Saturday 30 September 2017

Trunk Shows in Harrogate

Last weekend, and the one before, I went to Harrogate with another of the volunteers who work on the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  We had with us a suitcase full of items from the collection to show them to two groups of  knitters who were on a Yorkshire knitting holiday organised by Susan Wolcott of Trips for Knitters.   Julia Marsh, who was with me at the first trunk show, has posted photos of all the items on her Hand Knitted Things blog, here.  So I don't need to do that, but instead I'm just going to write about a few of them in more detail.

We started with some 19th century knitted items.  First, a charming little pence jug (photographed with a scale, so maybe you can see that it is only a few inches high).

Knitting & Crochet Guild collection
Victorian pence jug

For such a small piece, it has a lot of different colours: two greens, two shades of teal, and three reds/pinks.   Presumably it was knitted to a published pattern - there are many patterns for pence jugs in 19th century knitting books and magazines.  But we haven't matched this one to a pattern yet, and if anyone recognises it, I'd love to know.

I took along the pence jug I knitted from an 1840s pattern, that I wrote about here, and also some Victorian pennies (so much larger than modern pennies).

I could demonstrate on my little jug that it's perfectly possible to get even Victorian pennies through its neck, because it's ribbed and stretches.  I guess that's true of our original jug too,  but we don't want to try.

Next, I showed a lacy doiley that I think is also 19th century (though I haven't really any evidence for that.)  At the second Harrogate show, I had another doiley for comparison, in a very similar pattern, but knitted in a thicker cotton.
Knitting & Crochet Guild collection
Victorian knitted doileys

The thicker cotton makes the doiley a bit larger and of course a lot thicker, and I suppose that's more practical if you want it to protect a surface, but it does not show the lace pattern well.  Both doileys have a central roundel knitted working outwards from the middle.  The roundel is the same design in both doileys, but the edgings are different.  Each edging is knitted separately, as a strip to fit the circumference of the roundel, and then sewn on and the ends joined together.

I'm not a big fan of doileys, in general, but I like the lacier version of this one. Here's a larger photo.

Knitting & Crochet Guild collection
The central spiral star is a motif I have seen before in knitted doileys.  In this one, the triangular gaps between the points of the star are filled with my favourite Leaf and Trellis pattern (aka Print o' the Wave).

Again, if you know the pattern for these doileys, please let me know.

Moving on chronologically, we showed some Irish crochet and the First World War 'Welcome Home' tablecloth. And then we reached the 1920s, and what Richard Rutt  (in his History of Hand Knitting) called 'the jumper craze'.  Artificial silk, or 'art. silk', i.e. rayon, was very popular and we have several knitted and/or crocheted jumpers in rayon in the collection.  As well as being a favourite yarn at the time, it doesn't get moth-eaten and doesn't shrink, so has lasted very well.

 At Harrogate, I showed a jumper in apricot rayon that is partly knitted and partly crocheted.

Knitting & Crochet Guild collection
1920s jumper in 'artificial silk' 
I think it dates from the early 1920s. It has the typical straight up and down lines of a 20s jumper - although there is a drawstring belt, it probably wasn't at waist level, and the waist would not have been emphasised.  One of the knitters in Harrogate loved this jumper so much that she would like to make one.  We have many patterns for rayon jumpers from the 1920s, in magazines like Fancy Needlework Illustrated, but I have not yet found this one - I'm on the look-out for it. 

And from the 1920s, we went on to the 1930s, represented by a child's Fair Isle cardigan, a child's gansey from around 1948, some 1950s knitting and 1960s crochet, and eventually a Kaffe Fassett piece from the 1990s.   I'll say more about one of the 1950s knits in another post, but for now you can see photos of all of them in Julia's blog.

Friday 29 September 2017

Roman Lusitania

I'm very behindhand with writing posts - since my last post at the beginning of the month, we have been on holiday in Spain and Portugal, and I've done two knitting & crochet trunk shows.  As well as all the usual business of life.  I'm trying to catch up a bit before September runs out on me.

Here is a very small selection of the things we saw on our holiday - a tour of Roman Lusitania with Andante Travels. The Roman province of Lusitania was mostly within present-day Portugal, but part of it is now Spain, including its capital, Merida.  So we flew to Lisbon, but spent a lot of the holiday in Spain.

We saw, of course, lots of Roman sites, including the theatres at Merida and Medellin, Roman country villas and town houses, and a fish processing site at Troia.  And two Roman dams (built to supply Merida with water) that are still functioning, although the aqueducts themselves are now ruined.  The aqueduct is still very impressive, though, as it crosses a valley on high arches.

The Museum of Roman Art in Merida houses a wonderful collection from the local area.  Here's the gravestone of a woman, Sentia Amarantis, who presumably kept a tavern.  It appears to show someone filling a jug from a barrel, and presumably the barrel contained beer and not wine.

There were some wonderful mosaics in the museum.  One huge mosaic featured two winning chariot-racing teams - here's a detail.

Another one that I liked very much had a geometric design in black and white. Here's the central motif.

We visited prehistoric sites too. The Cromeleque dos Almendres is collection of nearly 100 standing stones, arranged in  two concentric ellipses, and an older circle.  The stones are huge rounded granite boulders - very characterful.  Some of them allegedly have shallow carvings on them, but the light wasn't right to see them, and I think the smooth stones are beautiful without any additions.

The countryside around there has many cork oaks, which we had not seen before.  The number 1 on this tree signifies that the bark was removed in 2011  (and it will be ready to strip again in 2020). 

Here's a tree that was stripped much more recently (this year I think) showing the red/orange layer underneath.

We also saw many reminders of the Moorish occupation of the area in the Middle Ages, including several cisterns - this one is under the museum in Caceres.

And a couple of aqueducts built long after the Romans (and the Moors) had gone. This one is at Elvas (just on the Portuguese side of the border).  It was begun in 1498, and still carries water.  We couldn't understand why it took such a zigzag route - from left to right over the road, and then from right to left back again.  (Surely easier to re-route the road?)

\Here's the same aqueduct from the other side. It's about 30m. high at this point - and all that vast quantity of stone is to carry a small channel at the very top.

We saw storks' nests everywhere  on telephone poles, on electricity pylons, and on top of all kinds of buildings.  There are several on top of the Aqueduct at Merida.  The young birds have fledged and left the nest by now, but some of the nests had a stork on them - perhaps thinking ahead to next spring?  Here's one of the churches in Medellin, with a stork on its nest on the tower.

And evidently the storks don't mind being very close to their neighbours - another church tower in Medellin had four storks' nests, two right next to each other.

I didn't take any knitting with me (too busy) but we did see some yarn-bombed trees in Evora. (Though it's crochet, not knitting.

I was fascinated by the different styles of chimney that we saw.  Usually they are built like a little house, with a pitched roof. 

The street lamps were also very varied and stylish.

As you can see from the photos, it was generally sunny, and it was very hot too.  We were very well fed, in between visiting archaeological sites. (Delicious cheeses, in particular.  Pork and ham, too - I came home a few pounds heavier.) And wine was plentiful. It was a great holiday.

Saturday 2 September 2017

December 1930

Last weekend, we were in Kent, staying with friends.  The weather was perfect  - hot (but not too hot) and sunny.  The men of the party went to the Military Odyssey, a multi-period re-enactment show - a fun day, allegedly.  Sue and I went instead to Sissinghurst instead.  It's one of my favourite gardens, but I have not been there for many years, so it was good to re-visit it.  And the following day we went to Knole, where Vita Sackville-West grew up.

Another day we went to a small book fair in Tenterden, a very pretty little town   I bought a couple of old magazines there,  including an issue of Britannia & Eve from December 1930.

Britannia & Eve, December 1930
As the cover says, it was "A Monthly Magazine for Men & Women".  The contents are an odd mixture.  There is a lot of fiction, and some non-fiction articles: on the early life of Prince Albert, the wife of Chiang Kai-Shek, "The Psychology of Dress", and several more.

There are two articles on Hollywood and the current films - it seems that the "Talkies" were just taking over from silent films, and so this is commented on in a couple of places.  There is a page of stills in a new film in which "Miss Evelyn Laye makes her talking debut".  (According to Wikipedia, Evelyn Laye was British and had appeared in plays and musical comedies.  In the new film, she plays a flower-seller in a cafe in Hungary, and also a famous singer who she agrees to impersonate, and a captive in a nobleman's castle. It was a Samuel Goldwyn film and, says Wikipedia, a huge flop.)  Elsewhere, one of the magazine's writers speculates, "I am not sure that we are not altering our voices and that the Talkies are not responsible for new intonations, new phrases".

There are are also several articles on fashion, and others on Christmas decor and cookery, that you would think would be aimed more at woman readers than men.

Because it's a Christmas issue, the fashion pages present evening gowns (though there is another article on what to wear for a winter sports holiday in Switzerland).  The fashions are all illustrated with drawings rather than photos, and women were evidently supposed to be tall, slim and willowy.

From Britannia & Eve magazine, December 1930
A Lovely Gown in which to Celebrate Christmas Festivities
This gown is in black velvet with a band of net above the hem, and a short jacket of net too.

 Of course, no real woman looks like the drawings - it would be grotesque if she did.  Elsewhere in the magazine is an article on women's golf, illustrated with several photos of real women looking far from slim and willowy - in fact, rather frumpy.

Women always wore a hat when out of doors, and a close-fitting beret was popular for golfers. An ad shows another style of hat favoured by some of the golfers, and that it could look attractive (but not if you sit slumped like a sack of potatoes, like one or two of the women in the photo above).

From Britannia & Eve magazine, December 1930
"An attractive small felt for all weathers"

The ads are fascinating, as usual in old magazines.  I was intrigued to see the range of electrical goods you could buy for your home, even in 1930s - a toaster, a vacuum cleaner, an iron, an electric kettle, a coffee percolator,...

From Britannia & Eve magazine, December 1930
Electrical Christmas Gifts 

Another ad shows a range of radios and gramophones (and a combination 'graphophone').
Columbia Radios and Gramophones

 I was astonished at the prices - the cheapest 'radio table model'  in the ad is 20 gns.  (A guinea was £1 1s, so 20 guineas was £21).  The equivalent today, from the Bank of England's historic inflation calculator, is over £1200.  That's partly because it's designed to be a smart piece of furniture, in a wooden cabinet, but even so, that's huge amount of money for a radio.  (And there weren't many programmes to listen to, anyway.)

There are several car ads in the magazine, and the cheapest is the Austin 7 at £122 10s. - only 6 times the cost of a radio.    

"The New Austin 7" 

But my favourite ad is this one for Dolcis shoes.  I love the Art Deco styling, and the shoes are very stylish - though the evening shoes in crepe de chine and velvet wouldn't last long.

"For Day or Evening - Dolcis"

Unfortunately, although the magazine is 170 pages long, there are some missing at the end, as I found when I tried reading one of the stories. So now I shall never know the ending of 'Shane of the Sorrowful Islands', by Beatrice Grimshaw, a 'drama of mutiny in the Solomons'.  Very disappointing.

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