Friday 30 December 2011

Happy Holidays

Yesterday, a large box arrived through the post from the U.S.,  with our Christmas cards and gifts from our daughter and her girlfriend.  (Slightly late, but never mind - it's nice to get presents over several days.)

Everything was beautifully wrapped in thick paper.  There were:

- several kinds of exotic chocolate (chocolate almond sea salt bark, ...) and some smoked salmon.

- a really useful miniature wind-up torch - I have a little torch on my key ring which was very handy until  it stopped working.

- a book of drawings (bought from an actual artist in an actual art gallery), How to Draw Your Family by Gabriel Liston, with useful advice, like "... once an event occurs you will want to draw it.  While you are drawing it other moments will be happening and you will miss them forever because your eyes were down."    I can't draw, but that certainly happens with photography, if you're not careful .

- and Peter Ackroyd's Venice, which we shall enjoy a lot.  We have been reading about Venice ever since we got back from our holiday - we shall have to go again.

We are very fortunate.

Monday 26 December 2011

It's Christmas! Socks!

Now that Christmas has arrived, I can reveal - tada!- that I have been knitting more socks, as Christmas presents.  (The pair of fluffy socks that I wrote about here were also a Christmas present.)  I made one pair from the sock yarn that I dyed at the workshop I went to at Spun in November.  They are photographed straight off the needles and look rather weird without feet in them  I used plain stocking stitch for the foot part, to show off the colours of the yarn, but introduced four little cables into the double rib around the ankle, to make it more interesting.  I am very pleased with them.  The yarn is very soft , and should be hard-wearing too, as it's merino and nylon.  I have enough yarn left to make myself a pair of fingerless mitts, I think.  

I have also knitted another sock (only one so far) in Cygnet 4-ply yarn, in a lovely blue-purple colour. The pattern is a modification of Wendy Johnson's diagonal lace socks

I did at least manage to finish the first sock in time to show it to the recipient (by webcam) on Christmas Day.  I think I have mastered a good set of techniques for toe-up socks - magic cast on, short-row heel, 'surprisingly stretchy bind-off' - although I this was the first sock where I was happy with the look of the short-row heel.  So now I'm getting bored with knitting socks.  When I've finished the second diagonal lace sock, I'll knit something else for a while.

The hand-dyed socks were for my daughter, and we also sent her a Henderson's Relish t-shirt (black with an orange design, to match the labels on the bottles).  She has never tried Henderson's Relish, but she can relate to the slogan (Strong and Northern). 

By the way, we noticed Henderson's Relish on sale in Waitrose in Sheffield when we were there to buy Christmas food.  (For overseas readers, Waitrose is an upscale supermarket chain.)  According to the Henderson's web site, this is the only branch of Waitrose where you can buy Relish.  We were pleased to see that the locals had been stocking up on Henderson's for Christmas - the other sauces (Lea and Perrins, HP sauce and the rest) were untouched, but there was hardly any Henderson's left.

Friday 23 December 2011

A Computing Christmas Tree

Yesterday I went to Leeds University to meet some friends I used to work with.  There was a Christmas tree in the School of Computing which I much admired, decorated with computing paraphernalia.   The yellow streamers are paper tape and the pink bows are made from (un)punched cards. There are floppy disks and a few CDs (nice and shiny) hanging from the branches and keyboards strewn around the base.

When I first got worked in computing, paper tape was on its way out and punched cards were the main input medium, although I don't recall ever using pink ones.  Someone must have kept a secret stash of them for the past 30 years or so.  I am very envious.  After they became obsolete, I acquired a box of unused cards.  They are excellent for shopping lists, but we used them all a long time ago.  And now floppy disks are obsolete, too - and not much use for anything except hanging on a Christmas tree.

It's a splendid display.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Jester Again

Jester Pattern 1016
Jester Pattern 1022

Jester Pattern 1028

I was at Lee Mills yesterday with two of the other regular volunteers who have been working on the Knitting and Crochet Guild collections. It was of course a cold day, and the only part of the building that we can heat is the little upstairs office, so as a treat for ourselves we worked up there, sorting pattern leaflets.  We dealt with several boxes of mixed patterns, separating them by spinner. And we found three more Jester patterns over the course of the day.

I think that like the Winter Sports outfit I showed in the last post, these all date from around 1947.   The little scenes show a leisured lifestyle that was probably beyond the reach of most people in this country, but they certainly make the jumpers look enticing.  These are easily the prettiest of all the pattern leaflets that I saw yesterday.  

Friday 16 December 2011

Jester Patterns

Jester Pattern 1008
I have found two especially attractive knitting patterns while looking through some of those that we have sorted so far in the Knitting and Crochet Guild store at Lee Mills.  They were produced by the Jester Company in Leicester, and are illustrated with charming drawings.  These are the only two Jester patterns I have seen at Lee Mills, and I think the company must have closed long ago.  They advertised their yarns in Vogue knitting in 1947, and the ad mentions pattern number 1019, so I guess that the winter sports outfit dates from around then.  I love the reindeer motifs on the jumper and around the hat - there are reindeer on the mittens, too.  Very seasonal.  The shoulders of the jumper are maybe too wide for today's fashions (although I think they are exaggerated in the drawing), and it is knitted in finer wool than we would probably choose for outdoor winter wear, but otherwise it's right in line with the patterned jumpers that are in fashion this winter.  

The second pattern is number 26, and I guess dates from the 1930s. The illustrations seem to be showing some story-book idyll, where little boys of four can ride their tricycles down a country lane to a duck pond, completely unsupervised. I love the drawings (apart from feeling slightly nervous about the dangers of that duck pond), but it's not an outfit that you would put a child into these days, especially not the knitted wool shorts.

I'm looking out for more Jester patterns - they must have produced a lot more than these two, and we have many, many boxes of unsorted patterns leaflets still to go through.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Bookish Christmas Card

Yesterday, one of the two book groups I belong to had its Christmas dinner, and I made Christmas cards for the other eight members showing a stack of some of the books we have read.   The group has been running for nearly four years, and we have read  about 30 books over that time, so only a small proportion appeared on the card - I had to choose from those that I still have copies of.  The books I bought but really did not like have gone to charity shops, and a few books I borrowed from the library.  We borrowed a set of 9 copies of one book (Pyongyang, a graphic novel by Guy Delisle) from the Readers Group support section of our excellent local library service.   And I have lent my copy of the last book we read  (Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch) to a friend.  What's left is a fairly random selection.  

We have read quite a variety: mainly novels, but also non-fiction, short stories, poetry, .... One of the good things about belonging to a book group is that you read a wide range of books, and find that you enjoy some that you wouldn't normally have chosen to read.

And the photo makes a nice card, if not especially Christmassy.  The message is more:  "Happy Reading in 2012".

Friday 9 December 2011

Knit, Natter, Have a party

There is a knit-and-natter session every Thursday at the Spun shop in Huddersfield, which opened just over a year ago.   Yesterday, the  knit-and-natter regulars had a Christmas party.     Everyone brought some food  (all excellent), and there were Christmas crackers and mulled wine.   Lydia had made up a goody bag for everyone from the shop, with knitting patterns, some buttons, a magazine, a balloon, ....    And several people had brought hand-made gifts and cards for everyone, which was lovely.     We all got Christmas tree ornaments and a pair of stitch markers (the colour chosen to suit each person, so mine are purple - I do knit quite a lot of purple!)

Good food, good company, and we even did some knitting - it was a really good do.

Monday 5 December 2011

Inside-Out Fair Isle

When we were in Sheffield, buying a Henderson's Relish apron, my sister and I did a circuit of the John Lewis fashion floor, to see what's on offer just now. Lots of jumpers this year.  We saw several Fair Isle jumpers, including some in which the Fair Isle is (deliberately) inside out. In other words, it's the floats that are on view.  Sometimes the effect is quite pretty, as in a cardigan from East which is knitted in very fine wool.  It gives a nice blurry effect, with the colours blending together (though I can't help feeling that right side out would be prettier.) 

Another case was a dress with a Fair Isle yoke, where the wool was not so fine and the floats were much longer.  Being boringly practical, I thought that the floats would easily snag. 

It does altogether seem a strange idea to make a garment with an intricate Fair Isle pattern, and design it so that the detail doesn't show, but only a blurred version of the pattern. I can't imagine that a hand-knitter could ever do such a thing.

I did buy a very nice jumper for myself while we were there.  It's in very fine cotton, with wavy horizontal stripes.  (For some reason, I really like tops with horizontal stripes.)   Not the sort of thing you could hand-knit, because the stitches are tiny.   The pattern is kind of inside out, again - it's reverse stocking stitch, to give the rows of little spots when the colour changes. As far as I can tell, the waves are created by blocks of heel stitch, or something similar involving slipped stitches, in the stripes of black yarn.  The slipped stitches have the effect of contracting the fabric vertically and so pulling the white stripes together.  Very clever.

I wore it when we went out for lunch to celebrate having been married for a long, long time - 33 years and 4 months, or a third of a century.   That's not an anniversary that is recognised much, though I think it should be - we celebrate quarter and half centuries, so why not a third?

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Henderson's Relish

Last week, my sister was visiting and we went to Sheffield, our home town, to do some shopping, including a trip to the headquarters of Henderson's Relish to buy an apron.  Henderson's Relish is a Sheffield speciality - a spicy sauce based on vinegar and tamarind, amongst other things.  I remember it from my childhood when a favourite meal was hash with relish.  (Those were simpler days when 'hash' just meant 'stew'.)


The headquarters  is in an old house, now surrounded by university buildings. The 'shop', which sells aprons and similar merchandise,  is just a corner of the office, next to a display of old relish bottles - I think most of the sales are over the internet and they don't really expect people to arrive on the doorstep.   (You have to ring the doorbell to be let in, for one thing.)  

Henderson's Relish marginally appeared in the national press a few years ago when The Guardian recommended it as a vegetarian substitute for Worcestershire sauce (which contains anchovies).  Even so, most people who don't come from Sheffield have never heard of it.  So a Henderson's Relish apron tells people in the know that you have Sheffield connections.

A table decoration in a Sheffield bar

Sunday 27 November 2011

Magic and Surprisingly Stretchy

I have finished my second pair of toe-up socks - this time they are intended to be bed-socks, and the yarn is a soft, slightly fluffy yarn with a good proportion of wool and alpaca with acrylic (Wendy Osprey).   It is an aran-weight yarn and I used 4 mm needles to give quite a dense fabric. I have 30g left out of the 100g that I bought, so almost enough for another sock.

I have changed my sock-knitting technique a little bit.  At the dyeing workshop two weeks ago, someone told me about Judy's magic cast-on. It really is an amazing method - you cast on the number of stitches that you need for the narrowest part of the toe, and then start knitting in rounds straightaway, increasing at both sides of the toe until you have the number of stitches you need for the main part of the sock. And the most amazing part is that the casting on is invisible - there is no detectable break in the knitting over the end of the toe.  Magic!

This is a lot easier, to my mind, than the short-row method I used for my first pair of toe-up socks, which started with a provisional cast-on and used short rows to shape the toe-cap. Unpicking the provisional cast-on is a bit fiddly, and there is the slight disadvantage that you end up with one fewer stitch than you cast on in the first place. 

By the time I had got the the end of the first sock, someone else told me about Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off (cast-off in British English). Another really useful invention.  I had been intending to use a sewn cast-off for these socks, to keep the top stretchy, but thought it might be tricky given such a fluffy yarn. Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off is a variation on the usual cast-off method with two needles.  It is very easy, and indeed surprisingly stretchy.

 Next.... another pair of toe-up socks with the skein of sock yarn I dyed at the workshop.

Monday 21 November 2011

"The Killing" Jumper

Knit Your Own Sarah Lund Jumper!

On Saturday, the BBC started broadcasting The Killing II, the second series of the Danish crime thriller. This week's Radio Times has a feature on the series, including an interview with Sofie Grabol (or Gråbøl) who plays Sarah Lund, the main character.  And a knitting pattern.  It's a 'tribute' to the jumper worn by Sarah Lund that also seems to play a major role in this series. 

I have not yet seen the first series - I missed the first few episodes and never managed to catch up.  But I have of course heard about The Jumper.  That is, the Faroese one that Sarah Lund wore that became so popular.    It was written about extensively in the newspapers, for instance here, so that even if you were not watching the series and not particularly interested in a jumper that you hadn't seen, it was hard to miss.

The second series jumper is also Faroese, plain red with a textured yoke. You can find the Radio Times pattern on-line here.  I don't plan to knit it, although it looks good on Sofie Gråbøl.  But I do intend to watch the programmes this time.  And I will knit something while I'm watching - an uncomplicated pattern so that I can read the subtitles.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Dyeing Workshop

On Saturday, I went to a dyeing workshop at Spun, my local yarn shop.  The tutor was Debbie Tomkies, of DT Craft and Design.  It was huge fun - an opportunity to play with colours and messy liquids, with a practical result at the end of it.  I was surprised at how easy and quick the dyes are to use - the only dyeing I have done before involved heating pans of dye on the hob, but on Saturday, we only needed  to microwave the yarn once it had been soaked in the cold dye.    

There were 6 students in the workshop and it was fascinating to see the different ranges of colours that we liked.  I kept to greens, blues and purples, but others used very bright colours, yellows and reds.
Our finished results

I came home with three small skeins of lace-weight wool and a 100g skein of merino and nylon sock yarn.

I dyed one of the lace-weight skeins in a mixture of greens.  I laid out the wet skein on a J-cloth, with a plastic sheet underneath, and squirted the dye directly onto the yarn using a syringe - a satisfyingly reckless process.  Then you pat each section of yarn gently so that the adjacent colours mingle and there are no undyed sections. 

I dyed the other skeins by putting beakers of mixed dye into a big plastic tub. Then you drape the wet yarn over the beakers, so that as much yarn as possible is immersed in dye - the yarn loops into one beaker, then over into the next beaker and so on. [Why didn't I take a photo?]

I dyed  the remaining two lace-weight skeins in purples, blues and greens. I used the same beakers of dye twice, because when the first skein had been dyed, there was still quite a lot of the dye left.  I like the more pastel effect a lot  - I think another time I would use a weaker dye solution in the first place.      

Finally, I dyed the sock yarn using the beaker method with mixtures of red and turquoise dyes, in varying proportions to give a range of purples.   Being a very inexpert dyer, it didn't come out quite as I intended.  I made the dye solution stronger than I intended, again.  And there are some small patches between the different colours where the yarn is sometimes hardly dyed at all, and also some small areas which are pure turquoise with no red at all - maybe I didn't mix the dye thoroughly enough.  But I think that the lighter patches are in the end a good thing - otherwise the overall effect would be too dark.

Even if I envisaged a different end-result, I really like how it has turned out in my knitted sample.  And the yarn is beautifully soft.  I plan to knit a pair of socks with it, and fingerless mittens for me if there is enough left.  

It was a really good day - I had fun and learnt a lot. I'll buy some dye from Debbie and try it at home some time (only when I have reduced my stack of half-finished knitting, though).

Sunday 6 November 2011

Toe-up Socks

I have been knitting a cardigan for months now, and it is not turning out well.  I have knitted most of the body twice, and I'm still not happy with it - it's all very disheartening.  So I decided to knit a pair of socks for my daughter - she likes to wear fancy socks and  I don't particularly.

I have only knitted one pair of socks before and they were not a great success (as described here), but only because they were knitted in bamboo yarn and so went very baggy as soon as I wore them.  The actual knitting was satisfying -  the construction is so clever.  This time I wanted to knit them toe-up, because I find casting on for the ankle very fiddly and prone to disasters (like getting a twist into the knitting when you join it up, or dropping a stitch on the first round).

The basic pattern is by Wendy Johnson, free through Ravelry or from her web site (follow the links to "Free Patterns" and then it's the Detailed Toe-up Sock Pattern).  Her pattern produces a plain pair of socks - the idea is just to demonstrate the techniques of toe-up socks with a short-row toe and heel.  So I used a stitch pattern from Barbara Walker's Treasury to add some texture and interest on the instep and ankle.  It's the Vandyke Check pattern (mostly chosen because it has an 8-stitch pattern repeat and I had 64 stitches in total, but it has turned out very well).  It is made up of blocks of stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch, so it doesn't add any bulk.   The yarn is 4-ply 75% wool and 25% polyamide from Cygnet, in olive green.    

The socks fit very well and my daughter is very pleased with them.  (I can tell because she said "You can knit me lots more of these!") 

Friday 4 November 2011

Woman's Weekly Centenary

 It is the centenary of  Woman's Weekly magazine this month (in fact, this very day) and a special centenary issue is on sale now, with a .reproduction of the first issue from 1911 - a splendid idea.  It is fascinating to see what concerned women in 1911 - there are features on "Removal of Over-Fat" and "How I enlarged my bust",  as well as less alarming articles on fashions and "How to become a nurse".   

Woman's Weekly is surprisingly successful. In the 1980s, it was the best-selling weekly magazine for women in the U.K., with a circulation of 1.3 million in 1987. Since then, the woman’s magazine market has contracted, and changed radically.  Now, the top-selling weekly magazines are ‘celebrity’ and ‘reality’ titles, but Woman’s Weekly is still the best-selling of the more traditional woman’s magazines, with a circulation of almost 340,000 in the first half of this year.

I always thought Woman's Weekly rather old-fashioned - I associate it with my Grandma who read it regularly when I was a little girl.  But I have bought several copies in recent months to research an article on the centenary for Slipknot, the journal of the Knitting and Crochet Guild, and I must say that I found them quite interesting.   The magazine's target market is older women whose children have left home, and the editors have been very clever in focussing on that market while at the same time adapting to the changing tastes of each successive generation of women. Evidently, I am now old enough to find  Woman's Weekly relevant to me.  

The first issue included crochet patterns and a crochet tutorial for beginners, but nothing on knitting.  But by the late 1920s, as far as I can tell from the issues from that era in the Knitting and Crochet Guild collection, knitting was a regular feature. And in the 1970s, the front cover proclaimed "Famed for its knitting".  While several other long-established women’s magazines (for instance Woman and Woman's Own) no longer cover knitting regularly, Woman’s Weekly still publishes a knitting pattern every week, often by a well-known designer such as Sasha Kagan or Marion Foale. With a circulation of 340,000, that's a lot of knitting patterns.

Happy Birthday, Woman's Weekly!

Monday 31 October 2011

Donna Leon's Venice

When we went to Venice, I took with me Donna Leon's A Question of Belief, her 19th novel set in Venice and featuring Commisario Brunetti.  It was a good choice - alongside the crime story, there are descriptions of Venice from Brunetti's point of view. Venice is a small city and the streets he walks along, the churches and campi he passes, the vaporetti routes he uses, we had seen ourselves.  Her books give you some sense of what it is like living in that extraordinary city - although of course, being crime novels, they feature a lot of things that you hope never to encounter, either in Venice or anywhere else.  (And Brunetti doesn't like all the tourists one bit, so you sometimes feel slightly guilty that you are adding to the over-crowding.)   

An example of a convincing detail:  Brunetti is following a woman who has just come out of a bank  to see where she is taking the money she has just withdrawn.  She "stood in front of the bank, caught in that characteristically Venetian moment of calculating the shortest way to get somewhere."

A Question of Belief takes place in the height of summer, with the temperature in Venice approaching 40°C.   While we were waiting (not for very long) to go into the Basilica of San Marco, I recounted an episode when Brunetti walks through the Piazza and sees a very long queue of tourists outside the Basilica,  He tries to imagine never having been inside, and whether in that case he would feel that it had been worthwhile to wait for an hour in 40°C temperatures to see it for the first time.  He concludes that he would, which was reassuring.

Since we got back from Venice, I have been reading some of Donna Leon's earlier novels (while knitting socks).   The 20th has been published this year, I think, so they will keep me busy for a while.

Saturday 29 October 2011

A Knitted Great Auk

I read in today's Guardian that Margaret Atwood has knitted a Great Auk, for the Ghosts of Gone Birds  exhibition.  Isn't that wonderful?   Actually it is not news, except to me - there have been several reports on the exhibition and her contribution over the past few weeks/months, all of which I have missed.  You can read an interview with her, and see a photo of her knitting, here.

While I was looking around in the interwebby universe for details of the knitted great auk, I found several reports that Margaret Atwood has joined Ravelry and that the Great Auk will be her first Ravelry project.  I have managed to find her username and profile, but unless she is using an extra layer of pseudonymity, she hasn't yet posted any projects.  Pity - I'd like to know more details and see the finished auk.

Thursday 20 October 2011


Last week we were in Venice, with our daughter and her girlfriend.   The weather was perfect - bright and sunny, but not too hot, and we had a wonderful time.  John and I had a holiday in Venice 30 years ago, and I was afraid that it wouldn't be as good this time - but yes, it was.  Of course, some parts are very crowded, especially around San Marco and the Rialto, but it's easy to get off the main tourist routes.  We enjoyed just wandering around exploring the alleyways and squares, finding an amazing view at every turn.

The Biennale art exhibition was still running, and we went to the main sites in the Arsenale and Giardini, as well as to several of the collateral exhibitions that are scattered all over the city.

I didn't take any knitting with me, because I knew I wouldn't have time to do any.   Knitting didn't really feature in our holiday at all, in fact, although I did see one shop in Venice selling knitting yarn.  (It was next to a bridge over a canal, so it should be easy to find again....)


But there was a sculpture in front of  the main pavilion at the Biennale that looked like an arrangement of giant knitting needles, so knitting was not entirely forgotten.   (Although actually they are flagpoles and not knitting needles.)


Saturday 8 October 2011

Eureka! Knitting Needles!

Friends came to visit for a few days last week and brought me a wonderful knitting gift - an antique knitting needle case, containing steel knitting needles.  They are very fine - the thickest are 2.25 mm. diameter, and the thinnest only 1mm. (I have tried knitting a sample with those but found it very difficult.)

The case was evidently sold originally with a set of needles and I assume that the present contents are some of those. The writing on the case says "EUREKA - Best Quality - Steel Knitting Pins Highly Tempered - Guaranteed not to rust - Germany".  And indeed they have not rusted.  I think they must date from before the First World War - the woman's head on the cap could be Edwardian.

It would be nice to knit something with the thicker needles, perhaps a pair of fine mittens.

Saturday 1 October 2011

A 1970s Victorian Family

Seamless Knitting Book - front cover

I have been sorting boxes of pattern booklets in the Knitting and Crochet Guild collections recently. This one, from 1973, I particularly liked - not for the patterns, but for the poses.  The models look so solemn and Victorian.  It must have been a deliberate choice by the photographer. 
Back cover

I like the props too, though I think the plant is not actually an aspidistra. They are wonderfully incongruous with the 1970s clothes.  (And looking at the red and black tank tops on the back cover, you realise why the 1970s are dubbed "the decade that taste forgot".)

The booklet is unusual in having the name of a knitting needle company (Aero) on the front cover, rather than a spinning company  - the patterns are intended for Aero twin-pins, which were presumably fairly new in 1973.  Circular knitting needles were not themselves new - I have read that they existed before World War II, with a wire cable of some sort joining the two needles.  Twin-pins were perhaps new in having a nylon cable. It is also unusual to see a pattern booklet promoting a novel construction technique.  The booklet explains how to use a twin-pin, with photos.  However, for knitting sleeves and other small-diameter sections seamlessly it recommends knitting on four needles, which seems a bit discouraging - it doesn't explain how to do that, for one thing.  And it doesn't cover knitting sleeves using either two circular needles or the magic loop technique with one circular needle - perhaps those ideas had not been developed.     

Once I had noticed this booklet, I began to see the same cover photo on pattern booklets produced by other companies - several spinners, as well as F.W. Woolworth.  The content was exactly the same too, except that the suggested yarn varied.   That was very puzzling - I had assumed that the name on the front cover would tell me who had produced the booklet, but why were different companies producing the same booklet?  And then I started to notice other pattern booklets turning up in several different versions.

Odd Ounce Books - different but the same
Eventually, I saw that all these booklets were published by Lyric (Pattern Services) Ltd, whose name was in very small print inside the back cover.   Evidently,  Lyric was (is?) a company that developed knitwear designs in standard double knitting/4-ply/3-ply yarn, for sale to spinners and companies such as Aero. That is obviously a useful service to any spinner that produces standard yarn and doesn't have its own in-house designers - even a large spinner that produces its own designs might find it cheaper to buy in patterns sometimes.  The clever thing, from Lyric's point of view, is that they retained the copyright, so that they could sell the same pattern booklet many times over, and just change the name on the front.

Until I worked out what was going on, I thought that all these duplicate pattern booklets would be a cataloguing nightmare.  But now, I classify them all as Lyric and that's that. So far I have found about 60 distinct booklets that were produced by Lyric, between about 1970 and the mid-1990s.  One advantage (to me) is that Lyric included the year in the copyright notice, so that unlike most pattern booklets, these can be dated. It still seems to be slightly underhand though - all the Odd Ounce booklets say on the front cover "Ideas by X for easy to make gifts and toys....", where X is Poppletons or Wendy or Argyll or ...      Not really true, though - "Ideas by Lyric that X  bought and put their name to" would be more accurate.

Thursday 15 September 2011

A Local Spinning Company?

Greenwoods ad in Vogue Knitting, 1946
We have a set of Vogue Knitting Books in the Knitting & Crochet Guild's collections at Lee Mills, and I have noticed ads from a Huddersfield company in the issues dating from the later 1930s to 1950s.  I live in Huddersfield so I was particularly interested in these ads - although many of the well-known  British spinners of knitting yarns were, and still are, based in West Yorkshire, and Huddersfield is an important producer of woollen cloth, I don't know of any existing knitting yarn spinners based in Huddersfield.

Greenwoods (of Victoria Street, Huddersfield) initially advertised a mail order service:
"Greenwoods can supply you with all the Wools and other threads mentioned in this and other Vogue issues.  ... In addition, any of the garments can be supplied COMPLETELY HAND-KNITTED & READY TO WEAR at reasonable prices from 12/6 upwards. Ask for a quotation for your favourite garment made to measure."
It seems a bit odd to read a knitting magazine and then pay someone else to do the knitting for you, but the ad appeared for several years, so I assume that it was a successful service.

The Victoria Street business appeared in a 1937 Huddersfield trade directory as "Miss Greenwood, Wool and Handicraft Depot".  So it appears that at that time, the company was only supplying yarns made elsewhere - interesting that it was owned by a woman.  Towards the end of the war, Greenwoods started advertising their own yarns, and then from 1946 the Vogue Knitting ads featured their own designs as well. In 1946 (between the two issues of Vogue Knitting) the company changed its name to Wakefield, Greenwood, and moved to Railway Street.  I wonder what had happened?  Was Miss Greenwood still involved in the business?  Had she got married to Mr Wakefield?

W.G. pattern leaflet 119, early 1950s

Back of W.G. leaflet 119

Wakefield, Greenwood continued to advertise into the 1950s, and I hoped to find one of their patterns at Lee Mills. One eventually appeared a couple of weeks ago - from the early 1950s, I guess.  But it was still a bit mysterious.  They claim to manufacture the yarns they are selling, but there cannot possibly have been a spinning mill on Railway Street, or even a warehouse - there is nowhere to put one.  So either they were actually buying in yarn from other companies, or their mill was somewhere else - but then why wasn't their office at the mill?

Then this week, I found a whole box of W.G. patterns.  The styles appear to date from the 1950s and early 1960s.  By sorting them into numerical order, and looking at the ads in Vogue Knitting too, it's possible to follow the development of the company.  At some time in the late 1950s, the company was renamed W.G. Spinners Ltd, but remained at Railway Street. And then a little later, in the early 1960s, the address changed to "Wakefield Mills, Thornhill Beck Lane, Brighouse".  
Ad for W.G. Spinners, 1962
Brighouse isn't far away, but it's not Huddersfield.  I felt quite proud that Wakefield, Greenwood were a Huddersfield company, but it turns out that they decamped to Brighouse - or maybe the spinning was done in Brighouse all along.  A bit disappointing.  Still, Miss Greenwood's original business was definitely Huddersfield based - I like to think of all those posh Vogue Knitting readers who couldn't knit paying to have their knitting done in Huddersfield.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

1920s Fair Isle

Beehive pattern for a Fair Island Jersey
Chart for Fair Island Jersey


I was sorting through yet another box of papers at the Knitting and Crochet Guild store at Lee Mills last week, and finding mostly things we already have or don't want, but occasionally something new and interesting.  Near the bottom I came across some Patons and Baldwins patterns from the 1920s.  They were in poor condition, with the pages falling apart where they had been folded at some time, and pieces missing in some cases.  But they are mostly legible, and the illustrations are clear enough. Amongst them is a Fair Isle (or "Fair Island") pattern - and another that looks like Fair Isle but isn't. 

I think the Fair Island jersey pattern dates from the very early 1920s, because Patons & Baldwins merged in 1920, but the pattern is evidently produced by Baldwins, and they were producing the  Beehive Knitting Booklet series before the merger. The cover photo is wonderful - she's off to play hockey on a cold winter's day (though you would think that the scarf might get in the way).  We also know what colours the outfit was knitted in, because amazingly there is a colour chart inside - red, peacock and navy, on a white background.
P&B leaflet for pullover and sleeveless cardigan

The other leaflet is slightly later, I think.  At first sight the cover pattern is also a Fair Isle type of pattern, but in fact the bands are embroidered in cross-stitch after the knitting is done. Again, there is a colour chart - the instructions say: "Each square represents a stitch.  A cross-stitch is worked over one square in width and two squares in depth."  The construction of the pull-over is quite simple.  It is knitted in one piece, starting at the bottom edge of the back, so that the only seams are at the sides.  It is mainly stocking stitch, but  the bands around the neck and armholes are knitted at the same time as the body, in garter stitch.  (I love that hat.)
Chart for pull-over embroidery

Sleeveless embroidered cardigan
There is another pattern in the same leaflet for a sleeveless cardigan, also embroidered, although this one is obviously not attempting to imitate Fair Isle.

Fair isle jumpers were very popular in the 1920s, so I suppose that the pull-over pattern was to cater for women who wanted to make one for themselves, but  were not expert knitters.  But then, once you get the idea of embroidering a design onto a knitted jumper, you can choose any kind of design you like.

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