Friday 24 February 2017

A Quick Baby Jacket

A couple of weeks ago, my sister asked me if I would knit something for a new baby - a friend's grandchild, who was then expected imminently. Margaret would have made something herself (she knitted something for the baby's older brother when he was born), but she's finding knitting too painful for her hands. So we got together in the knitting wool department of John Lewis, and chose a pattern and the wool, and I set to work on a baby jacket. And here it is:

Margaret wanted something that would be suitable for either a girl or a boy.  I wanted something quick to knit.  So we looked through the baby patterns for double knitting.

King Cole 3803
The pattern we chose has two versions of a jacket - one is supposedly for a baby girl (peplum, hood) and the other for a baby boy (no peplum, collar).  Margaret decided she would like a combination (peplum + collar), and  picked neutral colours (soft grey and ecru).  The yarn is Erika Knight for John Lewis Baby DK, machine washable wool.  (The baby's mother wanted natural fibres.)  Very soft, good to knit with.

I really dislike sewing up, so I knitted the body in the round up to the armholes, and knitted the sleeves in the round too.  I find it difficult to get seams in cuffs and welts to look neat, so they are best avoided.  I posted the jacket to Margaret earlier this week.  It had buttonholes but no buttons, as in the photo  - adding the buttons is her job.  And while I was knitting it, the baby arrived - it's a boy.

It's very satisfying to be able to knit an entire garment so quickly, and I think it's turned out rather well.  Eli will look very smart.

And the pattern leaflet is now in the Guild collection.  We need to keep up-to-date when we can.

PS June 2017.  I've just been sent a photo of Eli wearing his jacket - and it still fits him, though he started out big and has grown a lot.  So nice to see it being worn.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Weldon's Practical Needlework

I was going to write a PS to my last post, but then I thought. "Who reads a PS?"  Probably no-one who's already read the original post.   So I'll write a new post.

Weldon's Practical Crochet, 15th Series, No. 77 in the Practical Needlework series.
 In my last post, I was speculating about the date of this Weldon's Practical Needlework magazine,  recently donated to the Knitting & Crochet Guild, which had ads from the First World War inside, but I thought was much earlier.  I suggested that it might have been originally published about 1895, but kept in print for much longer - and obviously the ads could be updated for every reprint. Hence, 1890s patterns, but WW1 ads.

Then I remembered that Richard Rutt wrote an appendix to his History of Hand Knitting giving publications dates for Weldon's Practical Needlework issues, up to July 1915, when they started to be dated.  Actually, he only gives dates for issues in the Practical Knitting sub-series (he's writing about hand-knitting, after all, and not crochet or macrame or millinery or any of the other things covered in Practical Needlework).  But all the issues were numbered consecutively, and then given another number within their sub-series - so the issue illustrated above was the 77th Practical Needlework issue, and the 15th in the Practical Crochet sub-series.  (Confusingly, this is expressed as "Fifteenth Series" on the cover.)  So we can use the appendix to date all the Practical Needlework issues, not just the knitting ones.  

It's quite simple actually - each volume of 12 issues corresponded to a year, and Rutt dates volume 1 to 1886, so volume 7 is 1892.  And if we want to be precise, No. 77 was first published in May 1892 (because 77 = 12 x 6 + 5).

I don't know whether Rutt counted backwards from the dated issues. or whether he had other evidence too.  But it certainly works by counting backwards.  Here's No. 395, in volume 33.

Weldon's Practical Crochet, 180th Series, No. 395 in the Practical Needlework series.

It's dated November 1918 - that's the '11/18' in the bottom left corner.  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)  And extending Rutt's list of volumes and years, volume 33 does correspond to 1918.  And No. 395 would be the November issue (395 = 32 x 12 + 11).

The magazine continued with only a change of title font into the 1920s.

Weldon's Practical Needlework, No. 478.  
 This issue on Tea Cosies is dated October 1925. (You'll have to trust me on that - the pages are bigger than A4 and when I scanned the cover the date got missed off.)  And again the arithmetic works out - it's volume 40 (so 1925) and issue No. 478 (= 12 x 39 + 10).  In spite of the change of font, the cover design must have been looking very old-fashioned by 1925.  There was a redesign shortly afterwards, and the series then continued - in fact, it was still being published after the Second World War, though then as a Practical Knitting series only.

There's one problem with Richard Rutt's list of dates:  the British Library catalogue says that the Weldon's Practical Needlework series started in 1888.   Hmmm.   One possible explanation for the difference is that I think the British library has the bound annual volumes, not the monthly separate issues.  (Weldon's sold both - and if you can sell it as a monthly magazine and a yearly volume as well, why not?)   You can't produce an annual volume until you have all 12 separate numbers, and maybe volume 1 didn't appear until 1888.  And it has been known for the British Library catalogue to assign the wrong date to undated 19th century publications.  So I'm putting my money on the dates given by Richard Rutt.

Saturday 18 February 2017


It's been an exciting week at the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  I had accepted two donations of publications and they arrived though the post.  One is a wonderful collection of booklets and leaflets, published around 1920 - most of them I have never seen before.  Here is a selection:

We already have copies of that edition of Woolcraft, but not in such good condition - the other booklets are entirely new.  But this donation deserves a post to itself (later).

The other donation consisted mainly of collections of crochet samples, bound into notebooks.  I will perhaps write more about those in another post as well  (although crochet is not my thing, especially fine cotton crochet of the kind in the notebooks.)  An unexpected bonus with this donation were some very old magazines, including copies of Fancy Needlework Illustrated and Weldon's Practical Needlework.

Fancy Needlework Illustrated is awkward to scan - the printed area is larger than A4.  So the ilustration below is just part of the front cover.  Evidently it was also an awkward size for readers, too - this copy has been kept folded across the middle for a long time. Issue No. 64 is from the early 1920s, I guess.  (They aren't dated.)  Knitted or crocheted dresses often featured in the needlecraft magazines of that time - like the one on the left, with the model soulfully examining a rose. The dresses are so shapeless and droopy - not at all attractive to my mind.  It's amazing that only ten years previously, women were tightly corseted into the very structured Edwardian gowns - now they appear not to be wearing any corsets at all (although I'm sure they must have been).  

Fancy Needlework lllustrated No. 64 (detail of cover)

We think of 20s fashion as a very straight slim silhouette - but I think that's more typical of the later 20s.  At the time of this magazine, dresses seem to have been quite roomy on the hips (it looks as though the models might have been wearing quite bulky petticoats).   I don't think it works - if you're going to have no bust and no waist, you have to have slim hips too.

But as well as dresses, there were jumpers, and these are more successful, I think - they often have a belt, for one thing.  Here are two from the same magazine.

The "Clovelly" Jumper in Knitting and Crochet
The "Wingrove" Knitted and Crocheted Jumper

The Clovelly jumper is a T-shape,  in stocking stitch with panels of filet crochet.  The Wingrove jumper also has knitted sections, in stocking stitch with a regular pattern of eyelets.  The crochet pieces are done in a sort of large-scale Irish crochet, in a design of leaves and bunches of grapes.  The drawstring waist was very common in jumpers of that time - and at least it did give you a waist.

In the same parcel was an issue of Weldon's Practical Crochet - no. 77 in the Practical Needlework series.  Our copy has several ads for knitting comforts for the troops, and so must have been printed during the First World War, but Weldon's kept these magazines in print for a long time, and I think it may have been originally published earlier than that.  (A note on the first page of the magazine says "Over 360 Numbers now ready, and always in print.")

Weldon's Practical Crochet, 15th Series, No. 77 in the Practical Needlework series.
   It is subtitled "How to Crochet Useful Garments and Articles for Ladies and Children."  It has patterns for babies' and children's clothes, including 'bootikins'  (which made me smile, because that's Mary Beard's translation of Caligula).  There are a couple of household items - antimacassars and coverlets - but no women's clothes except underclothes. And there are patterns for toys, including the very charming elephant on the front cover.

And a toy lamb, too - though I don't think that's as successful.  Perhaps better in reality, in white wool, than in the engraving.

Some of the clothes for babies and children seem needlessly complicated.  Here's a child's dress in tricot (Tunisian crochet?) and crochet.  Not a garment to encourage active play - more suitable to sitting quietly to read an improving book.  

This dress and other patterns in the magazine make me think it's much earlier than the First World War.  The Practical Needlework series started in 1888, it was published monthly, and No. 77 is part of Volume 7, so I think it might have been first published in 1895 or thereabouts.  (Which is very inconsiderate to someone like me who is trying to assign a date to a publication and might be seriously misled by the ads.)

More later on the other publications that arrived this week.

Monday 13 February 2017

Mitts in Twined Knitting

I said last month that I was knitting a pair of fingerless mitts in twined knitting - all inspired originally by somehow volunteering to do a workshop in twined knitting for the Huddersfield Knitting & Crochet Guild.  (I think I might have been hypnotised.)  I finished those mitts, which I intended to be for me, but then someone asked me to write the pattern, and I decided that if I was going to do that, I'd like to change it a bit.  So I gave the first pair to my daughter, and made another pair for me.

The wristlets I designed as the workshop project were knitted in two colours - you switch colours for (almost) every stitch, twisting the yarns each time.  For the mitts, I used two strands of the same colour, again alternating the strands for each stitch.  (That's the original use of twined knitting, I believe - it's called two-end knitting in Swedish, and  you can use both ends of one ball of yarn.)    

Here are my second pair of twined knitting mitts:

I'm calling the design Aspen, because the diamonds on the back of the hand and the cuff reminded me of the diamond shapes on the bark of aspen trees at Harlow Carr garden in the autumn - and aspen trees grow in Sweden, where twined knitting also comes from.  

Twined knitting gives a very nice texture.  Apart from the areas of pattern, it looks similar to stocking stitch on the right side, but actually it feels slightly ridged.  (Taking one strand across the back as you knit a stitch with the other strand pulls the fabric in a bit and makes the right side of each stitch tighter than the left.  At least that's what happens when I do it.)  

And the wrong side looks very different to stocking stitch:

Susie's mitts are only slightly different to mine:

They have chevrons on the cuff, and the border to the thumb gussets is a bit different.  I've taken the elements of the designs from the book by Birgitta Dandanell and Ulla Danielsson, Twined Knitting - A Swedish Folkcraft Technique, which is full of photos of original garments of all kindsThe English translation was published by Interweave Press in 1989, and is out of print, but I've been able to borrow a copy from a friend.  

The yarn for both pairs of mitts is Debbie Bliss Rialto Heathers, which is a beautifully soft merino DK. The colour is Pebble - a lovely silver-grey, very like aspen bark. (There's also a little bit of black for the cast-on, and the plaited braid.)  Twined knitting in DK yarn gives a very thick fabric - these mitts are very warm and cosy.

I've now knitted two pairs of mitts and two and a half pairs of wristlets in twined knitting.  (I wrote about the 'half pair' here.)   I made one pair of wristlets for the workshop - a refinement of a previous pair, which I haven't shown.  Here it is:

 I have a cardigan in the same dark teal colour, so I've worn these wristlets quite a lot - they really help to keep you warm.  For the workshop pair, I dropped the third colour for the cast-on edge, and the plait - I wanted to keep casting on as simple as possible.  

I think I've done enough twined knitting for now.   I like the effect very much, but it's slow to do (because you have to keep stopping to untwist the yarn) and you don't always want your knitting to be thick and wind-proof.  I'm doing the workshop for the Birmingham branch in April, so that might inspire me to take it up again, but at least until then, that's it for twined knitting.  

Sunday 5 February 2017


We have recently received a donation to the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection of a set of doll's clothes, and the doll they were made for.  She is not very pretty, to be honest, but at least she's very well-dressed.

I think that originally there might have been another doll, with dark hair, because she is one of the Rosebud twin dolls that featured in many issues of Woman's Weekly in the 1950s - the magazine published knitting patterns for outfits for the twins.  And many of the outfits that came with our doll are in pairs, in two different colourways - there is another pair of dungarees and a jumper to go under them, for instance.

The pattern for the dungarees and jumper outfit was published in March 1951, and the dolls are featured on the cover.

Woman's Weekly, March 3rd 1951
"Oh, what a lovely bouquet! Is it really for us?"
The illustrations to the patterns show the twins in various poses, intended I suppose to make them look a bit more life-like.  The magazine gave details of the dolls and how you could buy them by post.  They were 6½ inches high (16.5 cm.) and each doll cost 2s 6d - that's 12½p, directly translated.  And of course: "please state whether a blonde or brunette doll is required when sending your order."

Here are some more of our doll's outfits - a very pretty blouse and skirt, a vest and knickers, and a siren suit.

I am sure that they were knitted from Woman's Weekly patterns too, but we don't have a complete set of the 1950s issues.  (Probably just as well, as we would need to store more than 500 issues.) We do have several more patterns for the twins' outfits, including a very comprehensive outfit from 1957: underwear, dress, socks, shoes, mittens, hat and coat.

My grandma read Woman's Weekly every week and knitted clothes for my doll from it, and I thought that she used the patterns for the Rosebud twins.  But I think I was wrong - Dolly was bigger.  And more lovable, too - apart from being not very pretty, a 6½ inch doll is too small to be cuddly.  Woman's Weekly had patterns for other sizes of doll occasionally, so perhaps one day I will see one that I recognise.  (Sadly, Dolly and her clothes have not survived - she succumbed to a nasty plastic disease long ago.)

Me with Dolly, and my Grandad and sister

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