Monday 19 September 2016

London's Baking

We were in London over the weekend of the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire, and happened to go to the London Metropolitan Archives, where they had an exhibition to commemorate it. (Although actually the exhibition runs until February next year.)   It's called London's Baking - Bakers, Cakes, Bread and Puddings from 1666, up to the 20th century.  (The connection with the Great Fire being that it started in a bakery, allegedly in Pudding Lane, although the exhibition suggests that is wrong.)   The exhibition featured photographs from the LMA collection featuring various baked goods (making them or eating them), and recipes from 1666 onwards, with comments from people who had tried them with modern tools and ingredients.  (The exhibition said, I'm sure, that the recipes would be available to download from the LMA web site, but I can't find them so perhaps I was wrong.)

Knitting interest: one of the photos on display showed boys eating buns in 1924, all wearing woolly jumpers.  Here's a detail:

It's from Collage, the London Picture Archive, image no. 301891 (by permission of the London Metropolitan Archives, City of London).   It was taken in Hastings in 1924, and the description in the archive says "children sitting in a park scream as they hold cakes in their hands".  I think it's more likely that the photographer asked them to pretend that they were about to take an enormous bite out of the bun in their hand.

They are all wearing jumpers with collars, and the boy on the left, with a stripe on his collar, is wearing matching knitted shorts.  (They may all be wearing knitted shorts to match their jumpers, in fact, but it's hard to tell from the photo.)  The boy on the right looks as though his jumper is a hand-me-down - it looks a bit felted, and the sleeves are too long for him.  The boy in the middle, on the other hand,  has been dressed rather smartly, with knee-socks to match his jumper and shorts, all in an impractical light colour, and a tie.  He's also the only one whose socks haven't fallen down around his ankles, 'Just William' style.

We have lots of patterns for similar boys' knitwear from the 1920s, with illustrations carefully posed and photographed to show off the outfit.  I think this is a nice image of what the outfits looked like on real boys, having fun on a day out.

Friday 16 September 2016

Multi-coloured Argyll

A couple of months ago, I was recording the Argyll leaflets in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, and noticed a small batch of very appealing leaflets.  In this context, Argyll has nothing to do with Argyle-pattern socks: it was a brand of knitting wool, made by a Bradford spinner, Arthur Mortimer & Co. We have several hundred Argyll pattern leaflets in the collection, ranging in date from the 1950s to the 1980s.

The 1950s Argyll leaflets are mostly in black-and-white, and small (about A5 size).  But the three earliest leaflets that we have are larger, and in colour.  They were issued in about 1950, as near as I can tell.

Argyll leaflet 104

Leaflet 103 is a twin-set in stranded knitting - the design on the cardigan is almost an Argyle pattern.  I wonder if that was deliberate?

Argyll leaflet 104

Leaflet 104 is a girl's twin set, with rather odd-looking squirrels holding green acorns.  I think it would be easier to knit the design using intarsia rather than stranded knitting, but the leaflet doesn't give any guidance about how to do the colour-work  It just gives row-by-row details of what colour to use for each stitch, as in "14th row. -- 38R., 8 B., 1 R., 9 B., 2 R., 2 G., 40R."   Why didn't they give a chart?  So much easier to follow.    

Finally, leaflet 108 is in some ways the most interesting.

Argyll leaflet 108

It is a cardigan knitted in plain yellow wool and Argyll Multi-tone - evidently a random-dyed yarn.  I found an ad in a 1951 newspaper for a yarn shop selling Multi-tone. The shop sold three colourways:  natural/rust/green (illustrated in leaflet 108), blue/white/pink and blue/yellow white - price 1s. 6d. an ounce (7½p).

The front of the cardigan has what the leaflet calls 'bobbles' of the multi-tone wool.  It is basically stripes of two rows of yellow and 6 rows of multi-tone, but the instructions for the first row of the 2nd yellow stripe read: "Knit 1, * drop the next stitch down 6 rows to the yellow stitch and knit through the yellow stitch and the loops of multi-tone wool, knit 5, * repeat from * to * to the last 2 stitches, drop 1, knit 1".   (The last 'drop 1' must mean to drop it down 6 rows, as just described, rather than just dropping it altogether.)  So the yellow stitch that you pick up from 6 rows below is stretched over those 6 rows, while the multi-tone stitches form the bobble in between, in a kind of seersucker effect.

You do the same thing on the 4th, 6th, 8th, ... yellow stripe.  Then on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, ...  yellow stripe, the instructions are the same, except that you start the row by knitting 4 stitches instead of 1, so that the dropped stitches are 3 stitches further on than they were before.

This is what it looks like, from the leaflet.

I had not met a stitch pattern like this until I saw this leaflet, but then PixieMum commented on my post last month on knitting sampler squares, "Any idea what Gladys meant by "B1 Thus = . wool back  drop next st. 4 rows down, then knit Dropped st. and 4 horizontal loops above tog. as one stitch. Have you come across this before?"   And so I was able to say that yes I had, and that presumably the intention was to create a bobbly effect.
I think that Argyll did not produce many of these colour leaflets  - I suspect that the first pattern leaflet they produced was number 100 (several spinners started counting at 100).  The next leaflet number in the collection is 138, which is smaller and black-and-white, so I think there were at most 37 of them and probably far fewer.  But the three we have are so attractive that it would be nice to have some of the missing ones.

In the 1980s and 1990s, when many British manufacturers of hand-knitting yarns were in difficulties, the Argyll brand was struggling, and the business was acquired by Thomas B Ramsden & Co.  (See here.)   We have permission from Thomas B Ramsden to copy their vintage patterns for the personal use of Guild members, so if any member would like to knit one of these (in 2-ply!) please ask, via  

Saturday 10 September 2016

Missoni Exhibition

We were in London for a few days over last weekend, and on Saturday I went to the Missoni Art Colour exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey.  (If you haven't seen it, you've missed it - it finished on Sunday.)

In the main space, there was a bank of mannequins (over 40, I reckon) wearing Missoni outfits - a wonderfully varied array.  

Elsewhere, there were art works that had inspired the Missonis, their own sketches for fabric designs, and swatches of fabric.

I especially liked the very complex multicolour knit fabrics.

    Some of the mannequins were wearing similar fabrics, too.

A very satisfying small exhibition.  And Bermondsey is interesting - most of the buildings in the street are I think 19th century, when it was a working class area. The buildings have mostly been renovated in recent years, and now The Shard at London Bridge towers over them.

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