Monday 29 July 2019

Crochet Gloves

On Saturday, I went to Lincoln with a suitcase of some of my favourite pieces from the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, to show them to the local Guild branch. I shan't write about most of them here, though one that has already had a post to itself is the "Victorious Peace" tea cosy -
an obvious choice as it has the date 1919 worked into the filet crochet, so this is its centenary year.

I also took a few crocheted gloves, which I think are fascinating.  I don't ever want to wear a pair, but they represent the way that women once wanted to look.  Once upon a time, ladies were not properly dressed out of doors without a hat and gloves.  In winter, gloves had an additional function in keeping hands warm, but in summer, they had to be cool and preferably light coloured.  In the 1940s and 50s, patterns appeared for summer gloves crocheted in cotton. We have many of the patterns, and at least a dozen pairs of the gloves, in the collection. 

Here are two pairs I showed on Saturday: a white pair with a very open pattern of ovals on the back of the hand and the fingers, and around the cuffs. 

 And a pale blue pair with a pattern of trefoils around the cuffs, and crochet buttons to fasten them - I think these are delightful.

In a few cases, we have managed to match a pair of gloves to a pattern.  Here's a late 1940s Bestway pattern, and a pair of gloves to the same pattern.

Bestway 2014

My favourite patterns for these gloves show the ideal look that the gloves were intended to complement.  Coats leaflet 298 is an example - it shows a sketch of a lady in a sort of New Look outfit, wearing the gloves that you could make from the pattern.

Coats 298
Inside are further sketches of various ladylike activities which would be enhanced by the gloves - drinking champagne, smoking a cigarette (in a holder, of course),....  All with a smartly dressed (no doubt rich and handsome) escort.

And Coats Book No. 405, with several patterns for crochet gloves, sets out what a pair of crochet gloves would offer: "Paris or Penrith, country or town, feminine fancy dictates crochet gloves for summer chic.  The 'finger tip-top' smartness of fashionable gloves in crochet gives that groomed, well dressed, finish to spring suit or summer ensemble.  Elegance, daintiness, delicacy, youthfulness -- take your choice from these inexpensive 'made-to-treasure' gloves."

Coats Book No. 405

They would certainly be inexpensive to make (if you are skilled with a crochet hook, which I'm not).  They are totally impractical for everyday activities, but they could look very pretty with a floaty dress at a summer wedding.  (Again, not for me.) 

If you'd like to try making a pair, and you are a member of the Knitting & Crochet Guild, the Coats booklet is available to download from the Membership area of the Guild website. (And if you're not a member, you could join - membership is open to anyone.)

From Coats Book No. 405

Monday 8 July 2019

Home Journal

A few weeks ago, I was going through some knitting and crochet patterns in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection that were free with newspapers or women's magazines when I came across a 1930s leaflet for an attractive cardigan with an interesting collar in garter stitch, and crocheted buttons. It was one of  a series of six that were given away free with successive issues of Home Journal in October/November 1937, though this is the only one of the six that we have in the KCG collection.

It occurred to me that I didn't know anything about Home Journal, unlike more familiar titles such as Woman's Weekly, Home Chat, Home Notes. (There were probably dozens of women's magazines published in the 1930s, and there wasn't a lot of variety in the titles - which struck me when I first started sorting them out, and wrote a post about them here.)

We have two issues of the magazine itself in the collection, from March 1935, with the usual mixture of fiction, cooking, beauty, needle crafts, and articles about the lives of royalty and Hollywood stars.  From these issues, I knew that Home Journal was published by the Amalgamated Press, one of the giants of magazine publishing.

For more information about Home Journal, I turned first to The Business of Women's Magazines, by Braithwaite and Barrell, which is my usually reliable source for 20th century women's magazine history.  But no luck - Home Journal is not mentioned.  The British Library catalogue was more helpful, and told me that it was published from 1934 to 1939, when it was incorporated into Woman's Pictorial, another Amalgamated Press weekly.

I also searched the newspapers in FindMyPast, and found an ad for the first issue of  Home Journal, from March 1934:
"What a beautiful paper!" That's the first comment of everyone privileged to see the first copies of the new HOME JOURNAL; it is a spontaneous tribute to the most artistically printed and produced paper for women yet published.
HOME  JOURNAL is beautiful—and it is practical and entertaining, too. Absolutely in tune with all women's interests of to-day. Therefore it is up-to-the-minute in fashion, up-to-date in ideas, bright and refreshing to read; the ideal weekly magazine for women who appreciate the good things of this world in dress, beauty, health, fiction, films and knitting. No woman can afford to miss HOME JOURNAL.
Why not get a copy now, before the rush comes - for there will be a rush!
Frock pattern and 100 embroidery transfers free in every copy.
Here's the front cover of Home Journal from March 23rd 1935. It doesn't make me say "What a beautiful paper!", but the quality of printing is very good, and the paper is much smoother than say Woman's Weekly at that date.  (The photo is of Evelyn Laye and Frank Lawton, British stage and screen actors who were married to each other.)   

Home Journal, March 23rd 1935.

The ad also describes it as "the NEW ALL PHOTOGRAVURE Weekly Magazine for women", 3d. every Wednesday.  I went back to Braithwaite and Barrell at that point, because they have a section on photogravure, which they describe as a new standard of printing "that would almost overnight make the pulp weeklies look very drab".  They say that photogravure is an expensive process to set up, but becomes more economical with very large print runs.  Their account gives the credit for the first women's magazine to be completely produced by photogravure to Woman, launched in 1937. Though if the 1934 ad is correct, it seems that actually Home Journal was there first.

An article in the Sheffield Independent in March 1934 suggests that the Amalgamated Press were aiming at a very high circulation for Home Journal:
The new weekly paper for women — "Home Journal"—has been welcomed everywhere. So great was the demand for copies that the first edition of 300,000 was sold out on the first day. A second edition of 100,000 was printed and distributed in record time for a magazine of such beauty and artistic merit.
This, too, was soon swapped up and within 48 hours of this magazine's first appearance practically every copy printed had been sold. It is, without doubt. a record in the history of publishing for 400,000 copies of a threepenny weekly magazine of the character of "Home Journal" to be sold in less than two days.

(This purports to be independent reporting, but I suspect it was based on a press release, or even paid for.)  I don't know why the magazine was merged with Woman's Pictorial in 1939.  Perhaps the circulation wasn't large enough to make it economical, or if the merger happened late in the year, it might be that Amalgamated Press decided to reduce the number of titles in anticipation of shortages of paper due to the war.

So what about knitting?  There is a knitting pattern in both issues that we have.  In the March 1935 issue, there is a jumper in stocking stitch, with chevrons back and front in garter stitch.

Knitted jumper pattern from Home Journal, March 23rd 1935. 

The other issue in the KCG collection has a knitting pattern illustrated on the front cover:

Home Journal, March 2nd, 1935
The jumper was knitted in a wool-rayon yarn called 'Sheenella', and has bands of moss stitch separated by double rib - though the main feature is the big bow, of course.

I think it's likely that there was a knitting or crochet pattern in every issue. But the magazine seems to have been lavish with free gifts, which sometimes, as in 1937, were knitting patterns in free leaflets or gift books. As well as the leaflet illustrated at the top, we have a gift book of "Quickly Knitted Designs", given free with an issue of Home Journal (undated).  Like the magazines themselves, the pattern leaflet and the gift book are good quality publications. At the time, Patons & Baldwins leaflets, to a similar standard, cost 2d., so a free leaflet with a 3d. magazine was a bargain, a gift book with several patterns included even more so.  And they are very stylish designs.  If you like 1930s knitwear, they are very attractive - though the patterns would need adapting for most of us.  The jumpers illustrated are all designed for a 34 in. bust, so a UK size 10.  Worth the effort  of adapting a pattern if you're a 1930s fan.

I'll write about the "Quickly Knitted Designs" gift book another time.

Wednesday 3 July 2019

Improved Holder for a Ball of Wool

I was looking closely yesterday at a recent donation to the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection - a yarn holder.

(At least, we assumed it was a yarn holder - and you can indeed get a small ball of wool inside it. But I have never seen one like it, and if it wasn't anything to do with knitting or crochet, it might equally well have been some strange accoutrement for a medieval knight.)

It didn't at first sight have any markings on it, to indicate who had made it.  But then I saw a patent number, engraved very small.

I do like a gadget with a patent. I found the patent on Espacenet, and yes, it is a yarn holder.  The patent was granted in 1923 to John Blennerhassett, Manufacturer, of 60 Regent Place, Birmingham, for an "improved holder for a ball of wool or the like for use while knitting or crocheting."  The patent has a drawing of a holder exactly like ours, although the patent suggests that it could be varied in several ways.

The patent describes a holder "embodying three or more hollow ball segments all but one of which are fixed, and the remaining one of which is diametrically pivoted upon the others to swing aside to open the holder" to allow the ball of wool to be placed inside.

Yarn holder closed

Yarn holder open

No dimensions are specified in the patent, but ours is quite small - about 7cm. in diameter.

As the patent says, "It is of advantage to leave between each segment a space .. so that the wool ball may be seen."  There are three openings in the top fixed segment - one for the wool, and two narrow slots for a strap, "by which the holder may hang from the arm of the user".  The ribbon with the holder (shown in the first photo) may be the original: it has a metal tag at one end, which may be the 'stop bar' mentioned in the patent that could be applied to the strap. But if there ever was a tag at the other end, it is missing, and the tag is not in fact big enough to stop the ribbon going through the slot.  Of course, it would be easy enough to thread a new thin ribbon through the slots and to tie the ends together, so the stop bars are not essential. 

The patent didn't tell me anything about John Blennerhassett's business, but I have managed to find out a bit about him.  He was born in 1888, the son of a bricklayer.  By the 1911 census, he was prospering: he was a diemaker (so already working with metal), and an employer.  (He was also doing well in his personal life: he was lodging with the Law family, and married their elder daughter the following year.)  A short obituary of John Blennerhassett in the Birmingham Daily Post in 1969 says that he founded the firm of Hassett and Harper Ltd., described there as a metal pressing firm.  The Regent Place address, given in the patent, is the company's.  Before World War II, the company seems to have made small items exclusively, mainly in silver and pewter. The company name led to a lot more information here about John Blennerhassett, from a site about the Blennerhassett family tree.

Grace's Guide lists the company, and gives their entry in the exhibitors list at the 1929 British Industries Fair: "Manufacturers of Silver, Tortoiseshell and Enamel Brushware, Caskets, Cups, Cigarette Cases and Boxes, Flower Vases and Bowls, Military Sets, Manicures, Photo Frames, Tea Sets. Special Line in Tear-off match Cases. Birmingham Jewellers' and Silversmiths' Association Member."   So our wool holder would have fitted into that list and would probably have been seen as a luxury item.  It does look very striking, though to me it doesn't seem very useful by modern standards.  It can only hold a small ball of wool - it wouldn't hold a 100g. ball, for instance - and I think that most knitters and crocheters now would prefer a yarn holder that sits on a table, rather than having to carry it hanging from the wrist. But it is an ingenious idea, and completely different from any other yarn holder in the Guild collection. 

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