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.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

The Vintage Shetland Project

My copy of Susan Crawford's mammoth new book, The Vintage Shetland Project, arrived last month.  It was a lovely surprise - I ordered it at the end of 2015, I think, but publication was delayed because Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer and then going through some horrible treatment.  I had had updates saying that it was about to be published, but actually I had forgotten all about it by the time it was delivered.  It is huge - nearly 500 pages.  There are 27 knitting patterns in the book, based on vintage pieces from the Shetland Museum.  They are gorgeous - mostly Fair Isles, but some lace too.  And there is a lot of background information on the original pieces and the history of Shetland knitting through the 20th century. A lot to read (and a lot to knit) - I have only dipped in so far.

One chapter that has caught my attention so far is on Pattern Appropriation - the 'borrowing' of Shetland designs by commercial companies, especially in the 1950s.  One of her examples is a shawl that Kate Davies wrote about in The Book of Haps: it appeared in a Patons & Baldwins pattern leaflet, number 893, published in 1951 or 1952.  According to the leaflet, the shawl was 'designed by Mrs A. Hunter of Unst'.  The original shawl was bought from Mrs Hunter by James Norbury, chief designer for Patons & Baldwins, and is now in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.

Patons & Baldwins leaflet 893

It proved a very popular pattern, and the leaflet was reissued several times over succeeding decades.

Another example of appropriation illustrated in The Vintage Shetland Project is a pattern leaflet, also by James Norbury, that was free to readers of the Daily Herald newspaper. 

Vintage knitting pattern leaflet, 1950s
Man's Fair Isle Pullover, from the Daily Herald 

The leaflet was offered to readers in September 1952, and the article describing it makes clear that the pattern was copied from a Shetland original:  "To find fresh ideas for his designs, Norbury, the Herald and T.V. knitter, makes regular trips to knitting centres here and on the Continent.  His latest discovery is [this] authentic Fair Isle pattern...  This design has been knitted in the Shetland Islands for over 100 years.  Norbury first saw it when he judged the famous annual Shetland knitting competition in Lerwick recently.  He brought the pattern back to London and worked out an easy-to-follow pattern chart.  It is a challenge to all knitters who know the feeling of achievement to be had from making a garment in Fair Isle."  The model for the pullover is named as Michael Howard (no, not that one) - apparently a famous radio comedian at the time.

As with Mrs. Hunter's shawl, the pattern was based on a pullover that Norbury bought on Shetland, and the original pullover is now in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.

Original pullover from Shetland 

The card with the pullover reads "Shetland Man's Pullover. This is a modern design incorporating the 'Seed of Life' and 'Star of Glory' patterns."  At some time between James Norbury's purchase of the pullover, and its arrival in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, it was put on display with this label. 

It's clear from comparing the pullover with the Daily Herald leaflet that Norbury shortened the pullover, to be more in line with 1950s men's fashions.  He also modified the construction method - the original Shetland pullover is knitted in the round, but in the leaflet the front and back are to be knitted separately, with seams at the sides. But the colours of the original are copied exactly: five natural fleece colours, from white to dark brown, with navy, dark green, yellow, carrot and ruby.   I suppose that Norbury might have argued that the designs in the pullover were traditional, and so could be used by anyone, though I think any Shetland knitter might have disagreed - but copying the colours too, for a commercial publication, seems to me questionable.

The 'Seed of Life' and 'Star of Glory' patterns - detail

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

On the other foot (3)

Since I last  wrote, we have been on holiday in Spain -  visiting Seville, Cordoba and Granada, and several other smaller places too.   We had a very good holiday, saw lots of historic sites (Roman and Moorish, mainly), ate lots of delicious food,...  But I had a few days of not feeling very well after we got back, so stayed in mostly, not eating much.  The weather was awful, so staying in wasn't much of a problem, and I did get quite a lot of knitting done.  The final part of the On the Other Foot socks Mystery Knit Along was published just before we went away, so I had the first sock to finish, and hadn't started the second sock.  And now they are finished.

I am very pleased with them - they fit very well and are the most luxurious socks I have ever worn (wool and silk!). Though I should maybe take a better photo on a lighter background.

 I did make a couple of modifications to the pattern.  The cables and lace option I chose for the ankle part had a few bobbles in it, but I have a strong aversion to knitting bobbles, and didn't like the idea of bobbles on my socks, so I left them off.  (Sorry, Ann and Sarah, but they are my socks.)   And the options for the cuff sounded interesting, but were quite narrow. I like a deeper stretchy cuff, so I knitted mine in a twisted rib instead. (My socks.)

I guessed that the lace and cables options I had chosen were those designed by Sarah, mainly because the socks I knitted for Susie for Christmas (described here) to Sarah's pattern The Chain featured one of the stitch patterns used in On the Other Foot.  But I saw Ann at the Huddersfield Knitting & Crochet Guild meeting last week, and she told me that I had actually chosen the options that she designed - the colour work options were those designed by Sarah.  You can see two pairs of socks, one using Ann's options and the other using Sarah's, on Ann's blog here.  The colour work socks look very good, too - and several of the projects on Ravelry have mixed the cables & lace options with the colour work options, and that also works well.

And just to prove that we have been to Spain, here's a photo of me looking in the window of a yarn shop in Seville.  (I didn't go in, though.)


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

On the Other Foot (2)

It's now week 3 of the On The Other Foot Mystery Knit ALong run by Ann Kingstone & Sarah Alderson.  I'm up to date (though only with the first sock) so I've finished the toe, foot and heel stages.  Here's the sock so far.

I chose the option that has a cable and lace pattern on the instep, to go with the cable and lace pattern I had already knitted for the foot.  (Though in theory you can choose either option at any stage.  Some people made the other choice following a cable and lace foot, and it looks fine. So does the colourwork foot with a cable and lace instep.)

Part of the point of Ann and Sarah's MKALs is that you learn new techniques, and they provide tutorials to help.  The heel with the option I chose is very neat, and completely unlike any heel I have knitted before (in my limited experience of knitting socks).

I'm really pleased with the result, and it was very straightforward to knit - just following the instructions.   It uses German short rows, which I've never tried before - I've only done wrap-and-turn short rows before.  There was an easy-to-follow  tutorial with clear diagrams with the pattern, which I found quite sufficient, though I think that Ann or Sarah may have done a video tutorial as well.

Finally, here's a photo of the instep pattern, which doesn't show up well in the first photo because my ankle was bent.  (Taking photos of your own foot in mid-air to show the detail of your socks is not easy.) 

I'm looking forward to seeing what part 4 brings.  I'm still undecided about introducing another colour, though on reflection it might have been nice to do the toe and heel in a contrast colour.  But I couldn't tell until I had done it, and it wasn't clear at the outset whether you could do just the heel in a different colour with this option.  Another time, another pair, maybe.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Difficult Knitting

In February, I wrote about finding several balls of Patons Lucelle in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, and showed several pattern leaflets for little jumpers knitted in Lucelle on very fine needles.  I thought at the time that the best way to show what the yarn is like would be to knit a swatch, and when we had a lot of snow a couple of weeks ago, and I mainly stayed at home, I decided to do it.

I also wanted to try out the lace pattern in one of the jumper patterns. The leaflet calls it a "Shetland-pattern jumper" and it has three lace panels on the front and one around the bottom of each sleeve.

1950s vintage knitting pattern
Patons 994

As I said in my earlier post, the main part of the jumper was intended to be knitted on size 16 needles (1.6mm.), with the rib on size 17s (1.4mm.).  The smallest needles I have are 14s (2mm.) but I decided for a swatch it wouldn't matter.  Knitting an entire garment on size 16s would be a daunting prospect, even though it has short sleeves, is only designed for a smallish size (34-36in. bust) and is quite short (19¾ in., or 50cm.).

I had assumed that, apart from the lace panels, the jumper was knitted in stocking stitch, but got an unpleasant surprise on reading the instructions - the background is a lace mesh stitch pattern.  Barbara Walker calls it 'Star rib mesh' in her book A Treasury of Knitting Patterns.  It's a 4-row repeat, and on alternate rows you just purl, so it's relatively simple.  Even so, it's a lot harder than stocking stitch.  I certainly wouldn't ever be able to knit it without watching what I was doing, as I can with stocking stitch. 

The main lace stitch, in the panels, is much more complicated.  It's a 40-row repeat, for one thing - though again, on wrong side rows you just purl.  (I might have given up otherwise.)  What's more, the number of stitches changes constantly.  You start with 23 stitches, but sometimes you have as many as 31 stitches, and other times it goes down to 17 stitches.  Which is pretty crazy.

After I had done the first pattern repeat, plus a few more rows, I was a bit puzzled about what it was supposed to look like.  (I made a small mistake half way up - it's supposed to be completely symmetrical.  But apart from that, I followed the instructions correctly, I assure you.)  There are some things that might be intended to look like leaves, and some smaller shapes that might be petals?  or smaller leaves?   Altogether it doesn't make much sense to me.   

So I went back to the pattern leaflet and had a closer look. 

 I thought that in some places, the photo seemed to show two leaves, a four-petalled flower, and some smaller leaves either side.  Hard to tell. It looked as though there perhaps should be a central disc in the middle of the four 'petals' - like a sort of daisy. So for the second pattern repeat, I changed one row of the pattern to make it look more flower-like.

I don't know.  It's quite pretty, I suppose, but I'd like it to look a bit less random.   And it is much too much work to want to repeat it. 

Here's my complete swatch.  I do at least now have something to demonstrate what Lucelle is like when it's knitted up.  I do wonder, though, whether anyone ever knitted this jumper, apart from the sample knitter.  Who was, I hope, paid more than the usual rate for it.


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