Blackpool for a knitting weekend with eight friends from the Huddersfield branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild.  It was great - we had a wonderful time.   Lots of knitting , lots of chatting,  and we were really well looked after by Paula Chew at the Westcliffe Hotel.   (Not to be confused with the Westcliff Hotel, Blackpool, which proclaims "we welcome stag and hen parties".)  

Paula runs knitting holidays where she provides workshops, yarn shopping trips and other knitty activities, but we did our own workshops.  Marie led a workshop on brioche knitting (a re-run of the one she did at the Guild Convention in July, since none of the rest of us had been to that one).  We worked through a small brioche project - either a cup-holder or a wrist-warmer.  Mine's going to be a wrist-warmer.

My brioche knitting, warming my wrist

Margaret taught us how to do entrelac, which I have not tried before. The project Margaret set us was a small pouch (for stitch holders, or whatever), though I haven't got mine finished.  I'm glad to have tried entrelac - I hadn't realised before that the individual rectangles are not square.  In the pattern we were following, they are 10 stitches by 10 rows, but stocking stitch is wider than it is long.  So the woven effect is partly because the rectangles don't want to lie flat.  Not a very profound observation, but something I didn't know until I tried it.

Entrelac in progress 

I did the third workshop, on slip-stitch patterns.  I had swatches of 8 or 9 stitch patterns, some in just one colour and some in two colours, swapping after every two rows, so that people could try any that they liked the look of. I had borrowed a linen stitch scarf from my friend Steph, with the colour changing every row, which looks wonderful. But although linen stitch can look very good, it is a lot of work - it is very compact and dense.

Linen stitch swatches and scarf

I also took my Old Moor sweater that I knitted four years ago, to show the bands of Woven Transverse Herringbone - another stitch that is a lot of work, but can look very good.

Detail of Woven Transverse Herringbone in Louisa Harding's Old Moor 

Some of the other stitch patterns I had found give a lovely thick soft fabric, and there are some nice effects in two colours.  Marie made a little bag (for her car keys?) in Slip Stitch Honeycomb - a very pretty pattern in two colours.
Marie's Slip-stitch Honeycomb bag

Slip-Stitch Honeycomb is one of my favourites, too - I wrote last week  about a test piece for a cushion, which in fact uses both sides of the stitch pattern.   One side looks better in two colours, but the other side looks better if you're only using one.  And I've made a lot of progress with the full-size cushion:

Slip-stitch Honeycomb cushion, in progress

 So we sat in Paula's lounge and knitted and chatted and were offered tea, coffee and food regularly.  And there are current knitting magazines to read, and knitting books everywhere. And Paula has a little shop at the front of the hotel, so that if you haven't got the right needles or need some nicer ones, or run out of yarn, they are right there for you.  (Four members of the party spent a lot of time discussing the Opal Yarns Advent Calendar in the shop, and finally devised an incredibly complicated way of sharing it, involving drawing lots for the individual days, setting up a Facebook group, and rendez-vous every week during December to pass it on.)

And to get the full sea-side experience, Paula sent us off to a fish-and-chip restaurant on Saturday night, Seniors in Thornton, which won "Best Fish and Chip Shop in the U.K." in 2012.   (I don't actually like fish-and-chips, but it does other fish dishes too which are very good.)

We didn't see very much of the sea, although the sea front is only 100 yards from the Westcliffe, but I did go for a walk along the promenade on Friday afternoon, and set foot on the beach - if you 're at the sea-side, you ought to go on the beach if you can.  It was almost empty, apart from a man fishing at the water's edge.  

And of course, the Blackpool Illuminations were on.  They have been an annual event for a long, long time - I remember seeing them when  I was a child.  There are 6 miles of them along the sea front, though I only saw a short stretch near the hotel, with some of the tableaux  - moving images made by light bulbs going on and off.  Some of them seem similar in style to the ones I saw decades ago, though I remember them being all in white, rather than colour.  

The Blackpool trams run along the sea-front, next to the tableaux, and one or two of the trams are also illuminated.

Illuminated tram

It's a very popular event  - quite odd, in these days of amazing CGI effects.  There are slow-moving cars driving along the promenade all evening, as well as people in the trams and walking.  (Although most of our party preferred to stay in the hotel with a bottle of wine, knitting.)

The promenade, with Blackpool Tower in the distance

Altogether, it was a really good weekend.  We are already planning next year's Knitway at the Westcliffe.  Thanks very much, Paula.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Adventures with Grannies

Yesterday evening, we had the monthly meeting of the Huddersfield Knitting & Crochet Guild branch.   The theme was "Adventures with Grannies" - Sarah Alderson, who is a member of the group, led a workshop on Granny squares.  And also Granny hexagons, triangles, circles, stars,....

I got a square completed, reminding myself of making things with Granny squares back in the 70s, and then made a hexagon when I got home.
They were satisfying to make, and it was a good evening, well-attended.   But I'm not sure I have the patience to make something with a lot of granny squares (or hexagons) any more - there are so many ends to sew in.

I also bought Sarah's new book, An Elven Reckoning, full of delightful knits (and models with pointy Elven ears).  

An Elven Reckoning, Sarah Alderson

I especially like the sweater shown on the cover, on the left, with a yoke in stranded knitting - it's called NĂ³rui, meaning Fiery.  Sarah was wearing it last night in different colours  (you can find a photo of it in Ravelry), and it looked really good.  (I think the sword and pointy ears are optional.)

Monday, 12 October 2015

Knitting a Cushion

On the train to and from Leighton Buzzard, I knitted a test piece in a slip-stitch pattern, for a cushion I'm planning for my daughter.  I have been trying out slip-stitch patterns for a workshop this weekend, when nine of us in the Huddersfield Knitting & Crochet Guild are going away.  To Blackpool! For a KnitAway weekend!  At the Westcliffe Hotel!  So exciting.  

Anyway.  I promised my daughter a knitted cushion for her bedroom, some time ago, and we agreed on a design, based on my slip-stitch swatches.  My test piece is a miniature version of the cushion, in the colours she chose.

I think it's promising. It feels very soft and comforting.  The edges of the centre square need tidying up, and the corners should be a bit squarer, but the point of a test piece is to see what's not quite right, so that's OK.   I have made a start on the full-size version.    More later, on  the weekend, the workshop and the cushion.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Fair Isle in Leighton Buzzard

I was in Leighton Buzzard (Bedfordshire) yesterday for the 'pop-up museum' on woolcrafts held in the town's library.   There was a display of work by local knitters and demonstrations of spinning, and a film from the 1970s about spinning in rural Ireland was running all day in the library theatre.

Knitted 'Fair Isle' cushions

Rose cardigan inspired by a 1953 pattern 
The event was sponsored by the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and I was there to give a talk on Fair Isle knitwear, based on items from the Guild's collection.  Actually two talks, or one talk twice (morning and afternoon), however you want to think of it.

I talked about the history of Fair Isle as fashionable knitwear, starting in 1922, when the Prince of Wales wore a Fair Isle sweater to play golf in St Andrews, and was later painted in a Fair Isle sweater (presumably the same one) for the Illustrated London News.

Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (King Edward VIII) 
published by Illustrated London News, after John St Helier Lander, 1925.
From the National Portrait Gallery Reference Collection, NPG D34119

I took a suitcase with seven pieces from the collection, ranging in date from the 1930s to around 1990 - some professionally knitted, including one that is authentically "Fair Isle made in Fair Isle", according to its label.  Others were made by knitters elsewhere, for themselves or their families, at times when Fair Isle knitting was popular - the late 1940s and the 1970s in particular.

1940s jumper  
Two waistcoats and a pullover, knitted from Patons pattern 1595 

Patons 1595, published 1970s 

It was a very successful day, I think - a lot of people visiting the library called in the see the display and/or the film, and both my talks were well-attended, with about 25-30 people each time - almost a full house.  And I got a quick look at Leighton Buzzard, which has a nice-looking town centre - including the excellent library and a very good yarn shop, Nutmeg Needlecrafts.   (Yes, I bought something.)

Thursday, 1 October 2015

French Knitting

Stitchcraft was a monthly magazine published by Patons & Baldwins that first appeared in October 1932.  In the first few years, the magazine had a Paris correspondent, Ann Talbot, who wrote every month about the hand-knitting and crochet in the models designed by the Paris fashion houses. (Not just sweaters and accessories - evidently a lot of the dresses were hand-knitted in the 1930s.)  I have been looking through her articles in the early issues of Stitchcraft in the Guild collection, for a piece I am writing for the Guild magazine.  In the May 1933 issue, a paragraph  on what Ann Talbot calls cotton-reel knitting caught my eye - it's what I used to call French knitting and we now call i-cord:
Old-fashioned tubular cotton-reel "knitting" is being enthusiastically revived in Paris at the moment. Charming accents of colour are achieved by trimming with this original handwork. Quite a brisk, military air is given to a navy woollen frock by the epaulette trimming of two rows of cotton-reel tubing, one red, the other white, along the top of each shoulder. Wool fringe in red and white is frayed out at each outer end of the tubes. Cuffs and necklines are effectively trimmed in this way, and belts of varying widths, depending upon the diameter and number of tubes used, give an unusual touch to sport coats and frocks. Striped and plaid effects are frequently worked into a tube, for both stripes and plaids are very much to the fore in the new collections. 
And here is Ann Talbot's drawing of two of the outfits, including the frock with epaulettes that she describes:

I think that the two rows of tubing above the elbow look a bit daft, actually, but never mind.

I explained here how we used to do French knitting using a cotton reel.  It's interesting that Ann Talbot calls it old-fashioned - and I wonder when it started to be called French knitting.  I-cord, which is instead knitted on a pair of double-pointed needles, produces the same effect (more quickly). Elizabeth Zimmermann gave it the name i-cord (for idiot cord, because it is easy to do).  She always claimed to have 'unvented' or re-discovered any apparently new technique (not because she knew of an earlier source, I think, but because she thought that it was impossible to invent an entirely new idea in knitting).   Several websites suggest that she did invent the technique of producing a cord on two needles, but Jean Greenhowe tracked down an early description in a book printed in 1856, in an account of how to knit stay-laces - see here.  So EZ did unvent the i-cord technique, rather than inventing it.  

Anyway, back to Paris in the 1930s.  I imagine that the cords decorating the two models illustrated are sewn in place.  These days, if we used i-cord around a neckline, it would more likely be knitted in place, e.g. by picking up stitches around the edge and knitting them into the i-cord.   For instance, Ann Kingstone's Wetwang sweater has applied i-cord at the top and bottom edges of the yoke.   In  spite of Elizabeth Zimmermann's nothing-new-in-knitting theory, I do suspect that someone invented applied i-cord, fairly recently - don't know who or when though. Any information gratefully received.
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