Thursday 30 July 2015

Willow Pattern and Others

This week, we were sorting more patterns leaflets in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection - this time a batch of Sirdar patterns from the early 1980s.  Several of them caught my eye, for one reason or another.  The first was a sweater with a Willow Pattern scene on the front - picture sweaters were very popular at the time.  (I love the knitting needles stuck at random into the model's hair, to give an Oriental effect.  Although the big hairpins are a Japanese Geisha thing, and the Willow Pattern is supposedly Chinese, but actually an English invention, according to Wikipedia....  Never mind.)    

Sirdar 6225
I noticed this one particularly, because we have a sweater with the same design in the collection.  The sweater is machine knitted, though it is not a machine knitting pattern.

 And now that we can see the leaflet and the sweater side by side, it's evident that the design has been reflected - presumably that happened in the process of translating it for machine knitting.  (I know nothing about machine knitting, so I don't know how that would be done.)

It's always very gratifying when we match up an item in the collection with a published pattern - it fills in a bit of the history of the item that we didn't previously know.  

Another picture sweater was very noticeable - the design has a tree with sweethearts' names on it. The sweater on the cover has 'Charles' and 'Diana' on it, although the leaflet helpfully says "Adaptable to your own romance".

Sirdar 6226

Part of knitting folklore is that if you knit your boyfriend a sweater, it will lead to a break up.  (See the article about the Sweater Curse in Wikipedia.)  I think that if you knitted yourself a sweater with your boyfriend's name on the front, the relationship would be equally doomed.  However, the sweater might be retrievable - the names are done in Swiss darning, so you could in theory change his name for another one.  Thus leading to an unending series of doomed romances?  Hmmm.

A more traditional design also appears to date from the time of Charles and Diana's marriage -  a Fair Isle style, with some bands imitating traditional patterns, and then one with hearts and initials 'C' and 'D', and another with crowns.  Again, I think you would want to do the initials in Swiss darning, in this case to avoid knitting with three colours in one row and some very long floats across the back of the work, though the leaflet does not suggest that.

Sirdar 6851
And finally, there was a lacy top that I recognised as a re-issue of a design originally published in 1952 - I wrote about the 1952 leaflet here.  It had evidently been a very popular design, and featured in a British Pathe film showing Sirdar designs from 1952.   In the 1970s, it was updated for slightly thicker yarn (4-ply rather than 3-ply) and published as Sirdar leaflet 5193. And the same design reappeared in the early 1980s batch we were sorting this week.    I have never seen any version knitted up, but I imagine it could still work well. 

Sirdar 6036

Sirdar 5193


  1. Lovely patterns, thanks for sharing them, fascinating history

  2. Oh I do love 80s sweaters. (So much so I'm knitting one from Sue Bradley's Traveller's Yarns at the moment!) I had a knitting machine back in the 80s and did a few Intarsia pieces, because you work with the wrong side facing you it will transpose the design as you say. I adore the white lacy pattern at the end. Thanks for sharing x

  3. I meant to say - I did knit my boyfriend a sweater with a great big black diagonal stripe across it - very 80s - we married in 1989 and are still married. However I don't remember him wearing the sweater - even though he chose the design.

    1. Very pleased to hear that the Sweater Curse didn't strike. I think that some of the early 80s knits are still appealing - it was later in the 80s that you got the BIG shoulders, We have some horrors in the collection - novelty yarns that are shiny or furry, all mixed in the same huge sweater.

  4. My mum knit the willow pattern jumper for me, way back in the 80's, it took her ages, but it was beautiful and I loved wearing it. Only sorry I don't have a photograph of me wearing it.

    1. I think it was a popular pattern, and still appeals now. We're much better at photographing our knitting now (at least Ravelry members are) - it's a pity it didn't always occur to us back then.

  5. Hi Barbara! Came across your blog on a random search and am happy to know that there's a larger preservation effort for knitted products and patterns than I realized, albeit not where I am (the U.S.). I love the oriental sweater--any chance that the pattern is available online?

    1. Hi, Unfortunately Sirdar do not currently allow copying of their patterns that are still in copyright (as this one is). You might find an original leaflet online, though - worth searching.


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