Tuesday 31 October 2017

Donation from Scotland

A friend sent me a package of pattern booklets and leaflets this week, a donation for the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  She lives in Scotland and had found them in her local charity shop - several of them do in fact have a Scottish flavour.  There are several 1950s pattern booklets that were given away free with The People's Friend magazine (published in Dundee).

There were several late 1940s pattern leaflets in the package too, including this lacy blouse pattern with crocheted buttons. (I'd call it a blouse, or else a short-sleeved cardigan.  The leaflet calls it a 'jackette'.)

The most intriguing item was a copy of the Scotch Wool & Hosiery Stores' Hand Book of Knitting and Crocheting. which was similar to Patons & Baldwins' Woolcraft.  It gave a lot of useful basic patterns, with an emphasis on underwear.

I think this edition dates from the First World War - it has several patterns for balaclava helmets, steering gloves, puttees, and similar garments that would be useful for soldiers and sailors. But the intriguing thing is not the booklet itself, but its cover - the original cover (above) is falling apart, and a new cover has been made from the outside of a school exercise book.  (To confirm that, it has the address on the back:  Corporation Printing and Stationery Department, 197 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow, S.1. )

And on the front is advice to children on how to cross the road safely.
Do your best to avoid street accidents by observing the following rules:-
1. ALWAYS stop at the kerb, before crossing the street. 
2. ALWAYS look right and left before stepping into the street. 
3. ALWAYS keep looking RIGHT till you come to the middle, then keep looking LEFT. 
4. ALWAYS look out from behind a car or bus before stepping out into the street. 
5. NEVER climb upon a moving vehicle, or hang on to it. 
6. NEVER follow a ball, hoop or playmate into the street while there is traffic about. 
7. NEVER play games on the street. 
What I want to know is: when did children last play with hoops?  (i.e. hoops for rolling along the street, not new-fangled things like hula-hoops).  Long before my time, I'm sure.  There's a long article on hoop rolling in Wikipedia, which shows that it has a very long history, but it doesn't say when it stopped being a common street activity for children.

The cover should clearly stay with the booklet - even though  it's nothing to do with knitting or crochet, it's now part of the booklet's history.

Sunday 29 October 2017

Summer Time Ends

The clocks went back an hour this morning and many of the 'clocks' around the house updated themselves automatically - radios, computers, mobile phones.  But a hundred years ago, when 'daylight saving' was a very new idea, putting the clocks back was a cumbersome business, and one that had to be explained to the public.  I just today came across this timely article warning the people of Leeds about the end of Summer Time in 1917.   It appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post on the 10th September (summer time ended earlier in 1917 than it does now).



Daylight saving, at all events for this year, comes to an end this week. The Home Secretary gives notice that summer time will cease and normal time will be restored at 3 a.m. (summer time) on the morning of Monday next, Sept. 17, when the clock will be put back to 2 a.m.  The hour 2-3 a.m. summer time will thus be followed by the hour 2-3 a.m. Greenwich time.
The act of putting back the clock will, in the average household, be performed by paterfamilias before retiring to bed on Sunday night.  None but the most particular stickler for order will sit up till 3 o'clock for the purpose of restoring clocks and watches to Greenwich mean time.
Even in regard to the Leeds Town Hall clock, which gives the accepted time to all the work-shops and factories of the city, not to mention the public houses, there will be no need to go to all the trouble of setting back the clock at the hour named.  It might have been necessary if the clock had continued to give forth its chimes and show its face at nights, but as the possibilities of air raids have stopped all that, the demands of the times are such that the clock man need only stop the 4 cwt. pendulum for an hour.  He may do that precisely at 3 o'clock, or he may study his own convenience in stopping the clock any time during the hours of darkness and nobody will be the wiser.
Actually the putting back of the clock will impose no hardship on anyone. On the contrary, those who retire on Sunday night at the usual time will have the comfortable feeling that they are granted an hour's extra sleep for the sixty minutes which the Government took from the people in April last. The only people who will need to "get busy'' through the change are those who have to do with the regulation of clocks in public places, railway stations, post offices and Government establishments.
 One Leeds firm, besides holding up the "works" of the Town Hall clock, has to restore Greenwich time to nearly a score of tramway traffic clocks, to a dozen churches in Leeds and to sixty or seventy other clocks in public places, including those on hotels and in the arcades.
In regard to the ways of manipulating the clock, the public are cautioned that the hands of ordinary striking clocks should not be moved backwards; the change of time should be made by putting forward the hands eleven hours and allowing the clock to strike fully at each hour, half hour, and quarter hour, as the case may be.  The hands should not be moved while the clock is striking.  An alternative method in the case of pendulum clocks, is to stop the pendulum for an hour.
So if you had a striking clock with no pendulum (the sort my grandparents had on their mantelpiece) that chimed every quarter hour, you had to let it chime 44 times in order to put the clock back an hour. I think I would rather have had it an hour wrong until the following April.

Saturday 28 October 2017

Greenwoods Wools

I've been researching the history of Wakefield Greenwood, a knitting yarn business based in Huddersfield in the 1950s and 1960s - I'm giving a talk on the company at the Knitting History Forum meeting next month. The Wakefield Greenwood company grew out of Greenwoods, a needlework shop in Huddersfield that advertised in Vogue Knitting in the 1930s and 1940s. 

I'm still finding bits of information about the company and the shop.  This week, I found some Bestway patterns from the late 1940s for Greenwoods Wools.

1940s vintage knitting pattern
Bestway 1416

Bestway patterns often specified generic yarn, such as 3-ply wool, but otherwise, they had a company logo on the front and the pattern was written for that company's yarns.  So for instance, in the late 1940s,  many Bestway patterns had Sirdar or Emu logos on the front.  It must have been good for the yarn company, as an extra way of advertising their yarns. I think, too, that Bestway patterns were sold more widely than other knitting patterns, in newsagents as well as yarn shops.

During World War 2, Greenwoods shop started to sell their own brand of knitting and crochet yarns - the shop had had a mail-order service for several years, supplying knitting wools and other needlework supplies all over the country, and advertised the service in Vogue Knitting.  But they hadn't yet started producing their own knitting pattern leaflets to support their yarns.  The Bestway leaflets would have been a way to test the market, and also to get the name known more widely.

In fact I recognised one of the Bestway designs straightway.

1940s vintage knitting pattern
Bestway 1446

I had already seen an illustration of the jumper in a Greenwoods ad in a 1946 Vogue Knitting magazine..

Ad in Vogue Knitting 28

The ad says "Write to-day for LEAFLET 1446, 4d post free from us or from any Wool Shop."  I did wonder how Greenwoods managed to have a leaflet numbered 1446, without any previous leaflets, but now I know - it was Bestway 1446.

I don't recall any other yarn company advertising a Bestway leaflet, but Greenwoods (and later Wakefield Greenwood) were very good at seizing any advertising opportunity.

I have found two other leaflets for Greenwoods Wools.  One is an underwear set - a (very long) vest and (very long) knickers.

1940s vintage knitting pattern
Bestway 1448

The yarn is Silbro, described as Underwear Silk, and it may indeed have been real silk.

And finally, there's a little jumper knitted in mercerised cotton yarn, "knitted in stocking stitch with lacy yoke and front panel".  It has a neat little collar and a buttoned opening at the back neck - very pretty, if you like 1940s vintage knitwear.

1940s vintage knitting pattern
Bestway 1449

I haven't found any other Greenwoods Wools leaflets published by Bestway in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, though  there may have been some.  But shortly after these were published, Greenwoods started to produce their own pattern leaflets, so perhaps they didn't need the Bestway support any more.

Monday 23 October 2017

Vulcanite Knitting Needles

Before other plastics were developed and came into common use, one of the materials used for knitting needles was vulcanite, a hardened rubber.  A haberdashery catalogue from 1918-19 lists steel, wood, bone, ivory and vulcanite knitting needles.  So I've known about vulcanite knitting needles for several years, but I didn't think that we had any in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.

But then recently I saw that we had some black double-pointed needles, that I thought might be vulcanite.  Another name for vulcanite is ebonite, and it was used to make jewellery and other decorative pieces in imitation of ebony or jet - black is its 'natural' colour.

The needles that I thought might be vulcanite are size 14 (2mm.) and some are in a set of four with a paper band around them, though it's not very informative - it just says 14 W.G. (presumably for 'Wire Gauge') and Made in England.

You can test whether a knitting needle is vulcanite by rubbing it gently to warm it - it should smell of rubber. I've done that and they do smell of rubber - at least to me. I've asked several other people to test them, without mentioning rubber.  No-one else said that they smelt of rubber, and you would be amazed at the range of things that various people thought they could smell.   (Strawberries?!!)

So I'm relying on  my own nose.  Also, they are surprisingly sharp, which makes me think that they are not made of one of the usual plastics.

And this week we have been given some more knitting needles, including a pair of black straight needles, 12 in. (30.5 cm.) long and size 7 (4.5 mm.)   They don't have any label or markings on them, not even the size.

Again, they are sharper than most plastic needles.  And to me, they smell of rubber.  So I'm convinced they are vulcanite, and I'm not asking anyone else to smell them for me. 

It seems that vulcanite was not used for knitting needles after the start of the Second World War.  So if I'm right, these really are vintage knitting needles. 

Monday 16 October 2017

Dating Fancy Needlework Illustrated

Over 150 numbers of the Fancy Needlework Illustrated magazine were published before the Second World War.  The Knitting & Crochet Guild collection has about 75% of them, including the very first number (though it's a bit tatty).

Fancy Needlework Illustrated no. 1

I've been assigning a date to each number - they don't have publication dates on them, but fortunately there is enough other evidence to work out when they were published. (And if you want to get straight to the dates, there's a table at the bottom of this post.)

One helpful clue is that the magazine ran regular needlework competitions, and many of our copies still have an entry coupon inside.  The closing date for entries to the competition gives a rough idea of when the coupon (and so the magazine) was printed.  That was all the information I had for a long time.  But then I noticed that the early numbers have a "To Our Readers" introductory piece that sometimes said when the next number would be published.   (Yes, I do occasionally read some of the publications in the collection, as well as sorting and listing them.)

From these introductions, I found that no. 3 was published on  February 1st 1907 and no. 5 on February 1st 1908.  I don't know definitely when numbers 1 and 2 were published, but I guess that they both appeared in 1906.

From June 1908, the magazine was published quarterly, on February March 1st, June 1st, September 1st and December 1st.   It seems that the first few numbers were published less frequently, to test the market, but they must have sold well enough to commit to publishing more often. 

Although the first number listed knitting as one of the crafts covered by Fancy Needlework Illustrated, the early numbers focus mainly on embroidery and crochet, with very little knitting. But fashions were changing, with sports coats for women becoming popular around 1910.  Fancy Needlework Illustrated followed the trend, and showed a sports coat on the cover of number 24 in December 1912.
Fancy Needlework lllustrated no. 24
In the 1920s, jumpers for women became very fashionable, and the covers of the magazine often showed several jumper designs, like number 59, published in September 1921.

Fancy Needlework Illustrated no. 59
One of the cover jumpers from no. 59 appeared in a newspaper ad the following month (so confirming the date).  The ad promoted the competition run by the magazine: "Every needlewoman in the country should put her skill to the test by entering for this Great Competition. It is open to all, and has appeal for those practically minded as well as for those of more artistic ideas. For your Jumper, or for your Embroidery, you may receive a prize of £20."  The ad was apparently placed by Ardern's, a cotton spinning company that seems to have been one of the backers of Fancy Needlework Illustrated.

In 1923, colour was introduced for the cover of the magazine.  The first colour number was either 65 (which we don't have) or 66.

The colour covers are very attractive - they show an idealised view of some of the designs featured inside. The patterns themselves are illustrated with black-and-white photographs, so the models are real women and not the attenuated creatures on the cover.  (As with the Bexhill jumper from no. 75.)

From 1929, the magazine was published 6 times a year, in January, March, May, July, September and November.  The new dates in fact began with no. 88, which was published on 1st November 1928, rather than 1st December. 

In the 1930s, the magazine focused much more on embroidery, with little crochet and less knitting, so the contents are less interesting for the Guild, and quite a few of the numbers are missing from the collection.  No. 134 (from July 1936) is unusual for that period in having knitted and crocheted garments pictured on the cover, below.  Fancy Needlework Illustrated was still backed by cotton spinning companies, and so the 1930s fashion for knitted woollies was passing it by.  No. 134 is headed "Smart Designs for Knitted & Crocheted Summer Garments" - clearly cotton is more suited to summer than winter clothes.

Fancy Needlework Illustrated No. 134

The restriction to cotton changed shortly afterwards when Weldon's took over the magazine.  They changed the design of the cover and started to include designs for other fibres, particularly wool.  No. 139 (below) is a Weldon's number, published in May 1937 at the time of George VI's coronation.

Fancy Needlework Illustrated no. 139

After the end of 1939, the title of the magazine changed to Needlework Illustrated. Numbers continued to appear 6 times a year, and the numbering continued too: no. 154 of Fancy Needlework Illustrated appeared in November 1939, and no. 155 of Needlework Illustrated in January 1940.  I've found another blogger who has dated the issues of Needlework Illustrated here, so I don't need to do that.

So now, if you have a copy of Fancy Needlework Illustrated, you can date it exactly - except for numbers 1, 2 and 4 where I'm sure of the year of publication but not the month.  The table below lists the numbers published in each year.  You're welcome.



Monday 9 October 2017

The Bexhill Jumper

I have been working on dating issues of Fancy Needlework Illustrated magazine, which was published from about 1906 until the Second World War.  We have copies of most numbers in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, and it would be useful to know when each one was published - information that you might have thought that the publishers would have provided.  But they didn't.  Even so, I have managed to find enough evidence to date almost all of them - a post on  that will follow shortly.

One of the quirks of Fancy Needlework Illustrated is that many of the jumper designs in the 1920s numbers are named after British towns - like the Bexhill jumper, on the cover of no. 75, published in September 1925.  (The Bexhill jumper is the one worn by the lady on the right, sitting under the tree).

1920s vintage magazine
Fancy Needlework Illustrated No. 75

As far as I can see, the names were assigned at random - there's nothing about the Bexhill jumper, for instance, that suggests a seaside town on the south coast.  But a columnist on the local newspaper, the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, felt that the design somehow represented the town and that the women of Bexhill might want to make the jumper for themselves:
 A compliment, which is also an advertisement, and is all the more welcome because it is unsolicited, has been paid Bexhill from an unexpected quarter. That is the naming of a new pattern for a ladies' jumper, in knitting and crochet, as the Bexhill jumper. It looks exceedingly nice as worn by a young lady whose photograph appears in "Fancy Needlework Illustrated," published by the Northern School of Art Needlework, Ltd., of Manchester. For the benefit of lady readers, who will naturally want to make Bexhill jumpers for themselves and lead the local fashion, I may state that the garment is made in light sky blue, and is composed of strips of knitting, joined together with crochet. A deep crochet belt completes the bottom, and the same pattern is worked for sleeve bands. ... For further instructions how to make the Bexhill jumper I must refer my knitting readers to Mrs. Harris, Western-road, who has kindly drawn my attention to this latest distinction that has been conferred on Bexhill.
The Bexhill jumper from Fancy Needlework Illustrated no. 75

It is rather pretty, combining lacy knitting with open-work crochet.  The loose fit, too, would make it  cool to wear on a hot day.

The Bexhill jumper is very similar in construction to the apricot rayon top I showed in my last post: the deep crochet band below a draw-string belt, alternating strips of knitting and crochet and a square neckline are the same in both.  And the other young woman on the front cover of no. 75 is also wearing a T-shaped jumper with square neck and a deep bands of crochet below the waist and around the sleeves.  This was a very common style for jumpers in rayon and cotton at the time.  Other styles were also popular in the 1920s, of course - "Fair Isle" jumpers, for instance,  But they didn't appear in  Fancy Needlework Illustrated, because it only published patterns suitable for cotton.  I'll discuss why later.
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