Wednesday 28 November 2018

A Light as Air Scarf

I have just finished a lacy scarf that I started earlier this month - a very quick knit.   The yarn is brushed alpaca and silk, very soft and fluffy, and it's knitted on 6.5mm needles, so it grows fast.

(As in the post I wrote shortly after I started knitting, the photo looks hopelessly out of focus, but it isn't - the yarn is just very very fluffy.) 

The pattern is called Light as Air - designed by my friend Steph as a free pattern for this yarn (see her Etsy shop - Steph's Crafty Bits).  It's a very simple stitch pattern - two rows, and one of them is all purl.  All the decreases are left-leaning, so the fabric is slightly biassed, which is why the ends aren't square, but that doesn't matter in a scarf.  Steph designed it as a shorter narrower scarf, to be threaded through a knitted loop in the same yarn, that would take just one skein.  I've used two skeins, and the scarf is about 28cm. (11 ins.) wide and about 170cm. (67in.) long. It will be very warm and cosy to wear.

Now back to my Rosedale socks - I have finished the first, but I will have to remind myself all over again how to do Judy's Magic Cast On.

Saturday 17 November 2018

October 1942

Two friends who visited recently, and know I like old magazines, brought me a Woman and Home magazine from 1942 - a very welcome gift.  The cover is very worn and coming apart down the spine, but the contents are in much better condition, and a fascinating glimpse of war-time conditions.  Woman and Home was, and still is, a monthly magazine.  It was launched in 1926, and had incorporated Good Needlework magazine from 1940 or 1941.

The cover shows three things that you could make from instructions inside. There is one knitting pattern, for a high-necked ribbed cardigan (also described as a 'button-up jumper') that you could wear on its own or over a blouse.

 Inside, there is an illustration of the tiny V-shaped pocket, which "will hold a small handkerchief to match the blouse". (Only for show and not for use, I hope.)

Clothes rationing had been in force for over a year by that stage of the war, so a cardigan was a useful garment, especially if you could wear it buttoned up and treat it as a jumper.  There is also advice in the magazine on unravelling old knitted garments to re-knit the wool into something else.  And all oddments of wool could be carefully saved - the magazine gave instructions for crocheting collars and necklets, including the African-inspired one shown on the cover, out of rug wool (not rationed, I believe) and brightly-coloured oddments of knitting wool.  There are dress-making features, too - again covering making old garments into new.

It seems that paper for non-essential uses was getting scarcer (although magazines like Woman and Home had not yet been much reduced from their pre-war size) and shops were not providing paper bags for purchases.  (This of course pre-dates by a long way the current concerns over single-use plastic packaging - many things like fruit and veg were sold loose, and only wrapped up in paper or put into a paper bag when you bought them.)   So to deal with this you could make a shopping bag with a wipeable lining to hold everything.

As well as the needlework features, there is quite a lot of fiction - two serials and a complete story.  One of the serials is by Pearl S. Buck, an American novelist who had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.  The magazine doesn't mention that, though it does say that she wrote The Good Earth, a novel set in China which is her best known book. The Woman and Home serial is called Answer to Life!, listed as a 1941 novella in a list of her works.  Its main character is a young woman who wants to train as a surgeon, a very difficult thing in those days.  Her mother is a doctor, and apparently the main bread-winner for the family, as her husband has been damaged mentally in some unspecified way by his experience in the previous war.  There are two young men who also appear in the first episode -  I imagined that in future episodes the young woman would fall for the wrong one and then eventually realise that the other is a better choice.  But I was completely wrong - after some digging around, I found an article about the novella here.  She does marry the wrong man, and the marriage breaks down, and having given up her training to marry and have children, she goes back to her ambition to be a surgeon.  Not the usual women's magazine romance at all.

I'm fascinated by the ads in the magazine, too.  There are a few that advertise knitting wools, and two of those feature pattern leaflets - like the pattern in the magazine, they are for high-necked cardigans.

Both the Golden Eagle and Femina ads stress 'coupon economy'  - I think this refers to the fact that your clothing coupons went further if you knitted your clothes instead of buying them ready-made.  But apart from rationing, knitting wool was hard to find even if you had the coupons to spare, as the Femina ad says: "Intensified war production means a shortage of many things, including Femina wools  but they are always worth waiting for."

The Copley's ad goes even further in acknowledging that wool was scarce: it has one of a series of "Couplets of Knitwise Notions",
Cut out the front, crop waist and sleeves, of winter-time's thick sweater;
bind firmly — this bolero makes your best frock even better.
(Though I can't help thinking that you would be sorry next winter when you didn't have your thick sweater any more.)

But it does go on to say that you might be lucky and be able to buy some new Copley's wool: "You're a good knitter (and a good sort) if you put Comforts first, put brains into "remakes," and put wrapping paper in your shopping bag —  ready for some "Excelsior" or some other Copley line and a Copley leaflet when your woolshop has a supply."

There are ads for some products that are still around - Weetabix, Bovril, Knight's Castile soap.  And Ryvita, which surprised me - I thought it was a much later import from Sweden.

But as I discovered here, it was imported from Sweden long before the war (from 1925) and was made in Britain from 1936.

There were a couple of public information notices, too, one from the Ministry of Food, encouraging women to collect wild produce from the countryside - elderberries, crab apples, rowan berries, rose hips, haws, mushrooms and blackberries.  I was a bit surprised that the section on mushrooms does not give any advice on identifying safe fungi, or warn that some fungi are deadly.  Perhaps people were more aware in those days - but then you'd think that  they wouldn't need the ad in the first place.

So the magazine had plenty of valuable content for 9d.  A good read, and useful things to make.

Thursday 15 November 2018


I don't often write about what I'm knitting, until it's finished (in case it all turns out badly).  But I thought I would show you two things I am working on just now. 

At the top is a nearly finished sock for me. The yarn is a sock yarn (blue-faced Leicester and nylon) from Countess Ablaze in Manchester, colour Grey Skies in Manchester.  The pattern is a modified version of the Rosedale socks, from Cable Knits by Ann Kingstone.  The main change to her pattern is at the top - I have not done the complex rose-like cable that Ann designed, and I prefer a ribbed top to a picot edge.  Another change  you can't see in this photo: I have used the heel from Ann's On the Other Foot socks because they have a gusset and fit me very well.  And finally, I (unintentionally) worked some of the cables in the opposite direction to what the pattern specified, but I've decided not to worry about that. 

I have stopped work on the socks, temporarily, to start on a Christmas present for my sister.  (She knows all about it, so I don't need to be secretive.)  It is a scarf in a really luscious brushed alpaca and silk yarn.  The photo above looks completely out of  focus, but it isn't - the yarn is just very very fluffy.  It was dyed by my friend Steph (stephscraftybits on Etsy) in a beautiful mottled grey colourway that she calls Smoke.  The yarn came with a free pattern for a lacy scarf.   It's growing fast (on 6.5mm. needles) and is amazingly soft.

I'll show both socks and scarf again when they are finished. 

Thursday 8 November 2018

A New Match

It's very exciting (as I think I've said before) when we identify the pattern that was used to make an item in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  I talked in a recent post about how important it is to have a story to tell about an item of knitting or crochet - the pattern it was made from (if there was one) is a crucial piece of its story.

The 1950s jumper below is one of many items in the collection that were the work of one woman, Jane Denny.  She was a prolific knitter - she commuted to work in London by train, and knitted on the journey.  She eventually gave the Guild more than 50 garments.  The earliest is a pixie hood that she probably wore to go to school in the 1940s, but there are also several little jumpers that she knitted in the 1950s, and later garments too.

We have three feather-and-fan jumpers knitted by Jane Denny in the collection - it was evidently a stitch pattern that she liked very much.  As you can see, it has a buttoned opening at the back of the neck (one of the buttons is missing), which was common in 1950s jumpers. This one is distinctive in having a square neck and dolman sleeves, and those features match it to a Marriner's pattern.

1950s vintage knitting pattern
Marriner 266
I like the square neck opening - a neat way of avoiding having to incorporate a curved line of decreases into feather-and-fan.  There is of course a seam along the shoulders, running into the sleeves, and an underarm seam.  It's awkward to seam the wavy edges of feather-and-fan neatly, but I think that the seams would look better when worn (as in the illustration on the pattern leaflet) than when laid out flat.

Marriner patterns at that time included a sketch of the garment as well as a photo, to give you an image to aspire to.  Wearing gloves, earrings and flowers on your shoulder is easily achievable, if a bit impractical for everyday wear, the hourglass figure not really. 

The obvious difference from the Marriner pattern is that Jane Denny's jumper is striped, in two shades of pink and a blue-purple.

Most knitters, I'm told, like to match the illustration on the pattern leaflet as closely as possible, and choose the same colour.  (I've done that myself.)  It's a very useful habit, as far as the collection is concerned -  it helps in matching a finished garment to its pattern. For instance, the pink crocheted disco dress (see here) was easy to recognise because the pattern leaflet also shows the dress in pink.   But Jane Denny not only chose a different colour, but also knitted her jumper in stripes.

One of the earliest cases where I matched a garment in the collection to its pattern was also a Jane Denny jumper, knitted to a Jaeger pattern.  I wrote about it here.

1950s vintage knitting pattern
Jaeger 3398

It was knitted to a Jaeger pattern, and again it was designed to be knitted in one colour.  But Jane Denny knitted it in broad bands of four different colours, combining together beautifully. We already knew quite a lot about her, and we know from the quality of the garments she gave to the collection that she was a skilful knitter.  We can now see, comparing these two jumpers with their patterns,  that she also had a very good eye for putting colours together, and didn't just follow the intention of the pattern designer.
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