Sunday, 15 February 2015

Emu gadgets

Last June we had a Hook and Needle Week at Lee Mills, to make a start on sorting out the tools and gadgets in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  We found a lot of needle gauges, including more than a dozen varieties of bell gauge.   According to the Victoria & Albert Museum, the first bell-shaped needle gauge was patented in 1847, and many later variants exist.   The Emu gauge illustrated is probably the latest in the KCG collection - I think it was made in the late 1940s.   It is different from earlier bell gauges in having holes in the middle rather slots around the edge (down to the tiny 1mm diameter hole for a size 19 needle), and it's anodised aluminium, in a beautiful green.
  

Then recently we found another Emu gadget.  It's a very neat little counter, about 2 inches/5cm. long. There are two circular holes in the purple plastic at the back, just visible, and we think that the plastic would bend enough to allow a knitting needle to be threaded through both holes (though we're not going to try it, for fear of breaking it).



The Knit-Count has a registered design number - 846860, which corresponds to 1946-7.   And I found another Emu gadget on eBay, with registered design number 846859 - a plastic ruler and needle gauge, to measure knitting needles from the old UK size 1 down to 16.  

In theory, the Knit-Count and ruler/gauge could have been manufactured long after the design was registered, but I think they are likely to date from the late 1940s.



Emu was a yarn company that seems to have appeared just after the war.  There are some very nice Emu knitting patterns from the late 1940s and 1950s in the collection - I showed a few here.
Early ads claim that unlike other yarns, Emu knitting wool won't shrink.  For instance, a 1945 ad says:
'Emu is the result of scientific research into wool shrinkage.  It is made permanently unshrinkable and easy washing by a secret process called "emunising". Send for a copy of "Science and Wool" booklet, which explains why Emu Wool is unshrinkable.'  
We don't have a copy of the booklet in the collection, so I can't tell you the explanation.

Emu ran a long series of ads with the slogan "Knit with Emu and stop thinking about shrinking".  The two illustrated give the address "Emu Wools  Ltd., Emu House, Oxford Circus, London W.1."  I wonder where Emu wool was spun - obviously not at Oxford Circus.   Any information gratefully received.

From Vogue Knitting 29, Autumn 1946

From Vogue Knitting 30, Spring 1947

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