Thursday 30 May 2013

New York, New York

I haven't written recently because we were away the week before last and it's taken me a while to catch up. We were in New York with our daughter, on a cultural holiday visiting a lot of museums and art galleries. We rented an apartment in Brooklyn, in a lively neighbourhood - a good base for exploring.

We spent a day at the Metropolitan Museum - all three of us seeing different things, because it is huge.  I saw one of the current exhibitions there, Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity,  full of wonderful impressionist paintings of women dressed in the latest fashions  - some paintings of men too, but since the men's fashions of the time were understated and rather dull by comparison, I didn't spend much time on that gallery.  My favourite was a portrait of his wife by Bartholom√©, from 1881.  She was wearing a splendid outfit in white and purple (you can see it here)  and the outfit still survives and was also on show.  You can get an idea from the painting of how it looked to contemporaries - light, fresh, summery, elegant - and you can see from the actual garment how complicated and intricately constructed it was. 

We also went to MoMA - Susie and I spent the whole day there, though John  left at lunchtime to go to the Green-wood cemetery in Brooklyn (did I mention that he likes cemeteries?)   She even persuaded me to try to appreciate an abstract painting by Barnett Newman, Vir Heroicus Sublimis.  It is a huge canvas painted in  a matt bright red, interrupted by thin vertical "zips".  (Barnett Newman was in the news that week, because a painting of his had just sold for a record price of $43.8 million.)   On another day when John was at the cemetery again, we went to the Guggenheim (disappointing because most of the galleries were closed), the Neue Galerie, and the Whitney.  The Neue Galerie was also partly closed (to install a new exhibition), but there were paintings by Klimt on display in the rooms that were open, including his fabulous portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, intricately patterned in gold, apart from her head and hands.   At the Whitney, we spent a long time in the exhibition of works by Jay DeFeo, including The Rose, which is a huge piece, both in size and weight, and took years to create.  ("Monumental" is the Whitney's word.)  I'm not sure that it says much to me as a work of art, but the story of its creation and subsequent history is astonishing.

Anyway, knitting:  I took with me the infinity scarf I wrote about earlier this month here. I didn't knit any of it while we were away, but the main point of taking it was to show it to Susie to see if she likes it, because it is for her.  It is now more than 1m. long, so nearly finished, I think. We also came across something that looked like a huge piece of knitting, in Madison Square Park. It's an installation by Orly Genger, Red, Yellow and Blue. (I haven't shown a photo of the Blue piece.)

Orly Genger's Red, Yellow and Blue  - Yellow
The information board says that "Genger explores the traditionally intimate and domestic activity of knitting..." and elsewhere says that it involves weaving and painting rope.  But it's clearly not weaving, and doesn't seem to be knitting either - I think it's some sort of knotting.   It was very attractive to small children, who wanted to climb on it, though the thick paint applied to the rope makes it much less tactile than it looks.

A small piece of Yellow
It was a really good holiday - we had a great time, and we'd like to go back. Below are a random selection of our photos. 

A view from the Empire State Building
And another one
We liked the roof-top water tanks in Manhattan

and the brownstones in Brooklyn.

We walked round the reservoir in Central Park one evening.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Inspired by a Doily

I wrote a while ago about a yellow pullover that was modelled for Sirdar by Roger Moore in 1952, and said that its design was inspired by a Flamborough fisherman's jersey.   Sirdar published several leaflets at the same time that were based on historic originals, including leaflet 1401, a Lady's Lacy Jumper - inspired by a knitted doily.  Who would think of looking at a doily and visualising a jumper instead?  But the translation into a jumper works very well.  

Sirdar 1401

The lacy part is knitted in two main pieces, starting at the bottom of each sleeve and increasing as you knit towards the centre front and centre back.  The neckband and ribbed wastband are knitted separately and then all four pieces are sewn together.   It is obviously designed to show off a curvy 1950s figure with a tiny (corseted) waist. 

A similar design, also based on a doily pattern, appears in Sirdar leaflet 1404.  To my mind, this one is more successful - the neckline at the front develops more naturally out of the circular shape. But I don't know what the neckline looks like at the back, and it's hard to imagine it just from reading the pattern instructions.

1950s vintage knitting pattern; Sirdar
Sirdar 1404

 It seems that leaflet 1401 was much more popular than 1404, judging by the number of copies that I have seen at Lee Mills.  I'm not sure why - they both take 5 oz. of 3-ply wool, and fit the same range of sizes.  Somehow, the look of leaflet 1401 was more appealing to knitters of the time. 

Monday 6 May 2013

Austerity to Affluence

I have been looking through some Emu knitting patterns from the late 1940s and 1950s.  We have permission to copy Emu patterns for Guild members, and so I have scanned a batch of front covers, to show some of what's available.   Many things were in short supply for several years after the war, even after rationing finished, but in spite of that there were some very stylish knitting patterns around.  (There were also some rather boring sweaters and cardigans in plain stocking stitch and fine wool - I don't think that many hand-knitters would want to make those now.  Back then, it was cheaper to knit your own than to buy machine-knitted, so knitters needed a range of basic patterns.)

Here's a small selection from those that aren't boring.   The first two are very typical of the late 40s.

Emu 151 - Sports Jumper

 Stranded knitting across the shoulders of sweaters and cardigans was very popular at the time, as well as more traditional Fair Isle designs.  This is a nice one: the blue flowers on white have a kind of peasant feel, and the little collar is a neat touch. 

Emu 171 - Hungarian Blouse
There was also a fashion for knitwear like the Hungarian Blouse - cardigans in quite complicated stitch patterns involving cables, usually in white, and embroidered with flowers in bright colours.  (I'm not sure that they are always called Hungarian - I think the style is attributed to several other European countries as well.)

Emu 201 - Cap-sleeve Sweater 

I do like the cap sleeve sweater very much.  It is much more New Look, worn with a full skirt and the waist more defined.  It's not very clear from the cover photo what's going on in the design, but I like the neat neckline, and there might be some shoulder detail - I'll have to look at the pattern.   

Emu 259 - Cardigan in Crescent Stitch
The cardigan in crescent stitch would be much more appealing if it were posed differently - the model has adopted one of those tortuous poses that make the clothes look really uncomfortable to wear.  But it's a interesting textured stitch and could be a perfectly nice cardigan, though the neckline is bit too high for me.

Emu 296 - Tuck-in Blouse

The tuck-in blouse is a typical 1950s lacy knit that takes just a few ounces of really fine wool.  I'm not sure that many knitters would have the patience to knit it now, but it is pretty.  (Odd that women in the 1950s seem to have been completely blatant about showing their underwear.  It doesn't fit with my memories of being a teenager in the 1960s, when showing a bra strap was totally embarrassing.)

Emu 326

The jumper in Emu 326 seems to me to be a wonderful example of what you can achieve with colourwork, with only two colours.  (I assume that it's all done in the knitting, and not added afterwards - I should check.)  And who is that model?  She is the face of 1950s knitting patterns, as far as I'm concerned.  She modelled knitwear seemingly every week in Woman's Weekly, as well as appearing in other magazines and modelling for pattern leaflets, as here.

Finally, I have picked a couple of designs in double knitting wool.  The ladies' jackets still look very definitely 1950s, but the pullover in honeycomb stitch looks more like early 1960s to me - sweaters with big collars were very popular then.  (Either I am completely wrong about the dating, or Emu were not very consistent about numbering consecutively - leaflet 82 is much later than leaflet 151 and all the rest.)

Emu 396 - Two Ladies' Jackets

Emu 83 - Honeycomb Stitch Pullover

Sunday 5 May 2013

No knitting is left on this van overnight

Seen in Uppermill, Greater Manchester.

Thursday 2 May 2013

Software Troubles

We have had a trying week.  We bought a new desktop computer, running Windows 8, and an Office 2013 licence.  I think I can safely say, without risking having to contradict myself in future, that Windows 8 is not going to be my favourite version of Windows.  Even worse, when I had installed Office 2013 I was puzzled that I couldn't find Picture Manager.   Office Picture Manager is the picture editing software we have been using for years - almost all the images in this blog have been processed that way. It does nearly everything I want to do with images, and is very simple to use, so it was a nasty surprise when I couldn't find it.  A bit of searching on the internet showed that there's a simple reason for that - it isn't part of the Office suite any more.     Microsoft has decided that users don't need it, apparently.   But I can't find an adequate substitute elsewhere in Office or Windows 8 - and judging by the many complaints I found on the internet, that's because there aren't any.  

Fortunately, following advice from t'internet, I've been able to get it back.  I still had the CDs from the very old version of Office running on the very old computer that we just got rid of, so I was able to install Picture Manager from there.    So I'm OK again, apart from still having to adapt to Windows 8.  I don't know why such contortions should be necessary - my laptop runs Windows 7 and  Office 2010 and I don't remember any difficulties with them. 

To show my appreciation of Picture Manager, here are images of two of my current knitting projects.    

Brought to this blog by Office Picture Manager...

The first is a lacy scarf that I have just started, in 4-ply sock yarn (i.e. fingering weight). It is a beautifully soft wool - Blue-faced Leicester.   It was dyed by my friend Steph who is selling skeins of it in wonderful colours through the Spun shop in Huddersfield.   I started with a provisional cast on,  so that I can join the ends when I have finished knitting (when I run out of yarn), to make an infinity scarf.  

... and so is this one.

The second photo is a close-up of a short-sleeved sweater that I'm knitting in 4-ply cotton.  It's one of Mary Quant's designs from 1965, in  a twisted rib stitch. 

More on both projects later.

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