Wednesday 25 March 2015

Knit for Winter

I've been asked to knit something for a charity campaign, "Knit for Winter", which aims to provide small woolly items that will be distributed to elderly and vulnerable people next winter by the Salvation Army.   The organisers have sent me a pattern for a cowl, and the yarn to knit it with, in a lovely blue/green mix.  I have decided to start it straightaway, because I'm going to Glasgow tomorrow, to speak at the Knitting in Wartime study day, part of the Glasgow University Knitting in the Round project.   The train to Glasgow takes 4 hours each way, so I should be able to get a good part of the cowl knitted before I get home again - it's chunky yarn, knitted on 9mm. needles.  So far, I have done a tension swatch, to check that the suggested needles are right before I leave - what a disaster to embark on 8 hours of knitting and then find you had the wrong needle size!  

Monday 23 March 2015

Busy Week

I was very busy last week - hence lack of blog posts.    On Thursday evening (the 3rd Thursday of the month) it was the monthly meeting of the Huddersfield branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and I did a sort of trunk show, taking along a suitcase of selected knitting and crochet from the Guild's collection, to show how fashions in knitwear have changed.  Some of the things are beautifully made, and still look quite wearable, like the Edina Ronay cotton hand-knit with cables and bobbles.

Others are relics of times past, such as the camiknickers - also beautifully knitted, with a very pretty lacy border, but  I doubt that anyone will want to wear hand-knitted woollen underwear again. (In case anyone does feel tempted, I have found the pattern in one of the Koster and Murray books from the 1940s - Knitted Garments for All.)

Then on Saturday, we had a handling day at the collection, showing an entirely different selection of knitting & crochet, as well as tools & gadgets and publications to a small group of visitors.  And on Tuesday and Friday, I was working at the collection.  And on Wednesday evening, I did my talk on Knitting and Crochet in the First World War again, this time at the Colne Valley Museum, in connection with an exhibition of knitted and crocheted lace from the Guild's collection, which is running until April 6th.  I have given the talk 6 times now, but it's evolving all the time as I do more research, so I haven't got bored with it.

Of course, if I was still working full-time, I wouldn't have considered last week a particularly busy one.  Now I have got used to being retired and not usually having to work five days a week, it did seem very busy and quite tiring.  But enjoyable too - the collection is just full of wonderful things, and sharing some of the highlights with other knitters and crocheters is a lot of fun  - they find it so amazing and exciting.

And today there was the postscript to last week's handling sessions -  washing the white gloves.

Monday 16 March 2015

Death by Knitting

For Mother's Day yesterday, my daughter gave me this zine, Death by Knitting.  It's introduced as "The story of knitting needles used as weapons in films", and surveys several films in which people are attacked and killed by knitting needles.  Most seem to be horror movies, including Idle Hands (1999), where a young man's hand is possessed by the Devil, and he tries knitting as a way of keeping the hand under control.  Unsuccessfully, of course - otherwise the rest of the movie would be just scenes of him knitting.  A policeman gets stabbed with the needles when he tries to stop the young man knitting, and thereafter the film seems to be full of increasingly gory ways of killing people.  (It's a comedy, did I mention?)

Other films mentioned feature conventional knitting old ladies who either get mysteriously stabbed by their own knitting needles (The Old Dark House, 1963) or stab other people (The Crazies, 1973).

The cover of the zine looks amazing through 3D glasses - a pair was included.  It works on the screen too, if you happen to have a pair yourself.

The author is Kandy Diamond.  The zine was only part of her Death by Knitting project - you can find some of the rest of it on her web site, including the machine-knitted 3D posters she created for Idle Hands and The Old Dark House.  There are some other interesting knitting things on her web site too, that don't involve murder - worth a look.

Sunday 15 March 2015

New Buttons for Wainwright

In December, I wrote about my Wainwright cardigan, designed by Bristol Ivy.  It's thick and warm and comfortable to wear, but after a while I decided I didn't actually like the buttons I had chosen.  And any way they were a bit small for the buttonholes.  My friend Steph (of Steph's Crafty Bits on Etsy) makes wonderful polymer clay buttons - I used a pair of her buttons on my 1914 hat - and I asked her to make a set for me in dark grey.  Here they are.

And here they are on the cardigan.

This also gives me the opportunity to show that the cardigan is not navy blue, as it appeared in the previous post, but actually dark grey.

In the background of the photos taken in the garden, you might be able to see that our camellia is just in flower.  So soon it will not be cold enough to wear a thick cardigan (until next autumn).  But today there is a very cold wind, and I am glad to be wearing it.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Herring Lassies

We have a few old postcards in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection that show people knitting, including these two of Scottish herring lassies.  Hundreds of these women left their homes every year for the fishing ports on the east coast, where large catches of herring were landed. Their job was to gut, salt and pack them.  At the end of the herring season they went home with their earnings which probably kept them and their families until the next year.

The first postcard here, "Scottish Lassies' Recreation" was postmarked Great Yarmouth in 1907, and I guess that the scene it depicts was also in Great Yarmouth.  The town was already a seaside resort and visitors were evidently interested in seeing the herring lassies, and buying postcards of them.

There are many other photos of herring lassies that show them knitting when they weren't working - it seems to have been their usual leisure activity.  I would love to know what they are knitting - the one on the left has what looks something like a Balaclava helmet in front of her apron, and the women next to her something that looks like a large sock (a sea-boot stocking?).

Scottish Lassies' Recreation
The other card is undated (and was never sent), but is probably about the same date. The women are both wearing knitted shawls around their heads.  The paler shawl seems to have a very open texture, and there are large holes knitted into the border.  (Click on the images to enlarge them.)

Herring Lasses off Duty

Herring fishing in the North Sea was disrupted by the First World War, and the herring lassies and their families lost a vital income. This report from February 1915 describes the work of the herring lassies up to the start of the war, and a scheme to pay the unemployed women to knit comforts for soldiers and sailors.  So knitting, which had been a leisure activity, became their main source of income.

(PS I have found a reference in the Dundee Evening Post, in October 1902, to the opening of a rest house in Yarmouth: "This season excellent provision has been made for the fisher girls, who last year numbered no fewer than 3000, by the erection right next to the gutting-grounds of a handsome bungalow residence, by the generosity of Miss Davidson, of the Church of Scotland, where the girls may go in the intervals between their work.  They will be also able to obtain hot meals, to avoid the necessity in times of pressure of returning to their lodgings in the town, and other arrangements are made for their comfort and convenience, such as attending to cut fingers, &c., in what has been named the Rest House for Scottish Fisher Folk".  This appears to be the building that is in the background of the first postcard.)

Thursday 5 March 2015

Changing Colours in Rib

I have knitted another pence jug, this time in three shades of blue.  I decided to change colours part way up the neck of the jug, and remembered a tip I had read about changing colours in ribbing so that you get an even changeover.   It was in The Lady's World Fancy Work Book, October 1919, in a pattern for a tennis jumper.  The welt, cuffs and collar are in double rib (k2, p2) in stripes of pink and white.  The instructions say: "in ribbing, always work the first row plain when changing the colours to avoid showing a join."

I knitted a swatch to see what the writer meant.  In my swatch, the first change (from grey to white) is at the bottom, and I just kept on knitting double rib as I changed colour.  For the second  change (from white to grey, at the top), I knitted the first row of grey and then carried on in double rib.  ("work plain" means "knit every stitch").  As you can see, in the first colour change, you do get an even break between the colours in the knit ribs.  But in the purl ribs, the colours are mixed for the first row, with white purl bumps followed by grey ones, before you get the solid white stripe.   In the second colour change, the colour change from white to grey is even all across the row.  And you cannot see that there is a row of knit stitches there, which was a bit surprising to me.

Swatch, right side
Getting an even colour change in the purl ribs doesn't matter very much in my pence jug, because in the narrow part of the neck the purl ribs don't show.  Unless of course, you decided to store your Victorian pennies in the jug, in which case you would have to stretch the neck to get them in.  But I used the Fancy Work Book tip anyway.  In the tennis jumper, the ribs are pressed flat, and so the purl ribs are very much on show, and an even change of colour would be important.

In exchange for getting an even colour change on the right side on the work, you get  a much messier change on the wrong side, as you can see from the second view of my swatch. So this is not a technique to use on something like a ribbed scarf.  It clearly has its uses, though, and I was surprised to see that it was known so early.  Of course, knitters in 1919 had just spent four years knitting socks and Balaclava helmets, so many of them must have been very skilled, but they would not have had much scope for coloured stripes in knitting comforts for the troops.   I'm told that Elizabeth Zimmermann advocated the same technique - an example of what she called "unventing", i.e. independently inventing an idea that someone else has already thought of.

Swatch, wrong side

Monday 2 March 2015

Miss Ellaline Terriss in a Cardigan

We went to an antiques & collectables fair at Doncaster Race Course yesterday, and I bought a few knitting-related things, including a postcard of an actress, Miss Ellaline Terriss, wearing a knitted garment of some sort.

I think the postcard dates from around 1900-1910.   Miss Terriss was born in 1871, lived to be 100, and was "best known for her performances in Edwardian musical comedies", according to Wikipedia.  In this postcard, she is shown in casual dress, I'd say - the hat is rather simple and understated by Edwardian standards, and a knitted jacket at that date tends to signify sports wear.

If you're more interested in knitting than Edwardian musical comedy actresses, the postcard is worth examining for the stitch pattern and the details of the construction of the cardigan.   It seems to be shaped to the waist, and is possibly double-breasted, from the position of the button.  It has a garter stitch belt and collar, and I'd guess is quite long, with buttoned cuffs.  I'm sure it's hand-knitted, but probably not by Miss Terriss.

I have attempted to recreate the stitch pattern - the swatch is as near as I have got.  It's a 2-row pattern, over a multiple of 8 stitches, plus 1:
Row 1:  (K1, P2, K3, P2) to last stitch, K1.
Row 2:  (P1, K7) to last stitch, P1.  

(I have omitted the 2 edge stitches either side that are in the swatch.)  

 Much more interesting than the frilly dresses that Edwardian actresses were usually portrayed in.
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