Wednesday 5 February 2014

Tell Them Of Us

I have been busy for a couple of days, scanning knitting patterns from the First World War, or just before.  They will be passed to a large team of around 250 volunteers who are creating knitwear for the cast of a film to commemorate the War.  The film, "Tell Them Of Us", is based on the war memorial in Thimbleby, a village in Lincolnshire, and one man named on it in particular, Robert Crowder.   I found out about the knitting project only recently, via the costumier, Pauline Loven. They have been having some difficulty finding enough British patterns of the right date, and  there are quite a lot in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, so we can help. 

It is a fascinating project - I'm so much looking forward to seeing some of the patterns in the Guild collection knitted up for the film.  

Although all the knitters are volunteers, and various spinners have donated yarn, there are still costs associated with  the knitting project, for postage and so on.   There is a web site where you can pledge donations and also find out a bit about the film - it seems to me a very worthwhile project to support. 

1910s vintage knitting pattern; Patons; Knitted coats & caps
Paton's Helps to Knitters IX

I have sent Pauline some of my favourite patterns - Paton's pattern leaflets from 1912.  I especially like the "Knitted Coats and Caps" leaflet - the young woman on the front looks so cheerful and energetic in her coat.   (I wear the things I have knitted for myself for years, so I am sure anyone who knitted this outfit for herself in 1912 would have worn it during the war as well.)  

The pattern writer in this case had some very modern ideas about what's required in a pattern - she says what size it fits (instead of saying something like "to fit an average figure" which you see sometimes in old patterns);  she tells you how long the coat will be; she specifies the tension to aim for; and she even directs you to knit a tension swatch.  And she gives directions for a larger and a smaller size - admittedly, for the smaller size you just use finer needles, but the directions for the larger size give different numbers  of stitches and rows at various stages.  Patterns in a range of sizes are very unusual until much later - really, after World War 2, so this is a long way ahead of its time. 

1910s vintage knitting pattern; Patons; Girls' coats & caps
Paton's Helps to Knitters X

The next leaflet that Paton's issued has a similar range of patterns for girls. I like the illustration on the front, of the little girl trying to look very formal and well-behaved in her smart outfit. This leaflet was written by a different designer, and the instructions are much sketchier.  Sometimes she gives a tension, sometimes she doesn't.  She doesn't give any indication of measurements, just a target age, as in  "Knitted coat for a girl 5 or 6 years of age".   And some of the instructions seem very opaque, though I hope that they make more sense when you're knitting.  I would say that it's the usual standard for patterns of that era, except that some designers (like the designer of the previous leaflet)  evidently felt that knitters needed and deserved much clearer directions to work from.   I hope one of the volunteer knitters can follow the pattern - I would really like to see a 21st century girl dressed like that.        
P.S. The title of the film comes from an epitaph written by J. M. Edmonds that appeared in The Times Literary Supplement on July 4, 1918.  He suggested it would be suitable for a British graveyard in France:

When you go home, tell them of us, and say
"For your to-morrow, these gave their to-day." 

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