Thursday 29 January 2015

1930s Motoring

Patons & Baldwins Helps to Knitters  3/667 

We have most of the Patons and Baldwins pattern leaflets from the 1930s in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, and many of the women's sweater patterns are very stylish.  But one of my favourite 1930s leaflets is not a sweater, or something I would want to knit - I like it because the cover photo is such a  period piece.   It reminds me of the Dorothy L. Sayers novels - perhaps Five Red Herrings, which was set in Galloway in southern Scotland, although the book was published in 1931, a few years before the leaflet.  

The two ladies are evidently touring with their car in some beautiful countryside, and ready for hiking, wearing stout shoes and sensible skirts.  And  both of them are smoking - still a bit daring in the 1930s for women, I should have thought, but perhaps not.  Perhaps it's to show that they are independent young women.

The leaflet gives instructions for the beret, scarf, gloves and socks worn by the standing woman, and for the motoring rug over her arm.  

They all look fluffy, or partly fluffy, because they have been brushed with a teazle brush.  The leaflet tells you how to do it:
Where it is desired to give a fur-like surface to knitted fabric .. this can most readily be done by means of a PATONS & BALDWINS  special Teazle Brush.  The process should not be applied promiscuously to knitted and crocheted fabrics but only when recommended  in the particular recipe. 

It goes on to say that "TEAZLE WOOL is especially suitable for fabrics to be finished off with a "raised" surface, and gives most beautiful results when used according to directions", although in fact the yarn recommended in the leaflet is not Teazle Wool but Patons' Super Wheeling 3-ply.

Other Patons & Baldwins publications of the 1920s and 1930s advertised a brushing service - you could send your finished knitted garment off to be teazled by experts.  So I wonder how easy it would be to get good results at home.  And you would have to buy the teazle brush, too - which would bring the temptation to use it 'promiscuously', despite the warning.  The brushing idea completely disappeared later, of course -  perhaps because of the development of angora and mohair yarns which gave a similar effect with less effort.   Intriguing.

Sunday 25 January 2015

Knitting for Soldiers and Sailors

The Lady's World Fancy Work Book, January 1915.

I wrote last year about the April 1914 issue of The Lady's World Fancy Work Book.  In those pre-war days, most of the magazine was concerned with 'fancy work', especially decorative crochet.  But there were also a few knitting patterns, for instance a woman's knitted 'sports coat' - a cardigan, more or less.

By January 1915, the magazine had decided that they should provide patterns for readers who wanted to knit comforts for soldiers and sailors.   The introduction to the issue said, "So many comforts have been knitted for soldiers, but we fear comforts for sailors are being overlooked, and we would remind the home worker of the need of scarves, sweaters, stockings, mittens, etc., that is experienced by the men in the North Sea at this time of the year."  (Though actually if readers had been knitting for soldiers, that was no thanks to the magazine, which had not published any 'comforts' patterns in the previous issue.)  The front cover illustrates four of the patterns.  The body belt is "an absolute necessity for both soldier and sailor".  Khaki wool is specified for the sleeping helmet, so that is aimed at the Army not the Navy.   The other two are specifically for sailors.  The Seaman's Jersey is in navy double knitting wool.  It is knitted in stocking stitch, apart from a patterned yoke, and has a ribbed roll collar.  The Sea Boot Stockings are knitted in the same wool.   Inside the magazine, there is a pattern for a Cardigan Jacket for a Soldier, also in double knitting wool "of a brown heather mixture colour, very suitable for soldiers' wear, although of course khaki or navy blue would be quite as serviceable."   And there is a very simple crocheted muffler for a soldier, in khaki double knitting wool.

Elsewhere in the magazine there are patterns for baby clothes, including a lacy 'matinee' jacket, and cycling or golfing stockings with fancy tops.

And in spite of the cover illustration of comforts for soldiers and sailors, more than half the magazine is still taken up by fancy work.  The biggest project is a chair-back in filet crochet, showing a cherub driving a chariot (full of apples? or oranges?) pulled by a rather depressed-looking lion.   A bit baffling, really.  The chair-back takes 188 rows of crochet, and the instructions for each row are given stitch by stitch.  Six and a half pages of print (a proof-reading nightmare).  Use a chart, people! Would the finished chair-back be worth all that effort?   I don't think so.

There are several ads in the magazines from spinners producing suitable wools for knitting comforts for soldiers and sailors, so perhaps that gives a better indication of what the magazine's readers were really spending their time on.

You can find a pattern from the magazine for a rather strange-sounding combination of cap and scarf, here.    A copy of the whole magazine is available to members of the Knitting & Crochet Guild.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Victorian Double Knitting

I wrote earlier about knitting a pence jug from the directions in Mrs Hope's The Knitter's Friend.  I'm not at all familiar with 19th century knitting books, so I've been trying to get a feel for how easy they would be to use.

The instructions for the pence jug were on the whole clear, and of course having an illustration helped.  But I have been looking at some of the other 'receipts' in the book, most of which aren't illustrated, and some of them are very hard to understand.

For instance, there is a pattern for a comforter which completely baffled me.  In the First World War, a comforter seems to have been more or less equivalent to a scarf or muffler, but this was evidently something different.   The complete instructions read:
Four pins No. 14, and 1/4 lb. three-thread super-fleecy.  Cast on 48 stitches on each of two needles, and 54 on the third; knit three and purl three alternately, till it is a quarter of a yard long; when cast off 75, and continue double knitting with the remainder, until it is a quarter of a yard long also.  
And then what?  How do you wear it?  (A quarter of a yard is 9 inches, or about 23 cm.  At least I can understand that bit.)

Elsewhere in the book are directions for double knitting:
Having done as many plain stitches as you require for the edge, bring the wool forward, slip a stitch, * pass the wool back, knit one putting the wool twice over the pin, repeat "bring the wool forward, &c." In the next row, the stitch that was knitted is slipped and vice versa.  
 * In slipping this stitch, take it off with the pin pointing towards you, that is, as though you intended to purl it. 
This sounds  a bit like what we now call double knitting, i.e. creating a double layer of knitting, except for 'putting the wool twice over the pin'.  But if they were not both called 'double knitting' I would not guess them to be the same, from Mrs Hope's instructions.

John bought me another little knitting book at the York Antiquarian Book Fair, The Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book (3rd series) by Miss Watts.  It seems to have been published about the same time as The Knitter's Friend (1840s).  It has instructions for a very similar comforter (a tube of K3, P3 rib, and then a flat piece of double knitting on half the stitches), and describes how it is to be worn:  "The ribbed part is to set round the throat and the double knitting covers the chest."  So that's clear - it's what's now called a dickey.

Like Mrs Hope, "Miss Watts"  (who apparently was at least two women) also attempts to describe double knitting:
Bring the wool forward, slip 1 stitch, pass the wool back, knit 1 stitch with the wool twice round the needle;  repeat to the end of the row.  Every row is the same.
She is (they are) evidently describing the same technique as Mrs Hope, but  I wouldn't want to rely on either set of instructions and be confident of doing what they intended.

Then I found another book, The Comprehensive Knitting Book by Esther Copley (1849).  She gives instructions for stitch patterns, as well as patterns for a huge range of garments. This is what she says about double knitting:
 Double Knitting 
So called on account of its forming a double texture, as if lined with a separate article and confined at the edges. The texture throughout though thick is loose, and is adapted to purposes in which warmth and softness are required rather than elegance of appearance, such as blankets, petticoats, drawers, protectors for the chest, &c.  Cast on any even number of stitches. Begin with six or eight plain rows by way of border.  The number of edge stitches should correspond with those of the border.  Thus, if eight rows of border be knitted, four stitches should be knitted plain at the beginning and end of every row. Having knit the edge stitches, bring the wool in front and slip a stitch; carry the wool back, and knit the next stitch.... putting the wool twice round the pin, once more than it would be in common knitting. 
 These two stitches constitute the whole of the pattern; they are to be repeated till the last four of the row, which are to be knitted as edge-stitches.  In returning, all the long stitches will be slipped, and all the short ones (slipped in the foregoing row) will be knitted.  Every row is alike until the last before the finishing border.  In this, the wool is to be brought in front, the stitch slipped, and the wool returned as heretofore; but the second (and every other alternate stitch) is to be plain knitted, not putting the wool twice round the pin. 
There's a woman who knows what she's talking about.  That description has everything you need:  it tells you what the result is like, what to use it for, and gives very clear directions.  She tells you that you need an even number of stitches (whereas in Mrs Hope's comforter receipt, the double knitting section is worked on an odd number of stitches - which could cause horrible problems to anyone trying to follow it without already knowing about double knitting).  She talks about the edge stitches, which Miss Watts does not, and Mrs Hope only mentions edge stitches at the beginning of the row. She tells you what happens on the second row, i.e. you knit the stitches you slipped on the previous row, and v.v., which is useful confirmation in understanding the directions.  And she tells you how to finish.  

So I was easily able to follow Mrs Copley's instructions and knit a swatch.

Within a border of plain knitting (garter stitch), you get a double thickness of stocking stitch, with the knit side outwards on both sides - so the other side of the swatch looks the same.  As Mrs Copley says, the texture is very loose, because putting the yarn round the needle twice gives a larger stitch than usual.  And I found it very difficult to get the stitches even, so it does not have much 'elegance of appearance'.   It would make a warm soft chest covering for your comforter.

Mrs Copley is my hero.  I haven't read the whole book - it has 208 pages - but what I have read looks very thorough and comprehensive, as she claims.  And the book is available free from Google Books.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

More Knitting Patterns

Hayfield 1569

Yesterday, we were working at Lee Mills, where the Knitting & Crochet Guild's collection is kept. One of the other volunteers was sorting a couple of boxes of pattern leaflets into numerical order, and said that it seemed to be a never-ending task. As soon as we think we're nearly finished, another boxful or crateful of patterns turns up.  I said that wasn't so at all, and we are making progress, even if it's slow, and we aren't likely to get any more large acquisitions of pattern leaflets.

 I should have known better. Within the hour, someone came round from the next-door premises with four binders of Hayfield pattern leaflets that had been left for us.  They came from the cellar of the local post office, which is also a general store and evidently used to sell Hayfield patterns (and yarn as well, presumably) in the 1980s.   These patterns had been there ever since, and the man who kept the Post office was having a clear-out and passed them on to us.

The binders themselves were extremely grubby from being in the cellar, but the patterns were in plastic sleeves and so were still in good condition.   I have picked out a few;  I chose leaflet 1569, because I like to see a sweater with a landscape knitted on the front.  Even though I have never made or worn one, and don't plan to either, they are quite cheering.

Hayfield 1561

Some of the designs still look wearable, like Hayfield 1561.  That one has a slightly 1930s look to me, in fact, so it is not so obviously 1980s as some of the others.

My favourite leaflets, because of their cover illustrations, are a batch for a yarn called Gaucho.  The stylist appears to have thought: "Gaucho - Argentinian cowboy - American West - Arizona - Mexico - desert - cactus..."   Some of the designs do have a hint of South America, like the llamas on the jacket in no. 1611, though the Aran-style sweater in no 1610 looks a bit out of place.  

 But the best part is the setting.    It's evidently meant to look like desert, somewhere in America, but the leaflets give the location as Sand Quarry, in Addington, Kent.   The broom and laurel (both European)  give the game away, too.   That cactus is plastic, surely.  (I think there's only one of it, and it's being moved around.)  And the rock that the model is sitting on (no. 1620) doesn't look convincing either.

Hayfield 1611
Hayfield 1610
Hayfield 1620, with a cactus photobomb
This batch of Hayfield patterns is a welcome addition to the collection (even though they will have to be sorted...).  Most of the patterns in the collection came from the personal collections amassed by lots of individual knitters - patterns they bought because they planned to knit them.  What you get from that kind of source is a bit hit-and-miss, and stock from a shop will fill in a lot of gaps.  And of course the leaflets are unused - not creased, or worn, or with the little annotations that a lot of knitters (including me) make on their patterns as they are knitting.  We are very grateful to the donor.  

Thursday 1 January 2015

Needlework for All - Christmas 1914

Happy New Year to everyone!  I intended to write this post nearer to Christmas 2014, but missed.  But it's not Twelfth Night yet, so it's still the Christmas season...

Needlework for All was a monthly magazine, started in 1909, and there are several issues, including the Christmas 1914 double number, in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  Like other needlecraft magazines being published at the start of the war, it emphasised 'fancy work', especially crochet.   But in late 1914, many of these magazines included patterns for making comforts for the troops, and the Christmas 1914 Needlework for All has "Comforts for Soldiers and Sailors, &c." as a subtitle to reflect that.  (In fact, I think that after this issue, the magazine pretty much reverted to fancy work - they appear to have decided that they'd done comforts, and didn't need to do any more.)

The first page of the magazine introduces the contents:
Christmas and the New Year come to us in this season of 1914 very differently, alas! to their wont.  But yet, with the war-clouds overshadowing their brightness, the old traditions still cling close, and there is the longing, deep ingrained in the hearts of most of us, to express the Christmas feelings of goodwill by the giving of presents.  The gifts which everyone has in mind before any others are those that will take the form of some comfort for the sailors and soldiers—and who is there that has not among the Forces of the King someone near and dear for whom the thinking and making of comforts is some relief to the anxious thoughts that will come?
Ever since the War broke out our little Magazine has set itself to the best of its ability to the task of helping by suggestions and instructions towards the working of practical additions to the kit of the sailors in their weary and anxious task of watching and waiting, for the soldiers in their warfare at the front, or their work in the training camps, and for the wounded and sick who have come home so quickly, thanks to the wonderful organisation for their rapid transit; nor have suggestions been overlooked for the making of warm garments for the refugees from that heroic little Belgium, or for winter comforts for the children of the sailors and soldiers whose Christmas will be such a sad one this year.
The editor then goes on to congratulate the magazine on having done such a good job already that the previous "War Numbers" that included patterns for comforts had completely sold out - and readers had found the patterns "completely satisfactory, and easy to carry out".   So the Christmas issue includes reprints of several of the earlier patterns.  

More on the comforts later.  But fancy work has not been forgotten:
No pains have been spared, however, to make our first Christmas Number as complete and comprehensive as possible.  While catering for the universal demands in connection with the War, due provision has not been omitted for those workers who have leisure or, happily, enough ease of mind to allow themselves the relaxation of fancy work.  
Filet crochet was very popular for fancy work, and the magazine includes two filet crochet designs, an edging and an insertion, which could be used for trimming tablecloths, etc., one with a military theme:    
The Victoria Cross Crochet Lace is a design that will have very special interest, even in the brighter days to which we so earnestly look forward when the immediate cause of its inspiration shall have passed away.  

The editor goes on:
there are hints as to the making of all kinds of useful knick-knacks of the inexpensive order, which specially meets the scale of present-giving of this season, and there are dainty little garments for children in knitting and crochet which will do duty for Yuletide souvenirs in the most attractive manner. 
One of the children's garments is a very practical-looking knitted jersey for a boy of five, and could not be described as a 'dainty little garment', by any stretch, but perhaps the editor was not much acquainted with five-year-old boys.  

Child's knitted jersey - age five years

The comforts for soldiers and sailors include, of course, the helmet illustrated on the front cover.  It is crocheted, except for the knitted rib around the face, and incorporates ear slits.   I think that helmets were not official issue, and so there is no standard pattern, and a great variety in the helmet designs that were published.  

Crochet helmet with ear slits.
There is also a rifle glove, that leaves the thumb and first finger uncovered.

Rifle glove

And there is a pattern for a cholera belt (or body belt), thought by many people to be absolutely essential for keeping the abdomen warm, and the soldier in good health. There had been an appeal earlier for 300,000 body belts, which had been sent to the troops in France early in November, and many knitters would by this time have been very familiar with them.

 As the editor  mentions in the introduction,  there are several things in the magazine to make for the sick and wounded, who of course had been coming back from France in large numbers.  There is an odd selection:  some have very specific medical uses, such as a knitted eye bandage and a knitted thumb-stall.  Not the appropriate sort of thing for volunteers to be knitting, without a specific request from a hospital, surely?

Knitted Eye-bandage
 Altogether, the magazine gives a slightly unsettling view of the activities of its readers at this stage of the war - making a fairly random selection of comforts for the troops, but then going back to the more familiar 'fancy work', making decorative articles for the home, and garments for children.    

Members of the Knitting & Crochet Guild can download a copy of this issue of Needlework for All , along with other First World War magazines - more will follow.
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