Friday 29 March 2013

Another Wedding Dress

I wrote a few weeks ago here about two wedding dress pattern leaflets that I had found. Christina commented that there is also a wedding dress pattern in the 1976 edition of Fashion Knits, an annual publication by Patons that they produced from the late 1950s to the 1980s.  We have a complete run of Fashion Knits in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, so I was able to find the dress.  Here it is.

1976 knitted wedding dress

Unlike the last two I showed, this one is knitted.  The yarn is called Kismet, which seems to have been 80% acrylic with some mohair, and maybe some wool too.  Perhaps a bit warm for a June bride (although considering the weather we've been having, maybe not).   Not a very modern shape - long sleeves seem to be completely out of style for brides, and the skirt isn't right for today. And it can't quite decide where the waist should be - is it an Empire line or a natural waist?   But I'm sure a 1976 bride would have looked lovely in it.

Friday 22 March 2013

Baht 'At Mitts Finished

I have just finished the Baht 'At fingerless mitts from Ann Kingstone's Born & Bred book.  Very timely, as it has turned out - it's snowing and the local weatherman predicts it's going to snow for 50 hours!  (Whereas exactly a year ago, it was unusually warm - 15°C.)

I used the yarn that Ann specified for the mitts - Titus, from Baa Ram Ewe, which is a wool/alpaca mix.  It's named after Sir Titus Salt, who built the village of Saltaire, near Bradford, around his mill.  The story is that he made his fortune from developing ways to spin and weave alpaca, when no-one else in Bradford thought it was worth anything. 

I changed the pattern a bit, by adding a few extra stitches:  I wanted to knit them quite tightly and I've got big hands.  I've also made the thumbs a bit longer.  I'm really pleased with them.  One nice point, that you can't see, is that although the right side of the pattern is very textured, the other side looks almost like stocking stitch.  Because the yarn is slightly fuzzy, the inside of the mitts is smooth and soft - they are lovely to wear.

For a small project, it's taken me a while to finish them. I was only knitting them occasionally, especially on long journeys on public transport, because it was a very portable project.   I did quite a bit on the flight to Portland in February, and on a train to London and back last Saturday. The woolholder I bought on eBay proved invaluable for knitting on a plane - it sat on the tray table, and so there was no risk of the ball of wool falling on the floor and rolling down the aisle.

When I finished knitting, I opened the woolholder, and found that the ball of wool looked pretty much the same as when I started.  I have used just 40g. of the original 100g. skein.  So I could knit another three mitts!  But actually, I have plans to use it along with the leftover alpaca from my Color Affection shawl  and from the brioche stitch scarf I made as a Christmas present the year before last.  There are 5 different colours altogether, all 4-ply, and I have some ideas for some kind of stripy cowl or tubular scarf.   Not quite worked out yet.

Monday 18 March 2013

1909 Knitting Yarns

I  have been looking through some magazines that date from about 1907 to the early 1920s, covering mostly crochet, with some knitting.  It is fascinating to see the ads, especially for knitting wools.  Three companies in particular advertised regularly in the earliest of the magazines:  Baldwin's, Paton's and Faudel's.   Paton's & Baldwin's merged in 1920, and still exist (although now the name is just Patons) - Faudel's disappeared in the 1930s, I think. 

The Faudel's ad is useful because it gives a long list of all the wools that they produced at that time (1909).  It doesn't describe the yarns that they were producing in terms that we would use now, because there was no standardised way of referring to different yarn thicknesses then - 4-ply describes how the yarn was spun, not how thick it was.  (Although 4-ply Peacock Fingering was presumably twice as thick as a 2-ply Peacock Fingering.)  Even so, the list of possible uses of each yarn gives some idea of thickness.

It's interesting that they were producing a yarn described as double knitting, to be used for jerseys, sweaters and jackets.  They describe it as combining the qualities of fingering and worsted.  Nowadays, double knitting yarn is between fingering (aka 4-ply) and worsted (aka Aran) in thickness.  But I don't think we can assume that there's an exact match between what we now call double knitting and what Faudel's meant by it - I guess that they were at least close, though. 

Some of the uses are slightly odd, like Homespun: "A yarn for Deep Sea Mission and Charity purposes."    The Deep Sea Mission is presumably the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, that I wrote about in a post on knitting in the First World War.  Here, I suppose that the Peacock Homespun is a cheap hard-wearing wool that you wouldn't knit for yourself or your family, and it's nothing to do with being waterproof. 

Another nice list of uses is for Ice Wool:  "Now used for Fascinators, Motor Wraps, Scarves, Shawls and Clouds."  (I think that someone at the In the Loop conference, who is researching into Shetland lace knitting, was trying to find out exactly what a knitted cloud was,  but I haven't found a pattern for one yet.)   A Fascinator, by the way, was nothing like what we call a fascinator (except that it goes on your head). Below is an illustration from a pattern for one, knitted in Ice Wool and Faudel's Glace Chenille  (not mentioned in the list above, so in spite of all the varieties named, it was not complete).  

A Fascinator, 1908

Friday 15 March 2013

Wendy and Robin in miniskirts

In the 1960s, Mary Quant was one of the foremost fashion designers in London, widely credited with popularising the miniskirt.  She also produced two collections of designs for hand-knitters and crocheters to make for themselves, in Courtelle yarns.  Three of the designs appear in Wendy pattern leaflets in 1965: the preamble to the instructions says: "This is a Mary Quant design, one of the collection created exclusively for Wendy in Courtelle.  Mary Quant, famous as a pace-setter in the fashion world, has now brought her originality and flair to handknitting." 
1960s vintage crochet pattern; 1960s vintage knitting pattern; Wendy; Mary Quant; cream short-sleeved dress, bonnet & knee socks
Wendy 555 

According to notes on the archive copies held by Thomas B Ramsden & Co. (who now own Wendy), 15,000 copies of Wendy leaflet 555 were sold, more than twice as many as either of the other two Mary Quant leaflets.  That seems a bit surprising, because making the dress would take a lot of work.  It's also not a project for beginners - the skirt of the dress is knitted, and the rest of the outfit is crocheted, so you need both skills.  (And crocheting knee socks sounds fairly advanced - I've never got much past granny squares in crochet, so I can't judge.)   So I do wonder how many people actually made and wore the complete outfit, including the bonnet and knee socks.

The other two 1965 designs are more straightforward: Wendy 556 (below) is a crochet blazer with contrast edgings, and there's also a ribbed sweater with bands of contrast colour, which could be tackled by someone without much knitting experience.   But perhaps they didn't sell so well because they were seen as less distinctive.  

1960s vintage crochet pattern; Wendy; Mary Quant; white blazer jacket with navy edging
Wendy 556
In 1966, Mary Quant designed another collection of knitting patterns, including three for Wendy and three for Robin.  They are distinguished from the 1965 patterns by the fact that all the models have sharp geometric Vidal Sassoon haircuts - a style that was associated with Mary Quant after she adopted it herself in 1964.

1960s vintage knitting pattern; Wendy; Mary Quant; cream short-sleeved dress with patterned bands at waist & cuffs
Wendy 602

Three of the 1966 patterns are dresses, with matching stockings or socks. I don't like stockings at all, especially not thick knitted ones, and the thought of hand-knitting a pair is horrifying.  But ignoring the knitted stockings, I think the dress in Wendy 602 looks good (on a slim model, of course).   I don't personally think that knitted dresses are practical, and I rarely wear dresses anyway. But I could imagine converting it to a short-sleeved sweater with bands of stranded knitting.  (Or is it just me looking back nostalgically on the 1960s?)

Also among the 1966 designs for Wendy and Robin are a knitted jacket, with contrast crochet edging and another pair of matching knee socks, and two long-sleeved sweaters.  Robin 1559 (below) is a plain sweater in a raised rib pattern, with smocking on each shoulder.  The smocking is a 1960s detail which I think is too fussy combined with the plainness of the rest of the design - I'd prefer it without the smocking.  My favourite, though, is still Robin 1560 - a bold all-over geometric design in stranded knitting (described as "Fair Isle"), which I described in an earlier post here.

1960s vintage knitting pattern; Robin; Mary Quant; orange sweater with smocking; retro
Robin 1559

I've been tracking down the Mary Quant patterns for some time, and they almost all have something distinctive about them.   I like the fact that they are mostly not simple knits for beginners, and several of them have some element that would be technically novel for many knitters - stranded knitting, or smocking, or the combination of knitting and crochet.  And especially, knitting socks in the round - not a common accomplishment for young women at the time.  I think that the knitters who tried these designs might have found that their skills improved a lot as a result, which must be a good thing.

I have just started knitting another of the Mary Quant designs.  It is a sweater in a wide rib, where the knit stitches on the right side of the work are twisted.  Not difficult, but new to me.  More on that later. 

Monday 11 March 2013

Color Affection Finished!

Color Affection Finished!

It warrants an exclamation mark, because it took a lot of work.  I said here that I met someone in Portland wearing her own Color Affection shawl, and when I examined hers, I realised that I had misunderstood the instructions (my fault - they were clear enough)  and should have already started the border.  Apart from telling me that I was nearer to finishing than I had thought, that was also very liberating -  I remembered that after all it is my knitting and I can do whatever I like with it.

So when  I got home, I started the border, but didn't knit it according to the pattern.  The border, as written, is a 2 in./5 cm. strip of the second contrast colour, which in my case is the brown (Demerara).  It is the darkest of the 3 colours I was using and I thought that knitting the border according to the pattern would make it much too dominant.  (Also, having decided that I was nearly finished, I got impatient and really didn't want to knit too many more extremely long rows, taking about half an hour each.)  So my border is in the two contrast colours, Poinsettia (orangey-pink) and Demerara:  2 rows of Demerara, 2 of Poinsettia and then 4 of Demerara. And then I cast off.  The pattern says the bind-off should be very loose, and suggests using a larger needle, but I used Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off and it was absolutely fine.

As you can see from the photo, the finished shawl is very long, but it doesn't seem to be as deep as it looks in the illustrations to the pattern.  I'm not sure why.  I reduced the needle size to 3.5 mm (from the 4mm recommended) and wasn't very concerned about getting the gauge right - I chose a smaller needle because the fabric seemed too loose otherwise.   And I have used much less yarn than the pattern says you need: it specifies 352 m. of each of the 3 colours, in fingering weight yarn.  However, just from reading the pattern, it's clear that you need more of the main colour (M, grey in my case) than the first contrast colour (C1, Poinsettia) because whenever you have a stripe of C1 you also have a stripe of M, and then you also have the initial semicircle of M. In fact, I used about equal quantities of C1 and C2 (about 190m and 170m respectively) and about 50% more of M.

So, since I bought the amount specified in the pattern (two skeins of each colour), I have quite a lot left over - about a skein each of the two contrast colours and half a skein of grey.   It's lovely yarn (Artesano Alpaca), but I have more than enough yarn to knit already...

I really like the finished shawl - it's beautifully warm and soft, very light (see above).  And useful - it's snowing again today, so an extra layer of warm is very welcome.   I'm not very proud of my knitting though - I find garter stitch hard to knit evenly.  So I have to be careful not to look too closely, and just enjoy the overall effect. 

Thursday 7 March 2013

Double Knitting in Sheffield

Last Saturday, I went to a meeting of the Sheffield Knitting & Crochet Guild - I don't know why I hadn't thought to do that before, because Sheffield is not very far away, and it's my home town, so I enjoy visiting once in a while.

The Sheffield Guild meets once a month, and has a topic for each meeting.  On Saturday there was a class on double knitting.  In case you don't know, it's a technique for producing a double thickness of fabric, with the two layers linked together. You knit with two colours of yarn: each layer has a design in one colour on a background of the other colour - but the colours in one layer are the reverse of those in the other.   I managed to produce a tiny sample during the meeting.  It's not very well done - the tension is uneven, and the edges are untidy.   (It would have looked a bit better if I had decided in advance that I wanted to do a design over an odd number of stitches, and cast on an odd number in the first place - then at least the design would have been in the middle.)   But if I tried again, I'm sure I would produce something better.

It's a nice idea  - you get a thick fabric that is equally presentable on both sides, plus the intriguing effect of a 'positive' and 'negative' two-colour design on the two sides.   But it's slow - at least as slow as knitting the two sides separately, I think.  So I don't have any plans to knit anything in double knitting, but I'm pleased that I now know how to do it.  And I'll go to meetings of the Sheffield Guild again - it was a good afternoon.  

Later, I found a tutorial on double knitting by Ann Kingstone.  She describes a good way to get a neat edge in double knitting - my sample would definitely have benefited from it.  

Monday 4 March 2013

Portland yarns

I feel more or less recovered from jetlag now.  It was much easier to adjust going the other way - just as well, otherwise as soon as I recovered it would have been time to come back.
Bagdad cinema, Portland

Aladdin cinema, Portland
 The weather was mainly wet and cold in Portland (just like home) so my photos are a bit grey.  I took a few shots of building that appealed. Here are a couple of 1930s cinemas - the Bagdad (on Hawthorne), and the Aladdin (somewhere else).  I would have liked a night-time photo of the Aladdin - it looks especially grand when the neon sign is lit up, with the lamp at the top.  But I didn't have my camera with me at the time.

The other photo is the Milwaukie Market - what we would call a corner shop in the U.K.  I liked the array of gaudy ads all over the outside (mostly for beer).

While my daughter was busy with classes, I spent quite a lot of time in Powell's book store - a Portland institution.  It sells new and used books side by side, so you can often choose between a new and  a used copy of the same book.  I bought a few books, including a (used) copy of Knitting Brioche by Nancy Marchant - I have knitted a scarf in a simple two-colour brioche stitch, but the book goes much further and has some patterns I'd like to knit. 

I also spent some time in Knit Purl, a really nice yarn store in downtown Portland.  I did buy quite a lot of yarn there, but for now I will only mention the Brooklyn Tweed Loft.  The store has a good selection of patterns, and I loved Heidi Kirrmaier's Boardwalk design - a mostly stocking stitch pullover with a bit of complication around the neckline.  I bought the pattern and four skeins of Loft to knit it with, in a lovely silver grey.   (The nice people in the store wound it for me, on their electric wool-winder.  It was mesmerising!  I could watch it all day.)   I started knitting it when I got home, and I am about halfway up the back - it's my current TV knitting. 

I couldn't go to my usual Tuesday Knit Night in Huddersfield, obviously, but my daughter found another Tuesday Knit Night at the Yarn Garden on Hawthorne.  It was a good evening - friendly knitters, interesting knitting.  And I found out something very useful - one of the knitters was wearing her Color Affection shawl, and I looked at it carefully and discovered that I had misunderstood the pattern instructions and should have already started the border.   So I am much nearer to finishing than I thought.  (Though as she said, it will take a long time to knit the border - two inches of really long rows.)  

I did lots of other things in Portland that weren't knitting related, of course.  It was a good week.  But the best part was spending time with my daughter. 
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