Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Golden Eagle

Since last March, and the first UK lockdown, I have written very little on this blog. It's not that I don't have anything to say - the problem is summoning up the mental energy to say it.  And writing a blog post on some aspect of knitting history often takes quite a lot of work.  I'll try to do better this year (though it's already more than halfway through January!) but I shan't make any promises. 

 I'll start with a fairly easy post - lots of images, not too many words. Golden Eagle was a brand of knitting wools that was launched in the early 1930s, and I have been putting together an illustrated catalogue of the Golden Eagle knitting wools in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  The catalogue will go on the Guild's website, so that members who are interested in vintage knitting patterns will be able to ask for copies.  Here I have picked out a small selection.  

The leaflets issued by Golden Eagle were numbered consecutively, as far as I can see, starting  at 1. (You might think that that is the obvious way to number knitting patterns, but actually most spinners did something different, e.g. starting at 101 and restarting when they got to 999.)  The first one that we have in the Guild collection is number 16 - a sleeveless V-neck pullover, with cables.  

Golden Eagle 15

Although it's a common type of garment, the construction of this one is unusual - the back and front are knitted in one piece, starting with the front rib and finishing with the back rib, so that there are no shoulder seams. 

From the ads for Golden Eagle wools, there were some very attractive and interesting patterns published in the 1930s, but we have very few of them in the Guild collection.  Here's one (below), number 84,  for Golden Eagle "Hastenit" wool.  It was a thick yarn, knitted at a tension of 18 stitches and 26 rows to 4 inches (10 cm.) on size 5 (5.5mm.) needles - possibly equivalent to a modern Aran weight.  The collar effect is actually a yoke, edged with darker wool.  


Golden Eagle 84

  
Golden Eagle 483, c, 1939 

Another favourite pattern of mine is number 483.  I like the cables on the front, which I guess have a function in shaping the front as well as being decorative.  The collar and cuffs are knitted in a contrast colour, and the pattern gives instructions for long sleeves as well as short.  The pattern was published around 1938-9. 

  
Golden Eagle 549

The design in leaflet 549 is called "Seawaves".  The body and sleeves are knitted sideways - the waist rib is knitted first, and joined on as the rest of the body is knitted.  There are little curls ('pinwheels') of wool around the neck and sleeves, to look like waves - they are made by casting on extra stitches and casting off again 3 rows later.  I'm not keen on the design personally, but some people who have seen it like it a lot, so I shouldn't judge. 


Golden Eagle 604

Like most other knitting wool spinners, Golden Eagle produced patterns for garments for service men and women during World War 2.   Leaflet 604 has patterns for 'Knitted Comforts' for women - gumboot stockings, mittens, a 'great coat scarf' and a balaclava helmet.  I don't think it's possible to look good in a balaclava helmet with ear-flaps, but I'm sure it was very necessary and welcome at the time.   

   
Golden Eagle 691

Leaflet 691 is also a wartime leaflet, for a jumper with a lacy pattern on the body, cleverly integrated with a broad rib, which is used plain on the (long or short) sleeves. The leaflet was published after clothes rationing was introduced in 1941 - it has a headline inside 'Golden Eagle Knitting Wools Economise Coupons And Cash', which was used on their leaflets during the rationing period.  I think this one dates from 1943-4. 


Golden Eagle 910

After the war, Golden Eagle started to introduce colour leaflets, as many other spinners did - and the designs often incorporate colour work, to take advantage of the colour printing.  Leaflet 910 was advertised in Vogue Knitting Book in 1949.


Golden Eagle 892

Leaflet 892 was probably also published in 1949.  The design is called a "New Look" Jumper - presumably after Christian Dior's New Look introduced in 1947, though it is not much like the silhouette we usually associate with that, of rounded shoulders, tiny waist and full skirt.  I guess that the very full sleeves are the main 'new' feature - they are knitted in stocking stitch, using odd needles, one size 9 (3.75mm.) and the other size 3(6.5mm.).  


Golden Eagle 922

Meanwhile, the men were not entirely forgotten, though many of the men's patterns are for the ubiquitous V-neck sleeveless pullover, as in leaflet 16 at the top.  (I often wonder how many V-neck pullovers one person needs.) But occasionally there are designs for other garments for men - No. 922 shows a rather nice cabled sweater, a re-issue of an earlier design that had appeared in a leaflet for Service Woollies for sailors which was advertised in 1940.   


Golden Eagle 879

Golden Eagle also produced children's patterns, including this very cute coat and bonnet, with a design of blue rabbits - another of the post-war colour leaflets. 


Golden Eagle Couturier Model No. 1

In 1952, there was a batch of four 'Couturier Model' leaflets (though the couturier, if there actually was one, isn't named}.  I find this design rather disturbing, because there is so much knitting in it - a full-length, full-skirted  dressing gown in 2-ply!   I wonder if anyone ever knitted it - apart from the sample knitter, who was paid to do it.  The model, Patricia Squires, looks as glamourous as ever. 


Golden Eagle 1130

Other Golden Eagle patterns of the 1950s are less daunting.  Above is an elegant twin set from 1954-5.  The jumper is beaded, and the matching bolero has a deep beaded band around the lower edge. 
   

Golden Eagle 1240

The Golden Eagle brand seems to have been discontinued in 1957.  The last ad I have seen is for leaflet 1232, which appeared in Vogue Knitting Book in that year, and the latest leaflet in the Guild collection is number 1240 - quite a smart design, in a 1950s kind of way, even if it apparently makes you want to stick a bunch of flowers in your ear.

It seems that Golden Eagle knitting wool was in production for about 25 years - quite a brief life, compared to some brands such as Patons and Sirdar.  I'll perhaps write more about the history of the brand in a future post.  Meanwhile, if you are a member of the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and would like a copy of any the leaflets shown here, email requests to collections@kcguild.org.uk.  And you will be able to see the catalogue of other Golden Eagle leaflets in the collection in the members' area of the Guild website in a few weeks. 

6 comments:

  1. Not a single Golden Eagle do i own , which is unusual for the volume i have . So rather nice to see

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    1. Pleased to hear that I have surprised you! We only have a small proportion of their leaflets in the Guild collection - about 270 out of around 1200, in spite of having over 50,000 leaflets altogether, so I guess that surviving copies are relatively unusual. I do wish we had more of the pre-war ones!

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  2. I've often wondered if anybody ever actually knitted those intricate lacy underwear patterns published from 1930s-50s. But I've never seen anything as complicated and potentially time-consuming as this dressing gown. Imagine spending months on knitting it and them accidentally spilling your cocoa on it!

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    1. Yes, my thoughts exactly! I wondered to myself why a dressing gown like this seems so much more a waste of effort than a beautiful Shetland lace shawl, and it is I think because a dressing gown should be primarily a practical garment, and as you say you might spill your coca on it.

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    2. It was based on a real experience. A few years ago I made myself an ivory coloured silk blouse. It wasn't an easy fabric to sew and I was very pleased with the result. The second time I wore it I made myself a cup of hot chocolate. I even thought of putting on an apron but didn't bother. Of course I dripped it all down the front of the blouse. I was so angry with myself...

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    3. How awful! Sounds like the sort of thing I would do, generally involving curry.

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