Tuesday, 2 March 2021

A 1940s Face

If you look at a lot of old knitting patterns and magazines, as I do, some of the models start to become familiar.  In a few cases, I can put a name to the face - for instance, Patricia Squires, who often appeared on the front cover of Woman's Weekly in the 1950s, modelling one of the knitting patterns in the magzine.  Some models are famous for other reasons - notably Roger Moore, who was a knitwear model briefly in 1952 before his acting career took off, and I have occasionally seen Joanna Lumley on 1960s knitting patterns.    But usually, these familiar faces are anonymous.

One of the models on 1940s knitting patterns is particularly noticeable because she usually wore her hair in a very distinctive heart-shaped style.  It reminds me of a medieval headdress (called I think a hennin, or possibly an escoffin).

Bestway 1480

She appeared on several Bestway leaflets in the late 1940s, and the hairstyle varies slightly, though her hair is always long, and almost always swept up.  (How would you get it to stay put without copious amounts of hairspray, which I'm sure didn't exist in the 1940s?)

Bestway 1326

Bestway 1685

She sometimes appeared on pattern leaflets for knitting wool brands such as Copley's.... 

Copley's 1579

.... La Laine, by Bairns-Wear .....

La Laine 2178

.... and Patons & Baldwins. The leaflet below was advertised in 1943.

Patons & Baldwins 875

She appeared in magazines, such as Woman's Weekly, too. 

Woman's Weekly, 6th February 1943

I kept seeing images of this woman, without knowing who she was.  But by chance, I found out some time ago, from a magazine in the British Library.   (This was of course in the Olden Days, when you could go to London for a few days and stay with friends. And visit museums!  And spend a day in the British Library!)  I've been collecting together some images of her since then, to show in this post.   

Woman and Home in July 1944 showed a photo of her wedding, with the caption:

"Do you recognise in this lovely bride the Joan Felce whom you have so often admired in our knitting pages?   Now you see her photographed with her bridegroom, Lieut. D. C. Nurse, of the Royal Marines - a handsome pair. "

Joan Felce must have been aware that her hairstyle had a medieval look, because it goes on to say: 

"The beautiful, medieval-style gown was designed by the bride herself, and she had it in readiness for three years awaiting the bridegroom's return from Overseas.  So this is a story of patience and faith with a very happy ending!"

We are also told: "Her bridesmaids were two fellow Service women from the W.R.N.S." - the Women's Royal Naval Service, or Wrens.  From the end of 1941, single women could be conscripted into war service, and many joined the women's branches of the Army, Navy and Air Force.  

I don't know how she managed to carry on with occasional modelling work while being a Wren. I assume that she was based in England - some Wrens would have been doing clerical work at the Admiralty in London.  She may even have been able to get leave, if modelling was considered important morale-boosting work, though that seems unlikely. In the summer of 1944, she appeared in a very appropriate feature in Woman magazine, which I found on the same visit to the British Library. It was a double page article "Woman plans a treat for a Service girl", and begins "When a Service girl comes home on leave she looks forward to a very special list of treats, her holiday aims are the little homely things which she can't get in Service life and which she hankers for all the more. She's been doing her part in the fight - let's see that the rest she so much deserves is the kind a Service girl would enjoy most of all."  In the rest of the article, Joan Felce is shown enjoying the prescribed treats - meeting her friends on the first evening, breakfast in bed, a picnic tea in the garden, a date with her boyfriend (though that wouldn't be possible if he was serving overseas, as Joan's fiancĂ© had been).   

Most of the pattern leaflets I showed earlier were published after the end of the war.  But I have not seen her on any leaflets published after the late 1940s, and I think that she must have then retired from modelling.  (Douglas Nurse had, happily, survived the war.)  I am pleased to have been able to put a name to one familiar face, though many others remain anonymous. 

Copies of all the patterns shown above are free to members of the Knitting & Crochet Guild - email collections@kcguild.org.uk to ask.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Leach's Newest Jumpers

 I don't know who Mrs Leach was, or if she actually existed, but a lot of magazine titles were published under her name. A monthly magazine called Mrs Leach's Fancy Work Basket was published from 1886 until (according to the British Library catalogue) 1910. The first issue is headed "Practical Lessons in Art Needlework, Crewel and Crochet Work, Knitting and Embroidery". (The first volume of the Fancy Work Basket is available online from here, though be warned that it's nearly 500 pages.)  

By the 1920s, other titles had proliferated, including Leach's Home Needlework (from 1915 to 1929) and Leach's Sixpenny Knitting Series (1920 to 1935).    I wrote about two issues of the Sixpenny Knitting Series here and here.

Leach's Newest Jumpers

There were also other publications under the Leach's umbrella that weren't issued as part of a series.  One of these, Leach's Newest Jumpers, is in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection and I have scanned it to create a pdf version for Guild members.  The jumpers in it were 'newest' in the early 1920s; the publication isn't dated, but I think it was published in 1921 or 22.  

It is always exciting when we can identify the pattern used to create an item in the Guild collection.  One of the favourite garments in the collection is a filet crochet  jumper with a design of butterflies worked on it, and we realised last year that pattern that was used to make it is one of the cover designs in Leach's Newest Jumpers. The yarn specified in the pattern is a mercerised cotton, though we have assumed that the one in the collection is in rayon. 

Butterfly filet crochet jumper

There are another ten patterns in the magazine - some knitted, some crocheted, some both.  The blue jumper on the cover is knitted in wool, though the colours suggested in the pattern are sulphur-yellow, with an edging of smoke-grey rabbit wool (angora) at neck and wrist. The description says that "Shetland shawl patterns are to the fore in the jumper world just now."  

It's not easy to see in the photo, but as well as the lacy basque, there is a panel of feather-and-fan just below the square neck, and the lower parts of the sleeves are done in the same stitch - the Shetland shawl pattern mentioned in the description.  It looks very effective, though I'm not sure how easy it would be to get an even tension over both stocking stitch and lace. 

The green jumper on the cover, with a "ribbed shoulder yoke", is also knitted in wool. The overall style is very unlike the others in the magazine, and unlike our usual impression of 1920s jumpers. The collar, cuffs and bottom edge are finished with a crocheted trimming in gold thread.  Although a crochet edging might look well on the collar (which is in single rib), I think on the bottom edge and the cuffs it would interfere with the stretchiness of the rib - and gold thread on a woolly jumper seems out of place.  

Of the other patterns, one I particularly noticed is partly knitted and partly crocheted, all in art. silk (artificial silk, or rayon).  

I think it's an attractive design, in a very 1920s kind of way, but I would hate to make it. Quite apart from the fact that I am not a crocheter, it requires making a lot of different pieces and sewing them together - I dislike any sewing up in my knitting, and prefer patterns that don't have any seams.   For this jumper, you have to knit seven strips of stocking stitch, shown in the diagram below. 

Then you make 6 strips of crochet.   (That's one fewer than the number of strips of knitting, because the crochet around the waist is only one strip, whereas for some reason the knitted basque is to be made in two pieces.)  Then they are all sewn together, and finally the crocheted strip around the bottom edge is added - mercifully this is crocheted directly onto the knitted basque rather than being made separately and then sewn on.   

One reason that I took special notice of this design is that it is very like a rayon jumper in the Guild collection, below.  

The crocheted strips with zigzags of bobbles are very similar indeed, but there are also some obvious differences.  The jumper in the collection has two extra pieces of crochet in the centre of the front and the back; an extra strip of knitting, with a narrow crochet edging, on the end of each sleeve; no crocheted edging on the bottom edge of the basque; and a drawstring waist.   Perhaps the similarity is just coincidental, and perhaps there was another pattern that is the original of the Guild jumper - there were many different needlecraft magazines being published at the time, and there might have been some overlap, deliberate or otherwise, between patterns in different publications.  But another possibility is that the person who made the jumper changed the pattern, perhaps to make it wider, with longer sleeves. And drawstring waists were so common in the 1920s that adding one is something that anyone following the pattern might have done. 

The final pattern that I have picked out is also a mixture of knitting and crochet, but much simpler.  I think it's an appealing design - it wouldn't look too odd today. 

The description is: "A simple model for the jumper novice who wishes to start upon an easy but none the less effective design.  Worked in jumper yarn [i.e. wool] of pale blue or champagne, it is indeed a covetable garment for holiday, home, and office wear. Note the square neck, the long sleeve, and the side opening in the crochet basque."   

For me, these are the most interesting designs in the magazine.  But members of the Guild can download the pdf of the whole magazine from the members' area of the website,  and decide for themselves. 

Monday, 8 February 2021


During the past year, while we've been at home doing not very much, I have been adding to my small collection of knitting needle gauges.  I now have half a dozen that are in the shape of a beehive, and were made for the spinners Patons & Baldwins.  I have known for a long time that the beehive was originally the trademark of the Baldwins part of the company, and this post pulls together some of the history of the trademark. 

J. & J. Baldwin was a spinning company set up in Halifax in the late 18th century - in 1785, according to their later advertising.  At some time during the 19th century, the company started to specialise in knitting wool, and began to use the name 'Beehive' for some of their wools.   

The first mention of Beehive wools that I have found so far is in an ad in the Liverpool Mercury in 1879.  The ad is for a shop, Frisby, Dyke & Co., who had just had their first delivery of J. and J. Baldwin's wools, including "The REGISTERED BEEHIVE SOFT KNITTING WOOL, put up for convenience of purchase in 2 oz. hanks."   Towards the end of the 19th century, J. & J. Baldwin started to advertise directly to knitters, in various needlecraft magazines.  They began to use Beehive as the brand name for all their wools, and to use a trademark showing a beehive.

Ad in Weldon's Practical Needlework, 1890s

The Beehive trademark with two bees and two Bs (presumably for Baldwins and Beehive) varies a little.  In most versions, there seem to be roses on the left of the beehive, and thistles on the right. But in some versions, like the one shown below, there also seem to be shamrocks below the hive, and some rather blobby flowers to the right which might be intended to be daffodils.  The flowers in that case would represent the four countries of the United Kingdom.

From an ad in The Lady's World Fancy Work Book, 1910. 

In 1920, J. & J. Baldwin and Partners merged with John Paton, Son and Co. of Alloa, to form Patons & Baldwins.  (You might feel that there should be some apostrophes in there, and I'd agree with you, but the name of the company was generally written like that.)   John Paton and Son was also a long-established company, though not as old as J. & J. Baldwin.  Its trademark was a hand grasping a rose, and Patons and Baldwins continued to use both trademarks until World War 2.  

The panel above, showing the Paton's rose and a simplified Baldwin's beehive, is taken from a 1930s pattern leaflet.    Both trademarks continued to be used on pattern leaflets until paper shortages during World War 2 resulted in a change of design so that leaflets could be produced in a much smaller size.  

Now to needle gauges.  Most of my information on needle gauges in general comes from Sheila Williams' excellent book, The History of Knitting Pin Gauges.  

I have two metal beehive-shaped gauges, one shown above.  Sheila Williams suggests that it might have been made to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the merger of the two companies, since it shows both the Patons rose and the Baldwins beehive.  But as both trademarks were used together from 1920 until WW2, I think it could have been issued at any time during that period.  

It's hard to show the detail of the design of the other metal beehive gauge in a photo, because it is shiny, so I'm showing instead the drawing in a Patons & Baldwins brochure, The Red Book, published in 1935.  According to The History of Knitting Pin Gauges, beehive needle gauges were mentioned in an edition of Woolcraft in the 1920s, but I haven't tracked that down yet. This design of gauge may have been in use for a long time in the 1920s and 1930s - it is certainly much more commonly offered on eBay than the other metal beehive gauge.  

From 'The Red Book', 1935. 

Patons & Baldwins evidently found the beehive shape appropriate for needle gauges -  perhaps inspired by the bell-shaped gauges that were very common.  But they were also adopting the beehive as the trademark for the whole company, and Beehive as a brand name for the company's wools, and for other products such as knitting needles.      

From Stitchcraft, March 1936

The other beehive gauges in my little collection were produced after the end of World War 2.  A new Patons & Baldwins trademark began to appear in ads during 1946: it has 'P & B' within the outline of a beehive.  

From Home Notes, September 1946. 

Here's a clearer version of the trademark, used on a placard to be displayed in a yarn shop. 

There are two different designs of needle gauge in plastic that show this trademark.  One, which I think is the earlier form, is the same shape as the pre-war metal gauge, but smaller, and measures the same range of needle sizes.   

 I think this gauge may date from the late 1940s, when the new trademark was first introduced.  

The other plastic gauge is smaller still, and the smallest size of needle that it measures is size 14 (2mm.).  This is also the smallest size measured by modern gauges, and is the finest knitting needle size commonly sold.  I would guess that this gauge dates from the 1950s. 

Those are the six beehive needle gauges that I have in my own collection - the two metal ones, and two each of the plastic designs.  Another object in the shape of the Patons & Baldwins beehive was introduced in the late 1940s - the Beehive wool holder. 

I wrote a post about the wool holder here.  The design was registered in 1948, and was probably in production for many years after that.  It has a needle gauge in the base, but I don't have one in my own collection, mainly because I'm only collecting gauges which  are principally needle gauges and not something else, like a knitting needle box. (Also, beehive wool holders are quite expensive - they are attractive objects, and evidently a lot of knitters would like to have one.)   The wool holder in the photo is in the collection of the Knitting & Crochet Guild.    

In the mid 1960s,  Patons & Baldwins changed their image again, and dropped the Baldwins name from their advertising and pattern leaflets.  But the beehive continued to be used as the Patons trademark.  Below, you can see it on a pattern leaflet with a Mary Quant design, published in 1965.    

Patons leaflet 9531


Patons still uses the beehive as the company trademark today.  I think it's remarkable that the beehive symbol on the label of every ball of Patons yarn has been used in its various forms since the 19th century.  And it commemorates a company founded more than two hundred years ago.  That's a lot of history in my beehive needle gauges.  

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Golden Eagle

Since last March, and the first UK lockdown, I have written very little on this blog. It's not that I don't have anything to say - the problem is summoning up the mental energy to say it.  And writing a blog post on some aspect of knitting history often takes quite a lot of work.  I'll try to do better this year (though it's already more than halfway through January!) but I shan't make any promises. 

 I'll start with a fairly easy post - lots of images, not too many words. Golden Eagle was a brand of knitting wools that was launched in the early 1930s, and I have been putting together an illustrated catalogue of the Golden Eagle knitting wools in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  The catalogue will go on the Guild's website, so that members who are interested in vintage knitting patterns will be able to ask for copies.  Here I have picked out a small selection.  

The leaflets issued by Golden Eagle were numbered consecutively, as far as I can see, starting  at 1. (You might think that that is the obvious way to number knitting patterns, but actually most spinners did something different, e.g. starting at 101 and restarting when they got to 999.)  The first one that we have in the Guild collection is number 16 - a sleeveless V-neck pullover, with cables.  

Golden Eagle 15

Although it's a common type of garment, the construction of this one is unusual - the back and front are knitted in one piece, starting with the front rib and finishing with the back rib, so that there are no shoulder seams. 

From the ads for Golden Eagle wools, there were some very attractive and interesting patterns published in the 1930s, but we have very few of them in the Guild collection.  Here's one (below), number 84,  for Golden Eagle "Hastenit" wool.  It was a thick yarn, knitted at a tension of 18 stitches and 26 rows to 4 inches (10 cm.) on size 5 (5.5mm.) needles - possibly equivalent to a modern Aran weight.  The collar effect is actually a yoke, edged with darker wool.  

Golden Eagle 84

Golden Eagle 483, c, 1939 

Another favourite pattern of mine is number 483.  I like the cables on the front, which I guess have a function in shaping the front as well as being decorative.  The collar and cuffs are knitted in a contrast colour, and the pattern gives instructions for long sleeves as well as short.  The pattern was published around 1938-9. 

Golden Eagle 549

The design in leaflet 549 is called "Seawaves".  The body and sleeves are knitted sideways - the waist rib is knitted first, and joined on as the rest of the body is knitted.  There are little curls ('pinwheels') of wool around the neck and sleeves, to look like waves - they are made by casting on extra stitches and casting off again 3 rows later.  I'm not keen on the design personally, but some people who have seen it like it a lot, so I shouldn't judge. 

Golden Eagle 604

Like most other knitting wool spinners, Golden Eagle produced patterns for garments for service men and women during World War 2.   Leaflet 604 has patterns for 'Knitted Comforts' for women - gumboot stockings, mittens, a 'great coat scarf' and a balaclava helmet.  I don't think it's possible to look good in a balaclava helmet with ear-flaps, but I'm sure it was very necessary and welcome at the time.   

Golden Eagle 691

Leaflet 691 is also a wartime leaflet, for a jumper with a lacy pattern on the body, cleverly integrated with a broad rib, which is used plain on the (long or short) sleeves. The leaflet was published after clothes rationing was introduced in 1941 - it has a headline inside 'Golden Eagle Knitting Wools Economise Coupons And Cash', which was used on their leaflets during the rationing period.  I think this one dates from 1943-4. 

Golden Eagle 910

After the war, Golden Eagle started to introduce colour leaflets, as many other spinners did - and the designs often incorporate colour work, to take advantage of the colour printing.  Leaflet 910 was advertised in Vogue Knitting Book in 1949.

Golden Eagle 892

Leaflet 892 was probably also published in 1949.  The design is called a "New Look" Jumper - presumably after Christian Dior's New Look introduced in 1947, though it is not much like the silhouette we usually associate with that, of rounded shoulders, tiny waist and full skirt.  I guess that the very full sleeves are the main 'new' feature - they are knitted in stocking stitch, using odd needles, one size 9 (3.75mm.) and the other size 3(6.5mm.).  

Golden Eagle 922

Meanwhile, the men were not entirely forgotten, though many of the men's patterns are for the ubiquitous V-neck sleeveless pullover, as in leaflet 16 at the top.  (I often wonder how many V-neck pullovers one person needs.) But occasionally there are designs for other garments for men - No. 922 shows a rather nice cabled sweater, a re-issue of an earlier design that had appeared in a leaflet for Service Woollies for sailors which was advertised in 1940.   

Golden Eagle 879

Golden Eagle also produced children's patterns, including this very cute coat and bonnet, with a design of blue rabbits - another of the post-war colour leaflets. 

Golden Eagle Couturier Model No. 1

In 1952, there was a batch of four 'Couturier Model' leaflets (though the couturier, if there actually was one, isn't named}.  I find this design rather disturbing, because there is so much knitting in it - a full-length, full-skirted  dressing gown in 2-ply!   I wonder if anyone ever knitted it - apart from the sample knitter, who was paid to do it.  The model, Patricia Squires, looks as glamourous as ever. 

Golden Eagle 1130

Other Golden Eagle patterns of the 1950s are less daunting.  Above is an elegant twin set from 1954-5.  The jumper is beaded, and the matching bolero has a deep beaded band around the lower edge. 

Golden Eagle 1240

The Golden Eagle brand seems to have been discontinued in 1957.  The last ad I have seen is for leaflet 1232, which appeared in Vogue Knitting Book in that year, and the latest leaflet in the Guild collection is number 1240 - quite a smart design, in a 1950s kind of way, even if it apparently makes you want to stick a bunch of flowers in your ear.

It seems that Golden Eagle knitting wool was in production for about 25 years - quite a brief life, compared to some brands such as Patons and Sirdar.  I'll perhaps write more about the history of the brand in a future post.  Meanwhile, if you are a member of the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and would like a copy of any the leaflets shown here, email requests to collections@kcguild.org.uk.  And you will be able to see the catalogue of other Golden Eagle leaflets in the collection in the members' area of the Guild website in a few weeks. 

Monday, 13 July 2020

Washing Socks

Back in February, I went to an exhibition, An English Lady's Wardrobe, at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.  It showed the clothes collected by a local woman, Mrs Tinne, between about 1910 and the 1930s.  It was an astonishing collection - she bought a vast number of outfits which she never wore, sometimes the same dress in different colourways, for instance. She had six children (as well as one who died as a baby) and some of their clothes were on display too.

Sadly (from my point of view), Mrs Tinne doesn't seem to have been much interested in buying knitwear, but I found it a fascinating exhibition even so.  And one exhibit did have a knitting connection: a pair of china feet, described as 'child's sock-dryers'.  They are of glazed earthenware, made by Wedgwood, with a factory mark that dates them to some time between 1907 and 1924. 

The catalogue description says 'Damp socks were drawn over them to dry out', so they were a laundry aid. Perhaps they would balance the other way up, to allow the soles of the socks to dry?  They were a bit baffling, and I had never heard of anything like them for drying socks. 

But then recently I found a reference to china feet for drying socks in an 1895 article in the magazine The Young Woman.  The article, by Mrs Elliott Scrivenor, gives instructions for washing knitted wool garments
"I want to give you a few hints with regard to washing any knitted garments or stockings. First, NEVER let woollen stockings or socks be boiled.  Many persist in this, and it shrinks the wool and thickens it.  They must not be worn sufficiently soiled to require such treatment. ..... Stockings must have soap, but the soap must be made into a lather with warm water, not hot; then wash them gently in the lather, after that wash in two or three waters, the chill just taken off the water, and block them to dry.  A block should be used for everything knitted.  You can now procure china feet for small-sized socks and stockings; other blocks are cut out of box or sycamore wood to the shape and size; they are about half an inch thick, with bevelled edges; the stockings are drawn over them, and left upon them to dry, and in the open air if possible."
So there is confirmation that china feet were used for drying children's socks.  I was interested too in the mention of blocks of wood for drying larger socks and stockings.  Mrs Scrivenor goes on to talk about washing other knitted garments, and says "If you have no block, cover a board with several folds of clean linen, and pin the work out upon it, taking care not to stretch it beyond its right size."  We still talk about 'blocking' a newly-knitted garment as part of finishing it, by wetting or dampening it and laying it on flat surface, adjusting it to the right size and shape.   But if the origin of the term 'blocking' is that blocks of wood were once used, that has been forgotten, as far as I am aware.  You can now buy 'sock-blockers', which are flat sock shapes of plastic or thin plywood, but they are called sock-blockers because they are used for blocking, not because they are blocks of wood.

Mrs Scrivenor also wrote a 'Collection of Knitting & Crochet Receipts' for Patons, then John Paton, Son & Co. Ltd. of Alloa (Scotland), already one of the largest knitting wool spinners in the country.  It was a comprehensive collection of patterns in a book of more than 280 pages, about 9½ by 7¼ inches (24.5cm by 18cm).  The 4th edition, which is in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, is dated 1909.  It is well illustrated with photographs, and looking at some of the children's sock patterns, I suspect that Mrs Scrivenor might have used Wedgwood china feet to pose them on, judging by the squared-off toes. 


But I wonder how practical they were for laundry. How many pairs would you need for each child?  Perhaps not many, even in a wealthy household - Mrs Scrivenor's advice that you shouldn't wear socks until they need boiling suggests that most people didn't change their socks very often. (Poor children probably didn't wear socks at all, and the poorest would have gone barefoot, but Mrs Scrivenor's readers would certainly have been able to provide their children with dainty socks and bootikins like the one illustrated.)  The china feet would take up quite a lot of room, especially in use when they would have had to be in an airy place to allow the socks to dry.  And they are breakable. A full list of the items in Mrs Tinne's Collection is given in the exhibition catalogue, and there is only one pair of china feet.  Perhaps the rest broke, or a single pair was tried as an experiment and not judged worthwhile?  I am not really surprised that they don't seem to have been in common use.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

The Viyella Knitting Recorder

Anyone who follows me on Instagram (@barbaraknitsagain) might have seen that earlier this month, I posted about a Viyella Knitting Recorder and Needle Gauge that had just arrived in the post.  I bought it on eBay, to add to my small collection of needle gauges.  In due course, I will probably give it to the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, but for now it's mine.

The Viyella Knitting Recorder and Needle Gauge

Viyella was a fabric woven from a blend of 55% merino wool and 45% cotton, introduced in the 1890s by William Hollins & Co., whose headquarters were in Nottingham.  In the early days, it was mostly sold as ready-made clothing, and knitted items such as gloves and jumpers were also advertised.  By 1922, Viyella knitting yarn was being sold directly to the public.   The Queen magazine, in November 1922, said:  
All who know the famous "Viyella" flannel — and who does not? — ought to know of "Viyella" knitting yarn. This, as the name implies, is exactly the same beautiful yarn as that from which the flannel itself is woven, and is, therefore, unequalled for lightness and dainty softness, combined with durability. 

The company started to publish pattern leaflets in the early 1930s, and also developed the "Knitting Recorder and Needle Gauge".  Mine says 'Patents Pending' on the drum; the patent was applied for in 1932 and granted in 1934 (Number GB408594). The patent was for 'Improvements in number indicating devices for the use of knitters, or use as a calendar or for scoring points in a game, or for like purposes.'  The applicants were the manufacturer, William Hollins and Co., and the man who was presumably the inventor, Horace Josiah Ball of Knowle Park House, Kimberley, Nottinghamshire.  In the 1939 register of the British population, Horace Ball is listed as a Typewriter Works Manager; he was named as an applicant on about a dozen other patents, for improvements to typewriters.

The photo above shows that, as the patent says 'numbers are engraved or stamped round the two ends of the cylindrical body in such a position that they are covered by the rims of the end covers, and each of the latter is formed with a single opening so disposed, that by turning the covers each will expose one number on the body at a time.'   The patent suggests that: 'The device may be used by knitters for recording the number of courses [rows?] knitted, and the number of stitches knitted in the last course, or other information respecting the progress of the work, when the latter is laid down, so as to obviate the necessity for counting when the work is taken up again.'  In fact, the numbers run from 1 to 24, which is not what you want in a counter: a counter should start at 0, and probably you would want the potential for counting more than 24 rows, too. 

The patent suggests that the gadget could also be a needle gauge: 'For the use of knitters, the end covers may be formed with a series of holes, which are graduated in size and are numbered so as to form a knitting pin gauge.'  The top of the recorder has holes for British needle sizes 1 to 7  (7.5mm. to 4.5mm.)  and the base 
(below) measures sizes 8 to 17 (4mm. to 1.4mm.). 

Base of knitting recorder, showing needle gauge

The recorder is about 4cm. in diameter and about 4cm. high, and made of steel (I tested it with a fridge magnet), and so is quite hefty, even though the cylinder is hollow.  Perhaps it's too large and heavy to want to carry around in your knitting bag, but it does feel very satisfying in the hand, like a worry egg.   

A Knitting Recorder exactly like mine was illustrated on the back of a Viyella crochet pattern (for a very smart jumper and matching cap) in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  The leaflet was advertised in April 1933.  

Viyella leaflet 144

The description of the recorder doesn't mention using it for counting rows at all. 'The left-hand figure is set on the number of increasings or decreasings to be made.  The right-hand figure begins at one, and is moved up one as each increase or decrease is made, until it reaches the same number.'   A novel idea, but I still feel that starting the count at 1 rather than 0 is liable to lead to errors.
Viyella Two-in-One Recorder, illustrated on leaflet 144
There is another version of the Knitting Recorder, with a drawing of two children on the drum. There are two examples in different colours in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection. 

Viyella Knitting Recorder, with children playing 

I think that this version may be slightly later than mine; although some of this type still say 'Patents Pending' on the drum, others give the patent number. 

Viyella Knitting Recorders are offered regularly on eBay, so they must have sold quite well originally.  But I suspect that they were only made for a few years in the 1930s - I am sure that production would have stopped during World War 2, when steel was a vital raw material.  My needle gauge is a very nice thing to have, even if it is (in my view) not much use as a counter. 

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Made in Abyss Socks

Time seems to be behaving very strangely under lock-down.  It seems to be passing very slowly - nothing much is happening, the days blur into one another.  And then I find that it's seven weeks since I last wrote a blog post.

I said in that post that I had nearly finished a pair of socks, and that I would write about them when they were finished.  Well, I finished them a few weeks ago.  (I can't remember when. It was in April.)  Here's the post I said I would write.

To go back to the beginning. When the weather turned cold at the end of last year, I got interested in knitting socks again, purely to keep my feet warm.  And I saw on Ravelry the 'Made in Abyss' sock pattern by the Finnish designer Tiina Kuu.  I liked the look of them - they have a band of little trees (?) in stranded knitting just above the ankle.  (The design is named for a Japanese manga series about a girl and a robot exploring a fearsome Abyss, though I don't know whether the trees have anything to do with the manga.)  I hadn't knitted socks with stranded knitting before, and I though I'd like to try it,  and the heel construction looked really interesting.  (You have to be a really serious knitter to choose a sock pattern for its fascinating heel construction, I think.)

I finished my first pair of Made in Abyss socks in February.  They are in Lang Jawoll sock yarn, in Toffee and Light Grey.  (Tiina Kuu suggests using five gradient-dyed miniskeins, but I think they look equally good in two solid colours.) 

And here's a view of the heel:

The pattern has two options for the heel, one with a gusset at each side of the ankle, and the other with a single gusset at the back. I enjoyed knitting the socks,a nd I liked the end result, so I decided to knit another pair, to try the other heel option.

I made a few other tweaks for the second pair, too.  I did the cuff in double rib, because it's stretchier and I prefer that. I changed the rib section below the band of stranded knitting, so that every round is knit 4, purl 1. In the pattern, alternate rounds are all knit, but I wanted to make that part of the socks slightly more stretchy, too.  I changed the foot part, so that the rib pattern is continued all the way to the toe, because I preferred the look of that.  And finally, I did a spiral toe instead of a conventional toe with a grafted end because I hate grafting.  I did graft the toes on the first pair of socks, but I didn't make a very good job of it.  Really, I much prefer knitting socks toe-up, and it's partly to avoid grafting.   

So here's my second pair of Made in Abyss socks.

The colours are the same Light Grey as before, with Charcoal. I do prefer these to the first pair, just because of the changes I made to suit me, but I like both pairs a lot.

The Lang Jawoll is very nice wool - good to knit with, and it comes in a huge range of colours.  However, each ball has a spool of matching reinforcing thread in the middle.  The idea is that you can knit the heel and toe of your socks using the wool and the reinforcing thread together, so that the socks will last longer. This is supposed to be a bonus. I have tried using the reinforcing thread in an earlier pair of socks, though I decided that it's unnecessary and fiddly.  But even if you want to use it, I don't think you need as much as one spool for a pair of socks, and you get two. (A pair of socks takes two balls of Jawoll, and so you get two spools of reinforcing thread.)   It's wasteful, and the thread is wound onto a plastic bobbin - even if you have a use for all the thread, you're left with waste plastic. Regretfully, I shan't be buying Jawoll again, for that reason.
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