Monday 31 May 2010

Badminton Progress

I have nearly finished the (modified)  Badminton jumper from Marion Foale's Classic Knitwear, which I described in a previous post.  As a reminder, the photo (taken from the book) shows what the original looked like.

So far I have finished the back and the front.  That is already a radical change from the original pattern, because the back and front were knitted in one piece, starting at the bottom of the front, dividing around the neck for the shoulders, and then rejoining the two sides to continue down the back.  I can see why it was designed that way:  the square neckband is knitted at the same time, and knitting the back and front together avoids a shoulder seam in the neckband.   However,  I thought that the front (knitted upwards) and the back (knitted downwards) would look significantly different at the cast on and cast off edges, so I have opted to knit them separately, and I plan to do some sort of grafting to join the shoulders.

Another change involves the moss stitch neckband.  Although it is knitted with the rest of the front and back, the pattern calls for it to be knitted on smaller needles.  I did try a test swatch, and knitting straight rows while changing needle size part-way along the row is horribly awkward - the needle you are not currently knitting with has nothing to support it (unlike in circular knitting on double pointed needles) and so it waves about and gets in the way.

I could not see the point, either, of changing the needle size - another test swatch with moss stitch knitted on the same size needles seemed to work reasonably well.

I also discovered,  in Liesl's Knitting Therapy blog, a quote from The Principles of Knitting, by June Hemmons Hiatt, that "Seed stitch [aka moss stitch] is 30% shorter than stockinette and 18% wider".  It's clear from the test swatch that the moss stitch band on the right is significantly shorter than the main fabric.  (Liesl is another Marion Foale fan and a moss stitch fan too.)   Knitting the neck band on smaller needles would surely make the match with stocking stitch worse rather than better, overall.

I am quite pleased with the neck-band so far.  I used a sewn cast-off method which gives a nubbly edge and looks quite similar to the moss-stitch selvages.  The corners are not perfectly square, but it will I hope be better once it's pressed.

I have adapted the armhole shaping on the front and back for set-in sleeves, and I am now trying to adapt the sleeves to fit.   And then it will be nearly finished.    


Thursday 20 May 2010

The Sixties before Miniskirts

On the drive from Ashland to Portland up the I5, we stopped at a little town called Cottage Grove for lunch - we knew from a previous stop that there is a historic district around the Main Street, with a nice cafe attached to a second-hand bookstore (thus combining two of our favourite occupations).  

 This time, further along Main Street, we found a craft shop called Past 45  (next to the machine-gun store, oddly).  It is an outlet for a wide range of craft goods made by Cottage Grove seniors (knitted dishcloths and baby clothes,  crocheted items, some very well-made wooden furniture, and much more).  But the reason we were there is that evidently some seniors were selling off their old knitting and crochet magazines and pattern books, for 10 cents each.  10 cents!!  I could have bought a selection of Vogue Knitting magazines from the 80s and 90s for a dollar - except that I already have some, as I described in a previous post.

Vogue Knitting 1962

So instead, I bought a few older issues of Vogue Knitting from the early 60s.  They don't contain any patterns that I would want to knit, but I'm interested in how knitting has developed and changed - and on this evidence,  the early 60s were not a good time to be a knitter.  I think it's probably that high fashion at that time (as represented by Vogue)  was unsympathetic to knitting - I'm sure that ordinary knitters like my mother carried on making the kind of clothes (jumpers, cardigans, pullovers, ...) that they always had.   Although there are some casual sweaters, the majority of patterns for women in these issues are for dresses, coats, jackets, skirt suits, and similar smart ensembles.  The knitting is unambitious and to me looks uninteresting - the skirts are invariably straight or very slightly flared and there is a lot of plain stocking stitch or other simple patterns.  Any interesting detail, like the contrast trim on the dress in the photo, is often applied after the knitting is finished.  The simplest skirts are just a cylindrical tube, with some narrowing at the top and an elasticated waist - boring to make and boring to wear.  All these dresses and skirts are completely impractical too - they would  stretch out of shape the instant you sat down in them.  From looking at the photos, I can't help thinking that the ideal was to make something that didn't actually look knitted.

And then....  miniskirts, tights, skinny rib sweaters and all the rest of what we think of as Sixties fashion came along.  Everything changed - mostly for the better.  At least we were saved from having to look elegant.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Holiday Yarn Shopping

We're just back from our holiday in Oregon - fortunately, we had no delays to our flight back, even though the volcano is still erupting.  We had a great holiday - quite busy, not much knitting done.
Ashland Peace Wall

We stayed with a friend in Ashland, in southern Oregon,  for a few days during the trip.  Ashland is a good place to visit, largely populated by hippies, it seems.  (The Peace Wall is at the entrance to the Ashland Co-op.)   The town has a lot of visitors because of its famous Shakespeare Festival - we saw an excellent production of Hamlet while we were there. 

Our friend drew up a walking tour of the town for us, including a visit to Websters, a yarn shop on the town's main square. They stock a huge range of delectable yarns.  Some were familiar, like Rowan, Debbie Bliss, Louise Harding, Noro.  (It seemed quite strange, in fact, to be so far from home and see Rowan yarns  that have also come from West Yorkshire.)  They stock the Isager yarns,  that I would like to use one day  - I have one of Marianne Isager's books, and I plan to get her Classic Knits book too, but  the yarn doesn't seem to be available in the U.K.  And there were many other yarns that were new to me. 

So what did I buy?  Not a lot - I have several things in progress, and several more projects planned, and I feel a bit uncomfortable already about the amount of yarn I already have.  (There's a confession! I don't much like having a lot of yarn waiting to be knitted, and don't want to buy more until I have used some of what I already have. I don't like having a big stash of yarn.)  But I did want to buy something, if only as a holiday souvenir. Webster's had a good selection of fine yarn, that seems to be difficult to find at home, and I bought one ball of a lace weight yarn from Classic Elite Yarns, in a silk and alpaca mix, which is beautifully soft.  With such a fine yarn, one ball would be sufficient to knit a scarf; you can just stop knitting when you  run out of yarn, more or less.  I did think afterwards that I have been buying rather  a lot of grey lately and maybe I should have been a bit more adventurous in choosing a colour.  On the other hand, grey seems an appropriate choice for a cobwebby kind of scarf. 

And I bought a pair of wooden knitting needles, size 3.5 mm, which is a standard American size (size 4) but not a standard British size.   I bought a set of bamboo needles a while ago, in metric sizes, and I currently have two projects in progress that use the 3.5 mm needles, so it is very inconvenient having only one pair of needles in that size.

One ball of yarn and one pair of needles seems a bit meagre as the outcome of a visit to a fantastic yarn shop, but I am happy with my loot.  Next time, I'll be more prepared and leave a  space in my suitcase.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Revisiting a Past Project

Royal College Aran

The photo is from a "Fashion Workshop" collection of ideas for things to make  published by a long-defunct UK fashion magazine, Over21, in Autumn/Winter 1973.  It included several knitting patterns, including this one, titled Royal College Aran.   The blurb says "Fresh from a design course at the Royal College of Art, Susan Duckworth turned her talents to the traditional and folksy charm of  Aran, slicked up with  a '74 shape and doughboy pockets."

(Susan Duckworth is still a knitwear designer, and has become well-known and successful since her Royal College days, though she has mostly focussed on multicoloured designs using intarsia, it seems.)

I loved the look of this sweater when I first saw it, and how it made Aran stylish. My sister and I both knitted it for ourselves.   

By then I had already knitted myself several jumpers, though I can't remember most of them, and I had  knitted a traditional Aran jumper - they had become very popular round about then for women, I think for the first time.  That first Aran jumper no longer survives - I must have worn it out eventually.  (In my memory, winters were a lot colder then, partly because my parents' house had no heating except in two downstairs rooms. So an Aran jumper got a lot of wear.) 

I still have my Royal College Aran and wear it.  The design looks fresh and current to me, even now (though it seems rather quaint to read that it's a 1974 shape, as if that makes it new and exciting).  I have just packed it away for the summer, but I will add a photo later.

(Much, much later - in fact January 2013.)  I have been wearing the jumper again this week because it has been very cold.  It still looks up-to-date, I think, in spite of being nearly 40 years old.    You can see that I made a couple of changes: I did a twisted rib instead of a plain rib.  I made the cuffs ribbed, too,  instead of stocking stitch, and just had a single turn-back, instead of turning it over twice as shown.  And I continued the honeycomb cable up to the shoulder seams.    It is still very nice to wear.

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