Sunday, 15 July 2018

Knitted Lace at Parcevall Hall

My friends Ann Kingstone and her sister Marie ran a Yorkshire Knitting Tour last week (finishing today). It was based at Parcevall Hall in upper Wharfedale - a 17th century manor house, extended in the 1920s, when a terraced garden was made.  

Parcevall Hall

On Friday, I went there with a suitcase of 19th century knitted lace from the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, to show to the knitters as an introduction to two days of lace knitting workshops that Ann was going to teach.

A couple of the things I took to show the knitters have already appeared on this blog, like a pin-cushion cover in print o' the wave stitch (or leaf and trellis, as Victorian knitters would have called it).   Here's a small selection of the other things I had in the case.

I showed another knitted lace pin-cushion cover, this one with its pad inside.  It's suffered some damage from the pins and has been mended, possibly in Victorian times.


Two Victorian knitted samplers had been specially requested, and caused a lot of interest. As did Captain Tweedie's splendid nightcap.

Knitted Victorian lace


Many of the Victorian pieces in the collection are mats, covers or doileys of various kinds, including this very finely knitted mat.


The basic design, with a sort of four-petalled flower in the centre, is very common, but there are many variations.  It is often used for bedspreads, made up of lots of squares knitted in thick cotton - it isn't usual to see it knitted in very fine cotton.

I had time for a walk around part of the garden, which is open to the public.  And it rained!  (Rain doesn't normally merit an exclamation mark in a British summer, but this year, it hasn't rained for weeks.)  The hillside across the valley was covered in cloud - though the fields were yellow-brown when they should have been green, because it has been so dry.


The garden is a series of terraces stepping down the slope, with wide views across the valley.  But looking along a terrace gives a much more enclosed feeling.


At the back, part of the building was built directly on top of a huge lump of exposed bedrock - which then had a rock garden planted in it.


An interesting house, and a beautiful garden - and evidently an ideal place for a week's knitting holiday. The knitters were very enthusiastic, and keen to examine the things I had brought.  It's great to be able to show pieces from the collection to an appreciative audience, and I really enjoyed joining the knitting tour for half a day.  Ann and Marie are planning to run it again next year, so hopefully I will be back.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

At the Convention

Last weekend, I was at the Knitting & Crochet Guild's annual convention, this year at the University of Warwick.

2018 is the Guild's 40th anniversary, so of course we had a birthday cake.


Because of the anniversary it was a very special convention. Sasha Kagan, who is one of the Guild's patrons, gave the keynote speech.  Another speaker was Pauline Turner, a founder member of the Guild, a pioneer of crochet, and the 2018 inductee into the Crochet Guild of America Hall of Fame.

We had half-day workshops on Saturday and Sunday, led by Guild members.  Another of our patrons, Debbie Abrahams, taught a workshop on finishing techniques.  I didn't manage to get to that - there were a lot of enticing workshops on offer.  On Saturday, I did a workshop on making a tiny version of Elizabeth Zimmerman's baby surprise jacket, either crocheted or knitted.  The idea was that after trying it out on a small scale, we would be able to make a bigger one, maybe with some variations. Here are the ones we made in the workshop - mine is the one at the bottom.



The workshop I went to on Sunday was on Estonian colour work knitting, taught by Rachel Lemon. Here is the sample I knitted (finished off on the train home, so if I got anything wrong at that point, it's because Rachel wasn't on hand to consult).


It was fascinating - very unlike other stranded knitting I have tried, because it has a lot of texture from using purl stitches.  The bands of stranded knitting are separated by braids, too (narrow raised bands of knitting) - I was particularly intrigued by the vikkel braid, which is the band of navy and white arrowheads pointing to the right, towards the bottom.  Difficult to grasp at first, but OK with some help.  Impossible to imagine how anyone could invent it.

My  workshop knitting was sort of intended to be one of a pair of cuffs or wristlets, but it's not good enough for that - it's just a practice piece. (Also, it's very difficult to get my hand through, which is rather a disadvantage for a cuff.)  I do intend to explore Estonian knitting further though. 

Kaffe Fassett is also a patron of the Guild, and although he wasn't available, he did send a lovely stole knitted in Kid Silk Haze, to be raffled.  And on Friday, before the start of the convention proper, Brandon Mably taught a one day workshop on using colour.  I attended it and it was amazing - I've never been very adventurous about putting colours together, and the workshop led me to look at combining colours in a different way.  Brandon showed me that startling colour mixes can sometimes work very well, and may not appear at all startling from a short distance.  And sticking to 'tasteful' and safe colour combinations risks looking just dull.

Here's the swatch I knitted in the workshop:


The first poppy, at the bottom, seems a mix of soft yellows and greens, but in fact one of the yellows, picked by Brandon from my neighbour's collection of wools, is a really bright lime yellow. In the mix with the other colours, though, it perks them up without being overwhelming.  Further up, there's a bright blue among the dark shades that has a similar effect.

Here are the swatches that the workshop participants knitted during the day, still on the needles at the end of the workshop. (Mine is the one at the top left.) It was wonderful to see the beautiful results that everyone produced.


This is an approach to using colours that I really want to explore more - it feels so exciting. Unfortunately, as a side-effect, it did also make me feel like buying lots of different colours of wool, immediately.  So I'm not quite sure yet how to proceed.  Because I don't need more wool.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Anna's Adventure

I found this nice rhyme, illustrated with cartoons, on the back of one of Patons & Baldwins monthly update lists.  It warns knitters of several mistakes to avoid in washing wool (using boiling water, using too strong a soap solution, not rinsing it properly, and then putting it through the wringer). 



Here's the text:
ANNA'S ADVENTURE
Three weaknesses of Anna Rees
Were knitting, sleep, and toasted cheese;
Quite harmless, singly, you will find,
But catastrophic when combined.
Let me relate the striking manner
In which this fact was proved by Anna.
This girl, who should have known much better,
Worked, once, till midnight on a sweater
Then, such was her pernicious habit,
Promptly devoured a large Welsh Rabbit,
Exclaimed, "My word! How late it's got!"
Undressed, and sought her little cot. 
The words, "The prisoner in the dock"
Aroused her with a nasty shock,
And, first of many such surprises,
She found herself in the Assizes,
Which were, though this sounds rather steep,
Completely organised by Sheep.
Trying to look her modest best,
Though quite inadequately dressed,
Like Botticelli's Aphrodite
(Except that Anna wore a nightie),
She turned to her escort—a Ram—
And said, "Please tell me where I am."
He answered roughly, "Stow yer jaw,
This 'ere's a Court of Knitting Law,
And you are charged, me pretty stranger,
With Washing to the Public Danger.
The sheepish Justice of the Fleece
Cried, "Let this idle chatter cease!
Please call Detective Sergeant Jupp."
Whereat a melancholy tup
Rose and intoned, "Me Lud, I caught 'er
Washing hand-knits in boiling water;
After this criminal ablution
In saturated soap solution,
Before I'd time to raise a finger,
She passed them through a wooden wringer,
With just a bare pretence at rinsing.
I think you'll find the facts convincing,
She'll have her work cut out in quashing
This gruesome case of Wanton Washing.
In expiation of her sins
She should be bound to knitting pins
And steeped in yellow soap—for ever."
Anna exclaimed, "Me Lud, I never . . ."
With such a penetrating scream
It roused her from the painful dream.
But all the same it made her think,
For now her woollies never shrink. 
The monthly updates were sent to yarn shops, I believe, to notify them of the latest P&B pattern leaflets.   We don't have many of them in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection - most yarn shop owners would not keep them for very long, I guess, and so they have probably only survived by chance.  They are not dated, but I think that this one was issued in November 1946. 

I don't know what yarn shop owners were supposed to do with the rhyme - I think that P&B also used it in magazine ads aimed directly at knitters, so I suspect that it was just a filler for the back page of the leaflet.  It's very entertaining, though I don't know how necessary it was - I would have thought that knitters would have known not to treat woollen garments so harshly.  But maybe one or two would not - and better to be told this way than to find out by ruining something that had taken hours of work. 

Thursday, 28 June 2018

More Tools and Gadgets

A few weeks ago, a long-standing member of the Knitting & Crochet Guild sent a small group of tools and gadgets as a donation for the Guild collection.


There are only seven items in the donation, but five of them I had never seen before.

The "Carnell" needle for blanket making (at the top of the photo above) is a hook for Tunisian crochet, which can be extended, up to about twice its original length, by attaching one or both of the extra lengths of metal tube.  We have  a Carnell needle in the collection already, but this one has a rolled up set of patterns in the box, and the box is in better condition too.

Robin Silk Winder

The Robin Silk Winder is, I guess, made of some sort of pre-WW2 plastic, and would have been used for artificial silk knitting yarn - like the Felix the cat winder I showed here.  And we have a child's dress in art. silk and angora, knitted to a Robin pattern, so it's nice to imagine the silk winder being used to make the dress. 


Viyella needle gauge and row counter 

The Viyella knitting needle gauge and row counter is a small barrel-shaped object (surprisingly heavy) with the gauge holes in the ends.  We have one in the collection already, but it's useful to have an extra one that we can take to trunk shows, and let people handle it and work the counter.

ORCO Handee Gauge

ORCO Handee Gauge - U.S. Pat, 3,068,580

The ORCO Handee gauge is a patented American gadget with a sliding pointer for (I suppose) more accurate measurement - according to the patent, dated 1962, it's designed for both sewing and knitting. (Not sure yet how it ended up in this country.)

The "Little Dorrit" Triple Knitting Counter

The "Little Dorrit" Triple Knitting Counter is not one we have in the collection already, although we have other similar row counters made of card.  (I don't know why it's called the "Little Dorrit" - was she a knitter?  I could find out by reading the book, but I shan't.)  This kind of row counter seems very flimsy to me, but in fact, the pointers still work perfectly well on this one, even though it seems to have been well used.

The Wimberdar 'Positive Row Counter'

The Wimberdar 'Positive Row Counter' is a much more substantial gadget. I think it's called a positive counter because you can only change the count if you're positive that you want to do it - unlike a lot of counters where there is a wheel to turn or a pointer to move, and it could easily be done when you weren't intending to.  The Wimberdar counter has two discs with the numbers on inside the case - one counts single rows and has the numbers 0 to 9; the other counts 10s of rows and is numbered 1 to 14 (plus a blank, showing in the photo).  You change the count by inserting the end of a (fairly fine) knitting needle into the hole at the left of the window at the top, and move it to the right of the window.  When the units disc has got to 9, the hole at the left of the window is lower down, and coincides with a hole in the 10s disc, so that you move both discs at the same time.   (Hope that's clear.)  It's very clever.  There's a leather case to go with it, too.  I kind of feel that I want one, but in fact, I know that I wouldn't use it - I'd rather count rows by making pencil marks on a piece of scrap card than use a row counter.  Though if I had a really nice one like this....

'Dont Lose Your Wool' yarn holder
Finally, and my favourite, is a yarn holder in a leather case. There is a bangle to go round your wrist, made of some sort of plastic, and hanging off it, are two wooden balls that go into the middle of your ball of wool.  Thus:


The piece of wire is a bit springy, so you can compress the two balls together, to push them into the  ball of wool, and then the wire springs apart to hold the wool firmly.

I have never seen another yarn holder of a similar design, and there's nothing on the holder or case that gives any clue to who made it - the only writing is 'Dont lose your wool' on the case. A really clever design, even though they don't appear to know about apostrophes.

A very nice little group - we are very grateful for the donation.   The yarn holder will be part of a trunk show for the Lincoln branch of the Guild on Saturday.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Pattern leaflet designs

It's been four weeks since my last post - in the meantime we have been on holiday on Greece, for two weeks,and it always takes me at least a week to catch up with life when I get back.  We had a wonderful time, with Naturally Greece, visiting two of the islands, Ikaria and Samos, and then after the official end of the holiday we had a few days in Athens.  Maybe I'll post some photos later. Maybe not.

Now I'm back to work on the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.   Yesterday we were sorting a box of Patons & Baldwins patterns, and found this pattern for gloves and mittens - there were several copies of it.  It was published around 1950, I think.

Paton's leaflet 652

It looks at first glance as though the people in the photo are looking at an important document - perhaps architects on a site visit, looking at the plans for a building.  Or maybe engineers looking at the blueprints for a new jet aircraft.  Definitely something significant.

But when we looked more closely, the drawings on the paper are nothing like that.


Here's one that I have made clearer - it's a cartoon of a small girl who has tied up her father (?) and laid him across the model railway so that she can run over him with the train.  And the gloves in the pattern are children's, so it looks as though they are considering whether or not this is a feasible plan.

Whoever designed the covers of Patons pattern leaflets at that time evidently thought that straightforward illustrations of gloves would be too boring.  The next two leaflets were also glove patterns.  Leaflet 653 has a surreal illustration of four gloved women's hands bursting though a page of The Times.

Paton's leaflet 653

And leaflet 654 shows (the hands of) three men poring over a street map. One of the men has the inevitable pipe.  The image looks slightly sinister somehow, as though they are planning a bank robbery.

Paton's leaflet 654

Patterns for other types of clothing usually have more straightforward leaflet illustrations, though not always.  Leaflet 694 shows the model buried up to her waist, like a scene from a Samuel Beckett play.

Paton's leaflet 694

The glove patterns must have sold well - copies turn up over and over, and leaflet 652 was reprinted at least once, with the same cover illustration.  But I think I have only seen one copy of leaflet 694, in the Patons archive, though the jumpers are perfectly nice (in a 1950s way), it's a useful pattern with several options, and the bright colours are attractive.  Perhaps the idea of being buried up to the waist spoilt its appeal.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

A 1946 Jumper

A recent donation of assorted publications to the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection included several patterns from old magazines, including one from a magazine I had never heard of: Weekly Welcome and Woman's Way.  


1940s vintage knitting pattern; clothes rationing
Weekly Welcome and Woman's Way, March 30th 1946.  

It was an issue from 1946 - number 2493, so it was a long-lived publication already.   Fortunately, the British Library knows all about it.  It was first published in 1896, as Weekly Welcome, so 1946 was its 50th anniversary.  It had a brief change of title to Woman's Welcome, in 1939, then changed to Weekly Welcome and Woman's Way and stuck with that until 1955, when it reverted to Weekly Welcome.  It was incorporated into My Weekly (which is still current) in 1960.

With the rather tatty cover is the pattern for the cover jumper - a slip-stitch design in three colours: light coral, dark coral and brown.  I think the cover photo has been re-coloured from a black-and -white photo, because the background colour is a definite red rather than 'light coral'.  I guess that the red was chosen because there was already red in the masthead and other cover text.  Never mind - it's a pretty jumper, and here's the pattern in full:


The yarn specified is 3-ply super fingering - only 4 oz. (about 100 gm.) of the main colour.  Clothes rationing was still in force in 1946, even though the war was over, so women couldn't afford to use much wool in knitting a jumper.  But even though it sounds like a very fine yarn, it's knitted on size 11 (3mm.) needles for the rib, and size 8 (4mm.) for the rest.  Perhaps a modern 4-ply (fingering weight)  yarn would work - you would have to knit a swatch and match the stated tension.  You would also have to adjust the sizing, probably: it's written for only one size (34 in. bust) and is very short, although that is easy to change.

So if you'd like to knit a 1940s (but not quite war-time) jumper, or like the look of the slip-stitch pattern, you could try it.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Fascinating Crochet Hooks

I know that for most people, the words "fascinating" and "crochet hooks" don't naturally go together, but bear with me. Early crochet hook designs are very varied - the handle gives a lot of potential for decoration, and there are some ingenious methods of combining two (or more) hooks with only one handle, and ways to protect the ends of very fine hooks.  I am not a crocheter, except very occasionally, and I'm especially not a crocheter with the size of hook that you can barely see, used with thread no thicker than sewing thread. But even so, I do find many of the crochet hooks in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection fascinating.

And last week, at our usual Thursday morning knitting session, a friend brought several things to give to the collection, including these 15 crochet hooks.  In case you think they look interesting too, I've written about some of them below.





Many of these hooks are late 19th or early 20th century - I've been looking at Nancy Nehring's website here, which gives a lot of information on the history of crochet hooks.

First is a 19th century hook (rather rusty, as early steel hooks are liable to be).  It has a patent number (4439) on the sheath.  I can't trace the patent, though Nancy Nehring dates it to 1888.  I imagine that the patent was for the idea of including a tubular sheath (top) that can fit over the hook to protect it, when it is not being used, and otherwise can fit over the other end to form a handle.



Another early hook also has a tubular sheath - brass in this case.  There are two hooks of different sizes, and the sheath can fit over either to form a handle.  Nehring attributes this hook to John Shrimpton and Son (here).




In the next one, the hook is attached to a flower-shaped slider so that it can be retracted into the handle.  (But there is nothing to hold the slider in place, when the hook is in use, so this may not have been a very successful design in practice.)




The next, with a handle made from a loop of wire, is hook by another Shrimpton, Z Shrimpton & Co.  It has two hooks of different sizes, that can pivot in the middle.  The brass slider can be moved (to the left, in the photo) to hold the hook that's not being used within the handle.



And here are two later hooks - the design was patented in 1911.  They look identical, but one is called the "Evelyne" and the other the "Eclipse".  They are like a flattened version of the first hook I described - there is a sheath that either fits over the hook (top), or can form a handle (bottom).  By this time, the idea of having a flattened grip had been introduced, and very quickly seems to have become almost universal for metal crochet hooks.


There are three hooks in the donation that aren't steel.   Two are bone, and the same design. One of them is marked 'Bates' - an American company that still makes crochet hooks.  I think the different coloured ends are to show at a glance the size of the hook (at least once you know that dark blue means size 1 and light blue means size 5).


And finally, I think that the hook below might be ivory.  It is a very uniform colour, whereas bone tends to develop brown marks with age, and it feels much smoother and denser than the bone hooks.



Altogether, it's a diverse and fascinating collection, just by itself.  Thanks very much, Debbie.
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