Sunday 24 March 2019

A Cashmere Lace Scarf

I have just finished (well, actually a couple of weeks ago now) a beautiful scarf in Yarntelier Cashmere Lace.   

 I got the yarn from Louisa Harding's studio in the Byram Arcade in Huddersfield, along with the pattern.  The design is Olena, and it makes a scarf so light and airy that one 50g. ball of yarn makes a good sized scarf (mine is about 135cm. x 25cm.).  

Louisa intended the scarf to have beads in the lace for the first few pattern repeats at each end of the scarf:

But I'm not a beaded scarf sort of person, so I left those off.  I also didn't do the picot cast on, though I did try it - I couldn't make it look neat, so just did a regular cast on.

The lace pattern is really beautiful.  It's not one that I know, but could well supplant Print o' the Wave as my favourite lace stitch. 

I did a lot of the knitting in public, i.e. in the various knitting groups that I go to, but that wasn't a very good idea.  I made a few mistakes in the lace. the worst being near the beginning when I had to unravel about 15cm., which at that point was more than half of what I had already done.  I did think about leaving it, because I thought that no-one else would see the mistake, which is probably true. But I am very glad that corrected it, because now it's perfect.  I made a few more mistakes, but I made sure to check more often, so correcting them wasn't such a big deal. 

Louisa promised that washing the finished knit, to get the spinning oil out, would make a huge difference - the cashmere would 'bloom'.  And she was right - it felt quite soft while I was knitting it, but now it is delightful.  Very soft, warm, and light, and the colour is gorgeous too - not quite solid, a lovely grey-blue.  I love my scarf.

Sunday 10 March 2019

Fair Isle in Cotton

I have written a few posts about Fancy Needlework Illustrated, and an article in Piecework magazine that I wrote about here.  It's one of my favourite magazines in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, even though it emphasised crochet and embroidery at the expense of knitting.  It was associated with a consortium of cotton spinners, so everything in the magazine is about making things with cotton. It never published patterns for woolly jumpers, for instance (until Weldon's took over the magazine in 1937).  So when Fair Isle knits became popular in the 1920s, they didn't appear in Fancy Needlework Illustrated.  But I have seen the cover of issue 132 (below) many times while working on the collection, and the disembodied cardigan is clearly done in stranded knitting.   Inside, it is described as a Fair Isle design, though it is of course knitted in cotton.  I posted it on Instagram (tagged #fairislefriday) and decided to share it here too, where I can go into more detail.

Fancy Needlework Illustrated, No.132, March 1936
The cover illustration of the cardigan shows the colours listed in the instructions - Dark Jade, Black, Ecru and Dark Tango (red, presumably).  The intro to the pattern says: "This lovely cardigan has been designed on the same lines as the well known and much admired Fair Isle Jumpers, which our Scotch friends are so expert at making.  In this case, however, the design has been very much simplified so that the most timid worker need not be afraid to attempt it.  Worked in bright colours of Ardern's Florentine Twist, it will answer many purposes — for skating, golf, etc."  (Ardern's was a cotton spinning company in Hazel Grove near Stockport.)   It doesn't look very much like a traditional Fair Isle, but it's very attractive.  The large buttons and the belt are the most obvious elements of 1930s style, I think, and it would be easier to wear today than most 1930s styles, because of its length - most sweaters of that era stop at the waist.  (Though it's only a size 32 in. (81cm.) so the pattern would have to be adapted to larger sizes these days.)

The other disembodied garment shown on the front cover is an embroidered gardening smock - completely impractical, unless you're picking flowers, or perhaps deadheading roses.  Nothing more strenuous than that.  As the cover suggests, there is rather a lot of embroidery in this issue.  Too much for me, certainly - I'm not a fan of embroidery if I'm expected to do it myself.

But there are more knitted and crocheted garments inside, including a nice knitted jumper with a buttoned front and a little collar.  It takes only 300g. of Ardern's Star Sylko size 5 (a mercerised cotton thread) - but then it only fits a size 34 in. bust (86cm.) and is only 17 in, (34cm.) long. 

There's also a pattern for a crocheted collar and cuff set with a matching powder puff case.  "This collar and cuff set with be found invaluable for the business girl.  It will add a bright spot of colour to her smart business frock, and as it is made of Ardern's crochet cotton there will not be any accidents in the wash."  The colours suggested are Spring Green, Amber, Heliotrope and Sapphire, which would certainly be bright.  (I didn't know what colour Heliotrope is, but according to Wikipedia it's pink-purple.)  The stitches used are Rice Stitch and Solomon's Knots, which doesn't mean anything to me, but probably will to a crocheter.

Finally, there is a pattern for "Foundation Garments in Crochet" - a "well-fitting set of suspender belt and brassière", also in Ardern's Star Sylko size 5.  To call it well-fitting is wishful thinking - the fit of the bra is entirely due to lengths of elastic, sewn to the bra to crossover at the back.  The crocheted part would only fit someone small enough not to need to wear a bra at all, it seems to me.  As for the suspender belt, the less said the better.

Sunday 3 March 2019

Mary Quant knitting patterns

The lack of posts recently is due to The Move - the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection's move to new premises in Slaithwaite.  It happened the week before last, and all went well, though there is still a lot of sorting out to do - lots of boxes stacked on the floor, waiting to be put on shelves.  I'll say more about our new location another time. 

Meanwhile, over on Instagram, I have been working through my #50yearsofPatonspatterns series of posts, starting in 1979 and working backwards.  We are nearly through the 1960s, and I picked two Mary Quant patterns to represent 1965 and 1966.  In both years, she designed a collection of knitting and crochet patterns in Courtelle yarns, for several of the spinning companies, including Patons.  There were nine Patons patterns in all, six in 1965 and three in 1966.  I'll show them all here.

First the 1965 leaflets. The yarn for all six is Patons Flair, a wool-Courtelle blend, which was DK weight, to judge by the tension.

Patons 9526, below,  is a skinny-rib sleeveless polo-neck sweater - perhaps not as distinctive now as it was in 1965. 

Patons 9526
Patons leaflet 9527 is a ribbed sweater, with crocheted collar and cuff, and matching knee-socks, also with a crochet trim for the turnover.

Patons 9527

Next is a ribbed cardigan, with a small collar, knitted in reverse stocking stitch, folded in half and stitched down.  You were clearly not intended to wear it as an extra layer, so it's more a button-up sweater than a cardigan. 

Patons 9528
Patons 9529 is a dress, with ribbed bodice, little stand-up collar, and knitted belt.  More knee-socks, this time in a wide rib to match the dress bodice. 

Patons 9529
Then another dress, mostly ribbed, with cable panels in the skirt, a big roll collar, also ribbed, and a knitted tie belt.  There is a matching cabled hat, with pompom, and a pair of matching mitts. I like the dress, though I generally feel that knitted dresses won't keep their shape. 

Patons 9530

And finally, an ensemble of jumper and skirt, with a bonnet and stockings.  The body of the jumper is ribbed.  The skirt looks as though it is in the same rib, knitted sideways, but in fact it's knitted top down. The sleeves, stockings and bonnet are all crocheted.

Patons 9531

It's notable that wide ribbing is a feature of all these 1965 designs, so the jumpers and dresses fit closely. 

It's easy to distinguish the 1966 leaflets from the 1965 designs, across all the spinners that had these Mary Quant designs in Courtelle.  The leaflets in the 1966 collection all have the Mary Quant daisy as part of the background, and the models have the Vidal Sassoon geometric hairstyle that she had adopted herself and made famous.  The 1966 Patons designs are all in a pure Courtelle yarn, also a DK weight by the tension.

The first of the 1966 Patons designs is leaflet 9700 - a cardigan and stockings outfit. They are both worked in rib. The front of the cardigan has a smocked yoke, worked afterwards by using a contrast thread to bind adjacent ribs together.  (The instructions for the smocking are a bit skimpy, I have to say.)  There are also bands of smocking in the stockings, just below the knee - whihc looks a bit strange.

Patons 9700
Patons 9701 is a short-sleeved jumper and skirt outfit.  The jumper has narrow stripes of a contrast colour across the yoke, back and front, and there is a crochet trim in both colours around the neck and bottom of the sleeves.  The belt is also knitted, in the contrast colour.  Of all these Mary Quant designs for Patons, this one is my favourite.

Patons 9701
And the final pattern in this collection is Patons 9702, a ribbed jumper and matching stockings.  The contrast band on the sleeves is worked by using two balls of the main colour and one of the contrast.and then using just the contrast colour to knit a saddle shoulder.  Finally, the polo collar is added after the jumper is sewn up.  The stockings are also in two colours, as you can see from the illustration, which gives an odd knee-sock effect.  (And the model is wearing white sling-back shoes too, not to mention the shorts over stockings - altogether a bizarre outfit.)

Patons 9702
The dresses and skirts in these leaflets are shown finishing above the knee, but they aren't as extremely short as they became later - just as well, because in 1966 women were still wearing stockings rather than tights.  So Mary Quant designed knitted and crocheted stockings, not principally to avoid all the extra work in making tights, but because women didn't wear tights at that time - though that changed only a year or two later.

A Mary Quant exhibition is opening at the V&A  next month, which I hope to get to.  And there is an exhibition at the Fashion & Textile Museum on "Swinging London: A Lifestyle Revolution", until June, which features the work of Mary Quant and Terence Conran.  It seems that there is a resurgence of interest in the 1960s, and Mary Quant in particular - so I'll offer this post as a knitting and crochet contribution to that.   

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