Friday, 3 March 2017

Spider Wools

I've been working with the pattern leaflets in the Knitting & Crochet Guild  collection for a long time now. A lot of them aren't at all memorable, but sometimes there's a batch that stands out.  One is a small number of "Fair Isle" patterns for Spider Wools, published, I guess, in the late 1940s,

1940s vintage knitting pattern; Fair Isle; child's jumper, beret & gloves
Spider No. 183

Although the patterns are labelled "Fair Isle", they aren't anything like traditional Fair Isle designs.  Especially the one with the pandas:

1940s vintage knitting pattern; Fair Isle; child's twin set, beret & gloves with panda design
Spider No. 192

Spider Wools were produced by the Bradford Hosiery Yarn Spinning Co. We have only a dozen or so Spider patterns, but evidently there were many more, judging by the leaflet numbers.  The Scottie dog and panda designs seem to have been popular - I have seen several copies of each of those leaflets, though for the rest we have only one copy (or more often none).

There's an earlier leaflet, no. 56, for Baby's Rompers, that possibly dates from the 1930s.  They are certainly very 30s names for the designs:  Chips, Bunty and Mick.

1930s vintage knitting pattern; toddler's rompers
Spider No. 56
But most of the leaflets that we have were published at about the same time as the panda and Scottie designs.  There are a few other "Fair Isle" designs - all for girls, except the outfit below.

1940s vintage knitting pattern; Fair Isle; woman's jumper, beret & gloves
Spider No. 189

This one would be more attractive, I think, if I could figure out what the design represents.  There are bands of butterflies, and then bands of baskets? or cauldrons? or...?  They might, I have just realised, be bowls of flowers.  But there's no chart, so I would have to decipher the row by row instructions to see if they would look like bowls of flowers in the colours specified.   And I'm not going to.

I have seen ads for Spider wools from the early 1950s.  They evidently didn't publish them very fast - leaflet 211 was advertised in 1950, and leaflet 220 in 1953.

1950 ad

1953 ad

Leaflet 220 was a Coronation design - a purple cardigan and mauve jumper.   Like the other patterns, they are knitted in 3-ply wool.

After that there is a gap until the 1960s. I think that by then the company was part of Coats-Patons. We have a few Spider patterns for mohair from the mid-60s.  Very of their time. but a long, long way from the 3-ply "Fair Isle" designs of the late 40s.

1940s vintage knitting pattern; woman's beret, hood & hats in mohair
Spider No. 312


  1. Thank you, Barbara. I recently found some balls of 2 Ply Spider Camel Hair yarn in a Carmarthen charity shop. I wonder if the collection includes any of the patterns for it.


    1. Hi Sarah. I think it's unlikely as we have only a few Spider Wools patterns, but I can check. Though we are in the middle of moving the collection - all the boxes of patterns arrived at their new home just today, so it will take a little while to sort things out and get at the box.


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