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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