Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Olympus and Olympiada

I haven't written anything here for weeks - apologies.  We were on holiday for most of May, first in Romania, then, after a few days back home to unpack, do the washing, and repack, to Greece.  Since we got back from Greece, I've been catching up on all the things that didn't get done while I was away, as well as all the things that have accumulated since.  I am never going to get around to writing about Romania (though it was a very good holiday), so we'll forget about that.  But I'll show a few photos of our Greek holiday. 

As usual, we went with Gareth of Naturally Greece - this was our fifth holiday with him.  (There should have been one more, but we couldn't go the year I broke my wrists.)    We flew to Thessaloniki and then transferred to a lovely hotel, Ktima Bellou.  It's west of Mount Olympus - the top of one of the mountain's peaks is just visible from Ktima Bellou over the range of hills across the valley.

From there, we did some walks on the lower slopes of Mount Olympus, including part of the gorge from Prionia to Litochoro. There was snow on the bare slopes of the mountain, while the surrounding hills are forested.

We visited the archaeological site of Dion, near Mount Olympus, and its museum. Dion was a religious centre in ancient times, for the worship of Zeus and other Olympian gods  - and gods from elsewhere such as Isis.   (Much of the visible remains are from Roman times,  and the Romans were very broad-minded about adopting other people's gods.) 

The frieze of armour and shields that decorated the Roman basilica at Dion
For the second half of the holiday, we went to Olympiada, on the Halkidiki coast, and stayed at the Hotel Liotopi.  We did some more short walks and did a boat trip along the coast of the Mount Athos peninsula to see the monasteries - from a distance, as the boats have to stay a distance of 500m. from the shore (I think to avoid any possibility of women contaminating the place). And we visited Amphipolis, a huge archaeological site scattered over a large area.  The most impressive thing we saw there was the huge Amphipolis lion, which has been reassembled from fragments.

(Note the dog lying at the foot of the monument.  Greece seems to be full of dogs with nothing to do - at least this one has a role in providing a scale for the lion.)   It's thought that the base of the monument was much bigger, and there are lots of fragments left over, to one side of the site, so I can believe it. 

We visited several other areas of Amphipolis, including a large early Christian basilica, with re-used columns from earlier buildings, and some nice mosaics.  I especially liked the octopus.

We went to the excellent museum at Amphipolis, too, where one of the treasures is the silver ossuary with a gold wreath, which held the cremated remains of Brasidas, the Spartan general who defeated the Athenians in 422 BCE in a battle at Amphipolis, but was wounded and died shortly afterwards.

 If I understood the label correctly, the ossuary was found on the site of the museum in the archaeological dig carried out before it was built - which is about as unlikely as finding the body of Richard III in a car park.

I think that Greece had a very cold spring this year, so the spring flowers were very late.  By the end of May they would usually have been over, but there were flowers everywhere. At Ktima Bellou, we did a short stroll in the meadow next to the hotel and found lots of different flowers, identified for us by a friend of Gareth's who is very knowledgeable about plants.

The archaeological areas of Amphipolis were very pretty, with masses of poppies and other flowers.

We did a walk along the beach near Olympiada and found several kinds of specialised seashore plants - this is sea bindweed.

Throughout the holiday, we had very good food at every meal.  Ktima Bellou does wonderful organic food, much of it grown by the family, and Loulou at the Hotel Liotopi does regular cookery demonstrations of some of the dishes on the menu at her brother's restaurant where we ate every evening.

I don't like to think that I am so shallow and greedy that delicious food is an essential part of a good holiday, but sadly I find that it's true.  Since we got back we have been trying to recreate some of the dishes we had in Greece.  We have mastered spanakopita, and I'm working on a dish of roasted aubergine with walnuts and feta.  I don't think I'll ever cook octopus tentacles though.

Now, back to knitting.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Mrs Roe, Mrs Cooper and Mrs Edwards

In the last post I wrote about Marie Jane Cooper's New Guide to Knitting and Crochet, published in 1847.  In trying to find out more about Marie Jane Cooper's life, it was at first much easier to find out about her father and his Royal Marine Library in Hastings than about her mother.  But more searching eventually led to a story of three generations of women keeping Berlin wool shops, from the 1820s or 30s until the 1880s.

Mary Jane (as she is named in the records) was born in 1827, in London (St Pancras).  In the 1830s, the family evidently lived in France - from later censuses, at least three further children, Frederick, Augusta Elizabeth and Walter were born there (probably in Boulogne, which is specified as the birthplace of one of the children in one of the censuses).

At that time, it was cheaper to live in France than in England, so I surmised that it was financial difficulties that had caused the Cooper's to move to France. And in fact, there is some evidence for that: at the end of 1829, a partnership was dissolved between Nathan Chopping & Joseph Sidney Cooper, who had been japanners in London.  (The name Cooper is common, but the combination Joseph Sidney Cooper is distinctive.)   That suggests that their business was in some sort of trouble, which could account for the Cooper family leaving for France.

The Coopers moved back to England to settle in Hastings in about 1839.  (I have an idea about how that happened which I will mention below.)  Joseph Cooper had the Marine Library at least from October 1839, when an announcement of the death of another daughter, Ann Maria, appeared in the local newspaper.  From 1839 on, the family's finances appear to have been secure.

Associated with the Marine Library was a 'Bazaar', which seems to have been the "Foreign and British Depot of Berlin Patterns and Materials for Ladies' Fancy Works" mentioned on the title page of Marie Jane Cooper's book.  The title page gives the strong impression that Mr Cooper ran that part of the business as well as the Marine Library, and an ad in 1840 was placed by 'J. Cooper of the Old Established Bazaar and Royal Marine Library'.  But I am certain that the Bazaar was Mrs Cooper's domain.  In the 1841 census, Joseph is listed as 'Librarian' and Anna Maria as 'Toyshop Keeper' - though the layout may be intended to suggest that Joseph Cooper had both roles and Anna Maria was (just) his wife.  (In the same census, Isaac Hope and his son George Curling Hope, who kept a Fancy Repository and Berlin wool shop in Ramsgate at that time, are described as 'Toymen' - 'toy' seems to have included fancy goods and general fripperies such as Berlin wool.)

The Marine Library's main function was of course as a library.  An ad in 1840 gives a table of subscription fees, for periods ranging from one week up to one year, and for one person, two people or a family.  Newspapers could be borrowed for a week, for a shilling (5p) and subscribers could borrow up to two volumes at a time.  After Isaac Hope took over the Marine Library, he advertised it as "The largest reading room in the town, remote from Street Traffic, and having a splendid Sea View."   I imagine that it catered mainly for visitors to the town.  As well as a lending library, it seems to have provided a comfortable place to meet people, read the latest books and view the sea - a very useful amenity on a British seaside holiday, when good weather is not guaranteed.

In Ross's Guide to Hastings and St Leonards, published in 1847, there is a full page ad for the Marine Library.  (The British Library copy of the guide is available from Google Books).

It gives a comprehensive description of the Library's facilities:
This Library will be found the most commodious in Hastings. The leading Journals of the day lie on the table, as well as all Periodicals of merit; comprising, the Edinburgh Review, Quarterly, New Monthly, Blackwood, &c.  Road Book, Gazetteer, Court Guide, Maps, Dictionaries, &c.
J. S. COOPER has on sale every description of articles in Stationery, useful and ornamental. The Library consists of works of Biography, History, Divinity, Poetry, the Drama, Novels, Romances, &c.
A large assortment of elegantly-bound Books, Albums, Blotting, Bible, Prayer Books, Church Services, Pietas, &c., much under the ordinary charge. Periodicals supplied on the day of publication. Writing Desks and Work Boxes at reduced prices. 
In addition Mr Cooper offered pianofortes for sale or hire, and "Bagatelle Tables, Telescopes, Globes, Guitars, Backgammon Boards and Chess-Men."  He was also a local agent for the Western Life Assurance Society, and offered information to "Visitors in want of Houses or Apartments", so acted as a kind of Tourist Information Office.

The ad in the 1847 Guide goes on to describe the Berlin Wool Depot (again without mentioning Mrs Cooper):
 Adjoining the Library, is the old-established German and Berlin Wool Depot, at which will be found the largest assortment of Wools, Canvasses, Finished Needle Work, and Netting Silks, Tassels, Cords, Ivory Work from Paris and Dieppe, and a great variety of other articles for the Work Table, &c., imported direct from the Continent.
I think that Marie Jane Cooper must have worked in the Berlin Wool Depot before she published her book in 1847, and it seems much more likely that Mrs Cooper ran that side of the business than that Joseph Cooper ran it as well as the Marine Library.  And in fact I eventually found solid evidence for that.   This report appeared in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer in 1879:
Mrs. Anna Maria Cooper, another old inhabitant, died on the 15th inst. at her residence, Walland's Lodge. She was the widow of the late Joseph Sidney Cooper, Esq., and mother of Major de Brabant Cooper. She was a daughter of Mrs. Roe, of whom I had knowledge as far back as 1824, when she kept a fancy repository adjoining the old warm baths in the Fishmarket.  Mrs. Roe afterwards removed to a more prominent position at 1, East-parade, and at her death, her daughter, Mrs. Cooper, carried on the repository in connection with Cooper's Library, the latter superintended by her husband. Mr. Cooper, on retiring from business, invested some of his capital in the erection of the first houses on the east side of Warrior-square, to which, for a time, was given the name of Belgravia. He was a man of refined taste; and, as an active member of the Mechanics Institution, his services were conspicuously valuable when the said Institute in 1853 held an extensive and unique exhibition at the St. Leonards Assembly Rooms.  Mrs. Cooper survived her husband's death a considerable number of years. and at her own death had attained to the age of eighty-one.  It is but a few weeks ago that the old lady called on me, specially, as she said, to say Good bye! and to wish me and my family well; as, in all probability, it would be her last opportunity.  This mark of respect from one who was apparently in her usual health, but who was destined so soon to quit an earthly sphere, seems now to possess a peculiar significance. 
I think that Mrs Roe's death enabled the Coopers to return from France and take over her business.  A Mary Roe, born in 1772,  was buried in Hastings in June 1839;  this may be Mrs Cooper's mother, and the dates fit.  It may be significant that Joseph Cooper always refers to the Bazaar and Berlin Wool side of the business, but not the Marine Library, as 'old-established' - he may have set up the library when the family arrived in Hastings, while Mrs Cooper carried on her mother's business. But I believe that Joseph Cooper owed a lot of his subsequent prosperity to his mother-in-law and his wife, even though he never mentioned either of them in his ads.

In 1849, the Hope family moved from Ramsgate and took over the Marine Library and Bazaar.  Presumably, Joseph Cooper made enough money from the sale of the business to live on comfortably - in the 1851 census, he is listed as a 'Proprietor of houses'.

Meanwhile, what happened to Marie Jane Cooper, the starting point of this story, after she married John Edwards in 1847?

I said in the last post that in 1851, the Edwards were living in New Street, Birmingham, where Marie Jane was a Dealer in Fancy Goods and Berlin Wool.  John Edwards was a bank clerk, which was probably his occupation before they were married.  Also in the household were two children, two shop assistants, and two general servants.

In 1858, an ad in a local Birmingham newspaper announced that Mrs John Edwards was moving to different premises within New Street, probably because the business, and the family, had grown too big for the old building.  The business is described as 'Berlin, baby linen and outfitting, and fancy repository.'  By the 1861 census, there were eight children in the family.  48 New Street was their home, as well as the shop, and there were five shop assistants living there, as well as two servants.  John Edwards was still a bank clerk, but his occupation is also given as 'Berlin & Fancy repository', whereas Marie Jane's occupation is being his wife - which is annoying as the 1858 ad shows that she was the proprietor, as well as being mother to eight children and managing seven live-in staff.

The Edwards eventually had twelve children:
Annie Marie, 1849
George Joseph, 1850
Lizzie Augusta, 1851
Helen Constance, 1853
John Sydney, 1854
Catherine Blanche, 1856
Arthur Frederick, 1857
Ernest Walter, 1859
Herbert Alfred, 1861
Beatrice Mabel, 1864
Frank Percy, 1865
Hugh Leslie, 1867
(Just reading this list makes me feel tired.) I have traced seven of the children in the 1871 census; Hugh, the youngest, died before he was two, but I don't know whether the others had died, or I just can't find them.  (Researching a family with a common name like Edwards is not easy, and I know that I have missed a lot of the family's history.)

The Edwards carried on the business at 48 New Street for another 20 years, though by 1871, Ann  Ellis, one of the shop assistants, had become the manager, which perhaps allowed Mrs Edwards to slow down a bit.  And by 1881, they had downsized the business considerably, though still living in part of 48 New Street with their youngest daughter Beatrice, two shop assistants and two domestic servants.  Ann Ellis and her sister Frances, who had also been living as a shop assistant at 48 New Street,  had set up in business as Ladies Outfitters elsewhere in central Birmingham. 

 In 1882, a notice appeared in the Birmingham Daily Post to say that Mrs John Edwards was retiring and selling off her remaining stock.  She was by then 55, and it may be that John Edwards had recently died, though I have not been able to find any evidence of the date of his death.  By 1891, she was living in Hastings again, a widow, with her daughter Beatrice.  She was living on her own means, so the business in Birmingham had evidently been successful enough to provide funds for her retirement.  I think that she returned to Hastings in the early 1880s because her brother was living there with his family.  He was the grandly named Major Frederick Sidney de Brabant Cooper, mentioned in the 1879 report above about their mother Mrs Cooper - he was evidently a well-known public figure in Hastings.  

I don't know when Mary Jane died, though I can't find her in the 1901 census, nor any indication of what became of Beatrice.  But I think it's worth celebrating the fact that three generations of women made a successful business from selling Berlin wool: her grandmother Mrs Roe and her mother Mrs Cooper in Hastings,  and herself in Birmingham.  They contributed to the popularity of knitting as a leisure pursuit for Victorian ladies.  And Marie Jane Cooper added to the literature on knitting and crochet available to these Victorian ladies.  For modern knitters and crocheters, it is her book, published in 1847, that is her main achievement, but probably for her it wasn't an important part of her life compared to setting up a successful business in Birmingham, and running it with her husband for over 30 years, while raising a large family.  She must have been a tremendously energetic and capable woman - very far from the stereotypical image of a Victorian lady.  

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Miss Cooper's Guide to Knitting and Crochet

In the 1840s, a large number of books on knitting and crochet were published in Britain, to cater for ladies who were taking up these crafts as leisure activities.  Some of the authors who were writing in the 1840s continued to write books in the following decades - Jane Gaugain, Mlle Riego de la Branchardiere, Mrs Mee,...  Others wrote several books in the 1840s and then stopped.  And others wrote just one book and then seem to have disappeared from view.  Penny Hemingway has written about several of the more prolific authors in recent issues of The Knitter - here I'm writing about one of the last group: Marie Jane Cooper.   Her New Guide to Knitting and Crochet was published in 1847, and as far as I can tell, it was her first and last book.  (The Bodleian Library copy is available online from Google books.)

I wanted to find out more about Marie Jane Cooper because the title page of her book shows that it was published by J. S. Cooper of the Royal Marine Library in Hastings - and I had already heard of the Royal Marine Library in another context.  A few years ago I was looking into the Hope family, who were also writing and publishing books on knitting and crochet in the 1840s.  The Hopes moved to Hastings from Ramsgate and took over the Marine Library from Mr. Cooper.

Title page of the New Guide to Knitting & Crochet

Mr J. S. Cooper was obviously related to Marie Jane, and the title page describes his business as "Foreign and British Depot of Berlin Patterns and Materials for Ladies' Fancy Works", as well as the the Royal Marine Library.  So it was evidently not just a library but a needlework and knitting wool shop - what was then often called a Berlin wool repository.  (Berlin wool was wool from merino sheep, imported from Germany.)

So who were J.S. and Marie Jane Cooper?   Joseph Sidney Cooper was Marie Jane's father.  She was probably the eldest child of Joseph and his wife Anna Maria.  The Coopers were in Hastings from around 1839 onwards - Mr Cooper ran the Marine Library and Mrs Cooper the associated Berlin wool repository.

Mary Jane Cooper was only 20 when the New Guide was published in 1847.  She had probably worked in the 'Bazaar' side of the Marine Library for a few years by 1847, and in that case would have been very familiar with some of the books on knitting and crochet already published, and with what the lady visitors to Hastings wanted to make.  Even so, it seems extraordinary that a 20 year-old should have the confidence to write her own book, in competition with all the others.  In her preface, she says:
"I venture to publish THE NEW GUIDE TO KNITTING AND CROCHET, believing it will prove both instructive and amusing to those Ladies, whose taste leads them to such pursuits. The Authoress being practically acquainted with these Arts, she warrants them correct, and trusts they will meet with a favourable reception by the Public, and be found a useful appendage to every work-table.
HASTINGS, January 1847."  
The book has about 50 knitting patterns and about 20 crochet patterns.  There are only three illustrations, which makes judging them a bit difficult.  I have only looked at the knitting patterns, not being a crocheter.  Many of them are patterns for fancy stitches, and it is up to the knitter to use them in an complete article, but as well as those there are patterns like "A very handsome mat", "A bag to hold wools" and so on.  One of the patterns is for a Shetland shawl, and I tried a small swatch of the centre stitch pattern to see what it looks like.  Here's the complete pattern, so that you can see something of her style:
Shetland wool, and No. 4 pins; about one hundred and sixty stitches; cast on any number of stitches that will divide by six. First row—bring the wool forward, knit one, wool in front, knit one, slip one, knit two as one; bring the slipt stitch over, then knit one. Second row—purl knitting. Third row—wool forward, knit three, wool forward, slip one, knit two as one, and cast over. Fourth row—purl knitting. Fifth row—knit one, slip one, knit two as one, and bring the slipt stitch over, and then knit one, make one, knit one, wool forward. Sixth row—purl knitting. Seventh row—slip one, knit two as one, and cast over, make one, knit three, make one. Eighth row —purl knitting; there are to be two plain stitches at the beginning and end of each row, to form an edge; take up the stitches on each side, and knit the border in the feather pattern, increasing one stitch at each end of the rows, to form the corner. 
It's reasonably clear: she doesn't use abbreviations, and she uses 'purl' and 'knit' as we do now.  (Authors in the 1840s used several different words for purl, such as 'seam', or spelt it 'pearl'.)  It was slightly confusing at first that she uses 'bring the wool forward', 'wool in front', and 'make one' interchangeably to mean 'yarn over'.  And it could be very annoying if you were actually knitting a shawl, and cast on 'about 160 stitches', choosing a number divisible by 6, and then found after the eight rows of the stitch pattern that you should also have two extra stitches at either side.  But I had already planned a border all round my swatch when I read that part of the instructions.

Here it is, unblocked and knitted in 4-ply cotton rather than Shetland wool:

( I really don't like sewing ends in, and when I'm only knitting a swatch to try out a stitch pattern, I don't bother.)

From the swatch, I recognised it as a pattern I have seen before.  I think it was a well-known stitch pattern in the 19th century, and we have an example in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection on a pincushion.

This is the underside of the pincushion - the other side has a more elaborate pattern, and has had to be mended (probably in Victorian times) because the pins have broken the threads. This side, protected from the pins, is in perfect condition.

Following the first publication of the New Guide to Knitting and Crochet in January 1847, 2nd and 3rd editions were advertised in local papers around the country in August 1847 and April 1848.  So it seems to have been a reasonably successful work.  But meanwhile, on 1st June 1847, Mary Jane Cooper married John Edwards of Aston in Warwickshire, now part of central Birmingham.  There's no clue as to how they met, but the family evidently had Birmingham connections - John Sidney Cooper was born there. She moved with her husband to Birmingham, and by the 1851 census she had set up in New Street as a Dealer in Fancy Goods and Berlin Wool (and had two children).  But she didn't write any more books, as far as I can find out.

In the next post, I'll write more about the family history, and three generations of businesswomen, including Marie Jane. 

Thursday, 25 April 2019


I have mentioned that the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection has moved to a new home - we have now been based in Slaithwaite for two months.   You might like to see some photos of the village.

First, a photo of Britannia Mill, where the collection is now housed.

Like many other buildings in Slaithwaite, it is built from the local sandstone, and (as the name suggests) it was originally an industrial workplace.

Slaithwaite is in the Colne Valley, about 5 miles from Huddersfield.  The River Colne runs from Marsden, at the head of the valley, and on to Huddersfield and eventually joins the River Calder.  At Slaithwaite, it is not a very big river, only a few yards wide.

But in the distant past, it made a steep valley, and in the Industrial Revolution provided enough water power for mills to be established along the river.  There are several huge mill buildings remaining, like the one in the centre of the photo above.  Some have been converted to other uses, some are awaiting renovation, and a few are still used as mills.  The most notable example in Slaithwaite, for knitters, is Spa Mills,  the home of Stylecraft yarns and of Yarn Stories. Spa Mills, built in 1907,  is the huge building in the centre of the photo below.  (Notice the fine array of sheds in the foreground.)  The centre of Slaithwaite, including Britannia Mill, is off to the left of the photo, which also shows houses high up on the side of the valley opposite.  Historically, in this area, mills occupied the land in the valley bottoms, and the mill workers lived on the valley sides, which are often very steep.

A few yards away from the River Colne in the centre of Slaithwaite is the Huddersfield Narrow Canal -  you can see how narrow it is in places from the photo below.

The canal runs from Huddersfield, up the Colne Valley to Marsden, where it goes under the summit of the Pennines by way of Standedge Tunnel, more than 3 miles (nearly 5 km.) long.  The canal continues to Ashton-under-Lyne where it links with the rest of the canal network.

The canal was built to transport goods, of course, and several of the Slaithwaite mills were built next to it, but its use for commercial traffic declined until it closed in 1944.  It was re-opened in 2001, and now it only sees leisure traffic.

Here's another view the canal, showing one of the canal locks, and Spa Mills in the background.

The re-opening of the canal has made a huge difference to Slaithwaite, I think.  There are many independent shops and cafes in the centre, a favourite being the Handmade Bakery and Cafe - it's alongside the canal and sells delicious bread, baked on site.

It's an exciting place to work.  I'm still exploring it - this week I found Spa Park, across the canal and river from Spa Mills.  Slaithwaite did at one time have a mineral spring whose water was claimed to be good for you (presumably the spring still exists somewhere, in fact) and a spa based on the spring.  The River Colne runs alongside Spa Park, looking very rural, although it is so close to the village centre.  According to an information board in the park, kingfishers can be seen on the river near there.  I hope that's true - I have never seen a kingfisher, so it would be thrilling to catch even a glimpse of one. I'll report back if I do.

PS I forgot to mention that Slaithwaite has a train station.  The Colne Valley has been on several important cross-Pennine routes at various times, including the canal and the A62 Manchester-Leeds road (though that is now superseded by the M62). And the Manchester-Leeds railway line runs through Huddersfield, up the valley to Slaithwaite and Marsden.  There are trains from Slaithwaite to Manchester and Leeds, and from there connections to the rest of the rail network.  For most people, the collection is now more accessible than it was at our old site.   

 The railway line runs high above the centre of the village on a viaduct, visible in the first photo of Spa Mills.   Here's a photo of a train on the line, well above the Colne Valley Leisure Centre below. 

Monday, 22 April 2019

Woollen Stockings

I was looking through some Stitchcraft magazines in the Knitting & Crochet guild collection and came across this striking image of disembodied legs walking downstairs.

Very surreal.  (The apparent tear in the bottom left corner is actually part of the image.)

Model legs like these are still used in shops selling tights and stockings (e.g. John Lewis) so the only question is how the legs were positioned like that.  It is a very bizarre illustration for a knitting pattern though.

The legs appeared in the January 1941 issue of Stitchcraft, more than a year after the start of World War 2 as far as Britain was concerned.  There were bombing raids against British cities every night that winter, though there is little mention of that in the magazine.  But the bombing must have exacerbated fuel shortages (through damage to gas mains, for instance) so keeping warm must have been difficult. Hence Stitchcraft's pattern for knitted stockings.

The introduction to the the pattern says:
"Who would ever have thought that in the year 1941 we should be wearing good warm woollen stockings? Yet so it is, and what fun they are—as dotty and amusing as can be. Gather up all the bright odds and ends of wool you can lay hands on and set to work. By this time you will have had good practice at turning heels after knitting all those socks for the forces, so you should have no qualms about making a good job of these." 
This implies that before the war, women didn't wear woollen stockings.  So what did they wear?  There were silk stockings, but they were expensive and not very warm, I should think, so what did ordinary women for everyday wear in the winter?   

Back to the pattern.  The stockings are knitted on two needles, except for the toe, which is knitted in the round and then grafted.  The leg and top of the foot are knitted in one piece, with a seam up the back of the leg.  The heel, sole and toe are in a different colour in the illustration and are knitted afterwards, with a seam along each side of the instep.  The construction means that it would be easy to replace the foot part of the stocking when it wore out.

The diamonds on the legs of the grey stockings are knitted in a combination of intarsia and stranded knitting.  The blue pair have embroidered clocks either side of the ankle.

There are several other knitting patterns in the magazine, including the jacket on the cover.

Stitchcraft magazine, January 1941.

There are patterns for two "Service Woollies", a sleeveless pullover for a woman, and a polo-neck jumper for a man.
Woman's WW2 Service Woollie 

Man's WW2 Service Woollie

There are a few other 'civilian' knits too, including this pretty jumper in a openwork design.

Although Stitchcraft was a Patons & Baldwins magazine, so its main focus was on patterns using P&B wools, it had a cookery page at that time as well.   And in January 1941, the cookery editor addressed air raids directly, giving recipes for fillings for sandwiches to take into the shelter:

Air raids, unpleasant as they are, offer a good opportunity for an enterprising and valiant woman to show the stuff she is made of. For there is no doubt about it that a little light refreshment does help to pass the time while a raid is going on. Some people are spending a considerable time in shelters, and the packing of a provision basket may need a little thought. There is not only one's own family to be considered, for it is surprising how soon one gets to know people in a shelter, and the offer of a sandwich may prove to be the start of a pleasant friendship. Even in the lower regions of your own house, you will find yourself popular if you can produce something unexpected in the food line. Speaking for myself, I try to see that there is always soup ready in the larder, for this is a great restorative when one has gone through a time of strain. In our cellar we have a shelf on which I keep two small saucepans, a spirit stove, bottle of methylated spirit, matches, tin opener, cardboard plates, unbreakable cups, Oxo cubes, Ovaltine, and so on, and it is only a matter of moments to heat soup or milk. We find time goes much more quickly if we have a little meal to take our attention off the sound of planes or bombs. Another tin holds bars of chocolate, and every morning I make a thermos full of coffee, and this we drink, raid or no raid. So here are a few suggestions, some suitable for a picnic meal in an outside shelter, others for use in one's own house. Some good sandwich fillings to start with, as the useful sandwich certainly leads the way in popularity. 
It was a terrible time, we shouldn't forget.

There is an edited version of the magazine on the Knitting & Crochet Guild website (only the pages with the knitting patterns - if you'd like to try the liver and parsley sandwich filling, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed).  Guild members can access it by going to Membership, then Pattern Downloads, then Stitchcraft Magazines and Booklets. 

Friday, 19 April 2019

A Fascinating Check

I haven't posted anything here for a while, so I'll try to catch up a bit in the next week or so.  I have been busy over on Instagram, though, where I have been showing some of my favourite patterns from the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  There's a lot of choice - over 50,000 pattern leaflets, not to mention booklets, magazines, etc.   So I don't think I need to restrict myself to just one favourite or just a few - I can have lots, why not.  

Yesterday's Instagram post showed a Copley's pattern from the 1930s.

1930s vintage knitting
Copley's leaflet 331

I wrote an earlier post about similar Copley's leaflets here - the designs are quite appealing, but what I really like is the fashion advice on the front of the leaflet from one of two "fashion advisers", Lady Georgiana Curzon and later the Countess of Chester. In leaflet 331, Lady Georgiana tells you why you should knit this cardigan:   

COPLEY'S FASHION ADVISER says : "Our old and tried friend the cardigan .. how could we live without it ? On the golf course or the moors, in the car or on foot, smart women still cling to that classic style. It modifies slightly with fashion; it raises or lowers its vague indication of a waistline, it alters the number of its buttons, or its length. And it still remains the smartest and most comfortable sports woollie of all. Here is to-day's version; simple, subtle, in a stitch that gives a fascinating check and a Copley wool that will stand up to endless wear and washing. No matter what colour your skirt, you'll find the most perfect match or the smartest contrast among the superlative range of Copley colours." 
All of which still applies, though I suspect that even then golf was a minority interest for women - but it had the right upper class ring to it.  And I think that when Lady Georgiana mentions the moors, she has in mind grouse shooting.

I was intrigued by her description of  "a stitch that gives a fascinating check", because in the photo of the cardigan, it looks like some sort of rib.  So I looked at the instructions, and it's not any sort of rib, or any stitch pattern I have met before.  I knitted a swatch to see what it looks like:

Here are the instructions (not exactly as they appeared in the pattern - I've rewritten them in a way that makes more sense to me).

On an even number of stitches:
Row 1: K1, (yarn over, K2) to last stitch, yarn over, K1.
Row 2:  P1, (drop the yarn over of the previous row, purl the 2nd stitch on the left needle but leave it on the needle, then purl the first stitch, drop both stitches off the needles together) to last 2 stitches, drop the yarn over of the previous row, P1. 

So it's much more like stocking stitch than a rib. The yarn-overs make little ladders separating the columns of pairs of stitches twisted together.

I found it a bit tricky to knit, especially at first. The knit rows are easy, but purling the second stitch on the left needle was quite difficult, especially as I was knitting with my vintage Double Century needles which have rounded tips.  I switched to a sharper KnitPro needle for the purl rows part way through, and that was much easier. I also found that I needed a lot of left-elbow room for that step, so it wouldn't be suitable knitting for a train journey.  (I never need much right-elbow room when I'm knitting with straight needles, because I have the right needle tucked under my arm.)

I wouldn't describe it as a check pattern, but it gives a very nice effect.  It's quite loose - for me, it's looser than stocking stitch, so you would have to be careful of gauge. 

The swatch also gave me an opportunity to try out a ball of Yarn Stories 100% merino DK.  It's a worsted-spun yarn, spun in Yorkshire (in fact, in Slaithwaite, where the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection is now based).  So it's very smooth and gives great stitch definition, ideal for a swatch like this.  And it feels gorgeously soft.  I'll be planning a project to use it some time soon, I'm sure.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

A Cashmere Lace Scarf

I have just finished (well, actually a couple of weeks ago now) a beautiful scarf in Yarntelier Cashmere Lace.   

 I got the yarn from Louisa Harding's studio in the Byram Arcade in Huddersfield, along with the pattern.  The design is Olena, and it makes a scarf so light and airy that one 50g. ball of yarn makes a good sized scarf (mine is about 135cm. x 25cm.).  

Louisa intended the scarf to have beads in the lace for the first few pattern repeats at each end of the scarf:

But I'm not a beaded scarf sort of person, so I left those off.  I also didn't do the picot cast on, though I did try it - I couldn't make it look neat, so just did a regular cast on.

The lace pattern is really beautiful.  It's not one that I know, but could well supplant Print o' the Wave as my favourite lace stitch. 

I did a lot of the knitting in public, i.e. in the various knitting groups that I go to, but that wasn't a very good idea.  I made a few mistakes in the lace. the worst being near the beginning when I had to unravel about 15cm., which at that point was more than half of what I had already done.  I did think about leaving it, because I thought that no-one else would see the mistake, which is probably true. But I am very glad that corrected it, because now it's perfect.  I made a few more mistakes, but I made sure to check more often, so correcting them wasn't such a big deal. 

Louisa promised that washing the finished knit, to get the spinning oil out, would make a huge difference - the cashmere would 'bloom'.  And she was right - it felt quite soft while I was knitting it, but now it is delightful.  Very soft, warm, and light, and the colour is gorgeous too - not quite solid, a lovely grey-blue.  I love my scarf.
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