Monday 24 June 2013


Last week we were in London for a few days, staying with old friends in Twickenham.  We saw a lot while we were there, including the Pompeii exhibition at the British Museum (wonderful objects; labels informative but hard to read and badly placed;  very crowded).  It made me want to re-read Robert Harris's novel about the eruption, and read Mary Beard's book on Pompeii.  

We also visited Highgate Cemetery, including the West Cemetery which is only open to guided tours.  (The most famous memorial in Highgate, to Karl Marx, is in the East Cemetery.)

The tomb of George Wombwell, 'menagerist', died 1850

"The Trumpet Shall Sound"

There are still a few burials in Highgate Cemetery every year.  Most modern gravestones seem very standardised and uninteresting, but many of the Highgate ones are quite striking.  Especially the one that makes a feature of an obvious point - that the incumbent is DEAD.


Douglas Adams is buried at Highgate, too, and his grave has a jar of pens and pencils left by visitors, as tokens of affection. 
Douglas Adams's gravestone
On another day, I went to the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey.  It was, as you would expect, colourful and inspiring.  A DVD was showing in one gallery of Fassett visiting Vietnam and India and talking about the wonderful combinations of bright colours in the markets, or subtle colours in the landscape.  Some of the things he showed were surprisingly mundane, like a display of plastic buckets on a market stall, though I guess they would look different under a pale British sun.  It was fascinating.  

I took quite a lot of photos in the exhibition, but relying on the artificial light in the museum made the colours not very accurate, which kind of ruins the point.  Here are a couple anyway.   


 We had a great time in London, and it was good to see our friends again.  We also got to meet their springer spaniel puppy, Duke, who is very loveable.  (And I'm sure will learn to stay, fetch, and so on,  when he is a bit older.)


Saturday 15 June 2013

"A Marjory Tillotson design"

A little while ago, a package arrived in the post from an old friend from schooldays.  Gill was clearing out some knitting patterns that she had collected over the years, and remembered that I had said in a Christmas card that I was working on a collection of pattern leaflets.  So she sent them to me as a donation to the collection.   It was a generous gift - all the leaflets are in good condition and will be valuable acquisitions. But the real gems of her collection are two patterns designed by Marjory Tillotson, dating I think from the 1940s.

1940s vintage knitting pattern; Marjory Tillotson design
Marjory Tillotson design 105
1940s vintage knitting pattern; Marjory Tillotson design
Marjory Tillotson design 106

I described here  Marjory Tillotson's early career working for Baldwin's in Halifax before and during the First World War.  After 1920 she became a freelance designer.  Most of the designs that she produced as a freelance cannot now be identified, sadly.  But after World War II, she became better known, perhaps because of the publication of The Complete Knitting Book,  which went through several editions in the 1930s and 1940s.   As a result, her name evidently became a selling point for some publishers.  For instance, she is named on a series of leaflets that she designed for the Marshall & Snelgrove department stores, including one I showed here.

And in the 1940s, she seems to have tried publishing her own pattern leaflets, including the two that Gill sent.  They appear to be very rare - we already had one of the series in the collection, but I have never seen any others, so I think that it was a venture that didn't succeed. But they are pretty designs - leaflets 105 and 106 together give a twinset in a lacy pattern embroidered with flowers.  The leaflets themselves are well designed, too.  They include a photo of a swatch, showing the exact tension required for the pattern. 

The tension photo is an excellent idea - it simplifies checking tension, as well as showing the stitch pattern (and in this case the embroidered motif) in detail.  And it allows the complete garment to be shown simply as a drawing.  

Marjory Tillotson deserved to succeed with these knitting patterns, and it's a pity that she apparently didn't.  But I am really pleased, and grateful to Gill, to have these additions to the Guild's collection.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Crochet Week

Last week at Lee Mills was devoted to trying to sort and record as much of the crochet as possible in the Knitting & Crochet Guild's collection.  It was very successful - eleven additional volunteers spent one or two days at Lee Mills, some travelling from as far afield as the south coast.  In the event, everything proved to take a lot longer than planned (as it always does).  There are also a great many individual items to be sorted, including several boxes of doilies, edgings and other small items, not to mention the larger stuff.  By the end of the week, after a lot of work, the doilies and edgings and a few other things had been sorted,  but recording will be left until later.

I took some photos of the items being sorted, though I seem to have majored in doilies, and ignored the other things.  Doilies can be very pretty, I must admit, especially some of the coloured ones, though they don't have any place in my life that I have yet discovered.  There was speculation about what area the doilies would cover if they were all spread out, but I don't think anyone came up with a plausible estimate  (Wales?  A football pitch?) 

Filet crochet doilies

A multi-coloured pile of doilies
I also took some photos of some of the Irish crochet pieces in the collection - already catalogued, but brought out to show the volunteers. They represent an astonishing amount of work, especially the long dresses and other garments. But very beautiful.

A 3-d flower in Irish crochet

Part of a garment in Irish crochet
 Meanwhile, I stayed out of the way of all the crochet and carried on quietly sorting the pattern leaflets -  27,000 recorded so far. 

Thursday 6 June 2013

A New Knitting Group in Huddersfield

On Tuesday evening, we had the inaugural meeting of a new local group of the Knitting & Crochet Guild in Huddersfield.  It has grown out of Tuesday Knit Night - most of the regular attenders are now members of the KCG, so we decided that once a month (first Tuesday), Knit Night will be a KCG meeting and we will have a talk or a workshop, rather than just knit and natter.   Eleven people came along to the first meeting - a good beginning. 

I had volunteered Angharad, in her absence, to talk about the Sanquhar and Yorkshire Dales gloves in the Guild collection, as well as the gloves that she has knitted herself that are inspired by the traditional gloves.   It was really bad timing on my part, because this week she is also running Crochet Week at Lee Mills, but she agreed to do it anyway and did a great job.

All the gloves (both old and new) are knitted in two colours, in small geometric patterns and usually in fine yarns.  They often have a date and the initials of the person they were made for knitted into the cuff.  Angharad usually knits them in 3-ply and has been knitting a series of pairs for friends - they are extremely covetable, so the friends are very lucky.

An array of gloves

You can see better photos of the gloves that Angharad has knitted on her blog, with details of the yarns and techniques.  Below are photos of two of the pairs from the collection that she brought along on Tuesday.  

Yorkshire Dales gloves
Sanquhar gloves
  I am talking at the next meeting (in July) myself, about some of the Aran knits in the Guild collection, though Angharad's talk will be a hard act to follow.

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Déjeuner sur Tarmac

We are having a Crochet Week at Lee Mills, from Monday to Friday this week.  As well as the regular volunteers, we have other Guild members coming from all over the country, to help sort out all the many boxes of crochet in the collection.

Monday and Tuesday were beautiful days, warm and sunny - the first warm days we have had at Lee Mills this year.  So we ate our sandwiches on our patio/ terrace/ picnic area, in front of the building.   It's not very beautiful, but we enjoyed sitting in the sun.  And it makes a nice change to feel that the inside of the building is pleasantly cool, instead of somewhere in the range cold to freezing.

We often see rabbits in the yard, hopping around between the lorries.  I can't imagine what they find to eat, because there doesn't seem to be anything growing there at all.  Someone suggested that they are refugees from a grassy area elsewhere on the site that has recently been dug up, but you'd think they'd have the sense to move somewhere more suited to a rabbit-y lifestyle.  There are fields and other green areas all round the site, so plenty of potential rabbit homes.

I am having as little as possible to do with the crochet sorting this week.  My role is to make coffee, bring chocolate and beetroot brownies, and provide some gentle pattern sorting activity for anyone who is overcome by the excitement of too much crochet.  Meanwhile,  I am carrying on with pattern sorting myself - more than 26,000 pattern leaflets have been counted so far.  But I will write about the crochet later in the week.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Coronation Knits

Today is the 60th anniversary of the Queen's Coronation.  In 1953, several spinners issued Coronation pattern leaflets to mark the occasion - I have been collecting them, as I have been sorting the pattern leaflets at Lee Mills. 

Copley 1953

My favourite is Copley's leaflet number 1953. It has an appropriately royal theme - a white jumper with an all-over design of small red and blue crowns.   And it even has the right number!   As far as I can tell, it wasn't issued out of sequence - it just happened that leaflet 1953 was due to be issued during 1953.  Copley's must have been delighted, and reserved 1953 for a Coronation pattern. 

 Sirdar issued several leaflets in its Coronation Series, though they mostly don't seem to have been designed with a Coronation theme.  

Sirdar 1441

Sirdar 515

They are typical 1950s designs, including the little girl's outfit of a knitted skirt with pleats and knitted braces - I had one like it in dark brown.  

Just one pattern in the Sirdar series had a Coronation theme - a jumper with a design of crowns and Tudor roses (?) around a square neckline. But I have only seen the pattern advertised - we don't have it in the collection at Lee Mills.  It was disappointing when we got to sorting that batch of leaflets to find that that one was missing. 

Ad for Sirdar 1440
Marriner 186
Marriner's issued about five Coronation leaflets.  The one I have shown has a gold label on the front saying that it is one of Marriner's Coronation Series, but others that I have seen don't have the label. There is a child's cardigan in the series, illustrated on the back of one of the other leaflets, with a design of soldiers in dress uniform and the Coronation coach, but otherwise it is not obvious that the designs in the series have anything to do with the Coronation, especially without the label on the front.    

I imagine women knitting these designs to wear on June 2nd - at a street party, or while watching the Coronation on the tiny black-and-white TV screens of 1953.    I know that I went with my mother to watch it on a neighbour's TV,  though I don't remember much about it - I mainly remember that my sister, who was younger than me, was left outside to sleep in her pram in the rain.   My husband remembers going to the Coronation rehearsal in London and having a new coat.  (It rained on the rehearsal day, too.)  He was not yet 4 at the time, so it is one of his earliest memories.    A long time ago.       
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