Back in 2014, the volunteers working on the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection had a week of concentrated work trying to sort out the hundreds (or thousands) of knitting needles that had been given to the collection but weren't at that point organised in any way. We called it Hook and Needle Week, but in fact we didn't get beyond the straight, single-pointed needles until much later. The photo gives you an idea of the task we were faced with.
During the week, one of the other volunteers decided to try to put together a set of needle brands for every letter from A to Z. It wasn't quite possible, but almost. This September, I gave a talk on the collection at the Guild Convention weekend, and showed an A to Z set of needles as part of the talk. I have decided to similar needle alphabet here.
A is for.... Actually, lots of needle brands, the most obvious being Aero - still the most common brand if you look at the knitting needles on sale in charity shops, although new Aero needles have not been on sale for many years. But here A is for a much rarer brand, Anlaby.
Although it is almost invisible, the needles have ANLABY REGD. 4 engraved or stamped into the plastic, and then filled with some sort of ink or paint that has almost worn off. It is white on pink, anyway, so can't have been very obvious even when new. Anlaby was a brand of knitting wool in the 1930s - I only know that because we have two Anlaby pattern leaflets (not in very good condition), one shown below.
D is for Duralite. The paper label reads Shrimpton's Duralite, so this was a brand name of Alfred Shrimpton & Son, a long-established needle manufacturing company in Redditch. The needles are coated aluminium.
|Duralite needles, size 13, 10 inch|
They have a flattened area towards the head, embossed with Duralite on one side and the size on the other. There are Duralite crochet hooks in the collection, too, which are marked in the same way.
I know nothing about Ezeenit needles. We have a single needle in the collection, along with a very discoloured pair - the photo shows both ends of the single needle. It is rather soft plastic, which makes it very bendy, though in its favour, it is clearly marked.
|Ezeenit needle, size 9, 12 inch|
Flora MacDonald was a brand name of Abel Morrall Ltd., needle manufacturers in Redditch. The name was originally used only for sewing needles, but then applied also to these unusual knitting needles.
Flora MacDonald needles, size 7, 12 inch
The needle is only the stated size (7, i.e. 4.5 mm.) for a short length (about 4 inches) at the pointed end, the rest is much thinner. Oddly, the narrow part of the needle is steel, while the thicker part (and the head) are some other (non-magnetic) metal. Possibly it is an aluminium alloy, since knitting needle ads sometimes claimed that pure, uncoated aluminium could discolour knitting wool. A size 7 needle entirely in steel would be heavy, as well as liable to rust, but I don't know why the Flora MacDonald needles were not made in the aluminium alloy throughout - as Stratnoid needles were, for instance. It seems a bit of a gimmick - and I don't think that Flora MacDonald knitting needles were current for very long.
The name Flora MacDonald name is stamped into the head of each needle. The thicker part of the needles is stamped with the size, and a registered design number, 703016, which dates it to 1924.
|Registered design no. 703016|
The only pair of Golden Spinning Wheel needles in the Guild collection are a slightly translucent yellow (or gold) - I assume in reference to the name.
I searched for "Golden Spinning Wheel" in the newspapers in FindMyPast, and found a few ads for the shops of John Smith & Co. (Wools) Ltd. from the 1920s and later. Further searching found this article on the company. The main shop was evidently in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow, though later there were shops all over Scotland, and in England too. The Sauchiehall shop had a golden spinning wheel as its shop sign. The shops sold knitting wools, as well as ready-made clothing, and many other things as well. I don't know for certain that these Golden Spinning Wheel needles were made for sale in the John Smith shops, but I think it's very likely.H is for Hella. (You would think that it would be fairly easy to find knitting needles brands beginning with H, but this is the only pair in the Guild collection.) The needles are metal - not steel, so I guess an aluminium alloy. I don't know anything else about them.
|Hella needles, size 10, 12 inch|
|Ivoree needle, size 7, 12 inch|
To represent J, I have chosen Jaeger needles.
|Jaeger needles, size 7|
The Jaeger company started selling knitting wools in the 1930s, along with pattern booklets produced in association with Leach's, who published many needlecraft booklets at that time. I wrote about one of the Jaeger pattern booklets in the collection here. The lettering on the needles dates them to the 1930s as well.
K is for Kirven. No idea about these.
|Kirven needles, size 8, 12 inch|
Ladybird needles are white plastic, like several of the other plastic needles shown here. We only have one pair of Ladybird needles, so I don't know if they were made in other colours too.
|Ladybird needles, size 5, 12 inch|
As well as the paper label, the needles themselves are marked, not very clearly.
I searched (as usual) in the newspapers in FindMyPast, and found a couple of ads from 1935 mentioning Ladybird needles. The ads were for Anchor Tricoton knitting & crochet cotton, but had a footnote in small print reading 'Always use Milward's "Ladybird" Knitting Pins and "Archerite" Crochet Hooks.'
I think that our Ladybird knitting needles are the ones mentioned in the ads, though Milward's was one of the big needle manufacturers based in Redditch - making plastic needles would have been a significant departure for Milward's at that time.
In the 1960s and later, there was a Ladybird brand of knitting wool associated with the Ladybird children's clothing made by the Pasold company, but I'm sure our needles are not from that time.
I've just mentioned Milward's and we next have Milward Disc needles for the letter M.
With M, we have finished the first half of the alphabet. That's enough for one post - I'll finish the A-Z in the next.