Wednesday 29 November 2017

November 1947

This is one of an occasional series in which I look back at a past issue of Stitchcraft.  So here I'm looking back 70 years, to November 1947.

Stitchcraft magazine, November 1947
Although the war had been over for two years, there were still severe shortages of many things, apparently, and clothes rationing was still in force.  But perhaps it was easing up a little - earlier issues of Stitchcraft suggested ways to recycle wool unravelled from old jumpers, but this issue expects you to buy new wool.

Christmas was coming, of course, so the front cover has an angora bolero to wear "For a Winter Party". (I must show the heading for its exuberant use of three different fonts in four words:)

And the back cover of the magazine has a nice twinset in a complicated stitch pattern, knitted in 2-ply.  You only needed 10 oz. (285 gm.) for both the cardigan and the short-sleeved jumper - they weren't being extravagant with their clothing coupons. 

From Stitchcraft magazine, November 1947
 Here's a close-up of the stitch pattern:

There are two more sweaters for women, and a charming little twin-set for a small child.

 For men, there are patterns for gloves and a smart pair of socks.

From Stitchcraft magazine, November 1947

And, with Christmas presents in mind, there are two patterns for soft toys.  They are called, I have no idea why, the Despondent Tiger and the Poetical Bull.  (Each toy requires nearly as much wool as the twinset, so the pattern does suggest using unravelled wool here.)

Earlier issues of Stitchcraft, such as this one from December 1941, had a cookery column.  That seems to have been abandoned by 1947.  And although there was usually quite a lot of sewing, embroidery, and other needlecrafts apart from knitting and crochet, both before and after the war, the November 1947 issue has only one item that isn't knitted - a cushion cover in applique and cross stitch.

But for a knitter, there is a lot to appeal.  I might even try the sock pattern. 

Members of the Knitting & Crochet Guild can download a pdf of this issue of Stitchcraft from the members' section of the Guild website. 

Monday 27 November 2017

Spending a Day in 1918

When we were in London a week ago, for the Knitting History Forum, I spent a happy day at the British Library, looking at magazines from 1918. I was gathering material for my blog about the First World War, One Hundred Years Ago. It's been through a very thin patch since I broke my wrists last year, and I almost decided not to add any more posts, but then I thought that I should at least post the material I had already collected, and now I'm planning to revive it and keep it going. The war won't last much longer, after all.  (I'm sure that's what people hoped in 1917, too.)

So I ordered Woman's Weekly, Home Chat and Home Notes for 1918.  They were all weekly magazines for women, and all survived until the 1950s - Woman's Weekly is still with us, of course.  Woman's Weekly was a good read (though of course I didn't have time to properly read very much of it).  There was lots of interesting material about how to train for some of the new job opportunities available to women.  Mary Marryat, who still nominally wrote the advice column in the 1950s (but I'm sure wasn't the same woman - if indeed she ever existed) was issuing good advice to young women getting into relationships with men in the armed forces.  (Some of it extremely practical - e.g. you can tell from his pay-book if he's already married.)  And Cecile, who I think also survived as the Woman's Weekly cookery writer until the 1950s, provided recipes and meal plans for the meagre rations.

And as I was looking through the issues of the magazine, week by week, I saw a pattern I recognised.

Woman's Weekly magazine, 23rd March 1918

The 23rd March issue has an illustration of a tea cosy on the cover - and I recognised it, because there is a tea cosy made to the same pattern in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.   (Strictly speaking, it's a tea cosy cover, not a tea cosy -  it wouldn't do anything to keep a pot of tea warm by itself.)

The cosy in the collection is identical to the Woman's Weekly illustration, except that our example has a decorative frill around the edge - but the pattern just says that when you have made the two halves of the cosy, you should finish off "with any little edging round the top".

I probably wouldn't recognise all the filet crochet tea cosies in the collection, but I know this one, because of its other side.  I'm sure that the designer intended that both sides of the cosy should be the same, but the maker of ours used different designs.  The other side has a "VICTORIOUS PEACE 1914-1919" design, and it's very familiar because I show an illustration of it in my talk on knitting & crochet in World War I.

It was surprising and exciting to recognise an image from 1918 so unexpectedly.  Next time I visit the British Library, I'll look through Woman's Weekly for 1919, to see if our maker found the 'Victorious Peace' design there too. 

I'm afraid that Home Chat and Home Notes were nowhere near as interesting as Woman's Weekly - Home Notes in particular was very dull.  Clearly, enough readers went on buying them to keep them both going for another 40 years, but personally I'd have bought Woman's Weekly instead.

Friday 24 November 2017

Knitting History Forum

I was in London last weekend, for the Knitting History Forum conference on Saturday at the London College of Fashion.  Professor Sandy Black organises the programme, and this year's was the 10th anniversary meeting, which is quite an achievement.  I have been to three of the past conferences, and there has always been a fascinating range of talks. I was there this year to talk about Wakefield Greenwood, a Huddersfield yarn company, and what I have found so far about its history.

"Wools for the World" - details from the back of a Wakefield Greenwood pattern leaflet

You can see the programme for the conference here.  I felt that my talk hardly counted as history compared to some of the others, because I was talking about things that happened within living memory - other speakers were going back hundreds of years.

Maj Ringgaard from Copenhagen talked about 17th and 18th century knitted stockings in silk and wool that have been found in waterlogged excavations in Copenhagen.  I was fascinated by the decorative details - many of the stockings had clocks (decoration on the outside of the ankle). Maj showed several fancy clocks in purl stitches on a stocking stitch background.

(There was also a bit of discussion about the correct terminology - apparently knitting historians aren't supposed to talk about stocking stitch, or knit and purl stitches, any more.  But I know what those terms mean, and if you're a knitter, I expect you do too - although if you are American, you might have to translate stocking stitch to stockinette. I can't remember what the alternatives to knit and purl are, but the approved alternative to stocking stitch seems to be 'simple knitting', which I don't find very helpful.)

As well as clocks, the Copenhagen stockings had false seams up the back (in purl stitches, with often a bit of decoration either side).  The seam was imitating the hose made out of cloth cut on the bias that the knitted stockings replaced, but Maj suggested that it might also have had a practical purpose as a marker for the leg shaping.

The following talk was also about 17th century knitwear.  Helena Lundin, from Uppsala, has been looking at knitted fragments of wool and silk found in the remains of the Swedish Navy flagship Kronan that exploded in 1676 with the loss of 800 men.  The fragments (when they can be identified) came from gloves, headgear, silk waistcoats and stockings, and they are mostly stocking stitch, although I was excited to hear that one fragment is in twined knitting

Nearer to home, Lesley O'Connell Edwards has been examining 16th century stockings and sleeves knitted in wool, from the Museum of London collection.  The stockings are often in very poor condition as you would expect, but sleeves don't get such hard wear.  There was some discussion of how the sleeves were worn - whether as a warm under-layer, or on top of other clothes, partly to protect them.  But it's astonishing that knitted wool has survived so long.  I remember seeing a 16th century child's vest on display in the Museum of London a few years ago - it was fascinating to examine the stitches through the glass, and try to work out how it was constructed.  (It's knitted in the round.)

Matteo Molinari talked about the crochet traditions in his home village in Italy, near the Austrian border.  The older generation of women still make beautiful crocheted items for their homes - mats, curtains tablecloths, and so on.  There has been a tradition, too, that teenage girls should crochet a bedspread for when they get married.  Matteo said he found that the value of a crochet piece was judged by the fineness of the thread and hook, and the amount of work involved in making it.

The final talk of the afternoon was from Ruth Gilbert who showed photos of some ancient pieces of textile from Egypt, which look like knitting but aren't - they were made by some kind of sewing technique, I gathered.  She also presented some later pieces which she thinks might have been made by a technique something like French knitting, i.e. with something like a knitting nancy).  But unless an Egyptian knitting nancy is found from the right date,  it's hard to see how you could get beyond saying that a fabric like that could have been made that way.

It was a fascinating set of talks, covering a wide spread of knitting history.  And afterwards, there was a drinks reception,  to celebrate the 10th anniversary, which rounded off a very good day.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Teazle Wool Again

I have been wondering how similar Felted Tweed is to the Teazle Wool specified for the tam pattern I adapted, as I described in my last post. 

Here's a photo of a Teazle Brush being used, and a description, taken from J. &  J. Baldwin's Woolcraft, published before 1920:

BRUSHING (or RAISING).The full beauty of garments made from certain materials,and especially those from TEAZLE WOOL, is only developed by raising the surface of the fabric by means of the special Teazle Brush, so as to produce the effect of fur. 
The process should not be applied promiscuously to knitted and crocheted fabrics, but only where recommended in the particular recipe, certain precautionssuch as stitch, firmness of fabric and avoidance of knots on its surfacerequiring to be observed, as well as the suitability of the material from which the garment is made. TEAZLE WOOL is specially intended for finishing off with a "raised" surface, and gives most beautiful results when used according to directions. 
The procedure is as follows :Holding the Brush in the right and the fabric in the left hand, treat the material to a series of light dabs (Fig. 2A), with a very gentle lifting or pulling action at each (Fig. 2B), until a fluffy surface has been produced equally all over the garment. Heavy or careless raising may easily cause a tear, in which case the fabric will require to be darned on the inside. If the Brush be made to just lightly grip the surface, however, and the action be a gentle one and steadily applied, a beautiful effect can easily be obtained on plain fabric made from TEAZLE Wool. It is a wise precaution to make sure that the Brush is clean by using it first on a piece of waste fabric. 
The TEAZLE Brush can be obtained (in the United Kingdom), at a cost of 2/- [2 shillings], wherever TEAZLE WOOL is on sale. As it may be employed, with discretion, for renewing the nap on any woven fabrics (such as Blankets and Tweeds), it is a handy tool to have available, apart from its special use in connection with TEAZLE WOOL. 
I tried brushing my Felted Tweed swatch with a wire brush, and the result is just slightly furry.

I'm sure it's not as furry as brushed Teazle wool should be - but the brush I used is one I usually use for brushing suede.  It is not equivalent to a Teazle brush, which was also a wire brush, but each wire had a hooked end.  What's more, brushing with a wire brush, even one without hooks, didn't seem a proper way to treat Felted Tweed - the fabric did not feel robust enough to stand up to such treatment. So perhaps Teazle Wool produced a thicker fabric, or perhaps the Teazle brush did a better job of raising the nap, or perhaps I was being too tender-hearted.  It's hard to tell without a sample of the original Teazle wool and a proper Teazle brush. But I suspect that getting the effect evenly applied over a sizeable garment would be difficult, even with the proper wool and brush.  

Wednesday 8 November 2017

A Teazle Wool Tam

In April, I wrote about a secret project that I was knitting in three colours of Rowan Felted Tweed. The pattern has now been published, in the November/December issue of Piecework magazine.  It's a special issue on collections, and Angharad and I wrote an article about the Knitting & Crochet Guild's collection for it.  The project was to accompany the article, and now that the magazine has appeared, I can show it to you.

Tam for Piecework November/December 2017

It is a tam, with two bands of stranded knitting, and a tassel.  (The magazine has a nicer photo of it - it was photographed on a model, who is much more attractive than my polystyrene head.)

Choosing a project to represent all the publications in the Guild's collection was quite tricky - I wanted something unusual, not too big or difficult to knit, and something that would look good now.  Just as I was wondering what to choose, a donation arrived for the collection, of booklets and patterns from the early 1920s, including a booklet of Hats, Caps & Tams, which was just what I was looking for.

Beehive Booklet 23: Hats, Caps & Tams
I had never seen a copy of the booklet before, and I think that not many have survived. It was published in the early 1920s - after J. & J. Baldwin of Halifax had merged with Paton's of Alloa in 1920, but while they were still acting as separate companies.

The booklet has an introduction which describes the teazle wool specified for the patterns in the booklet:
TEAZLE WOOL HATS, CAPS and TAMS, in Knitting and Crochet, are a need of the times for wear with the woollen Jumper, Scarf, or Sports Coat which form part of practically every Woman's wardrobe. They can be made at home to match the other garments and at but a quarter of the cost, or less, of the ready-made article. 
Moreover, at the taste of the individual, a Colour Scheme may be deliberately put together and an air of distinction given to the finished article, such as would be very difficult to obtain through Millinery channels. TEAZLE WOOL, from which the whole of the articles illustrated in this book were made, is supplied in a lovely range of shades from which to choose such a Colour Scheme.....
The facility with which the surface of fabric made from TEAZLE WOOL can be "raised," by means of the special "TEAZLE" Brush, makes it peculiarly suitable for Hats, Caps, and Tams. The process softens the colours and gives a very pleasant touch to the fabric, the freshness of which can be restored at any time, and even after washing, by a gentle application of the "Brush." 

(Teazle wool was named for the heads of the teasel plant, shown in the trademark, that were used in the woollen industry to raise the nap on woven cloth.)

I didn't want to choose a pattern that was designed to be brushed, but fortunately many of the patterns in the booklet were not, and I chose this design from the front cover, which isn't brushed:

Even though I didn't intend the finished tam to be brushed, in order to imitate Teazle wool I couldn't choose a smooth yarn  - it would have to be a wool that could conceivably be brushed.  The pattern specified the colours, too, so I wanted to be able to match them if possible.  And of course I needed to be able to match the stated gauge.

My friend Ann Kingstone suggested using Rowan Felted Tweed, which she used for her Stranded Knits book, and assured me that it would knit to the right gauge.  And Rowan very kindly supplied me with Felted Tweed in Bilberry, Watery and Ginger, to stand in for Violet Blue, Jade Green and Orange Teazle Wool.  The result looks very close to the illustration in the booklet, and has the 'jewelled effect' described in the pattern - I am very pleased with how it turned out. 

Having chosen the pattern and the yarn, I still had to modify the pattern quite a lot.  The knitted tams in the booklet were intended to be made in four or five separate sections and then sewn together.  Here's a chart for one of the sections in a similar tam from the booklet - each section in the tam pattern I chose is the same shape, apart from the final decreases. 

Chart for a 4-section tam
The booklet has a preamble that suggests knitting in the round as an alternative - I thought that most knitters now would prefer that.

The tam I chose was intended to be knitted in 4 sections, and I knit a trial tam (in other colours of Felted Tweed) following the pattern closely, apart from knitting it in the round.

I didn't like it - it was too square.  And the decreasing in the centre of the crown didn't work well (for me anyway) - it didn't lie flat.  So I changed to five sections and changed the decreasing in the middle.  I also had to re-jig the bands of stranded knitting, so that they sat symmetrically within each section, and carried on smoothly from one section to the next - not a consideration in the 1920s, it seems.

The final hurdle was the tassel.  All the pattern says about that is "sew together neatly, finishing with a length of chain and tassel from the centre of the crown."  Some instructions would have been nice, but in the absence of any help, I had to make it up, and fortunately, I could see roughly how long the chain and tassel should be from the illustrations in the booklet.     Here's the finished tam, showing the crown with the five converging sets of decreases, and the chain and tassel.  I am very proud of it - my first published pattern.

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