Thursday 31 March 2011

Where are they now? - 2KCBWDAY4

 I took part in the first Knitting and Crochet Blog Week last year (in spite of the week coinciding with the cloud of volcanic dust when we were trying to go on holiday).  But this year I have been very slow to get started.  Also the topics for Days 1 and 3 were to do with yarn (comparing yarn, talking about your yarn stash) and I am not as passionate about yarn as many knitters seem to be.  And I'll get round to the topic for Day 2 some time soon, maybe.

Today's topic is a past knitting project, and I'm going to write about  a total failure - a project that was never finished and in fact can't be finished.

Some time before I stopped knitting for 25 years, back in the early 80s, I started work on a Patricia Roberts pattern.  I think it was a cardigan.  The yarn was from her own shop in London - black wool, white and gold mohair, in 4-ply (fingering) weight.  As you can see from the photo, the pattern is wonderfully complicated.  So why didn't I finish it?  One reason is that the design doesn't quite work - at the point where the cables of white and gold mohair approach each other and then diverge, they pull a gap in the background fabric (which is all reverse stocking stitch, by the way).  Maybe that's due to my incompetent knitting, of course.

Another reason is that it's tiny.  I cannot believe that I made the whole back of the cardigan without realising that it was never going to fit - it's only about 14 inches wide.  I assume that I did a tension swatch, but possibly the tension was given over stocking stitch, and the mohair cables pulled the fabric in more than expected.  I don't know.

And another reason why I now can't finish it, even if I felt inclined to start again, is that I can't find the pattern.  It isn't with the piece I have finished, or with the rest of the yarn.  I have several Patricia Roberts knitting books and it's not there. What's more, I can't find it in any of the Patricia Roberts books in the Knitting and Crochet Guild Library.  I think it might have been in a magazine, but I have no idea which one.

So there you are - a totally failed project.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Day Out in Calderdale

On Friday I took a day off from sorting knitting & crochet magazines and we went over the hill to Calderdale, first to the antique centre in Mytholmroyd where I bought a bundle of old knitting needles last year.  This time I found several good buys, including:
  • a Poole Pottery mustard pot from the early 1930s (£9).  I have a small collection of Poole preserve pots (usually the same shape but larger), arranged on a mantelpiece, to add this one to. 
  • a quarter ounce and a half ounce brass weight.  We have a set of kitchen scales of the balance type, and two sets of weights, imperial and metric.  The tiniest weights are liable to get lost and are expensive to replace, but these were only 50p each, so I bought them as spares.
  • a 5g weight, to replace the one we have lost from the metric set. The vendor had a set of scales and metric weights from a chemist's shop in York, and when I said that I was looking for a replacement 5g weight as well, he said that he would sell me one if he had a spare.  Luckily, he did and I got that for 50p as well. 
We went on to Todmorden, a very characterful little town, with a good secondhand bookshop amongst other assets. We had coffee and cake in the cafe above the former Co-operative store. I had a beetroot and chocolate brownie.  J said the idea was disgusting, but it was very good - very rich and moist, not tasting of beetroot at all.  

The Rochdale Canal runs through the middle of Todmorden. The valley is very narrow, so the houses cling to the valley sides with some very steep little lanes winding through them. It could all be very picturesque, though Todmorden is a bit too down-to-earth to be called that.

Locally, Todmorden is known as "Tod" - hence, the shop name "Sweeney's at Tod".  A hairdresser's, of course.  I don't know why hairdressers like to choose awful puns for the names of their salons, but that is one of the best (or worst) I have seen.

Here is another Tod shop front. I have no idea what green tripe is - not sure I want to find out.

Sunday 27 March 2011

Useful Advice

I wrote here at the beginning of January about the flood at the Knitting & Crochet Guild's warehouse at Lee Mills near Holmfirth.  The small group of regular volunteers is still spending a lot of time working to sort out the after-effects.  I am now in charge of the magazines - largely because none of the other volunteers are particularly interested in them. Can you believe that?  How can anyone not be fascinated by old magazines? Beats me.

There is a huge amount of work still to be done - the pattern leaflets, magazines, pattern booklets and other papers have never been properly sorted and catalogued, and the flood meant that everything got into a still worse state of confusion. But it will be an exceptional collection when we have finished and it's no longer just a mass of papers.

Amongst other tasks, I have been going through some of the boxes of mixed-up papers, and  occasionally find a small gem.  For instance, on the back of a knitting pattern from the 1930s, I found some useful advice that I'd like to share. 

Helps to Knitters 2/625

It is an established fact that the health-giving ultra-violet rays are transmitted to the body with greater power through Wool than through either Artificial Silk or Cotton.

Odd how much our attitude to UV light has changed.

Back to magazines.  Lee Mills mostly houses knitting & crochet magazines, of course.  The designs in the older magazines are often very attractive - I especially like those from the 1930s, and there is a surprising amount of material in the collection from that era or even older. The old designs can also be entertainingly awful, such as a 1970s tunic and matching flared trousers, with bright Fair-Isle patterns on the yoke of the tunic and around the trouser legs, or an outfit consisting of jumper, helmet and knickerbockers all with matching Aran patterns. Did anyone ever knit a pair of Aran knickerbockers, I wonder?

A 1936 ad from Woman and Home

There are also general women's magazines in the collection. In the older ones, I especially enjoy the adverts  (though the problem pages can also be very entertaining).  Some products have survived for decades, since the 1930s if not earlier, such as Knight's Castile soap, and Robertson's Golden Shred marmalade.  Others have thankfully disappeared long ago, like the Ladye Jayne Slumber Helmet and Liberty bodices.   (I actually remember Liberty bodices, which lasted much longer than they should have.  They were dreadful.)

Such fun!

Friday 25 March 2011

Spring is Sprung

We have had beautiful weather for the past few days - dry, sunny and quite warm.  The temperature has been around 15 degrees in the middle of the day.  Many plants in my garden have been coming into flower  very quickly - one day the buds are still tightly closed, and the next the flowers are fully open.  The first bud has opened on the camellia I planted two years ago and there are dozens more still to open.

The cherry tree is in flower, and its leaves are just beginning to open.  There is a wonderful scent from the skimmia that is just next to the path to the dustbins (not everything in the garden can be beautiful).  And there has been a strange clicking noise from the  pine tree - it's the sound that the pine cones make as they open in the sun.  If you stand under the tree, you can see the pine seeds parachuting down as they fall out of the cones.

Everything is in a terrific hurry to grow - it's wonderful.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Hand Made Tales

When we were in London last month, I went to the Women's Library in the East End, partly to register to use the library, and to spend a few happy hours reading old womens' magazines from the 1970s, and partly to see an exhibition, Hand Made Tales, that runs until April 20th.

The exhibition aims to "explore the changing motivations behind making objects for home and family"  and covers a wider range of crafts than you might expect - gardening and cookery as well as knitting, crochet and sewing.  There are some wonderful objects in the exhibition, as well as tools and books.   Several items have been lent by the children or grandchildren of women who had immigrated to the UK and continued to practise the crafts they had learnt at home. For instance, there is some incredibly fine crochet work made by a grandmother from Cyprus, and a very exuberant crocheted traycloth made by a woman originally from the Caribbean, as far as I remember. The lenders described what they felt themselves about these objects, and what they thought they had meant to their mothers and grandmothers.

There are some larger items,  including a Pearly Queen dress, based on a 1920s black drop-waist dress, with mother-of-pearl buttons sewn all over it in complicated patterns.  Also a wonderfully opulent patchwork coat made from  samples of Macclesfield silk - the maker had intended it as a dressing gown for her daughter, but the daughter quite rightly thought that it was too grand for that, and wore it as an evening coat. You can find a blog post that has photos of the Pearly Queen outfit and the patchwork coat here. Another beautiful garment is a crocheted short-sleeved white cardigan, made in the 1950s and lent by the Fashion Museum in Bath - very shapely and elegant. But it was made for the original owner by a customer of her newsagents shop - I guess for payment, which seemed rather outside the terms of reference of the exhibition.

One thing I found particularly interesting was the caption to a Stitchcraft magazine from March 1965 (photo to follow some time).  The front cover of Stitchcraft always showed a knitting pattern featured  in the magazine.   This one was by a designer called Eve Sandford and the caption said that her ambition  was to have one of her designs on the cover of Stitchcraft. One of her patterns (for a salmon-pink boucle jacket) was offered to Daily Telegraph readers in 1961, and the newspaper had more than 3000 orders for it in a week.   I had not heard of Eve Sandford, but I have since learnt that she was a prolific knitwear designer who sold her designs to spinners like Patons & Baldwins, as well as to magazines. I've said before that I think it is sad that knitwear designers were mostly anonymous back then, so it was nice to find one identified.  And her design albums are now held in the Victoria & Albert Museum archives - good to know that her work has been preserved.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Knitted Royal Wedding

Apparently there's a Royal Wedding coming up shortly.  If you have been wanting to knit a tableau of the royal personages in the wedding party, now you can do it.  Fiona Goble has just published a book of knitting patterns for a set of dolls, Knit Your Own Royal Wedding.  It should appeal to ardent royalist knitters everywhere.  So not me, then, though the corgis are rather cute.  

There was an article about the book in last Friday's Daily Telegraph. And there is an animation using the dolls on YouTube, which is very wonderful.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Horse Cooler

I know that a lot of knitters knit coats for their dogs, but that's a bit unambitious.  Think big - knit for a horse! 

The cooler is actually supposed to be worn underneath a blanket rather than by itself, to allow the horse to cool off after exercise. And it is "Particularly beneficial for nervous or excitable animals."  The pattern has the usual warning that when you are buying cotton, you should buy enough to complete the article, as dye-lots vary. Obviously, it is important to avoid a stripe of a slightly different shade at one end of the cooler, especially if your horse is excitable.

 And if you do have any yarn left over, you can make yourself a health vest.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Knitting for Reading

I am in two reading groups and they both meet this week. By the middle of last week I had not finished either of the books for this week's meetings, so I needed some knitting to read by.  The Kid Silk Haze scarf needs too much attention to read at the same time, so I looked for a simpler pattern.  I have chosen Martha by Sarah Hatton, from the Rowan Studio Knits book I bought in Sheffield last autumn.    The yarn is Felted Tweed DK, again, this time in a dark indigo with white flecks, that Rowan calls Seasalter. 

I have so far knitted half the back and finished one of the books - March by Geraldine Brooks, which I enjoyed.  It parallels Little Women by Louisa M Alcott, telling the story of Mr March, who is away being a chaplain in the Civil War during most of Little Women.


I read an interview with Sarah Hatton in The Knitter  (issue 21) in which she was asked which was her favourite of the designs she had done for Rowan, and Martha was one that she picked. She said "I think most people could wear it, and it has just the right amount of detail to be interesting without being overly complicated. "   Sounds promising, doesn't it?  I'm planning to make the sleeves quite a bit longer, though. 
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