Monday 28 November 2016

1930s Suits, Dresses and Blouses

Almost all the publications in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection were either published in the U.K. or were readily available in this country, but we do have some waifs and strays in the collection.  One is this 1930s Patons & Baldwins pattern booklet, published in Toronto.  (Although the parent company was British, there were overseas branches. Beehive was a brand name used throughout the company - and a beehive is still the trademark of Patons.)

The booklet has about two dozen patterns for suits, dresses and blouses.  And, if you like 1930s style, they are very attractive,  I think that there must have been an independent design team in Toronto, but a few of the designs are very similar to designs in P&B's pattern leaflets published in the U.K.  Here's a blouse and skirt set called 'Daytime'.from the Canadian booklet, for instance:

'Daytime' blouse and skirt 

The blouse looks identical to a Lady's Jumper pattern published in the U.K., except that it has long sleeves.    The lace pattern is the same, and the yoke and tie-neck are constructed in the same way.  There are some differences., though, to allow for differences in yarn thickness.

P&B Helps to Knitters 2/625
The 'Helps to Knitters' leaflet was advertised in 1934, which I guess is the approximate date of the Canadian booklet too.  The long-sleeved version is very pretty - I can't think that the skirt would look good for long though.  Surely it would very quickly stretch and go baggy, when it's supposed to be slim and elegant?


Some of the other tops are lovely too.  Most, like 'Sentiment', seem to be intended for summer wear.  A top knitted in wool, even if fine and lacy, seems all wrong for hot weather, to me.  Pretty, perhaps, but so much less practical than cotton.  I must confess I'd rather wear a t-shirt.

As well as the fine lacy knits in the booklet which would be time-consuming to knit, there is a section on 'Quick Knitteds' - a 12-hour pullover, a one-day cardigan and a three-day suit.  They are all knitted in P&B's Totem wool, which seems to have been Aran weight, or thereabouts.

The 12-hour Pullover

The 12-hour pullover also appeared in a pattern leaflet published in Britain.  It was advertised as a '12-hour pullover'  in Stitchcraft magazine in the summer of 1935.

The ad said "You can knit it in 12 hours!  That's a liberal estimate, because one of our own workers knitted a copy in seven hours!  The stitch is simple, interesting to knit, and most fascinating to look at.  Cape sleeves and draped neckline are fashionable touches."    Apart from speed, I don't think it's a successful design - the fabric is too thick to drape well.  It would look much better knitted in a finer wool.  But then it wouldn't be a 12-hour knit....

The other two 'quick knitteds' work better.

Three-day suit, One-day cardigan 

The suit is quite plain, but the cardigan has what looks like an all-over cable pattern,  In fact, it's more like a twisted double rib, and doesn't need a cable needle, so could be  faster to knit than it looks.  To call it a one-day cardigan seems very misleading, though.  It suggests that if you cast on when you get up in the morning, you could finish it on the same day.  But it must surely take a lot longer to knit than the '12-hour jumper' - they are in the same yarn.  So does 'one day cardigan' mean that you could knit it in less than 24 hours?   That sounds more like half a week's work.

One interesting feature of the patterns in this booklet is that the instructions are often given for three sizes.  The sizes are usually all quite small (up to 36 in. bust), but sometimes going up to a 40in. bust.  In Britain at that time, most knitting patterns, including Patons & Baldwins', were written for only one size, typically a 34in. bust.  So these Canadian patterns might be easier to update for modern figures than British ones.

Members of the Knitting & Crochet Guild can download a copy of the booklet from the Membership area of the website - look under Pattern Downloads.    

Friday 25 November 2016

Knitting in Harrogate

Yesterday afternoon I was at the Knitting & Stitching Show in Harrogate.  I wasn't there as as a visitor, but as part of  'Crafters in Action' - several guilds that had stands at the show (the Quilters' Guild, the Lace Guild., the Batik Guild, ....), had been asked to provide people to demonstrate their craft.  So I was there to knit on behalf of the Knitting & Crochet Guild.

I was knitting a fingerless mitt.  (They will be a pair eventually, of course.)  The design is called Bonham and it's by Angharad Thomas - she decided that she had knitted far too many glove fingers in the last few months (as you can see here), and needed a break.  I thought the Bonham mitts were an appropriate choice to knit yesterday, because proceeds from the sale of the pattern (via Ravelry) go to the Guild.

I did have some time to look around the rest of the Show too.   I met Louisa Harding at her stall, where she was selling her lovely Yarntelier cashmere.   (By chance, I was wearing my Petal Cowl in her Amitola yarn, as I pointed out to her.)   And I was also seriously tempted by the beautiful colours on the Knitting Goddess's stall, especially the bundles of 10gm. skeins in related colours.  But I keep telling myself that I don't need more yarn (and I really shouldn't buy yarn when I don't even have a project in mind).

Just by the Crafters in Action area, there was a Vintage Tea Party going on,   The idea (I think) was to sew an outfit using a dress pattern from a special vintage range, and then wear it at the tea party.   You could choose any decade from the 1930s to the 1960s, but the 1950s seemed to be particularly popular.  Here are two wonderfully elegant ladies taking a break from the tea party.

Elizabeth's dress (on the right) is made from an Almedahls fabric, printed with a design of plants in pots.  We thought it would be suitable to wear for a little gentle gardening in the summer - dead-heading roses, perhaps.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Identifying a Designer's Work

A couple of weeks ago, I was sorting through a small batch of pattern leaflets and other publications that had been donated to the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  One of the items was a pull-out supplement of 'Happy Holiday Knitteds' from Woman magazine - undated, but I think probably mid to late 60s.   I looked through the supplement and immediately recognised one of the designs.

I recognised it because I saw that sweater in 2012.   It was designed by Elizabeth Forster, and the sweater was one of those I saw when I visited the house in Norfolk where she had lived, as I described here.

I am used to matching knits to the patterns that they were knitted from, but this one is the other way round:  it is the sample knit that Elizabeth Forster sent to Woman magazine with the design, and so is the exact same sweater that the model is wearing in the photo.   If I hadn't already seen the sweater , I wouldn't have known that it was one of her designs - there is nothing in the Woman supplement to identify any of the designers.

Spotting this design as one of Elizabeth Forster's prompted me to look again to see if I could find any more of her designs.  She kept extensive paperwork on the designs that she sold, and I took photos of a few examples when I was in Norfolk.  If she sold a design to a magazine, the company whose yarn she specified also paid a 'placing fee' (as well as providing the yarn to knit the sample I believe).  Her invoice specified the date of the magazine, with a very brief description of the garment.  So for instance, in an invoice sent to Emu Wools in 1959, is an item
"To yellow calypso blouse in Woman's Own supplement 7.3.59 .... £3. 3s. 0d"   
We have that knitting supplement from Woman's Own in the KCG collection, and here is the yellow blouse in Emu Calypso:

From Woman's Own supplement 'Knitting for Out of Doors", 7th March 1959. 

The pattern is headed  "Sun Bright . . .  Fashion Right" and goes on "An attractive belted blouse in stocking stitch".  Evidently Calypso was a fine yarn:  the blouse is knitted on size 12 and 13 needles (2.75mm and 2.25 mm), to a tension of 9 stitches and 12 rows to 1 inch.  (About 36 stitches and 48 rows to 10cm.).  It's a neat, tailored, knit and very elegant, but would anyone want to put in so much work now?

I found a few more of Elizabeth Forster's designs, by matching invoices for placing fees to Woman's Own supplements we have in the collection.  This one is headed "Long, Loose and Elegant".

From Woman's Own supplement "Family Knitting", 1st October 1958.

The description goes on: "This lovely middy style jersey pinpoints today's feeling for long, straight lines.  It is worked in stocking stitch with a deep moss stitch collar."   (That's 'middy' as in midshipman, which came to mean "A woman's or child's loose blouse with a sailor collar")  It's knitted in Patons Beehive Fingering 4-ply, also on size 12 and 13 needles, to a tension of 8 stitches to the inch.

Another design from 1960 is in slightly thicker wool, Patons Quickerknit Botany.  Again a lot of stocking stitch (at 7 stitches to the inch) but with a leaf motif at the neck.

From Woman's Own 'Knitting for All the Family' supplement, 20th February 1960.  

These are all good-looking knits, but it's daunting to think of the time it would take to knit all that stocking stitch - even the thickest yarn used is finer than DK.  But I suppose that knitters in the late 1950s were used to that  - and these designs are overall much more interesting and stylish than the very plain boring stocking stitch twin-sets which also appeared in knitting patterns at that time.

As I've said before, it's sad that the designers of knitting patterns were rarely acknowledged - if Elizabeth Forster had not carefully kept all her papers, I doubt if it would be possible to identify these three designs as her work.  I'm very pleased to have been able to use the paperwork and the KCG collection to make the link.  

Elizabeth Forster carried on designing knitwear through the 1960s and 1970s, and many of her later designs were influenced by her travels around the world, and her interest in bird-watching.  Her archive of papers and sample knits is now under the care of Norwich Castle Museum.  There was a fascinating exhibition of her work at the museum in 2014, including designs featuring birds and othes showing a South American influence - you can see my photos of the exhibition here.

Monday 14 November 2016

Hand in Glove

Last week, an exhibition of knitted gloves opened at the Bankfield Museum in Halifax.  It's based on the work of my friend Angharad Thomas, who is a fellow volunteer working on the Knitting & Crochet Guild's collection.  For several years now she has been knitting intricately patterned gloves, based on historic Sanquhar and Yorkshire Dales originals  - and has a blog about them, too.

 On Saturday I went with her to the museum, where she gave a talk to introduce the exhibition.  She talked about her designs and sharing them with other knitters, through the blog and patterns published in The Knitter and elsewhere.  And she showed photos of gloves that she has studied in the collections of the V&A Museum (like these 16th century knitted gloves, made for a bishop) and the Glovers' Company (like these beautiful knitted silk gloves from the early 18th century).  She talked too about the Sanquhar and Yorkshire Dales gloves that have directly inspired her own work - some of them in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, and now on show at the Bankfield.

I have a pair of Sanquhar gloves myself - you can't not be interested in them if you work with Angharad.  (As I explained here, I didn't knit them, I bought them from the arts centre in Sanquhar.)

Mine are immediately recognisable as Sanquhar gloves, because the range of patterns is quite limited.  (Black and white are a traditional choice of colour, too, though in principle you can choose any colours that you fancy.)  But it's amazing how much variety they have inspired in Angharad's work.  Here's a case of gloves, all in subtle colours, but very different designs - I especially like the ones where the back-of-the-hand part is divided into four sections that then lead on without a break into the fingers.

And here's a more traditional design, based on the Yorkshire Dales shepherd's plaid pattern I think, but with a sneaky red lining to the cuff.

Most of Angharad's gloves are hand-knitted, but she has been experimenting with machine knitting recently, and the exhibition has a case of those.


The exhibition is open until 14th January, and is well worth a visit for knitters within reach of Halifax.  (The Shared Histories exhibition, at the museum until 7th January, was very interesting, too.)  

My next project, after the scarf I'm working on now, is going to be one of Angharad's patterns.  Not gloves (I've knitted gloves, it's not for me), but fingerless mitts,  The design is called Bonham, and the pattern is on sale on Ravelry, in aid of Knitting & Crochet Guild funds.  I've got the yarn already - I'll keep you posted.  

Friday 11 November 2016

1930s Knits

Most of the huge number of pattern leaflets in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection have been sorted by now, and I have been working on a scheme to catalogue them.  I'm focussing on the oldest leaflets for now, and mainly those from the 1930s in the Patons archive.   There are about 1400 (more than 10,000 Patons leaflets altogether, I reckon)  - we are so lucky to have them.  Here are a few from a batch I have been looking recently, from 1939 or 39.

Some of the 1930s patterns are for garments with unfamiliar names - 'jumper-cardigans' are quite common, for instance.  That usually means a cardigan that buttons to the neck, or nearly, and isn't intended to be worn over anything else, or sometimes a jumper with buttons all the way down the front except for the welt.    
Patons 2486
And in the recent batch were two 'Occasional Coats'.

Patons 2475

Patons 2483

I had never heard of an Occasional Coat before (it's occasionally a coat, but usually something else?).  But 'occasion coat' is a current fashion term, apparently.  British Vogue had an online article in 2014 about an occasion coat being just the thing to wear at a summer wedding.   So perhaps that what the 1930s occasional coats are - but although they are both quite smart, they don't to me look suitable to wear at a wedding.  I'm still puzzled.

And some of the patterns are for garments that we probably wouldn't think of knitting now - underwear for one thing.  But there are also patterns for dressing gowns for the whole family.

Patons 2469

The little girl's dressing gown is knitted in blanket wool.  The tension given in the pattern is 4 stitches to the inch (approx. 16 stitches to 10cm.) on size 4 needles (6mm.), so somewhere around Aran weight (worsted) or chunky.  The design is called 'Wendy' - appropriate for a girl's dressing gown, although as far as I remember the Darling children flew off with Peter Pan in just their nightgowns.  (At least in the Disney version.  I've not actually read the book.)

And here's a pattern for a 'Travelling Set' of cape, pixie hood, and motor rug - in a fine wool, knitted at 9 stitches to the inch.  It's brushed after it's knitted - Patons & Baldwins at that time offered a brushing service for finished knits, or you could use a special brush yourself.  The rug measures 54 inches by 34 inches - knitting it in such fine wool would be a marathon project.  I guess that the set was designed for wearing in an unheated car - not sure when cars began to be installed with heaters?
Patons 2488

Of course, there are some very nice knits too, as well as the jumper-cardigan and occasional coats already shown.  I think that many of the 1930s jumpers and cardigans are very stylish.  Here's one with an unusual construction - all the pieces are knitted side-to-side or on the diagonal.

Patons 3474
And they are not all knitted in fine wools, either - here's one in Totem wool, which was about an Aran weight.

Patons 3462
A quick knit, and I like the square neck and big buttons - very typical of the 1930s.

I'll feature more 1930s knits when I look at other batches from the Patons archive.  Lots of bathing suits, a cruising outfit, modesty sets, et al.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

A Lacy Shawl

I finished knitting this shawl two months ago, in September, but couldn't write about it because it was a birthday present.  Maura had a significant birthday in March, so the shawl was several months late - but first the yarn was faulty and had to be replaced, and then I broke my wrists and couldn't knit, and then Maura was in Italy until last week.  But now she is back, and I have given it to her, and so I can write about it.

It's the Bosc Pear Shawl designed by Tetiana Otruta.  (A free pattern on Ravelry.)  I knitted it in Louisa Harding's Amitola, a lovely wool/silk yarn that I like very much - I have already knitted a cowl and scarf for myself in it, in other colourways.  Maura's scarf is in Elvira - mostly dark and muted colours, black and purple, with some brighter blue, and a dramatic pink-purple.  The Bosc Pear shawl has bands of stocking stitch, alternating with bands of lace - as you can see from the photo, even the stocking stitch bands are very light and translucent in the Amitola.  It was easy to knit, it looks good and feels beautifully soft.

So, very belatedly:  Happy Birthday, Maura.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Print o' the Wave, Again

Another volunteer working on the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection showed me this piece of 19th century knitted lace, because she knows I'm looking out for examples of the Print o' the Wave stitch.

It's knitted in very fine cotton -  the whole thing measures only about 17cm.× 22 cm. (6½ in. × 9 in.). We think that it might have been intended to be a pincushion cover - the centre panel has two layers, with an opening at one end.  (I put a piece of card inside, otherwise you can't see the stitch pattern clearly.)   And the stitch pattern in the centre is clearly Print o' the Wave, but with the zigzag trellis part of the pattern wider than usual.  (Though I doubt that the knitter called the stitch Print o' the Wave, and probably didn't think of it as a Shetland lace pattern.)

In detail, the pattern is not the same as the one published by Mrs Gaugain - as well as the trellis part being 2 stitches wider, the edge is different, and where the two rows of decreases converge, there is a 3-into-1 decrease, whereas Mrs Gaugain has consecutive knit-2-together decreases. But like Mrs Gaugain's pattern, all the decreases are done as knit 2 together, as you might be able to see from the close-up

 It's a beautifully knitted piece  - though as you can see from the close-up, at that scale it's not completely even.  I think that's allowable.  Perhaps the stitches have stretched a bit in the years since it was knitted.  It's far more accomplished than anything I could attempt anyway.   And it's wonderful to have a knitted example of Print o' the Wave from the 1800s, as well as published patterns.

Thursday 3 November 2016

Autumn Colour

Yesterday the weather was forecast to be dry and sunny, and it was. So we went to Harlow Carr garden near Harrogate to see the autumn colour.  A little bit late, because many trees had a carpet of fallen leaves around them.  But we haven't had much wind lately, so there were still a lot of leaves clinging on.


Tulip tree

As well as garden trees like the acers, including some with bright red leaves, and the tulip tree with golden leaves, there is a large area of woodland at Harlow Carr, and mature woodland trees around the garden, mostly oak and beech.

Some of the dead flowers and seed heads are just as attractive, too.

 A grove of aspens had lost all their leaves, but the bare trunks looked beautiful when the sun caught them.  (According to the label, they were the European aspen, Populus tremula, and not the North American aspen, Populus tremuloides.  They are both called Quaking aspen, hence the Latin names, and both propagate by suckers, forming groves.  It's very confusing.)

 Close to, the bark is beautifully patterned.

Aspen bark
   And a few plants were producing out-of-season flowers.

Primula vialii

 But it was much colder yesterday than it has been, so in spite of the rose and the primulas, winter is just around the corner.
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