Thursday 28 June 2012

Thirteen to the Dozen

In a recent session of sorting pattern leaflets at Lee Mills, we found a small batch of Templeton's  leaflets which seem to have been the company's own copies - they have hand-written notes on them with dates and costings.  The dates are between 1938 and 1940.

Templeton's leaflet 602

Leaflet 602 is for a "Twin set in 'Opalsheen' knitting wool".   (Opalsheen was a mixture of wool and "art. silk" or rayon.)  It is dated 27/4/39 and the costs associated with it are listed:

Photo & Block           £5 - 15 - 6
Printing                      £8 -  0 - 0
Design (Singleton)   £6 -  6 - 0

(These are of course in pre-decimal currency, i.e. pounds, shillings and pence, when there were 20 shillings to the pound and 12 pence to the shilling.  So £5 - 15 - 6d is £5 + 15 shillings (75p) + 6 old pence (2½p).)

The total cost is £20 - 1 - 6d, and then there is a slightly baffling bit:   "= 20.878d per doz. of 13".   From other leaflets in the same batch, it's clear that Templeton's had leaflets printed in batches of 3000.  In that case the cost of 13 leaflets would indeed be 20.878d.  (And I'm glad I could work it out on a calculator, and not by hand, as I suppose the person who wrote the note had to.)  So I guess that if a retailer ordered a dozen leaflets, they actually got 13.  

Very odd!  I know that a baker's dozen means thirteen, and the story I heard is that long ago the penalties for selling short measure were severe, so bakers would add an extra loaf to each dozen to be on the safe side.  But it seems extraordinary to find the same practice surviving to 1940.  (But perhaps only in Scotland?)

It seems that Templeton's were not making a lot of profit on their pattern leaflets.  No. 583 ("A smart suit in "Mystic" fancy yarn", dated 22/2/39)  retailed at 3d, and it cost more than 2d to produce each one. The printing costs were especially high in that case, (£14 - 10 - 0d) because it was an 8-page leaflet.  Leaflet 602, also retailing at 3d, is only 4 pages, and the unit cost was less than 2d.  But that assumes that Templeton's could sell the entire batch of 3000, and presumably there was some profit for the retailer too. 

Templeton's leaflet 583
In fact, 3d seems very cheap by today's standards.  According to a historical inflation calculator I found here, 3d in 1939 is worth about 66p now - much less than the current price of spinners' pattern leaflets.

By the way, the company that produced these leaflets was James Templeton & Son Ltd. of Ayr.  I don't know whether there was any connection with James Templeton & Co. of Glasgow, who made carpets.  We went to a wedding two years ago at the former Templeton carpet factory - a very fancy building on Glasgow Green, modelled on the Doge's Palace in Venice.  If anyone knows of any connection between the two companies, I should be glad to know.    

Monday 25 June 2012

What to Knit for a Wedding

A week ago, Lydia, who owns the yarn shop in the Byram Arcade in Huddersfield, was married to Ash, and we went to the wedding party in the evening.  Lydia had knitted her wedding dress.  It had a white satin under-dress, with a long full skirt and a tight strapless bodice.  Lydia had knitted a full skirt to go over it, in a lacy pattern in off-white wool, very fine.  She had knitted a close-fitting sleeveless bodice in the same stitch pattern.  It looked fabulous, and she looked lovely in it. 

I knew that she had knitted the dress, and had seen the skirt in progress, though I didn't see the final result until the day of the wedding. So I thought that I ought to knit something to wear myself.  I was planning to wear my (one and only) dress.  (Anyone who sees me regularly will know that I wear a dress extremely rarely.  In fact, of the last two dresses I have owned, the first was a maternity dress, bought in 1984, and the second was a Little Black Dress bought for a wedding two years ago.)

I have had 6 balls of Rowan silk wool for a couple of years, wondering what to do with it.  And I saw an intriguing 1950s pattern by Marjory Tillotson for a shrug (aka a bolero or "hug-me-tight").  So I put the two together.

The construction is unusual: it is made in two identical pieces (called "armlets" in the pattern).  Each piece is knitted flat, starting with a lot of stitches and then decreasing until you have just enough to fit around the arm.  Then you stitch the sides together, to make an under-arm and side seam, forming a cone with the top cut off, more or less.  And finally you join the two armlets at the centre back.

I changed the original pattern a lot, because all the shaping is done by decreasing in two stages, reducing the number of stitches by half each time.  Apart from that, the close fit is due to the stretchiness of the rib.  I wanted the decreasing to be more gradual, and I wanted to avoid the discontinuity at each decreasing row in the original pattern.

Another change from the original was that I was using a different weight of yarn - Rowan silk wool is supposedly DK thickness, but it seems quite a bit thicker to me - the original pattern specifies either two strands of 3-ply knitted together, or two strands of 2-ply.  Of course, it should have been far too warm to wear in June, but it was a cold wet day (like most of the rest of this month) and so I was glad of a warm cover-up. 

I really like the result - it is nice to wear, and looks good over the dress (and over other things too, I hope.)   Silk wool has a lovely sheen, because of the silk content, and the browny/yellowy/greeny colour looks slightly metallic, like bronze. 

I was given this really pretty pear pincushion as a wedding favour  - Lydia had made them all herself (as well as the wedding dress!).  John got a bag of pear-drops - there was a bit of a pears theme going.  Bon voyage, Lydia and Ash.

Friday 15 June 2012

A Useful Summer Cardigan

(I've been looking at a lot of 1930s pattern leaflets lately and the language is catching.)  What I mean is, I have finished the cotton/linen mesh cardigan I wrote about here.

 I finished it a couple of weeks ago, in fact, and have worn it a few times already.  But I have been busy since then with my next knitting project, which I hope to wear tomorrow, so not much time for blogging.  But that's nearly finished now - more later.

The finished cardigan is in a slubby cotton/linen yarn from Stylecraft, now discontinued.  It is very rough to knit with, but nice to wear.  Knitting the mesh pieces was quite fast and easy, but finishing was tedious.  The button band took a long time - you would think that knitting a strip only 13 stitches wide would be quick, but it wasn't.  And then a lot of sewing.  The buttons are mother-of-pearl squares off an old duvet cover - I put them on as a temporary measure but they look good, and seem to take up the green of the yarn (they are actually a natural creamy colour), so I will stick with them.

I was a bit disappointed that the button band stands up higher than I expected at the back.  I should have anticipated that, because there is no back neck shaping - you just cast off the middle stitches after doing the shoulder shaping.   But in fact it looks exactly right with a shirt underneath.
And that's how it was shown in the original pattern.  It's from a Wendy pattern book, for a cotton/linen yarn (Pampas) that they produced in the 1980s, I guess.  The pattern had a dropped shoulder and I changed that to a set-in sleeve, and the yarn I used is thicker and nubblier, so the overall effect is chunkier,  but I think it has turned out well.

Looking at the photo from the book makes me wish for some sunshine to wear my cardigan in.  Although we have not had floods here, as they have in many parts of the country, it has been cold and wet.  Some proper summer weather would be nice.       

Tuesday 5 June 2012

The Man with the Golden Cardigan

As it's the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, there is a lot of discussion of 1952 in the media, so why don't I join in?  One thing that was happening in 1952 in knitting only became noteworthy later  -  Roger Moore was at the peak of his career as a model for knitting patterns, before switching to acting.  The move worked out very well for him, of course, even if it was a loss to knitting.  The Stitchcraft Men's Book appeared in that year, I believe, and he featured in most of the 1952 issues of Stitchcraft, including two front covers.

He looks very young (he was about 25) and really pretty good - male models of later decades often look ridiculous now (bad hair, dreadful moustaches and/or too much fake tan).
What looks most dated is that he is often posed with a cigarette or a pipe.  It seems quite shocking now to see a model smoking.  And I associate pipe-smoking with much older men, though perhaps it wasn't like that in 1952.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Another Jubilee Knit

Here's another pattern that was produced for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977.  It turned up in the latest batch of patterns that we sorted at Lee Mills - very timely, as this is the Diamond Jubilee weekend.    Nicely produced - the band across the top is silvery, although it has reproduced as gray. I wonder how many of these tops were actually knitted?

The weather is awful today - cold and wet.  I put all my thick winter woollies away and will have to get one out again.  Such a pity when so many people have put a lot of effort into organizing events for the weekend - we aren't taking part in any, but can still sympathize.   

We were in Lincoln on Friday and visited the castle.  We saw a Jubilee party taking place in the yard of a junior school just below the castle walls.  Presumably there were contingency plans to have the party indoors if wet, but it was a fine day.  Judging by the noise, the children were having a great time.  They had evidently all been encouraged to  wear red and/or white and/or blue, and it all looked very colourful and fun.   I wonder if they will remember the party in 60 years' time?  

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