Monday 9 October 2017

The Bexhill Jumper

I have been working on dating issues of Fancy Needlework Illustrated magazine, which was published from about 1906 until the Second World War.  We have copies of most numbers in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, and it would be useful to know when each one was published - information that you might have thought that the publishers would have provided.  But they didn't.  Even so, I have managed to find enough evidence to date almost all of them - a post on  that will follow shortly.

One of the quirks of Fancy Needlework Illustrated is that many of the jumper designs in the 1920s numbers are named after British towns - like the Bexhill jumper, on the cover of no. 75, published in September 1925.  (The Bexhill jumper is the one worn by the lady on the right, sitting under the tree).

1920s vintage magazine
Fancy Needlework Illustrated No. 75

As far as I can see, the names were assigned at random - there's nothing about the Bexhill jumper, for instance, that suggests a seaside town on the south coast.  But a columnist on the local newspaper, the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, felt that the design somehow represented the town and that the women of Bexhill might want to make the jumper for themselves:
 A compliment, which is also an advertisement, and is all the more welcome because it is unsolicited, has been paid Bexhill from an unexpected quarter. That is the naming of a new pattern for a ladies' jumper, in knitting and crochet, as the Bexhill jumper. It looks exceedingly nice as worn by a young lady whose photograph appears in "Fancy Needlework Illustrated," published by the Northern School of Art Needlework, Ltd., of Manchester. For the benefit of lady readers, who will naturally want to make Bexhill jumpers for themselves and lead the local fashion, I may state that the garment is made in light sky blue, and is composed of strips of knitting, joined together with crochet. A deep crochet belt completes the bottom, and the same pattern is worked for sleeve bands. ... For further instructions how to make the Bexhill jumper I must refer my knitting readers to Mrs. Harris, Western-road, who has kindly drawn my attention to this latest distinction that has been conferred on Bexhill.
The Bexhill jumper from Fancy Needlework Illustrated no. 75

It is rather pretty, combining lacy knitting with open-work crochet.  The loose fit, too, would make it  cool to wear on a hot day.

The Bexhill jumper is very similar in construction to the apricot rayon top I showed in my last post: the deep crochet band below a draw-string belt, alternating strips of knitting and crochet and a square neckline are the same in both.  And the other young woman on the front cover of no. 75 is also wearing a T-shaped jumper with square neck and a deep bands of crochet below the waist and around the sleeves.  This was a very common style for jumpers in rayon and cotton at the time.  Other styles were also popular in the 1920s, of course - "Fair Isle" jumpers, for instance,  But they didn't appear in  Fancy Needlework Illustrated, because it only published patterns suitable for cotton.  I'll discuss why later.


  1. That seems a really unusual construction method - have you seen many made of strips joined with crochet?

    1. I haven't looked specifically for that - but certainly the rayon jumper featured in my last post is like that. And three of the jumpers I wrote about in a previous post: are a mixture of knitting and crochet. Evidently knitters and crocheters weren't bothered by having to do lots of sewing up in those days. But I now realise that what I said about the style of the Bexhill jumper wasn't very clear - when I said that it is a common style, I really meant the T shape, loose fit and draw-string belt with tassels - we have several rayon jumpers like that in the collection, and at least one is all knitted.

  2. Fancy Needlework Illustrated is one of my favourite old magazines, so I'll look forward to reading your post about dating them.


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