Saturday 27 October 2018

Matching Socks

I finished another pair of socks (for me) a couple of weeks ago.   They are like the last two pairs I knitted - the structure is based on the On the Other Foot socks I made in Ann Kingstone and Sarah Alderson's knit-along, but these are quite plain, double rib.  I had some variegated sock yarn I wanted to use, so a fancy pattern wouldn't have shown up well.

The yarn was dyed for me by my friend Steph of Millhouse Designs (stephscraftybits on Etsy).  The special thing about the yarn is that she dyed two strands together, so that the colour changes happen in the same places.  So knitting a sock from each strand means that they match. 

I wanted colours that aren't too exciting (I'm not into wearing brightly coloured socks yet), so they are grey at the toe, turning into indigo blue at the cuff.  With winter in mind, I made the leg part longer than the last pair I made.  They are proving very cosy.  I'll knit some more.  I have two skeins of variegated sock yarn that are basically grey - I should be safe colourwise with those (not too exciting) and I think that they might suit a fancy pattern too.

Sunday 21 October 2018

Arans in Birmingham

I have just been to Birmingham with my colleague Angharad - we did a trunk show and workshop on Arans yesterday for the Birmingham branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild.  That is, I did the trunk show in the morning, and Angharad did a workshop in the afternoon.  We had two suitcases full of Arans - they are of course very bulky and heavy.  (Fortunately for us, we didn't have to transport them ourselves on the train - they were taken to Birmingham by car a few weeks ago and they are being brought back this week.)  I've given talks on Aran sweaters a few times, based on those in the Guild collection, and I showed some of the same things yesterday, including a replica of the sweater illustrated in Mary Thomas's Book of Knitting Patterns, published in 1943, that I showed here.  We had also chosen the Aran sweater in 4-ply (fingering) wool from a 1959 Woman's Weekly magazine (see here for more details):

and my own Susan Duckworth Aran from 1973, as well as more conventional Aran knits.

The collection has some distinctly unconventional Arans from the 1980s, using more or less standard Aran stitch patterns, but not knitted in wool.  One we showed yesterday is in purple chenille, following the Sirdar pattern below (cropped version):

Sirdar 5231
Another is in pale blue cotton:

Wendy 4033
We even have a batwing Aran sweater in a cream yarn with lurex, though in that case we don't have the pattern:

Here's a detail to show the gold sparkly bits:

If you recognise the pattern, please let me know.  Did the pattern specify lurex yarn, I wonder, or was that the knitter's choice.  And why not?  Maybe my life too would be richer for a batwing lurex Aran sweater.

At Angharad's workshop in the afternoon, we were given Aran weight yarn in cotton, to knit a wash-cloth.  We each chose stitches from the Arans in the trunk show.  I chose mine mainly from a very fine 1950s Aran:

I used the double cable from this sweater and the cable from the welt, and a related cable from the welt of the 1943 replica.  I carried on knitting it on the train back home, and then finished it last night.

It was a very successful workshop - devising your own pattern from a garment makes you examine it much more closely than you would do otherwise.

We had travelled to Birmingham on Friday, and as an extra, that evening our friend Janet took us to a Rowan Ruby Anniversary event, put on by the Stitch Solihull yarn shop.  The Birmingham branch had treated us to the tickets, and it was a lot of fun.

There was a display of current and vintage Rowan designs, as well as the current Rowan yarns and book to browse.   The Soumak wrap below by Lisa Richardson is both past and current: it was first published in 2013, but is also in Rowan's new 40 years book.

Lisa Richardson's Soumak and Mayfield designs
There were of course several designs by Kaffe Fassett: the China Clouds jacket is from Rowan Magazine 28 (2000) and Summer Star from Magazine 25 (1999).

China Clouds jacket by Kaffe Fassett

Summer Star by Kaffe Fassett

We were encouraged to wear a Rowan knit for the evening (in exchange for free entry in a raffle).  I wore the Gilda sweater that I made in 2009, in Rowan Wool Cotton - still a favourite of mine.   It was fascinating to see what other people were wearing - including a huge 1980s intarsia sweater.

There was a fashion show, too, presented by Anna of Stitch Solihull - here she is modelling a jacket with 'ROWAN YARNS' knitted into it.

It was a very good evening.  The shop provided drinks and a buffet with a 1970s theme (for the 40th anniversary) - including pineapple chunks and cubes of Cheddar cheese on cocktail sticks, and of course Black Forest gateau.  Looking through the Rowan books, I found at least two designs that I really want to knit.  And Angharad won the first prize in the raffle. 

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Fancy Needlework Illustrated in Piecework

Yesterday, a packet arrived through the post with three copies of the current (Winter 2018) issue of Piecework magazine.  If you don't know it, Piecework is an American magazine, published by Interweave, that covers the history of needlecrafts.

Piecework, Winter 2018

I was sent the copies because I have an article in this issue.  Earlier this year there was a call for articles on needlecraft magazines, so I decided to write about Fancy Needlework Illustrated.  It is one of the magazines in the collection of the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and a favourite of mine (I have written posts about it several times, e.g. here).  I especially like the covers of the 1920s issues which have charming colour illustrations.

Fancy Needlework Illustrated, September 1927

As well as the magazines themselves, we have several pieces of filet crochet in the Guild collection that were made to FNI designs, so there was plenty to write about.  I have written a few times in this blog about the "Welcome Home" tea-cloth pattern appeared in 1915 - evidently a design that appealed strongly to women left at home when their men joined the armed forces.  We also have several examples of the "Dresden" tea-cloth, a very popular design from FNI that is featured in the article - and appearing here in an ad for Ardern's Crochet Cotton that shows a guest at afternoon tea admiring her hostess's handiwork:

There is also a project to accompany the article, to knit a very pretty 'Tea Rose Scarf', designed by Katrina King.

I sent photos of several pretty jumper designs from 1920s issues of Fancy Needlework Illustrated as possible sources for projects, and this is the one that inspired Katrina:

The "Tennis" Knitted Jumper

I think the jumper itself is pretty, if a bit shapeless.  In the usual 1920s knitted jumper style, the sleeves are made in one piece with the front and back.  Often in 1920s patterns the whole jumper is knitted in one piece, but in this case because the lace pattern has a definite direction, the back and front are knitted separately in two T shapes, finishing with several rows of moss stitch (to match the panels of moss stitch between the rose leaf panels).  Then the moss stitch edges are grafted together on the shoulders.   Katrina's scarf also has a graft in the middle, for the same reason - so that the lace pattern is going in the same direction at both ends of the scarf.  All the designs in Fancy Needlework Illustrated are for cotton yarns, as I explain in the article, and the tea rose scarf is also knitted in cotton, so it represents the magazine very well. 

There are some fascinating articles elsewhere in the issue, including several others on needlecraft magazines. or on novels featuring needlecrafts (including a knitted fichu inspired by illustrations to Louisa M. Alcott's Little Women).  Another knitting project that I like very much is a pair of lace fingerless mitts in cotton, based on traditional Russian festival costume.  (Do I have a suitable festival coming up where I could wear white cotton lacy mitts?)  I'm proud of my article and very pleased that the issue is full of other interesting content too. 

Wednesday 3 October 2018

A Scarf in Springtime

Earlier this year, the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection was given several balls of a vintage yarn. They were donated by a Guild member who volunteers in a charity shop.  She bought the yarn when it was brought into the shop, because she thought it looked very old, and had never heard of the make - 'Wakefield Greenwood'.   But when she asked on the Guild Facebook group for information about the company, she was pointed to posts on this blog - I have been gathering information about Wakefield Greenwood for several years, because it was a local company.  She offered the yarn to the Guild collection, and we were delighted to accept it.

The brand name is 'Springtime' - a wool yarn that was made in several thicknesses.  This is 'laceply & tinsel' - very fine, as the name suggests, and composed of 75% botany (i.e. merino) and 25% tinsel.  I don't know what the tinsel is - some sort of metallic thread.

Wakefield Greenwood (aka W. G. Spinners) introduced their wool and tinsel yarn in 1953.  The Yorkshire Evening Post featured it in their report on the British Industries Fair in that year:
Wakefield, Greenwood and Company, Huddersfield, this year features wool with a sparkle.  Each strand is spun with tinsel thread, giving a "brilliant" effect to garments. Though this new product was introduced only eight weeks ago, substantial orders have already been received from European countries, South Africa, and Australia.  In the shops it will retail at about 3d. an ounce more than normal wool. 
We have about 200 Wakefield Greenwood pattern leaflets in the collection, and I looked for any that used this yarn.  Here's one that looks like the same black and gold colourway as our yarn.  It's in stocking stitch, and the pattern specifies a tension of 36 stitches and 52 rows to 4 in. (10 cm.) with size 12 (2.75mm.) needles.  I have knitted a stocking stitch swatch on size 12s and it makes a very nice fabric, with a lot of drape.

W. G. Leaflet 1021
Here's another evening blouse pattern, for the same yarn.  The lace pattern looks very complicated and the result looks almost not knitted.  Maybe I should try it.... 

W. G. Leaflet 1145

These two patterns are from later in the 1950s, but I did find a pattern for Springtime laceply that was advertised in 1953, when the tinsel yarn was introduced. 

W.G. Leaflet 152

According to the leaflet, you could make a short scarf, about 32 in. (81 cm.) long, with only one ½ oz. ball of Springtime laceply (i.e. without tinsel).  I decided to try it, to demonstrate what the yarn was like when knitted up.  I couldn't make a scarf of a sensible length from one ball, as it turned out, partly because the tinsel reduces the length in a ball, and also because I'm not very good at blocking.  So I used two balls - it's still quite a short scarf.  It's knitted on size 6 (4mm.) needles.  I found it absolutely impossible at first, because the only size 6 needles I could find were metal and very smooth -  their weight kept pulling them out of the stitches.  But then I found some bamboo needles of the right size and got on much better.  I put in lifelines, too, but didn't actually need them when I got the needles right.  

You can see that I haven't managed to stretch the lace pattern as much as in the pattern illustration.  In my defence, I think that the tinsel might possibly make it more resistant to blocking, maybe? 

I think it's much easier to relate to a vintage yarn if you can see something knitted in it that is also of the right era.  And now we have an example of something knitted in our 195os yarn to a 1950s pattern.  The scarf and some of the remaining balls of Springtime laceply and tinsel have already been in a trunk show of collection highlights last weekend, and will be included in future trunk shows too.  

Monday 1 October 2018

Chambers' Bell Gauge

A friend has been collecting knitting needle gauges recently.  She found that she had two examples of Chambers' Bell Gauge, so has generously given one to the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  Here it is:

The gauge has the Royal arms, "G. CHAMBERS & CO", "BELL GAUGE" and "PATENTED 17 SEPR 1847".  Sheila Williams, in her book The History of Knitting Pin Gauges, illustrates this gauge and a version that gives the address of George Chambers' business:  Priory Needle Mills, Studley, Warwickshire.

George Chambers was the first to make needle gauges in a bell shape, which became almost the standard for needle gauges for a very long time.  We have around twenty, of different makes, in the Guild collection, including these:

The bright green Emu gauge in the centre is from the late 1940s, so that bell gauges were produced for 100 years, following the 1847 patent.

The main difference between the Chambers gauge and later bell gauges is that it measured much finer needles - the smallest size is a 28.  On the old British scale, the larger the number, the finer the needle.  I can't find a needle size conversion chart that goes below a 14 (2 mm.), but the needle sizes were the same as the old British Standard Wire Gauge, and conversion tables for wire give size 28 as 0.3759mm.   (At the opposite end of the scale, the largest size on the Chambers gauge is size 1, roughly equivalent to 7.5mm, so quite chunky.)

I cannot imagine knitting with anything finer than 1mm. - less than 0.5mm. seems impossible.  What thread could you knit with such a fine needle?  We do have very fine crochet hooks in the Guild collection, where the hook part at the end is barely visible, but I don't know whether the Chambers' Bell Gauge could have been used to measure crochet hooks.  (The sizing of crochet hooks in the 19th century is in any case very mysterious, as far as I'm concerned.)

Sheila Williams says in her book that George Chambers died in 1865 - his company was in financial difficulties before that, and seems to have disappeared shortly after his death.  Well before the end of the 19th century, other companies were making bell-shaped needle gauges. One that became very common was Walker's Bell Gauge, with sizes from 1 to 24 (0.56mm.) - there are still many surviving, and knitting patterns around the end of the 19th century often specified this gauge to measure needle size.   

But evidently for some people, Chambers' Bell Gauge remained the standard long after George Chambers' death.  'Muriel', who wrote a column called 'Feminine Fancies, Foibles and Fashions' in the Sheffield Weekly Telegraph in the 1890s and 1900s, sometimes gave a short knitting or crochet pattern and specified that the size of knitting needles or crochet hooks should be measured using Chambers' gauge.  Here is one of her offerings, from December 1895, appropriate for the approaching cold weather:

A most useful gift at this time of year is a pair of night socks, and the directions that follow are so simple that any child, boy or girl, can carry them out, and produce a most acceptable offering to those they love, for without distinction of age, or sex, night socks add much to the comfort of all who suffer from cold feet. Tiny children's comfort can be provided by diminishing the number of the stitches. The size quoted is a medium size, and the colours named can be substituted by any others that may be preferred. Take steel pins No. 13, Chambers' bell gauge. Two needles only required. 1 oz. red, single Berlin wool, and 2 oz. black ditto, or any good contrasting colours. Cast on 72 stitches; knit 2 plain and 2 purl alternately for about two inches, then commence with red wool, and knit about an inch and three-quarters; then go on with the black wool for three inches. After that knit with red for another inch and three-quarters; then use black wool, knit two inches. Cast off, fold the knitting together, and join the ends.  Run a narrow piece of elastic inside, about an inch from the top of the sock: finally ornament with a bow of ribbon. When the foot is put in it the sock shapes itself.  Among the sick and aged poor gifts of these inexpensive sleeping socks would find ready and grateful acceptance. 
[Muriel evidently didn't have a great repertoire of knitting patterns, for she repeated this one exactly in 1902, and again in 1912, when she called them American overshoes - "a great comfort to travellers by road or rail, and they serve as sleeping socks also."  At the end of the pattern, she says " When finished, this sock looks exactly like a small bag, and as unlike a foot covering as possible, but on inserting that member the bag resolves itself as if by magic into a handsome and shapable shoe; it will keep the feet warm in bed and on the carpet, and drawn over the shoes in car or tram will be found most comfortable.  I have made many pairs of shoes in different colours for friends and for bazaars, where they sell very well.  The shoes contract or expand according to the size of the feet they cover."  She's not convincing me, I'm afraid.]

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